Two Johnson City residents have undergone transplants at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the past two weeks. Both are doing well and friends of both of their families are continuing to raise funds to help with their expenses.
The youngest, 8-year-old Piper Smith, received a new kidney on Sept. 2. Piper’s dad, Scott, and grandmother, Sue Smith, said Amanda Franks, a longtime friend of the family was the donor and a true “hero” to all of them.
Already back home in Johnson City, Amanda is recuperating well and was even able to pay a visit to Sue on Wednesday. Meanwhile Piper, whose new kidney began functioning immediately after the surgery, had an incredibly good day on Wednesday.
Strong enough to do a little walking, she paid her own visit to the hospital play room “and actually played a little,” her dad said. She will remain at the hospital for a while and then she and her mother will spend about a month at an apartment near the hospital.
Beyond that, Scott said, there will be future surgeries for Piper. She still needs a bone marrow transplant and a hip operation to address immunity and skeletal abnormalities caused by Schimke immuno-osseous dysplasia, the same extremely rare genetic condition that caused her kidneys to fail.
While the family’s insurance is covering the cost of her transplant, the nonprofit Children’s Organ Transplant Association is helping the family raise the estimated $70,000 in related out-of-pocket expenses they will incur. Scott said they plan to help with the costs Franks has incurred traveling to and from Nashville numerous times over the past nine months and household bills during her time away from work.
There have been many local fundraisers during the years Piper has been preparing for the transplant. The latest update at her page on the COTA website shows the Smiths are now almost half way to their $70,000 goal. Scott said the fundraising will begin again in November when they’re all home and sufficiently bouncing back.
In the meantime, COTA is continuing to collect donations for Piper online at www.COTAforPiperS.com and by mail to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, 2501 W. COTA Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403. Checks may be made payable to COTA and earmarked for Piper Smith.
Sheila Whaley, a Johnson City woman with multiple myeloma blood cancer underwent a bone marrow stem cell transplant at Vanderbilt on Aug. 30 and is also making good progress.
Her immune system is slowly being restored and aside from the two different types of chemotherapy that are making Sheila one very sick lady, her doctors tell her that she’s doing well.
“So far it’s gone fine,” she said in a brief phone conversation with the Johnson City Press on Wednesday. And she sent her appreciation to the many people here at home who helped make her family’s last benefit garage sale a great success.
She said the sale went “very, very well,” with lots of donated items and gifts of cash that have “helped a lot, especially now that we’re staying here like this.”
Sheila’s brother and sister-in-law, Mack and Loretta Brown, are now preparing for the third benefit sale they’ve held at the Mayfield Drive home to help Sheila and her husband, Bobby, with the five trips they’ve made to Vanderbilt since early August and the four weeks they will be staying at a hotel near the hospital.
Loretta said they received an overwhelming response to the last sale and she sent her own thanks to everyone who called to help. “I tried to call everyone back but we were swamped and if there was anyone I missed tell them I thank them anyway,” she said.
A date for the next sale has not yet been set. Loretta has had some illness of her own, but she’s on the mend and she and Mack hope to be ready to do it all again in late September.
Those who wish to donate sale items may contact them at 232-9341. Monetary gifts may still be made by mail to Sheila Whaley, P.O. Box 1692, Mount Carmel, TN 37645.
If there is a need or a project in your neighborhood the Good Neighbor column can assist with, contact Sue Guinn Legg at firstname.lastname@example.org, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605 1717 or 929-3111, ext. 335.