"Eighty-four days and I’m finally free!" Sharon Ellerington proclaimed as she walked through the doors of the Brandon Regional Health Centre. With her best friend Tammy Neilson by her side, it was an emotional moment.
"My tears are freezing," Ellerington said with a laugh as she was hit by the frigid temperatures.
After spending 12 weeks in the hospital, she was granted a 48-hour leave. If the weekend goes well at home, Ellerington will not be coming back.
"I’ll get to stay out after we see how things go with the feeding tube and all that," she said.
While Friday was a joyous occasion, it was very bittersweet for the 44-year-old Brandon woman. There is still a big question mark about what she is actually suffering from and no real plan for treatment moving forward.
Ellerington still firmly believes she has celiac artery compression syndrome, an extremely rare condition that causes a ligament to strangle an artery supplying blood to her stomach. That was her diagnosis when she first was admitted to the hospital Sept. 25 and a surgery was planned. But when she met with the vascular surgeon in Winnipeg on Nov. 1, he did not believe that she was suffering from CAC syndrome.
"The surgeon and specialists that I saw there, more or less said … we wouldn’t give it more than a 50/50 chance of it fixing it," she said. "If we do surgery, it would correct it or it could be really bad."
Ellerington had no choice but to wait once again, and seek a different diagnosis. But that diagnosis never came.
Due to the illness, she cannot eat solid foods. She now has a feeding tube bypassing her stomach and put directly into her small intestine, which is allowing her to go home.
"This feels like a Band-Aid to me, it really does," she said. "I’m really hoping to get some more answers on the stomach part … and it’s just not going to miraculously fix itself."
If all goes well at home, and she regains her strength, Ellerington plans to travel to Saskatoon within the month to meet with surgeons who have expressed interest in her case.
"I’ve been in touch with a couple surgeons there. They are very much willing to take a second look at things," she said.
Sitting in the hospital foyer on Friday, Ellerington expressed her gratitude to the nurses who have helped her over the last few months. As a way to pass the time, she crocheted scarves for her nurses. She spoke about the relationships and camaraderie she built with them.
"They were always so good to me. I can’t thank them enough," she said, with tears in her eyes. "And to the doctors that were involved as well, I thank them for their efforts in all of this. I still do think that there are a lot of kinks to work out, definitely."
Prairie Mountain Health declined to comment on Ellerington’s case "due to patient confidentiality and privacy obligations," adding that "PMH will continue its discussions with the patient and family directly."
Ellerington will be recovering at her mother’s home near Miniota, a place she describes as "serene and peaceful." She is thrilled to be celebrating the Christmas holidays with her family — especially her grandson, who recently turned two years old.
Family and friends have rallied around her through this ordeal, including a GoFundMe campaign to help her out financially (gofundme.com/sharon-needs-your-help). Ellerington had just started a new job at a personal care home six weeks before her hospitalization.
The online campaign is still taking donations. A benefit social was held earlier this month, which was organized by Neilson. Seventy people came out to the event, which raised more than $3,000.
"I couldn’t have done it without the community support, that’s for sure," Neilson said. "Everybody just had the same goal in mind, just to help Sharon out."
Neilson considers Ellerington a "big sister" and visited her at the hospital every chance she could.
"Through it all she always kept a smile on her face, which in itself is just a miracle," she said. "I couldn’t imagine being here that long."
Neilson said she will continue to do as much as possible to help.
"Now (we’re) stepping into the second leg of her journey, getting her to Saskatoon," she said.
"I’m going to continue to rally and support her in any way that I can financially to keep her going ... She’s a fighter, and we’re not going to give up on this."
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