• Maggie Goldsmith

Helping Neighbors: FISH Helps When Medical Tragedy Strikes Family


Several months ago, 3-year-old Rose was running around her home — singing, dancing, laughing and watching SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer cartoons. She also loved to color and play with Playdough with her brother, a year older. But months ago, that all changed when Rose’s parents rushed her to the emergency room with a high fever.

“She had been getting sick, on again and off again, with an earache or fever. The doctors couldn’t find what was wrong with her,” Emily, Rose’s mamma said. “We kept getting referred back to her doctor. It was always one thing or another, she’d get better for five days and then she’d get sick all over again.”

Finally, Rose was seen by her doctor and sent to the hospital for laboratory work. “We were at the pharmacy trying to get her prescription filled when they called us,” continues Emily. “They asked us to return to the emergency room at once. They wanted to redo the blood count test.” she said.

The diagnosis shocked both parents. Rose has autoimmune hemolytic anemia: an overactive immune system that destroys the body's own red blood cells, causing anemia. “I was just shocked. I didn’t know if it was something we did. The doctor said it just happens but I don’t know. It flipped my world upside down,” Emily said.

“This is our baby! She used to run around and dance and sing all the time. Now she is always tired. The medications make her very grumpy and very hungry, and we have to supplement with extra calcium and Vitamin D.”

Rose is currently undergoing prednisone treatment and is monitored closely to see if red blood cell counts are improving. If that doesn’t work immune suppressing drugs may be introduced. In some cases, surgery or blood transfusions are the answer. “Any time she gets a fever of 101 [degrees] or more, we have to go straight to the hospital. If we suspect anything wrong, we call them,” Emily said. “We have to be so careful — constantly washing our hands and sanitizing everything. If we get sick, we can take cold medicines. If she gets sick, it is a million times worse and she has to go on antibiotics. It’s hard. Everyone is suffering; her brother doesn’t understand why she can’t play and why he can’t have friends over. We have to be so careful.”

“The visits will continue for six months to a year. With everything going on I have not been able to work and have already fun out of vacation and sick time,” Emily said. “For that reason, we reached out to FISH to help with rent payments, some medical expenses, extra food for our family and much needed counseling. We are so very thankful for any help with our expenses that are already accumulating, since she is so very sick and a one income household cannot keep up with the day-to-day expenses and her medical bills.”

Through the FISH Emergency Financial Assistance Program, Emily is able to receive assistance for rent/utilities, medical and prescription costs. FISH provided the family with prepared meals for a week and additional food for their older child through the Backpack Program.

“This is a heartbreaking case,” states Nitza Lopez, Case Manager. “We are in contact with the family weekly to see how they are doing, and if they need anything. Rose [and her family] is always on our mind. We are just thankful we have been able to help this family.”

For additional information on F.I.S.H., please contact Nitza Lopez, Case Manager, at 239-472-4775.


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