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Leon Rayevich was diagnosed in 2018 with a rare lung disease that he contracted while working in airplane maintenance for the Air Force, and now he and his family are in need of financial help

PHOTO COURTESY OF LEON AND MARGIE RAYEVICH. - Leon and Margie Rayevich have been married for 45 years. Leon was diagnosed in 2018, and recently was placed on a donor list for a double lung transplant.Approximately four years ago, 63-year-old Leon Rayevich was diagnosed with a lung disease, even though he was an otherwise healthy man.

Rayevich is currently in Seattle, Washington, awaiting a double lung transplant. Family and friends have set up a go-fund me account to help the family with expenses, which continue to multiply. Rayevich is a United States Airforce veteran, and recently put in his last day, as he is on a family medical leave from Les Schwab Tires, and hopes to return to work once he has new lungs. His wife, Margie, and his son and three grandchildren remain temporarily in Prineville, with Margie going back and forth from Seattle. The family is facing a multitude of expenses.

Leo Rayevich grew up in the small town of Bridge, Oregon. He graduated from Myrtle Point High School in 1977. Upon graduation, he married his high school sweetheart, Margie, and joined the United States Airforce the same year. He served 20 years of active duty in the Airforce, retiring in 1998.

While serving in the Airforce, Leon worked in aircraft maintenance. It is speculated that he was exposed to toxic chemicals, such as airplane jet fuel. In 2018, Leon was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a terminal illness that causes scarring of the air sacs of the lungs. The only treatment for this condition is a lung transplant.

"Its really hard. It has been a lot and not an easy process like people may think," Margie commented of the long journey to get him on a donor list. "You see these things on "Grey's Anatomy" or whatever — it's not like that. Every test and every poke and prod to this poor man that you can imagine. Even to get qualified to get on the list was about an eight-month-long process. It has been one doctor's appointment after another."

Leon received the news on Oct. 27 that he was officially on the donor list. Margie indicated that he is done with testing right now.

"He is prime candidate, because health-wise, he is super healthy, and he has always taken care of himself. He is very physically fit, except for these lungs," Margie said.

She added that when the diagnosis was made, it caught them by surprise. They found the spots in his lungs on a CT scan for a kidney stone. A note was included: "See spots on lungs, please follow up." Margie was working for St. Charles Pulmonary at the time.

"Nothing happened for a long time. He was fine, and then about one-year-and-a half ago, he just starting tanking. He could not climb anywhere, he could not hunt, he could not get out and do anything really active without coughing and coughing."

Leon soon gave in to using oxygen. He was also allowed to use oxygen at work.

Leon began working for Les Schwab Tires in 1999, after he was retired from the Airforce. He physically went on family medical leave at Les Schwab at the end of October. Margie was caught in the layoffs from St. Charles in June 2022. This impacted their health insurance. Margie and Leon began the process to get him on the donor list, and eventually, the Veterans Administration also covered some of the costs.

In the meantime, Leon is required to live in Seattle Washington, where he needs to be on standby for a potential donor. The lung transplant is matched by blood type and the size of the person. His blood type is O positive, and an average wait time is three to six months.

"We are hoping it is much faster than that," said Margie.

Once he has the transplant surgery, Leon will be in the hospital for approximately three weeks. If all goes well, he will be sent back to his hotel suite for three to four months. He is required to having full time caregivers, who need to be family or friends who are committed to staying with him. With Margie needing to be in Prineville part of the time, her half-sister and husband, Vickie and Rick Tungate, who are retired, have volunteered. They are caregiver one and two, and Margie is caregiver number three.

"Once he comes home, caregivers have to take him to all appointments and be present for everything. They have to go through all of these doctor appointments with us. We all had to attend every meeting, and we met countless practitioners, doctors and surgeons."

She went on to say, "What an amazing gift they have given us, one we can never repay."

Margie concluded that she wanted to give a shout out to Leon's supervisors and managers at Les Schwab.

"They have really been great for us and him. We kind of do one bridge at a time — that is all he can do."

Margie and Leon have been married for 45 years, and they have three children and 10 grandchildren. They also share their home with their son and his three children who are seven, nine, and 11. The process of getting through this incident is trying on the family both mentally, emotionally, and financially.

Margie's sister, Chris Johnston, is also trying to help the family by being a drop-off point at her place of employment at Slater Chiropractic.

"If people want to share anything — whatever that may be," said Johnston.

She added that if someone drops off an item like meat, gas cards or other tangible items, they can leave it at this drop-off point.

If you wish to contribute to the go-fund me campaign, it is: Fundraiser for Margie Rayevich by Patty Jo Thurman Bumbarger : Leon Rayevich's Lung Transplant Fundraiser (gofundme.com).

For Slater Chiropractic, the address is 240 NW Claypool St, Prineville, OR 97754.

Sidebar

If you wish to contribute to the go-fund me campaign, it is: Fundraiser for Margie Rayevich by Patty Jo Thurman Bumbarger : Leon Rayevich's Lung Transplant Fundraiser (gofundme.com)

For Slater Chiropractic, address is: 240 NW Claypool St, Prineville, OR 97754


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