*** We've set a new challenge of raising $75,000 *** Thanks to all of your wonderful, generous outpouring of support for Gabe and his family, we've surpassed our goal of $50,000 for Gabe and his family.
Last week, Gabe's doctors recommended that he move forward to rituximab, a medication that could address his autoimmune issues and reduce the inflammation in his brain. One round of rituximab = $30,000, which insurance has not approved.
Thanks to your incredible generosity so far, Gabe will be able to get this treatment regardless of what his insurer says (or how long it takes them to decide!), but it will deplete all of the funds for his other continuing medical expenses. He still faces an unknown journey along an unclear path to an effective treatment -- let alone the long rehab and recovery costs he'll still need once he finally kicks the medical problems.
So, we've raised the goal, and hope you'll continue to donate and share and spread the word! THANK YOU all again for what you're doing for Gabe and his family. The outpouring of love and support has been incredible -- let's keep up the momentum!
WHAT HAPPENED TO GABE?
In September 2015, Gabe suddenly became seriously ill—paralyzed, and more—by a tick-borne infection called Bartonella. The infection has caused autoimmune problems, and encephalitis (inflammation of his brain and nervous system).
He and his family have been going through physical, emotional, and financial hell for more than two years.
As friends of Gabe and his family, we hope you’ll help with Gabe's ongoing medical bills, and share this with others.
Here is a photo of Gabe from before he got sick, after doing what he loved best in the world: He and his teammates had played in a travel baseball tournament. They lost, but he'd gotten clutch Ks as a relief pitcher, and he was proud of how he and his team had played, proud that it had been his first draft on the way to his dream team, his beloved Orioles.
Healthier times: Gabe is in the back row, third from right – in the orange shirt, of course :)
He came home from that baseball-at-the-beach trip as a 12-year-old should: smelly, sweaty, with sand behind his ears and salt drying on his skin. Sleep deprived, but happy and proud of his first trip without his parents. Looking forward (as he had since he was six years old) to a spot in the Orioles’ pitching rotation, of calling Camden Yards home.
Two months later, Gabe suddenly got very sick.
During the terrifying first two months of emergency rooms and hospital stays, Gabe lost the use of both legs. He couldn’t keep food down. High fevers every three weeks. At one point, he couldn’t talk, because his brain couldn’t coordinate his breath with his speech muscles.
THE LONG STRUGGLE:
Now, almost two years later, Gabe is still totally wheelchair bound, still unable make his legs work. He suffers with constant pain and headaches, debilitating brain fog and memory problems—multiple disorders of multiple systems.
He’s had an excruciating, non-stop migraine 24/7 since this all started. Terrible bladder spasms day and night; nausea and forceful reflux with every bite he eats; painful sensitivity to light, sound, and movement. Attention, concentration, and memory are all seriously impaired. His physical and cognitive exhaustion is profound.
And he has watched as his friends and his teammates graduate, evolve, play baseball, move on.
A PATH FORWARD:
For many months, as Gabe got worse and worse, his parents intensively searched and researched, looking for answers. Finally they found a research-driven physician who gave them the diagnosis: Bartonella—one of dozens of tick-borne diseases.
It’s called a “stealth organism,” taking up residence where ordinary treatments can't reach it, and disabling the immune system so it can ravage the defenseless body at will.
Not only is this infection hard to diagnose and kill off, but even worse, it causes tons of collateral damage. In Gabe's case, these "side effects" go far beyond the infection itself, including:
· Inflammation of his brain and the rest of his nervous system
· Microvascular disease (blockage/damage to the tiny blood vessels in his brain and body)
· Damage to the nerve receptors in his muscles
· Impaired immunity
· Autoimmune disorder (his immune system "attacking" his own healthy cells)
· Dysautonomia (his nervous system can’t properly regulate his heart rate, blood pressure, or digestion)
(A bit of a smile at the doctor's office - his toes moved!)
Gabe endures painful trips multiple days a week for physical therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, electrical muscle stimulation, deep tissue laser treatments to keep his muscles and nerves as healthy as possible, and of course, scores and scores of appointments with doctors.
He has gone through so many tests and treatments, it’s hard to count.
He needs round-the-clock assistance—during the day while his parents work to pay the bills (they're both self-employed, so no work = no income), and at night when they wake up multiple times a night to tend to him.
