Family raising funds for medical care
Drew Ogden uses the bathroom about 30 times a day and must eat about every two to three hours – day and night – just to survive.
The 47-year-old Richmond man and father and step-father to five children is down to 105 pounds and has almost none of his intestines and colon left. They’ve been removed pieces at a time through multiple surgeries to save his life as he battles Crohn’s disease.
In a couple weeks he will embark on a temporary move to Florida where he will await a life-saving intestinal transplant at Jackson Memorial Hospital – Miami Transplant Institute.
Crohn’s is an incurable, chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the digestive tract. Ogden was diagnosed with it at age 14. It has limited his life for the past 32 years and at times almost taken it.
“The last two years have been a very long challenge,” he said.
By the end of 2017, Ogden had undergone 15 surgeries – seven of them in the last two years.
“I went septic twice,” he said.
Through those surgeries he has lost 14 feet of his bowels, including most of his colon (large intestine) and a large portion of his small intestine. He has been diagnosed with intestinal failure and is in a constant state of malnutrition and dehydration. Without most of his intestine, his body cannot absorb nutrients and food goes right through him, hence the need to continually eat and use the bathroom.
To help him survive and to bolster his body for his journey to Florida, Ogden has a port installed in his chest and liquid nutrition is pumped directly into his system. The total parenteral nutrition (TPN) therapy is only temporary, as long-term use causes the liver and circulatory systems to deteriorate and fail.
“I have no energy. This allows me to maintain,” he said, holding up the portable TPN bag.
Life hasn’t been easy for Ogden. He has two daughters from his previous marriage. Anna, his wife of four years, has two young sons from her previous marriage. Together, they have 3-year-old Caden. In addition to the pain and inconvenience related to Crohn’s, he has also battled kidney stones. He estimates he has passed about 400 so far. It crushes Ogden emotionally to not be the husband and father he wants to be. All three boys are under the age of nine and remember him being vibrant and playful.
“They know things are going on,” he said. “They know I’m sick. They want me to be better. They just don’t understand the gravity of what it all means.”
Ogden works in finance and started a new job nearly three years ago. After working nine months he had to take a medical leave. For two years he has been on disability, but is assured of having his job back once he gets healthy. Anna operates a couple of home-based businesses and is a substitute teacher – whenever she can leave her husband long enough to do it.
“I’m a caretaker for him,” she said.
In addition to caring for Drew, she has the three young boys to care for, her businesses to run and the stress of maintaining the household on a very limited budget. The grocery bill is outrageous with Drew needing to eat all the time, plus the growing boys. She said the financial stress is only going to get worse as Drew will need a small apartment in Florida. She will stay here to maintain the home and provide stability for the children.
“We take it day-by-day and pray about it,” she said. “I’m willing to do anything for him to get better and have a quality of life.”
Drew said there were no options for him locally. Intestinal transplants are rare and despite the massive size of the Houston Medical Center, no one does that surgery here.
“There are six facilities in the country that do this and the one in Florida is the closest, biggest and best,” he said.
In order to be on the transplant list, he must live close by and be ready at a moment’s notice when a matching donor becomes available.
“It’s based on priority and need,” he said. “There are about 270 people on the waiting list and most wait a year.”
Aside from being away from his family, his biggest regret is potentially missing his oldest daughter’s wedding this summer. He would hate to miss it, but realizes there may not be a choice depending on the timing of his surgery. His time is very limited without a transplant.
To help the family through this crisis, Anna set up a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising $50,000. The money will help with food, lodging, and transportation for Drew as well as some of the medical expenses not covered by insurance.
“I have seen him suffer too much and I am willing to do anything to help such a great husband, father to 5, and an only son to his mother,” Anna wrote on the page. “The money you so graciously decide to give will be used on his medical bills, lodging in Miami, Florida, transportation and food. It would mean the world for Drew to have healthy intestines so that he can not only get off disability and return to work, but for Drew just to have some kind of quality life with his family and friends. Without the transplant, he more than likely only has a few years left to live.”
Drew said his quality of life will not improve but slowly deteriorate without the transplant.
“I’m a fighter,” he said. “I’ll keep going.”
Anna said she is grateful to those who have already donated, as well as to those who have yet to donate.
“We will never be able to express our gratitude for your giving and prayers,” she said. “Thank you so much.”
To learn more or to contribute, visit https://www.gofundme.com/drew039s-intestinal-transplant-fund?member=14282.