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Heart Transplant for Ken Holthaus

$4,245 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 53 people in 9 months
Created November 6, 2018
Kendalini
on behalf of Amy Holthaus
Thank you for taking the time to check out Ken's story.  It means a lot to us that you would consider helping Ken and Amy through this hardship so that they can concentrate on getting Ken healthy again.

On October 16, 2018, Ken had a massive heart attack at the age of 48 years old.  He had not been feeling his best for the last couple of years and was taking steps to improve his health on his own since the doctors were not finding anything wrong with him.  He stopped smoking, started working out on an elliptical, and was eating healthy meals.  Still, he seemed to be getting worse and finally asked his wife, Amy, to take him to Nashville, TN because the Bowling Green, KY doctors were providing no answers.

Ken and Amy drove first to Skyline Hospital, where they estimated that Ken's heart was only functioning at 20%.  Three hours later, he was moved by ambulance to Centennial Hospital and was only there a short time when he went into cardiac arrest.  Within the first 24 hours there, Ken coded 5 times and was saved each time by the doctors.  He was placed on an ECMO and Impella machine to let his heart rest.

On October 18, 2018, Ken underwent a triple bypass.  Two major arteries were 100% blocked, the third major artery was 80% blocked, and his heart was now estimated to be functioning only at 7% and hanging on by a thread.  In this same surgery, a Centrimag pump was added to keep his heart pumping.  The hope was that this device would take over the "work" of the heart and allow Ken's heart to recover.  Instead, Ken continued to be on life support and repeatedly went into Vfib, which means that he was basically coding.  Thankfully, the pump was pro-fusing blood to his brain and organs, but because the doctors were still hopeful that his heart would recover, they had to shock him each time to bring his heart rhythm back to normal to protect the right side of his heart.  After the initial coding that happened in the first 24 hours, Ken went into Vfib and coded an additional 16 times putting his total shocks at about 60 times in the first week of being admitted to Centennial.

At this point, the Centennial doctors realized that Ken's heart was too damaged to ever recover and started reaching out to Vanderbilt to see if he could get put on the transplant list.  The doctors had to present Ken's case in front of a committee that would decide if he should get a new heart and he was accepted onto the list.  Because of his deteriorating condition and dependency on the Centrimag pump, Ken was placed at the top of the list in the entire region.  Ken was transferred to Vanderbilt and within four hours of being placed on the list, we were told that they may have a heart for Ken.

On October 25, 2018, Ken received a new heart.  We feel so sad that this had to come about because of a tragedy for another family and are blessed and humbled that someone was willing to become an organ donor and give another person, a total stranger, a chance at a new life.  Please pray for this family.

We share all of these details with you to help you understand how God had his hand on Ken this entire time.  Ken would not be alive today had it not been for God's grace and His amazing presence over the doctors and nurses who cared for Ken.

Ken was released from ICU on November 3, 2018 and is currently at Vanderbilt in their step-down unit.  He has a long road ahead of him and continues to be at risk for blood clots (he currently has five) and collapsed lungs (still has one chest tube) and of course, the ongoing risk of infection and rejection of the heart. 

Ken and Amy will experience a great deal of expense over the next year as they work on getting Ken healthy.  They will have to live in Nashville for six weeks once he is released from the hospital so that the doctors can continue to keep a close eye on him.  Once home, Ken will have to have biopsies of the heart and checkups done frequently throughout the first year so there will be lots of travel expenses from Bowling Green to Nashville.  For the rest of Ken's life, he will have to take immune suppressants that will keep his body from rejecting his new heart, insulin to stabilize his blood sugar, and shots in his abdomen to prevent blood clots.  He is expected to be on 16-19 meds, 3-4 of which will be very expensive.  Just for the first 4-6 months, Ken will have to take a heart medicine that insurance will not cover costing them $3,500 out of pocket each month.  He will also have to undergo a 12-week treatment for his new heart because it was positive for Hepatitis C.  This treatment will cost $94,000 alone.  All of this with no income coming in (Amy will not be able to return to work for at least the first year and her current boss is refusing to pay unemployment) and in addition to normal household bills that are still accumulating.  

As this financial burden can be overwhelming, we are asking for your help in alleviating some of the financial stress that Ken and Amy will have through this journey.  No donation is too small and every donation is so appreciated.  We especially appreciate the prayers that have been carrying him along so far and would love for you to continue praying throughout this next year. 

Please consider sharing Ken's story with others so that they may have an opportunity to help as well.  We all look forward to the day that Ken can enjoy his life again with family and friends and continue in his passion of creating beautiful pieces of artwork.

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It has been six weeks since Ken underwent a successful heart transplant and we wanted to give a quick update for those who are following his story.

