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Jordan's journey

February 19, 2011
By Karin Elton

At a time when she would have preferred to be practicing lay-ups, E.C.H.O. Charter School senior Jordan Berends was instead having to re-learn how to walk.

Last August Berends complained to her parents, Chris and Lisa Berends of Echo, about a severe headache.

"It felt like a sharp pain in the back of my eye," Jordan said. "It was the worst pain I've ever had. It was like burning, stabbing."

Article Photos

Photo by Phillip Bock

Jordan’s father, Chris, and Jordan spent time at his auto body shop recently. They talked about her recovery from the stroke and heart surgery.

Her mother took her to a doctor in Willmar.

"The doctor said it was a migraine," Lisa said. "A CT scan showed nothing."

A month later Jordan felt it again and went to bed early. Her mother gave her the medicine the doctor had prescribed: ibuprofen, a relaxant and Tramadol, a pain medicine.

Jordan woke up with no feeling on her left side and could barely talk.

"I felt tingly. I couldn't walk," she said. "It felt like I was drunk."

From the Willmar hospital, she was airlifted to the University of Minnesota Fairview intensive care unit.

"The doctors had two theories, that it could be a blood clot or autoimmune disease, which is when your immune system is too strong and attacks itself," Chris said.

A hole in her heart was discovered, which sometimes could lead to strokes, but the doctors didn't feel that was the cause in this case.

Jordan had surgery to repair the hole in her heart at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital.

"They put a catheter through a vein in my groin. It had an umbrella thing at the end," Jordan said.

Tissue then grows over the umbrella-like device, Lisa said.

Jordan recovered well from surgery, but is not able to resume playing basketball at E.C.H.O. Charter School.

"She's not supposed to play competitive basketball," Lisa said.

Jordan had to have physical therapy in the Twin Cities to recover from the stroke. During one of those trips to the Twin Cities, Jordan was in the back seat of her parents' car and couldn't hear out of her right ear; she became nauseated and dizzy. Fortunately, there was an emergency clinic next to the PT clinic.

She was deaf in one ear for three days. The staff used a new treatment which employs 5 percent carbon dioxide and 95 percent oxygen.

"You breathe the gas in for 15 minutes," Lisa said.

The treatment was given four times a day for three or four days. She also received a high dosage of steroids.

The staff told her it was likely to be a permanent hearing loss and she would need a hearing aid. But a hearing test later showed that she had regained 100 percent of her hearing.

Through all the tests, treatments and exams, Jordan texted on her cell phone.

"It was my lifeline to the world," she said.

She even texted through her spinal tap while medicated on drugs such as morphine.

Jordan has taken her ordeal in stride, just withstanding each thing as it comes.

"I've never seen anyone so courageous, so fearless," Lisa said.

Jordan was determined to achieve normalcy as soon as possible.

"She said, 'I'm walking,'" Chris said. "It wasn't pretty - but she walked."

"It took about a month for her to walk normally," Lisa said.

Jordan's complex medical case is kind of well known at the hospital - people tell Lisa that it could be an episode of the TV show "House."

"I don't know how many people mentioned 'House' to me," she said.

On the mend, Jordan now has a lot of catching up to do academically.

"I missed like a quarter and a half of school," she said. "It sucks. I think that I might not be able to graduate."

A friend has been helping Jordan with math.

"I wasn't there every day to learn it," she said.

Family, friends and their community have supported the family.

"A lot of people have supported us," Chris said. "Sending us cards, calling, the support and prayers..."

"We had people in different states praying for us everywhere," Jordan said.

"When my dad had surgery he said he could feel the prayers," Lisa said. "I didn't know what he meant until now. I could feel it."

Another thing that got Jordan through the ordeal was the hospital brownies.

"One of the cooks delivered the brownies to my room herself because she said she had to know who was ordering all those brownies," Jordan said.

Lisa and Chris are grateful for the treatment Jordan received.

"The U of M is a world class hospital," he said. "They're amazing."

Before this experience Jordan had a fear of needles. Now, she is interested in going to school to be a phlebotomist, someone who draws blood.

Lisa and Chris still don't have a solid answer as to why Jordan's body did what it did, but the list of medications that Jordan took for the initial migraine diagnosis is in her file so she won't be given them again. The doctors say the medications may have triggered a prescription-induced lupus.

Lisa and Chris say this whole ordeal has been a learning experience, but has also been tough on them financially - including having to miss work and drive to the Twin Cities two or three times a week.

Family friends are having a benefit in support of Jordan Friday at Bootlegger's Supper Club in Granite Falls. A fund has been set up at Citizens Alliance Bank in Echo for monetary donations.



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