By Maddison Cervantes
On April Fool’s Day, Metsihate Bertukan received a text message from her 20-year-old cousin Aden Hailu, a University of Nevada, Reno freshman, saying that she had admitted herself to Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center due to abdominal pain.
Bertukan originally assumed the message was a joke, considering the date. It was not until she received a picture of Hailu sticking her tongue out in a hospital bed that Bertukan called her cousin to determine the reason for her admittance.
Results from Hailu’s laboratory tests, such as a pelvic exam, abdominal ultrasound and CAT scans, seemed normal to the doctors. However, Hailu was not responding to the IV fluids given to her, and her vital signs had been inconsistent since she was admitted. Doctors then insisted that Hailu undergo exploratory surgery to detect the source of her illness.
Hailu, whom Bertukan described as a presumably healthy girl, went into cardiac arrest on the operating table. She is now suffering from severe brain damage as a consequence of edema, or brain swelling. According to Bertukan, the last word she and her family have received from the doctors is that Hailu is braindead.
Hailu has been attached to a ventilator since the surgery, she has been receiving medication to prevent seizure activity and medication to stabilize her blood pressure and temperature as needed.
Additionally, Hailu’s family has been informed by the hospital that her insurance will soon exhaust. As a result, Bertukan has created a GoFundMe profile in order to raise money for her cousin’s treatment.
Bertukan stated on the profile that according to Hailu’s neurological diagnosis, she is in a persistent vegetative state and doctors have emphasized to her family that there is no chance of Hailu recovering her higher functions such as thought and action.
“In a subtle way, we feel pressured to make a life-ending decision but [Hailu] is only 20-years-old with no history of illness or family illness,” Bertukan said. “This news not solely deteriorated my entire family but it is very difficult to make a decision especially since the cause of her primary illness remains a mystery.”
Bertukan stated that the only way Saint Mary’s doctors can explain Hailu’s condition is by claiming that it is mystery. Therefore, attempting to make a life-ending decision with very little knowledge currently seems impossible for Bertukan and the rest of Hailu’s family.
By sharing the link to the GoFundMe account, Bertukan has been able to reach a multitude of people, such as UNR senior Ty Pimienta, who found it necessary to continue sharing Hailu’s story through social media.
“As soon as I saw her face on [Facebook] and her story, I felt through my faith that I had to share her story and have others help her out as well,” Pimienta said. “If it wasn’t going to be me, then who? Everyone deserves to live a life full of joy and not have to deal with something like that.”
There have been a variety of both anonymous and public donations to Bertukan’s account, but the goal of $70,000 has not yet been reached.
Some who contributed to the GoFundMe left words of support along with their donation, such as Rana Abu-Elniaj.
“I love you Aden, you’ll always be my best friend,” Abu-Elniaj said. “I know you’re strong enough to overcome this. God bless you Aden.”
Others who knew Hailu personally, such as Isabelle Langham and Nati Alemayehu also commented with words of comfort for Hailu and her family members during their time of distress.
Bertukan is presently staying with her uncle, Hailu’s father, in Reno to stay close to her cousin’s side while Hailu’s mother remains at home in Las Vegas attending to three younger children. According to Bertukan, another challenge the family has been facing is the separation and lack of support.
Along with this, Bertukan explained that attempting to understand the many “medical jargons” provided to the family has been a difficult feature of their situation.
Bertukan explained that aside from the constant trials each day has held for she and her family, she still feels as though she is dreaming. Hailu had just returned from spending spring break with Bertukan when she admitted herself to Saint Mary’s.
“I go back to look at our pictures together and it makes me think that life is so short and unpredictable,” Bertukan said. “One day she was walking and then the next she is lying in bed.”
Hailu had just declared her sociology major. The cousins had continuously conversed about Hailu’s enthusiasm for her chosen career path. When Bertukan asked her cousin what she enjoyed about the subject, Hailu said that she likes to observe and understand people.
Being that the family is struggling with acquiring Hailu’s medical records from the hospital or any additional information as to how her illness developed, the medical bills are piling up. As of Monday, April 27, a total of $16,403 of $70,000 has been raised.
“We believe that each day holds a miracle and we cannot give up on our Aden just in 18 days,” Bertukan said.
Maddison Cervantes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @madcervantes.