Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Long Time - Update on my health

It has been a very long time since I have posted here. I spend a lot of time on Facebook and working with my photography. My lab tests have been so boring and normal lately, so there is nothing to tell about that. It is a good thing for them to be normal after so many years of being abnormal. The Hepatitis C is gone, and my transplanted liver is doing great! I did have to start taking more anti depressants once the treatment for the Hepatitis C was finished. The treatment causes depression and it hasn't gone away for me. The treatment also caused my thyroid to go out of whack so that I had to start taking Levothyroxine for my thyroid. I was told it would go back to normal after the treatment, but it never did. I also developed a cyst on my retina which was also caused by the treatment, but it has been holding stable. I have floaters in my eyes all of the time caused by the gel of the inner eye breaking off from the retina and floating around. It's not bad and doesn't interfere with my vision. I wish I could see like I used to without those floaters, but it's not a big deal since the treatment took the Hepatitis C away. These are all small prices to pay for getting healthy.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I had my hair cut today

My cousin, Julie, came to cut my hair today. I like it! It looks healthier than it used to.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Mom's Birthday

Happy Birthday Mom!

I should have posted this yesterday because my mom's birthday is March 31st. She is now 78 years old. My mom, Josephine, is a strong lady and has been through some very emotional times.

When my mom was little, her baby sister, Joyce, had Scarlet Fever at the age of two. She had to be moved to a separate part of the house so that the other kids wouldn't get it too.

When my mom was 14 and Joyce was 12, they were riding their bicycles to country school, which was at the top of a hill. When they reached the top, Joyce collapsed on her bicycle. She passed away on the spot. It turned out that the Scarlet Fever she had when she was a toddler, damaged her heart.

My mom's dad was so very upset about Joyce's death that he blamed my mom. My mom was very hurt by this, and the fact that she saw her sister die in front of her upset her terribly too, obviously. She wanted to talk about her feelings but she was never allowed to. After Joyce's death, nobody was allowed to talk about her or even mention her name.

After my parents got married, they had four kids. I am the baby. My sister, Cindy, is the oldest, and then my brother, Stan, was born only a year later. Cindy is a bit slow, but very smart. Since she had her son, John, in 1992, she has become very strong.

She was the prettiest baby born with coal black hair, but it changed to a dishwater blonde later.

Two years after my brother, Stan, was born, my brother, Timmy, was born. Timmy was very special. He was born severely mentally retarded and very thin, and my mom tried her best to take care of him, but it was too hard on her to care for him and the rest of us too. He couldn't walk, talk, sit up by himself, or feed himself, but he was a terror in his wheel chair navigating it like a pro. Whenever my parents would have to take Timmy to the doctor, the nurses tried to accuse my mom of neglecting him because he was so thin. Imagine how that must have felt when she was trying her best to care for him. My parents ended up putting him in a home for mentally retarded people. We visited him every Sunday at the home. It was so hard on my mom because she had so much guilt for not being able to care for him and having to put him in a home. She also had a lot of guilt because she thought it was her fault that he was born retarded. Her uncle Lyle (her mother's brother) was also born retarded and passed away as a toddler, so she blamed herself for her genes causing it. Timmy passed away at the age of 27.

I was born three years after Timmy was born, and I was a surprise since my parents decided not to have any more kids after Timmy. I was a fat, healthy baby, and was such a blessing for them. My mom has gone through a lot and has had to deal with a lot, so she is indeed a wonderful lady. I should tell her that more often.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My Life With Hepatitis C & Liver Transplantation

I have Hepatitis C and became so ill I needed a liver transplant. I am so thankful and grateful for the liver transplant I received on January 6, 2008 that saved my life. Nothing in the world can explain how grateful, lucky, and blessed I feel to be alive. I am doing very well since my transplant, and enjoy every day that I am blessed to be alive. However, my fight is not over. I still have Hepatitis C. A liver transplant is not a cure for Hepatitis C. I am doing treatment now.

