Journal

Journal entry by Brook Herzog

This six month milestone has us all overcome with gratitude as we reflect on Michael's journey since his accident. Michael's father, Mike, has a message on his heart that he would like to share with you all as we celebrate this day. Mike writes:

"It was approximately 12 months ago that I was with my two sons, Josh and Michael, on a hunting trip to the Northwest Territories of Canada. The photo of the three of us was posted on Michael’s CaringBridge site shortly after his accident on March 17th. The background of a pristine lake and snowcapped mountains with the three of us smiling is one of my favorite photos. I could never have imagined that we could almost duplicate that same photo last week in Utah, especially after Michael’s accident. He looks a bit thinner than twelve months ago but our smiles and affection for each other has only grown.

There is no way to properly summarize the feelings each member of my family has experienced since
March 17th. We have been humbled by the outpouring of support from people around the world, especially the community of Detroit Lakes, the state of Minnesota, Concordia College, NDSU Women’s Golf Team, Trinity Lutheran Church, and our co-workers at Herzog Roofing. So many people and organizations have impacted us by their words, actions and prayers. We are grateful and appreciative. The only way to thank you all is by “paying it forward” to others when a crisis might strike.

I do want to specifically thank the staff at the Burn Center of Regions Hospital in St. Paul. What an amazing team of people that responded to Michael each day of his stay there. Housekeeping, nurses, doctors, OT, PT, psychologists, pastoral, and security. They all care for each patient like they are their own child. Simply an incredible group of people.

Our families on both sides, the Zastrows, the Herzogs and the Cards, plus all of their kids and families.
We could never have made it without your prayers, actions and support on so many levels.

As the patriarch of my family, I try to be the one that other members can lean on. I have found out in
the past six months that it is okay for me to seek help from each of them when needed.

Little Ivan, age two. Josh and Brook’s son. He has a perpetual smile on his face and his happy demeanor when he visited us at the hospital brightened our day. The numerous videos of him that Brook sent always cheered us up.

Our sweet granddaughter Emme, soon to be three. Luke and Christine’s youngest child. She struggled a bit when she first came to see Michael. Hospitals can be a bit frightening to young children. Her big blue eyes were always searching for Michael though and her concern for him was evident. She has a spunky personality and helped add strength to our hospital routine during her visits.

Our oldest grandson, Declan, loves his Funcle (Fun Uncle) Michael. We never get tired of his question,
“where is Michael.” He has never skipped a beat in wanting to play and hangout with Michael. His laugh
is infectious and energy unlimited.

These three little ones, as all grandparents know, are precious gems in our lives, especially during a
challenging period like we experienced.

Our youngest daughter, Madison is now a sophomore at NDSU. She was with us the first night at the hospital with Michael. It was very emotional for her to see her older brother in such serious condition. She was torn between staying with us in St. Paul and returning to college. Jodie and I encouraged her to go back to school. We knew her second family at NDSU, her golf coach Matt Johnson, and her golf teammates would surround her with love and compassion. They are each incredible people who have left a lasting imprint on our hearts.

No words can describe what Brook, Josh’s wife, has meant to us with her daily CaringBridge postings.
These updates enabled thousands of people to pray for our son. Without these prayers there is no way
Michael would have recovered the way he has. Brook’s ability to take our daily doctor reports about
Michael and share them so eloquently were priceless. What a gift she provided to us all.

Son in law, Luke, has a busy dental practice and two small children, yet he did not hesitate in having Christine spend an unlimited time with us in St. Paul. He knew how important it was for us to have Christine with us. We also leaned on him for medical advice and he was a willing “nurse” with Michael’s bandage changes when it seemed overwhelming to Jodie.

Josh and Christine were mom and dad to their Mom and Dad. There is no way to accurately explain how they took care of Jodie and I that first week. They shielded us from everything and allowed us to focus 100% on Michael. They handled media requests, lodging logistics, the roofing business, and the list goes on and on.

We could not be more proud of each member of our family!

How does a mom cope with a child that is close to death? I witnessed it and continue to see how deep a mother’s love is. Jodie has been unrelenting in her love, care and commitment to Michael. Every ounce of energy she had was spent on Michael those first days, even to the detriment of her own health. She massaged the toes on his right foot each day those first couple of weeks as that was the only part of his body not wrapped. She recited her bed time phrase from when he was a little boy to him each night before we left to go back to our apartment. Her tenderness with him as she became his “nurse” when he came back home to Detroit Lakes was remarkable. She continues to do all she can to help him have the best possible recovery. Even when Michael doesn’t want to hear it, she is preaching to him and he knows she is right! All moms are special but there is another level they get to when one of their children is in need. Jodie got to that level and beyond with Michael.

