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Liz’s Story

Welcome to Liz's CaringBridge site. We've created it to keep everyone updated during Liz's surgery and recovery. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement for Liz as she goes through this journey.   

When Liz was 9 years old she developed a disease called Takayasu’s Arteritis which caused her arteries to narrow in various spots throughout her body.  As a result of serious narrowing of her aorta, Liz had a synthetic aortic bypass placed from her heart to above her kidneys when she was 12 years old.  A few years later they revised her bypass from above her kidneys to below her kidneys to help improve blood flow through her body.  The disease is no longer active in Liz’s body, but her arteries have remained permanently narrowed causing her to have high blood pressure and some areas of compromised blood flow.  Over the last 18 years Liz has remained relatively healthy, but in May doctors found that Liz’s aortic bypass has an aneurysm in it.  As a result of the aneurysm, the doctors have decided to replace the bypass with a new synthetic bypass from near her heart to below her kidneys.  The old bypass will be tied off and left in her body since it will be too difficult to remove after being in her body for so many years.  The new bypass will be placed down the center of her chest.  With this procedure doctors hope to improve Liz’s shortness of breath, fatigue, and blood flow to her organs.  Liz has been seeing Dr. McPhail, a vascular physician at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, over the last 8 years.   He has referred her to surgeons and other specialists at Mayo, who as a team, will be involved with her care.  Thanks to everyone for your prayers and support as our family goes through this process.

Latest Journal Update

Surgery 3 Years Ago

At first I didn’t plan on writing anything today, but in the end I realized I needed to sit down and compile my thoughts. 3 years ago today Liz had her first surgery at Mayo which started her 6 month medical roller coaster ride. It’s amazing how emotional this day is when I reflect on it. It’s almost as difficult as the anniversary of when she passed away. Like the previous two years, I still believe this is truly the day that we lost Liz. We watched Liz struggle for the next 6 months until her body could no longer do it. As her body physically diminished to nothing, I learned how strong she truly was. I learned how strength isn’t measure by the number of pounds a person can lift, but it’s measured by a person’s ability to overcome obstacles that stand in the way of accomplishing a task. I learned that Liz is one of the strongest humans I know based on her ability to survive for 6 months in her condition and not complain much about it. She was determined to survive, and she found ways to do it. Very few people had the opportunity to see her strength first hand in those 6 months, but I’m pretty sure each person would agree that she showed amazing strength as she battled through it.

Even with her strength and determination, she still wasn’t Liz. We never heard her voice again after that first surgery, and her personality was never the same. It was very hard to watch her transform into this new person, and we missed the old Liz like crazy. While this day was the beginning of a very crappy 6 months, I value the things that I was able to learn about Liz and myself during that time. I wouldn’t trade it away for anything, but I wish there was a better way to learn these things without losing Liz in the process.

The girls continue to do well, but they too have their moments of grief. Leah (the 4-yr old) has asked me a few times why I didn’t let her see Mommy before she died. Questions like that take the wind right out of you. I can’t imagine trying to process something like this at their ages. I try my hardest to keep Liz alive for them, and we find all kinds of ways to enjoy life even if Liz isn’t physically with us.

Please keep our family in your prayers as we continue to grieve. I wish I could say that our grieving is over, but in many ways 3 years ago feels like 3 days ago. While the grieving isn’t at the same level as past years, it’s still real and can be painful at moments. God continues to show me His love, and I praise God for every moment I had with Liz.


28 people hearted this



Nancy Weber
By Nancy Weber
I just checked the Caringbridge site last weekend. You were on my mind, and wondered if you had posted. I continue to think of you and the girls and lift you in prayer. I'm so thankful for your faith in God, TJ. What would any of us do without the strength we can get from Him? ((Hugs)) Nancy
Connie Cole
By Connie Sweeter
My prayers continue each day for you and the girls and your and Liz's parents
John Eschenbaum
By John M. Eschenbaum
TJ..........keeping Liz alive in the minds and hearts of your daughters is a gift only you their father can give. I am sure they will be eternally grateful to you for that. Grief will always be with you no matter how hard you try. But, that grief will change into something which you will be able to carry and the smiles will out number the tears. The pain will turn into a scar on your heart that will remind you of that love. Someday you will not so much miss the loss of Liz but be grateful you knew her and she you. Praying and thinking of you and your family
Susan Bisson
By Susan Bisson
Thank you for sharing your heart and how you are doing. I'm not sure what the right words to say are but please know that we'll be praying for you and the girls as you grieve, answer hard questions and share sweet memories of Liz with them.
gay colliton
By gay colliton
Thank you for posting an update, TJ. I'm a second cousin to Katie and I have been praying for you and your family since she asked for prayers for Liz back when she was also at Mayo. Yesterday I said a quick prayer for you and your girls while I was driving. I had this flashing thought in my car and not until I opened my email tonight did I realize the significance of today's date. I will continue to pray for you and your daughters.
Karen Matter
By Karen Matter — last edited
Without knowing either Liz or you, TJ; there is no doubt what a wonderful person Liz was, and how very deeply your love was for each other. Also your trust and belief you both had in our Lord.
My heart hurts for Liz's family as you miss her so
🙏🏻s for peace and continued healing.
Karen. (Former classmate of Vicki's -New Ulm)
Angela Ellingson
By Angela Ellingson
Praying for you and the girls now, that God would continue to carry you, hold you close, and give you peace.

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book.
Psalm 56:8
Norma Kruger
By Norma Kruger (from Milbank, hometown Lennox)
Thank you, TJ, for sharing your thoughts about Liz and your life without her. I praise God for you and your testimony of God's love. He has blessed your girls with a wonderful father and I'm sure you feel very blessed to have them. With prayers for all of you.
Haley Vander Pol
By Haley Vander Pol
I will continue to keep you and your girls in my prayers. I am enjoying getting to know your girls a little better. They are beautiful and so precious! I didn't know Liz but I have no doubt she was wonderful when looking at your girls!
1 person hearted this
Arlis Van Gerpen
By Arlis Van Gerpen
I was on your site yesterday and prayed for you and the girls. Praying you feel God's healing hand on your heart and brings you joy for each new day.