A family in Connellsville is working to raise money to help their daughter get a new liver and kidney after a hiking incident left her in an Arizona hospital.
Over the weekend, Rhonda and Mike Rowan of Connellsville created a post on the fundraising website Go Fund Me where she wrote about their daughter, Rebecca Rowan, and the urgent situation in which she found herself.
On July 12, Rebecca and her brother, Andrew, were hiking on a trail near Tucson. They ran out of water and accidentally wandered off the trail when they became confused due to heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Rebecca fell unconscious before first responders could reach them. She was taken to Banner UMC Hospital, where she remains. Andrew was admitted to the hospital, given fluids and has recovered. Rebecca, however, is in need of a double transplant after heat exhaustion and dehydration damaged her liver and kidneys.
“He said Rebecca actually saved his life,” Rhonda said, adding that the last thing her daughter said to her son before she passed out was to call 911. “He said because of the dehydration and disorientation, he wouldn’t have thought of that. They weren’t thinking clearly at all due to the heat and possibly altitude sickness as well.”
However, Rebecca’s insurance lapsed earlier this year, and the hospital couldn’t place her on an organ transplant list without either insurance or cash on hand.
“She’s in stable but critical condition, but the immediate concern is her liver,” Rhonda said. “She is in liver shock and, they said she needs a transplant right away. Her kidneys are not working, but she is currently on dialysis so she’s stable in that area.”
Rhonda added that the hospital’s head of transplant surgery told her if he had a liver, he would put it in her immediately, and that was three days prior.
Rhonda said her daughter, who’s 26 years old, also has severe burns on the tops of both thighs and the side of one leg for which she needs surgery.
The fundraising goal for Rebecca to be placed on the transplant list is $750,000. As of Monday afternoon, they had raised $75,000.
“It’s a very positive step, and we are so very appreciative of the generosity of the thousands of people who have taken time to donate, assist and reach out to us with their prayers and good wishes for Rebecca,” Rhonda said.
She said the family is working all angles to get Rebecca help, including Rebecca’s manager at Rural King, who called the company’s CEO to see if she could be placed on the company’s insurance to retroactively cover her. She said state Sen. Pat Stefano is seeking public medical insurance for her, and the family has called multiple insurance companies, but was told they can’t cover Rebecca for a year.
Rhonda added that representatives from the Arizona hospital were in touch to inform the family that they were going to be meeting about Rebecca’s situation.
“We’re praying they agree to put her on the transplant list, being that we’ve got a fantastic start to Bec’s fund,” Rhonda said.
Rhonda said strangers have reached out to the family with words of support and encouragement, information and an overabundance of generosity.
“She’s had no less than 20 people offer to donate a kidney and part of their liver,” Rhonda said.
“She’s an amazing human being,” said Norma Miller, Rebecca’s aunt. “She’s one of the sweetest, nicest people you would ever want to meet. She needs to live.”
The family wants to have Rebecca transferred to UPMC in Pittsburgh where they do live-donor transplants, as the procedure is not done at Banner UMC Hospital.
“In order for her to be transferred to Pittsburgh, the doctors from both hospitals would have to coordinate, UPMC would have to agree to take her, and most importantly, Rebecca would need to be completely stable before she could be transported,” Rhonda said. “It’s a long journey, and she’s so very weak.”
Donations will go directly toward paying for Rebecca’s transplants and associated medical costs, and Rhonda said every cent will be spent on her care; anything extra would go to a similar cause.
To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/f/please-help-us-save-rebecca/.
Miller has also started a charity account for Rebecca for those who do not want to donate online. Checks can be made payable to “Save Rebecca” and either dropped off at Somerset Trust Company, Crawford Avenue, Connellsville or mailed to Miller at Norma Miller, 422 Hickory Square Road, Connellsville, Pa., 15425.
Miller added that the family will hold a spaghetti dinner fundraiser beginning at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 25, at the Vanderbilt United Methodist Church. Route 201, Vanderbilt. Dinner is $7 and is available for dine-in or take-out.
She added that they’re seeking basket donations for raffle baskets. Anyone who wants to donate a raffle basket can either call Miller at 724-689-5911 or send her a message on her Facebook page.
“We’re still brainstorming other ideas,” Miller said, adding that the family is open to suggestions for other ways to raise money or help. “It’s been such a shock. She’s only 26 and has her whole life ahead of her.”
The family is also asking for prayers.
“Please pray for her,” Rhonda said. “God makes miracles, and an army of prayer warriors is what she needs right now.”