Monday, January 14, 2013

Fundraiser for Minnesota heart transplant recipient

By: Zach Kayser, Wadena Pioneer Journal
Wadena, Minnesota

Benefit to aid heart transplant recipient

Stephanie Larson is a nurse in her thirties who lives with her husband and two small children in Staples. When she was out with friends one night in October 2011, something happened that was inconceivable for someone at her age and fitness level.

Stephanie Larson - submitted photo

In front her friends, in the middle of what was supposed to be a relaxing night out, Larson’s heart began to fail, and eventually stopped beating altogether. It was only the CPR given by the other nurses in the group of friends that kept her alive until first responders could whisk her away to Tri-County Health Care (TCHC), where the people fighting to stabilize her were all co-workers.

“Fortunately, I don’t remember any of that,” Larson said.
She said it was hard enough hearing about what happened secondhand from the people who were there – the friends who had to tell Larson’s family what had happened, her fellow nurses who had to watch her struggle for life.

“Just hearing their stories, it was very emotional,” Larson said.

One side of Larson’s heart couldn’t recover after the cardiac arrest, and she was sent to the University of Minnesota Hospital in the Twin Cities to have a special pump put in. After she became acclimated to the new device, Larson eventually was able to go home that December, but with restrictions.

“No showers or baths or swimming; all the fun stuff you take for granted,” Larson said.

In May 2012, she was put on a heart transplant list. Those with her kind of pump typically receive the highest priority status to receive a transplant, 1A.

In September, Larson finally had her transplant, but her troubles were far from over.

“Things just went downhill,” she said.

Her case was unique in that doctors didn’t fully understand what was going on, and it seemed as if her body was rejecting her new heart.

“They called it a ‘stunned’ heart,” Larson said.

Not only did Larson have to go on life support, but doctors had to filter all of the blood in her body to get rid of any antibodies that might have been reacting to the new organ. But after a week or so she was able to wake up, and has been on the road to recovery ever since.

During the entire length of her ordeal, Larson has persevered through five open-heart surgeries. Now she’s considering returning to work at TCHC with the same people who helped save her life.

Stephanie Beste has known Larson since eighth grade, and visited her when she was hospitalized. Beste was able to describe the emotional experience of seeing her friend fight through the life-threatening debacle.

“It was a roller coaster. She would be really bad. There were several times where her heart stopped and they had to resuscitate her,” Beste said, “and she would surprise us all and all of the sudden she would surpass even what the doctors thought she would do.”

In order to cover medical costs for Larson’s transplant and medical care, Beste and Maryann Burrows, another old friend of Larson’s, have organized an April 13 benefit to be held at Town’s Edge in Staples, which will include a spaghetti dinner and silent auction where people can provide donations.

Those wishing to donate silent auction items can drop them off at Mid-Central Federal Savings Bank in Staples, and donations from those unable to attend the banquet will also be accepted at the bank.

Burrows said people as far as the Twin Cities have shown support for Larson.

“I’m really hoping we have really good turnout,” she said. “It’s nice to know that all these people care about you and want to hear your story.”

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