On Sunday, there will be a benefit to help support Tom Olson, a St. James man who was diagnosed with diabetes in 2009 and has suffered multiple extreme side effects.
On Sunday, there will be a benefit to help support Tom Olson, a St. James man who was diagnosed with diabetes in 2009 and has suffered multiple extreme side effects. The benefit will be held at the St. James American Legion from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Supplemental funds were provided by Thrivent Financial.
“Every side effect or complication of diabetes, so far he’s got it,” said Denise Olson, Tom’s wife.
The first few years after being diagnosed, the only recognized complication was a Diabetic Macular Edema in Tom’s eye, which he was being treated for. He started to experience chronic, but minor, leg and back pains, especially after physical activities, but didn’t think too much of it until the pain got more severe. The pain was misdiagnosed as a simple lack of potassium by his first doctor.
“Eat a banana once a day they told me,” explained Tom. “It wasn’t like you even knew anything was coming. Then I got a couple sores in January that we thought were just from my boots rubbing, but come to find out later my legs were closing up.”
Tom’s got a second opinion from Dr. Lindy Eatwell of Mayo Clinic, who suspected something wasn’t right when the sores weren’t healing like normal. After a few test, Tom was diagnosed with Peripheral Vascular Disease, which means that his veins had tightened up, preventing his foot from receiving blood or oxygen.
Tom underwent three surgeries, the first in early February, to open the veins up, but each proved to be unsuccessful in permanently solving the problem.
“After the vascular surgeries didn’t work, the diabetic ulcers went to the bone, and we knew it was time to remove part of it,” said Tom.
Ultimately, a fourth surgery took place on May 29, where a podiatrist partially amputated his left foot in the hope that it could be a permanent solution to save the rest. They aren’t yet sure if the veins are staying open for good, but doctors are now being aggressive with treatments.
Tom has been on crutches for the majority of the time since his first surgery, and was confined to look out the window from his couch all day, aside from getting out to see the doctor. His son, AJ, has been great at coming over and helping with many of the things around the house, as has Tom’s next-door neighbor and many people from around St. James.
“I hate to say it, but it sucks. He’s a tinker and he likes to work and play in the yard and do stuff,” said Denise. “I didn’t realize home much he did around the place until I had to do the snow blowing and lawn mowing myself.”
Luckily, Tom’s doctors gave him the okay to start walking again two weeks ago. Tom said, “Walking felt way different. My legs felt so bad after that first day of two of walking because I hadn’t used them in forever.” He has recently been able to go for walks with his wife and travel around town a bit more.
“I went down to see the guys at work at lunch break and that was great just to see some faces,” said Tom, who had worked at S-T Industries as a welder up until his first surgery on February 5. Denise works at Cassie’s full time, and although the staff has been supportive and allows her to have a flexible schedule based around Tom’s appointments, the bills have slowly been piling up.
“We’re not making much right now,” said Denise. “Things are getting better, but we’re just hoping that eventually he can get back to work. We know it won’t be for a while.”
The Olsons say that they’ve received numerous anonymous donations in the mail and from friends and family, which help with groceries and the gas it takes to get to and from appointments.
The benefit on Sunday has been organized by the Olsen’s daughter, Amy Viland, and Denise’s sister Sue Paulson. The event includes breakfast, a silent auction and what the family describes as great company. They’ve received gift cards as donations for the auction from stores in Mankato like Wal-Mart and Olive Garden. Many people and businesses from St. James have donated gift baskets and things like that. Tom’s other son, Adam, who no longer lives in Minnesota, has been making high quality, sports-themed, steal signs for the auction.
“People in St. James are so good at helping those who need it. It’s a really giving community,” said Denise
For more information about the benefit or how you can help out, contact Amy Viland at 507.317.2917.