Accessibility for all: Helping people connect with who and what matters most
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As some of you are aware, life has changed drastically for myself and my family over the previous 5 years. After my husband and I retired, we wanted to spend the remainder of our days living as vivaciously as possible. We moved our home from Kalamazoo, MI to Charleston, SC and with it, the possibility of rediscovering our lost youth as Michael and I began to immerse ourselves into the community.
Prior to our move, I had received a rather disappointing medical diagnosis. I was told that I had systemic diffuse Scleroderma, a nasty autoimmune disease that results in an overproduction of collagen by the body which causes the outer tissue to harden like a stone gargoyle and the inner organs to lose their efficacy. I told myself, my family, that I would put up as much of a fight as I could muster.
Given that we now lived in the south, and with our new community springing up all around us, I began to try to live each day with more purpose, better understanding, and a greater love for life itself. After the three year mark, and with my disease in relative remission, life honestly had never been better.
However, that feeling was short-lived given the news I was about to receive. I was traveling back to MI for a fairly routine check-up with my Scleroderma provider. Before I could walk into my appointment, I dozed off in my car as I could not shake the intense exhaustion I had been feeling the better part of that week. When I could finally muster the strength to walk in, I collapsed in tears to my doctor as he began to measure my bodily hemodynamics. When he took my oxygen saturation, it read at just over 60%. I felt like I was about to implode. At that point I was immediately hospitalized for nearly a week, and discharged to my home with an O2 condenser. I flew to Michigan using my own lungs to breathe.
As I flew back to South Carolina with oxygen now on my face, I had hopes that I’d feel better by next week. I had no inclination that once I put that mask on, I would never regain the capacity to have it removed. My life would only decelerate from this point forward. To add insult to injury, I found out during a routine mammogram that I would also need to battle breast cancer to continue to survive.
My local hospital in Charleston had told me that I had a mass in my right breast. Unaware that I was receiving an improper diagnosis (regarding the severity of the breast cancer), I was informed that I would need a double mastectomy which in layman’s terms is the complete excision and removal of both breasts. My son, a nurse at the time with the University of Northwestern Medicine, suggested I get a second opinion at his facility. In February of 2021, I had a lumpectomy (removal of only the cancerous tissue, not the breast) in Chicago to get rid of the cancer and with the hope of recovery. I thought I was on my way to being healthy once again. However those hopes were at constant odds with the reality I was actually dealing with.
When I arrived home from being hospitalized in MI I was on roughly 2 L of oxygen. My condenser only goes up to 6 L, and today I require even more than that. As my condition continued to worsen, medical professionals continued to suggest different avenues and modalities of treatment. I was given medication that was supposed to help me walk longer distances. Since I began taking it, my life has only become more restricted. I am not even able to walk from my living room to the bathroom.
After seeing many specialists, in several different practices, I began to lose hope. Nothing was working, nothing I was doing was making any difference to my quality of life. I had been seeing a pulmonologist who had said to me that my only hope was a transplant, that my vital signs did not support living life and that clinically, I should be dead. I started to search for hospitals that specialize in pulmonary transplantation. I contacted Duke University and the Cleveland Clinic, only to be told that my previous cancer diagnosis would prevent them from performing the operation.
Hope had expired by this point and my life consisted of simply existing. What type of life did I even have at this point? I wasn’t even capable of using the restroom alone. Slowly the feelings of less-than-human crept inside me, and a deep depression has since taken hold. Life consists of getting up from bed each day and painfully making my way to my living room chair, where I sit for nearly 14-16 hours daily, only moving to use the bathroom and not until it is once more time for bed again.
During sleep is the only time I feel true peace. As the reality of my new life set in, I still had not given up on searching for a way out. On the advice of my son, I decided I would reach out to Northwestern Medicine again to see if they may have answers because they had done my cancer surgery and I was being turned away from other facilities because of the existence of the cancer. By sheer luck, last week I was accepted into their organ transplant program after a battery of exams and tests were performed. And that is why I am reaching out today, to you, families and friends alike.
Unlike many patients that need organ transplantation, my insurance is willing to partially cover the cost of the procedure. I feel extremely blessed by this. What I was unaware of was the other costs that are involved with this strenuous process. I am asking for your donations because I will need to cover costs for renting an apartment, lifetime anti rejection drugs, travel, food, etc. I am required to stay in Chicago for 6-12 months post-op and see the transplant team three times per week until it transitions to monthly appointments after the six-month mark.
Due to the rapid deterioration of my lungs, my only option to live is a double lung transplant. If you, your church, or company would like to support Cathy on her journey, we hope to raise $75,000 to help with the medical costs.
Back in the hospital with Kidney issues.
In and out of the hospital. Had to go back in has her medication was starting to give her a rash again (not good) and needs another possible surgery due to cord in her lung being not sufficient.
Prayers needed. Not doing well but hanging in there
Back in hospital with an infection show in a recent MRI scan as well as fluid that has accumulated as well
Back in hospital. Liver enzymes elevated
Sorry everyone I have been at school! My aunt got discharged from hospital yesterday and has had the best day today, since her surgery in July. She is feeling good and smiling! She is also eating real food which is great news!!!
Cathy is more aware today. Read her all of your Facebook comments and she felt so loved. No updates on the kidneys but a picture below.
Back in hospital. Blood work was done and the numbers were out of wack!