I first became ill with the Hep C when I was 20 years old, when I thought I had a flu that I couldn't shake off. Back then, in 1983, they didn't know anything about Hep C, and diagnosed me with Hepatitis B. I was quarantined to my home for six months, and my parents had to sterilize all my eating utensils, which now I have to laugh about because the doctors didn't know any better back then. The cause of my Hepatitis C is a mystery to me. I didn't have any of the risk factors.

I went along life just fine, until a biopsy I had in 1991 that said my liver had mild fibrosis. About 10 years later, I was no longer able to work. I would get so confused and didn't know what I was supposed to do, and I couldn't understand what people were telling me. I did accounting. Once I stopped working, my mind seemed to get some better, but I would get confused and wasn't able to pay attention much of the time. I think it was due to the liver disease, fatigue from the disease, and depression.

In 2004, the liver biopsy said I had cirrhosis. In 2007, when I had another biopsy, I was diagnosed with end stage liver disease, liver failure...decompensated cirrhosis with ascites (excess fluid in the abdomen), varices (tears in the esophogas), edema (swelling in ankles, feet, & legs), portal hypertension (high blood pressure in the portal vein leading to the liver), and an umbilical hernia caused by the ascites and portal hypertension.

I had the liver transplant evaluation in August, 2007. They said my MELD score was 14, and they start doing transplants at 15. They said my old liver would only last 3 to 4 months. My husband, mom, dad, and brother went with me to the evaluation. Support is very important to qualify for a transplant.

The MELD score is a scoring system used to determine where on the transplant list a person is placed. The three factors that determine the MELD score are Bilirubin, INR, and Creatnine. The MELD score starts at 6 and goes to 40. The higher the score, the sicker a person is. A link to the MELD score calculator can be found at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/meld/mayomodel6.html

In early October, 2007, I had to go to the hospital for two tests. These were two of many tests that had to be done to become a candidate for a transplant. One was a pulmonary test to have the arterial blood gases drawn. They take blood from an artery, not a vein. Next, pure oxygen is inhaled through the mouth with nose clips on the nose for 20 minutes. After that they draw blood from the artery again. The first arterial draw was simple, but the second one, she couldn't find my artery. It moved away and hid. My veins always did the same thing. Every time I had to have an I.V., they always had problems getting it into a vein. The second test was a dobutamine stress echocardiogram. This is where they put an I.V. in and take pictures with an ultrasound as they increase the dosage of the drug into the system to make the heart rate speed up as if excercising while laying down. They said my heart was very photogenic because they got some great pictures. However, when they put in the drug that slows the heart rate back down, which should only take about 10 minutes, it took them about an hour because my heart rate wouldn't go back to normal. What's really strange is that since they started, the faster they made my heart rate, the lower my blood pressure dropped. At the highest heart rate, my blood pressure was 66/32. I went in there with blood pressure of 107/68. When they finally let me go after giving me 5 doses of the drug to slow my heart back down, my blood pressure was 90/64. They wanted my heart rate to be below 100. It finally hit 99 just for a second, and fluctuated between 100 and 106 the rest of the time. I never felt light headed, nauseous, or as if my heart was racing. At the highest heart rate, it just felt like I had a little anxiety. The nurse said it isn't unusual for liver disease patients to have their blood pressure fall when the heart rate is increased.

Since the end of October, 2007, I started getting more and more nauseous. I have lived with nausea off and on for years, but it really started getting bad in October. There wasn't anything I really could do but vomit, and then I would feel better. For a while, crackers, ginger ale, and even green tea were making me feel better, but it didn't last long. I had anti nausea meds, but they didn't do much. They wanted me to start the treatment for the Hepatitis C before the transplant, but my body was too ill and unstable. My lab tests, such as electrolytes, were all over the place. My red blood cell counts were low. I gained 13 pounds of ascitic fluid in my abdomen since my first paracentesis (draining of abdominal fluid - ascites) at the end of September, 2007, and my herniated belly button was getting bigger. They removed 7 litres of fluid during that first paracentesis. It was such a relief afterwards, and I watched my belly deflate right before my eyes while it drained. I weighed 240 pounds at my highest before my first paracentesis.

