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Journal

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November
30
2020

November 29, 2020

As we’re wrapping up this holiday season, our family has realized that the word “thankful” has taken on an entirely new meaning this year. Being able to spend time together with our mom is the most precious thing we could ever ask for. We are grateful not only to have our mom with us but also for the community of family, friends, medical staff, coworkers, and more who have continuously provided us support. We are also so proud of all those who completed the socially distanced 5k to promote heart health and cheer on our mom from a far (see the picture)!

Of course, every day is not always filled with sunshine and rainbows, but the challenges seem to be fewer and further apart. Up to this point, she has received positive reports from her monthly check-ins at Mayo Clinic, and the doctors are amazed with her progress. 

My sister and I decided that the best way to finish the final post for our mom’s heart transplant journey would be to allow it to come from her.

“From what started as the most shocking and scariest year of my life to now being able to do more than I have been able to in years, I feel so blessed to have been given another chance at life. In my past, I have tried to always be the caregiver to others but now I have had to rely on so many to take care of me. Through this, I have realized how special it is to give and to receive.” - Laura Turnquist

*Please note that the tributes page/donations on this website benefits CaringBridge and their mission, it does not go to Laura or our family. If you would like to help our parents with funding of medical costs as well as their 4-7 month stay at Mayo (Rochester), please visit https://gofundme.com/f/laura039s-new-heart to make a donation.

With gratitude, love, and faith in Jesus,

Dave & Laura

Lesa & Tanner

Katie & Tanner James

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November
2
2020

Nov 2, 2020 - She's Home!

Our mom is officially home! After months (July 19 to be exact) of living in Rochester, MN, our mom finally got the approval from doctors and arrived home with our dad last Thursday, October 29. She has so appreciated the support she has already received getting acclimated to living in her own home again. It is a bit overwhelming at times knowing she’s farther away from the doctors (who she has been only blocks away from) while also maintaining her exercise and medicine routines. But, in the words of our mom, “I can’t believe I’m here.”

Just a reminder, the socially distanced 5k is coming up. With the weather being nice this week, feel free to get a head start! The 3.1 mile walk/run does not have to be completed all at once if you want to space out your miles throughout the next 2 weeks. Please send a picture with heart hands (shown in the flyer) to annekatie21@gmail.com by November 14th. Our goal with this 5k is to promote heart health and honor our mom’s heart transplant! 

*Please note that the tributes page/donations on this website benefits CaringBridge and their mission, it does not go to Laura or our family. If you would like to help our parents with funding of medical costs as well as their 4-7 month stay at Mayo (Rochester), please visit https://gofundme.com/f/laura039s-new-heart to make a donation.

With gratitude, love, and faith in Jesus,

Dave

Lesa & Tanner

Katie & Tanner James

October
26
2020

October 26, 2020

On July 21st, 2020, our parents headed to Rochester knowing our mom would not return home until she was given a new heart. Although things can change, even the day of, our dad gets to drive our mom home on Thursday, Oct. 29th!! When our mom was first told she needed a heart transplant, she was hoping to be home by Christmas so we feel incredibly blessed that she will be home to celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, AND Christmas.

She is anxious to see familiar faces again, but she will need to limit her exposure in public and restrict visitors. For any visitors she may have, wearing masks, sanitizing/washing hands, and social distancing must be practiced. The doctors have stressed that she, and our family, must be very cautious about how we interact with people because of the risk of infection. The concern is not only the coronavirus but also other bacteria and viruses such as the flu. 

Because of these restrictions, home may still feel somewhat distant for her. The letters and packages have made her feel supported and connected to friends and family throughout her time in Rochester so let us know if you need our home address to continue to send mail her way! 

Because taking these precautions is vitally important, we have created a socially distanced “Laura’s New Heart 5k Run/Walk” to celebrate our mom’s successful heart transplant, recovery, and return home! Anytime during the week of November 8-14, you can walk or run a 5k during one of the first full weeks of our mom being home. You can even walk/run the distance of the 5k throughout the week rather than all at once. This is not a fundraiser, but rather, our goal is to promote heart health and show the progress our mom has made (see the attached flyer for more details.)

