Joe Frank Medical & Recovery Fund
$125,067 of $150,000 goal
November 20, 2017:
I started this Go Fund Me campaign nearly two years ago, shortly after Joe had a routine procedure which tore the inside wall of his colon. He was hospitalized, treated and monitored. After release, he was told: "You can eat whatever you'd like." Within 24 hours, he was experiencing a blockage. We didn't know this at the time. It was New Year's Eve. Later that night, we went to the ER. Joe was admitted presenting a number of symptoms which promptly landed him in the ICU. "You are very, very, very, very sick," the ER doctor had said.
For the next month in the hospital, Joe was assaulted by a number of tests, examinations and prognoses until finally settling on the fact that, due to the blockage (eat whatever you wish), his heart and other organs worked overtime in order to compensate. In addition, there were unrelated symptoms (pancreatic cancer possibility) -- I cannot remember it all, frankly. Most of it is outlined in the early updates here.
Joe was discharged at the end of January 2016. His recovery lasted until the Fall of that year. In the background: May of 2014: Joe had undergone surgery for colon cancer. The tumor was successfully removed; however, new problems arose as a result. He'd been struggling to manage the effects of that when slammed with the events at the end of 2015.
There have always been - and almost weekly - setbacks since I started this GFM campaign. Many of them minor inconveniences, and others frightening, but resolved.
But on July 13, 2017, Joe found blood in his stool. He was admitted to the hospital where another tumor in his colon was found. Surgery was imperative. But Joe was physically not fit for the anticipated recovery. He needed to build his reserves - exercise, eat 90mg of protein daily. This was the start of a very long period of time before he went in for surgery on October 13, 2017.
Neither Joe nor I have been able to fully return to work since July. During his recovery in 2016, there was precious little time to focus on work. Even though Joe wrote every day and still has scripts for a few radio programs nearly completed. It seemed every other day, we needed to go to a doctor appointment, have blood drawn, physical therapy visits, medication reactions and adjustments. And on it went.
Last July, I rebooted this campaign, there have been far too many events that I have not shared.
I live in a constant prayer for Joe's recovery. I'd love to see him home again, writing. It is what gives him the most joy.
Here's the story posted back in 2016:
In mid-December 2015, my husband, Joe Frank, became ill. This is one in a long list of medical issues he has faced since he was born, beginning with corrective surgeries for clubbed feet between the ages of 3 and 5. He's survived cancer three times - the first time, he was given three months to live when he was just in his early 20s. Since then, he's had numerous hospitalizations and surgeries for a host of issues. Ten years ago, he suffered from kidney failure and was on dialysis for a year-and-a-half until he received a kidney donated by his cousin. In addition, for years, he's been enduring and managing pain caused by severe scoliosis of his spine.
I cannot express how much I admire Joe's courage and will to live. He has heard bad news on many occasions yet possessed the strength, courage and had the good fortune to beat the odds.
I long for that outcome now.
Forgive me for not providing details about what has taken place in the last month. I am in a condition of overwhelm. I've watched Joe face a myriad of diagnoses in the last month which has included sepsis, heart attack and pancreatic cancer.
At midnight on New Year's Eve, we were in the ER at Cedars-Sinai hospital with a dear friend and one of Joe's doctors (who left a party to be with Joe.) It was surreal to see the high-spirited celebrations on television bringing in the new year while in an emergency room hospital setting.
Until last month, Joe worked daily: posting on Facebook, recording material for his next radio program, and preparing notes for future projects. It is my deep hope and longing that he will return to that work. It gives him meaning and profound pleasure. I think some of his latest programs are among his best work.
I dearly wish to see him come home with all of these medical issues resolved soon so that he can begin recuperating.
When he does come home, however, he will be on IV medications which are not covered by insurance. The last time he returned from the hospital for a treatment of IV fluids, our out-of-pocket costs were $1500.00. That was for just five 5 days' worth of medication. This time, he will receive an IV cocktail for a month at minimum.
*update 3/12: Joe was on TPN for 6 weeks. What we thought would be $350 a day is in reality nearly $1,000 per day. (Total = approximately $42,000 which includes the "equipment" - IV pump, saline and heparin syringes, gloves, etc.) The catheter remains in place in case he needs to go back on TPN. The equipment, however, continues to be delivered weekly to keep the line flushes - that is about $1,000 per week. Hopefully, the catheter will be removed soon since Joe is beginning to gain weight again.)
We will need to hire someone to attend to him full-time since he is physically compromised. We don't yet know how long that will last or exactly how much that will cost. We understand that it will take a minimum of 6 weeks and conceivably several months before he gets his physical strength and mobility back. (Today, 1/13, my research shows it could be a breathtaking $200,000 if we have to hire someone full-time for a long period. Again Joe is committed to becoming strong again as soon as possible)
*update 3/16: After a few physical therapists have come and gone, we finally found Doug. He is fantastic. He's helped Joe to walk much sooner than anyone expected. Doug comes here twice a week. Because of the outstanding progress, we only needed to hire someone part-time - and for assistance for just two months. That totaled only $1500.00 (plus equipment .)
Ongoing: Out-of-pocket cost for Joe's usual medications and insurance payments is $10,000 to $12,000 per year. He's had medications added to his daily regimen and he now takes 24 pills a day. We haven't yet received the paperwork from Medicare RX or Medicare Part B (some meds are partially covered by Part B), listing the final out-of-pocket.
Joe's income is based on his work for Unfictional . There was a time when he could produce up to four shows a year, which barely managed to pay the bills. But now our financial security is threatened. Joe is eager to get back to work, but requires sufficient time and care to do so.
