College women's hockey: UMD equipment manager Vasichek on mend after more surgery
Eight and a half months since undergoing an emergency liver transplant to treat her primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), Minnesota Duluth women's hockey equipment manager Julianne "Montana" Vasichek continues to recover.But she cleared a major h...
Eight and a half months since undergoing an emergency liver transplant to treat her primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey equipment manager Julianne “Montana” Vasichek continues to recover.
But she cleared a major hurdle last week.
Vasichek underwent surgery a week ago today to reattach her small intestine and colon. In addition to receiving a new liver in February, doctors also had to remove 40 percent of her colon that was black, as well as temporarily take out 15 centimeters of her small intestine to get that organ working again.
Since then she’s been living with an ileostomy - an opening that’s made in the abdominal wall - and stoma - an opening that connects a portion of the body cavity to the outside - plus a bag just above her hip.
Vasichek remains hospitalized at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., recovering from her latest surgery. Through her brother, Gabe, on her CaringBridge blog, Vasichek said she’s “alright” being at Mayo this year for Thanksgiving after everything she’s gone through since February.
“I have a lot to be thankful for this year that doesn’t require a huge gathering to appreciate,” Gabe wrote in a Wednesday post narrated by his sister at caringbridge.org/juliannevasichek .
Vasichek was rushed to the emergency room in Duluth with a fever, vomiting and abdominal pain on Feb. 23, the day after a Bulldogs home sweep of Ohio State. She was then airlifted to the Mayo Clinic to undergo a liver transplant on Feb. 28.
During the transplant, doctors not only found the black portion of the colon, they discovered the former player on three UMD national championship teams had Budd-Chiari syndrome. That was in addition to the ulcerative colitis she was diagnosed with in 2002 as a player and the PSC she was diagnosed with in 2007 after her college career.
While PSC causes inflammation and obstruction of the bile ducts in the liver, Budd-Chiari causes the clotting of the hepatic veins to the liver.
Both are rare diseases and, according to Vasichek, she was told she had a one-in-a-billion chance to draw both. Her PSC hadn’t progressed far enough to cause her to need a liver transplant - that was still supposed to be years away - but the Budd-Chiari syndrome caused a clot to shut off the blood flow to the liver, resulting in it and the kidneys to start failing.
While Vasichek still must deal with ulcerative colitis, she is free of PSC and Budd-Chiari, though both can return.