The road to recovery continues on with monthly appointments in Rochester. She will have these appointments the rest of her life, but they will be fewer and further apart, especially after the first year. We are eager to see her long-term progress!

*Please note that the tributes page/donations on this website benefits CaringBridge and their mission, it does not go to Laura or our family. If you would like to help our parents with funding of medical costs as well as their 4-7 month stay at Mayo (Rochester), please visit https://gofundme.com/f/laura039s-new-heart to make a donation.

With gratitude, love, and faith in Jesus,

Dave

Lesa & Tanner

Katie & Tanner James

October
18
2020

October 18, 2020

It’s official: The barn sale raised $6,550!! It was an incredible moment watching Kara present the check to our mom over FaceTime. We are in absolute shock and are so grateful that our community continues to support our family. There ended up being 12.5 pages of names that bought items and/or made a donation! In the words of our mom, “Kara went above and beyond. In no way did I ever expect this. I can’t begin to explain how grateful I am for this and the countless hours and the amount of work that went into this for her.”

Each day our mom gets closer and closer to coming home. This will be such a surreal moment for all of us knowing we could’ve still been waiting for a heart and that our mom is returning healthier than she left, so there is a lot of emotion we all have anticipating this. It’s been great, though, that time in the last few weeks has seemed faster because of the changes in caregivers. We are lucky to have family that is willing to take time from their busy schedules to be with our mom for days at a time. 

Although we are still hoping for our mom to return home by Halloween, we haven’t been given an exact date. Things change constantly based on weekly test results and appointment updates, so we are anxiously waiting just like all of you probably are! Our mom is still facing a few challenges, including cramping while sleeping as well as recent blood tests that came back a little different from previous results, which has led to more tests and medication changes. Once these things have been finalized, we are eager to be notified of her final appointment date (until the monthly check ins) and have our mom home!

If you would like to send her a card before she returns home, use the following address:

Transplant House - Laura Turnquist

705 Second St. SW Room 51

Rochester, MN 55902

*Please note that the tributes page/donations on this website benefits CaringBridge and their mission, it does not go to Laura or our family. If you would like to help our parents with funding of medical costs as well as their 4-7 month stay at Mayo (Rochester), please visit https://gofundme.com/f/laura039s-new-heart to make a donation.

With gratitude, love, and faith in Jesus,

Dave

Lesa & Tanner

Katie & Tanner James

October
5
2020

October 4, 2020

The turnout at the barn sale was nothing short of AMAZING! Our mom was in tears after seeing the videos posted to Facebook from her dear friend, Kara, who spent countless hours organizing and hosting this fundraiser. Again, we are so incredibly grateful for all of the support our mom has received during this transplant journey. Our extended family has also really stepped up by being caregivers in Rochester as well as creating a special sign made just for our mom to include her in our cousin Ali’s wedding this weekend. My sister and I are also preparing some fun ideas for our mom’s return home so be on the lookout for that in the coming weeks!

This week I got to stay with our mom in Rochester, and I’m so grateful to be able to say that! It’s been a couple of months since I’ve gotten to see her for more than a weekend. This was an important week for her as it was her official 2-month checkup, so she had many, many appointments to examine her heart’s progress. In one of the appointments, the nurse coordinator gave us a Rochester newspaper to which we were surprised to see a picture and interview of our mom! The day that Lesa and her went on an outdoor tour at the Rochester Art Center, our mom was interviewed and there was a picture of her and Lesa. How crazy is that?!

In addition to this full week of appointments, our mom has biweekly biopsies of her heart to monitor her rejection levels. The results of her last two biopsies have shown a small amount of rejection toward the new heart. Although this sounds negative, the doctors have assured us that this is exactly what they want to see because it means that her body has activated its immune system. A good representation of this is that while her white blood cells are active and sitting around her new heart questioning what it is/why it’s there, they aren’t actually attacking it. 

