John and Helen Reese Fund

Over the past year, John and Helen Reese have faced a tremendous amount of hardship and challenges.  They have both endured major medical and other issues that would be too much for many people's entire lives.  As a result, they've faced medical expenses, household expenses, and are at risk of losing everything.  They need help to cover their day to day living and medical expenses so they can get back on their feet.  John and Helen live a very frugal life and do get some assistance.  While John is back trying to volunteer again for his non-profits when he is not at medical appointments for follow-up or driving Helen to her medical appointments for her care.  His major concern is that his income is “fixed” through the VA for his service-connected disabilities + his social security.  Helen’s accident has caused injuries restricting her ability to continue to work at her commercial real estate appraisal business as before creating a major loss of income – that affects our ability to meet the mortgage payment each month in addition to the utilities & other incidental expenses.  They believe that it could take another 9 - 12 months to get back on their feet and this would amount to about $15,000 in assistance that is needed.  The following is each of their stories:

JOHN

John’s story really began with his multiple tours in Vietnam. He was injured and hospitalized several times. After Vietnam, he worked briefly for the federal government and was injured & re-injured his military injuries severely in that job requiring a long-term hospitalization.

In the early 1980’s John’s daughter was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia (ALL) at about eight months. She spent the next two plus years in and out of intensive care at Children’s Hospital in Oakland with John spending many nights in her room before returning to work in SF. Christina lost her battle with leukemia in 1985 at the age of three.  This major family illness drove a wedge in the marriage and left John with close to $500,000 in medical expenses.

Fast forward to the 1990s. Due to extreme workplace stress “boss from hell” situation John began to show signs of stress & physical illness and have some of the same issues that had shown up after Vietnam. These became so severe that he was placed on long-term disability due to his medical condition from his job in 1994. The income insurance we had in place at the time did not cover stress conditions that caused physical issues so the policy was cancelled – just our luck!

We continued to cover his medical costs for several years from John’s savings while Helen worked and we had one daughter in college and one ready to go in a year. We went from two healthy incomes to the smaller of the two. Savings were drained for medical costs. John no longer having corporate medical coverage had to transfer all of his health care over to the Veteran’s Administration (VA).  His outside medical doctors worked with the VA to transfer his complex medications & records.  He was seen in Martinez.  The VA stepped up and started covering John’s medical issues. They also discovered during that time that he had a progressive/recessive type of multiple sclerosis (MS). The MS and the extremely wide range of symptoms, many not visible, severely affect daily functioning and preclude him from holding down a full-time job. With ongoing weekly medical appointments and a complex and extensive medications regiment was established, which has allowed John to better function. Since about 1998, when conditions allow, John has volunteered for many veteran service organizations (VSOs) and non-profits.  He is able to do this with multiple medications allowing him to function, although he usually pays a price afterwards with fatigue and downtime.

On Christmas Eve, we almost lost John when his throat closed and he could not breathe or swallow due to an epiglottis infection. He was rushed to ER and spent his entire Christmas holiday in Intensive care isolation.  The doctors told him if he had waited one more day to come in, he would have been dead.

John hoped for a better New Year, but intermittent chest pains caused the VA to conduct a stress test with negative results requiring more testing.  It was found that he had four completely blocked arteries leading to his heart. He was a potential walking heart attack or stroke patient. Following testing, John was admitted to the VA hospital in San Francisco (Fort Mylee) for stint surgery for two of his blocked arteries. This took place over Valentine’s day week. Fast forward to Easter time and he was again admitted for two more blocked arteries that needed stints. Seems his body likes to act up over holidays!

All surgeries appear to have gone fairly well. The lasting results are tiredness and weakness if he overdoes it. Of course, with MS comes the consistent pain, spasms, vision & memory issues, tremors & fatigue – with flare-up episodes that can last days or weeks.  Good-days / bad-days!

HELEN

Medical issues started for Helen in 2014 when she had her second hip replacement surgery.  She recovered fully when she landed hard on the injured leg going into garage – one-step. This fractured her femur and moved the prosthesis in the femur down ¾-inch. The surgeon x-rayed, but did not see the fracture so it healed with this deformity.  Prior to this, she was having some back-pain issues that were subsequently diagnosed as spinal stenosis. The disparity in leg lengths, even though she wore lifts in her left shoe, caused more back damage.  She also suffered bone loss.

To help with the back pain, she started using an incline machine. This is basically a table that you lie on that turns upside down at a certain angle to relieve pressure on the back. In October 2016, the machine that she was using (older version borrowed from a friend) broke. The strap that held the angle broke and she went from a standing position with feet secured in straps to being thrown backwards across the wood floor in their great room, taking the machine with her. This resulted in a broken right arm – 2 places horizontal and vertical and a large compression wound on her lower right calf made when the machine crashed into that area.  When the skin died, the wound was about 11-centimeters long by about 7-centimeters wide. At the request of her family doctor, she began going to the Walnut Creek Wound Care Center in November and she is still seeing the doctor there almost weekly. The wound, 11+ months later is now down to about 6-centimeters by 1+ centimeter and hopefully will be closed in the next several weeks as the doctor is now using Epi Fix a growth hormone topical aid to accelerate healing.



Unbeknownst to her and not looked for by doctors (in hospital and out) at that time, she also fractured three vertebrae in her lower back. This last damage was found on an MRI in January 2017 that her pain doctor ordered as injections into the back had no relieving affect.  A portion of a fractured bone was sitting on her “horses tail” bundle of nerves at the base of the spine. This caused severe pain so that she had to use a walker to get around. The build-up of this severe pain started in November and before Christmas, just moving was excruciating. She was on a lot of prescription pain medication.

She was referred to and met with a back surgeon in early February and he told her the only fix was surgery as it was a bad injury. She also had bone loss in the front area of the spine that required frontal and back area replacements. Surgery was scheduled for March 8 and 9, 2017. March 9th is her birthday.

Two 5-hour surgeries took place at San Ramon Regional Hospital. She was in the hospital for 7-days and then moved to the Danville Recovery Center, a skilled nursing facility. She was there for 4.5-weeks before they would let her come home to continue her recovery.



All this has had a very negative impact on her ability to work to help them with their cash flow. She lost about half the year over the last year in which she could not work.  She is now trying hard to work part-time, but pain is still an issue, especially sitting at her computer for extended periods, which is essential for her commercial appraisal business. She is still using a walker (doctor’s orders and due to weakness and pain) and cannot/should not drive. These restrictions hamper her being able to inspect properties and drive comparables for her appraisal assignments. She must rely very heavily on John for driving and helping with property inspections & most other activities. Due to his health issues & appointments, this is difficult for him.

Their main concern is being able to stay in our home.  It wasn’t an issue when I was able to work full-time. It has been almost a year now since the exercise accident that caused the chain of events and we are looking forward to light at the end of the tunnel.  We've been told it may take another 9-12 months and are desperately seeking your assistance so we can stay in our home and be able to fully recover.  

This fund is being done through the support of the Diablo Valley Veterans Foundation (DVVF).  Their support is greatly appreciated and allows for all donations as of 10/19 to be tax deductible since DVVF is a 501(c)3.

Thank you!
  • Ray Hill 
    • $500 
    • 46 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $100 
    • 46 mos
  • Steven Burchik 
    • $100 
    • 46 mos
  • Scott Perkins 
    • $50 
    • 46 mos
  • JOHN D ARCHIMEDE 
    • $50 
    • 46 mos
See all

Organizer

Helen Reese 
Organizer
Walnut Creek, CA
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