SAVING RAVEN: LaPlace Nurse who cared for others relying on helping hands
Published 12:12 am Wednesday, October 26, 2016
LAPLACE — For as long as anyone can remember, Raven Houston has always been the life of every party.
After spending her days as a hard-working nurse, Houston and her friends and family — nicknamed “The Krewe” — would regularly get together for weekend parties, steak dinners and crawfish boils.
Inevitably, Houston, who grew up in Reserve and now lives in LaPlace, would be the main cook and dish-washer.
“She was always the cook in the family,” said Tish Parquet, Houston’s sister. “She just loves to entertain. She’s going to cook and she’s going to clean up after you and, just because she’s a little O.C.D., you might not quite be finished with it yet when she does.”
A few years ago, however, family members saw Houston’s bright light dim a little. The parties she loved would make her deathly ill. She would vomit constantly and couldn’t keep much of anything down. She wouldn’t get herself to a doctor, though.
“You know, nurses make the worst patients,” Parquet said. “She was just in denial.”
Finally, in 2011 Houston was diagnosed with Gastroperesis, a rare disorder which slows or stops the movement of food through the digestive system.
It is often seen in patients with diabetes, which can cause damage to nerves, which in turn causes the digestive system to stop working. Houston’s case, however, has no known cause.
There is no cure, either. All her doctors can do is treat her symptoms and help her find a way to live as normal a life as possible while getting proper nutrition.
She can’t eat fruits and vegetables because her body can’t break them down. Nutritional drinks are her main source of nutrients — if she can keep them down. She would give just about anything, meanwhile, to eat a huge salad or just a single banana.
“The main dangers of this disease are dehydration and malnutrition,” Houston, 48, said. “It’s amazing how much you take such simple things for granted.”
After trying several drugs, none of which offered her much relief, Houston underwent a procedure in 2013 to have an experimental pacemaker installed in her stomach. The device helps stimulate the nerves to keep the food moving through her system.
Last year, she had to have her severely damaged large intestines removed, however, and that damaged the pacemaker.
“It’s shocking me all the time,” Houston said. “I feels like a really bad charley horse in my stomach.”
Now on disability, Houston is awaiting approval from Medicaid to receive a new intestinal pacemaker in Louisville, Ky., this December. Her doctors will insert a series of temporary devices until they find a position and a strength of signal which works the best for her. That process, called “mapping,” will take six to eight weeks.
“It’s not a cure,” Houston said. “They’re just trying to find me some relief.”
Meanwhile, the disease has taken a harsh toll on Houston and her family.
“When you’re used to the one person being the doctor of all, it’s hard,” Parquet said.
“She’s the person who is the most gentle. She’s the one you call because your toe hurts. She’s the nurturing, take-care-of-you person. To see her go through this, I’ve never felt so helpless in my life. This is my sister, who is supposed to be taking care of everybody.”
So Houston’s family is trying to take care of her.
The family has established a Gofundme account to help raise money for Houston’s expenses (gofundme.com/saving-raven?ssid=781510479&pos=1). Besides the already-mounting medical bills, Houston’s six-to-eight week hotel stay in Kentucky will cost an estimated $8,000. Parquet will take time off from work to accompany her sister to help care for her, as well.
In addition, friends and family members are conducting candy sales in the area. Friends have even made decorative collection boxes, which will be placed at area churches. Donations also are being accepted at New Wine Christian Center or may be sent to 389 E. 26th St., Reserve, La., 70084.
“I promise, I’m not trying to get rich,” she said. “I need this to live my life.”