Support Olga Pekelny's recovery!


Olga had a stroke on the plane, on her way to Nairobi, Kenya.  As a result she had to spend almost two months in Istanbul, Turkey before she was allowed to fly back.  

Fortunately, she received excellent care from the hospital in Istanbul-- including surgery-- and was then transferred to a rehabilitation center for physical therapy.

We are still unsure of the extent of the damage Olga has suffered, although her doctors are optimistic about her recovery.

Her cognitive abilities and speech seem close to normal. She was initially paralyzed on her left side and experienced a great deal of weakness, but she has made great progress in physical therapy.

Olga learning to walk with cane at Istanbul rehab clinic, February 2018

We think that Olga will require anywhere from 6-12 months of physical therapy in order to regain full function. We will be able to estimate the timeline more accurately as the situation progresses. 

As the situation with Olga was unfolding, her daughter Jonnie was diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer is at an early stage and slow growing but will still require treatment with surgery, radiation and followup drugs. She will also need supplemental, alaternative treatment to lessen the side effects of the radiation and help with healing.

Attending to both Olga's and Jonnie's medical needs together has been a struggle, logistically, emotionally and financially.

Status Update: 3.21.18

Olga is still at the rehab facility in Istanbul, where she is making good progres.  

The physical therapists are pushing her hard to make new gains every day, but she is still quite tired from the surgery.

Recently her mood has been a bit low because she is tired of being stuck in a clinic in a foreign country where she doesn’t know anybody.

Olga with a visiting friend, Dilek, in Istanbul rehab clinic, March 2018

She is not yet allowed to make the long flight back to the U.S. because of the risk of a repeat stroke.

It's also uncertain whether traveler's insurance will cover any of Olga's expensive rehabilitation costs outside the US.

Status Update: 3.29.18
Olga's latest MRI, taken a couple of days ago, shows that there is no more bleeding at the surgery site! Her neurologist in Istanbul has just cleared her for flight on the 4th, but ultimately it's up to the insurance company when she will actually come back.  It's bound to be a crazy week with figuring out medications, flight itineraries, payment, etc.

Status Update: 4.5.18
Olga was cleared for flight and came back to California today! She flew direct from Istanbul to San Francisco, accompanied by a nurse. She is now at the Washington Hospital in Fremont. The flight was very exhausting for her but she's okay.

Status Update: 4.16.18
Olga has spent the last week at the Alta Bates-Summit Acute Rehabilitation unit in Oakland and will be discharged to go home on Wednesday, 4/18. The discharge was announced pretty suddenly, and we are scrambling to find resources to support Olga at home.  Offers of assistance with errands, rides, shopping, cooking, etc. very much appreciated.


As predicted, Olga has returned to California only partially recovered and will need ongoing therapy to permit comfortable walking, full use of her left arm and hand, increased stamina and confidence.

Olga has been taken to a hospital in the US for evaluation and initial treatment. She will probably betransferred to a skilled nursing facility for one or two weeks, after which we hope that she will come home. When she comes home she will need an attendant.

Olga training her left hand at the Istanbul rehab clinic, February 2018


1. Donate money

~ This is to help Olga pay for her medical expenses, such
     as her stay at the hospital and rehabiitation center in        Istanbul, as well as in-home care expenses in                      California. (More details below under
     "What is our Fundraising Goal?"). Some of the money  may also be used for medical and post-surgery supportive care for Jonnie.

~  Any amount is welcome, no matter how small.

To donate money, please click on the 
"DONATE NOW"  button on the top right corner.


2. Lend money

Loan Conditions

~ To simplify our bookkeeping, the minimum loan we can
    accept is $750 and loans must be in $50 increments.

~ We will repay loans probably within 60 days of Olga’s
     return, subject to her condition.

~ These are zero-interest loans.

~ Within the 60 day window, we will contact lenders with updated information about the timing.
This is not a typical loan, but a “charity” loan.  By this, we mean no interest and an expectation of greater tolerance on the part of the lender.  It implicitly has more risk and no obvious legal recourse.

This is a favor to Olga and to us. We fully intend to honor the favor as we value the people who are supporting us in this way.

To lend money, please contact Jonnie via email.

Olga with the Friendship Force in Brazil, 2016


Our goal is to raise $20,000.

~ Olga's hospital stay in Istanbul cost $5,000 and her rehab care cost $30,000. 

~ Once she returns home, her attendant will likely cost $4,500 per month; the doctor currently estimates Olga will need an attendant for 2-3 months.

Olga's travel insurance and her regular insurance in the US will probably eventually reimburse most of these costs, but it will likely take 3-6 months, so we need up-front money asap!

In the meantime, we can't predict what other expenses might arise that will be necessary for Olga's full recovery, so every donation truly helps, no matter how small.

~Jonnie will also require some financial assistance to support her in her healing. Some of the money we raise may be used for doctor's bills, surgery and radiation costs not covered by insurance, food delivery or rides during recovery from surgery, and/or adjunctive care such as acupunture, which is not covered by insurance.


No, there is no firm deadline for donations, but it would make a huge difference to us if we could meet our goals ASAP!

Olga in Patagonia some years ago, with a penguin who wants her jacket string for his nest


Spread the word

Give a shout out-- or multiple shout outs-- on social media and to friends of Olga, Gary, and Jonnie who may or may not be aware of the situation.

Olga's dauther, Jonnie

Chop wood, carry water

Olga will need help with the tasks of daily life, such as grocery shopping, running errands, and the like. We will  provide more specifics as the situation progresses. 



GoFundMe automatically shows how much progress we are making towards our fundraising goals, and we will post updates on Olga’s progress under the "How is Olga Doing Now" section above.

Thank you for your support. It truly means the world to us.

Jonnie, Olga's boyfriend , Gary, and Olga

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Jonnie Pekelny 
Oakland, CA