Medical expense funds needed

ktanner@thetribunenews.comMay 16, 2013 

Gina Guerre of Cambria is battling a couple of progressively debilitating disorders, and friends have begun an online fund drive to raise $10,000 to cover weekly trips to several doctors, upkeep on the family’s aging car, home health care, and more.

The fund also could allow her husband, former sewer-plant operator Patrick Guerre, to complete a tribute art project he promised his wife: Creating 10,000 hearts to honor her and increase awareness of the diseases that have devastated their lives.

As of May 15, the fundraising website at http://igg.me/at/10000hearts4gina/x/557059 showed $4,768 in donations, ranging from $5 to $500, with 22 days left to go in the campaign. It also shows some of Pat Guerre’s hearts.

Each donor receives a special thank you gift from a list described on the website’s Updates tab.

For years after Gina was in a motorcycle accident in May 2001, all the medical news was bad. Soon after the crash, the former nurse began to have extreme, unexplained pain, which eventually was diagnosed as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) and chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS), which is described on Wikipedia as “one of, if not the most, painful long-term conditions” on a pain scale that ranks the disease above “amputation and childbirth.”

By 2010 and 2011, Gina, who’s also a cancer survivor, also was having throat and stomach problems. Doctors diagnosed diffuse scleroderma, a disease that made it difficult for her body to be nourished by food.

According to the Scleroderma Foundation, it is a chronic connective tissue disease. Cause is unknown, but research has established the disease involves an overproduction of collagen. Scleroderma can produce hardening of the skin and of the lining of various organs in the body.

In March 2013, the Guerres were told that Gina, now 48, would be lucky to live another year. Her weight had dropped to about 80 pounds.

There are rays of hope. Thanks to recent surgery, she now takes nutrition through a specialized feeding system that puts nutrients directly into her bloodstream.

As of May 2, Gina’s weight was officially at 100 pounds, according to her husband’s posting on the website. “This by no means cures her, but at least she is not malnourished and body starving.”

Friend John Baltic of Ypsilanti, Mich., wrote on the website he launched, “Gina needs to ‘live out’ her dreams, and wants to ‘outlive’ them as well.”

Among those dreams, he said, were seeing Gina’s daughter Krystale Sessions graduate from nursing school in two years and son Dalton Guerre married, to spend time with a new granddaughter Gina hasn’t been able to meet and see daughter Amanda Thomas and her family, and showing people the need for research about the cause of RSD/CRPS, hopefully leading to a cure.

“I also want to have all my family to live in the same state,” Gina said in a phone interview May 14.

The Guerres also have some immediate financial needs, Baltic said, including for medical expenses, especially because apparently the insurance won’t pay for the feeding-system supplies that cost $150 a day. “They’ll pay for the fat” in the food, Pat Guerre wrote, but not the protein or sugar. 

The couple also needs to cover basic living expenses, since he is his wife’s caregiver, driver, cook and housekeeper. An air cleaner would help him keep the home environment as sterile as possible. They need a new mattress to help her sleep better, and Gina desperately needs some dental work.

Gina Guerre also hopes to set aside enough money to pay for her cremation and memorial expenses, so her family won’t have to shoulder those, too.

Family and friends hope she beats the odds, and that those final funds won’t be needed for a long time.

Follow The Cambrian on Twitter @TheCambrian.

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