John and Dotty Ridge celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary on Thursday. On Saturday, their friends are hosting a silent auction to help pay for the couple's substantial medical bills.
The trouble began when John, a 49-year-old construction worker, felt pains in his legs in March.
"I convinced him to go to the emergency room and they decided to do an MRI," Dotty said. "They found out that he had five mini-strokes on the right side of his brain."
John didn't have medical insurance, so surgery to clear the 90 percent blockage in his carotid artery and to fix a bulging disk in his neck had to be put off until he was on Dotty's state insurance on July 1.
"Nobody would see him because he had no insurance," she said. "We had to keep putting it off and putting it off."
Once the insurance came through, John had his neck surgery, which required that his head be completely stablized.
"They had to take out the bone in his neck and put in bolts and screws and rods, so he can't move his head without moving his whole body," she said. "He did concrete for ever and ever and now he has to be retrained."
Meanwhile, 45-year-old Dotty came down with a case of pneumonia and had to be hospitalized for three days. She was on oxygen for a month.
John's carotid surgery was Aug. 4. Two days later, Dotty said, her arm started to tingle.
"I broke out in a bad sweat and my son drove me to Carson-Tahoe Hospital," she said. "They took an EKG and said I didn't have a heart attack. I slept the entire next day. I made an appointment with my doctor, and he gave me an EKG that showed I did have a heart attack. He called the paramedics, who took me to the hospital. I don't remember much after that point."
Dotty said an angiogram showed she had blockage in three arteries, and she had triple-bypass surgery.
Both Dotty and John won't be able to work for months to come.
"I have good days and bad days," she said. "I sometimes feel really drained. I still can't drive or lift things. John is still struggling. He can't move his neck."
The couple's sons Bryan, 19, and Eric, 18, have been trying to help their parents.
"They are really trying their best to help us while paying their own bills," she said. "They are both working. We've had a role reversal; it is their turn to take care of Mom and Dad. They've both stepped up to help out during the day."
Both Bryan and Eric Ridge are Dayton High School graduates and Eric is attending Western Nevada Community College on a Milennium Scholarship.
When John was diagnosed, Dotty says her co-workers at the Financial Institutions Division brought in food and money.
"I'm grateful for everyone that's helped us out," she said. "People from my job helped out with money and came in with bags and bags and bags of groceries."
The couple has run up $200,000 in medical bills and Dotty says prescription drugs alone cost the family $200 a month.
"The question is whether to feed everybody, put gas in the car or get the medication," she said. "I feel sorry for senior citizens living on a fixed income."
The couple met in Los Angeles after then 19-year-old Dotty, a native of New York City, decided to move West with $99 in her pocket.
"I found some people to stay with, got a job, and one of those friends was friends with John," she said. "Two weeks later, we met."
A silent auction to benefit the couple is noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Brewery Arts Center Performance Hall, 511 W. King St.
Call Heather Horigan, 882-6203 or Char Ramsay, 246-3906 for more information.
You can help
What: Silent auction benefit for John and Dotty Ridge
When: Noon-4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Brewery Arts Center Performance Hall, 511 W. King St.
Information: Call Heather Horigan, 882-6203 or Char Ramsay, 246-3906