August 21, 2013

Dear friends:

I am very embarrassed to be forced to send out this appeal for assistance. But during the past few years my life has become a train wreck of misfortune and bad health. As a result, beginning in the next few weeks I will undergo a couple of medical procedures, one of which will put me in a fight for my life.
Many of you are probably already aware that in April 2007 I was diagnosed with leukemia. A few months later I was laid off from the Houston Chronicle and, after my COBRA expired, I eventually lost all of my insurance.
So, for several months I simply went without coverage; a dangerous situation since, without insurance, I didn't have access to my leukemia meds "“ priced retail at about $100,000 a year. In April 2011, I landed in 's intensive care unit where I was near death for about a week.
Thankfully, with the help of the doctors and nurses at LBJ, I pulled through. Also with the help an LBJ pharmacy clerk "“ not an administrator, but a clerk "“ I also learned how to acquire my meds for free from the manufacturers. Additionally, not long after, I qualified for Medicare "“ a wonderful development that got me out of the chronically understaffed LBJ and into 's world-class cancer center, .
Unfortunately, during this transition from LBJ to MDA I had a terrible fall on my front porch while carry in two arm loads full of groceries into the house. I was walking up the front porch steps when the pointy toe of my right boot got hooked on a porch step lip, and with no way to brace myself I went down hard "“ so hard that I that I thought I had broken my right leg. I was in such pain I have no recollection of how I even got inside the house.
However, the next morning it became clear that despite the severe bruising on my right thigh, the most severe damage had occurred to my lower back. An MRI revealed that I had ruptured three discs in my lumbar area. My surgeon determined I needed a triple laminectomy "“ and operation during which the bulging parts of the three damaged discs are shaved off.
But there was one big obstacle. My oncologist had recently placed me on a new leukemia med. Before giving the green light to the surgery, the cancer doctor wanted to make sure that the new med was working. That's because before having surgery, I would have to stop taking the med for several days due to its tendency to increase the risk of bleeding and infection.
Finally, late this past spring, my doctor gave me the go ahead for surgery. However, now there was a new problem. My surgeon himself needed surgery "“ on one of his hands. I postponed my surgery plans until his hand mended "“ or at least we thought it had.
Late last month I was finally scheduled for surgery. Sadly, the day before I was to arrive at St. Luke's, my doctor informed me that his hand had become infected, so we postpone the cutting until later in the week. Again, the day before I was to go in, I got another call telling me that my surgeon had had to undergo a second procedure. After hanging around for almost two weeks, I decided to punt and went back to North Texas where I am currently living outside of .
Finally, today I have once again been scheduled for back surgery the first week of September.
While I've been back home, though, I have literally run into more problems. A couple days after returning, a fire hydrant somehow jumped in my path causing approximately $4,000 worth of damage to my SUV "“ most of which thankfully will be covered by insurance.
Which brings me to yet the most serious aspect of my situation. On the bright side, the new leukemia medicine my doctor has me on has been working extremely well "“ so well in fact that I am basically in remission. The problem is that my doctor is afraid that, like the other three meds I was on before it, this med will also eventually stop working. If that happens, I am out of pharmaceutical "“ and all other for that matter "“ options.
What my doctor now proposes is a stem cell transplant. Apparently a transplant is possible at that point because of my state of remission. However, if I don't have the transplant, and if the medicine later fails "“ and I am no longer in remission "“ a transplant would no longer be an option. And like I said, there would be no new drugs available.
So, I have decided to take my doctor's advice and have the transplant.
But there is danger involved with stem cell transplants: apparently there is only a 50% survival rate. However, my odds may be better as doctors at M.D. Anderson have found two stem cell donors that are 100% matches for my DNA.
Another problem is the expense involved. Transplants co-pays cost in the range of $500,000. Although I doubt I would ever have to repay that entire amount, I will have to pay some of it.
Additionally, there is the cost of housing and living expenses. Following the transplant I will have to remain at M.D. Anderson for a month. After that, I will have to remain in outside the hospital for at least another three months so that I can be closely monitored by the doctors at M.D. Anderson. That's going to cost money "“ money I don't have.
During my nearly 40 years as a journalist, my priority has been trying to help people who couldn't help themselves. Now I have no choice but to ask you to come to my aid. If you are offended by this request, I apologize. Or if you can only send your good wishes, please do so. But if you can you help monetarily, please send a check payable to me at .
Thanks so much.
Sincerely yours,
Steve McVicker
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