RESPIRATORY HEALTH

Donations bring critically ill Maryland woman home from Alaska

 Strangers helped bring a severely ill Maryland woman home from Alaska after a GoFundMe page raised more than $61,000 to pay for a medical flight. Nancy Greathouse, 71, was on a two-week cruise with her husband in April, when she suffered a respiratory crisis and had to be medically evacuated from the ship to a hospital in Juneau, Alaska.

According to the GoFundMe page, doctors were unable to treat Greathouse and she was transferred to Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage, where she was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis and placed in the critical care unit for 20 days.

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Myasthenia is a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in the skeletal muscles that control breathing and moving parts of the body, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH). There is no known cure, although treatment may help control symptoms.

The fundraising page described her condition as terminal, and while she was taken off the ventilator, doctors did not consider her stable enough to fly commercial.

“Mom Nancy wants to come home to Maryland; she does not want to die in Alaska,” a post on the page said. “Mom Nancy has almost used up all her Medicare supplemental insurance money to cover her medical stay in Alaska. She needs to be transferred home before July 27th, 2017 to avoid using up her Medicare lifetime benefit.”

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A local church reached out to Alaska Dispatch News to arrange a possible interview, which helped the fundraising efforts gain traction.

“It happened so quickly; it was a huge surprise,” Fresia Kelley, Greathouse’s daughter-in-law, told Alaska Dispatch News.

A July 27 post on the GoFundMe page announced Greathouse’s arrival in Maryland.

“Yesterday, I took off work and got to spend the day with Mom Nancy,” her son, Daniel, wrote Friday. “Thank you to all those who donated, whether big or small, you have been a blessing to our family that has made this reunion possible. Thank you for all the prayers and encouraging words we appreciate it.”