The Short Story
David got sick and multiple doctors could not figure out what was going wrong. They got distracted by little health problems showing up in test results, while still missing what was actually wrong. By the time a new doctor finally solved the mystery, David was paralyzed from the chest down. Following emergency spinal surgery, recovery of feeling and control was slow. The insurance company government programs determined that his rate of progress no longer warranted the level of treatment actually required to make significant strides. In the meantime has been unable to work during the protracted illness and recovery.
So, we've turned to family, friends, friends of friends, and even strangers to help us pay for the care needed to help him gain back a functional level of mobility.
Thank you for your supportive thoughts and financial contributions.
The Long Story
On January 12th, 2013, David Ramstad turned 65 years old. He wasn't quite as energetic, flexible, or strong as he had been 20 years prior, but few of us are. He still had plenty of drive and abilities, and was in the early stages of growing a new business.
On January 29th, Dave developed a fever and a severe ache in his rib cage. He thought he was coming down with the flu, but the rest of the common flu symptoms did not arrive. He still was not feeling well by February 2nd and went to urgent care. At urgent care they ran blood and urine tests. They ran a rapid flu test and ruled that out, and decided to put him on antibiotics to treat an infection, even though they were not sure what kind of infection. They also took an x-ray. He was in urgent care for 7 hours before he was released. Upon getting back the results of the urine sample, they determined he had a urinary tract infection, and called in an order for different antibiotics. He was told to follow up with his primary care physician in a week.
Dave improved during the week in some ways. His fever was under control, but his rib cage was still aching. His left foot became swollen and his left knee was having some numbness. He was using a walker to help him get around when he saw his doctor. She reviewed the test results from urgent care, and ordered a bunch more blood tests. She was bothered by the swelling in his foot and referred him for a same day ultrasound to look for a blood clot; there was none. The blood tests did show he was in the early stages of diabetes, but still at the stage it could be easily managed by diet. She referred him to a nutritionist and also to a patient education program to learn to use a glucose monitor. His x-ray showed "something" in his abdomen, but the quality of the x-ray wasn't good enough. She referred him for a CT scan of his abdomen.
The CT scan determined that the "something" was just a benign lipoma, and was not causing any problems. It also found an aneurysm near his spleen. He was referred to a surgeon for a consultation, but it was considered non-emergent. He was also referred for a colonoscopy.
By February 28th, he was still meeting with doctors and going for tests and follow-ups. He met with his primary care physician again. There were a lot of little things wrong, but they were not finding anything that was a strong indicator to why he had gotten so sick and wasn't making a full recovery. She told him that the whole team of doctors had looked at his test results, but were confused about his symptoms and his progress. Blood tests still indicated that he most likely had some kind of infection. The pain in his rib cage was not subsiding. She told him to continue to schedule with referrals he was racking up and she would see him again in two weeks. He was frustrated with the process, but trying to be patient.
A couple of days later he began having more trouble walking, and eventually was unable to, even with a walker. On March 7th, he called 911 and got an ambulance ride to the ER. An ER doctor took Dave’s history and after a very brief examination announced, that Dave had either a tumor or an abscess on his spine, and it was in the process of paralyzing his lower half completely. This doctor sent Dave for an MRI to confirm the location and sent him for emergency surgery. It was not a tumor. It was an abscess pressing on the nerves in his spine. The neurosurgeon removed a portion of the bone and drained the abscess. Then he was given very strong antibiotics to wipe out the infection that led to the abscess.
In the ICU, Dave found that he was able to move his feet, but had no control over them. This was good news, as by the time he was rushed into surgery, he was not able to move them at all. He was numb from the chest down. He was not sure if that only became true post op, or only became noticeable post op, because he'd been so focused on not being able to move his legs.
Next they had to install a PIC line in order to deliver his daily very heavy antibiotics. He was to be on these IV antibiotic doses for six weeks, followed by an oral dosage for an additional six weeks. After a couple of days he was moved out of the ICU and into rehab, to begin the process of gaining some control over his lower body again, and to learn how to care for himself without this control.
His insurance decided that he wasn't healthy enough to be worth the money of having him do rehab in the hospital, so they made him move to a nursing care facility. Staying at the hospital with the higher level of care and wider range of equipment is more expensive than a nursing facility. Because Dave was not yet strong enough to meet the insurance criteria for being worth the higher cost of the better facility, he was forced to move, even though it meant a disruption in his continuity of care less than one week following surgery.