After being in the hospital for nearly a month, Ken was finally released to go home on November 12th. Amy has been his full-time caretaker and spends her days giving Ken his meds and the 24/7 personal care that he requires, not to mention juggling all of the doctor appointments in Nashville and Bowling Green.

Ken has had several appointments in Nashville for clinics, cardiac rehab, and for other blood work that is needed. The doctors have performed a total of four heart biopsies, all of which have come back with zero rejection. Because of these successful biopsies, Ken has moved from a weekly biopsy schedule to a monthly biopsy schedule. He is also able to lower the dosage on his anti rejection meds, which should improve his hand tremors.

On December 6th, the same day that our father in Heaven would have celebrated his 72nd birthday, Ken received another great blessing. As he waited to be seen for one of his Vanderbilt appointments, his doctor came out to tell him that his new heart, that they previously thought was positive for Hepatitis C, did not in fact have Hepatitis C. This is such good news for Ken on so many levels. Not only does Ken not have to worry about the expensive treatment that would have been involved for Hepatitis C, he does not have to see the liver doctor and undergo testing / biopsies of the liver. Without the threat of additional biopsies, Ken is allowed to back down from his twice a day shots for the blood thinners and replace them with a pill form. Periodic shots will only be needed right before he undergoes additional biopsies. He will also be able to start anticoagulants, which will be more effective at dissolving the 6-7 blood clots that have developed throughout his body. Hopefully, the blood clots will dissolve in the near future and he will be able to come off of all the blood thinners and anticoagulants.

Ken continues to get stronger every day and has started to gain some weight back little by little. He is still 20 pounds away from his pre-transplant weight, but his appetite continues to improve. One day, Ken will be strong enough to pursue his passion again and create beautiful works of art.

In light of this blessing, we would like to adjust the GoFundMe goal to reflect only the cost of meds, extra travel, and living expenses for the first year. We expect that Ken and Amy will be without their full income for the first six months and without any income or health benefits after that point.

Thank you to those who have opened their hearts, made donations and prayed for Ken throughout his recovery. We are so thankful for the generosity that people have shown, especially those who have never even met him. Please continue to pray for Ken and share his story so that others may pray for him too.
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Thanks for checking in on Ken's progress and supporting him on this journey.

If you look at the first picture from Centennial Hospital when he was on life support, you will understand what a true miracle it is that Ken is still with us. When he was first transported to Vanderbilt, the doctors were concerned that he would not be strong enough to survive the transplant. But Ken is a fighter and God saw him through it.

After moving out of ICU and into the step down unit, Ken has continued to improve. Each day he gets a little stronger. He even rode a bike for over eight miles one day and felt his new heart was like a Corvette engine.

We were hoping that Ken would be allowed to go home on Friday, but they are keeping him a little longer to monitor some new meds to make sure they are at therapeutic levels prior to discharge. They are also keeping an eye on his lungs where they have noticed a pneumothorax (collapsed lung) which caused them to put a tube back into his chest last week for a few days and back on oxygen some nights. The tube is now out but the doctors continue to monitor a small area of concern in his lungs.

He has had two biopsies so far and both have shown zero rejection, which is really great news. They will continue to do biopsies throughout the first year to monitor this, starting with weekly biopsies for the first month.

The biggest concern right now is that he has five blood clots. Two of them are in the jugular veins which puts him at risk for a pulmonary embolism. He has another one in his aorta and two arterial ones in his left forearm. One of the blood clots in his forearm is occlusive which means that it is affecting the blood flow and is causing swelling that is very painful. You can see in the third picture how much bigger the left forearm is than his right. The doctors have moved him from Heparin to Lovenox to prevent further damage and more clots, but will have to temporarily stop the blood thinner every time he has a biopsy performed. The doctors will consider stronger anticoagulants once he can go longer between biopsies.

We are hopeful that Ken will be well enough to go home on Monday where he will be in the comfort of his own home to continue to heal. Vanderbilt initially was going to make Amy and Ken stay in Nashville, but because they are a hair under the 70 mile threshold that they require, the doctors have agreed to let him go home. The challenge will be that Amy will now have to bring Ken back to Nashville 3-5 times each week for biopsies and blood draws.

As you can imagine, Ken is anxious to get home and get some more rest. Please continue to pray for Ken that we are able to get him home soon and that the issues with his lungs and the blood clots get resolved.

Thanks again for your support and for forwarding Ken's story. You never know when someone will be moved to pray or donate on Ken's behalf and it is all appreciated.
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$4,245 of $50,000 goal

Raised by 53 people in 9 months
Created November 6, 2018
Kendalini
on behalf of Amy Holthaus
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