The fact that Abby Friese is alive is a miracle.
That is what her family believes, as the 17-year-old Redwood Valley High School junior, has been through a lot in the past several weeks.
It all started with a headache.
After asking to go home from school, Abby was picked up by her dad, Scott, who said he told Abby he would never again come to get her simply because she had a headache.
That feeling of a headache persisted for Abby throughout the weekend and began to get progressively worse. Abby went back to school the following Monday but soon after was in the nurse’s office not able to handle the pain.
Abby’s mom, Sherry, was encouraged by the school nurse to take her to the clinic. A series of events that included added medical visits, a stop in the emergency room, spending time in a dark room and more tests ultimately led to an ambulance trip to Willmar. There she had a CT scan, which indicated that Abby may be experiencing a sinus infection.
Yet, those who were trying to figure out what was going wrong did not think she should be in as much pain as Abby was experiencing simply because of an issue in her sinuses.
That, said Scott, is when the idea of doing a spinal tap was suggested. The results indicated Abby had pneumococcal meningitis.
“We had no idea what that even was,” said Scott.
Abby was then put in another ambulance and was transported to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. Her parents then went back home, gathered a few things and made their way to the Twin Cities, too.
What started Dec. 18 continued with a week-and-a-half stay at Children’s Hospital where Abby received continued treatment for her meningitis.
That was not the only hurdle Abby was having to overcome, as the issues began to pile up in her body. Ultimately, Abby had to fight off four different infections in her body, including meningitis, ventriculitis, endocarditis and sinusitis – two impacting her heart and one in her brain.
“It was horrible to watch what was happening,” said Scott, with Sherry nodding in agreement.
They watched helplessly as others cared for their daughter.
For Abby the experience was frightening, too, as she, at that point, had no idea whether she was going to live or die.
The strain of meningitis Abby contracted is very rare, as 20,000 people are diagnosed with it in the United States each year.
Adding to that three other infections, and what Abby experienced was extremely rare. A number of infectious disease doctors frequently visited Abby’s room not only to check on her but to follow her progress. Abby continued to endure intense pain, but during the whole traumatic experience her family was by her side.
Abby began to receive antibiotics, which had to be administered long after she left the hospital. Her parents, as well as grandmother, Clara Friese, quickly learned what it meant to offer care for Abby. A pic line was placed in Abby’s left arm, and through that the medicine she needed was administered – five times a day.
While the medication she was receiving was helping fight off the bacteria in her body, there was concern about what it might be doing to the rest of her, especially her kidneys.
Clara added since her granddaughter began this experience she has learned a lot about what was happening and expressed her happiness that modern medical technology has made strides in addressing those issues.
Had this happened 20 years ago, the family could be looking at much more serious side effects, especially from the meningitis, as those in the past who suffered through what Abby had were left with mental incapacity, paralysis, experienced strokes and other long-term disabilities.
That is, if they lived through it.
How Abby ended up with pneumococcal meningitis is not known, but the family was told that the bacteria exists in the body but more often manifests itself through other things, such as strep throat.
Abby had 10 spots on her brain where the meningitis bacteria had settled, and the medications she received were able to fight it. As of this past Wednesday, the pic line was removed. Scott and Sherry said they were told had Abby received her booster shot none of what she experienced would have happened.
“We had no idea,” said Sherry.
Scott added they almost lost their daughter because of a lack of knowledge about the vaccinations she needed.
For the Friese family, if there is anything good that can come of this it is that they are encouraging every family to check with their doctors to make sure their children have this vaccine and are up to date on all of their boosters.
“We would not want anyone to go though what we have,” said Scott.
The Friese family has been assured Abby will be OK. Yet, because of the extended stay and with both of her parents by her side throughout the bills have been piling up for the family.
With that in mind, a benefit is being held for Abby and her family this coming Sunday (Jan. 27) at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Redwood Falls.
Clara said that day from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. a pancake and waffle meal is being served. Free will donations are being accepted.
In addition a silent auction, bake sale and craft sale will be available as a way to raise funds. A raffle is also being held during the event. Donations for the event are being accepted, and those who would like to offer something are encouraged to contact Clara Friese at (507) 640-1585.
Everyone is encouraged to attend.
The good news for the Friese family is that Abby’s parents and the medical staff were able to address the issue early enough that life can go on normally for Abby.
“Abby is a walking miracle,” said Clara, adding she firmly believes faith can move mountains.
The Friese family wanted to express its appreciation to all of the medical personnel who served them throughout this experience, adding they were all very well cared for by them. They also expressed their sincere gratitude to those who have been helping coordinate the benefit for Abby and those who have donated to the cause.
Scott and Sherry encouraged every parent to hug their children every day like it is the last day you ever will be able to and to let them know you love them.