At the nursing care facility Dave is striving to get better. It has been a lot of effort, but he is making progress. He still has a long way to go. Unfortunately once again insurance has determined that he isn't getting better fast enough, and has decided they will no longer pay for the rehabilitation level of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy sessions per week, treating him as a long term disability patient instead of one expected to recover. Having less sessions makes a huge difference in the amount and speed of progress he can make, which can potentially negatively impact his long term quality of life. The longer you go without using muscles, the more difficult it is to relearn the use of them.
Using parallel bars, Dave can now stand up for 30 seconds at a time, multiple times during a session. Last week, he could not do this. He is motivated and hardworking. He knows the huge difference it makes to be able to stand briefly, how much easier everything will be, if he can walk several feet with a walker. It means the freedom of being able to transfer into a car, and it means avoiding the large financial burden of having to purchase a wheelchair van. This knowledge is a strong motivator.
It would really make a big difference right now if Dave could make more of his medical and health decisions based on what he believes is right for him, and was not trapped by what insurance is willing to pay for. It would help so much if he could put his energy into gaining strength and mobility and not into arguing with the system to convince them not to give up on him. Dave hasn't been able to work since January, and has been racking up medical bills during the last few months. Dave has a lot of fight left in him, and if you are able to help provide some financial strength, it will give him invaluable options to pursue additional healing, and make choices that make sense for the future.
Maybe you are here because you know one of his two children (the youngest of whom is 17 and just starting college), his four step children, or one of his two grandchildren. Maybe you remember him from when he and his wife owned and operated Sea Thai in Seattle for 13 years. Perhaps you knew him during his 18 years working as an engineer for the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington, or the decade previously when he worked for Naval Underwater Systems Center (NUSC). Maybe you attended school with him at the University of Nevada, Reno, or Basic High School in Henderson. If you are lucky enough to know him personally, then you know how good he is at problem solving, and how willing he is to try to help others with their problems. He's working just as hard at solving this problem he is presented with, but this time he can use some help.
Maybe you don't know him and have just found your way here through random surfing or through six degrees of separation. Thanks for reading this far. Thanks for being open to the idea of how each of us can make a difference in the lives of the people we share this planet with, even if you can't contribute financially.
Dave has helped others in many ways, from mentoring people he has worked with, to troubleshooting a computer problem for a customer whose laptop is acting up during lunch at Sea Thai. He's the kind of guy who pulls over to help when a car is broken down on the side of the highway, or once he has figured out how to correctly fill out bureaucratic paperwork, will help anyone else with the same problem. He's the kind of guy who will help you move (but he might want dinner for it), or the kind of guy that will drive to another state with no notice because he got a call saying that somebody is ready to leave their abusive relationship.
Right now he is doing what he can for himself, and the rest of his family is too. He is taking steps to sell the family home to help pay for what insurance isn't covering. His wife has gone back to work as a cook. His 17 year old daughter has switched jobs to get more hours so that she can contribute more. We don't expect others to do all the heavy lifting, but we'd really love and appreciate a boost right now.
Physical Therapy starts at $80 per session, and goes up depending on the length of the session. It's more for specialized therapy, like Aquatic Physical Therapy, which has very strong advantages. Getting to a medical appointment requires a "cabulance" right now, which costs $100 each way. He would like to have at least six PT sessions per week (in order to have qualified for the hospital rehab, he would need to be doing FOUR 45 minute sessions per DAY, so six per week is not as much as it sounds like). Plus some PT could be done safely and effectively on his own, when he can afford to buy the requisite equipment.
There are many other important things that insurance won't cover. He has the use of a wheelchair, but it is the one the facility provided, with no shopping around for one that is comfortable for his condition. He cannot sit for longer than 2 hours in the chair he was given to use without being in agonizing pain and having his legs go numb. This leaves him in bed a lot of the time, which has a set of negative impacts on a patient. We want him to be able to sit for longer. There are special alternative pressure mattress pads for hospital beds to prevent the development of bed sores, but insurance will not preemptively cover such a thing, instead waiting until there is an existing non-healing wound. We don’t want to wait.
Thank you for reading this far. If you can help my father out with a donation of any size, it would mean so much to the whole family.