Over the past 14 years Michael Brunick and his partner Jeanne Apelseth have endured more than anyone should have to. Diagnosed with COPD in 2003, Michael needed a life-saving lung transplant.
It wasn’t an easy journey. Through many dead ends and false starts, Michael and Jeanne finally found a medical transplant facility that would take him at Cleveland Clinic, and he was placed on a transplant list. They were told they would need to raise $60,000 to cover medical costs, medication co-pays and other expenses related to transplant and recovery that were uncovered by insurance, in addition to the expenses covered by their insurance, once a donor was found. They worked diligently to do this, through a series of fundraisers. You may have contributed to one or more of these. If so, you have played a role in saving Michael’s life.
Throughout this time Michael’s health was deteriorating, and he was near death several times. He was airlifted to Cleveland Clinic three times and recently to University of Colorado Hospital in critical condition, barely hanging onto life. There was never a time when he and Jeanne could escape the stress and worry of wondering whether he could survive long enough, and be healthy enough, to receive a new lung.
On Father’s Day, June 22, 2015, a donor was found, and Michael’s nightmare was nearing an end. Or so they thought. Unfortunately, it was the end of one crisis and the beginning of another. The operation was a success, but Michael has faced a series of almost non-stop health issues since that time, resulting in nearly a dozen hospital stays and numerous surgeries in their home state of South Dakota (Rapid City Regional Hospital), Ohio (Cleveland Clinic), California (Loma Linda and Eisenhower Medical) and Colorado (University of Colorado Hospital and Kindred Long Term Acute Hospital). That means ambulances, life flights, ICU units, and mounting hospital bills beyond the original transplant costs.
Michael is a fighter, and Jeanne is his rock. Michael has exhibited a tremendous will to live, and has beaten odds that others might find unsurmountable. Jeanne, while she understandably has her down days, has never lost hope or faith in him and the future they will one day have, when they can put all of this behind them.
Their savings are gone. Insurance won’t cover the entire cost of care, or expenses associated with his care. We are now coming to you once again for help to meet the expenses of this phase of his care. Michael is currently hospitalized in Denver and will remain there at an Acute Critical Care Hospital for up to a month and then transfer to a rehabilitation facility, if all goes well.
Jeanne works fulltime in South Dakota, and travels to Denver on the weekends to be with him. Michael shows a clear improvement when she is there by his side, so her presence is critical to his recovery.
Michael has fought so hard and his life still needs saving. Please give what you can to this incredible couple, to cover medical, travel, lodging and other expenses not covered by insurance.
Thank you for considering donating to this cause.
January 19, 2022
I’m sorry to have to say that Michael lost his fight on January 17. He fought to the very end but now he’s pain free. The world has lost an extraordinary man.
Thank you for your support, encouragement and love.
July 19, 2017
Saw this quote today and it seemed perfect….
“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles”. – Christopher Reeve
July 18, 2017
We’ve updated the page since our financial difficulties have escalated with Michael’s continuing medical issues.
If you know of anyone who would be interested in donating, please feel free to share the link.
July 2, 2015
Celebration! We reached our goal just in time! These funds will ease Michael’s financial situation. He just got a shock with two medications – one with a $1000 monthly co-pay and the other a $500 co-pay not covered by insurance!
June 25, 2015
Michael and his new lung are doing splendidly! After three days he is like a new man. We want to thank everyone for their good wishes and encouragement!
June 23, 2015
To all of our loyal supporters — a GOOD NEWS UPDATE. On Sunday, June 21st Michael received his Gift-of-Life — his transplant! He is doing well and we are grateful for all of your support and love. Jeanne
April 12, 2015
The collage on the left are photos of Michael taken by me over the years. We met when I was 15 and he was 18. The first photo I took of him is on the top right in 1972. The last is on the top left from last year. Please consider helping me save his life. Jeanne Apelseth
April 4, 2015
Local Rapid City artist, Bill Fleming, has donated a limited edition print of artwork.. When the series of 50 is sold they will be GONE. All proceeds will be donated to HelpHOPELive in Michael’s honor.
