Giving for Gwendolyn

$14,452raised of $50,000 goal
28%

Organizer: Pamela Rocco & Friends Beneficiary: Gwendolyn & Robert Westlund

Gwendolyn is a 32 year old loving wife and devoted friend from Willowbrook, IL who desperately needs a heart transplant, and your help.  Her journey thus far has been incredibly difficult, and one health concern after another has plagued her since she was in her mid teens. 

In 2002, at the age of 21, Gwendolyn was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of lymphatic cancer that affects the lymphatic and immune system.  She was treated with surgery and radiation therapy, but unfortunately her “cure” would end up causing nearly as much long-term damage as it did short-term good. 

Gwendolyn’s cancer was successfully subdued and she entered remission in late 2003, thinking that her battle had been won.  Unfortunately she would spend the next 5 years dealing with a variety of health problems from chronic bronchitis, kidney stones, hiatal hernia, ulcers, infections, etc.  Tragically, in 2008, after a long history of health problems, Gwendolyn came down with double lung pneumonia.  After nearly two weeks of hospitalization and antibiotics, she was diagnosed with heart failure due to a prolapsed mitral valve caused by scarring from her previous radiation treatments.  During a diagnostic test, Gwendolyn reacted poorly to the anesthesia, and during the procedure her heart stopped unexpectedly & was dead for near 2 minutes.  She was successfully revived, and from that point forward kept her health in control with a healthy diet, cardiology checkups, and medication.  Gwendolyn showed improvement from 2011-2012, and once again thought that she’d beat the odds.

In May 2013 while at work, Gwendolyn suddenly fell ill and knew immediately that it was her heart.  She was taken to the ER at Good Samaritan Hospital, and after a week of tests and second opinions, she was transported to Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn to receive specialized care for advanced end stage heart failure.  Within 24 hours, a Left Ventricle Assist Device (LVAD) was implanted, the following 2 days they needed an aortic and mitral valve replacement to combat her cardiac failure.  The device caused problems with the right side of her heart and an external Right Ventricle Assist Device (RVAD) was implanted for the majority of her stay.  She endured four separate heart surgeries, was under sedation for 8 days, and remained hospitalized for over 2.5 months.  Gwendolyn is now on the national registry for a heart transplant and hopes to get “the call” at any moment. 

Gwendolyn has been a responsible & caring member of society for her entire adult life. She’s worked throughout most of her ailments and provided for herself & her two younger siblings as if they were her own children, being their surrogate parent for over a decade.  Before her heart failure, Gwendolyn was a dedicated volunteer to many organizations.  She participated and volunteered for causes that she believes in and has been active with cancer research fundraisers, Look Good Feel Better, Toys For Tots, World Vision and has even helped organize fundraisers for neighbors in need.  She’s always the first to jump in, the first to say “yes,” and the first to rally a team for whatever cause she’s involved with. 

Before falling ill for the third time, Gwendolyn was blessed to be able to marry her biggest supporter, her caregiver, and love of her life, Bob, in October 2012. With all that Gwendolyn has been through, the last thing that she and Bob should be worried about now is how to pay the bills.  Between May 2013 & October 2013, Gwendolyn’s portion of medical bills, prescription costs, insurance premiums, and co-payments, deductible & co-insurance have added up to over $150,000 and the couple is drowning in medical debt.  When “the call” finally comes, the costs of her heart transplant and related hospitalization, home care, & recovery will further add to what feels like an insurmountable debt. The average cost of a heart transplant surgery, pre & post op testing, & recovery ranges between $750,000 - $1,000,000 and depending on your insurance a good majority of that expense is the patients responsibilty. 

As friends of Gwendolyn and Bob, we’ve started this campaign to try to play a small part in helping to alleviate their financial stress.  We want them to be focused on Gwendolyn’s health & recovery, and not on unrelenting creditor calls and a flood of medical bills. 

If you’re able to help with a donation of any amount, please click the “give now” link on this page.  If you cannot donate online, please feel free to send a check, money order, or even a few dollars to the address listed below and reference “Giving for Gwendolyn.” Even $1 helps and is appreciated.

Gwendolyn Westlund
11s514 Rachael Court
Willowbrook, IL 60527

If you have any questions, or would like to support Gwendolyn with a non-monetary gift, please feel free to contact me via email at
pam.rocco@yahoo.com.  

If you are unable to donate but still want to help, please share this campaign and help us spread the word. 

Thank you and God Bless!

Special Thanks to Rob Baker at Photogenic Chicago fb.com/photogenicchicago for the stunning "before" pictures he took of Bob & Gwen at their wedding in October 2012.

