One month ago, Ironwood Ridge High School teacher Theresa Chavez reached out to the community for help. Her husband, Timothy Chavez, has been battling chronic autoimmune hepatitis since he was 24 years old, and in the passing years the disease has worsened, causing severe scarring on his liver to the point he is in dire need of a liver transplant.
The journey toward a solution has been a long, stressful one for the Chavezes, who have invested countless hours, and thousands of dollars in savings toward medical treatment and living expenses while Tim received examinations at the Mayo Clinic in Florida. Still, Chavez is on a donor waiting list, and due to the high demand for liver transplants, could be for some time.
“He is getting sicker,” said Theresa. “We’re just waiting for him to get so sick that they can’t really keep him alive here, and we would go to Florida at that point and he will probably be hospitalized. It’s hard because by then he is probably going to be close to hospice, and of course I don’t want him to die out there. If he dies, I want him to die here with his family.”
But the Chavez family is still fighting, and the community is fighting right alongside them. In just one month’s time, community members have donated a collective $26,500 to help pay for the operation, housing, and travel expenses.
“I cry when I think about it,” said Theresa. “I’m so grateful. People are amazing. People are kind, and I pray that I get to give back in some way for all this kindness.”
Some of those to make significant contributions to the Chavez family include the Holy Order of the Knights of Columbus, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the school and church of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, members of Casas Church, Boy Scouts Troop 209, Faith Community Church members, and numerous friends and family members.
The Ironwood Ridge Student Council and Honor Society recently made a significant donation, raising $4,500 at a car wash fundraiser, and matching the amount to bring their total donation to $9,000.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be able to help someone in our community that needs help,” said Samantha Burgin, Ironwood Ridge Student Government teacher. “What is an even better feeling is watching my students step up and make it happen.”
Tim said he was taken aback by the student’s demonstration of kindness.
“The generosity and enthusiasm of the kids that wanted to help us out when they became aware of our family’s plight struck me with emotion that I will never be able to express in words,” he said. “It really shows the hope that we have in our youth for generations to come.”
Others have contributed by bringing the Chavezes groceries and looking after their two children, Ryan, 12, and Isabella, 20 months.
While no liver donor has been found thus far, it is not because there have been no offers. Theresa said a few people have come forward to donate a portion of their liver, but due to age (over 55 years old), or previous health problems, no match has yet been found.
Theresa herself was examined as a donor, but due to an existing condition called Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, she was declined.
“If I donated, it could cause me to have liver cirrhosis,” she said. Theresa added that her condition is not currently active, limiting any threat to her current health.
Despite the gracious donations, the Chavez family is still in a financial dilemma, as Theresa’s insurance does not cover the operation at the Mayo Clinic, and while Tim’s does, it will only cover him for long-term disability for one year.
“I don’t know, if we go out there, if they can keep him alive for a year, or if we will get a liver before then,” said Theresa. “We met people out there that were waiting a year and then died.”
Still, thanks to the community response and their own faith, the Chavezes retain hope.
“The participation of everyone involved, the students, parents, teachers, other faculty, and the community in their way was an overwhelming example of the kindness, generosity, caring and fortitude to work toward a common goal,” said Tim. “As long as we are able to come together and overcome challenges in our lives as a community there is great promise for us all.”
The couple is currently awaiting Tim’s next blood reading, which will determine the next step.
Donations are still being accepted, and can be made on helphopelive.org. To donate, enter “Timothy Chavez” in the patient search box. All donations to the non-profit organizations are tax deductible and used for transplant purposes only.
For interested liver donors, the National Liver Transplant Foundation offers grants to help cover travel expenses. Their website is www.liverfoundation.org.
To read the original article on Theresa and Timothy Chavez, visit www.explorernews.com.