Michelle Laven battles rapid, rare form of brain damage

7:37 AM, Apr 18, 2011   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS -- When the odds are one in a million, everything is wrong when those odds are beaten.

Kip Laven knows that as he is sitting vigil at his wife's bedside at North Memorial Hospital Friday night.  

Twenty-eight days ago Michelle Laven was healthy, described by her friends as the ultimate chatterbox, the life of any party.

"She never stopped talking," Kip said with a smile.

It was the talking that started to fail Michelle first.

"She started talking funny, and I kept telling her I thought it was a stroke," Kip said.

A few days after those symptoms, more changes.

"Everything backwards, clothes on backwards, she was confused and having a hard time getting the boys ready for school," Kip recalled.

It didn't make sense to Kip, or Michelle.

And then, last week, finally a diagnosis.

Michelle has Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease.

It is a form of brain damage that leads to a rapid decrease of mental function and movement.

"The incidence is one per year per million so there could be three new cases in the Twin Cities metro area per year," North Memorial Neurologist, Dr. Irfan Altafullah said.

CJD relentlessly robs its victim of any cognitive ability, quickly.

"Think of Alzheimer's disease and speed it up 100 times. A person goes from totally normal to severe dementia in a matter of months," Dr. Altafullah said.

For Michelle it only took one month.

In her hospital bed at North Memorial, Michelle can hear her husband's voice.

It is unclear if she can feel her son's touch.

"I don't know. It's just not fair. She didn't get a chance to tell us where stuff is. Not even passwords to get to the computer," Kip said in tears.

Kip told the couple's sons, 8-year-old Devin and 12-year-old Cody that their mom will not beat this.

She will die.

And so now defenseless against a disease for which there is no cure the family sits in vigil.

Normally, Friday night would have been celebratory for Kip and Michelle. It marks their 13th anniversary as husband and wife and 16th anniversary as a couple.

Kip said he reached out to KARE 11 to tell this story because he wants everyone to be aware of CJD and that even if it only strikes one in a million, that is one too many.

To donate money to Michelle's Family, send a check to this address:

Cody & Devin's Fund - In Memory of Michelle Laven

Bank of Elk River-Otsego Branch

15800 88th Street NE

Elk River, MN 55330

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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