Fundraiser Helps Richmond Hill Woman - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

08/17/05

Fundraiser Helps Richmond Hill Woman

A Richmond Hill woman is in a fight for her life. She needs a double organ transplant, but before Jeannie Wilson can have her surgery, she has to raise enough money to cover the cost of her medications.

She's been living with type one diabetes for more than 20 years of her life and desperately needs a new pancreas and kidney. Today, her community and her congressman rallied around her to help.

The line stretched out the door of Pogy's Restaurant, as people waited to eat lunch, all for someone many of them barely know.

"I've read about her, she's positive, upbeat, and has an amazing spirit," said Dana Lewis of Richmond Hill.

Wilson knows all about waiting. She's praying the organs that will restore her health will come soon. "It's hard, every time the phone rings, I look at Mom, she looks at me, is that going to be them? We have our bags packed."

Sadly, even if those organs did become available, Wilson doesn't have enough money to take them. She needs at least $25,000 to pay for a one-year supply of anti-rejection drugs. But Wilson is too weak to work and has no way to pay for the drugs.

"In order to pay for medication, I have to have a job, or I have to raise the money," she said. "If I have the medication, I can get a job. But I don't have a job, so I can't get the medication."

But the Richmond Hill community, along with Congressman Jack Kingston (R-GA Dist. 1), is trying to help her raise money and awareness.

There is no legislation to help patients raise the money needed for transplants or the medications. They either have to pay out of their own pockets or hold fundraisers like that at Pogy's.

It's something that Congressman Kingston is trying to change. "Healthcare has exorbitant costs, because we can do so much more than we used to," said he said. "I think it comes under the realm of making healthcare more affordable and more accessible."

But the chances of that legislation passing any time soon are not good. Kingston says most of the government's research and money is focused on the surgery itself, not the cost.

But the news doesn't get Jeannie down. She's planning to fight until she gets her transplant. "I expect to have that money, no matter what it takes," she said. "This fundraiser today will take me a long way."

And the fundraiser has taken her a long way. In fact, they have already brought in $19,000 just today. Organizers believe they may have reached their goal of $25,000, enough for one year of anti-rejection medicine.

Reported by: Melanie Ruberti, mruberti@wtoc.com

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