To help defray the medical expenses that resulted from her lengthy hospital stay in May, a GoFundMe crowdfunding site has been set up for Onida native Valerie Knodel at https://au.gofundme.com/f/valerie-knodel/donate/sign-in. Accounts for receiving donations have also been set up at Sunrise Bank and BankWest.
Knodel had been battling an ear infection with nearly continual drainage when she finally had surgery in December to remove infection and repair a hole in her ear drum. When she went in for surgery follow-up in April, it was discovered that the infection had come back and had invaded the bone.
“I was doing pretty good until April of 2020,” said Knodel.
A second surgery was scheduled on May 5, and a bone was removed from her right ear, leaving her without hearing in that ear. “I’d had bad hearing prior to all of this anyways.”
She was released from the hospital after the same day surgery, but that night, “I was really out of it, vomiting, and just not myself.”
When she returned to have the drain tube from her surgery removed the next day, Knodel told the doctor what she had been experiencing, and was told to come back if she wasn’t feeling better.
“I started feeling better, but then later on I started vomiting, so I went into ICU at St. Mary’s to try to figure it out.” Knodel says she wanted to stay at the Pierre hospital to be closer to family, but the next day, May 9, she was flown to Sioux Falls.
She woke up five days after she’d entered the ICU at St. Mary’s “I was kept sedated so my brain would heal,” said Knodel. “Some people had heard I’d been in an induced coma, but I wasn’t. I was just sedated.”
In addition to being sedated, Knodel was also given IV antibiotics. In the ICU in Sioux Falls, it was discovered that she had had three mini-strokes. She also had a brain infection, high blood pressure, and was diagnosed as diabetic.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Knodel received no visitors during her time in Sioux Falls. “I was down there all by myself the whole time, from the time I was flown down until I was released. I didn’t have any visitors of any kind, no local friends or anything like that.”
Almost a full month after her May 5 surgery, Knodel was released from McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls on June 4. During her hospital stay, she made steady improvements, and was sent to the specialty hospital for rehabilitation.
“They thought I was going to need a walker because I was so weak,” said Knodel. “Everybody that’s seen me laughs and says, ‘You’re moving just fine. You don’t even need to worry about it.’”
After her release, she returned home to Onida and had a home health nurse checking on her once a week. Her telemed follow- up appointments have “been fine. The ear specialist said everything looks good.”
“I’ve had continuous drainage on the right side. My face is droopy still because I’m still recovering. It’s going to get better.”
Knodel spent the month of June recovering at home and returned to her job at a daycare center in Fort Pierre on July 6. “I went right back to full time hours,” said Knodel. “I don’t feel any more wore out than before. I feel like I got the majority of my strength and energy back while I was home during June.”
Knodel will add medication to her daily routine to manage her high blood pressure and diabetes diagnoses. “To start with, I didn’t have enough knowledge of what to eat or drink or what numbers to go by or what I should aim for,” said Knodel about coping with her diabetes diagnosis. “I’ve met with a diabetic specialist twice, and the home health nurses have helped me understand it.” Knodel says she’s not on insulin, but she checks her blood sugar two to four times a day.
An alumna of Sully Buttes High School, Knodel attended Northern State University for a year, and then entered the workforce. She’s worked in several different daycares around the state, but returned home last September to work at her current daycare.
“I’ve gotten a pre-bill of what all I was charged for meds and doctoring. Twelve pages worth for the whole month I was down there, and there are only seven items I owe for still. It’s a lot, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a drop in the hat.”
A goal of $3,000 has been set for the fundraiser. “At this point I’ve received about $700-$800 from the GoFundMe, or from cards in the mail with donations. Some people have personally handed money to me to go to the GoFundMe.”