The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Beka Compton
The Times 

Former Dayton resident receives lung transplant, asks for help with medical costs

Fred Banks received a life-saving transplant in April 2020, and has lifelong medical costs for medication, care

 

SEQUIM—After years of misdiagnosis, incorrect treatment, and fighting for each breath, former Dayton resident Fred Banks received a bilateral lung transplant in 2020. Now, his family is reaching out for help with the resulting medical costs.

Banks was born and raised in Dayton before moving to Prescott and then to Walla Walla, where he and his wife Berniece raised three children. In 2015, he moved to Sequim, Washington, to be closer to a granddaughter battling childhood leukemia. Fortunately, his young granddaughter is in remission and doing well today.

However, the road to restored health for Banks has been a long one, according to his daughter, Karie Banks-Wellsandt. An initial misdiagnosis cost the family years of precious time and treatment, as he was being treated for allergies.

In December 2018, Banks learned he was actually suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that occurs when lung tissue is damaged and scarred, making it hard for the lungs to function properly. According to the Mayo Clinic, the damage is irreversible, but symptoms can be lessened with medication and therapy. Lung transplants are often an appropriate option for patients who meet certain criteria.

Like many people in the area, Banks was a wheat and barley farm worker for years, where he was exposed to concentrated amounts of wheat and barley chaff, anhydrous ammonia, dust, and other toxic materials which were ruled out as the cause of his condition by doctors working on his case. His current doctor asked if he had ever been exposed to high levels of mold, and while he cannot confirm it, Banks believes that he may have been exposed to mold that naturally occurs in large wheat piles.

In 2019, he woke up barely able to catch his breath. His outer extremities were purple, starved of oxygen. During a three-day hospital stay, Banks learned that he was a candidate for a lung transplant, but first, he had to lose weight. With the help of pulmonary therapy, Banks was able to drop nearly sixty pounds, improving his chances for a successful transplant and recovery.

On April 16, 2020, Banks received a life-saving bilateral lung transplant at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle (UWMC), WA, despite all of the obstacles that a global pandemic could muster. He had been called to the hospital twice prior, with both sets of donor’s lungs eventually being deemed unfit for Banks.

“On April 15, we got a call that they wanted me at the hospital at six that evening so that I could be prepped for a bilateral transplant,” Banks said. “Because of COVID, my wife could only be with me for a few minutes. The next morning, the doctors showed up with a gurney, and away we went. I remember them talking a little bit, telling me that they were going to put me under. The last thing I remember was telling everyone ‘good night.’”

Once he was released from the hospital, he stayed at the Seattle Transplant House for post-transplant care and monitoring.

“I thank those people and everyone who donated at that time because it cost us nearly $3,000 per month,” Banks said. “We were there until the end of August.”

Today, he is physically doing very well; however, the cost of treatment during this recovery stage is a major hardship to himself and his family. He has a daily regimen of medications, including two anti-rejection medications, multiple antibiotics, aspirin, and antivirals, which total roughly $500 per month. One anti-rejection medication alone, CellCept, costs Banks $120 per month.

He currently undergoes bronchoscopies at UWMC every two to three weeks to ensure 100% lung function with no blockages or signs of rejection. Travel by ferry from Sequim to Seattle costs roughly $40 to $60 for a round-trip ticket, and he must cover that cost and lodging as his insurance does not cover travel expenses.

To help offset costs, his daughter has set up a GoFundMe page and created an online raffle fundraiser to help raise the $35,000 they estimate will cover the remaining costs of treatment. Any remaining funds will be donated to the Transplant House Seattle, which accommodates transplant patients and their families in the days surrounding surgery, and to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, an organization committed to understanding the disease.

Banks-Wellstand has set up an online raffle website, https://www.fredbanksmedicalraffle.com/, which accepts both item donations and raffle bids. She said that she is always willing to accept item donations.

A GoFundMe has also been set up to benefit the Banks family and help with medical costs, https://www.gofundme.com/f/fred-banks-medical-fund.

 

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