Jake Carlson, 20, is breathing a lot easier these days thanks to a successful double lung transplant he underwent two weeks ago. And his parents, James and Lori Carlson, Sioux Rapids, are breathing a sigh of relief.
Jake will remain at the Fairview Hospital in Minneapolis for several months; family will be with him.
Family and friends are coming together to host a benefit for Jake and his family Sunday, Nov. 19 at the American Legion/Community Center located at 200 Main St. in Sioux Rapids. Funds will go to help with travel expenses and mounting medical bills.
A hog roast and all the trimmings will be served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a freewill offering. Preparing the meat will be the Sioux Rapids firefighters; Jake's uncle, Jim Wise, is the chief of the department. An auction will be held starting at 1 p.m. with many local and area businesses and residents donating items for the cause.
The surgery is very unusual for such a young person, but according to his aunt, Deb Roberts, who has been helping with the fundraiser, Jake had been diagnosed with leukemia at age 8. When he underwent chemotherapy to fight the disease, his lungs were apparently damaged.
Jake's older brother, Josh, currently a soldier serving in Iraq, provided life-saving bone marrow to Jake.
Because of the extent of the chemotherapy which created scar tissue doctors have said, his lung capacity was diminished. He has received cancer-free reports from the doctors for the past 12 years, which the family is thankful for and given exercises to do to help with the lungs.
Jake graduated from Sioux Central School and had been taking mechanic classes at Estherville. He began experiencing breathing problems last November and has spent nearly the entire year with doctors and hospitals trying to find answers.
As time went by, difficulties worsened; he was on oxygen at home and when he ventured out, his strength diminished and he dropped a great deal of weight. Walking was difficult as he quickly ran out of breath. A three-wheeled cart helped keep him mobile.
The family was informed that there were no options - a lung transplant was a necessity to maintain Jake's life. Only two hospitals in the nation perform the transplants, they were told - one located in Minneapolis and one located in Kansas City. They chose Minneapolis as there are relatives in the area.
Jake was placed on the "top priority" list and within two weeks, a donor had been located. The surgery lasted about eight hours but doctors are pleased with how well the surgery went.
"He's been down a tough road," Roberts said. "He was a sick little boy."
Jake remains on a ventilator so he is unable to talk. He uses a child's Magna-Doodle to write messages, Roberts said. "It works out great."
Therapy has begun and Jake is up and moving around. Currently he remains in intensive care; a family member, if not several, is with him at all times. It is expected he could remain in the hospital three to six months.
"He has a lot of family support," Roberts added.
Jake's dad works at the elevator in Linn Grove and his mom cleans houses in Sioux Rapids and the area. He is the grandson of Darlene Wise of Linn Grove. There are several aunts and uncles who are also watching out for Jake.
The family's faith has also gotten them through the tough situation. They are grateful to their pastor, Tom Peterson, who along with his wife, followed the family to the hospital and remained there with them during the surgery.
His spirits are good, Roberts said, adding that he is the type of person who is always in a good mood. Jake is an avid fisherman and hunter.
"He's very outgoing and loves people, especially his family. He's just a good kid, just happy-go-lucky," his aunt said of Jake. They all look forward to having their healthy Jake back home.
Anyone wishing to donate items or baked goods for the auction may bring them to the Sioux Rapids American Legion/ Community Center after 8 a.m. on Nov. 19, contact Deb Roberts at 283-2021 or Tess at 283-2183 for pickup or they may be dropped off at Snook's where Jake's uncle Jim works.
If you wish to make a donation and are unable to attend, donations may be made out to The Carlson Family Benefit and sent to: First State Bank, Box 461, Sioux Rapids, Ia. 50585
If you would like to send a message to Jake, his address is:
Fairview University Medical Center, 420 Delaware St., Room 4E, Minneapolis, Minn. 55455.