Zena Rises

Those of us who are more experienced at it know is true: life is just beginning at 20 years of age.  The world is smaller than ever, the possibilities are endless, and dreams can go to infinity and beyond.  

On the night of October 19, 2017, 20-year-old Zena Lefler laid her head on her pillow to dream big dreams.  But when she awoke on the morning October 20, she awoke to a new reality.

Zena felt a strange sensation in her legs. The feeling was...numb?  How do you describe a loss of feeling in your legs?  Attempting to "walk it off," she placed her feet on the floor, pushed off from the bed, and promptly crumbled to the floor.

Bewildered but coherent, she gathered herself, and tried to make sense of her predicament.  She had left work at her job at Smith Metals earlier in the week with a weakened and stiffening back – which she had tried to treat with a trip to a chiropractor.  A mid-week trip to the hospital led to a diagnosis of Lyme’s Disease.  But the symptoms continued to worsen.

Not wanting to bother her mom, Barb Fenton, who works on the 1st shift at Smith Metals, Zena kept busy doing what she could around the house.  When Barb arrived home from her shift that day, she was shocked to find how much Zena’s physical state had declined!  Zena was unable to even walk to the car.  Barb knew she had to call her sister Mari Paulzine for help, and together the two women were able to carry Zena to the car to go to the local hospital.

Doctors at the local hospital performed an MRI on her brain, and lesions were observed.   They knew that Zena would need to be seen by a specialist.  She was transferred by ambulance from St. Croix Falls to St. Paul, MN, to Regions Hospital.

At Regions, Zena began a battery of tests.  Blood tests, MRI's of the brain, MRI's of her spine.  As days turned to weeks, a diagnosis was handed down from the Doctors:  Zena has Multiple Sclerosis (MS.)  The recommended treatment: courses of steroids and plasma infusions, to be followed with ongoing physical therapy and occupational therapy.  Zena made progress and was released from Regions on November 1 to continue recovery at home.

However, in the two weeks since, Zena’s condition has worsened.  A trip to the ER on November 13 led to another hospitalization at Regions.  As bad as the diagnosis of MS was, Zena’s failure to respond to treatments has her doctors questioning this diagnosis.  More tests are presently being evaluated, and the potential of a different, even more-serious-than-MS diagnosis is a very real possibility.

As a young person working full time, Zena DOES have health insurance.  As we all well know about the state of healthcare in America today, having a health care plan is not insurance against all health-related expenses, especially in cases involving weeks-long hospital stays and expensive treatments.  However, Zena has been unable to work, and has exhausted her paid time off from work.  Thus, she no longer has income.    Mom Barb has also nearly exhausted her paid time off from work.

Zena and Barb (and Zena’s sister Zoya, an undergraduate student at UW-Eau Claire) are now facing the expenses of the $5000 out-of-pocket associated with Zena’s healthcare plan.   Furthermore, there will be ongoing costs associated with visits to the physical therapist.  As Zena has not yet regained her mobility, an electric wheelchair will be needed.  The apartment in which the family lives is not wheelchair accessible, thus the family is facing a move (and the associated costs of moving) as they look for accessible housing.  These are the costs which can be envisioned today. All who know Zena are hoping and praying for a positive response to new treatments, and the restoration of her health.  But it is clear today that the road to full health will be a long one.

As we approach this season of giving, won’t you please consider making a gift which will put Zena and her family back on a path to recovery?   As this health challenge began in October, the need for financial relief has become more pressing with each passing day.  Your donation will immediately be put to use by the family to satisfy medical bills and provide Zena with the mobility and accessibility needed by her new reality.  Help Zena put this nightmare behind her, so she can again dream the biggest of dreams.
  • Chris Thompson 
    • $25 
    • 42 mos
  • Jeff Wolf 
    • $50 
    • 42 mos
  • Lauri Anderson (Erickson) 
    • $50 
    • 42 mos
  • Michael Peterson 
    • $40 
    • 43 mos
  • Kyle Palmer 
    • $20 
    • 43 mos
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Paul David Smith 
Milltown, WI
Barb Fenton 
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