Updates

Updates

10/18/2014
by Pamela Rocco & Friends
Just found out I have like six pictures from my transplant surgery! Gross, but also super cool and grounding! Really makes you think...I mean I've died on the table over three times and they pulled this football sized malled heart out of me. If that's not a miracle, I don't know what is.

I get to wake up every morning with my soulmate and go bed each night with him. I have friends who are more than family to me, like sisters, and their children, my nieces and nephews.I get to see my sweet miracle niece Evie grow and change everyday! I'm so blessed in so many ways, but esp. to have two very dear friends who consistently stand by me and push this cause - Rob Rathke & Pamela Overgaard Rocco, God Bless & I love you guys. 
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10/10/2014
by Pamela Rocco & Friends
Before I start my update I'd just like to say how grateful I am to all that have shared our fundraising page, read the updates, and prayed for us. It's October & on the12th, Bobby & I celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary which is amazing and by God's grace one of very many more. Even more importantly and joyous on Oct. 25 I will turn 1 year old for the 2nd time, because an organ donor saved my life! Please if you aren't a registered donor do some research, sign up today, save lives! www.donatelife.net
I'll post lots of funny pics from the birthday festivities! Thank you!

That said this is the last official month of the fundraiser and we ask that everyone really rally together to spread the word, share anyway you can and ask that others do so, ask that they donate even $1, we could use any help we can for Gwen & Bob. Thanks to everyone who's shared and donated & prayed for your continued support! Go Giving for Gwendolyn!(P.R & Friends)

On to the update, well I'm late...as usual. It's been another month and lots has happened since last months kidney stone fiasco tured intenstive care unit reunion. Lots of follows ups have been made, but not all.

Cardiology cleared me after my insident in ASHU. Then I met with my new Urologist, and he was very thorough, I told him the issues with the previous procedure and he assured me that the anesthesiologist, transplant team, & infectious disease would all be on board the day of surgery & they would agree on a plan prior to surgery. I was so relieved. Then I got a call from the transplant team and they said the tx doctor would check on me in recovery, & I was a bit offset because the plan to the best of my knowledge was to keep me overnight for observastion so as to avoid another trip to ASHU. Well, the tx nurse gave me a hard time and said that it's the primary surgeons call & I need to call him, the Urologist, if I have an issue. After the Urologist called me back, he was not pleased, as my tx team couldn't get their crap together and put it off on me. They had apparently discussed this in a meeting that afternoon. Anyways, the lack of coordination didn't inspire confidence & I was a bit nervous, well more nervous than usual. They ended up going in with a scope blasting and removing three stones & the stent & leaving two stones adhered to my kidney wall. If they'd tried to remove them it could have caused internal bleeding, but they aren't an issue for now. The Transplant Cardiologist came to check me in recovery and my pain level was inhumane! They wouldn't give me anything!! Finally I was crying begging for them to just knock me out & they ended up admiting me so they could give me small amounts of meds and monitor me. I was out the next evening and a couple days later pretty much pain free.

I had my sleep study done & they did find that I had respiratory issues, but not enough to qualify for the apnea mask. I also can't get into a good rem sleep. Dermatologist check went well, no cancer detected, but they're watching a couple freckles. I'm also on a whole new skin care & treatment program for the acne which seams to be helping - THANK YOU! As for the chest scaring and burns, I've been referred to a plastic surgeon, so that appointment needs to be made. The Endocrinologist also went well, my thyroid meds were adjusted mildly, but the exciting news is the diabetes is gone! No more blood checks or insulin!

Due to the Kidney issues, some of the follow ups had to be pushed back and are later this month. OB/GYN: ovarian cancer blood test, nexplannon decision. Hematologist: general blood check and decision on bone marrow biopsy or not. Dentist: final cavities done from tx check and caps redone.

"Annual" biopsy was 9.30.14, a month early...but everything looked good, no rejection, all blood work looks good, & meds are all the same, which is fine...but a little disappointing that my prednisone isn't lowered anymore.

My blood work will now go to monthly and my next biopsy will be at the end of December - around Christmas!

In the mean time I have plenty of follow ups and specialists to see. I saw infectious disease Dr. after second kidney surgery and got the all clear as well & my flu shot. I will go back again in November & December for continued Hep A and Hep B series & various other vaccines they deem necessary.

Also, got my extension for cardiac rehab through December 30, 2014, which will cost a bit, but it's awesome in the long run because I've had so many gaps & really need a full rehab to get myself in a better physical and mental state. Please pray for no more issues to keep me from rehab!