On December 5, 2007, I was placed on the transplant list. My MELD score was 20 at that time. I had to go to the emergency room two days before that because I was vomiting blood, shakey, weak, and not able to keep my eyes open. I learned later that it was not a good sign. That is a sign of a possible coma approaching, which most people never come out of. My red blood cell counts were really low too as it had been for a while. As the days went on, I was vomiting every day, wasn't eating, and could hardly walk around the house.

On December 20, 2007, I went to the hospital to have surgery on my umbilical hernia. I was really sick. My red blood cell counts were dangerously low so I received 4 units of blood before I was stable enough to handle the hernia surgery. I got plasma, platelets, albumin, and whole blood, plus shots that helped my pancreas so it wouldn't have to work so hard. I got other medicines too, but I don't remember what they were.

On December 23, 2007, I had surgery to fix my hernia, and continued getting blood transfusions.

On December 26, 2007, I was released from the hospital. They didn't want to release me, but thought it would be ok as long as I had continued lab tests done at my local lab.

On December 28, 2007, I had to return to the hospital because my lab tests were at dangerous levels again. Back to the hospital we went, in a snow storm, driving very slowly. When I returned to the hospital, my bilirubin was 13 and it was 6 when I left the hospital two days before. When the bilirubin gets high, it turns your skin and eyes a bright yellow color (jaundice), which I had. Bilirubin is a brownish yellow substance found in bile. It is produced when the liver breaks down old red blood cells. Bilirubin is then removed from the body through the stool (feces) and gives stool its normal brown color. When bilirubin is high, it means the liver is incapable of adequately removing bilirubin in a timely manner due to cirrhosis. The normal levels should be between 0.3 to 2.0. My INR was 3.0, which is also high. The INR has to do with the clotting of the blood. Normal levels are generally between 0.8 to 1.2.

Before the hernia surgery, they drained 2-1/2 liters of fluid out of my abdomen, and another liter during the surgery. After the surgery, the surgeon said I had already accumulated more fluid in my abdomen. I had more drained the next day. The gastroenterologist at my local clinic was making me sick by giving me too many water pills, but he was trying to control the fluid in my body (edema & ascites). My kidneys were close to failing as well as my liver. I am thankful to him, though, for referring me to be evaluated for a transplant.

Shortly after I returned to the hospital, the doctors said that I needed to get the word out that I needed a healthy person with my blood type O to donate part of their liver to me, otherwise I would die before I got to the top of the list for a whole liver. Immediate family would be the closest match, so my brother was going to be tested to see if he was a match. He has the same blood type as I do, which is O+, but the person just needed to have type O blood, and the antibodies and different things have to match too. My husband, Frank, said a guy he worked with was willing to be tested too. The hepatologist told me that I had moved higher on the list, and I continued to get plasma and platelet transfusions, as well as electrolytes since my sodium, potassium, and magnesium were low.

When I first went back to the hospital after being released, I was in another part of the hospital instead of on the transplant floor where I was for my hernia surgery. The nurses weren't as good there. The first night I was there after returning to the hospital, it took 4 nurses and IV nurses to find a vein for the IV. My veins kept blowing. The next day I got 3 more litres of fluid (ascites) out of my abdomen. Then they started me on Lactolose, which is used when the ammonia gets too high. It is really sweet, syrupy, nasty tasting stuff that helps to get rid of excess ammonia through the stool (feces). They had to give me two doses and it didn't do anything but give me gas that made me miserable. They had to give me gas drops so I wouldn't be so miserable. They said I should have been able to go home then, because all my other labs were stable, but they had stool (feces) samples tested and it turned out there was blood in my stool. Needless to say, I did not get to go home. They then did an upper endoscopy (my second) and found some large varices and tied them off so they wouldn't bleed. The next day they did a colonoscopy. The hepatologist told me that because of all that, I had moved to the #1 position on the list for O+ livers, so the next O+ liver that came in and matched was mine. Obviously, I was not allowed to leave until I got a new liver.

