Dillon & Kirsten Kalkhurst via Crowdrise
March 24, 2013
BENEFITING: MEDICAL FOUNDATION OF NORTH CAROLINA INC
Many of you may know that our father, Joe Kalkhurst, underwent aortic valve replacement surgery on December 14, 2012 during which there were complications and they were unable to restart his heart. This was the catalyst for Joe’s epic journey. (READ THE SUMMARY OF JOE'S JOURNEY BELOW)
For almost 90 days, Joe has been under the extraordinary care of the nursing staff of the Cardiothoracic ICU at UNC Medical. They are skillful, nurturing, attentive, knowledgeable and above all – they care about Joe. They have each formed a special bond with him which is evident and powerful . They are amazing and our family is so very grateful for their unwavering care and concern.
We would like to recognize their extraordinary efforts by providing their unit with a much-needed budget for nursing seminars and conferences. We have been told that money for these things is scarce, or that the existing budget covers only one staff member when several would like to participate.
Now we’re not just going to ask you to pony up the money without also attempting to do something to earn it ourselves! We are amassing a team of runners to run in the “Run Raleigh Half Marathon and Road Race” – held on Sunday April 14th. Our goal is to collectively run 100K – for Joe K. In return, we’re going to ask you to sponsor us, with 100% of your contribution, minus a small proccessing fee benefiting the nursing staff of the UNC Cardiothoracic unit.
Like Joe – pushing his way through recovery, we’ll have to struggle and push to cover the miles -as many of us are not runners at all. But if Joe can do it – so can we!
Also, this race is a great tribute to Joe as it’s run in his home town of Raleigh – the town in which he was born, raised and that he literally helped build throughout his 50 year career in real estate.
Please consider making a generous donation and know that 100% of the money will go directly to the nurses and staff who have made a difference in Joe’s life.
If you would like to run with us, please click here to register: http://www.runraleighhalfmarathon.com/
Please be sure to email Kirsten at Kirsten@bu.edu so we know you’ll be joining us!
Thank you in advance for your contribution to a worthy cause!
Kirsten and Dillon Kalkhurst
Here’s Joe's Amazing Story of Survival (so far):
Joe remained on a heart/lung machine for nearly two weeks after the surgery. The plan was to rest his heart for 2-3 days with the hopes that it would start again and he could get off the life support before it over-taxed his organs. We were told that 3 out of 10 patients with his condition survived.
For days, Joe lay motionless and dependent upon life support. Every day that went by, his prognosis got worse. Finally, on the 10th day - December 24th- - when death seemed eminent - his heart started beating again and he was able to be removed from life support. It was a Christmas miracle!
Though he didn’t regain consciousness immediately, his prognosis improved. But that was not to last as he developed pneumonia, required breathing assistance, his kidney function deteriorated, and he remained completely unresponsive calling into question his cognitive functioning.
The next 30+ days were dark days for everyone as we waited for him to declare himself. It was inevitable – he would either fail or thrive. He could not maintain his current state forever, though it certainly felt like it. On day 47, Joe’s kidney function began to slowly improve and he started showing signs of responsiveness. What followed was nothing short of miraculous. Within a 30 day period, his cognitive functioning improved, his kidney and liver function returned to normal and despite being bedridden for nearly 7 weeks, he insisted on pushing himself through a grueling daily physical therapy regimen to learn how to sit, stand and walk again.
Joe had fought his way back and was scheduled on day 85 to leave the ICU for the next stage of his recovery when he experienced a serious and near catastrophic setback. He was having shortness of breath which prompted a CAT scan. The scan showed a large aortic aneurysm about the size of a tennis ball that had formed on his aorta. Despite his already compromised health, it had to be removed via open heart surgery or he would not survive.
On day 87, Joe returned to the Operating Room for an 8 hour surgery. His prognosis was 50/50. Despite this devastating set-back, he went into the surgery with a positive attitude. His Cardiologist performed a miraculous feat – removing the aneurysm and repairing the aorta. Joe is now back in the ICU – his old stomping ground – demanding to sit in the chair and have PT – 2 days after his surgery.
The cause of the aneurysm was identified as a rare and dangerous fungal infection which Joe’s compromised –though improving immune system coupled with medication - may or may not be able to eradicate. At this point, every day we get with him is a gift. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but what we do know is that he has received extraordinary care from the doctors and nursing staff of UNC Medical.