Again I'll post some fun heart birthday & anniversary pics! I'll also try to update as my follow up appointment come up. I'm so very blessed to have an amazing Mom, husband, family, & friends - Roccos, Kweders, Bennetts, Rathke, Marx, Capps, Beyers, Robertsons, Westlunds...love all of you so much! Please pray & thank God for every day we're all here.

As always, Be well & God Bless.
Gwendolyn W. & P.R. & Friends
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09/06/2014
by Pamela Rocco & Friends
Posted September 6, 2014 by Gwendolyn Westlund

Well sorry it took me over a week to finish the update. A bit of a bump in the road while in for kidney stones. The stent was placed successfully, however the pain was 3x worse afterwards. The UTI is under control, however the Urologist and I seemed to disagree on what level of sensitivity I have towards pain medication and anesthesia, which I would've properly explained had he met with me pre surgery as standard procedure. I remember talking to the nurses in pre-op room, the resident, the anesthesiologist, but apparently this guy introduced himself in operating room. Don't recall anything but a flash of a guy sitting in the corner in scrubs who looked like santa clause - apparently that was him.

That said when I'm in a great deal of pain, it's hard to control with out doing damage elsewhere. Long story short, I asked the nurse to double check w/ Urology re: pain med, knowing my sensitivity, she did & the doctor confirmed that was the best option.

I don't recall but a few flashes after that, but from what I've gathered, I stopped breathing in my sleep and coded, cpr was performed for about 1 minute and I was back up. To be clear, my heart rate was very low but never completely stopped. Next thing I really recall was waking up in ASHU, again. Super suck. Now they're keeping me a couple days for sure. At least my peeps in ASHU know me, I'm safe here. I feel calm here.

When I get back up to recovery floor, I've got the feeling a mack truck has driven over my chest and ribs, the stent pain, kidney pain, and new pains from the antibiotics and side effects with no heavy meds so as not to kill me. YIKES!

For some reason my oxygen saturation levels are low - in the 80-90% range with out an assist. They won't let me leave until I can urinate on my own - with out foley catheder and breath on my own at least over 90% saturation. Mean while they'll check for other problems, chest and lung xray and catscan - no lung problems, no clots, no broken ribs, etc. Ultrasound on my arms - blew a couple veins that are hard as rock now - checking for blockage and clotting, nothing found there. Just have try to practice deep breathing, but the pain is so bad - got to suck it up if I want to get out of here.

Foley Catheder removed, we have success! Meds they are giving me to help drain kidneys are crazy...dry mouth, feel I have to peel my tongue off the roof of my mouth, that with pain meds & iron, antibiotics - nausea and backed up system. One thing at a time.

My oxygen saturation is 91% not great, but enough to send me home. Blood work is coming back clean, my predisone is lowered to 2.5 2x daily, prograf is lowered to 2mg daily. First change in over 6 months.: ) Given oral antibiotics for next 3 weeks, zofran for nausea, various intestinal medicines, as of the 1st it's been over a week. Too much medicine!!!

September 1st, being discharged!!! Long weekend has been shot, but at least Bobby was able to stay with me each day. It would have been that much more awful if he was at work the whole time I was in there. So blessed to have such a wonderful husband, friend, and partner in life. You're my hero & my light babe!

Follow ups next week: Cardiologist, Urologist - different partner with group, probably schedule stone & stent removal at that point as well, Infectious disease. 

TX related this month: Respiratory - sleep study, dermatologist - skin cancer check, prednisone induced acne, scars and burns from surgeries on chest. Endocrinologist: thyroid & prednisone induced diabetes. OB/GYN: ovarian cancer blood test, nexplannon decision. Hematologist: general blood check and decision on bone marrow biopsy or not. Dentist: final cavities done from tx check and caps redone.

"Annual" biopsy 9.30.14, a month early so any kinks can be worked out before my 1st rebirthday!

Definitely post again after next weeks follow ups and as the appointments and results come in over the next three weeks. Sorry this was a long one! Lots can happen in a week and lots to be thankful for everytime I'm pulled back from the brink...wish I could tell you I saw something miraculous on the other side, but the only miraculous thing I remember is waking up and seeing my husband's grateful, relieved, adoring face as he took what seemed like his first breath since he got to the hospital. I'll take it. Thanks God!


