It started for 7-year-old Aspen Olesen as a rash, leaving angry red patches over her whole body just before the weekend.
Friday’s blood tests came back normal, but her continued severe nausea and inability to eat sent Aspen and her mom, Krista, to Kalispell Regional Medical Center. Doctors worked up their young patient for her persistent vomiting and belly pain, and then spotted a bowel obstruction on a CT scan. Opting to begin with the least invasive path, they started on a nonsurgical treatment but, after no improvement, they turned to emergency surgery.
“We came here because we have friends and family in Kalispell, so we knew we’d have a place to stay overnight,” Krista said. The two-and-a-half-hour drive made the prospect of heading for home in the dark with a sick daughter unappealing. “I didn’t even know about Dr. Seifarth and the work with pediatrics the hospital is doing here.”
Pediatric surgeon Federico Seifarth, MD, joined Kalispell Regional Healthcare in early 2016 from Cleveland Clinic to help launch an ambitious pediatric specialty program that brings a breadth and depth of care not previously found in Montana.
When mother, daughter and surgeon met, he shared his concerns and a planned course of action. Untreated bowel obstructions can be life-threatening if the bowel dies and opens up, he told them; the best course of action was surgery the following morning. Dr. Seifarth detailed every scenario that he might encounter during the minimally invasive procedure, and clarified in advance what Krista and Gabriel, Aspen’s dad, would choose so he wouldn’t have to stop mid-surgery for consent.
“He called us about an hour into the two-hour surgery to say he was able to remove all the obstruction without any damage to the bowel,” Krista said, still amazed when she considered the size of the obstruction and the amount of swelling evidenced in photos taken during the surgery. “If we had gone to Seattle, in the time it took to travel there, some of her bowel tissue could have been damaged.”
That was Saturday. By Monday afternoon, Aspen had bounced back to her normal first-grader’s bubbly disposition and was ready to eat her first meal in days and then head home. Mom played it safe and stayed until Tuesday.
“I felt like there was a whole team working for us, with the pediatricians and nurses and the surgeon. We’re still on the hunt to find the cause,” she said, so they are consulting with pediatric gastroenterologist Tom Flass, MD, who also joined the Kalispell Regional Healthcare pediatric specialist team in spring 2016. “We had more support from friends over here than we would have had in Seattle. And we feel very confident in the care we’ve gotten.”
Photo courtesy of Krista Olesen