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STORY TOOLS
Bob Welch: Of medicine, money and 3 who matter
By Bob Welch
Columnist, The Register-Guard
Published: Sunday, November 20, 2005

I've written about them in the past three months: Jacqui Propst, Brandon Burton and Kathy Alden.

Three different people. Three different generations. Three different medical challenges.

The updates:

Jacqui Propst, 3, is the Eugene girl born with lymphatic malformation, which had morphed into a mass on her face and neck about the size of three tennis balls.

On Nov. 1, I wrote about how the Propsts had won something of a medical lottery. Dr. Milton Waner, whom Reader's Digest magazine describes as "the world's leading expert in the treatment of vascular anomalies," had agreed to remove the growth.

On Thursday, in New York, he did exactly that. The surgery took eight hours and 15 minutes. "It was absolutely successful," says Mary Lee Propst, a grandmother of Jacqui.

On Friday, Jacqui developed problems after her breathing tube was removed, so doctors put in a temporary tracheotomy tube.

She is expected to be hospitalized for another three to five days.

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Brandon Burton, 18, is the recent Churchill High graduate who contracted a serious virus while in Hong Kong last summer and nearly died. When the family couldn't afford to pay the nearly $10,000 needed to have a doctor accompany him on the flight home, Dr. Larry Dunlap of Eugene volunteered to fly to Hong Kong and do exactly that. And did so, the two arriving home Aug. 17.

Tests showed that Burton's weakened heart wasn't even pumping at the 25 percent rate doctors in Hong Kong thought it was, but at 15 percent. Burton was taken to Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, where he spent two weeks.

The verdict? Burton will need a heart transplant.

That sounds serious - and it is. But stories abound of heart-transplant recipients who have completed triathlons and climbed mountains. More than 2,000 are performed in the United States each year.

"We didn't think we were going to leave the hospital in Portland until he'd had a transplant," says Jennifer Burton, Brandon's mother. But his body reacted so positively to medication that he was released. Now, doctors want him to wait at least three to six months so he can get stronger for the transplant.

"He goes to movies, hangs out, plays golf, but just has to stop if he gets tired," Jennifer says.

Brandon postponed enrolling at the University of Oregon because doctors didn't want him under too much stress.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Burton says money donated by people in the community has made a huge difference. "Our heartfelt gratitude goes to all the people who think people matter."

Kathy Alden, 58, was a Springfield woman who forged friendships with two other women who, like her, were battling leukemia.

On Sept. 25, I wrote of how Karen Humez, 52, already had died, Alden was expected to die and Amelia Worth, a 20-year-old UO student, was hopeful of a bone-marrow transplant to prolong her life. In fact, Kathy Alden spearheaded a "Last Wish" fund for Amelia, whose Oregon Health Plan insurance doesn't cover the care she needs.

Kathy Alden died Oct. 5 at home, surrounded by her family.

"We were all there, holding her hand, and she opened her eyes and looked around at all of us and we knew she was going to go," says one of her daughters, Gwen Dockery.

More than 400 people attended Kathy's service at the Springfield Faith Center. Her husband, John, had presented her with roses on each of their 37 wedding anniversaries, and those at the service each dropped a rose on the altar.

"She touched so many people's lives," Worth says.

Her legacy of giving will live on in Worth. More than $20,000 has been donated to the "Last Wish" fund, John Alden says.

"Yesterday, I found out my other insurance came through so I can have the transplant," Worth says. "Everything's fabulous."