Glenwood Springs man could use some help |

Glenwood Springs man could use some help

Stina Siegssieg@postindependent.comGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado You never know what anybody is going through.Those were Kathy Springer-Lechugas words, but anyone in the Lechuga family could have said them. To look at Kathy and her husband, Don (aka Mo), sitting with their son, Chris, and his wife, Christi Slater-Lechuga, you wouldnt have thought anything was wrong. They seemed refreshed and were smiling and laughing, telling stories. But theyve had some time to get used to this thing. Or as used to it as people can be when someone they love is so sick.Though hes only 23, Chris is going through the kind of thing that usually strikes people in old age. His kidneys have failed. Diagnosed with Bergers disease in August of this year, hes currently waiting for a new kidney. Though theres a good chance someone in his family will be a match, theres still the issue of the procedures cost, which hovers somewhere above $100,000. Though Medicare will pay for much of his expenses, he still has to come up with 20 percent. Add onto that his share of the $9,000 per week dialysis treatments and his future lifetime of medication, and his situation seems unbelievable especially to everyone whos in it with him.Its like this only happens to other people, said Don. But thats just not the case.It all started with what Chris thought was a stomach ulcer. He went into the hospital at his home in Colorado Springs and got a biopsy. After leaving, he ended up getting a call at 3 a.m. He imagined it was a friend drunk dialing him, but actually it was the hospital, informing him his tests had come back extremely abnormal. He came in the next day and was whisked to the emergency room. For 10 days, he was in this alternate world of testing and prodding until the final word was handed down. He needed a new kidney and dialysis until he could get it. Soon, he found out that hed been fired from his new job as cameraman at a local television station. His medical insurance hadnt even kicked in yet.Chris described the experience with a joke: It was sort of like taking a vacation that wasnt fun.Amazingly enough, all of the Lechugas have that sort of lightheartedness about them, though theyre certainly weary as well. Theyre so ready to move on, but Chris body wont let them yet.As much as it affects him, it affects me. It affects his parents, said Christi. Everythings different.And everyone is working as hard as they can. For Christi, it means taking on a part-time job at a liquor store to supplement her full-time graphic design career. She drives Chris to his dialysis treatments three times a week and hangs out with all the old people accompanying their spouses.Basically, its just like being a senior citizen, she said, smiling. We just about dont go to the early bird special at the Golden Corral. Thats about it.At first, she went on, she was angry that this was her life now. She didnt want to have to fight the insurance companies and Medicare just to take care of her man. Eventually, she settled into it, though. She knew she couldnt change it, no matter how much effort and love she threw at the issue. She had to accept it was what it was.Still, in her words, Nobody gives you a book about how to deal when someone says your husband might die.Or your son. Though Chris parents looked composed, they way they spoke about their life was heartbreaking.There probably isnt a day when my eyes arent watering, thinking about the whole thing, said Don.And hes not even a crier. Yet, when he remembers what he was doing at Chris age, the full force of the situation hits him. All those things Don took for granted when he was young, from drinking to being able to take a vacation, are over for Chris at the moment. Don just wants him to be better, whatever it takes. Gone are his thoughts of retiring soon or getting a Harley. Now, if he has to sell trinkets on the side of the road to help Chris out, so be it. I think of all the places I wanted to go, Don said. I think those places have gone away. And God has other plans for me now.Kathy stays positive by keeping busy and sometimes sharing her story with people. Shes thrown herself into this upcoming fundraiser. Though she knows this experience is far from optimal, shes sure theres still some good thats come out of it. The connection her family has felt in the last few months is a real affirmation of how much they care about each another.Its brought us all closer than we have been because of it, she said.That goes for their relationship with the community, as well. Valley locals for years, the Lechuga kids grew up in Glenwood and went to school there, and Kathy and Don now live in Carbondale. They must all be beloved, because since all this started, theyve been heaped with help. The bands playing at Chris benefit, for example, volunteered their time, and the prizes for the auction were donated by local businesses. Chris old boss, Bill Deckerman, decided to make the couples car payments for six months, and the family has received numerous donations from organizations like the Church at Carbondale. Kathy has even had nine people approach her, asking if they could donate their kidneys to her son.I always thought that if I needed this community, it would be there, she said. And now Im finding I was right.She had this happy shock in her voice, as did Christi and Don. No one, though, seemed as surprised as Chris himself. Soft-spoken and low-key, he didnt talk much about being scared or in pain. He just acted thankful, and almost bashful, too.Its huge, he said, of the support hes felt. And its come from so many places. Its kind of hard to process it all.He explained that it felt good to know that all that caring was in the community, but it was humbling at the same time. Im not really anything special, so I dont know why it should be so strong out there for me, he said.After a moment, he added, I havent done anything to deserve it, thats why.Happily, theres a whole valley of people who disagree.Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111ssieg@postindependent.comPost Independent Glenwood Springs CO Colorado

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