Help the Hicks Family - Mom's MSA

Hi, I am Marla Hicks, now a resident of Phoenix, AZ, and battling a terminal condition called Multiple System Atrophy. This is the first time I have ever requested financial help like this, as I have always been able to take care of myself and my family. I know there is a reason for everything, but it is difficult to now have a severe disability, and also very expensive. Any amount is helpful and will give us a chance to keep my care going, and take care of the family. Thank you for reading my story below....
Marla Hicks has spent the majority of her life helping others. As an RN for nearly 15 years, she was able to work in a number of areas, but her favorite was teaching nursing. Marla taught nursing classes, and created a new nursing assistant program at Lamar Community College in Lamar, Colorado. Besides her family, her greatest passion and source of pride was teaching new students the art of compassionate care. Her experience included work in long term care (including as the Director of Nursing at a long term care facility in Syracuse, Kansas) and working in Labor and Delivery, where she still felt tears in her eyes each time she witnessed a new birth.

Prior to Nursing, Marla worked as the News Director for KVAY Radio in Lamar, keeping the public informed on everything from car shows to tornado warnings.  But her absolute pride and joy is her family, husband David, whom she married in 2001, and two beautiful children, Nathan (now 15) and Bethany (now 12).


"What's Happening to Me?"
While working late at a facility one evening in April 2013, Marla began to notice stiffness and tingling in her hands, double vision, and slurred speech. She was immediately checked for a stroke and cleared, but the symptoms became progressively worse, to the point that she needed a cane, then a walker or wheelchair to navigate the building. More symptoms appeared and existing symptoms worsened. At one point, she suffered muscle spasms so severe it dislocated a bone in the lower leg. She suffered falls, several of which caused broken bones.

Because of the rural area she lived in at the time, there were very few specialists in the area and the search for a diagnosis involved a great deal of travel. She saw neurologists in Denver, Kansas City, the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, AZ, and finally an additional neurologist in Phoenix, who found a diagnosis that fit the symptoms and test results.

While getting a diagnosis was a relief, the diagnosis itself was ominous, and would change the family's life forever. 

Multiple System Atrophy
Marla was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a degenerative, incurable terminal disease of the nervous system. She was diagnosed incredibly young, with onset of symptoms 20 years earlier than typical patients. The only treatment available is control of symptoms, such as pain, muscle rigidity, and tremor.It is unusual for patients to survive more than 10 years after the onset of symptoms.

Marla found the world around her changing quickly, being unable to work within 8 months. The family moved to Phoenix in 2015 hoping the new environment, specialists, and a relative who was a close friend would help her situation. But unfortunately, although symptoms are mostly controlled, Marla's MSA continues to progress. She recently was in a skilled nursing facility for therapy after becoming almost entirely unable to walk.  As of this writing, she can walk using a walker from one end of her home to each other, but spends most of her time lying down due to the dizziness and potential for fainting when standing up.  While David continues to work full time, Marla is at home during the day, and finds herself quite frustrated with the inability to work or contribute. To make things worse, a snafu that occurred while working with her student loan company meant that the family's tax refund was entirely taken by the government, making it impossible to meet even the smallest needs as we had hoped.

What is Needed?
This is the part that is difficult, as our family has never had to do anything like this. We were the ones helping out others who needed it, and now we find the tables turned. Here are just a few of the urgent needs that the family currently has, and as you can see, they add up quickly...

Bethany is in desperate need of braces for her teeth, as her current bite pattern is damaging her teeth and causing sores in her mouth. This process for her has been quoted at $4000.

Marla has an electric wheelchair which used to afford some freedom away from the house, but it is no longer working. It could be as simple as batteries or more serious. In addition, it is expected that she will soon need a different chair which allows reclining and changes in position. This could run from $3000-$6000 depending on the model. The family also has never been able to afford a car carrier for the wheelchair, meaning Marla must have someone push her in a manual wheelchair when the family is out. This is likely to cost around $2000 for even a used model.

Both David and Marla have dental issues causing pain that we are not able to afford fillings, extractions, or whatever is needed. In addition, Marla is now missing the majority of her back teeth and is in need of partials. The cost of this will vary greatly depending on what is done.

Medications currently cost around $200 per month, putting a huge strain on the family's budget.

In addition, if there is enough, the family's only working vehicle needs repairs, it is a 1999 vehicle and there is a problem with the cooling system.


We thank you for reading our story, and again, while we are not necessarily anticipating meeting all of these needs, even one or two would help immensely. We ask that you share this with friends in your network, and if you prefer to give outside of this system we will provide an address if you e-mail us at [email redacted].

Again, whether or not you are able to help, we appreciate you reading and sharing our story.

God Bless,

David and Marla Hicks
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Organizer and beneficiary

Marla Hicks 
Phoenix, AZ
David Hicks 
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