Thank God for my Mom for helping out as always, she has no idea how many times she's saved Bobby and me, especially Bobby when I'm in these scarry situations. Dad Westlund & Sandy thank you for the visit, love and support. Rob, thanks for all the shout outs and keeping people posted. Friends on ASHU & 9EW, thanks for keeping an eye out & watching over me. Ray Y. Thompson & family, thanks for being friends and fellow Christians and getting me on the prayer list at Parkview Christian Church as soon as you heard. Prayers work, I'm still here...again! Thanks PCC for praying for me! Always thanks to the Kweder family for helping whenever and however they can. I don't know what I'd do whith out a few who do so much! Pam, just for everything as always, thank you, hugs, love, holding my hand, sending Evie pics, whatever it is, you're awesome and I love you.

I'm sure I forgot tons of people & I'm sorry. I't taken me over 2.5 hours to try to rihgt this and I wrote notes a ahead of time. My brain gets a little bit slower everytime I'm put under.

As always, Be well & God Bless!
Gwendolyn W
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08/27/2014
by Pamela Rocco & Friends
Posted August 27, 2014 by Gwendolyn Westlund 

Hi all. Looks like I'm stuck in the hospital for a couple days. Kidney stones, UTI,  and some minor chest pains, though they don't seem concerned about chest pain...which is odd. The urologist is going to put me under around 3and put in stent, more than likely be sent home tomorrow w strong antibiotics,  then I'll come back to have stones removed. Mammogram came back clear. Blood works been coming back clean. Still lots off follow ups and dr appointments.  Just a quick update for now. Ill keep you posted.


Be well & God Bless! 
Gwendolyn W.
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07/31/2014
by Pamela Rocco & Friends

Posted July 31, 2014 by Gwendolyn Westlund

Hello all,

Well, my biopsy from July 29th came back negative (zero rejection) and the blood work looks good.Yay!!! Always start with good news!

Unfortunately,
I’ve been laid out with a virus and upper respiratory infection since a week ago last Tuesday. I’m still not feeling much better so I’m waiting to hear back from infectious disease to see if they want to run anymore tests. I missed a whole week of rehab. Seeing as between infections & ailments, leg cramps & spasms, I can’t seem to get any momentum going or advance in my rehab, I’m hoping my doctors will extend the duration another 4-6 weeks so my body can adjust. Just feeling super exhausted, congestion migraines, and nausea from the antibiotics. Blah.

They tested me for statin intolerance, to determine if one of my drugs was causing the leg cramps, that was negative so we’re still on the hunt for a culprit. My potassium is low again so they’ve put me back on a supplement, that’s not the source either.

As of now I’m on 5mg prednisone in the a.m. & 2.5mg in the p.m. : )

Good news from the Hematologist, no more blood clots, no more blood thinners! Yay!! Some of the blood results were still questionable so they’re keeping an eye on the numbers for the next couple months to determine if the need exists for the bone marrow test, it's looking like it will. Yeesh…I don’t even like to think about it.

Still trying to find some form of radiation records, but the hospital says it was over ten years ago so they would’ve been destroyed. I have one lead left and the help of my Hematologist & Radiology department at Christ so hopefully we’ll get something.

Also, my Endocrinologist check up went well, thyroid levels are stable, calcium & vitamin D are stable and prednisone induced diabetes is in check. So everything stays the same, except insulin is now only as needed on sliding scale. Yay, again!! Another daily drug to be rid of.

Oncologist check up went well, no signs of relapse, though I’m overdue for my annual mammogram so I’ve got that scheduled in the days coming. I was told I need to see a Dermatologist as well, for my prednisone induced acne and the severe burns from tape allergy on my chest and full body check for melanoma.

Finally saw the dentist for my follow up, another cleaning and two of my six cavities fixed. Also getting fluoride treatments to strengthen my teeth, much like the C clast infusion for my bones. Next appointment two weeks from now, it’ll be so much better when it’s done.

More Doctors, doctors, doctors…vascular doctor to further investigate the numbness, swelling, and pain in my feet and legs. Neurologist & an allergist to further investigate my migraines. They know one of my drugs causes severe tension headaches but because I already get migraines, I’m more prone to have these headaches turn into migraines. Gastro doctor to check my ulcers and do a colonoscopy – routine, & maybe an upper GI to check for distress from the 25 medicines they have me on daily. Pulmonologist is also on the list to check respiratory funtion and do a sleep apnea study, due to my constant fatigue.

