Medical Crisis Fundraiser - ROOTING FOR THE ROYSUM'S
FIREFIGHTERS, FFA/4H FAMILIES: PLEASE HELP TONYA ROYSUM SURVIVE A LIFE-THREATENING PULMONARY EMERGENCY
'Ron, I can't breathe!' are the words Ron Roysum heard his wife of 35 years Tonya say to him as she held her chest. He knew, as an EMT and Volunteer Battalion Chief for Hopland Fire in rural Mendocino County California that there was no time to waste. She had just been released from the hospital the day before after an 8 day stay. And here’s the rest of the story…
Mendocino County is one of those “still old-fashioned” rural communities, where families volunteer for everything- from being 4H leaders to firefighters. The Roysum family: Tonya, her husband Ron and daughters Alisha and Erica exemplify that spirit of service: saving lives, fostering creativity and encouraging young people to work hard and dream big.
If Tonya were not currently intubated and fighting for her life, she would be humbled beyond words that her friends and community members are seeking support from GoFundMe, -- for a sudden, profound and potentially fatal medical emergency has overcome her and left her family shattered. Currently diagnosed with ARDS- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome of Unknown Origin, Tonya was recently airlifted to the UCLA Medical Center where she is being cared for by some of the world’s top pulmonary experts, and with luck, will not have to have a lung transplant. Just last summer, Tonya was doing what she loves most: volunteering- first at Ukiah’s Redwood Empire Fair and then on to the Mendocino County Fair. “Every fair attendee has seen and experienced Tonya’s volunteer spirit- from her unflagging commitment to our kids in the Agriculture community to the wonderful exhibits, displays and ambiance she creates for our fair entrants and visitors,” says Jennifer Seward, CEO of the Redwood Empire Fair in Ukiah, California. “She is part of this amazing group of people who enrich and enliven our fair. Tonya shows up and the magic happens behind the scenes.”
Tonya is an incredibly talented seamstress and can sew bridal gowns without a pattern- just from her fertile imagination. She is also an award-winning master bead worker and gardener- creating stunning jewelry and breathtaking outdoor plantings.
For most people, a months-long volunteer commitment to the county’s fairs would be considered an outsized achievement, but Tonya is no ordinary person. She has been a long-time 4-H Leader, helping kids raise a flock of the very unique Navajo Churro Sheep to donate to the Navajo Nation Reservation in Arizona so that they may spin the wool and carry on Indigneous traditions; curating activities for a county-wide 4H Camp and has volunteered in several capacities with the California High School Rodeo District 2.
One cannot live in Mendocino County without coming across Tonya’s community
contributions- her handmade red, white and blue backdrops for the Ukiah Fire
Department’s award ceremonies; her expert organization of the hugely successful
auctions for the Hopland Fire Department fundraisers. “Ron’s business- Rescue Solutions is a strong supporter of the Redwood Empire Fair’s Junior Livestock Auction. Ron and Tonya consistently bid on and purchase animals, enabling Mendocino County youth to attend college, trade school or purchase another animal for the following season,” Jennifer notes.
“Tonya is a person who puts herself last. On more than one occasion, I have seen
Tonya volunteer on a community project- selflessly giving her heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears to the point of near-exhaustion,” says Jennifer. “She does all this while being the primary caregiver for her 98-year-old grandmother, Gigi (Barbara King), and is always there for family and friends.”
But last December, everything in the Roysum family changed dramatically.
Following the onset of this year’s rains, Tonya noticed some swelling in her hands and feet. She chalked it up to weather, or possibly arthritis. But soon, the swelling became significant enough that she had to set aside her beadwork. By December 13th , 2022, the swelling spread to her legs and stomach. Something was very wrong, and Ron rushed Tonya 60 miles south to the emergency room at Santa Rosa’s Sutter Hospital.
Tonya’s initial diagnosis was pneumonia and panniculitis. The organs in her abdomen were swollen. She was treated for eight days and released on December 21 st , only to be readmitted after just one day later because she could not breathe. Tonya was admitted to the ICU and given oxygen and then placed on a CPAP machine, because her oxygen saturation levels plummeted with the slightest exertion or movement.
The cause of Tonya’s condition was unclear, so doctors administered a “kitchen sink” of anti-fungals, antibiotics and steroids. Unfortunately, her breathing didn’t improve. Tonya and her family were now riding the emotional roller coaster so familiar to those in medical crisis. One afternoon, she’s sitting up enjoying a popsicle. Then, with very little warning, she’s struggling to catch a single breath. There were “ground glass opacities” visible on her X-Rays and CT scans, which mimic the appearance of pneumonia. Despite those indicators, pneumonia was ruled out, and physicians were not able to effectively treat Tonya’s severe lung inflammation.
The family requested transport to a more sophisticated medical facility. Initially, Tonya’s medical team felt she was too unstable to travel, and conversely, that she wasn’t “sick enough” for emergency transport. But suddenly, her condition precipitously deteriorated. She was intubated because she could no longer tolerate the oxygen from the CPAP machine. That was on January 3rd , and Tonya has been intubated and heavily medically sedated ever since.
As the search for another hospital continued, the family grappled with the hellish
realization of the limitations of their insurance. Sutter Hospital contacted Stanford
Medical Center, which denied Tonya’s admission because the family’s insurance didn’t meet their criteria. Most of California’s leading pulmonary hospitals declined admission due to the lack of bed space. The University of California at Los Angeles is considered one of the top five lung care facilities in the country. Initially, they declined. Their reason: Tonya would have to be treated like a transplant patient. The family was told, “If we don’t know what caused this, we can’t waste a new set of lungs if we’re not certain a lung transplant will be successful.” Fortunately, Tonya’s team at Sutter Hospital persisted. UCLA reconsidered, and within an hour, their flight team was touching down in Santa Rosa and transported Tonya 500 miles south, to Los Angeles.
