RAKE, Iowa - "Nothing anybody could have told us would have prepared us for this," says Heidi Jahnke.
Nine months ago, on Nov. 28, her husband Josh Jahnke had a bone marrow transplant. His sister, Alicia Ober, was the donor. The transplant was meant to get his chronic myeloid leukemia under control.
"The leukemia is in remission," Heidi noted.
STILL BATTLING— Josh Jahnke, center, sits with his wife, Heidi, right; step-daughter, Paige, left; and daughter, Macy. Josh had a bone marrow transplant in November and is now battling graft vs. host disease. A chili and salsa cook-off fund-raiser for Josh is set for 5-8 p.m. today at the Rake Fire Hall.
That's the good news. The bad news is Josh is battling graft vs. host disease.
"Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a complication that can occur after a stem cell or bone marrow transplant in which the newly transplanted material attacks the transplant recipient's body," according to the MedlinePlus website.
Ironically, graft vs. host isn't a bad thing.
"They do want to see graft vs. host to know Alicia's bone marrow is doing what it should," said Heidi, who works for UHD's Home Health & Hospice.
Ober's bone marrow needs to take over in Jahnke's body and start producing healthy bone marrow. If it wasn't, it would mean his body is still producing diseased bone marrow.
But the GVHD is hitting Josh hard and affecting his liver. It means the Jahnkes spend little time at home in Buffalo Center, Iowa, instead traveling to Rochester on a pretty much weekly basis.
GVHD can be controlled by medications, Heidi said, most notably prednisone, but that is destroying Josh's knees.
He now walks with crutches or uses a wheelchair for longer distances.
Heidi was calling from Rochester on Thursday because Josh is back in St. Marys Hospital, and he will be through the weekend. That means he will miss the chili and salsa cookoff fund-raiser set for 5-8 p.m. today at the Rake Fire Hall. Heidi said she and daughters, Paige and Macy, will be there.
Heidi and Paige made a collage of pictures of Josh and plan to show it at the fund-raiser.
"Pastor Terry (Mahnke) got the ball rolling, but it's the Rake community putting it on," Heidi said.
"He's been wonderful," Heidi said of Mahnke. "He and his wife have been amazing, the whole church, everybody all around."