Fundraiser set to help with local woman's medical costs
BY DENNY SCOTT
The family, friends and community of Huron County is coming together to help Dungannon-area resident Cassandra Rivett with her dialysis expenses after she was diagnosed with Berger's disease.
The fundraiser, called “Cause for Cass”, will feature a silent and live auction. It is set for the Dungannon Agricultural Hall on Sept. 11 and will run from 4 p.m. to midnight, with the live auction starting at 8 p.m., organizer Ang Brindley said.
The event, which will raise money to help Rivett, who hasn’t been able to work as a result of her thrice-weekly dialysis treatments and associated travel expenses, will also feature live music by local performer Graham Bedard.
The auction will feature a number of things, Brindley said, including a customized fire pit and a customized name sign by Smith’s Welding, a live-edge coffee table made by Rivett’s father, a three-person tour of the Compass Minerals mine in Goderich (Rivett’s former employer), a stay at the Benmiller Inn and a photography session.
Many other items will be coming in, Brindley said, as the county’s residents are proving very generous to help with the cause.
Rivett, in an interview with The Citizen, explained that Berger’s Disease, or IgA nephropathy, is a disease which results in a build-up of a specific antibody in the kidneys which can damage the organs.
She said her diagnosis came as a surprise as she was getting blood work done and had no symptoms at the time, but her creatine levels were very high.
Rivett was called into an emergency room, where she got a notice to be at Victoria Hospital in London. She was there for three weeks after a biopsy allowed her doctors to give her a diagnosis and tell her that 90 per cent of her kidneys were destroyed.
“That’s not like a liver, where it can regrow,” she said. “It’s gone. The damage is done and it will never be repaired.”
At that time, she didn’t need dialysis, but went on a steroid trial as well as an antibiotic, however she had an adverse reaction to the antibiotic, which worsened her condition, resulting in the need for dialysis three times a week, every week since June.
Complicating that issue is the fact that local dialysis programs are beyond full, she said, with two- to three-year waiting lists.
“Cass needs to go to London three times a week and she isn’t working,” Brindley said, adding that Rivett had just started at Compass Minerals when she was diagnosed, so she wasn’t eligible for full benefits yet. “Financially, it has been a huge decrease.”
Rivett also needs a driver to get her to and from the appointments.
Both Brindley and Rivett said they hope that hospitals in either Hanover or Goderich are able to take in more dialysis patients soon, as that could help people like Rivett.
“We need to raise awareness of the individuals that have to get transport or drive to London for dialysis three days a week,” Brindley said. “Right now, in Huron County, there is only one site in Goderich and it only operates Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. The dialysis machines sit vacant when they’re not in use.”
Rivett’s nurse told her that she wouldn’t likely get to Goderich as there’s a two- to three-year wait for the Goderich list. Rivett also said anyone who does get in is taking someone else’s spot and that only happens if the person gets a transplant or passes away. She pointed to a family friend who had received a kidney transplant 15 years ago, which recently failed, and he passed away while on the waitlist for the Goderich site.
A transplant could solve Rivett’s problem for a number of years, she said. A live transplant, where someone donates one of their kidneys, could give her 15 to 25 years living without concern for her kidneys, while a deceased donor’s kidney will give a recipient eight to 12 years, meaning she will be facing a number of surgeries through her life to resolve the issue, and likely need more dialysis in the future. She said currently the wait time for deceased donors is two to three years, while, even if she found a perfect living donor match, it could still take two years for the surgery to take place.
Rivett’s family and friends have already started testing, with some of her cousins and an uncle currently going through the process. She said her immediate family were already tested, but nobody was a match.
The testing includes making sure the donor is a viable match through a number of medical tests, as well as emotional testing, as giving away part of their body can be a very serious psychological issue, Rivett said.
Being a donor is covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP), Rivett said, and results in three days in hospital and two weeks of recovery time. She said that, through advancements, the surgery is now able to be done laparoscopically, leaving little evidence of the incision. She also said that donors are given high priority if they run into kidney problems later in life and find themselves in need of a donation.
Rivett is also hoping to be able to use a home dialysis machine, however that won’t be for some time as, even after a surgery scheduled this month, she will still have to be trained to do it, which could take weeks of training, and can be an expensive situation. She said, however, if it saves her driving to London in the winter, it will be worthwhile.
If anyone is interested in being tested as a live donor, they can contact the Living Donation program through London Health Sciences Centre at 519-685-8500 extension 33552 or e-mail email@example.com.
Anyone interested in helping with the fundraiser through donations or volunteer time, can contact Brindley at 519-525-6131 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org