Then one more check up with OB/GYN to determine the possibility of a gestational surrogate, but more than likely will be looking into alternative options or a life of travel…all of these seem like such farfetched dreams at this point. I’m just glad to be here with my husband, Bobby, and watching my nieces and nephew grow up and maybe seeing a little bit of the world. I’ll get there….it’s just taking longer than we thought and longer than we were told. : (

September, by the end of the month I should be done with phase 2 cardiac rehab – and that’s including the extension I’m hoping the doctor will include. Then we go on to phase 3, if I’m lucky – I’m told most insurance companies don’t cover phase 3, so we’ll see. Also, the prednisone will be lowered again,  2.5 mg 2x daily, slowly getting rid of mood swings, extra lbs, acne, & moon face. Yay!!
The big finally at end of the month: The Anniversary Checkup. It’ll be the usual biopsy and right heart cath plus an angiogram to check both sides of my heart function. They do it a bit before the anniversary so they can fix any issues prior to my 1 year “heart” birthday, which is 10/25/14. I can’t believe I’m even talking about it, these nine months have both felt like an eternity and flown by. They keep saying that one year mark is that miraculous moment for most people where they really start to feel better and like I’ve said in previous posts, I’m trying to believe that’s true & praying so. I feel I still have a long road and only 3 months, but as my doctors are reminding me, not everyone is the same & not everyone has had as many surgeries in a short amount of time. Some heal in 6 months, others take 2 years...if I can get to the bottom of these set backs & side affects and hit a mid point I'd be more than happy with that. Either way, I'm turning one, there will be party hats and a smash cake involved!

I will definitely update everyone in between as I generally wait for biopsy results, but the biopsy’s are getting farther apart. I will post in early September to fill in some results from upcoming doctor appointments.

As always, thank you to my wonderful FB friends, nurses and staff, Parkview Church members & fellow patients & their families. My amazing family & friends, my prince of a husband, Bobby, my amazing father-in-law, Bob, my best friend and sister Pamela Rocco, my sister-in-law Debbie Bennett, dear friends Ken & Stacy Kweder, Rob Rathke, Chuck & Sherry Marx, my mom, Debbie Lyons…I don’t know that we would have made it this far without all of you. Thank you all for the prayers, the phone calls, the rides, for sharing this page, for the donations, etc. You are my heros. I still have a way to go, but every day I come further into the light. I'm blessed to be here, I'm grateful to my donor family, and I pray each day for strength to push harder to get stronger and to heal completely. I also pray everyone who has helped us in any small way know how grateful we are, that I litterally may not be here without all of you.

As always,
Be Well & God Bless.

Gwendolyn W.


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06/09/2014
by Pamela Rocco & Friends

Posted 6/9/2014 by Gwendolyn Westlund

Well, my last biopsy was at the end of May and came back negative…Yay! Blood work looked good for the most part & I’ve started cardiac rehab. It’s going pretty well so far, no major issues. Just exhausted as usual, though the air conditioned setting of the cardiac rehab center helps. The heat seams to really affect me, walking outside when it’s over 75 degrees or under 50 just doesn’t seem to agree with my body. But I’m doing the cardio 3x and then toning & weights on the other 2 days. So I’ve started with what most people look for the immediate results. Little bit of fundraising & fun info below and then just a wrap up of what’s coming & thank you to all of our supporters. Keep reading…God Bless.

May 16th, one of my best friends, Rob Rathke, went to Anderson’s Bookstore in DT Naperville to champion my cause yet again. Paul Stanley was there for his book signing and the cameras were going to be blazing! So Rob pulled out his Paul Stanley costume – which can hardly be called a costume, it’s truly a piece of art – and came over so I could “make him Paul”. It took me over 4 hours & I had to take breaks every 15 minutes….normally it would be a two hour job, but I got it done. He looked more like Paul than Paul did, people were taking pictures, and asking to take pictures with him, they took video & posted to Paul Stanley’s various Facebook pages & websites! Rob went on and made sure to post that this was the reason he did it, to help his friend, his “sister”, & more importantly, his makeup artist get better & pay for her meds & bills & get her life back on track. Anderson’s donated $100 & said I made the night. : ) Anyone Rob took pictures with got a fundraiser card with my information on it & so did Paul…the real one. His buddy Mike took a good deal of pictures and handed out a lot of cards too. Thanks Mike!

You’ll notice there are some pictures of him posted with Paul here on the site so you can see. Rob was also highlighted in Naperville’s Glancer magazine & its Facebook page & most exciting, The Loop Rock Girl tweeted about Rob’s little stunt the other day and included my fundraising link…hopefully we’ll see some new visitors soon, she has a large following. Thanks again, Rob…above and beyond.

