Disabled mom, 3 children face bleak holiday

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The Mercury, originally uploaded by rsdscrpsnews.

Melanie was once employed full time, involved in her children’s school and a soccer mom on weekends. Now she’s disabled from a neurological disease called reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome.

She currently takes 28 medications a day, including Alzheimer’s medication.

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“Financially, it’s very devastating,” Melanie said. She has days that she just can’t get out of bed.

The disease starts in the bones and spreads to the muscles. As it spreads, it leaves osteoporosis behind.

“It’s similar to MS in that it’s progressive and it spreads,” Melanie said.

She has three children, ages 16, 12 and 3. They try to understand her condition, but they remember mom the way she was before the disease.

“It’s a disease that’s very devastating and it’s led my children to be very angry and very sad because there’s no cure,” Melanie said.

Last February, she was fitted for a wheelchair. They switched her medication, and over the summer Melanie was able to walk again. But as the cold sets in, she again loses her ability walk.

“The weather plays a huge part in it,” Melanie said.

Melanie said she’s very grateful that she will be assisted through The Mercury’s Operation Holiday program.

“Birthdays you can kind of blink through and get by with one present, but with Christmas you can’t do that,” Melanie said.

“With the little one, she knows what Santa Claus is. You have to have Christmas,” she added.

Doctors say the only hope for Melanie is a spinal treatment that reboots the nervous system and sympathetic nervous system.

In the United States, it has been performed at only two hospitals.

“I tried once to get approved for it and my insurance company turned it down, saying it was medically unnecessary,” Melanie said.

She’s not giving up though. Melanie is scheduled to see a specialist that she hopes will help her convince the insurance company that she needs the $50,000 surgery.

It is to offer hope to families like Melanie’s that The Mercury began its Operation Holiday tradition 14 years ago.

Last year, Operation Holiday, a nonprofit foundation administered by The Mercury, served 171 families and 475 children. The mission of Operation Holiday is to provide some Christmas happiness for the children of families who may be going through tough times.

The program has served thousands of families in the Pottstown area since it was established.

Operation Holiday recipients are screened and referred to the program by a dozen social service agencies in the Pottstown area. None of the money goes to agency programs or to people who live outside the area.

This year, The Mercury is seeking to help more than 100 families who are struggling through tough economic times or dealing with the financially devastating effects of illness or misfortune.

But this program is not possible without the assistance of Mercury readers. You can help bring the joy of the season to your neighbors and their children by making a contribution, however large or small, to Operation Holiday.

All donations go directly to assist those referred to the program. There is no overhead, as volunteers coordinate distribution of the gift certificates and buy, pack and deliver the groceries.

The names of all those who contribute to Operation Holiday, except those who ask to remain anonymous, will be published in The Mercury between now and Dec. 25.

Operation Holiday contributions may be dropped off at The Mercury’s office at Hanover and King streets in Pottstown or mailed to The Mercury, P.O. Box 484, Pottstown, PA 19464.Checks can be made payable to “Operation Holiday.”

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