Saturday, March 23, 2013

Honors Graduation Scholarship Application


In September of 2009, I was accidentally shot with a .50 caliber black-powder rifle while on a hunting trip.  The bullet went through my body and nicked the vena cava, which is the largest vein in the body, and hit my kidney.  My oldest brother was on leave from Iraq and had received medic training at Fort Benning.  His Army training kicked in and helped to save me.  I was three hours out from the hospital.  We were in a remote area of Flaming Gorge. The medics had to arrive before Salt Lake would send a helicopter.  I remember the medic looked at me as if I was a goner!  I was flown by Life-Flight to PCMC.  I lost a kidney, some large intestine, and several transverse processes on my spine.  I was very lucky!  I had avoided paralysis or death by several millimeters.  I was on life-support.  I had gangrene in my back and lost a lot of muscle tissue.  I was very ill.  After about two weeks, my lungs failed.  The surgeons tried an experimental procedure giving me a 5% chance of survival.  I was placed on ECMO, an artificial heart/lung machine.   This machine oxygenates the blood.  The doctors consider me a medical miracle.  My lungs healed after five days.  They wrote up my case for the medical journals.  I spent a month and a half in the PICU and another five weeks in the NTU.  I had lost most of my muscle mass and my stomach and back was still open. They weren’t sure if I would be able to sit up.   As soon as possible, I sat up and started standing and then walking one or two steps.  It was so hard.  I came home with a feeding tube, front and back wound vacs and a colostomy bag.  I had to heal and rebuild.  After several months, I started school in a wheel chair.  It was hard letting people see me so skinny.  I got stronger every day.  When summer came, I went to scout camp and rock repelled with my colostomy bag.  Later that summer, I had major surgery to reconnect my abdomen.
Today, I am blessed to be able to do most of what I could before.  I am on the Davis Track team.  I do pole vaulting and I cleared 11’6.  I worked hard to catch up on school taking summer school and completing packets.  I have finished my CNA (certified nursing assistant) and EMR (emergency medical responder).
I think the medical staff at PCMC is great.  I had a PICU nurse, Ian, who made a great impression on me.  Ian took great care of me and shared his own struggles to recover from an illness.  This motivated me to try hard to get better.  I had a wonderful trauma surgeon Dr. Downey, a former military surgeon, who took a personal interest in my care and recovery.  At one time, he told my mother that I should just be grateful to be alive.  After watching me attack my recovery, he later said, “no limits” for this kid.  I have learned that there is nothing that you can’t overcome if you stay positive, work hard, and remember what you want to accomplish.  Through this experience, I learned that I want to have a career in medicine.  I want to help people get better as I was helped to get my life back.

This is a submission for the 2012-2013 graduation scholarship sponsored by Honors Graduation.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Gone Fishin' and Signing Off

At a follow-up visit, Andrew had the pic line removed from his arm. As the doc went to remove it, it wouldn't come out. The doctor's eyes got big and he said "this isn't good". Finally, he got it out. He looked at us as said "I'm going to have to have you go get an x-ray to make sure nothing broke off and stayed in the vein. As we waited in radiology, I leaned over to Randall and said, "it figures, Just as we are crossing the finish line, someone says 'not so fast!!' It all turned out fine. But it did give Andrew's doctor a good scare! So where do we go from here? Andrew has to be very careful through October. His nerve pain has been bad since the surgery. It should calm down as we get the meds built back up in his system. He got the go-ahead to swim so that made him happy. We took him up to camperworld at Echo. We all watched him get into the pool. It was a very happy moment. Andrew draws questions from other swimmers when they see his amazing scars. It is something that he will have to deal with for the rest of his life. That next morning, after sleeping in a tent, he went fishing. He grabbed his pole, didn't have shoes or a shirt on, and headed to the river. It was good for him just to be free to do want he enjoys. Andrew is our own version of "Huckleberry Finn". Life is good and summer is the best time of all! Andrew starts high school soon and is ready to move on with his life. So this is the last blog of an amazing journey. Thanks for sharing your comments, faith and prayers for Andrew. This has changed our lives in many ways. One way being that I never by-pass others in need. We were out on Saturday and noticed a medical fundraiser at the high school for a child with cancer. We had to stop and contribute. You can't imagine what it means to be in a position of spiraling hospital bills. You hope you never have to face it. But we have. So now, we feel compelled to pay-it-forward. I also look at life differently. I just don't get worked up about things that I used to. A lot of stuff that we worry about is truly 'small' in the grand scheme of things. Love your family, spend time with them, and live like each day is your last.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Recouperating from Major Surgery?

