Hope and Home for Heather

On May 25th, 2017, Heather went to Emergency at the Salmon Creek hospital in Washington, complaining of pain in her neck and coughing up blood. She was admitted and then quickly transferred to Kaiser Sunnyside hospital in Oregon. In order to try to determine the cause of the bleeding, a team of Pulmonary Specialists collaborated and determined that an immediate wash of her lungs (Lavage) and an lung biopsy were necessary. The doctors were unable to get the tissue sample needed to help with any type of diagnosis because of her fragile and her diminished oxygen capacity.

Prior to surgery, Heather was informed that it would be necessary to place her on breathing tube for some time post-op and be under heavy sedation.

Because the diagnosis was not evident after surgery Heather was given myriad of antibiotics as the Pulmonary Specialist tried determine the cause and the best way to treat. Heather was given six different types of antibiotics, hoping that one would work as the lab worked to grow cultures and send off samples to other labs. Everything came back without a diagnosis.

At this point as Heather's condition continued to become more concerning, the next step was to try steroids, which yielded no positive results.

Heather’s lungs were deteriorating and her oxygen levels dropped to a life threatening state. It quickly became obvious that her life was at stake and that even though very risky a biopsy was our only hope to determine the cause of the lung hemorrhage. With a family counsel gathered we agreed that Heather needed the lung biopsy. This was an extremely tough decision because we all recognized she may not live through the surgery.

The team of doctors shared that this would be a very quick in and out because she was so very fragile. The surgery was performed, specimens gathered and the miracles continued. Heather lived through the surgery.

The biopsy sample was sent to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ recognized world round for its ability to determine very unusual lung diseases. However, after a very long two days the biopsy came back inconclusive. It was heartbreaking.

Once again as a family we counseled with the team of baffled Pulmonary Specialists. They now yielded to the idea that this condition might be another Auto-Immune disorder. Heather was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 15 years prior and the doctors shared that it isn’t unusual for someone with one Auto-Immune disorder to have others.

Once again our family gathered for a family counsel and were presented with three possible treatments, still shooting in the dark but realizing that a sit and wait approach would end Heather's life for certain. The doctors who themselves had researched and counseled with other leading specialists gave us three possible treatment perspectives. The first two were forms of toxins given in extreme Cancer Diagnosis. The third option seemed the best option to the family. It was called Plamapheresis. This would entail removing all of Heather's own plasma and replacing it with donated plasma. Blood banks were contacted and arrangements quickly made as Heather's health was quickly declining.

On Thursday June 8th after being on life support and feeding tube for now over 14 days the plasma machines began to hum in her room. Two days of plasma transfusions and third day with only Albumin was transfused as her Nephrology team (kidney specialist) were concerned that her kidneys might be damaged. The transfer of Plasma has taken place as of June 10th and we have begun to see improvements for the first time in over two weeks. Heather's oxygen levels are beginning to climb for the first time.

On June 10th the doctors began to take her off the multiple sedation drugs used to place her in a safer, almost comatose, state.

On June 9th, Heather was able to open her eyes for the first time, with much fear and realizing for the first time that she has a huge tube down her throat and a feeding tube, and was unable to speak. Anxiety has set in and with fear in her eyes we were instructed by her doctors to share with her how she got to this point.

Heather's physicians have informed us that her road to recovery will be very long, months and months. And that even after she is is able to leave this MSICU she will still need to go another level of care in the hospital and then most likely to a skilled nursing facility. Then months of therapy to regain motor skills and most likely speech therapy. As of this writing (June 11th) she's been on Life Support for 15 days and still continues to be.

As her brother and with the help of my mom Paula, we will manage these funds together and make sure that 100% of these funds go to the support of Heather.

Again, want to make sure that you know how much we truly appreciate all of your thoughts, prayers, service, and concerns during this hard time for our family.

Thank you,
Jeremy Elliott and family
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Jeremy Elliott 
Ridgefield, WA