34th Annual Jeffrey G. Hoeh Memorial Golf Scramble Recipients – 2023

Mike W. began his medical journey on January 24th, 2020. He fainted and fell into the corner of a brick building, cracking the back of his skull. Testing at the hospital revealed a massive brain bleed and the diagnosis was a traumatic brain injury (T.B.I), which required emergency surgery and a craniectomy was performed. After surgery Mike was in a medically induced coma for three days. When he finally woke up, he was paralyzed on the left side of his body, his dominant side, with slurred speech and memory loss. Mike was later transferred to the Drake Center for intensive speech, occupational and physical therapy. Mike was released to go home from the Drake center just before the lockdown with the coronavirus. Our home was turned into a hospital/therapy environment.  A lot of money was spent making our home handicap accessible. Speech and physical therapists came to the house two times a week. This continued until the actual bone piece, which was removed and kept in a freezer, was surgically replaced into his skull in July of 2020. During this time and even into 2021, Mike required ample doctor visits, therapy, and an enormous amount of medication. In August of 2021 Mike had major seizures and again was admitted to University Hospital. After many tests doctors discovered an infection in his brain in and around the bone piece they placed back into his skull and oral antibiotics were administered with no success. In mid-November the infected skull piece was removed, and Mike had to have 6-8 weeks of I.V. antibiotics. In February of 2022, a plastic piece was surgically placed into his skull. Mike never felt well after that surgery, experiencing yet again those excruciating migraines and dizziness. After more CT scans and neurosurgery visits, he was told that even though the infection was gone, fluid and air were accumulating in his skull, The neurosurgeon did drain this liquid several times, but his body had lost the ability to get rid of it naturally. In June of 2022 Mike had another surgery and they inserted a shunt into his skull underneath the plastic piece. Mike was informed that in time it may need to be replaced which would mean more intensive surgery to his skull. Mike’s injury has financially destroyed our family. Mike worked in masonry construction for almost thirty years and prior to the accident he had started his own business doing masonry work. At that time the only health insurance we were able to obtain was Obama Care. The monthly premium was over $1,000. During the last three years the premiums were outrageous and often did not cover much at all, and Mike hasn’t worked since January of 2020. We have maxed out several credit cards to try and keep the business afloat, but unfortunately the bus went under. Our savings are depleted, we borrowed from my IRA for major home repairs. I am the breadwinner and work full time, it is difficult to make ends meet— with the medical debts we have accumulated, we live paycheck to paycheck. Mike’s doctors say he will never return to work, as he is still on many medications and will have to take seizure medications for the rest of his life. Doctors have done continuous testing, and this will continue for the rest of his life, these tests are expensive and not fully covered by insurance. Mike’s life has changed forever, he has balance issues, tires easily and suffers from short term memory loss. Recently, following two days of having 36 focal seizures an hour, he had another five-day stay in the I.C.U and has been officially diagnosed with epilepsy. Driving is completely out of the picture for the time being, as well as many other day to day activities. This is our life now, and probably what our life will be like for the rest of Mike’s life.

Melissa “Missi” L. is married to Scott and is Mom to three children ages 14, 17 and 22.  She was diagnosed with Stage 2 HER-2 breast cancer on October 5, 2021. Missi worked as a teacher at Cincinnati Public Schools for 23 years, until mid- November 2021 when she had to stop working and take the rest of the year off due to the intensity of chemotherapy.  She would have chemo every Monday and be sick until Friday then start all over again.  Her chemotherapy lasted from the end of October 2021 until the end of March 2022, every week. During Thanksgiving, 2022, her chemotherapy medications caused an infection and made her extremely ill. She has hospitalized for a week while her care team tried to realign her medications. Her husband Scott took time off work to take care of her, and ultimately lost his job of 10 years in March 2022. Missi then had a double mastectomy in April of 2022 and had tissue expanders placed for reconstruction. Soon after those got infected and she was hospitalized again in May of 2022. After fighting off 2 infections and hospitalization, one of the tissue expanders ruptured, so she went through the process of getting another one inserted mid- January 2023.  Although Missi is currently cancer free, she is now getting ready to go through the reconstructive process. Scott (her husband) is also a cancer survivor from stage 4 testicular and stomach cancer at the age of 25.  He endured two massive pulmonary embolisms at that time and continues to suffer from the long-term effects of his cancer, 24 years ago.  He is currently seeking employment.

