Benefit to help Peterson family

(Created: Wednesday, June 13, 2007 2:00 PM CDT)

With her upbeat attitude and never ending smile, if it weren’t for the oxygen tubes, it would be hard to tell at first glance that Carrie Peterson of Norwood Young America has a serious medical condition.

In January, a few months after the birth of her third child, Montana, Peterson was diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension, which causes the pulmonary artery to become enlarged. The condition restricts the blood supply to her lungs and the oxygen to her heart.

For many the life expectancy after diagnoses is three years.

However, with Peterson’s age and medical advances, doctors are optimistic she will have a long life a head of her.

Peterson began feeling ill in the early months of her pregnancy. She was suddenly short of breath after walking only 10 to 15 steps.

“The doctors thought the baby was just positioned on my diaphragm,” Peterson said of her early symptoms. “So we just assumed it was the baby.”

However, her condition worsened. About a month before Montana was born, Peterson began having difficulty standing and was experiencing blackouts.

After the baby was born, her ankles became swollen and it became more difficult to walk shorter and shorter distances. Then she began passing out. She fell in the shower and in the bathroom. She was having horrible stomach cramps and was seeing what she described as lightening spots. When trying to do the dishes, she would have to sit every two minutes, because she was out of breath.

Peterson became a frequent visitor at the doctor’s office.

Each visit revealed a possible diagnoses: toxemia, asthma, and even the possibility of post partum depression. However, none were the source of Peterson’s condition.

Then Peterson began to notice her stomach was becoming enlarged.

“My stomach was bigger than it was when I was pregnant,” Peterson said.

After passing out five days in a row, Peterson again went to the doctor, knowing something was seriously wrong. Instead of going to her normal doctor’s office, she went to Lakeview Clinic in Norwood Young America because it was closer.

Dr. Bergeron and Nurse Yancy saw her.

After some tests, Bergeron discovered Peterson’s heart was enlarged. She was sent to Ridgeview Medical Center for a CT scan. Within an hour she had the answer to what was wrong with her— Pulmonary Hypertension.

“I was so happy to finally know what was wrong. That was all that mattered. I no longer felt like I was crazy,” Peterson said. “I am so thankful to them (Dr. Bergeron and Nurse Yancy). They saved my life.”

Since her diagnoses, while Peterson is more comfortable due to medications, her life definitely isn’t easy. While the oxygen makes it easier to breath, she also takes about 30 pills a day. Recently she had surgery to install a subcutaneous pump, which gives her constant medication. She’s not in pain, except for the injection sites for the medication pump, as she has had to change it every three days. So far the nine different sites in her left arm have left very painful welts. She says to even lightly bump it on something causes great pain.

Peterson has remained positive through her ordeal and is hopeful they will be able to stabilize her condition.

After all, with three young children and a husband, Peterson said she has a lot to look forward to and live for.

“The doctors and nurses at Abott have been wonderful,” Peterson said. At Abbot she sees Dr. Lawer and Kathy O’Brien, a nurse practitioner, whom she says have given her wonderful care. She has to visit the doctor on a weekly basis.

If the current methods of treatment are unable to stabilize her condition the only other option for Peterson is a heart and lung transplant. While she has been given the information about the double transplant, the doctors will try every other available option first.

“God’s pulling our way and has gotten us this far, “Peterson said.

While Peterson is hoping for a cool summer, as the heat and humidity make it harder to breath, she enjoys spending time with her children, Hailey, 12, Raeven, 7, and Montana, even if she can’t venture out doors.

She said other members of her family including her mother and sisters have been wonderful and have been able to help find activities for the kids to enjoy.

Peterson’s family moved to Norwood Young America in 1998 and since then she has been an active volunteer at school, community food shelf, and her church. For several years she helped make the Sunday evening “Backroom” at the Pizza Ranch a popular activity for Norwood Young America youth and helped organize “Party at the Park” and the annual city wide “free garage sale”.

Since her diagnoses, Peterson has also been unable to work. Her husband, Joe, has had to take over her duties as caretaker for the apartment and town home complex they live in. He also needs to be home to care for their family and to transport Carrie to weekly appointments at Abbott Heart Hospital and countless other trips to Lakeview Clinic.

However, with medication and doctor’s bills, money has been tight for the Peterson’s, especially with children. Luckily the Peterson’s have health insurance, as if they didn’t the bills would be more than $70,000 a month. Even with insurance, however, the medical bills take up more than half their small income.

In order to help the Peterson family, a benefit is being held on Wednesday, June 20. The Mexican Fiesta and Silent Auction will take place at the Willkommen Memorial Park Pavilion. Dinner will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. with the silent auction taking place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The cost for the event is $5 for adults. The cost for children six and under is $3. Donations may also be sent to “Caring for Carrie” at Klein Bank, P.O. Box 839, Norwood Young America, 55368.

Peterson and her family are grateful for all the support their friends and community have shown over the past several months.

“There are lots of people who have done a lot for us. I want to say thank you to everyone,” Peterson said.