Kid Captain beats overwhelming odds after botched appendectomy

BY ERIC CLARK | OCTOBER 19, 2012 6:30 AM

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Five percent.

As Grant Stracke lay in a bed at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in September 2011, doctors informed Phil and Sara Stracke that their son had a 5 percent chance of survival.

Grant, 11, had received an appendectomy at a western Iowa hospital less than a week before, during which he lost large amount of blood.

Upon further analysis of his condition, doctors found that Grant’s aorta had been severed during the appendectomy. Grant was transferred to the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha less than a day after the procedure.

“It was very shocking news,” Sara Stracke said. “We were not prepared for it at all.”

After Grant survived the surgery to repair his aorta, doctors advised the Strackes to send him to UIHC, where Grant would receive renal therapy on his failing kidneys.

“We were told that we had to get him to Iowa City, or he was as good as dead,” Phil Stracke said.
Patrick Brophy, the director of pediatric nephrology at the UIHC, was quick to point out the resiliency of the Stracke family.

“They’re pretty amazing folks,’” he said. “[Grant] was about as critically ill as he could be.”

Grant underwent 14 surgeries during his stays in Omaha and Iowa City. After 31 days at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and 10 days on the pediatric floor, he was discharged.

Grant then underwent speech, occupational, and intense physical therapy at the ChildServe Center in Johnston, Iowa.

“We wanted them to push him hard,” Sara Stracke said. “In one month there, he went from not being able to walk at all to being able to walk without any assistance.”

After overcoming possible leg amputation, brain damage, and even death, Grant returned to a life of normalcy. He played tight end for his youth-league football team this fall and played third base and pitcher on his baseball team this summer.

Community played a large factor in the Strackes’ strength, Sara Stracke said. Local benefits were held to raise money and establish a support system for the family.

The support came not only from their hometown of Manilla, Iowa, but from surrounding communities as well.

“It was so mind-boggling,” Sara Stracke said. “At one event, I think our entire community came out. We had about 1,200 people there total.”

The community environment stretched all the way to Iowa City — the Strackes received comfort and compassion from the UIHC staff.

“From the moment we got there, there were nurses talking to us, doctors talking to us, telling us what they were going to do,” Phil Stracke said. “Realistically, we understood that Grant’s chances of survival weren’t great. But they continually gave us hope.”

Grant was one of 13 children chosen to be a Kid Captain this season, and he will attend Saturday’s home game when the Hawkeyes take on visiting Penn State.

The Strackes were able to choose one individual involved in Grant’s care to accompany Grant to the game and to watch with him from the sidelines.

UIHC kidney specialist Jennifer Jetton, one of the many doctors involved in the care of Grant, will be Grant’s guest of honor at the game.

“His parents, his family, they were with him the entire time,” Jetton said. “They were incredibly gracious to all his care providers, even when they were going through an very rough period.”

While Phil and Sara gushed about the UIHC staff, Grant had only a few words.

“Thank you for saving my life,” he said.

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