Each print is signed both by the artist, Bill Fleming, and by the print maker, Michael Brunick. The prints are numbered 1/50 to 50/50. They are LARGE 17 x 22″prints framed in a high quality black wood frame with a a 6-ply archival mat and protected by clear conservation glass. The finished size is 24″ x 30″.
If you are a fan of Mr. Fleming’s art, here is your chance to grab a piece and help support a good cause. A classy piece to hang in your home or office. The entire proceeds of $500 for each piece will be donated to Michael’s fundraising campaign. Send us a message or call if you would like to order one.
March 19, 2015
We are so joyful that we have almost reached the $50,000 mark leaving only $10,000 left to raise to be able to pay Michael’s uncovered medical expenses. Not having the worry of how to get through this challenge financially will be such a weight off of our shoulders.
Things seem to be finally falling into place and we are confident that that call will come soon and we can start the next chapter of our lives together.
Thank you as always to those who have supported us on this difficult journey and helped to ease our worry.
February 24, 2015
The hardest part with waiting for that lifesaving call right now is watching my sweet man’s health decline each day. He does everything he can to stay strong for the hopefully upcoming surgery. He stays home when he longs to go out to avoid catching an illness that could be fatal for his already seriously compromised immune system. His world grows smaller with each day that we wait.
We try to hold each other up on this roller coaster ride called life, but on the days when we are both struggling, the world can seem pretty dark and then we fail. We just can’t summon the strength to find the positive in this life.
Often we question why this happened to us. Did we make some obviously stupid decision earlier in life that committed us to spending 10 years fighting a disease that looms over our heads like a storm cloud. It is easy to second guess yourself and feel like for some reason you have been dealt an unfair hand.
Some days we are bitter, other days we are sad but often we are hopeful and talk and dream about the future we long for…the good times, the normal times of doing every day things. We dream of walking hand and hand without the tangle of tubes, cannula’s and tanks that are constantly tripping us both up, wound around his legs, or grabbing me by the ankles….and often yanking the tubes off of his face. I am constantly apologizing, as is he. We talk of being able to go somewhere without having to drag along Michael’s increasing amount of equipment and medication. He jokes with amazing good nature when moving from room to room in our home “Watch out! The army is moving”.
So there are good days and bad…but we tolerate both because we hold that hope that someday soon we will be able to live a “normal life” and do normal things that many take for granted.
Wish us well.
December 30, 2014
My wish for Michael in 2015 is that we can reach his fundraising goal so that he can rest easy knowing he will have one less worry during this difficult time.
December 30, 2014
Whoa, wait!? What just happened? The fundraising thermometer just jumped up $5000! This is HUGE! We are so close! I have a hard time imagining a life without fundraising but am extremely excited about that day coming so I can focus on keeping Michael well until he gets the call that they have new lungs for him. It seems within reach now.
December 23, 2014
DISABLED MAN DOWN ON HIS LUCK REACHES OUT TO HELP ANOTHER
One of my favorite stories during this fundraising happened when Michael’s fundraiser was mentioned on our local TV station. local TV station, Shortly after, I got a call from a man. He was concerned about Michael and wanted to help.
He was almost a little frantic and I had to repeat our address a half dozen times before he got it right.
I recognized his voice from when I worked in a local print shop and recalled that he was a disabled vet with very little money. I thanked him and said that his call meant a lot but he didn’t need to help if it was difficult for him. I knew he didn’t have much money to spare.
Three days later a crumbled, dirty envelope came in the mail with a sweet hand scrawled note and three well worn dollar bills.
I have kept those dollar bills. They hang on the refrigerator door where we can see them everyday – a reminder of all the kind and generous people who have come forward over the past couple years to help Michael.
Thank you to each and every one of you for your love, support and kindness.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to all!
December 13, 2014
It’s just amazing that with your help we have managed to raise $40,000 for Michael’s transplant expenses. You did this. ALL of you. You should be very proud!
December 2, 2014
Anyone who donates to Michael’s fund on December 2, “Giving Tuesday”, will have their name entered in a drawing to win an 11 x 17″ print of my image “Never Give Up”. All donations large and small will be included. Remember credit card charges are waived by HHL on Dec 2 so all proceeds go to Michael’s Transplant fund.