Suffering is defined as pain or hardship. Each of us has endured various forms of pain and hardships at
different times in our lives. What Michael has experienced is beyond definition. When he was shaking uncontrollably in his hospital bed and saying “please take me home I just want to die” he was suffering at a level I never want to witness again. He is not a perfect young man, no one is I guess. He makes his share of mistakes that frustrate us as his parents but he has courage that is impossible to measure. To endure what he has had to go through is pretty remarkable. His recovery continues. We don’t know what the future holds for him but I do know he possesses the strength, and determination to handle whatever it might be. God has given him an experience that can impact many. Our prayer for him is that he recognizes those opportunities when presented and embraces them.

Michael has asked our entire family out to dinner tonight to celebrate six months since his accident.
Please know that we will share stories about many of you and the support you provided to us in so many different ways. We are grateful for each other. We are grateful to all who prayed for him and us. We are grateful to our God who answered our prayers when we were in desperate need of our Miracle
Michael!!!

Blessings to you all on your own journeys. The Mike Herzog Family"
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Journal entry by Brook Herzog

Good morning, everyone! I hope this update finds you well, as it has been quite a while since we last posted on Caringbridge. Today we have an extra special update coming from Michael as he reflects on the past six months since his accident. 

 

"Man. Crazy what life can throw at you... 

Six months ago I was laying in a hospital bed fighting the toughest battle that I had ever encountered in my 24 years. I had been in an explosion. I didn’t know what would happen to me as I learned I had suffered burns across 77% of my body, with 20% of the burns being third degree… After the blast I vividly remember looking down and seeing the backs of my hands hanging and melting at my wrists. The image sticks with me as I knew at that point that I was seriously injured and that life may never be the same again.

This all sent me on a crash course to meeting some of the greatest people I have ever met in my life. First I have to thank Kristina Otte who heard my screams from the nearby church and waited with me for the ambulance to come. It couldn’t have been an easy experience for her but I know she was there for a reason. The emergency care I received from Sanford in Fargo was the best I could have hoped for as they intubated me and prepared me to fly fixed-wing down to the burn center at Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Once at Regions, I was cared for by men and women of extreme character and faith who nursed me back to health. It took a village of support from around the world to get me back on my feet and get my life back on track. Prayers and kind words flooded my ICU room each day, and that meant more to me than anyone will ever know.

Through this experience I learned that family will always be at your side. My family was there each step of the way, and I spent 5 ½ weeks in the burn center with my parents never leaving my side. The power of a parent’s love has never been more evident to me, especially a mother’s love for her child. Through some of the darkest times, my mom was there. At one point I was fighting off an infection and violently shaking due to a high fever; my mom was only allowed to hold my right toe, but her touch and voice were enough to calm me down and help me push through. I hope I never know the hurt they felt as parents seeing their son like this. Mom and Dad, I love you more than I can ever express. To Christine, Luke, Josh, Brook and Madison, your strength, resilience and love inspires me each day. It takes a team to go far in life and I believe my team is what brought me through this. We are all more resilient than we know and can fight battles much larger than we could ever imagine. I never in a million years thought I would be a burn survivor. But now, stepping out on the other side, I wouldn’t change it. It happened and brought me here to who I am six months later. A wise person told me that you don’t ask why it happened, you ask why am I here? So, why are you here today?"

Journal entry by Brook Herzog

Hello everyone and good morning! It has been five weeks now since Michael made the transition to home care here in Detroit Lakes. In short, he has been doing very well! At the beginning it was a juggling act to fit in all his PT, OT and the meticulous changing of his compression garments, but being in the home environment has really made a positive difference. Michael continues to work very hard at his exercises and getting his strength back. He is getting noticeably stronger each day, and he is happy to report that his right hand now has full range of motion and his left hand is catching up! Pain only comes and goes with certain actions but his skin is still very delicate and has been quite itchy as it grows and heals. So far he has had two follow-ups back at Regions with future appointments that will continue to be further spaced, and each week he attends multiple physical and occupational therapy appointments locally, as well as hyperbaric oxygen treatment in Fargo. Fortunately at this point he is able to handle most of his daily care on his own or with little assistance, and this week marked a big milestone as Michael was able to move back into his own house! He is also starting to spend a little time at the office, and he is looking forward to catching up with people out and about around town. He needs to be extremely careful to avoid the sun this summer, but in many ways he is starting to get back to normal life. It is truly remarkable to see how far he has come in such a short period of time...God is SO good. It is not lost on us how big of role you all have played in Michael's recovery, from the darkest of times to now as he regains his independence...Your prayers and compassion have made all the difference. From the bottoms of our hearts, THANK YOU! 

