Michelle Haumschild went to a doctor who had done the same medical procedure for 15 years. She was his first patient to develop complications.
Now, nearly six months after her July 16, 2019, surgery, Haumschild has been in and out of a Brookfield hospital several times, has not worked in months and remains stuck at home with a wound vacuum and daily rounds of IV antibiotics.
The only good news is that a GoFundMe campaign started by Haumschild’s friend, Melissa Gehrig, has raised $5,300 so far to help Haumschild and her family with the expenses that just keep growing.
Haumschild, 31, of Fort Atkinson, was having issues with her liver and the doctor suggested weight-loss surgery to see if her weight was the cause, she said. But five days after the initial nine-hour operation, she became “super sick.”
“It’s been really scary. The doctor that I had, he’s been performing this procedure for 15 years. He’s never had anyone have major complications,” Haumschild said. “I was home for a week and felt great; then I got super sick one night, throwing up blood.”
What followed was a saga that strained and stressed her family to its limits. The GoFundMe page reads like a network TV medical drama.
“It’s been one thing after another,” Haumschild said.
After getting sick that night, she was readmitted to the hospital due to a leak where her staples were, according to the page. Then, she spent two days at home before being readmitted again, this time for 31 days — stretching the problems into late August.
While she spent that entire month in the hospital, Haumschild had a number of procedures, including three stents, stent removal and balloon dilation, according to the GoFundMe.
But it didn’t end there: Just two days after being released, she spiked a fever and was re-admitted — for two weeks this time.
Haumschild underwent more procedures and had a feeding tube put in. She spent five weeks without being hospitalized, but did have weekly checkups with her surgeon and had to deal with the daily needs of a feeding tube.
During those five weeks, she felt like she was out of the woods, but the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Haumschild started to feel sick. She pushed through and spent the holiday with her family, but was readmitted to the hospital that night with a “massive infection.”
From Thanksgiving through mid-December — five months after her initial surgery — Haumschild was undergoing procedures every other day as her team of doctors worked to get the infection under control.
Eventually, she was healthy enough to go home and able to spend Christmas with her family, but the Fort Atkinson woman still faces a number of health problems and won’t be able to get back to work until at least February.
“It’s overwhelming,” Haumschild said. “I’ve had a lot of stress; it’s hard even just doing daily things. Right now, I’ve got a wound vac that runs 24 hours a day. I don’t sleep very well. I don’t like to go out in public because I don’t like to go outside.”
The GoFundMe page was started Dec. 8 by Gehrig, who has been friends with Haumschild for a few years.
That money will be a huge help to Haumschild; her husband, Aaron; and 11-year-old son, Bradley, as they face medical bills that are stacking up, as well as the added costs such as missed work and expenses for the hour-long car rides to and from the out-of-town hospital.
“I would say, for my husband, it’s been really tough for him,” Haumschild said. “He had to take a ton of time off of work and I was an hour away. The nights I was having surgery, he wanted to be there and because of our son and our dogs, sometimes couldn’t be.”
Haumschild said she was incredibly touched when Gehrig asked about starting the GoFundMe campaign.
“When she asked if we were OK with it, again, it was overwhelming,” Haumschild said. “It was a really kind gesture and we were really taken aback. The donations we’ve received and all the people that’ve shared it and prayed for us. It’s helped out more than anyone can know. For her to do that for us, it was amazing.”
In its first 24 hours, the campaign raised more than $1,000, which was the campaign’s initial goal, Gehrig said.
“I didn’t expect it to even make as much as it did. My goal at first was maybe $1,000,” Gehrig said. “I just didn’t even have words; ‘oh my gosh, we almost hit our goal already.’”
In the month since, the fundraiser has received 18 donors and 148 shares on social media, and while most of the donations have been between $25 and $50, one person anonymously donated $4,000.
“It made both of us cry,” Haumschild said about seeing the large donation. “The person that donated it, I’ve known for quite a long time. He’s been an outstanding person. I’m at a loss for words even just thinking about it. It meant a lot for us. Even the smaller donations mean something, but it just left me speechless.”
In addition to the financial support, Haumschild said, family and friends have helped in a number of other ways.
“My parents and my husband’s mom and my sister and brother, and we had a couple friends of ours that stayed with our dogs for a couple days,” Haumschild said. “There’s been a lot of people that even took the trip to come see me while I was in the hospital. Some people made my husband some dinners.”
Now, as Haumschild is starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel, she said she is thankful for the support.
She also is starting to get stir crazy after being away from her job as a data researcher at S&P Global since mid-July.
“Things seem to be getting better and we just take it one day at a time,” Haumschild said. “We’re extremely grateful for everybody. It’s been a really moving experience.”