After talking to some people about our mom, we realized that some of the things in our previous posts might have read differently than we intended. Please understand that things change weekly (literally) so all of these are subject to change again! Here are a couple of clarifications we want to make:

  • Although we are hoping for our mom to come home by Halloween, that does not mean that she gets to return to her normal life right away. She will not be able to immediately return to work, social gatherings, etc. as she still has to allow her body to recover and protect her (almost non-existent) immune system. She will also have to travel back to Rochester for appointments during this time, usually monthly.
  • We still don’t know everything about the effects of her medications. Some (such as food precautions) may only affect her for a year, but others (such as sun sensitivity) may be for the rest of her life. Of course changes in modern medicine and the progression of her recovery will affect all of these things.

*Please note that the tributes page/donations on this website benefits CaringBridge and their mission, it does not go to Laura or our family. If you would like to help our parents with funding of medical costs as well as their 4-7 month stay at Mayo (Rochester), please visit https://gofundme.com/f/laura039s-new-heart to make a donation.

With gratitude, love, and faith in Jesus,

 Dave

Lesa & Tanner

Katie & Tanner James

September
27
2020

September 27, 2020

As our dad begins harvest, close family is going to be staying with our mom. I was able to stay with her last week, and Katie gets to be here this week! It was hard for our mom to see our dad leave for a long term period, although, because he’s been her main caretaker and has been a huge support for her. They celebrated their 32nd anniversary this week! 

The cards, notes, and packages continue to come in, and she is forever grateful for that. Sometimes it’s hard to put things into words, and she can’t believe the meaningful messages people have been sending her. It helps her get through the days, especially the harder ones. She really misses being around family, friends, and especially the kids in the library and at school. 

A long time friend of our mom’s, Kara Napierala, is hosting a barn sale, donating the monies to our mom. We are truly honored and blessed. It will take place starting this Wednesday through Sunday, Oct. 4th (see the picture posted for more details). This will help contribute to costs including: transportation, meals, laundry, medication and other medical expenses, and lodging at the Gift of Life Transplant House. 

There are still up and down days, especially as the doctors continue to adjust her medication. She’s experiencing some negative side effects from it, but overall things continue to progress positively. She is becoming more independent in daily tasks, including: walking up and down the stairs, doing laundry, and some cooking. We even tried jogging (about 50 feet)!! She still has to rest often during the day and is having some issues with cramps and swelling in her legs, but we are impressed with her being able to do these activities because some of this is more than she could do in the last year before her transplant. 

With the crisp fall air, the weather has been perfect to walk outside. Along with her caretaker, she is able to walk to her appointment buildings from the transplant house. Her goal is 10,000 steps a day! The Rochester Art Center is also within walking distance, and we were able to go on an outdoor art walking tour. 

One of the pieces we saw was called Unbroken. The artist from Rochester, Katya Roberts, started with a rectangular piece of paper and folded and cut it into this shape. Then she transferred her art to a piece of metal and painted it. It represents the experiences we go through in life and how it changes us, only to make us grow. This resonated with our mom and her heart transplant. On the sculpture it states:

“The wind does not break a tree that bends” - Sukuma proverb

While external forces bend and shape us, we are not broken.

While we are visibility altered, we are wholly preserved, unbroken. 

*Please note that the tributes page/donations on this website benefits CaringBridge and their mission, it does not go to Laura or our family. If you would like to help our parents with funding of medical costs as well as their 4-7 month stay at Mayo (Rochester), please visit https://gofundme.com/f/laura039s-new-heart to make a donation.

With gratitude, love, and faith in Jesus,

Dave

Lesa & Tanner

Katie & Tanner James



September
11
2020

September 11, 2020

When people have recently asked us how our mom is doing, the answer stays consistent: “She’s been doing great, and everything has so far gone according to plan.” If you’ve ever had a traumatic medical situation in your family, you would probably agree that having a consistently positive answer means everything. It means that the days where it seemed like constant, never-ending battles have slowly become farther and farther away. Although there are still days our mom faces minor setbacks, the progress is becoming more significant.

Each day, our mom becomes more and more independent. She tries to get at least an hour of walking in each day (and to think she could only walk 40 feet just a month ago!) with short breaks and heavy concentration. Because she had a pacemaker put in, she was not allowed to raise her arms but is now cleared to do that, and this week she also got her staples out! Sleeping for more than 4-5 hours a night is still a struggle, but the doctors are working on managing that with her medications. One effect we’ve also learned about her medications is sun-sensitivity. We found a 50 spf hat that she will be able to wear outdoors, along with wearing sunscreen. 

