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MaryJo and John Horton of the Roscoe area have had to deal with his illness and rising medical and other expenses. The community will hold a fundraiser for the family on July 31.
Community stands behind Hortons
Story by Jeanne Sager
COOKS FALLS July 26, 2013 For five months, MaryJo Horton has felt like her husband was a puzzle waiting to be solved.
John Horton landed in Catskill Regional Medical Center in Harris with strep pneumonia in February. Within 24 hours, he was on the critical care unit on life support. His kidneys had quit, his labs were all off, and there was no explaining it.
Slowly, he got better. He spent three weeks in CRMC, two of them on the CCU, then went home to recuperate. By the beginning of May, the father of four was back at work as a secure treatment aide at New York State’s Broome Developmental Center in Binghamton. Still, something wasn’t right.
“He seemed perkier, but he was always tired,” MaryJo recalled. “He couldn’t even stand up to do the dishes.”
Then came the breathing problems. The father of four woke his wife up in the middle of the night in June, struggling to breathe.
For three weeks, the family went back and forth with pulmonologists, trying one thing after another. Finally a CT scan showed swelling and a collapse in the bottom of the lungs. Steroids, the doctors thought, would fix that.
Then John began retaining fluid.
“We thought it was a side effect of the steroids,” MaryJo recalled. “What do I know? I sell insurance!”
But he kept retaining fluid, so much so that on July 5, the night that their 15-year-old daughter, Ceili, broke her wrist while four-wheeling with some friends, she made mention of the fluid at the emergency room. The family friend at Grover Hermann Hospital in Callicoon with her that night had medical training. He urged her to take John to the hospital.
So she did.
“I literally drove Ceili home, got her settled, and then I drove John to Harris,” MaryJo recalls.
He was admitted immediately, weighing 242 pounds. When she took him home a week later, he’d lost 31 pounds all fluid.
But the second time in CRMC was crucial. The doctors began running tests, tests that indicated John should visit a different specialist at Crystal Run. On July 17, they went to Crystal Run and were told they needed to head to Mt. Sinai in New York City immediately.
They had their answer to the puzzle: John had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells of the blood, and amyloidosis, a rare blood disorder that was complicating the myeloma, depositing protein in John’s organs. Working in concert, the two can cause pneumonia, it can cause the kidneys to shut down. The Hortons turned to family and friends to care for Ceili, and 8-year-old Jackson, the youngest two of their four kids, and they made the trip to New York City.
Since then, John has been in Mt. Sinai undergoing chemotherapy. Most myeloma patients can go home during chemo, but John’s organs have been ravaged by the cancer and amyloidosis together. Doctors say he has to stay put.
That means he’s out of work and out of sick time from the state he’s used up so much being sick that he’s been cut to half pay unless other state workers volunteer some of their sick time to keep things going. MaryJo, who works for Mike Preis Insurance in Callicoon, has also run through her sick and personal time caring for John.
That’s where Roscoe Cares has stepped in. A group of Roscoe residents who try to lend a hand when a hand is needed, they’ve planned a benefit spaghetti dinner for Wednesday, July 31, to help the Horton family cover their growing expenses.
Lisa Chesney, one of the benefit’s organizers, went to high school with both John and MaryJo at Roscoe Central School, the school Jackson and Ceili attend, the school the Hortons’ eldest daughters, Katelyn and Kerry graduated from.
A fundraiser for them, she said, was a no-brainer.
“In Roscoe, you learn at a very young age that you give back,” Chesney said. “It’s just what you do.”
When word went out on Facebook that John was in the hospital, Chesney and co-organizer Debbie Hendrickson immediately threw themselves into planning. They were able to get donated food from local restaurants and everything from a brand new fishing pole to a set of women’s golf clubs for raffle prizes.
“What really amazed me was that in less than 24 hours, this was planned,” MaryJo said of the fundraiser. “I’m grateful and I’m humbled. I love my town. When I can return the favor after all of this, I will.”
Lisa Chesney and Debbie Hendrickson have organized a fundraising dinner on Wednesday, July 31 from 58 p.m. at the Roscoe Community Center, and gluten-free pasta will be available.
There will be a free will offering, and for those who cannot attend, checks made out to John Horton can be sent to John Horton C/O M&T Bank PO box 253 Roscoe, NY 12776.
For information, call Lisa Chesney, 439-4423, or Debbie Hendrickson, 607-498-5329.