When 11-year-old Grant Stracke complained of a stomach ache in early September 2011, his parents Sara and Phil Stracke never dreamed their son would soon be fighting for his life.
Grant, from Manilla, Iowa, had his appendix removed at a hospital in western Iowa. He lost a lot of blood during the procedure, but surgeons believed the bleeding had stopped. Rather than starting to recover overnight, Grant’s condition began deteriorating. By morning, Grant’s kidneys had shut down.
“They sent us to Omaha and he was very critical by the time we got there,” recalls Sara. “In fact, they told us they didn’t expect him to live.”
Grant immediately underwent surgery and doctors discovered his abdominal aorta – the largest artery in the abdomen – had been cut during his appendectomy. Doctors repaired the aorta and stopped the bleeding.
Two days after the aorta was repaired, Grant’s parents were told he needed specialized dialysis for his kidneys. He was flown to University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.
“We got here and doctors and nurses met us immediately,” Sara remembers. “It was reassuring to know he was a priority.”
Grant’s care was immediate. Doctors and nurses from multiple specialties worked together to stabilize him within the first six hours of arrival.
At UI Children’s Hospital, Grant had surgeries to clean his abdomen and evaluate his kidneys. Additionally, the lack of blood flow to his legs caused by the damaged aorta created a loss of muscle tissue and the dead tissue was removed. Over the course of 31 days, Grant would have several more surgeries – 14 total – including surgeries to remove his spleen and gall bladder.
“We saw doctors from just about every discipline,” Sara says. “We thought we were coming primarily for his kidneys and dialysis, but we ended up seeing multiple doctors and pain specialists.”
Once he left UI Children’s Hospital, Grant required several weeks of rehabilitation. He still walks with braces on his legs due to the lower leg injuries. But Sara says, “With his braces on he’s pretty much capable of doing about everything.”
“He really has jumped back into life almost full-force and is doing his regular chores,” she says.
Grant says he’s happy to be back up and running around.
“I like to run around the farm, do a bunch of activities – I play catch with my brother, feed my calves,” he says. “My favorite sports are football, baseball, and basketball.”
His parents credit the doctors, nurses, and staff at UI Children’s Hospital for saving their son.
“Because we were there for 31 days we were able to see many of the doctors and nurses who came and went; and we know we’re very fortunate and very blessed that we got to bring him home in the capacity we did,” Phil says.
His wife agrees.
“At UI Children’s Hospital the care is phenomenal,” she affirms. “They never gave up, even when things looked hopeless.”