His doctors have him taking multiple, powerful antibiotics, as well as a long list of other prescription medications to help manage his symptoms and staunch the damage, plus dozens of specialized medical supplements to support his body and try to counterbalance the nasty side effects of the medications.
So far, Gabe’s progress is measured in the tiniest victories:
· The latest lab results show that the antibiotics have finally beaten back the Bartonella itself, and the biofilm “hideouts” are significantly reduced. ***Update, Sept 2017: All traces of biofilms are GONE!
· Unlike last summer, Gabe’s able to watch his Orioles play! In a darkened room, with the brightness of the TV turned way down (plus dark sunglasses to tolerate even that) and the sound so low his parents can't hear it, he can revel at Manny's plays and Adam's hits, and agonize at Ubaldo's pitching.
· Cheers went up in the doctor’s office a few months ago when Gabe was able to repeatedly flex his foot (and sometimes his knee) an inch, for about a second, until the nerves and receptors sputter back out. ***Update, Sept 2017: Gabe can kick his lower leg up about 4 inches a few times in the morning (though this ability fades out by midday).
It's slow progress, but the "Orioles Warrior" is winning—far too slowly, but winning.
Now that the infection is largely killed off, we are hoping and hoping the next major step in Gabe’s treatment —IVIg— will be a giant step toward getting him back on his feet, literally, back into his cleats, and back to school (in that order, according to him).
IVIg is used to fight disease, strengthen weakened immunity, and reverse autoimmune conditions. It has been close to miraculous in some patients with Bartonella once the acute stage of the infection has been addressed. Gabe's finally ready!
Each IVIg treatment costs $15,000, and of course insurance won't cover the expense, despite it being a well-established treatment. Gabe may need as many as three IVIg treatments in the next few months.
Even after the IVIg, Gabe will still have a long road to recovery—ongoing medical treatment for continued healing, intensive physical rehabilitation, cognitive remediation.
Family and friends have been showing up 1,000 percent, with meals, and gifts, and advice, and resources, and referrals. Gabe and his parents have been so deeply moved and incredibly grateful for all of the support from so many.
But the upcoming IVIg treatments and medical expenses are a big cost surge, and his parents are stretched to the limit financially after nearly two years. Having downsized and borrowed and financed and fought with the insurance company, they’ve finally agreed to let us ask for help on Gabe’s behalf.
So, we're asking Team Gabe to step up to the plate, again, and pinch hit for the kid.
Please help the "Orioles Warrior" who, even as disabled as he is, makes sandwiches for a local charity, and is working so hard, doing everything he can—and more—to get better.
$50,000 to help pay for the next three months of medical expenses (not covered by insurance):
• IVIg Treatments: $15,000 each (1-3 treatments)
• Prescription medications: $400/month
• Medical supplements: $500/month
• Medical treatments (HBOT, physical therapy, deep-tissue laser, muscle e-stim): $1,400/month
• Daytime caregivers, so Gabe's self-employed parents can work
Total Projected medical costs not covered by insurance for the next three months: $70,000+
HOW YOU CAN HELP - TWO WAYS:
Please donate whatever you can - EVERY donation helps! All donations will be used to pay for Gabe's medical expenses. Even the "Thank You" gifts have been donated or underwritten by friends.
(If you prefer to bypass GoFundMe's processing fees, you can use the email button in the right-hand column (looks like a little orange envelope) to get more info about sending donations directly to the family. That way, Gabe's family will get the full amount of your generous donation. Your donation will be logged as an "offline donation" and will still show up and count towards the goal here. You'll also still receive the "rewards" at the levels listed!)
(*Scroll down for a photo of the Thank You gifts for the different donation levels!*)
•2• SPREAD THE WORD
Even if you can't donate, you can help a LOT by sharing the "campaign link" with your friends, family, and community.
Here is the campaign link to share: https://www.gofundme.com/orioleswarrior
• Share that campaign link on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn.
• Take a screenshot of this page (or take a photo of this page with your phone) and share it with the campaign link on Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat.
Thank you all so very much for helping!
Friends of Gabe and his family
* Here's a collage of the "Thank You" gifts generously provided or underwritten by friends. (For larger images, go here: OriolesWarrior "Thank you!" Gifts)