November 30, 2014
Today is officially #givingtuesday, but it is also “Save your favorite Michael” and “Save a grandpa” and “Help an awesome man get a 2nd chance day”. Spare change from #BlackFriday” gratefully accepted. Give hope. <3
November 25, 2014
Donate before December 31 and enjoy tax savings in 2014!
August 5, 2014
HE IS LISTED!! We have taken a huge step towards saving Michael”s life, but it is crucial that we raise enough money that he can take good care of this incredible gift of life. The anti rejection medications that he will be dependent on for the rest of his life are not completely covered by insurance. Let’s show our support and love and raise the money he needs to take care of his new lungs.
July 30, 2014
We have three really exciting items up for bid for Michael’s fundraiser! If you know any music fans, please share this link. The proceeds go to Michael’s fund!
The items include autographed James Taylor “Fire and Rain” sheet music, a cherry red electric guitar signed by Rick Springfield and a guitar signed by Benise and the cast of “Nights of Fire”.
See the following link for all three items!
July 21, 2014
I can’t wait to write a book about this extraordinary journey. We have met so many generous and compassionate people over the past couple of years…people who are there for you in good times and bad. How fortunate we are! How blessed. IT will make a great book….with a happy ending.
July 19, 2014
We had the best news ever this week! We have been waiting for, well for over five years when we started this journey of working to get Michael this life-changing surgery.
We heard from Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday, July 15 that Michael was accepted into their Lung Transplant Program and would be listed in 10-12 days after the paperwork was sent to the state for approval.
What this means is that he could get a call at any time saying that they had found new lungs that are a match for him. It could be in a week, a month or in several months.
We need to have our bags packed and stay within 40 minutes of our local airport until that call comes.The call can come at any time of the day or night, and you have to be ready to jump in your car and head for the airport immediately.
We are lucky that we are close enough to Cleveland that we can stay at home until it is Michael’s time. As long as you are within 1000 miles, you don’t have to leave home. Cleveland has a medical jet that picks up the patient and the caregiver and takes them back to Cleveland for the surgery….prepping the patient for surgery on the plane. The cost of the medical flight is not covered by insurance and will cost between $8000 – $13,000 our of pocket,
This is really a great service. It means I can stay at my job as long as possible and continue to bring home a paycheck so that we can pay our bills. It means that we can stay in the comfort of our home as long as possible, close to friends and family and we can avoid the additional cost of staying in a hotel in a unknown place while we wait for weeks, months or even a year.
When we get the call, and if the surgery is a go (sometimes if the lungs are damaged or not a good match, it can mean a “dry run”), we can plan on being in Cleveland for approximately three months. Michael will stay in the hospital for 4-6 weeks – if all goes well – and then need to remain in Cleveland for adjustments to the sometimes quirky anti-rejection medications that he will be taking for the rest of his life.
He will need a caregiver with him 24/7 to make sure everything is going well and to watch for problems, rejection or the organ and to make sure he is taking his medications on time.We plan on help from his sister and daughters, so the caregiving doesn’t land on my shoulders alone.
When he comes home, he will need to return to Cleveland – again with a caregiver – once a month for follow-up visits for the first year.
If things go well, he can actually be off of the oxygen soon after surgery and on his feet and living a normal….well the NEW normal life soon after.
We know lung transplant patients that lead incredibly full lives with little restrictions…including a young girl who is a rock climber, a young man who races cars, a lovely young lady who is an actress and talented equestrian and a famous opera singer. It is inspiring to see how life-changing this surgery can be. There are really no limits if you set your mind to it.
Michael vows to honor this wonderful gift of a new life and the donor that gave these organs and live the best life possible. We have dreams of travel, writing, perhaps a speaking tour to talk about how life changing this gift of life can be.
If you have questions about this process, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can contact me directly at [email protected] We would be happy to answer any questions. We feel like we have become pros on the subject of transplant and are eager to share the knowledge we have gained.
Thank you to all who have helped us down the road with encouragement, prayer, financial help and friendship. Each call, each pat on the back, each word of encouragement makes the load a little bit lighter.
We feel so blessed.
Jeanne and Michael
July 15, 2014
Delta Airlines is REALLY coming through for us in the middle of our very serious family health crisis, thanks to the dedication and support of friends, family AND strangers!!!
