SOUTH KINGSTOWN – It’s been a long road to recovery for Elizabeth Bergan, but last Thursday she was back doing what she loves most, volunteer-ing her time to the YMCA’s Reading to Rover program for children.
“I needed to get back to mak-ing people smile again. I have my mobility back and will be doing a lot more reading,” said Bergan from the Peace Dale School Library.
Bergan, 45, has participated in the Reading to Rover program along with her dog Marley since 2003. The program was created by the South County YMCA and it utilizes dogs, along with reading, to promote literacy amongst young children.
On Thursday, Bergan came to the Peace Dale School to read McDuff Saves the Day to pre-schoolers in the YMCA after school program.
The reading was performed, in part, by eight-year-old Derek Smith of Peace Dale who vol-unteered to read to the pre-schoolers, and also by Bergan.
The book was fittingly about the adventures of a little white terrier. To go along with the story, Bergan dressed up her big black dog Marley as a groom because, as she told the children, he was “celebrating his 5th anni-versary to Holly,” a golden lab that was also there. Another dog, Ziggy, was amusingly pushed around in a carriage, playing the role of baby.
Bergan really loves partici-pating in Reading to Rover, however, her participation in the program was cut short for much of last year due to a serious health problem.
In December 2005 Bergan was diagnosed with Chronic Re-gional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). Affecting mostly the arms and legs, CRPS is characterized by intense burning or aching pain, swelling, and alternating hot and cold temperatures.
Bergan’s pain developed after a 2002 car accident required her to have several back and neck surgeries. After her third back surgery in March 2006, scar tis-sue formed on the nerves that affect her limbs, causing a de-bilitating condition.
After searching for a cure, Bergan found a doctor in Texas who could perform a special op-eration to remove the scar tissue, but Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island denied her cover-age three times, citing that the operation was “experimental.”
“Blue Cross covers the proce-dure in Texas and in 17 others states, but they don’t cover it here because they said Blue Cross is run differently in each state.”
Instead of continuing to fight with Blue Cross, Bergan opted to pay out of the pocket and flew to Texas with her husband David in December 2006 to have the operation.
“The pain is much better now, I can get around with a cane in-stead of having to use a walker.”
While the procedure was suc-cessful in relieving much of the pain, the cost was extremely high.
“The operation, along with travel expenses cost over $25,000. The pain medication I still take costs $2,000 per month, but Blue Cross at least covers that,” she explained.
To help cover the costs, Ber-gan’s friends and family have organized a fundraiser for her entitled “Lizfest ’07” to be held at the Elks Lodge in Wakefield on May 12.
The fundraiser will feature three bands, The Westmoreland Street Jammers, Blues Therapy, and Enuff. It will also feature a silent auction, a raffle, a buffet, dancing, pizza and a bar.
Even though Bergan said she is feeling better, she still has some minor pain issues and will soon be getting a spinal stimu-lator installed in her stomach that will send electrical currents through her nervous system to alleviate the rest of her pain.
Bergan said she has received an immense amount of support from her friends and family throughout this entire ordeal, and is now just glad to be back volunteering.
“The children who Read to Rover bring joy and hope to my heart, it brightens my week.”
After the first book had been read, the preschoolers, anxiously awaiting their chance to play with the dogs, sprang forward to brush and pet Marley the other dogs.
As the children joyously played with the dogs around Bergan, YMCA Program Di-rector Cathie DeCesare, took a moment to reflect on what Ber-gan has meant to their program.
“She has been with us since the beginning in 2003. She brings a unique and special way of connecting to the children. She bonds very deeply with the kids and is a cherished YMCA volunteer.”