On December 13th, Katt, a self-employed, uninsured, American entrepreneur who suffers from ulcerative colitis, traveled 22 hours to visit the island Bonaire, where her boyfriend Wesley's parents live.
Ulcerative Colitis (similar in nature & severity to Chron's Disease) is a chronic illness greatly effecting the digestive system. Thought to be auto-immune related, this is an inflammatory disease that attacks the colon and keeps the patient from absorbing nutrients or digesting even simple foods. Surgery (removal of the colon) can be necessary, is often recommended and sometimes elected, in hopes of a better quality of life.
Pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, antibiotics & scores of pharmaceuticals are used to try and control the symptoms of this disease. Sometimes in remission for years, UC can "flare up" at any time and causes extreme weight-loss, malnutrition, internal bleeding, coma and death.
A Letter from Katt:
In mid December, I traveled to the island of Bonaire in the Dutch Caribbean. Hoping to take a much needed break from my life as a business owner and enjoy a trip with my boyfriend, visiting his parents who live on the island. Unfortunately, as soon as I arrived, I realized that I was getting very sick, very fast. I was bleeding internally, had unbearable pain, was rapidly loosing weight and was battling a significant fever. I was admitted to the local hospital (in a 3rd world country) and treatment was supposed to begin. In this ward I was ignored, neglected, given the wrong medications and given incorrect amounts of medications that were inappropriate for my grave illness. After 3 days of neglect, my condition had plummeted and the Dutch Internist made the call to have me removed. I was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital, which proved to be a necessary life saver.
Once in the ICU, my real care began. It was a night and day experience compared with the first hospital ward. Handfuls of doctors gathered over my bed to speak in multiple languages over what the best course of action would be. Hours seemed like days and even the highest performing pain medications could not relieve the agony I was in. I had lost nearly 20 pounds, was on 4-6 IV’s, could not move on my own and was medicated into a scary world of hallucinations and fears for my life. I could see the look on every face in the room. Doctors, nurses, loved ones...they were all contemplating the possibility of losing me. There was talk of surgery (which I still may need) and life-flighting me to Columbia for the procedures. The images in my head were of my loved ones, clients, friends and family gathering at my funeral. I could not let this happen.
Honestly, reaching out to friends and loved ones through Facebook helped me more than I could have imagined. I learned to meditate through the pain, fear and hallucinations while I watched other patients die, wondering if I'd be next. For three more days I remained in the ICU, fighting for my life along with the help of machines and modern day medicine. I was getting the best care they had to offer, round the clock monitoring & was on a 72 hour constant drip of the horse tranquilizer called Ketamine. These were the scariest days of my life and also the most transformative.
On New Years Eve, I realized that I might actually survive. I was able to drink water on my own, allowing me to drop an IV bag. My pain was becoming less severe and my constant nausea was starting to lift. I could imagine actually getting better. I could imagine having my life back!
In a slow, 2 step forward, 1 step back manner, I began to make progress towards health. I was able to stand and use the bathroom on my own. Brush my teeth, put on clothes. I was able to walk short distances without a wheelchair or much assistance. I could see across to the other side. To the healthy side. In the early evening of Thursday Jan. 2nd, I was discharged from the hospital and was cleared safe to fly. The next day I spent in the care of Wes and his sweet family and was able to start relaxing from the horrors of the hospital.
On Saturday January 4th we were able to make our way through 24 hours of travel, navigating international customs and 3 airports in a wheelchair to get me home. With my Ensure drink in hand and an incredible partner at my side, after what we'd been through, I knew we could handle anything.
Now the financial impact of these events are starting to take the forefront of my mind. I'm a self employed business owner without health insurance, with a heck of a pre-existing condition. My medical care continues and the road to recovery will be a slow, expensive one. It has yet to be determined when I might be healthy enough to return to working with clients and the expenses for my care, both in Bonaire and here at home, seem insurmountable.
Because of this, an incredible team of ROCK STAR movers and shakers have rallied together to create a fundraising campaign for me. A promoter, a publisher, a PR exec and a Nurse have all banded together to generate the funds necessary for my care. Meanwhile, I'll be chugging big gulps of pride due to the incredible efforts being made on my behalf. Every $20 helps. All that I can express is gratitude.
Love and light,
Katrina "Katt" Ahlstrom
A brief idea of the financial strain Katt currently faces:
Costs from the 6 day experience at the Bonarian Hospital
Costs for exorbitant prescriptions to maintain progress in the US, without insurance.
Costs for receiving care from a local specialist, without insurance.
Cost for most comprehensive (expensive) insurance package available.
Future costs of surgery, with or without insurance.
Maintaining home & business expenses while unable to work as normal.
"Katt is full of heart and she has shared it with so many. There are moments that define community-- this is one of them. Let's rally now for Katt, so she can rest easy and well and heal!" -Elke Govertson, Mamalode.com