Around 10:00 p.m. on January 5, 2008, I got a call on my cell phone telling me a match for a liver was found for me and I should get to the hospital as soon as possible. I told the lady on the phone that I was already at the hospital, so I was right where I needed to be. I was so ready for the transplant. I wasn't afraid at all, which is weird really, because I was scared to death of the hernia surgery. Before the hernia surgery, I never had any type of surgery done. My MELD score was 29 at the time of the transplant. The surgery went very well. It only took 5 hours. I went in at 3:00 a.m. on January 6, 2008, and was in the recovery room by 8:00 a.m. The surgeon told my husband that the new liver was a perfect fit, and it started making bile the second they hooked it up. I didn't have much pain after surgery except for my back, which I think was caused from the surgeons manhandling me on the operating table. I was bruised all over my arms, abdomen, all the way down to my hips and butt. I looked like I was in a bad accident.

A link to a video of a liver transplant can be found here:

After surgery, everyone who has a transplant is required to go to classes to learn about medications, lab tests and what they mean, what to eat and not to eat that would interfere with the meds, etc. I took approximately 25 pills a day for quite a while after the transplant, and the nurses quizzed me every time I had to take my meds asking me what each med was, and what it was for.

I developed diabetes after the transplant and had to receive insulin shots. It is very common for this to happen after a transplant. By the time I was released, I no longer needed insulin, but had to continue testing my blood glucose 4 times a day. Eventually, I no longer needed to test my blood glucose since it went back to normal.

I was released from the hospital on January 16, 2008. I have been doing very well since the transplant, except for when I injured my ribs and my liver function tests jumped. They thought I was going into rejection, but it turned out just to be from the injury and the Hepatitis C. I've had two liver biopsies on my new liver since transplant. The first was to determine if the hepatitis C was affecting my new liver. I have inflammation in the new liver, but no damage. The second biopsy was to check to see if I was going into rejection. That second biopsy caused my red blood cell count to drop 4 points. If it dropped any further, they would have had to keep me over night. I've been going for blood tests every week since the transplant and will continue to have blood tests done for the rest of my life, especially for the next year while I am on treatment. Of course, I have to take anti rejection drugs for the rest of my life.

I am currently doing the treatment for Hepatitis C. The treatment consists of a once a week injection of Pegasus (peginterferon alfa-2a), and daily pills -CoPegus (ribavirin). It is very much like chemotherapy. Some people, like Natalie Cole, like to call it chemo. The side effects are very similar. Although I had a liver transplant, the Hepatitis C continues to attack the liver since it is a virus that lives in the blood. Hepatitis C is the one that has no vaccination to prevent people from getting it. Hepatitis A and B both have vaccinations. Hepatitis C is very hard to make a vaccine for since it is constantly changing and replicating itself.

The treatment has made the virus undetectable since the sixth day of treatment. Hopefully, it stays that way so that it won't continue attacking my new liver. My viral load has always been very low, under 100,000, so the fact that it killed my old liver is rather surprising, but that's how liver disease is. You can't predict what will happen. I have a friend who has had Hepatitis C longer than I have with a viral load in the 6 million range, and her liver is in pretty good shape so far. Hopefully, hers will stay that way.

I have been very lucky so far during this treatment because I don't get the flu-like side effects that most people get while doing the treatment. I am having problems with my red blood cells staying in normal range, though. I have been getting shots of Aranesp to keep the blood cell counts up, but they aren't working very well. I had to have a blood transfusion three weeks ago, and continue getting the shots, but my red blood cell counts are still falling. My hepatologist said my hemoglobin "sucks".

