A long and winding road

January 30, 2023  By: Anthony Matt

Carson Schulte Family

If you take one look at 17-year-old Carson Schulte of Duluth, you’d see a pretty typical teenager – a senior at Denfeld High School, soccer captain plus a member of the tennis and hockey teams, as well. An independent kid learning his way through life, he desires a lot of autonomy, has a positive attitude and a desire to help others.

“He’s very strong and determined,” said Carson’s mom, Kristi. “You’d never know he has gone through some of the things he has experienced in his life already.”

At about 6 months old, Carson was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease – a chronic disease that causes inflammation in your digestive tract and at times can be life-threatening. There is no known cure, but doctors can reduce the symptoms through treatment.

Because he was doing so well, Carson was able to stop taking medication, and did so without issue for the next 10 years – until January 2021.

Carson Schulte“He was showing some pretty typical signs and symptoms of a flare-up for a couple of weeks,” said Kristi. “So we made an appointment at Essentia Health, but he ended up in the ER before that appointment came.”

A colonoscopy confirmed Carson was, indeed, dealing with a resurgence of his Crohn’s Disease. He was admitted to the hospital on March 3. Four days later, his colon ruptured, and he was rushed into emergency surgery to have it removed.

“It all happened so fast,” said Kristi. “We live right in town and he was in surgery before my husband, John, could make it from home to St. Mary’s Medical Center. But that quick thinking saved Carson’s life.”  

The rupture was severe enough that a kidney specialist was called in to assist with surgery. Overall, three surgeons were involved.

“It was very scary,” said Kristi. “He had also gone into septic shock, and anytime you hear that your mind immediately imagines the worst-case scenario.”

Fortunately, the surgery was a success. But Carson would need to spend six weeks in the ICU recovering. Kristi said despite the difficult circumstances, she couldn’t have been more pleased with Carson’s care team.

“We owe them his life, we really do,” she said. “We were able to put full trust in the decisions of the doctors because each and every one of them was on the same page.”

One of the things Kristi was most pleased with was the ability of all the doctors and nurses on Carson’s care team to communicate clearly and efficiently to ensure he was always receiving the best care possible.

Schulte Family“I really appreciate the vast variety of specialties Essentia offers right here in Duluth,” said Kristi. “It’s so nice to not have to travel for Carson’s care and it wasn’t even a thought to bring him to another hospital because we knew he was receiving top-notch care at Essentia.”

Now, Carson is hoping to bring awareness to the disease. Because he knows just how scary it can be when faced with serious medical concerns, he aims to spread joy around Essentia’s pediatrics department by creating cards, sending well wishes and keeping the spirits up for all the young patients and their families.

“Carson is an amazing person and gives definition to the word resiliency,” said Dr. Amy Garcia, Carson’s gastroenterologist. “He always kept a positive attitude and that really helped him heal and get back to the soccer field as quick as he did. He has a bright future ahead of him and I am so grateful to have been able to help him keep moving forward.” 

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