Most people who go through a major bowel resection and abdomenal wall closure surgery enjoy lounging about for several weeks, recouperating. Not Andrew. Day One. We arrive home, Andrew goes over to the Barkers acrossed the street. OK. He'll play computer stuff. A little later on, I send Amanda over with a popsicle. She comes home to tell me that he isn't there. What!!! He went with the boys to watch them do a service project in the neighborhood. Later on he tells me that he wants to go to Farmington Pond. No!! I realize that for the next six weeks I am going to have to keep a close watch on him. Day Two. I make Andrew come with the family to Farmington Pool. He can't do anything but sunbathe and hang his feet in the pool. Day Three. We took a ride up to Westgate in Park City. Grandma and Grandpa are staying there. Once again, Andrew gets to sunbathe. It is hard for him to watch from the sidelines. But we are in the home-stretch now and have to be careful. Recovery time will be six weeks - very careful and three months - careful. Over the weekend we had the annual Spilker Family Reunion at Westgate. We spent one day at Trial Lake fishing. Andrew caught a a 17", 1 pound albino trout. We had a lot of fun with Grandma and Grandpa Spilker! Later in the weekend, I was walking out to the pool and turned my head in time to see Andrew swing a tennis racket. He was trying to play with his cousins! Eek!! My blond hair is rapidly turning white. Hmm, I wonder why? Andrew's pain levels are mostly manageable. His back/leg nerve pain reared it's head again. He was off those meds for 10 days during the surgery. So now we know that they really do help. Andrew has some muscle spasms in his abdomen that hurt but he is doing very well! Just a little tylenol for pain. I have to smile when I watch him do things that he enjoys, like fishing. To see the twinkle in his eyes is such a gift! Each new day that you get to spend with a loved one, is precious. That is one of the lessons we have learned. On Wednesday, Andrew's JP drainage tube came out by itself. He said, "Mom! I swear I didn't pull it out! John is my witness." I had to laugh. It was ok and can stay out now. We are down to the PIC line and tpn. We go in on Tuesday and I think we may be good to end that too. We can see the finish line! It has been a long race.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

One more day

False alarm. We will be going home on monday. Andrew's surgeon was out for a bike ride saturday night and stopped by to see him. We decided to keep Andrew on tpn for a while.
Tpn helps him to maintain or gain weight while he is recovering. This added another night to our hospital stay. His surgeon is a very caring, awesome doctor! If we can get Andrew to wake up this morning, we will all go to church here at the hospital.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tomorrow is the Day

It has been quite a week. Andrew has progressed nicely through the recovery process. It is painful to have a large abdomenal surgery as he did. Thursday was a difficult day with a lot of nausea. However, on friday, things moved foward as his insides finally started working. He took a long walk. They allowed him to pulled out his own NG tube and begin drinking. Aaron, John and Matt, Kortny and Sabree had a movie night with Andrew. Saturday he was able to begin eating food. We had Randall's aunt's funeral in the morning. When we arrived saturday night, Andrew was off of everything but he was having pain. He has lost some weight and will have to regain the weight. It looks like we will be going home on sunday! It will take time to feel good eating again. His stomach has shrunk down and nausea is a problem. It has been wonderful to receive all of the well wishes for Andrew that he has received from the staff. Andrew's success is this hospital's success!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Saturday, 3rd of July

This morning we all woke up feeling a bit tired!! Concern sure takes a lot out of a person. Today Andrew had a few visitors: Family, Sabree, John and Matt, Mike, Rick, Connor and Katrina. We think his pain med is up a bit high because he just wants to sleep all the time. It is nice when visitors arrive at a meal time. It allows us to sneak down to the cafeteria to grab a bite to eat while they visit Andrew. Later in the evening, the hospital asked us to move rooms. We negotiated a better price...just kidding. We ended up with a room that is a lot bigger and nicer. We twisted Andrew's arm and got him to sit up for the first time and get into a wheel chair. I couldn't help but think of women who have c-sections. This is worse. But Andrew made it in the chair using the 'hug the pillow to your stomach' technique. He sat in the chair for over a half hour before we got him back into bed. Tonight, I feel grateful to have Andrew with us. As you get around the hospital, you find yourself witness to families dealing with sudden trauma and tragedy. It pulls on your heart in a profound way.

Is It Time Yet?

Friday we left home at 7:45 a.m. to reach the hospital by 8:45. Just as we were reaching Salt Lake City, the phone rang. There was an emergency surgery that bumped us. We were to report at 10:15 for a 12:15 surgery. OK. We decided to go rest at Ashley's home in North Salt Lake until it was time to go. We enjoyed seeing our sweet grandson. At 10:00, we arrived at the hospital and checked in. They moved us to the surgery prep area. We waited and waited. Keep in mind that it is Friday at noon and Andrew hasn't eaten anything since Wed. night. Next thing we know, they bump us again but this time with no idea when the surgery will actually be. We couldn't believe it. I was not a happy camper. I decided to go eat something so that I could regroup. Andrew wanted to continue to wait. He just wanted to get it over with. They put him on an iv to help with his starved condition. We watched tv and waited. Finally, they took Andrew back for surgery at 4:00. They wanted to place an epideral but it ended up in a failed effort. The surgery was very long. It went 4 hours. It is very hard to do nothing but wait. I fell asleep in a chair by the window. Finally, we got a call that they were 45 min out from completion. They said that things were going good. When the surgeon came out, he had very good news. They had to do two different surgeries; a bowel reconnection, and an abdomenal reconnection. The surgeon was very pleased with how the first goal was reached. It took four hand because they had to work through some scar tissue. It took a lot of time but, things went together well. Second, the abdomen went together completely. They needed a little more slack at one spot, so they opened a side spot wider to gain a little more give to it. Then they sutured dermamatrics to the new wound site. Randall went back with Andrew in recovery. Andrew woke up with a muscle spasm that was very painful. The pain team took care of things quickly so that we could check into his room. Andrew slept well for several hours until he had an itching response to the pain meds. Once they resolved that he was able to rest again. Andrew has a implant that carries pain med locally to his wound site. He also has an on-demand pain med system. There is also a drain for his wound. It is fascinating what medicine and creative medical engineers have come up with to increase post-op comfort! We were exhausted by the end of the day but so happy with the outcome of the surgery!! Andrew was in a good, positive mood.