I also have developed mild depression from the treatment, and my thyroid has become underactive too. I am now taking meds for the thyroid and depression. I have gained a lot of weight since starting the treatment. Usually people lose weight while on the treatment, but I guess I am weird. I have done 17 weeks, and have 35 weeks left until I am done. Then I should have my energy back. I can't wait!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Paternal Great Grandmother's Ancestors Dating Back To The 1600's - Part Three

One of the earliest known ancestors of my great grandmother, Synneva (Susan), was Baard Torleivsen, owner of property at the farm "Hogi" in Hafslo. About 1670, he transferred property worth about nine measures of grain (about 16 liters) to a man named Lars Larsen, who had the property until he died in 1693. His widow, Dorte Larsdatter, married Baard Baardsen who took over the Hogi farm. He was born in 1641, and was the son of the original owner, Baard Torleivsen. He was a widower with a son, Lars Baardsen (born in 1688), when he married Dorte.

After his father retired, Lars Baardsen took over Hogi. At that time Lars was betrothed to Anna Persdatter Opheim, and as was the custom at that time, Anna moved to Hogi, and took with her the possessions that made up her "dowry". They intended to get married the following year, but before the marriage had taken place, Anna became ill and died. Anna's brother then summoned Lars to return the possessions that Anna had taken with her to Hogi. Since the marriage had not yet taken place, Anna's brother had the right to claim the dowry property and have it returned to her family.

Lars was successful in his second attempt to secure a wife for himself, and maried Helga Endresdatter Opheim. She was the daughter of Endre Bendiksen Opheim and Anna Larsdatter. With Helga, Lars had at least four children before she died in 1733. It is from this union that Synneva (my great grandmother) descends.

Lars was a corporal in the Luster Company, serving his military obligation at the same time as he operated the farm; but his military training did not prepare him for the conflict on the "homefront" after he married a second time. His second wife appears to be anything but a shrinking violet, judging from what is told about her in Laberg's book, Hafslo.

Sometime after Helga died in 1733, Lars married Gjertrud Andersdatter Molland. Gjertrud must have been a very headstrong and opinionated woman, and was not shy about expressing her feelings about a neighbor woman, Synneva Hogi. When Synneva heard what Gertrud had said about her, she asked that she meet with Lars and Gjertrud, so that Gjertrud could apologize. Synneva confronted Gjertrud and asked if it was true that Gjertrud had said that she was a sladdrebikkja (gossip monger, or more directly, a blabber bitch!), and that she should have been put in the pillory long ago. Yes, Gjertrud admitted having said that, and said that she would stand by the statement! Synneva accused Gjertrud of slander and took the case to court. Gjertrud refused to appear the first time the case was heard, so the case came up the next time the court of conciliation met. Still Gjertrude would not appear, but Lars showed up to say that his wife had no grounds for what she had said. Synneva was not satisfied with Lars' statement and demanded that Gjertrud appear in person. The third time court met, Gjertrud attended. She said that she had indeed said that Synneva was a sladdrebikkja, and furthermore it was true! In spite of the fact that Gjertrud never admitted to any guilt, the local authorities ordered her to pay court costs of three ort (about 60 cents).

In 1752 Lars Baardsen turned over the farm to his son, Lars Larsen, but continued to live at Hogi until he died in 1757.

The son, Lars Larsen (born in 1723), married Brita Larsdatter Kvam from Veitastrond in Hafslo. In 1770 they left Hogi in the Joranger sogn (congregation) and moved to "Ugulo", a farm located in Fet sogn.

There were four congregations in the Hafslo Parish. In addition to the "head church" in Hafslo, there were the annex churches at Solvorn, Fet, and Joranger, all served by the same pastor and deacon in the early days.