Delta decided to waive over $1000 in fees that had been added to our ticket price when we had to change our flights due to Michael’s recent hospitalization in Cleveland – after friends and family contacted them to ask them to re-consider these charges.
Delta also graciously added 50,000 to each of our Skymile accounts when they heard about our story.
And the best part is that Delta has now offered to add any donated Skymiles at NO charge – waiving the normal fee – if we can compile a list of people willing to donate unused Delta Skymiles!
Special thanks to all who helped with this and to Susanna Curtis at Delta for being so gracious and kind!
We are now brainstorming on how to get the word out so we can collect as many donated miles as possible. Ideas anyone?
It could make a huge difference in our finances to have most of our ticket prices covered since we will have to fly to Cleveland once a month after the transplant for the following year for check-ups! Each trip costs from $1400.00 to $2000.00 for the two of us from Rapid to Cleveland round-trip, so the cost is significant. We estimate that total flight costs out of pocket could be in excess of $25,000!
Delta’s only requirement is that we compile a list of all names, Skymile member numbers and how many miles each person is willing to donate to the cause so they can transfer the miles in one transaction!
If you can please share this story, we would be grateful.
It doesn’t get better than that. We are so thankful for all of you and your help!
Jeanne and Michael
July 8, 2014
We did it! Reached our minimum and heading for the total needed of $60,000! YOU GUYS ROCK!
July 3, 2014
Still hoping to reach the minimum expected goal of $35,000 by Monday, July 7. Thanks to all who scrambled to make this happen.
June 23, 2014
As we have said all along, even the smallest donation helps reach our goal of getting Michael’s lung transplant.
Today we received a crumpled envelope with three single dollar bills in it. The money came from a disabled local man, who is struggling himself, but was touched by Michael’s story and wanted to help.
Every donation touches our hearts and raises our hopes that we will get there…that there is hope. Thanks to everyone who gives us hope and encouragement.
Every dollar counts.
June 17, 2014
Whoa! What just happened? Michael’s fund just jumped by $5000! That is incredible! It is a huge relief to see the amount move closer to the goal and to know that he will, have the money he needs to pay for the transplant. Thank you to everyone for supporting him in getting his second chance!
June 1, 2014
Amazing! We hit $20,000 of our goal! How inspiring! Thank you to all of the kind and generous people who have been here for Michael, supporting him in every way! Love and kisses to all!!!
May 22, 2014
WINE TASTING!!!! Don’t forget the exciting Wine tasting event coming up on May 28. Here is a rare opportunity to try some rare and high end wines….donated by Sommelier Andy Schneider from Canyon Lake Liquors, some donated especially for the event from some of the top California winemakers and some donated from other good friends.
Many of these wines will be featured in the tasting but there will also be some wine auctioned off at both the live and silent auction. There will be wine served this evening that most people only dream about tasting!
We will also auction off some cool celebrity memorabilia donated by friends and by also donated by the celebrities themselves.
The great tenor, Andrea Bocelli sent several signed CDs and a book all the way from Italy. Jimmy Messina from Loggins and Messina sent us some signed CDs, we have a baseball signed by Minnesota Twins Pitcher, Ricky Nolasco, Actor and Producer, Robby Benson sent a copy of his book “I am not Dead Yet” and a “Beauty and the Beast” DVD – both signed by Robby, a “Flintstones” Movie Jacket that was given to writer/producer Rob Dames by Steven Spielberg when he was working with Steven on re-writes for the movie, a Burt Reynolds Institute for Film and Theatre jacket given to Bev Fraser by Burt’s wife, Loni Anderson and a “The Empire Strikes Back”, Luke Skywalker ESB Bespin Jacket” from Rob Dames, which was a cast jacket from the movie.
There will be also be great artwork from local artists, services, entertainment and other fun auction items….many one of a kind.
April 30, 2014
JUST A WEEK UNTIL MICHAEL’S BENEFIT! I KNOW WE CAN’T WAIT! HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!
Only $10 for food, wonderful entertainment and perhaps the most varied silent/live auction ever in the Black Hills. $12 at the door.
List of amazing packages and auction items coming soon. It may be the most amazing event ever in the Black Hills!
