During the past couple of years, we’ve all been made aware of a disease, virulent enough to weaken, disable, or even kill us. COVID-19 has caused us to rethink the body’s ability to deal with a virus that descended upon us suddenly, and with vicious potency. Most of us have been blessed to have easy access to the vaccinations that serve to reduce our vulnerability to infection.
I’m sure we’d all agree that good health is the greatest blessing life can offer. It’s also axiomatic that, if you’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy good health throughout your life, you’re probably going to take that blessing for granted. That’s not unusual because if you’ve always had something, you don’t know what it’s like to be without it.
Therefore, from time to time it may be a good idea to see what it’s like for those who have struggled with challenges to their health. One such person is Emily Klamkin, a 34 year-old Flower Mound woman who knows about such challenges. In July 2018, I did a video interview with Flower Mound resident Susie Klamkin, whose daughter Emily was born with intestinal pseudo-obstruction, which was caused by mitochondrial disease. After she was born, it took 4 years for the doctors to figure out that she had this condition, along with chronic pancreatitis; and it took 7 years for them to diagnose her mitochondrial disease. At the age of 13, she lost her large intestine and most of her small intestines.
Since birth, Emily has endured numerous challenges to her health. The intestinal pseudo-obstruction and chronic pancreatitis along with her mitochondrial disease caused almost constant strokes and seizures. It was determined that Emily has a chance for a new life with a 5-organ transplant, which will cost about $2 million. Former Flower Mound Mayor Tom Hayden read the story and watched the video I made with Emily’s mom, and he came up with the idea for a fundraiser to help the family with the enormous expense.
Tom enlisted the aid of restaurant owners in Lakeside who agreed to supply the food and drinks for the event. Then he spoke to the owner of the Circle R Ranch in Flower Mound who donated the venue for the evening of September 2, 2018. Next, he asked if local resident and nationally known entertainer David Magee would consider performing for that special night. Dave, who has donated his talent freely to good causes many times over the years, was happy to oblige. Reaching out to other goodhearted people throughout the community, Tom soon heard back from Texas State Rep. Tan Parker, who put his considerable influence behind the event. Moreover, Rep. Parker co-hosted the fundraiser with Tom Hayden. The funds raised aided the Klamkins in their move to Miami, Florida, where they lived within a few miles of the hospital that was capable of performing such an operation. The following comes from Emily’s mom, Susie Klamkin, who talks about their long, fruitless wait and their ultimate return to Flower Mound.
“Once we got to Miami, part of her pre transplant testing was an ECHO. It showed a very large blood clot covering the right chamber of her heart. She went in for emergency surgery. They did further tests to see if there were more. Emily’s lungs are filled with blood clots that the doctor said looks like popcorn throughout. She needed to be treated for these before being listed. The anesthesiologist felt comfortable putting her back on the list. She’s been in and out of the hospital with various gastrointestinal problems as well as bacteria and infections.
“COVID hit the transplant world hard. We were told that donors went down by 65%. In January, her surgeon told us that multi organ transplants are second in line to single livers. The cost of living was extremely high, on top of all medical bills. We saw no end in sight and made the tough decision to move home. We couldn’t do it without having a way to get back in the allotted time once she is offered a donor. We were turned down by all medical flights that they couldn’t get her back in time. A very kind man offered his plane to get us back quickly, no matter the time of day or night. We’re still waiting. It’s frustrating, sad, helpless. We know God has the perfect Angel donor for her. So, we thank God for the time the sweet child has with their family.”
In the video interview below, Peter and Susan Klamkin talk about the past three years in Miami, waiting for the call that will give their daughter a new life. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the Klamkin’s expenses: Fundraiser by Susie Cornes Klamkin: Emily’s Transplant Fund (gofundme.com)