Lars Larsen died in 1789, leaving a wife and six children:
1. Lars went to La, a farm in outer Hafslo.
2. Lasse got a farm at Ugulo.
3. Johannes
4. Ola lived at Kjos.
5. Gjertrud married Ola Hermundsen Lunde and moved to Syrstrond.
6. Kari married Ole Arnesen Fet.

Lars (born 1759) married Durdei Endresdatter La in 1787, and bought the farm, "La", from his father-in-law. (Various spellings of the farm name, including Laas, Lah, Lahd, Lad, and Ladd, appear in records both in Norway and in the United States.) Little is known about Lars and Durdei except the names of their five children:
1. Lars, born in 1787.
2. Ola, born in 1790, married Kristi Einersdatter Kalhagen in 1815, and took over the La farm in 1828.
3. Endre was born March 8, 1792, and lived at Grot. He was the father of Synneva (my great grandmother), and immigrated to the United States in 1866.
4. Brita married Elling Bjornsen Holsete.
5. Margrete married Erik Olsen Kjodni and moved to Aaberge in Sogndal.
Ole Larsen, older brother of Endre became owner of the La farm. Endre Larsen La got a place at La (Lahd) called Grot, where he lived until he emigrated.
After Ole Larsen died, the farm went to Ole's daughter, who died childless. The farm was sold several times before 1848, when Margrete Endresdatter La, daughter of Endre Larsen La, and half sister to my great grandmother Synneva, exercised her odeslrett (right of inheritance) to the farm.

My Paternal Great Grandmother's Siblings & Parents - Part Two

My great grandmother Synneva (Susan) had one older full blooded sister named Johanne who was born August 10, 1857, and baptized August 16th. She died of whooping cough when just past one year old, Saturday, October 16, 1858. She was buried the following Friday, but it was not until Sunday, November 7, that the minister sprinkled some dirt on her little grave, read from scripture, and led the singing of some hymns. The buriel was known as jordfesting, and was probably conducted by the family. This last ceremony was conducted by an ordained minister and was called jordpaakastelse (throwing on of earth), or the committal service.

My great grandmother Synneva's (Susan) mother, Guri Endresdatter, died soon after the arrival in the United States after leaving the Hafslo parish on April 11, 1866. They were part of the group of 196 people who emigrated from Hafslo that year...most of them going to the United States. They came to Wisconsin and settled in the East Blue Mounds area of Dane County, where Endre's (Synneva's father's) daughter, Margrete Gjesme, from his first marriage, was living at the time.

Endre Larsen Lad (my great grandmother's father) was born March 8, 1792. He was married to Sara Jensdatter until her passing before meeting Guri Endresdatter, my great grandmother's mother. He married Sara Jensdatter on November 5, 1827, after Endre had fathered two illegitimate children with her. Sara was 43 years old when they married, and Endre was 36. Their first child, Margrete Endresdatter "Lad", was born on March 10, 1822, and died January 16, 1823. Their second child, Johanne, according to the Hafslo church records was baptized on November 22, 1826, but died on October 28, 1828, just before her second birthday. The record also shows that it was Endre's annen leiermaal (second fornication), and for Sara it was the fifth time she had begaatee leiermaal (committed fornication).

Sara was 45 years old before she had her first legitimate child. Margrete Endresdatter Lad, daughter of Sara and Endre Larsen Lad, was born August 18, 1829. She was my great grandmother, Synneva's, half sister. Margrete was 30 years older than Synneva.

Sara passed away at the age of 63, on Wednesday, December 29, 1847 and left Endre Larsen a widower at the age of 55. Sara was buried Friday, January 7, 1848, but it was not until Sunday, January 30, 1848, that Andreas Egeberg, who was the minister in Hafslo at that time, conducted the committal service.

Endre Larsen Lad (my great grandmother's father) was 87 years old, and had lived in the United States for 13 years when he died August 7, 1879. He is buried at the East Blue Mounds Cemetery, which is located southwest of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. It is not known where his wife, Guri (my great grandmother's mother) is buried.