Tonya’s expert team of infectious disease doctors and pulmonologists ordered a bevy of new tests and they still don’t know what has caused her lungs to stop working. She’s had two chest tubes placed to alleviate the pneumothoraxes (pockets of blood or air in the chest) which have appeared due to the forced flow of oxygen. Currently, the family is stacking teeny-tiny, (but consistent) improvements into Tonya’s “win” column. We know she is fighting, but the mountain is steep.
At best, Tonya’s physicians estimate she must be hospitalized for a minimum of eight weeks, with an arduous, complex recovery to follow. Even a low-grade fever, which she woke up with today, could portend very serious consequences. Ron has rented a nearby home, acting as her advocate and providing updates to family and friends. Depending on Tonya’s progress, a lung transplant is not
off the table.
Although Tonya’s husband Ron would never be anywhere but beside his wife of 35 years, the firefighter in him is assuredly wishing he could be doing what he does best- saving lives during California’s deadly storms that began around the time Tonya was hospitalized.
Ron began volunteering with the City of Ukiah’s Fire Department in 1995, going from there to the Redwood Valley-Calpella Fire Department. He has been with the Hopland Fire Department for 15 years, where he is Battalion Chief.
In 2010, Ron started his business- Rescue Solutions, considered one of the West
Coast’s premiere technical rescue teams. Their unusual array of services includes the provision of rope access teams trained to work in hazardous environments and performing real-time, emergency rescue operations. Ron’s teams also provide training in confined space activities, rope rescue, swift water and flood rescue.
“Ron’s successful business in rescue systems trains others throughout the world-
assuring everyone is safer while doing their jobs,” notes Pete Bushby, Retired Fire
Captain for the City of Ukiah’s Fire Department and friend of the Roysum family.
The Roysums are a “fire family,” with daughters Erica and Alisha following Ron into volunteer fire service. Erica remains a volunteer engineer with the Hopland Fire Department.
The Mendocino County First Responder community are grateful recipients of Ron’s generosity. He has volunteered countless hours training firefighters and law
enforcement agencies in rescue techniques. Ron has personally assisted the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department with multiple swift water rescues and search-and-recovery dive missions, and has donated not one, but two fire engines to the Hopland Fire District. And when he’s not volunteering, Ron can be found after work building a new training room at the firehouse or helping a friend or fellow firefighter do home improvements remodeling a kitchen or bathroom – all without asking anything in return! Former Engineer Joyce Boghosian and Retired Division Chief/Fire Marshal Kevin Jennings shared that ‘In the 30 years we have known Ron and Tonya, no matter what the project, volunteerism or training, that they have always given 10 times more than they ever received in return. You cannot say that about too many people and the Roysum’s are givers, absolutely solid people with the biggest hearts. If they have it, they would give it to you and expect nothing in return.’
“This family has donated thousands of their own dollars to the Hopland Fire
Department- making it a highly effective agency,” notes Captain Bushby.
“I’m supposed to write a couple of sentences about Tonya and Ron, but something brief is just not enough,” the Captain continues. “These two have spent a good part of their adult lives as volunteer firefighters/EMT’s- helping citizens of Mendocino County and beyond. There have been sacrifices on both their parts to assure everyone goes home safe to their loved ones when tragedies strike.”
But ironically, Ron- a man who lives to rescue others- a person who has literally saved lives and facilitated the rescue of countless individuals does not have the ability to save the life of his beloved Tonya.
When it comes to medical emergencies, it doesn’t take an economist to do the math. The list of financial unknowns is staggering. Expenses add up like wildfire. Ron mentioned to a pal it costs a whopping $30 per day just to park at the hospital. It’s still unclear what insurance will cover, but like most First Responders, Ron doesn’t bring home a millionaire’s salary, and the family has consistently put others’ welfare before their own.
We are requesting support in the amount of $100,000, which will assist with Tonya’s medical expenses and costs not covered by insurance, allow for 24-hour care for Grandma Gigi, replace Ron’s lost income, pay Ron’s rent, utilities, transportation and living costs and provide a six-month cushion for the family, so they can focus solely on Tonya’s care once she returns home. “Unfortunately this family is not immune to tragedies,” says Captain Bushby. “They now seriously need our help.”
We hope those who know Tonya, Ron, her parents and children will recognize and
return the generosity the Roysum family has given freely for decades, without any
thought of recompense or recognition. For those outside the area, we hope fellow First Responders, FFA members, 4-H friends and celebrants of fairs throughout the country will support a colleague at a time when the last thing families should worry about is paying the bills.
“Tonya has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know,” says Tonya’s dear friend Brenda Hodges. “Her constant, unconditional generosity and hospitality for others comes in many forms: true, continuous support arising from her impeccable, compassionate empathy and love.”
“Even if you don’t know Tonya personally, please know her heart and hands sustain countless young people and organizations in Mendocino County. We know when she gets through this, she will be right back at it. That’s who Tonya is. She doesn’t just talk the talk. She walks the walk,” Jennifer concludes.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for considering this request, and also ask for your prayers and good wishes for Tonya and the Roysum family.
A ROOTING FOR THE ROYSUM'S account set up at Redwood Credit Union for Ron and Tonya for those wishing to donate directly.
Redwood Credit Union
ROOTING FOR THE ROYSUM'S
Acct Number: @8529FR-02 (The @ sign must be included)