Well here’s what lies ahead, rehab is 3x a week for 3months and my next biopsy is at the end of July. For now I’m at 5 prednisone 2x day. They may take my dose down again after July results. Unfortunately still on blood thinners for now…Ultrasound of legs in two weeks, more blood work, & possibly a bone marrow test depending on what the blood results show, I told the doctor she will have to put me out for that or it won’t get done…EEK! Then back to Hematologist for another checkup & plan going forward regarding blood thinners. Also, need to hunt down my old radiation records for new hematologist & ob/gyn. The office I’d received treatment at closed & the doctor is no longer in state. UGH…just more unnecessary work.  I also have checkups with the Endocrinologist (my thyroid checked, my calcium, & my diabetes status), the Oncologist for a work up (missed my last annual appt. as I was getting transplanted), annual mammogram, & finally get to go to the dentist! I had to wait at least 6 months after transplant, but they had me get checked & deep cleaned the eve of transplant, been living with these cavities for too long!

Anyway, lots of Doctor appointments…nothing new, trying to schedule what I can while I’m at the hospital for rehab to save trips. If I know anything it won’t be until the end of the month, but I will update the page again with anything I know…even if it’s just an “all clear”.

Thanks to everybody out there who sends love, prayers, positive thoughts, etc. to me and my husband. Thank you to all of you and thank you God!

Say an extra prayer for my husband, Bob Westlund, he is so much more amazing and so much stronger than he knows. I think he’s so much more a man & a really good man, than even those closest to him realize. He’s had to be everything, my friend, my partner, my love, my nurse, my babysitter, my cook, my bather, he has let me cry and let me yell, he’s paid the bills & done his damnedest to make sure I don’t see him worry, he’s has taken it & done it with more grace than anyone could expect of a man. My husband is a true man, & more than that he is a prince among men. He & my mom have been my main caregivers through all of this and they both deserve so much admiration & respect for keeping it together, being both loving & tough, & I thank God for them every day. Thank you God for my awesome friends and neighbors, Ken & Stacy Kweder for watching over me & helping with rides, schedules, & grocery runs, etc., for my “sisters” Pam Rocco & Tina Beyer for doing all they can to help me with whatever I need & making sure I get to see my niece, Evie. Thank you God for contact with my sisters T & M and allowing me to know my niece, Delilah…it’s a true blessing! Thank you for allowing me to meet my niece Amelia & see my nephew Seamus again, to live to see them & be an Aunt to not only Bob’s three beautiful nieces, but now all these new little lives…it’s more than amazing. Thank you for Rob, my friend, my champion, the poor guy who ends up taking me to the store. Thank you for my extended family, Bob’s family, Aunts and Cousins who call and pitch in whenever possible.  Thank you to my wonderful FB friends, nurses and staff, Parkview Church members & fellow patients & their families. I don’t know that we would have made it this far without all of you. I still have a way to go, but everyday we come further into the light. October is my 1 year “heart” birthday and they say I’ll be feeling much better, let’s believe that’s true & pray for it and hopefully the rest of it, the bills and the other health issues will fall into place.

 

God Bless & Be Well.

 

Gwendolyn W.


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05/10/2014
by Pamela Rocco & Friends
Posted 5/10/14 by Gwendolyn Westlund

Well, I'm a bit late on this one, but I did post directly to facebook with my biopsy results, not that it's the same the same thing. My apologies.

I had my biopsy on April 29th and it was negative, blood work looked good as well. Prednisone was brought down to 5 in the morning and 5 at night...we're getting there. Moonface has gone down slightly, but the chin not so much....still dealing with the acne, insomnia, weight gain, dark hair, & puffiness. It helps to know that I'm not the only one. My transplant survivors group has been very helpful.

Unfortunately, I have been dealing with another round of sinus infection & migraines. Zpak was prescribed for anitbiotics and I'm starting to feel a little better, but I feel like every time  I get rid of one thing I get another. Last month I had all the similiar symptoms, low grade fever, aches, chills, sinus headache, & this time my dry cough turned wet and I had little to no voice.
While I had a wonderful birthday weekend, I probably picked something up while we were out. I wore my mask and gloves but you can only do so much...without locking yourself in your house forever.

Oh well, feeling better each day as the Zpak works. I should have my 2nd blood panel back by Monday as well and that should tell us if my white blood count is back to normal. 

I'm scheduled to start cardiac rehab (finally) on May 22nd...that's my first appointment to assess me. Then three times a week for the next three months. Next biopsy is May 27th and if that's negative than I will start going every other month until I reach my one year "heart birthday" in October.