Just a bad infection. Can be treated with heavy IV antibiotics. Good news it can be treated and that it is not lung rejection!
Cathy needed a blood transfusion. On high levels of oxygen. Going under so team can go down with camera and find out why all the problems
Back in the hospital with a fever and fluid around the lungs again.
In rehab and doing good. Looking to get out around the 28th.
In rehab looking better today. Took 402 to steps with a walker! Vitals are looking good and getting color back in her face. God is good!
Cathy is in the rehab facility and took 230 steps today! Has to go back to the hospital and get feeding tube changed because it is broken.
She is still in the hospital and did not get released to rehab. The back of her lungs collapsed. They had to do a procedure and took a biopsy of the lung. Said it was due to the pneumonia. The pneumonia is going down is the latest I have heard.
She has pneumonia. They are looking to discharge her to a rehab center to get her active
Another emergency surgery 2 nights ago. More fluid was surrounded around her lungs. They drained the fluid again.
Her infection is slowly going down, but a portion of her lung has collapsed. They are not worried about the lung at this very moment I think they are more worried about the infection right now. I will know more tomorrow when I go and see her. Prayers prayers prayers. She keeps pushing ahead.
She is awake and resting. I will know more Saturday when I go and see her. Thanks
Out of surgery. In lots of pain
In emergency surgery.
There seems to be a liver issue. Her color is way off and the doctors believe meds are doing strange things. Liver is causing some pain on her right side which is also causing upper shoulder pain.
My aunt is in the hospital again as she has fluid surrounding her lungs for the second time. They drained the fluid out the first time and now it is back again. Doctors are not sure why. Please continue you to pray thank you <3
Cathy is up and active with a 10 meter walk today. She makes it look easy! Recovery has been a long process both physically and emotionally, but here she is still conquering the day. She is getting stronger everyday and looking to be discharged this Wednesday!
Going to rehab today!
All the tubes are out of her body and that was a relief for Cathy! She is feeling much better. Plan is still for rehab hospital on Thursday. Doctors keep saying what beautiful and healthy lungs she got!! She is so blessed and honored. On another note, Cathy got to watch the Bachelorette last night. Myself (Reagan) and my aunt love to talk about who we like and how dumb the show is, but we continue to watch it! Thanks everyone <3
8 days post op and doing great. Cathy had physical therapy today which was very challenging, but did well. She gets her tubes taken out tomorrow which she is really excited about because they have been causing her a lot of pain. The plan is to get discharged to the rehab center next door on Thursday.
Doctor came in yesterday and says everything is looking great. It has been an adjustment not being able to drink water and eat through a feeding tube, but she is getting stronger everyday. Looking to discharge her to a rehabilitation center next Thursday.
Out of the ICU! Aunt Cathy has gotten a room and progressing everyday. A lot of people have been asking if there is an address to send her things, when I get one I will inform you all!
NO MORE OXYGEN!!! Cathy got her o2 in her nose removed today and she is breathing on her own with her new lungs!! She is getting stronger everyday <3
Below is my aunt from this morning at 8:30 am. Her vitals have been great today and they removed the tube from inside her mouth. She is awake and talking today- says she’s feeling really sore, but not too terribly in pain. I cant say it enough- thank you God and thank you everyone for your prayers.
She is out of surgery and the surgery went well.
Surgery day! We got a call yesterday that they found nice and healthy lungs for her. My aunt went into surgery at 11 today and is expected to be in there for 8-10 hours. We met the surgeon whose performed 61/62 successful this year and 142 last year. Safe to say, she is in great hands. My aunt is ready to kick some ass today! Thank you for all your prayers thus far, they have worked. ❤️❤️❤️
Praying for you in rehab. Hope you are progressing well. You are a strong and amazing woman!!!!
Love you momma
I\'m seeing the August 4 photo above and thinking how great you look! Awesome! Keep up the rest and recovery! All of us in the \'hood miss you!
Hoping you have a speedy recovery x
Wishing you a strong recovery. What a blessing you received and so deserving. You are in our prayers daily! You got this girl.
Sending lots of prayers and positive vibes your way, Cathy!
Sending prayers and best wishes!
Keeping you in my prayers! You are strong and will get through this!!
Thinking of you and your family during this hard time. Keep fighting and enjoy every moment you can with your family!
I’m rooting for you and a full recovery!!! Much love from London!!
Im so happy for you Cathy! Rest & heal well. You are in my prayers every day!
There is so much love for you out there along with
so many prayers flooding your way to make you whole. Be strong! You will beat this!
❤️ you always!
Many prayers for your upcoming surgery and consequent recovery and healing.
Prayers for a successful surgery and fast recovery!
Rick and I wish you a speedy recovery as do all your neighbors and friends in Del Webb Nexton.
Sending positive thoughts your way!!
I will be praying for you and your family.
(Genevieve) Toni Nichols
Your family will be in my thoughts.
Tom and I support you 110%! We know this will work out for you and we look forward to the day we get to celebrate your return to DWN!
Cathy-You are in our daily prayers! Pulling for you!
Jack & Joan Roche
Make checks payable to:
Help Hope Live
Note in memo:
In honor of Cathy R Dempsey-Szekely
Help Hope Live
2 Radnor Corporate Center
100 Matsonford Road
Radnor, PA 19087
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