Activist Stordalen begins recovery

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Environmental and nutrition activist Gunhild Stordalen, diagnosed last fall with a life-threatening disease, has been released from the hospital in the Netherlands where she’s been undergoing experimental treatment. Her husband, hotel tycoon Petter Stordalen, said the treatment was successful but his wife still faces a long recovery and high risk of infection.

From left, leader of the Norwegian Medical Association Hege Gjessing, Eat founder Gunhild Stordalen, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and incoming Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre, in Geneva last month to discuss the Eat forum. PHOTO: twitter.com/G_stordalen

Gunhild Stordalen (second from left) has moved in powerful circles. A doctor herself, she’s shown here with the leader of the Norwegian Medical Association Hege Gjessing (left), the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) Margaret Chan and Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre, when they were in Geneva earlier this year to discuss the EAT forum that Stordalen has spearheaded. PHOTO: twitter.com/G_stordalen

The high-profile Stordalens have been  mostly out of the public eye since they revealed their health drama to newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) in November, just before they traveled to the Netherlands for her treatments in Utrecht. The treatments for the rare disease known as systemic sclerosis  involved a special and tough form of chemotherapy, after which her stem cells were replaced.

Now she’s entering the second phase of treatments and her husband offered her friends, associates and thousands of followers a progress report over the weekend. At the annual winter conference for his Nordic Choice hotel group, attended by 2,500 employees and customers in Stockholm this year, Stordalen gave an emotional account of the battle they’ve faced to save her life.

“Many have asked how it’s going, and I can say that Gunhild has rounded some important milestones,” Stordalen said. “Now  begins the long, demanding road back.” He said the couple was optimistic and that her main goal was still to attend the next conference in June of the international movement she’s leading called EAT, which involves food production, nutrition and sustainable development.

Stordalen later told newspaper VG that his wife, age 36, still faced great risk of infection “and it will take a long time before her immune system is built up again, and we see the effect of the treatments.”

For a couple accustomed to a jet-set lifestyle and more than ample economic resources, Gunhild Stordalen’s illness has been a major trauma and reality check.  Petter Stordalen stressed in his remarks Sunday that money and success are no longer important when one meets fundamental challenges in life.

“I have just experienced exactly that, what’s most important,” Stordalen told his audience, after giving his employees their annual pep talk on the state of the company, which was also marking its 25th anniversary over the weekend.

He said that his wife’s illness “came on quickly and developed even more quickly. There was no satisfactory treatment available in Norway, he said, but there was experimental treatment at a university hospital in the Netherlands. “Even when you’re sick, you have to evaluate risk,” Stordalen said. “We got a diagnosis. We made an analysis and we made a decision. We chose to travel (to the Netherlands).”

His remarks and the conference itself were being streamed so that Gunhild Stordalen could watch it live over the Internet. The company’s employees sent greetings by waving and cheering and crying.

“Life is fragile,” Petter Stordalen said, but claimed that his wife “shall get well. She shall continue her work … she personifies hope.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund