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Donations pour in for kidney transplant

In less than two days, a Medford family working to raise $10,000 by collecting beverage cans and bottles to pay for expenses for a kidney transplant was inundated with offers of recyclables, cash, checks and online donations that would nearly triple the minimum goal.

Tasked with fundraising to cover incidentals and expenses not provided by insurance, Medford resident Ashley Mayer and her dad, David, have been collecting beverage containers for the 10-cent deposit fees since October.

Within 48 hours of a story in the Mail Tribune, a fund to cover expenses related to Ashley's critically needed transplant, with a goal of $10,000, jumped from $7,200 to more than $12,000.

As of Friday, the fundraising link posted by the National Foundation for Transplants reported that the fund was nearing $16,000, beyond the $10,000 minimum required for the transplant list, and inching closer to a $20,000 maximum.

Also on Friday, an anonymous $10,000 donation was reported to the Mail Tribune, bringing the total to $26,000 via the online fund.

In addition, Mayer and his daughter had donations dropped off at their places of employment — he works for Lithia Motors, and she works for Del Taco — totaling more than $3,000.

The Del Taco restaurant at 2860 Crater Lake Highway plans an event from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26, during which profits will be donated toward Ashley’s transplant, and the band Jon Martin and Through the Sky was set to perform Friday evening at the Jacksonville Tavern beginning at 9 p.m., with proceeds going to Ashley.

An emotional David Mayer said the donations had restored his faith in humanity.

“It’s very, very emotional. It’s been going like wildfire, all the people who want to help Ashley,” said the father.

While his daughter has endured a lot of health struggles, Mayer said the community’s response was heartwarming because of its willingness to help. Even his employer, he noted, helped him qualify for a loan — despite poor credit related to medical bills — to purchase a new, reliable car to travel to Portland for continued treatment and eventually surgery. Fellow employees and management, he noted, made donations and delivered cans and bottles, as well.

Ashley, 24, was diagnosed with kidney failure at the age of 12 and has been on dialysis for almost five years, with one kidney deemed non-functioning and another functioning at 15 percent.

With 60 percent function required for survival, Ashley faces three four-hour sessions of dialysis each week to remove toxins from her blood. Medford resident Joe Willard said he donated online in memory of a family member who faced a long wait for a transplant when he was a child.

“My uncle was on a list for a long time and didn’t end up getting his transplant, so this was a way to help someone else,” Willard said.

Medford resident Barbara Mikesell, who donated $1,000, said she was heartbroken to see someone in need of a new kidney picking up dirty cans to raise money to meet her medical needs.

“I’m just grateful I heard about her story and was happy I could help. When I read the article, I just thought it was awful, and I wanted to help in a way she wouldn’t have to keep picking up dirty cans,” Mikesell said.

Kelly Laschkewitsch, manager at Legacy Transplant Services in Portland, said while it's often confusing that transplant candidates are asked to fundraise, patients need to show they are prepared to handle added expenses for travel, lodging, extra medications or even missed work after a transplant.

“Generally speaking, the insurance covers the transplant and maybe only the transplant or maybe transplant and meds, but there are expenses related to traveling or maybe staying near the transplant center and lots of costs outside of what the insurance will cover,” she said, noting that transplant fundraising goals are set based on individual circumstances of each patient and a range of factors from insurance coverage to distance from transplant care.

“If a person can’t do those things, then they may not be able to be able to sustain their transplant. We never want to put people in a position to compromise their health right after they get a transplant. We want their transplant to be as successful as it can be.”

Mayer said Ashley would head to Portland soon for needed tests and paperwork and, with the minimum raised, would be placed on the transplant list when a slot became available.

“She has an appointment for the end of March to get all her tests and shots up to date, so she’ll be ready with everything she needs,” he said.

“It’s been really emotional. When people come into my job and hand me $1,000 checks and $500 checks to help Ashley ... I just wish my wife was still alive to see all this. I’m sure she’s looking down on us and it feels good to know people cared and wanted to give Ashley a second chance at life.”

To minimize gas costs for can and bottle pickups, the Mayers have set up a dropoff site at 775 Trinity Way in Medford. Updates on her story will be posted online.

More online: http://give.transplants.org/site/TR/NFTPatientsandLivingDonor/General?px=1011527&pg=personal&fr_id=1040 and www.facebook.com/Find-a-Kidney-for-Ashley-Mayer-368043536630612/

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.