Steve should be heading home tomorrow (4/19)!

Steve Sundberg

First post: Apr 5, 2011 Latest post: Dec 27, 2019
Steve's funeral will take place on Monday, December 30th, at Commerce United Methodist Church. 
9:30 am - 11:00 am, viewing
11:00 am, service followed by burial at Commerce Cemetery and luncheon back at the church.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/donate
Commerce United Methodist Church
1155 N Commerce Rd
Commerce Twp, MI 48382
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At 12 years old Steve was diagnosed with Crohn's disease (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crohn%27s_disease) - a particularly cruel ailment of the GI tract that can rob the subject of comfort, the joy of eating, a good deal of dignity, and ultimately time. What followed through his youth, his teens, and the rest of his adult life included many doctor visits, intense medication regimens, various diets, hospitalizations, and surgeries.

In April of 2011 he experienced a uniquely critical episode. Unbeknownst to him, his ravaged GI tract began bleeding throughout the night. He was bleeding out - but without any external signs. He awoke in the morning feeling ill and weak. At one point, thinking he was about to be sick, he attempted to get to the bathroom and passed out - and then went into cardiac arrest. An ambulance was called and they rushed him to the ER. He arrested two more times on the way to and in the ER. He was stabilized and moved into an ICU where he remained unconscious and on a ventilator and life support. The next few days were touch and go. On the third day he started opening his eyes and responding to some commands. On the fourth they removed the breathing tube, and on the 5th he was able to start speaking. However it was becoming clear that he'd suffered significant brain injuries from lack of blood to the brain. The greatest impact was his loss of short term memory.

Over the next 8 years Steve and his family dealt with the ongoing challenges from the memory loss in addition to the continued struggles from Crohn's disease. Steve was an electrical engineer (Michigan Tech, '87), but could no longer continue in his chosen career path. His wit and personality were still clearly intact, but there was no way he could manage the demands of a mentally rigorous occupation without the ability to focus for more than a few moments. 

The disease continued to attack his physical body. There hasn't been a year in the past 8 that he hasn't spent days or weeks in the hospital for procedures or complications. A number of times we were concerned that he might not leave the hospital upright. As his GI tract was increasingly compromised, he wasn't always able to absorb the nutrients necessary to sustain life - let alone heal. Managing the vast varieties and complex schedules of medications and special foods was a Herculean logistics exercise. We witnessed as his weight might fluctuate from 95 lbs to 135 lbs, and his energy levels slowly declined over the years.

Another viscous blow was struck around 2012 when Steve's son Luke, at age 11, was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. Thankfully the treatment of Crohn's has advanced over the past 4 decades and there is a very positive outlook for Luke.

On December 1 of this year Steve re-entered the hospital as his health and strength had diminished significantly. The goal was to put him on TPN (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parenteral_nutrition) which would provide nutrition through an IV vs. food which his body couldn't process effectively. This required a minor surgical procedure, but his state was too fragile to even attempt it. They attempted to raise his health to the point where the procedure would be safe and successful. After 2 weeks it was clear that even if the procedure worked, he wouldn't be able to live at home in the same manner. He would need to be cared for by professional staff every day. Whether that meant living in a separately facility or hiring in-home care remained to be seen, but it would be the only course.

Then on Sunday morning, December 22, things went south. He developed a bowel obstruction, sepsis, an infection, and his blood pressure dropped. Steve and Kathy spoke with the physician and it was clear that there was little more to do that wasn't invasive and carried other risks. It was obvious that he would likely never be able to eat by mouth again - and eating great food was one of the last joyful activities he had left. They decided there together that the only course was to stop all treatment and do what they could to keep him as comfortable as possible while nature and God took their course.

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