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Help Save Emma Whitaker's Life

$60,367 of $60,000 goal

Raised by 289 people in 4 months
This is  Emma. She is 17 years old and a junior at Skyline High School, although she has not attended school full-time (or really at all) for more than four years. Last Christmas, Emma sat on Santa's lap at a family party and asked, of all things, for "good health." What 17 year old should have to ask for that?

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Emma has several very rare connective tissue, neurological, gastrointestinal, and vascular conditions that cause her to have the following symptoms:

- Constant excruciating abdominal pain
- Frequent nausea and vomiting that is controlled only with IV nausea medications and has required her to receive total parenteral nutrition through a chest port for the last two years
- Constant debilitating headache
- Constant double vision that has made it impossible for her to get a driver's license or attend school

As most of you know, Emma has endured these symptoms for more than five years now and has undergone multiple surgeries, tests, and treatments. However, although we have travelled to experts all around the country, including in California, Connecticut, and New York, she has not had any relief. 

We have found a team of doctors in Germany by the names of Thomas Scholbach and Wilhelm Sandmann. They are world experts in the types of GI and vascular conditions that Emma has and have had much success in treating patients with complex presentations and histories such as Emma's. We have decided that, in order to give Emma any hope of recovery, we must travel to Germany to consult with these skilled physicians and likely undergo complex and dangerous surgery. However, because these physicians are outside the US, our insurance company has refused to pay for treatment. Thus, we are appealing to your sense of empathy and desire to do good. 

Our goal is to raise $60,000. We know that the consultation and surgery will cost between $30,000 and $45,000 (depending on the extent of correction and reconstruction required). We also have to cover the costs of travel, lodging, and food while we are there. (We have been advised that we will need to be in Germany for a minimum of four weeks and probably closer to six or eight, again depending on the complexity of the surgery that is ultimately performed.) If there are any funds left over, we will use them to chip away at her sizable existing medical bills. 

Every penny counts. No contribution is too small. Even if you are unable to donate, please share this page with your friends, family, and coworkers. 

Emma's life truly is at stake. Many patients with her conditions die each year because of inability to sustain adequate nutrition and hydration. Many give up because it is so difficult to obtain effective treatment. Please help save Emma's life. 

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We hit two milestones today! The first was eating; she had four bites of yogurt and one bite of rice—her first food intake since last Wednesday night. The second milestone was sitting on the edge of the bed and even standing for a few wobbly seconds. Not an easy feat when you have an epidural block in your back, four tubes coming out of your neck, and various other medical-type attachments. Progress!
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Surgery lasted six and a half hours but is finally over and a Emma is resting in the ICU. Dr Sandmann says everything went well although with her anatomy (which was uncommon to begin with and rendered even more so by three previous major abdominal surgeries), it took him a lot longer than usual to get oriented and figure out what was what. Basically, he moved a major artery (the superior mesenteric for those interested, although in her case it is twice the size of a normal person’s and does twice the work since she doesn’t have a celiac trunk) and moved it lower down on the abdominal aorta so that it is no longer squishing the duodenum and the left renal vein. He also clipped off another artery that the body was using to transport blood away from her left kidney in order to force the body to use the left renal vein instead of all the alternative collateral veins it had to use for blood flow when the left renal vein was blocked. This (theoretically) should help with her headaches and double vision as well as the intermittent limb numbness. I haven’t seen the incision yet—I’ll have to gear up when it’s time for that because apparently it is significantly longer then her previous ones. More to come. Many thanks for all the prayers offered in her behalf today and over the last several months!
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Here is Emma pasting on a smile for the camera despite the fact that she is clutching a barf bag and is on her way to have an epidural nerve block placed in preparation for tomorrow’s surgery. Surgery is expected to start at 9:00 am Thursday (that’s 1:00 am Utah time) and last between five and seven hours. When it is over she will spend several days in ICU before returning to her normal hospital room. She is VERY nervous and we would both welcome all the prayers and positive vibes we can get!
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I’ve been wishing I had something to report from Germany, but the last few days have been very quiet as we’ve settled into our rented flat and prepared for hospital admission tomorrow. We tried to get out to visit a nearby castle yesterday (how many places in the world can you Google “castles near me” and get results? ), but through a combination of language barriers preventing us from getting a cab and Emma not really feeling good enough to go anyway, we’ve ended up just hanging around the apartment. We did make it to the grocery store, though, where my greatest victory was finding peanut butter. Apparently that’s an American product that not many Germans have developed a taste for—thus, it is remarkably hard to find! Anyway, this is the view from our tiny kitchen’s slanted attic window. That’s about all I’ve got today. More tomorrow, I hope!
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$60,367 of $60,000 goal

Raised by 289 people in 4 months
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$150
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