Helping Malea move
June 12, 2011, is a day that Ashley Graber will never forget.
That's the day her 7-month-old daughter Malea Fox, now 7, woke up in the morning and was sick — "not like her normal self," Graber said. Graber took her to the hospital, and after some tests, doctors said she had the flu and sent the family home.
Malea fell asleep at home, but when she woke up later she "had these little pinch marks all over her, like she had bruises." Graber rushed her daughter back to Astoria Hospital, near where she lived at the time, and soon was redirected to Oregon Health & Science University.
Her infant daughter was diagnosed with meningococcemia, an infection of the bloodstream caused by the same bacteria that causes meningitis. Meningococcemia occurs in one in 100,000 people.
Malea would end up spending 36 days in OHSU's pediatric intensive care unit, 67 days on the regular pediatrics floor, and 11 days in rehab.
"For the first nine days, they didn't know if she was going to make it or not," Graber told the Gazette, a slight tremble in her voice. "She was on life support the whole time. It was really awful."
But Malea did make it, and she's now a cheerful first-grader at Edy Ridge Elementary School who enjoys math an physical education classes. She's undergone more than 100 surgeries as a result of contracting meningococcemia as an infant — one of her wrists is fused together with a rod because of bone growth abnormalities caused by the disease, she's needed a lot of skin grafts, and both her legs have been amputated below the knee.
At Malea's old school in Salem, she got to use a Rifton Bike — essentially a wheelchair with pedals — to move around. But now that she's at a new school, she no longer has access to one.
"I wish I still had it," Malea said about the bike.
And even if the family did have access to a Rifton Bike, it'd be hard to transport it in Graber's small Kia Rio.
That's where Angie Cain comes in. A Sherwood resident, nurse and former coworker of Graber's, Cain recently founded DX Share Life, which raises funds for families facing medical challenges. Cain said she was inspired to start the organization after realizing that most fundraising sites and organizations keep fees for themselves, rather than giving 100 percent of donations to patients' families.
"As a nurse, I was like, 'That's not right,'" Cain said. "A core value is that we give back to people who need it.'"
DX Share Life will host a fundraiser for a new Rifton Bike for Malea, and a larger car for Graber, at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 9, at Generations Bar and Grill in Sherwood. It will include pizza and cupcakes for kids, and a live band starting at 8 p.m. for adults.
Cain has spent some time with Malea, and said that it's "amazing to me how positive she is."
"My goal was to help them," she added, "so that she could be successful and have every opportunity that every kid should have."