Each month over the past 2 years, we are short by about $2,000 to pay bills. (This is no exaggeration.) We live by a strict budget, continuing to draw on savings to get by. Faced with what we know we need to do in order to help Joe get well, we would easily run through those savings quickly.
I cannot express how much it would mean for me personally to have Joe fully recover and resume his daily activities. I miss him every moment that I am home trying to "take care of business." I spend every night at the hospital and in the worst way wish I could give him some of my good health to help him through this.
We sincerely appreciate whatever support you can provide.
Update Jan 30: We are just beginning to receive Medicare notices for how much out of pocket we can expect to pay. But the only notice we've seen so far reflects just the doctors' appointments and tests for the week before the hospitalization - that is close to $2,000.
In the hospital, Joe was seen daily for a month by his primary doctor, an infectious disease doctor, three GI doctors, a hospitalist, an oncologist, and a cardiologist. Every day he had blood drawn and tested. He had a slew of other tests that I couldn't keep track of.
He also now has two new medications that are close to $1,000 per month for both. *Update 3/15: I've been working with Medicare Part B and Joe's Medicare Supplemental. Joe is eligible for a price reduction since these medications are imperative for his survival.
*For more about who Joe Frank is, and details (see the "News" page) that led to this hospitalization see his web site here.
I just wanted to share a story I forgot to add to my contribution, of how I discovered Joe's work about 20 years ago: A friend and I were driving home to Chicago from Wisconsin, on the road somewhere in the middle of nowhere. My friend, Rob, was scanning stretches of static on the radio when we heard Joe's voice break through. All I can remember from the show was an image of topless women baking bread, but within five minutes Rob had climbed into the back of my van, found a coat hanger, and was hanging halfway out the passenger window at 65 mph twisting it around the vehicle antennae. This managed to get us through the show, and we rarely missed another. I believe it was WBEZ on Sunday nights, our gang would get together religiously and no matter how raucous we got drinking beer, we all fell silent at broadcast time. I think one element of Joe's writing that struck us all was his uncanny gift to include rich and specific content during at least one portion of every show, that seemed to speak directly to us. Get better Joe! You're an inspiration to many of us, to this day, of how a unique voice can be heard and treasured even in an age of unprecedented deregulation and corporate consolidation of the public airwaves.
Michal, thank you for your selfless gift of love. The kindness and compassion exhibited in your care is appreciated by everyone who loves and admires your husband. As someone who was very ill for a long time, I’ve experienced the selflessness of loving caregivers, both family and hospital staff. I cannot imagine ever having survived without it. And while it may often seem impossible, nothing worth doing is ever easy. Joe, I’ve been a devotee since the early KCRW days. Your gift to the world—your tireless writing and recording—ensures your immortality. I cannot adequately express my gratitude for your hard work or accurately measure the impact you’ve had on my life and the world. THANK YOU for putting pen to paper. And to anyone who has ever endured life-threatening illness and financial hardship simultaneously, please contribute to Joe Frank's GoFundMe campaign. For me, he is in the top five of all creative geniuses who’ve ever put pen to paper. His radio shows have been a lifelong companion and his body of work represents the imaginative greatness the mind is capable of. Please, please give.
Hoping they figure this out for you Joe. Believe me when I say I can relate to what you are going through. Fortunately, I am blessed with doctors who have gotten me through some extraordinary maladies. Unfortunately though, there is very little known about my current affliction. I'm into my second year of this and frustrated as heck, but I still believe that everything my doctors can do is being done. I've decided to donate my body to the SUNY at Buffalo school of medicine upon my demise as a way of giving back. For now I'll just grin and bear it and hope for better treatment options. Hopefully better days are on the horizon for both of us. Godspeed my friend ....
Hey Michal and Joe. I am very happy to get this update today. I know the anxiety of flying solo again will subside. Soon you'll be back to sitting in the same room doing two entirely different things, in total comfort and togetherness, not even speaking to each other. Or whatever. Maybe you'll be watering plants, Michal, and won't have to think about watering Joe, too. (Smile inserted here). I hope you both start getting some really great uninterrupted sleep. xoxo
Thank you Thelma - the Cedars social worker called and Partners in Care is an organization which recommends different care givers. It is more like a directory - some of the types of services they refer one to are covered, and some are not. The type of care Joe physically needs (ie, someone here all the time to put him in wheelchair to go to restroom, etc) is not covered, unfortunately. But Joe is committed to doing everything he can (isometric leg exercises and follow doctors' orders) to regain strength.
When Joe was last in NYC doing a show I had the chance to actually hug him and was too overwhelmed being near him. He is my favorite writer. I majored in American Lit and secondary education and have read a lot. There is a brilliance and a depth in your husband that is staggering. Even what he has not written , his powerful essence. God, I love him. Stay strong and get through this because there is no other Joe Frank and there never will be. So ironic that his name is so simple and common and he is the antithesis of that. Again, sorry to gush, but I love him so and I am not alone.
This afternoon, I listened to "Goodbye" - the show that was sent to me, for my contribution, - and it was fantastic. It brought me back thirty years, to when I first discovered Work in Progress on the radio. I have been captivated, for all these years, by Joe's unique perspectives and presentations. I have been greatly influenced and inspired by Joe Frank's work over all these years. I was won over, initially, by his remarkable ability to always address things that no one else seemed willing or able to address. And I have been held consistently in awe at his ability (through writing, delivery and performance) to simultaneously address the humor and sadness intrinsic to things. He has unflinchingly addressed the mundanity and absurdity of the world around us, and plumbed it to its depths - delivering wondrous truths through the cleverest use of delicious lies and fibs. Thank you, Joe Frank. Thank you.