Final wish needs to be granted

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Linda Cummings' final request before lung cancer steals her last breath is to go home to West Virginia.

Her husband Ken and his sister Katrina almost made that happen.

Katrina had secured a loan to buy the couple a $4,000 car. She and Ken had cleaned the Cummings' Roop Street apartment to turn it over to the landlord. Katrina, Ken and Linda were ready and willing to make the 2,500-mile journey to Clarksburg, W.V., come Thursday morning.

But early Wednesday, Linda, 56, couldn't breathe. She'd been struggling for hours when Ken took her to the hospital at about 3 a.m.

Hooked up to a ventilator, her voice silenced by a tracheotomy, Linda looked slowly around the room with sunken blue eyes and wept Thursday.

"I don't want to die," she mouthed silently. "I want to go home."

Hospital staff are adamant that Linda isn't strong enough to make the trip by car.

Her best bet is to fly. The 96-hour trip by car would be condensed into 10 hours, said Dr. Jorge Salaberry. Yet, the $23,000 price tag for a medical flight is nearly impossible.

"I'm trying my best to do what she wants," said Ken, exhausted from lack of sleep and the weight of his grief. "I would sell my soul to the devil just to get her home."

Linda's path to the end of her hard-fought life was winding down.

The mother of five children from her first marriage, Linda took a job at a chemical refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas after her divorce.

In 1994 there was a mishap at the plant and she and three other employees inhaled hydrochloric acid that burned all the cilia from their lungs, said Ken. The diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease came quickly.

In 1995, after a move to Northern California, Linda, then 40, struck up a friendship with her 26-year-old neighbor, Ken. Soon the two were married.

On the suggestion of her doctor, Linda and Ken moved to the dryer climate of Arizona, but the heat proved too much, explained Ken.

"The flies wouldn't even fly," he said.

So five years ago they settled in Carson City.

It was fine for a while, said Ken. But in May of 2008, when doctors found cancer in Linda's lungs, Ken couldn't work anymore. Caring for her became his full-time vocation.

The cancer moved into her esophagus. Ken said she's been in and out of the hospital since.

When she was released the last time on April 6, Dr. Salaberry and the ICU nurses thought she was leaving Nevada.

"She's told me herself that's all she wants is to go home," Salaberry said.

They were surprised and saddened to see her come in Wednesday.

Though her parents are gone now, Linda still wants to go home to the hills of West Virginia where she grew up. She wants to be buried with her parents in the family plot.

Ken is committed to making that happen.

"What an agony she must have to go through," he said. "It's just really hard to fathom what she's been through, but she's fighting, she's a strong woman. I really don't want to let her down. She's really had a rough life, for such a nice person."

Donations can be made directly to Linda Cummings through the Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare Foundation by calling 775-445-5161. Donations can also be made online at carsontahoe.org. For more information, call 775-445-5161.

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