Finding rides has been less than an easy task for rehab. We don't qualify for certain programs because we aren't "poor enough" as the cs agent told me and private medical cars (discounted) run $95+ each way for less than 15 mile / 30 min. drive. Luckily my awesome neighbor Stacy is trying to make a schedule for my friends and family to each take a Thursday of the month to help. We will hopefully only end up paying for what's absolutely necessary. Bobby will have to take me in the morning before work & on Saturdays and my Mom will take me on Tuesdays.

Anyways, thank you as always to everyone who has prayed and helped whether with rides or donations, cooking or cleaning, or just sending an encouraging word. It means a great deal to us as we continue on this journey towards recovery with unexpected "speed bumps" along the way.

Be well, God Bless, and Much Love,

Gwendolyn Westlund


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04/02/2014
by Pamela Rocco & Friends
Posted 4/2/14 by Gwendolyn Westlund

Well another month come and gone and spring is "technically" here. I had my biopsy on March 25th and results were negative, which is great! Blood work looked good too.

Slight step back this week, I've been feeling ill the last few days and Monday I had a low grade fever, congestion, sinus headache, aches, chills, & dry cough. My home nurse, Danuta, called the transplant team & they had me come in yesterday to check on me, ran labs & my white count was high. My wonderful husband had to take a half day to get me there and back and of course take care of me...thank you God for Bobby...I truly hit the jack pot on that one. I was given broad spectrum antibiotics, and will hopefully be better in another day or two. Otherwise, back to the hospital. All symptoms are the same today. I'm sure it's just a bug.

Good news, since biopsy was negative & heart seems to be taking well, my prednisone has been lowered another 2.5 mg daily. Yay!!

Unfortunately, they take me off of or lower one med & then generally need to put me on something else. I gained 2 more vitamins, 1 new prescription for blood pressure, and they upped the dosage on my migraine medication.

I'm also still dealing with some weight gain & puffiness, which will hopefully start to subside with lowering the prednisone. Still having issues with the shakes, weight, fatigue, and migraines, which could be from any of the pills, a combination of them, or just from the stress on my body from multiple surgeries & anesthesia.

Again, the doctor's keep telling me at 6 months patients generally should start to feel and see improvement, and at 1 year most can expect to feel better than they have in at least a few years. Thus far I don't know that another 4 weeks is going to make a huge difference in how I feel, but everyone is different and I just heal slower than most, but it's something to look forward to...especially since my 6 month birthday & my actual birthday are both at the end of April, so we'll have a weekend celebration.

My next biospy should be April 22nd & will hopefully be clear again & I will be moving on to phase 2 of my recovery, which will include cardiac rehab in May, though they keep bumping it back. I have a social worker coming this week to see if there's any assistance available for rides to Christ in Oaklawn for rehab, so I'm praying she'll come up with something because finding rides 3x a month is hard enough, 3x a week...nearly impossible. For the time being, my home nurse and physical therapist are still coming a few times a week. Any changes along the way, I'll update again. 

Bob and I are doing well together, thank God I have such a loving  & supportive husband. My mom and my in-laws & extended family, my neighbors - Ken & Stacy & their family, my friends - Rob, Chuck & Sherry, Pam & Matt, Tina & Donna, Lyzzi, Ray & Amanda. Really everybody who's shared the fundraising page and asked others to share and pass it on, everybody who's donated, everybody's who has prayed....Thank you!!! God Bless You!!! I love you all for everything and please just keep on doing it. I'd also like to thank Parkview Christian Church for opening my eyes and heart to a spiritual connection that I thought I'd lost and for welcoming me and Bob with open arms back into the fold and making us feel at home.

Be Well, God Bless, & Much Love. I'll post again soon with updates.

Gwendolyn W.
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02/27/2014
by Pamela Rocco & Friends
Posted 2/27/14 by Gwendolyn Westlund

Happy New Year everybody! Holy smokes, it's crazy that it's almost March. I feel aweful I haven't posted an update in so long. I was hospitalized again in January with some kind of infection and horrible migraines...they did a spinal tap to rule out encephilitis and meningitis. No fun at all, but it was clear so that's good news. It's been a month with no severe problems and no rejection so things are looking up. 

February 25th was my last biopsy & it marked my four month anniversary for my new heart! It was negative, which means my prednisone level comes down another 2.5mg. Super exciting because every time they lower my dose my shakes lessen & my hopes of my moon face dissipating becomes more of a reality. I'm very excited about this!

