The Wilson Times

Sunday, November 10, 2013 11:04 PM

Thousands listen to pleas for prayers

By Lisa Boykin Batts | Times Life Editor

For the last few weeks, thousands of people in Wilson and beyond have logged onto Facebook several times a day to look for video updates from Summer Ungerer concerning the health of her husband, Aaron.

From the moment the still image of Summer pops on the screen, it’s usually apparent from the expression on her face if the video will contain good news or bad.

Many of the 20-plus videos have been heart-wrenching as Summer looks into her cell phone and tells that her husband is gravely ill from a rampant spread of the bacteria Clostridium difficile or C.diff following surgery last month. She goes into detail of what’s happened that day and asks, sometimes begging, for those who hear her voice to pray for her husband.

"The fact he is still here with us is huge,” she says in an early video when Aaron’s condition was still very critical. "I beg and plead with you for these prayers.”

‘Thanks for the Prayers’

Summer started the updates when Aaron was hospitalized in August with ulcerative colitis and had to have a colectomy after being sick for several months.

"It was an easy way to say, ‘This is what’s going on,’ and not have to make so many phone calls,” she said. Not only did people back home in Wilson want to keep up with him, but so did Aaron’s family in Arkansas.

Some of the videos include the couple’s three daughters, who range in age from 11 months to 5 years.

At first, Aaron made fun of Summer and picked on her for doing the video updates, she said.

"He thought it was the funniest thing in the world.” But later, he admitted it was a good idea.

Although she hasn’t kept up with it, Summer’s personal Facebook page has had many hits, and she has friended more than 200 people in the last two weeks. In addition, her friends have shared her videos as well, and a page set up two weeks ago to monitor Aaron’s progress, Prayers for Aaron, has more than 5,700 friends already.

"I can see how big this thing has gotten,” Summer said. "The more people I can have praying for him, the better I feel.”

The first videos following the Oct. 17 follow-up surgery to remove the ostomy bag are upbeat and include a recovering Aaron in bed at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill also speaking.

"Thanks for all the prayers,” he says. "Love you.”

The only hint of things to come is Summer’s mention of Aaron’s elevated temperature one night.

"Oh, don’t worry everybody,” Aaron says when Summer mentions his fever.

Soon after that video, he was moved to ICU and his situation grew progressively worse.

The quick spread of the infection is unusual and could have its roots in a hereditary condition, Summer said. She’s also been told it’s unusual for someone without a colon to have C.diff.

To keep him alive, doctors had to use high doses of antibiotics to fight the infection as well as medications to control his very low blood pressure and high heart rate. Those meds, she was warned, could inhibit blood flow and lead to possible leg amputation. And it became a life or limb fight.

Late last month, Aaron lost his left leg from above the knee down. Surgeons also had to amputate the toes and some skin on his right foot and much of the muscle in the right leg.

Aaron, who turns 32 today, is still in ICU, and his condition is still not stable; he’s not out of the woods. He had more surgery Thursday to remove more muscle from the right leg, and the incision from his abdomen has still not been closed because of swelling and fluid.

Summer’s been told it will be a two-to six-month process before he comes home.

Grateful for support

Summer, a stay-at-home mom, said Aaron’s employer, The Candy Man, has been fantastic. But they really have no idea yet what kind of medical bills they will face. Plus, Summer is driving back and forth from Chapel Hill as often as she can to sleep in her own bed and to be with her girls. She also must buy food when she’s away from home.

Family and friends have been pitching in to help the couple all they can, and fundraisers have been started.

Summer said she is so very grateful for everything being done for them.

"We could not go through this without their support and prayers,” she said. "There’s no way we could go through this trial without them.”

The emotional support has been wonderful as well, and in her videos she often thanks those who are praying for her family.

Summer said Thursday, in a phone interview, that Aaron has no clue yet the kind of support he has gotten — both spiritual and financial.

"But I cannot wait for the moment he is there enough so I can begin sharing these things with him,” she said. "He will be blown away by it.”

The Ungerers have had some conversations when Aaron is awake and alert enough to talk.

Several days after Aaron was in ICU, Summer tells about the first day she was able to speak with him.

"He held his hand up, and he looked at me,” she says in the video. Speaking around a breathing tube, he said to his wife, "Are you OK?”

She assured him she was crying because she was happy. He told her, "I’m OK” and that he loved her."It was my Aaron that I’ve missed over the last few days,” she said.

Through tears she continues."While we still have an extremely long journey to go, we are still on the road. We’re still on the journey.

"And I want to stay on the journey. We can handle the bumps in the road.” | 265-7810

Friends of the Ungerer family have organized fundraisers to help the couple with expenses. 

A fundraiser will be held at Chick-fil-A Saturday, Nov. 23, from 5 to 8 p.m. A percentage of sales will be donated. There will also be a raffle and silent auction. If you’d like to donate items or purchase tickets for a box lunch fundraiser call organizers Buffy Poole at 252-373-0402 or Tracy Saunders at 252-289-6246. The week of the fundraiser, customers can mention the event and their purchase will be included in the fundraiser. 

If you’d like to donate money to help the family, visit Organizer is Judianne Wall. 

The Facebook page is Prayers for Aaron: You can also get to the link from The Wilson Times Facebook page. 

©The Wilson Times, Wilson, North Carolina.
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