Community asked to help wish Ashley Walden a ‘Merry Christmas’

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Like most 17-year olds, Ashley Walden is looking forward to Christmas. She’s wanting an iPod Touch, but with Christmas just a week away, she’s focused on much more serious things.

She’s fighting for her life.

Ashley Walden has cystic fibrosis, a disease that attacks the lungs, allowing the build up of mucus. It has no cure, and victims of the disease only live to young adulthood.

Ashley Walden lives with her sister, Vicki Boggs, and her family at the top of Vevay Hill. She moved in with her sister just over a year ago after living with her brother in Connecticut; and although she enjoys living here and attending Switzerland County High School, these days she’s fighting to get better at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati. Doctors have told her that she won’t be home for Christmas; but she’s still hoping to return for New Year’s.

Having lost her mother at a young age, Ashley Walden lived with her brother in Essex, Connecticut her whole life until she relocated to live with Vicki and Michael Boggs in November of last year. She is currently a junior at Switzerland County High School, but although she’s lived here for more than a year, her time in and out of the hospital has left little time to make many friends or know people in the community.

With Christmas just one week away, Ashley Walden’s family is asking this community to introduce itself to her.

“We just found out today that she’s going to have to have more surgery,” Vicki Boggs said on Tuesday evening. “She’s been in the hospital since September 25th, and she really wants to come home.”

The family is hoping that members of the Switzerland County community – and other readers of Vevay Newspapers around the country – will send Ashley a Christmas card to let her know that people are thinking of her and praying for her during the holiday season.

“I just want her not to quit,” Vicki Boggs said. “I want her to know that there are people out there – she may not know them – but that there are people who are there for her and are praying for her. I want her to know that she has friends and family here who haven’t forgotten her.”

This Christmas season is also difficult on Vicki and Michael Boggs. The young couple has two sons: Austin is 13 and Alec is six, and while the boys miss their Aunt Ashley, the whole family knows that this isn’t going to be a normal Christmas. Vicki Boggs said that Ashley has a particularly special bond with Alec, who’s taking Ashley’s time in the hospital quite hard.

“We feel bad because it’s Christmas, because she’s there,” Vicki Boggs said of her sister being in the hospital. “We’re trying to keep the ‘home’ feeling there, but it’s been hard. Her medicines are extremely expensive, so it’s been hard on everyone. The boys have been extremely understanding.”

Ashley Walden has already gone through four surgeries since she’s been in the hospital. The next one – which was to happen on Wednesday of this week – involves the draining of abscesses in her abdomen area. It’s an operation that she had three weeks ago, and her sister said that she fought through a rough recovery.

“When she first went into the hospital in September, it was for just a little ‘cleaning’, but when we went to get her, they said that she couldn’t come home,” Vicki Boggs said. “She had several obstructions in her bowel because of the mucus in her lungs. It’s been one thing after another.”

Ashley is also fighting pneumonia, which because of the cystic fibrosis is “10 times worse” according to her sister. She’s also on oxygen now; and Vicki Boggs said that Ashley also has a feeding tube.

“She’s trying to get up and walk and she tries to eat, but she’s in a lot of discomfort and pain,” Vicki Boggs said. “She’s not able to eat, but she knows that she needs to.”

In Wednesday’s surgery to drain the infection in the abscesses, the doctors hope to insert tubes to drain the areas without having to do more major surgery, but they won’t know until the surgery begins.

“It’s been one thing after another after another,” Vicki Boggs said. “Michael and I pray: ‘When will there be a break for her?'”

So what can the Switzerland County community do?

Vicki Boggs said that it’s simple.

“Just hope and pray,” she said. “Just support her. Just help her to know that people care about her.”

People are also invited to send Christmas cards to Ashley Walden at the hospital. If she can’t be home in Switzerland County for Christmas, then filling her hospital room with cards of encouragement is like Switzerland County coming to her.

“She’s been down a bit, and it’s hard getting over there to spend time with her because there are things that we have to do here with the boys and Michael’s job, but we’re spending as much time there as possible. She just needs to know that she shouldn’t give up.

“She’s got to fight and fight and fight. Right now, she’s holding in there.”

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Ashley Walden’s address:

Ashley Walden

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital

Floor A 6, North Room 622

333 Burnet Avenue

Cincinnati, Ohio 45229-3039

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According to the National Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website, Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease that attacks mucus and sweat glands. It affects mostly the lungs, pancreas, liver, intestines, sinuses, and sex organs.

Normally, mucus is watery. It keeps the linings of certain organs moist and prevents them from drying out or getting infected. But with cystic fibrosis, an abnormal gene causes mucus to become thick and sticky.

The mucus builds up in the lungs and blocks the airways. This makes it easy for bacteria to grow and leads to repeated serious lung infections. Over time, these infections can cause serious damage to the lungs.

The thick, sticky mucus can also block tubes, or ducts, in your pancreas. As a result, digestive enzymes that are produced by the pancreas cannot reach the small intestine. These enzymes help break down the food that is eaten. Without them, the intestines cannot absorb fats and proteins fully.

As a result, nutrients leave the body unused, and the person can become malnourished. Victims may not get enough vitamins A, D, E, and K; and may suffer from a swollen belly, and pain or discomfort.

The abnormal gene also causes the person’s sweat to become extremely salty. As a result, when they perspire, the body loses large amounts of salt. This can upset the balance of minerals in the blood.