My sister and I also want to give a much deserved and special shoutout to our dad, Dave. Not only has he been by our mom’s side throughout this entire process, but he has also done the little things that have made all the difference for our mom, including giving her back rubs, situating her on her hospital bed, monitoring her vitals, and most importantly, loving her unconditionally. While our mom was still in the hospital, she FaceTimed us one day while our dad was out of the room to tell us that she has never been so in love with our dad because of everything he’s done for her. After this call, I texted him and told him how much she appreciates and loves him, to which he simply responded, “That’s what wedding vows are for!!!”

We also want to give a special shoutout to the close family members and friends who have stepped up to help our family. From taking on extra duties with farming (which allowed our dad to be there this whole time!) to those who are going to be helping while our dad comes home for harvest and everything in between, we truly couldn’t have done it without you!

*Please note that the tributes page/donations on this website benefits CaringBridge and their mission, it does not go to Laura or our family. If you would like to help our parents with funding of medical costs as well as their 4-7 month stay at Mayo (Rochester), please visit https://gofundme.com/f/laura039s-new-heart to make a donation.

With gratitude, love, and faith in Jesus,

 Dave

Lesa & Tanner

Katie & Tanner James

August
31
2020

August 31, 2020

After what feels like months, we finally got to see our mom in person!!! Our dad had business to take care of back at the farm with harvest approaching soon so we were each able to serve as her caretaker the last two weekends. One of the things our mom was looking forward to was an Olive Garden breadstick so I was able to get one as part of her first meal out of the hospital. Katie and her went on a walk around the block and came across a local Greek Festival where they got to sit and listen to music outside. We both did not realize how much we needed this time with her. 

She will continue to live at the Gift of Life Transplant House for the next couple months, again with the hope she will be able to come home around Halloween. Being out of the hospital has been amazing for her mental health--although it’s not home, it definitely feels more normal. She has been getting better sleep with fewer interruptions, and our dad gets to make her meals in the transplant house kitchen and be with her at all times (instead of just during visiting hours). 

Because of her medications, there are a ton of important precautions and “rules” to follow. She essentially has no immune system right now because of the heavy dose of immunosuppressants, which is an anti-rejection medication. The first 3 months of this are the most critical, as her highest risk right now is infection because her body can’t fight it off. Eventually, they will lower her medication doses, and after a year, the risk of infection will go down. However, some of these precautions will be her “new normal” as she will be on these drugs the rest of her life. It is crucial we sanitize often and are aware of what/who she is exposed to. Covid-19 has been a blessing in disguise in a way because most places and people are already taking similar extra precautions. 

Eating food will also be different. For example:

  • Buffets, potlucks, and all types of seafood are prohibited
  • Eggs and all meat must be fully cooked
  • Our mom must be first in line for all family meals in order to limit contact with the shared serving utensils
  • Others who are cooking food must cook everything thoroughly - in fact, Mayo suggests that others should not be cooking for our mom as we need to be able to watch how all meals are being prepared

She is also continuing to monitor her blood sugar--another effect of her medication. She has had minimal issues with this since she left the hospital because she has done a great job of tracking her carbs. 

We also want to give a big THANK YOU to all those who have sent our mom cards and packages. Our mom tells us every time we talk to her that she can’t believe how much support she receives, and our dad jokes they are “celebrities” in the transplant house because they’ve received so much mail there. It is the best part of our mom’s day when she receives something in the mail, so thank you for continuously brightening her day! We hope you understand that our parents are incredibly grateful for this and would love to acknowledge each of you individually but are focusing their efforts on recovery at this time. Our family has truly felt blessed throughout this entire journey!

Transplant House - Dave & Laura Turnquist

705 Second St. SW Room 51

Rochester, MN 55902

*Please note that the tributes page/donations on this website benefits CaringBridge and their mission, it does not go to Laura or our family. If you would like to help our parents with funding of medical costs as well as their 4-7 month stay at Mayo (Rochester), please visit https://gofundme.com/f/laura039s-new-heart to make a donation.

 

With gratitude, love, and faith in Jesus,

 

Dave

Lesa & Tanner

Katie & Tanner James