MECHANIC FALLS – The obstacles are piled so high they seem like they could topple any moment.
To get 20 feet of new intestine to save her life, Cindy Henson, mother of three and grandmother to six, must either raise $25,000 to charter a private airplane to fly her within four to six hours to Nebraska for a transplant operation, or move out there while she waits for the transplant call from the hospital.
The only bowel transplant center in the country is in Omaha, Henson said. If a bowel – an intestine – is available, she needs to be at Leid Transplant Center as soon as possible to receive it. If she doesn’t have the transplant, doctors here predict she will live another six months to one year.
Either way, she has to raise a large amount of money for what’s not covered by insurance. And a garage sale is at least a start. Friends and family have donated items to sell, and someone will even be cooking hot dogs at 63 Walker Road in Mechanic Falls this Saturday and Sunday. The sale starts at 10 a.m. and wraps up at 4 p.m.
“It’s just the first thing we’re doing,” Henson’s husband, Jim, said Tuesday. “We have to come up with a lot of money.”
Jim, 44, is a certified nursing assistant who works at the Barron Center, a nursing home in Portland. His insurance covers 100 percent of the transplant costs and 80 percent of the medications. But it won’t cover many extraneous costs, like the chartered airplane
Cindy Henson, 48, has an ethereal air about her – she has red hair, her skin is pale, and her eyes are large and emotive.
She was diagnosed at 21 with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, which caused her to lose her colon and part of her large intestine.
Seven years ago, an operation that removed three-fourths of her small intestine debilitated her, and her body is worn down with chronic infections, blood clots, and dehydration from not being able to retain much nutrition and fluid.
And that’s just the beginning. She needs dentistry work before she goes into surgery to reduce the potential for infection, she needs to cover living expenses while she and her husband remain for six months in Nebraska post-surgery, and then she needs to pay for the medications that will sustain her after the operation.
“It’s mostly him,” Henson said Tuesday, looking at Jim, sitting in the chair next to her in their Mechanic Falls trailer. The two have been married 15 years. “He won’t let me stop. It can’t get worse than this. It can only get better.”
“Four times the hospital has said, “Call the family, she’s not going to make it,” Jim said about his wife’s frequent visits to the hospital during the past few years. “For some reason, she’s not ready to go.”
In addition to the yard sale, the couple has opened an account under the name “Cindy Henson Transplant Fund” at TD BankNorth for anyone who wants to donate. Henson said she even wrote to Donald Trump. And Jim said he will set up a stand at Oxford Plains Speedway to sell his NASCAR memorabilia.
“There’s still so much to do,” Henson said. “I want to enjoy myself. I feel like I’m missing so much. I’m not able to play with my grandkids. I want to be more independent.”
She looked at Jim. “He gets mad at me when I get discouraged.”