Journal entry by Brook Herzog

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend. Easter is a powerful reminder that hope must never be lost, for as dark as the road may seem, there always lies light at the end of it. This message resonates in a very meaningful way for our family this year, with that light shining a little bit brighter each day as Michael heals. 

Michael was able to call Josh last night to help us with a firsthand update for you all. This week brings some big changes: Michael will be getting released from Regions and is able to continue his care at home! We are excited to have him nearby and it's a huge relief to reach this step in his recovery, but it's important that we all recognize that he still has a significant amount of healing to do. Michael shared that he has lost 30lbs and most of his strength, and he doesn't have full function of his hands right now. He recently got his phone back but has difficulty using it, so please don't take it personally when he doesn't respond. He still hasn't regained his voice from being intubated, but he made sure to note that right now he "sounds like Clint Eastwood." :)

Michael is looking forward to catching up with everyone in the future but graciously asks that visitors hold off until he gets settled in and adjusts to his new normal. His days will continue to be filled with physical and occupational therapies, as well as daily dressing changes that alone consume most of the morning. He is working really hard and improving each day but it will take time to get where he wants to be. Mike and Jodie have been very busy learning the new skills they'll need as they take over as Michael's main caregivers between appointments at Regions. 

As they prepare to leave, Michael, Mike and Jodie would like to give a huge thank you to the staff at Regions for the incredible care they have provided day in and day out. They say they feel like part of a new family with Michael's nurses, doctors, and the other families they've gotten to know in the waiting room. It is a bittersweet feeling to be stepping away from their guidance and friendship. They also want to thank everyone for your heartfelt messages, cards, food, generous gifts and kind words. They haven't been able to respond but we all continue to read your messages and sincerely appreciate all the thoughtful gestures toward our family. The biggest thanks of all is for your prayers. It is so moving to read your comments and hear of so many friends, acquaintances and even total strangers who have been praying for Michael. The prayer chains you've added him to would surely span the globe! We talk every day about how our faith has grown throughout this experience, and we have you all to thank for being a part of that. It has been the biggest blessing to witness God in action through your healing prayers. We will continue to update on Michael's progress as he makes the big transition to home care. Thank you and God bless you all!

Journal entry by Sheri Zastrow

Good Evening! This is a social media post from Donnie Vincent. He is a man to hunting like Tom Brady is to football. Let’s just say, Jodie and Mike haven’t seen a smile on Michael like this since he was hospitalized! I believe this message and the pictures say it all....

On the morning of March 17th, 2019, a young man named Michael Herzog of Detroit Lakes, MN was involved in a horrific gas explosion in his fish house, leaving over 80% of his body covered in 2nd and 3rd degree burns. I hadn’t heard of the accident until Connor Butenhoff, an ER nurse at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, messaged me on FB asking if I might be able to find some time to come visit, once Michael was feeling ready. Of course I was more than willing but truth be told I didn’t know what to expect. It can be difficult waltzing into someone’s life when his or her chips are down, especially being a stranger. With nervous hands I put my truck in park and headed towards the entrance to the hospital.  
 
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Connor, the middleman in this story, met me in the lobby and brought me up to the burn unit to meet Michael and Michael’s parents, Mike and Jodie. I planned on making the visit short (I didn’t want to overwhelm anyone) but after we all shook hands and settled in, the sun seemed to simply cruise around the room as the hours passed. We told stories about life, some about hunting, and others about perspectives and bad days. If you weren’t paying attention you might not even notice that something terrible had recently happened.
 
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I could tell by the menagerie of photos that decorated the cupboard doors that up to this point in his journey Michael had already brightened many lives and accomplished much as a hunter. With this accident he’s had to endure unbelievable pain, but along with that I could see he’s managed to garner a wonderful presence and also seems to have gained a newfound mindfulness. Through his smiles and positive attitude, he made it very clear to me that moving forward, he’ll use this experience as motivation to celebrate life each day with even more vigor than he would’ve otherwise.
 
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Yesterday was a day I will never forget. It was a day that a young man named Michael made a lasting impression on me, one that left my mind reeling about my own life. The drive home was quiet. The sun, which we had watched all afternoon, was now far behind me. All I could think about now was what tomorrow has in store… and every tomorrow after that. @ Regions Hospital

Thank you, Donnie Vincent!! Also, a BIG Thank You to Connor Butenhoff for arranging this special gathering!!

