Danielle's Medical Fund

Mid May had started out like every other for Danielle with a trip to the site of the College Sailing Nationals.  This year that happened to be a trip to Charleston, SC for two weeks around Memorial Day/her birthday.  Unfortunately, this year's trip wouldn't end like the previous 10 trips had with an uneventual flight home.

After making it through the Women's and an accelerated Team Race Nationals with their torrential rains, hot, humid weather, and long days she was enjoying the rare lay day but something didn't seem right.  Even after a good nights rest, staying inside the air conditioning, and drinking plenty of fluids she was still tired and not feeling good.  After the Coaches Briefing, she'd had enough and went to the ER for some fluids and to see what's wrong.

Made it to the ER but collapsed in admissions, they got her in the back and hooked up to IV's when the pain started.  Shooting upper abdominal pain started soon after and a series of blood tests revealed something was wrong but not sure what.  More labs were done, CT's and Xray's but nothing conclusive.  She was admitted and wouldn't get outside that building for another 17 days.

Turns out Danielle's appendix had burst Saturday morning and had been slowing poisoning her until she got to the ER on Monday night.  She was completely septic and required antibiotics and stabilization before being able to go into surgery on Wednesday afternoon.

They were able to remove the appendix and repair the damage but it required removal of part of her stomach and large intestine.  The next 10 days were mostly a blurr as she fought infection and recovered from the invasive surgery.    At the 12 day mark plans were coming together to life flight her home to San Diego from Charleston but a round of Ventricular tachycardia and fights with the insurance company put a hold on that.  Finally, on the 17th day after getting cleared by cardio and the initial surgeon the transport was approved.

A miserable 7 hour flight on a very tiny air ambulance was up next.  Laid in a glorified body bag for transit between the plane and ambulance and strapped to a gurney flat for 8 hours it was not going to be comfortable.  What no one expected was the amount of problems the cabin pressure would cause with pain and breathing difficulties.  Thankfully the 2 nurses/EMT's traveling with her were able to eventually get both under control and manage it for the rest of the flight.  A layover in Amarillo for fuel created a new set of problems since the AC's couldn't be run while the plane was fueling.  Everyone else was able to get off the plane and go refresh in the pilot's lounge but due to Danielle's condition she was stuck on the plane, and overheating.  Quick thinking by the nurses had her packed in ice bags and starting to cool down.  The second leg to SD was better since everyone had learned on the first leg what problems would arise and how to handle them.

Finally arriving in San Diego and being transferred to Sharp Memorial it was now a waiting game to get the infections, pain, and blood pressure under control.  After 2 days they decided to reopen about 4 inches of the incision to better manage the infection.  A wound vac was placed and the hope was after 2 weeks it could be removed and the incision would be closed and the infection gone.  Wrong.  The wound vac was incredibly painful.  Even with constant IV and oral pain meds it was too much and after 4 days it was removed.  Plan B of leaving it open with regular visits from home health was initiated and plans were finally made for discharge.

24 days after being admitted Danielle was finally home but the journey is far from over.  Twice weekly visits from home health, rehab, endless doctors appointments and just trying to get back to normal take their toll.  

After missing a month of work, spending nearly just as long in the hospital and being life flighted home the bills are starting to add up.  I've never wanted to be the person to ask for help this way but being self employed makes me ineligible for disability and the bills don't stop when work does.


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Danielle Richards 
San Diego, CA
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