We are here to help support our dear friend Tuomo and his family for an upcoming heart surgery. The surgery is crucial to his health but the family currently cannot afford to cover its costs.
Tuomo is a devoted husband, a father of three children, and a great friend. Originally from Finland, he arrived in Alaska in the mid 1980s on a ski scholarship, where he soon fell for his wife Jennifer. The two now live together in Anchorage, Alaska, with their three caring, talented children - Niko (16) and twins Tarja and Markus (13). Tuomo has always been an avid athlete who loves nature, a quality he shares with his whole family. He is a self-employed Alaska state board-licensed physical rehabilitation and massage specialist. His wife also works in healthcare, and although they make ends meet, not much is left to cover unexpected costs.
Recently, at the age of 54, Tuomo was diagnosed with a severe heart condition known as aortic stenosis and bicuspid aortic valve disease. It requires urgent treatment in the form of an operation. This news came after his wife had to undergo heart surgery for a pacer replacement.
Tuomo's operation will be between $500,000 and $1 million (USD), which will cost the family up to $100,000 or perhaps even more after insurance. In addition to the medical expenses, the recovery period will take away Tuomo's income for at least 6 months. This burden would force the family to make financial trade-offs no one should be prepared to take. The operation has already been postponed to later this year for these reasons. Because time is of the essence, we are immediately calling for help to cover the enormous burden of the operation.
Update: Tuomo's surgery is now scheduled to take place in October this year. It will be done by Dr. Hartzell Schaff at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
We want to help Tuomo and his family by raising enough money to cover the out-of-pocket costs of the operation and further to support his family financially throughout the recovery period.
Our goal is to raise at least $100,000 through crowdfunding, to be able to provide the much needed support.
How can you help?
Family, friends and community, please join us in helping Tuomo and his beautiful family cover the enormous costs of his treatment. Donate what you can - no amount is too small.
Thank you for helping our dear friend in this difficult time.
Kari Honkaniemi, Jukka Honkaniemi and Pekka Niikkonen
Additional Information about Tuomo's condition:
What is aortic valve stenosis (AS)?
Aortic stenosis is one of the most common and serious valve diseases. Aortic stenosis is a narrowing of the aortic valve opening, which restricts blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta and may also affect the pressure in the left atrium.
Tuomo has aortic stenosis because of a congenital heart defect called a bicuspid aortic valve.
What is bicuspid aortic valve disease?
The aortic valve is a one-way valve between the heart and the aorta, the main artery from the heart that distributes oxygen-rich blood to the body. Normally, the aortic valve has three small flaps or leaflets that open widely and close securely to regulate blood flow, allowing blood to flow from the heart to the aorta and preventing blood from flowing backwards into the heart.
In bicuspid aortic valve disease (BAVD), the valve has only two leaflets. With this deformity, the valve doesn't function perfectly, but it may function adequately for years without causing symptoms or obvious signs of a problem.
What causes bicuspid aortic valve disease?
The actual cause of bicuspid aortic valve disease is not completely clear. We do know that the two-leaflet valve develops in the early stages of pregnancy, and that the defect is present at birth. About 2% of the population has BAVD, and it is twice as common in males as in females.
The only viable treatment is heart surgery involving two types of procedures, aortic root replacement and aortic valve replacement. Together, these make the surgery very complex.
In aortic root replacement, your surgeon removes a section of your aorta and your aortic valve. The section of your aorta is replaced with an artificial tube (graft), and your aortic valve is replaced with a mechanical or biological valve.
If you have a mechanical valve, you'll need to take anticoagulant medications for life, so as to prevent blood clots. In Tuomo's case, the valve will be replaced with a biological valve. This way he does not have to take anticoagulant medications for the rest of his life.
More information about aortic root and valve replacement and treatment can be found at:
- Pekka Niikkonen
- Endre Nakstad
- Don May
- Jukka ja Kati Ojaniemi
Organizer and beneficiary
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