In general I'm feeling okay. I wish I could say great, but that's not true. Still a lot of kinks to work out & it's day to day. Transplant team says 6 months I should start really feeling better, especially once I start cardiac rehab. I can deal with feeling okay most days - it beats the alternatives. : )

Now I do a monthly biopsy, unless of course there's a problem, which we don't anticipate. I still have tests & follow ups with other specialists for blood clots and uterine cysts, prednisone induced diabetes & hypothyroidism, infectious disease immunizations, etc. But that's all part of the deal and nothing I can't handle...just time effort and finding rides.

For now the transplant team wants to keep my home nurse and physical therapist coming, at least until they clear up the blood clots in my legs, then they'll start cardiac rehab. They're thinking they'll start me in late March or April. That'll be three times a week in Oak Lawn. Rides will be harder to come by at three times per week, but maybe I'll be able to drive by then.

Anyway, luckily Bob and I are doing well together. I have such an awesome husband and am so loved by such a wonderful family. My mom and my in-laws, my neighbors - Ken & Stacy, my friends - Rob, Pam & Matt. Everybody who's shared the fundraising page and asked others to share and pass it on, everybody who's donated, everybody's who has prayed....Thank you!!! God Bless You!!! I love you all for everything and please just keep on doing it.

I will do my best to post again soon, seeing as I seem to be feeling a bit better.

Be Well.

Much Love,

Gwendolyn
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12/17/2013
by Pamela Rocco & Friends
Poste d 12/17/13 by Gwendolyn Westlund

Well it seems my overnight stay for surgery turned into a week long hospitalization. I was admitted on the 6th & I wasn't released until December 12th. With minimal immune system I managed to get a bronchial infection and my white count was elevated. In order to have the surgery on the seroma, which was scheduled for Monday, the infection needed to be rectified immediately. My seroma surgery was successful and with any lucky it won't reoccur. I also gained another leg clot and unfortunately will have to be on blood thinners longer than expected.

I have another biopsy today & hopefully all will be clear and go well. Say a prayer for me and I'll update again soon. Thank you to all of the family, friends, and those unknown to me for the love, support, and prayers! Please feel free write words of inspiration or just say hello in the comments section. I'd love to know someone out there is getting my updates.

Be Well.

Much Love, Gwendolyn W. 
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12/05/2013
by Pamela Rocco & Friends

Posted on 12/5/2013 by Gwendolyn Westlund

December 5, 2013

A brief update to bring you up to speed on the happenings over the last month.

I have now had over six biopsies and fortunately have only experienced mild rejection thus far. Though we did need to adjust medications rather agressively a few times and I was readmitted twice, things seem to be calming back down. I have also been dealing with two blood clots in my left leg, along with a significant seroma near my inner hip, both of which will hopefully be corrected in surgery on Tuesday, December 10th. I should not need to be hospitalized for more than a day or two, or so I'm told, but could very well be outpatient.

We all know how quickly things can change though, so please keep us in your prayers and we will post again next week as soon as we know how the next surgery goes.

I will do my best to post an update when something important comes up & Bobby will text as needed. In the mean time please continue to pray and/or think happy thoughts!

Just so you are aware subscribing for updates will get you an auto alert when a new post is made, so you are always kept current.

Much love, Gwendolyn W.


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11/02/2013
by Pamela Rocco & Friends

Posted on 11/01/2013 by Gwendolyn Westlund

November 1, 2013

I would like to start by announcing that I did, in fact get “the miracle call” last week and on Friday, October 25, 2013 at approximately 8am I was given a new lease on life with a successful heart transplant! The stars must have aligned as we were only hoping to be moved up on the list, (giving us better odds for 30 days) and by the grace of God, I got a heart that morning. 

Everything seems to be running much smoother with the transplant recovery. Yesterday I had the first biopsy for rejection, results were negative, and so we are off to a promising start. We will try to post updates as they become available but for now all we know is the average hospitalization period for transplant is 14 days. We all know how quickly things can change though, so please keep us in your prayers and we will post again as soon as we have something definitive to share.

As I lay here recovering my heart is filled & I am overwhelmed by the abundance of love and generousity that have been shown to Bob and me throughout the trials with my heart disease. Please continue to share this link and support all of us in this effort!

More than anything I just want to let everyone know how incredibly blessed we are to have all of you and how overwhelmed we are with this gift of hope & love. Over the next year in particular we will likely have a minor bout of rejection, some possible illnesses due to my immunosuppressants, and weekly checkups. I will do my best to post an update when something important comes up & Bobby will text as needed. In the mean time please continue to pray and/or think happy thoughts!

Just so you are aware subscribing for updates will get you an auto alert when a new post is made, so you are always kept current.

Much love,
Gwendolyn W.


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