By Polly Keary, Editor
Two weeks ago, Monroe’s Bailey family got a miracle.
Now, friends of the family are trying to provide one more.
After more than 10 years of struggle (and some spectacularly bad luck) Casey Bailey, 31, two weeks ago got a complete heart transplant.
He and his family also got a massive pile of bills.
So now friends are rallying to help the family get back on its feet while Casey gets back on his.
Casey started having heart trouble when he was 19, a year after he married his high school sweetheart. He was on a hunting trip in Utah when his pulse began to race out of control. That was the beginning of ever-worsening problems with his heart. No one knew exactly what was wrong with his heart, but doctors took increasingly drastic measures to keep the young man alive.
He was able to work, and had a good career at Johnson and Johnson, but his health kept worsening.
He averaged two surgeries a year every year since he was 19, but nothing corrected the problem.
For a while, a pacemaker that shocked his heart every time it went into arrhythmia kept him going.
But two years ago a freak accident destroyed the pacemaker and nearly killed him.
“He was out chopping wood for a fire we were going to have,” said Keri, “Ironically, we were celebrating a whole year without a surgery.”
Casey spotted a hammer and set it on top of the nearby doghouse. Then he worried that the hammer could slide off and hit the dog. So he grabbed the hammer and tossed it on the woodpile.
“I came downstairs and he said, ‘I think I just got shocked,’” said Keri. “He looked down and he was bleeding.”
They got to the hospital to find that a fragment of metal had flown off the hammer, punctured Casey’s chest and come to rest right on top of the pacemaker.
That necessitated anther surgery, this time to replace the pacemaker with another on the other side of Casey’s heart. But then twice infection set in.
Finally, half of Casey’s heart was completely non-functional. It had to be operated artificially by a pump. Casey, once fairly active, was nearly immobilized. And he needed ‘round-the-clock supervision, in case his heart stopped working altogether.
Keri, a cosmetologist, had to quit her job. Casey was on disability, but that wasn’t nearly enough to cover the bills, and the family eventually went through all their savings.
But at least the doctors at the University of Washington finally identified the problem with Casey’s heart. It was a rare genetic mutation, and the only hope for Casey’s long-term survival was a heart transplant.
At first, Casey’s insurance company refused to pay for the $1 million procedure. But a doctor finally convinced them of the necessity of the transplant. The company agreed to pay half the cost. The Baileys would be responsible for the rest.
Concerned, friends began supporting a fundraiser for his family at the crowdsourcing site GiveForward.com, with a goal of $45,000 to help the family meet immediate expenses.
In the meantime, on Nov. 13, Casey got a break. While in the ER feeling sick after an iron transfusion, he learned that a heart and been found.
At 8 a.m. Nov. 14, he finally got a heart that works.
Since then, life has dramatically improved.
Immediately after waking up, Casey wanted to get up and walk, said Keri. Six hours later, he did.
Just days after the surgery, he was feeling astonishingly well.
“He has never in his life felt this good,” said Keri. “Never.”
But right away, expenses started to pile up.
For the first several months he is required to take heavy steroids and anti-rejection drugs.
“One prescription was $4,000 a month,” said Keri. “That was before the insurance; our portion is $500. But we have to do that one for three months.”
For the family of four, with two boys, 11 and 13, in the Monroe School District, that was a lot.
But so far 163 people have donated more than $21,000, and that money goes straight to Casey’s University of Washington account, which helps pay for the drugs, as that’s where Casey fills his prescriptions.
Soon, Keri hopes, both she and her husband will be able to go back to work.
And even though they are facing up to half a million dollars in medical debt, she says once they are working, they’ll handle it.
“It’s worth it,” she said. “Life is worth it.”
To learn how to help the Bailey family, visit www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/8gw1/caseysheart.