Regarding Michael McDonough... He is needing all of our prayers more than ever! His Caringbridge shares the immediate concerns! Our Praying BIG request continues!!!


Thank You everyone!
Sheri Zastrow
(Sister to Jodie)

Journal entry by Brook Herzog

From unlikely meetings in the hospital to the most perfectly-timed messages, there have been many "coincidences" that have helped lift our spirits this past month since Michael's accident. A notable example: One of the ER nurses at Regions, Connor Butenhoff, happens to be a fellow Cobber and avid outdoorsman who played football with Josh at Concordia. With so many shared interests it has been a blessing to have Connor visit regularly, and he has also served as Michael's connection to the outdoors.

Connor helped make Michael's day a dream-come-true yesterday when he brought in a very special visitor-- one of Michael's idols: Donnie Vincent. Donnie is a professional hunter, conservationist, biologist and filmmaker. He's a big deal in the hunting world and someone who Michael really admires. Jodie said that when they first told Michael about the visit last week, it was the first time he had really smiled since the accident. Donnie had planned to visit Michael for 30 minutes, but he ended up staying and talking with him for 3 hours! He shared all kinds of awesome hunting stories and was a major inspiration for Michael. It was a day that he will never forget and we are so thankful to Connor for lining that up!

It was a very busy night at the hospital and Michael's surgery was canceled today. We continue to pray that Michael's hands can heal without needing pins. We also ask that everyone please continue to pray for Michael McDonough...He coded again last night and had to be intubated again. We pray that his blood pressure comes up, that the antibiotics fight his infection, and that his kidney function improves while also being able to treat his burns...He and his kind family need and appreciate all the prayers we can muster at this crucial time! Thank you, everyone! "Pray Big...Expect Miracles!"

Journal entry by Brook Herzog

Jodie & Mike have a quick prayer request for anyone reading this tonight: With Michael's hands being the biggest concern right now, we are praying that Michael's knuckles can heal over, and that they don't require pins so he can avoid another surgery. Thank you so much!

Journal entry by Brook Herzog

Hello everyone and Happy Sunday! First I'd like to say a big thank you to Sheri for all the awesome posts and good news last week! What a pivotal week in Michael's recovery... One can't help but be uplifted by her posts on his progress!

We were able to go to the cities to visit Michael this weekend, and this time truly felt like a whole different experience. Instead of walking into the 5th floor Burn Unit with a lump in our throats and holding back tears, we were just plain excited to see him. We washed up and put on gloves, then found out that gloves and gowns are no longer necessary to visit him. The risk of infection is still there but it was nice to find out that those strict precautions are no longer required at this point. Michael's voice is still quiet and hoarse from the tubes he had in previously, but it was so great to hear him talking and even joking around. Another big bright spot was when we were told that he could go to the waiting room to see his niece and nephews! Declan, Emme and Ivan weren't quite sure what to think of their first time seeing Uncle Michael since the accident with his new haircut or the big mechanical chair he was sitting in, but each time will get better and it was a huge blessing to have everyone together!

Michael's days continue to get busier and busier with all the PT and OT they have him doing. They are starting to incorporate more "everyday" tasks for him to work on so that he can retrain his muscles with different motions. We were able to sit in on a PT session, and it was SO inspiring to see Michael push himself through his pain and frustration to do his very best at each exercise. Currently he is working on some movements that any of us might take for granted, such as reaching up to touch one shoulder, but he is doing everything that is asked of him and we have full confidence that it's only a matter of time before he gets back to the strength and agility of the Michael we all know. Michael continues to face every obstacle and overcome each challenge with an unbelievable amount of heart and determination, just as he always has. 

On Monday Mike and Jodie have another conference with all of Michael's care team where they will hopefully discuss timelines and learn more about the next phase of his recovery. I don't want to overuse the word "Miracle", but so much of what has been happening can only be described that way. Thank you all for caring so much about Michael and our whole family, and for your continued encouragement and prayers! You are such a light in our lives!

Journal entry by Sheri Zastrow

April 11, 2019

Good Afternoon,

This morning I received a communication letter from our church, in Rochester.  It reads, “What if instead of talking about a story, we got to experience it? What if the realities of love, abundance, death and new life were not abstract terms but present reality? What if the central story of our faith came alive in a new way?”  Well let’s just say we are experiencing this reality and we cannot contain our excitement!!

It is an honor for me to write Miracles have happened for Michael!! The Region’s Hospital Healthcare team shared that, “there must be a Beam of light coming down in this room (Michael’s Hospital room) because his healing has defied all reason.”  His surgeon said she is shocked! A nurse who was in one of his early dressing changes stated she would have NEVER believed that he wouldn’t have needed skin grafts, nor have his skin heal to the point where he won’t have the visual effects of the burns.  We have experienced a Miracle!