” I had no idea how expensive cancer could be.  Although I have good health insurance, the copays, out of pocket expenses for medications, hats, cancer caps, being off work, using all of my sick leave at once, puts us in a bad position to use charge cards for things that were completely unexpected.  Along with Scott losing his job, it’s just been so hard.  We were going to buy a house but now all of that is on hold” – Missi

Molly B. is the strongest person I know. In elementary school it became clear that she needed some extra help with schooling because the kids were making fun of her test scores, so I got her a tutor. She became my little worker bee.  She chose not to let this define her and went on to be a member of the National Honor Society, Teachers Academy and was chosen by her teachers to be a Link Crew leader and volunteered in the office throughout her high school career.  She ALWAYS finished what she started, even when it was physically or mentally challenging.  Things started to change during her senior year. Molly got a job at the local mall’s shoe store to save for furthering her education. During the second semester, her grades dropped drastically. She was exhausted and I was worried. She went to school, work, and home. Her social life became nonexistent because of the fatigue. This is when the doctor’s visits started as well.  In October 2021, after having issues with recurring throat infections she was hospitalized and diagnosed with a severe case of EBV and Mono.  The doctors told Molly that it would likely take 3 – 6 months for her to recover due to the severity of her case, therefore, Molly was forced to quit her job. As one could imagine, this was a very hard time for Molly. All her friends had been able to take the next step in life and go to college to work on future career paths. The phone calls and invitations stopped, and Molly’s life stood still but there was light at the end of the tunnel, she just needed to rest and heal. She started looking into what career path she wanted to take and excitedly submitted the paperwork to the Aveda Institute to become a cosmetologist. Molly wanted to be able to help others to feel beautiful and healthy, whether through hair or massage.  The issue was funding. Her plan to save for a year had not panned out so I decided the only option was to pull from my retirement funds so she could start in August of 2022.  The rest did not bring healing to Molly. She continued to have no energy, night sweats, nausea, extreme fatigue.  The day before Molly was to start at the Aveda Institute, she was diagnosed with grade 2, stage 3 follicular lymphoma. This is a cancer that is usually seen in adults over 60. This diagnosis upended Molly’s life in every way, including forcing her to once again, postpone her plans. Follicular lymphoma is incurable. Molly would never be completely free of the fear of it coming back unless and until a cure is found. The first step was to see the fertility doctor and harvest eggs in hopes that one day she would be able to have the family that she had dreamed of having. The fertility process is not covered by insurance and was extremely costly. Anyone who has had a loved one with cancer understands the financial burden and fears that come with this horrible disease. Each scan, each doctor’s visit, each treatment comes at a cost. In a way, we were blessed that I had taken the money out for Molly’s education to help but the financial aspect will be a lifelong burden as it is with any chronic illness. Treatment for follicular lymphoma consists of chemo and immunotherapy infusions on two back-to-back days every 28 days for six months. Once she has finished the sixth treatment, she will continue to receive treatments for another two years to help keep her body in remission. The doctors are hopeful that her remission will last 5 – 10 years and that when the cancer does reappear, there will be new treatments that may extend her life by decade(s). She continues to be the strongest person I know. Cancer is hard at any age, but she continues to fight and be strong. Molly’s goal through all of this was to not be hardened and angry, to fight through this with grace. When Molly has a goal, she gives it her all to accomplish it and I can say with no uncertainty that she IS achieving this goal.

