In EMS it is impossible not to be touched by our patients and make significant human connections.
Twelve-year-old Jack Goerlinger recently received a wish through the Make-a-Wish Foundation. While he is extremely grateful, Jack said with uncanny honesty, “My real wish is that this never happened to me.” Jack has microscopic polyangiitis (MPA). The annual incidence of MPA is 3 cases per 1 million people. Just less than a year ago, Jack suddenly experienced fatigue, headache, fever, and weight loss, which quickly led to renal failure. When told he was in renal failure, Jack’s mother, Amy, responded with, “What’s renal?” Today Jack, Amy, and Jack’s father, Mark, are near experts on renal failure now that Jack is on dialysis three times a week and restricted to a “renal” diet.
Microscopic polyangiitis (also known as microscopic polyarteritis) is an autoimmune process that causes systemic inflammation of blood vessels. When blood vessels become inflamed, they become weakened and stretch, forming aneurysms, or become so thin they rupture, bleeding into the tissue. Vessels also can close off entirely, causing organs to become damaged from the loss of oxygen or nutrients that were being supplied by the blood. Kidney (renal) or lung involvement can lead to organ damage, as in Jack’s case.
EMS workers are not immune to such life-changing events. Jack’s father, Mark, is a Waupaca County sheriff who encounters ill or injured people daily in the 911 system; and now it would be his own son in crisis. Because of all this, Jack is so grown up “head and shoulders above other 12-year-olds.”
Jack’s mother told us outcome is strongly related to the severity of the disease and “Jack’s determination.” Because of prompt treatment, Jack is in remission. While his lung function has returned, he will need a kidney transplant, but he must wait one year from the onset of MPA (last January) to begin the transplant process, ensuring no more flare-ups that could put his new kidney at risk. Jack is a universal kidney recipient or AB positive; both of his parents hope one of them is able to donate the kidney that will return their son to the normal life of a teenager.
Jack’s seventh grade class and his EMS caregivers stitched together a quilt of colorful squares to let him know how much they care about him and his recovery. As diverse as the colorful squares, so are the bonds with our patients woven into the fundamental fabric of our EMS hearts. Our wish for Jack is a full recovery to a healthy, normal, disease-free life!
By Pam Witt-Hillen, ThedaStar Flight nurse