 Michael’s skin continues to heal each day, producing “new seeds”!  Michael has been working very hard on his Occupational and Physical Therapy.  He has pushed himself to walk multiple times around the Burn Unit, even without a walker! His new travels have taken him to the Rehabilitation Center to increase and perfect his skills. He has been able to stand at the sink and brush his teeth. He made a comment about, “Death by Sonicare” since that toothbrush is a little too heavy to hold in his hand J. He said something that he has wanted to do since he was admitted to the hospital was to be able to reach up and scratch his head. Well, he can do that now too! Jodie has been instructed to go out and purchase some clothes and shoes so he can practice dressing himself. Since the weather was poor today, Jodie could not get out, so they found him a shirt to put on and he did it!! He has been able to start feeding himself and actually displays a desire to eat some “Elk Hot Dish” that was delivered to him from a former Cobber football player, Connor Butenhoff.   Jodie and Mike stated, “The pain Michael has had to push through to accomplish these tasks is mind-blowing!”  Miracles!!

Last but not least, is the most incredible Miracle of all…The Healthcare Team are Awestruck in Michael’s recovery process! They are saying this experience defies all explanation! One member of the team said that they will be talking about Michael for a LONG time! He is “Wowing” everyone!

With that all being said, they think he will be able to go home around Easter!!  

This is truly an Easter Miracle!!!

The Power of Prayer is Reality!!!

 Jodie and Mike want to note that their days have been filled with much to learn about Michael’s care. They want you to know they often will see a text, email or a call but are unable to answer them. They are asking that you have patience and understanding if they do not text or call back. They continue to be just so appreciative of your support, love and prayers.

 Many of you continue to pray for Michael M. which his family is so grateful for. Michael M. continues to have challenges with his surgeries, dressing changes etc. as he works through the disease he is dealing with. They are asking that you continue to pray for healing for him. “Pray BIG…Expect Miracles!!!”

As we move from the Lenten Season to Easter/Holy Week, we continue to be Amazed through Michael’s Journey!! Again, your support and prayers have been instrumental in these Miracles!!

Easter Blessings to you all!

Sheri Zastrow

(Sister to Jodie)

Journal entry by Sheri Zastrow

Good Afternoon,

This message is going to be short and very Sweeet today!! Miracles are in abundance for Michael because of the Power of Prayer!!

Below is the text message from Mike and Jodie this afternoon:

" We just met with Michael's Care Team. They looked at all of his skin today. They are thinking that he might not have to have any skin grafts...It is  Miracle!!!! If things keep going well, he won't have to have any more surgeries either!!! Things that they thought might not heal, have shown signs of healing since the last surgery. Mike asked how he will look...The Doctor said that after things are all healed, in a year or two, you won't know it (the accident) happened. God is Good! He does have a few spots that there is a bit of infection brewing but, they are treating it."

After the family received that text, here are some of the responses...

"Prayers have been answered!"
"Wonderful news!!! God is Great!!!"
"That is incredible!"
"Best news ever!! Thank you, Lord!!!"
"If that doesn't make you a believer, I don't know what will! That's amazing!"
"Unbelievable!!! God is so Great!! A perfect example of how powerful prayers are!"
"Just goes to show you, with an army behind him, miracles do happen. Keep the faith! We are all praying so hard! So proud of Michael and his hard work!"
“Wow this is amazing! Power of prayer for sure! God reminding us He is in control.”

Michael took another lap around the Burn unit today and continues his hard work at Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy!!
Incredible effort!!

"Pray BIG...Expect Miracles"- Dr. Thomas Blee

AMEN!!
Sheri Zastrow
(Sister of Jodie)

Journal entry by Brook Herzog

On Sunday morning of March 17th, Michael was involved in a gas explosion alone in his fish house. He was brought by ambulance to the new Sanford in Fargo, and was soon airlifted to Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Michael is considered in critical condition, with 2nd and 3rd degree burns covering 90% of his body. He has been sedated and the condition of his burns will be re-evaluated after 72 hours. His parents and siblings are with him at the hospital, and they will continue to update as they know more. We are so thankful that Michael is alive... It is truly a miracle. We ask that you please join us in praying for Michael's continued strength, healing, that his burns are no greater than 2nd degree, and that he resists infection as he recovers. Thank you all so much for your caring messages and continued prayers. We appreciate them more than we can say.
Michael’s Story

Site created on March 18, 2019

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