Stefanie R.  is 44 years old. She married Marscilla in 2015 and they began building a beautiful life together. Their shared love for travel and good food has taken them on many beautiful life adventures. And their strong connections to family and friends have fostered a happy life full of love and laughter. Their lives were headed in an exciting direction. Stefanie had just accepted an offer for a new job. She called it her “dream job.” But before starting her new role, she traveled to San Antonio, Texas to lead a Human Resources Training. She was looking forward to returning home, taking a much needed beach vacation with family and then beginning a new chapter in her career as a Human Resources Manager for a great company here in Cincinnati. However, her life took an unexpected turn. Just hours before her flight home, she had a bad fall and suffered a spinal cord injury. She is now paralyzed from the chest, down. She was rushed to University Hospital in Texas where she had to undergo several emergency surgeries and dozens of procedures to mitigate life threatening conditions. Marscilla flew to Texas to be with Stefanie and never left her side. She spent 29 days in the ICU to stabilize her condition. Stefanie was intubated and then later had a tracheostomy which left her without a voice for quite a while. She and Marscilla remained in Texas for four and a half long months for continuity of care but being so far away from home, away from their friends and family during such a terrifying and trying time was devastating. She has gained some sensation in some parts of her body but she is unable to move her arms, hands, legs or feet. She was moved from the ICU to a long-term acute care facility in nearby San Antonio and then to a spinal rehabilitation facility. There, she spent several hours per day in therapy and was fitted for a custom wheelchair that she is learning how to operate by moving her head. Finally, on December 9, they got to come back to Ohio. They were transported by care flight to ensure her safe return. It was a sweet and long- awaited reunion with loved ones but coming home has presented a new series of challenges. They have had to leave their home and find one that can accommodate a wheelchair. They are faced with compounding medical debt and expenses, necessary home modifications and living accommodations, therapy and rehabilitation, not to mention the loss of Stefanie’s income. She was denied worker’s compensation.

Marscilla is now Stefanie’s caregiver. She must work a remote job so she can be at home to care for Stefanie. They are always exploring resources and equipment that will be beneficial in her recovery. There are tools out there that can allow Stefanie certain measures of independence but they all come at a cost. The most pressing demand will be a wheelchair accessible vehicle. This is one of many expenses that must be paid out of pocket. They are learning and adapting every single day as they face new challenges on this recovery journey. 

Erin P. is married to her husband Chris, and is Mom to two boys, ages 15 and 19. In March of 2021, following routine testing for an upcoming breast reduction surgery she fought insurance years to get, she was sent on a spiral of tests, biopsies, and surgeries. She did have her breast reduction in June, and then in November was back for what should have been a routine mammogram, but was diagnosed just a few days later with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Grade 3; triple-negative breast cancer, stage 2B. This is one of the rarest, most aggressive breast cancers, so treatment was going to be brutal. Treatment, which would consist of two 12-week phases, began just three days after Christmas 2021. She would be getting a total of four different chemotherapy drugs and two different immunotherapy drugs, as well as antihistamines, steroids, and anti-nausea medications at every treatment. Thankfully, her husband is in sales and works from home, so he was able to provide the round-the-clock care she often needed for days at a time over the 26 weeks of treatment. Prior to her diagnosis, she was going to school to finish her biology degree, but that was now put on hold. Chemo has since ended, and she has had a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. Currently she is getting immunotherapy treatments once every three weeks through the end of March 2023. After this, the revision process to her reconstruction begins, which can take a year or longer to complete as there is recovery time between each step.

“The financial burden is astronomical.” Thankfully, they have insurance and meet deductibles each year with the treatment regimen. Without it, Erin reports her billable medical expenses would have been over 2.2 million dollars. “We were pretty good at juggling and making things work with our current one-income situation, but since my diagnosis, keeping up with bills and everyday expenses has just been getting harder and more stressful each month.”