By Elane Dickenson Wallowa County Chieftain
Amy Jackson is in the fight of her life and needs all the help she can get.
The 37-year-old Enterprise woman was accepted by Mayo Clinic in Arizona for evaluation for their lung transplant program but has to have at least $8,000 in hand for her first appointment in April.
Family and friends have launched a fundraising effort, and hope the community will rally around Jackson in the next few weeks to help try to save her life.
The single mother of two young daughters, Jackson has been battling lung disease all of her life. She already lost most of one lung after a life-threatening emergency eight years ago.
Unfortunately, Jackson has been misdiagnosed since childhood. Despite a lifetime of doctors and serious health problems, she only found out after an emergency life-flight to Portland and an expensive blood test in November 2009 that the core disease she fights is cystic fibrosis.
Earlier “sweat tests” – a common diagnostic tool for the disease – were apparently negative, even one given at the time her lung was removed.
“It is mind-boggling,” said Amy’s older brother, Brian Jackson of Portland, about the misdiagnosis, which he said led to decades of lost time in properly treating the genetic disease. Instead, since age 2 she was treated for bronchiectasis – a very serious disease she does have. Bronchiectasis can be caused by cystic fibrosis.
He said that a double-lung transplant in the Mayo Clinic’s transplant program may be her best chance for a healthier future.
Jackson’s chronic health issues precluded private health insurance coverage, and while she is now covered by the Oregon Health Plan, Mayo Clinic does not accept state health coverage. Under a Catch-22 situation, federal Medicare coverage will not kick in for two years after her diagnosis of cystic fibrosis, even though she was born with the inherited disease.
“The average life expectancy for CF is 37 years. My daughter is 37 years old and needs your help,” said Amy’s mother, Evie Kralman of Gladstone, who owns a house with her husband, Larry, in Joseph.
With her daughter’s health deteriorating, she is afraid time is running out. “I hate to put it that way, but it’s the truth,” she said. “Amy’s not doing well, and we’re just counting the days until we can get her to the Mayo Clinic.” She said the immediate hope is that the clinic can stabilize her condition and improve her quality of life.
Her daughter has always “put her best face forward” and many people have had no idea how sick she is. “She never wanted people to feel sorry for her,” Kralman said.
However, now with the need so great, she said there’s no choice but to make her daughter’s story public.
“She needs help,” Kralman said, adding that her first week at the Mayo Clinic will cost from $8,000 to $10,000, the immediate fundraising goal.
Jackson’s two daughters are Fate, 10, and Holland, 4, and are very much aware of their mother’s fragile health.
“They’ve grown up knowing. How could they not, when she’s been in and out of the hospital as many as 10 times a year.”
At present Jackson’s youngest sister, Caelyn, is staying with her in Enterprise to help out, as she awaits the Mayo Clinic appointment.
“We don’t know what they will choose to do there, but just hope they can find solutions,” said Kralman.
Jackson grew up in the Portland area in a family of five children, graduating from Estacada High School and earning a degree from Oregon State University. She moved to Wallowa County seven years, in part because of the high elevation and clear air.
“She loves Wallowa County. That’s where she wants to live,” Kralman said.
For several years Jackson worked as a mortgage broker at Whitehouse Financial in Enterprise.
“She’s an amazing mother, a very kind, generous person. She’s very courageous to keep fighting as long as she has,” said Brian Jackson of his 18-month-younger sister. “To me, she’s my best friend.”
In addition to a place to stay and plane fare to Arizona, so far about $2,000 has been donated to help Amy Jackson receive the care family members say she desperately needs.
Special T-shirts, with angel wings on the back, will go on sale for $15 each – at Bee Charmed Marketplace in Enterprise, Salon Joseph in Joseph and other locations – as one fundraising project.
An Amy Jackson Lung Fund (account 9700104547) has been set up at Sterling Bank (P.O. Box G, Enterprise OR 97828), and donation cans have been placed in several businesses. Gardeners who want to help are invited to buy gardening products online, www.flowerpowerfundraising.com/campaign?campaign_id=4935; half the price goes into Jackson’s fund.
A local fundraising breakfast is also in the planning stages.
For more information, call Evie Kralman at 503-319-8322.
“She’s my hero,” said the very concerned mother about a daughter who never stops fighting, and who recently told her mom, “If I get a new lung, the first thing I’m going to do is run marathon. … If you can breathe, why wouldn’t you run?”
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