Buy your tickets online at the HelpHopeLive or at the following locations in Rapid City:
– Paris Chic: 617 Main St, Rapid City
– Black Hills Vinyl: 201 Main St, # 101 (In the Creamery Bldg.), Rapid City
– Victoria’s Garden, 320 7th St, Rapid City
– Canyon Lake Liquor Store, 4244 Canyon Lake Drive Rapid City
– Framing, Fibers & Curiosities: 230 Main St, Rapid City
Our posters have a QR code so if you see one around town, use your smartphone to take you directly to the ticket ordering site!
April 15, 2014
Click the link to learn more about Michael’s medical condition and how you can help him get his “2nd chance at life.
April 14, 2014
Incredible. We are at $3500!! What a wonderful start to getting Michael on his way to good health!! Hugs to all of you! And I hope to see you at his event on May 8.
March 18, 2014
Thanks to everyone for the love and caring you are showing Michael . We love and appreciate you so much.
March 15, 2014
$25 to reach $2000. I am tempted to go donate that amount to get us to that milestone! 🙂
March 14, 2014
It is exciting and a huge relief to see this fund growing steadily every day. We are grateful for every single dollar. Everything gets us a step, closer to making this dream come true for Michael! Thank you!
March 5, 2014
WooHoo!!! We are almost at $2000!!!!! I can almost feel it!!! Thank you all of your generous people out there sharing your love with Michael. It warms our heart.
February 24, 2014
Just incredible! Jumped up over the $1000 mark today. Don’t know what to say except thank you, thank you, thank you! Good things are happening!
February 24, 2014
$750 in just a couple weeks. So cool! Your kindness and generosity leaves us humbled and in awe!
February 18, 2014
We are up to $400! Awesome. Moving forward! Thank you to everyone who has donated, offered to help or even shared a link to the fundraiser. We love and appreciate you all!
Michael and Jeanne
February 17, 2014
Visit Michael’s blog to keep up with his progress – inspiring!
February 14, 2014
We are brainstorming to come up with some fun events in the near future. A very, very special thanks to Michael’s old friend, Bev Fraser, for getting the ball rolling on this fundraiser. Michael and I are pretty weary from fighting this battle for so long. Having someone supporting and encouraging Michael’s fundraising efforts is an incredible weight off of our shoulders. Nearly speechless. I can’t find the right words.
August 6, 2015
First of all congrats on your new lung and a second chance in life and may God bless you and your family! My name is Eddie Godfrey and my wife name is Debbie, she to is having to have a double lung transplant. Debbie was much like you always helping others. I would like to know if you could give us a hint on some fund raisers that might work good. Our first goal is $10,000.00 dollars, we've only raised a little over $3,700.00. She can't be put on the waiting list until we raise the $10,000.00. Her breathing is getting worse, so do you have any ideas that we could try. Thanks for listening may you have a great recovery and long and happy life, God bless, The Godfrey family. If you have any ideas you can reply on this web site under campaign for Debbie Godfrey.
July 9, 2015
Such wonderful news, from every direction. Can't wait to see the new photos!
June 23, 2015
We are thrilled you received your transplant. You and Jeanne are in our thoughts and prayers.
Amy Simons and Alan Lammle
March 26, 2015
I will so everything in my power to help you Michael in your quest...God Bless!!!!
January 1, 2015
Sending my angels
February 25, 2014
Hoping all will step up for you Mike. Every little bit counts.
February 25, 2014
Prayers and hopes for a successful fundraising campaign! Stay strong, Jeanne! The caregiver needs to keep herself well too!
February 13, 2014
Brenda and Jim, your encouragement means a lot.
Jeanne and Michael
February 8, 2014
Our prayers and thoughts are with you both. We pray for a healthy, happy outcome and a short wait for those new lungs. Hugs and love. Jim, rt lung tx 5/28/03 and kidney from daugher 3/10/08 at UPMC/Pittsburgh and members of Second Wind.
Brenda & Jim Withers
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Help Hope Live
Note in memo:
In honor of Michael Brunick
Help Hope Live
2 Radnor Corporate Center
100 Matsonford Road
Radnor, PA 19087