Living in limbo |

Living in limbo

Rhonda Costa-Landers
Appeal Staff writer

Cathleen Allison/Nevada AppealRon Toews talks from his Carson City home Wednesday about his battle with Hepatitis C and his wait for a liver transplant. With mounting medical expenses and limited household income, friends are rallying behind Toews and holding a fundraiser Saturday, Aug. 23 at Decades Bar and Grill, who is also hosting the event.

When Ron Toews was having digestive problems “all over the place,” he ended up in surgery to have his gall bladder removed in July 2006.

Though surgery was successful, the surgeon informed him he had cirrhosis of the liver. More tests would confirm Toews had hepatitis C.

“I think it all started in December 2005 when I got pneumonia,” Toews, 51 of Carson City, said. “I really don’t know.

“After a while I just accepted it and am dealing with it. But thank God for family.”

Toews’ hepatitis is treatable. However, his liver and immune system is too weak to handle the Interferon treatments. He also has two hernias.

Because of Toews’ health, he was laid off in September and lost his health coverage.

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His wife, Mikki, can only work part time and has no insurance.

“I’m kind of in a holding pattern with no health insurance,” he said. “I’ve applied for Medicare, but that will take two years to come through.

“The cost of a liver transplant is upward of $1 million, so that’s out. We’re pretty sure the Medicare will come through because I have a permanent disability. Bloodwork alone costs $500 a month.”

To help with expenses, friends have organized a fundraiser to be held Saturday at Decades Bar and Grill. It includes a silent auction, raffle, food and live music. As long as he’s feeling good, Toews will be performing, alongside his stepson, Jake, 17.

“All this stuff is kind of strange to me,” Toews said of the fundraiser. “I’ve never depended on anyone.

“I’m pretty overwhelmed by the response with my friends’ efforts. It’s pretty remarkable.”

Decades Bar and Grill is holding the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hullabaloo fundraiser. It is to help those in the community who are in need. They chose Toews as their first recipient of the benefit.

An account has been set up for Toews at Wells Fargo Bank ” 8276415869, or mail to the Ron Toews Family Fund, P.O. Box 1506, Carson City, NV 89702.

There is also a bounty of silent auction items, most of them autographed, including NFL jerseys, footballs, NASCAR helmets and jackets.

“Many of these items have been donated,” said Teri Norgrove, who is organizing the fundraiser. “Mikki is my best friend and she and Ron are very dear to the heart.

“I’m doing this because they would do it for me or anyone else. I’d like to do this fundraiser every year to help out other families in years to come.”

Norgrove said she has her fingers crossed and is excited for Saturday’s fundraiser.

“I’ll feel better when we see all those classic cars, the music starts and people are eating,” she said.

“These are bad times for everybody. But I’d do this in a heartbeat. Mikki and Ron are that special. And her son, Jake Helget, is donating a dirt bike for the auction. It’s a 2000 Yamaha YZ-80. Now that’s special.”

Warren Engine Company No. 1 is providing the barbecue. Ron and Mikki are members of the volunteer group.

“The idea of this event was obviously agreed upon as a good one,” said Sean Nebeker, who is helping with organizing. “Agreeing on how to bring our ideas to life was another matter entirely.

“At the end of the day however, you remember why you are doing it. It’s about helping our good friend, Ron.”

“It’s all very frustrating without health insurance,” said Mikki Toews. “Doctors and hospitals test all the time for AIDS, why not for hep C?

“It can take up to 20 years for hepatitis to be known, unless you take a test. And people always think it’s a dirty disease, like with intravenous drug users. But one of the most common places to get it is a hospital.

“But, I’m facing the statistics, too. He has only a 30 percent chance of getting a liver.”

Mikki and Jake have been tested for hepatitis C. They are both negative.

“Being on the system isn’t much fun,” Ron added. “We try not to add up our expenses. I do feel fortunate enough to get disability, but that’s one-third of what I used to make.

“There’s a lot of people out there with a lot of (medical) problems. I’m just the tip of the iceberg.”

“If we’re not over, our expenses are right at $100,000,” Mikki said. “I feel like to get the help we need we have to be sneaky. You feel like you get abandoned.”

The only other choice the Toews feel they have is to legally separate and for Ron to move to Walker, Calif., to live with his mother and apply for Medicaid. As homeowners, they do not qualify for Medicaid.

“We just have to keep him stable until the transplant surgery in California,” Mikki said.

“We’re hoping for the surgery to take place at UC Davis or Stanford.”