Lee’s Summit man needs help getting lung transplant

rpulley@lsjournal.comAugust 2, 2013 

Family and friends of Joey Nichols, a Lee’s Summit business owner, are making an all-out blitz raising money to help him with expenses while he waits for a lung transplant in St. Louis.

A fund-raiser is scheduled for tonight starting at 6 p.m., Aug. 2, until 1 a.m. Aug. 3 at the Uptown Eatery, 209 SE Green St., sponsored by owner Tammy Jo Tyner, a family friend.

Nichols ails from pulmonary hypertension, diagnosed almost six years ago, said his sister Rachel Nichols Vospette.

He’s been treated with medications but that hasn’t halted the gradual decline in health and he needs a double-lung transplant at age 56, she said.

She said doctors told him he has only months to live without the transplant. Medicaid and insurance will cover some, but not all of the transplant costs.

Vospette said on Thursday her brother was admitted to Barnes-Jewish Hospital this week after testing related to his transplant. She said its not clear at this point if he’ll recover enough to be released from the hospital while he waiting for a donor. If he does, he’ll need aid for housing, or post transplant he’ll need additional help to cover expenses not handled by Medicaid and insurance.

Ann Bassett, a spokeswoman for Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis said the hospital could not comment on Nichols status as a transplant patient because of a federal privacy law regarding health care.

She said in general recommendations for someone waiting for a lung transplant to move to the St. Louis area are made on an individual basis, taking into account their medical condition or other factors specific to their situation.

There are many costs associated with lung transplant, including travel to and from St. Louis, lodging and insurance deductibles and co-payments. Additional expenses may include medications, home care services and other outpatient therapies such as pulmonary rehabilitation. Benefits and coverage limits can vary a great deal. However, most insurance plans cover some portion of the costs, she said. To help navigate the process, candidates for lung transplant meet with many members of the hospital team, including a financial counselor and social worker who will provide options for potential resources for things such as living expenses.

Vospette said the long illness has drained Nichols’ bank accounts. He’s sold his home and been living with a friend.

She said the longtime Lee’s Summit businessman had wanted to keep his illness private, but his situation has become dire.

“He’s scared and we’re scared,” Vospette said.

She said her brother is charming, witty and the rock who has helped hold the family of seven siblings together through the loss of their parents, particularly when their mother died unexpectedly during surgery.

She said his first grandson had recently been born and he’s fighting to spend at least a few years watching him grow up.

“He said he wants to live, or “If I don’t, I’ll die trying,’ ” Vospette said.

She said he’s never smoked or done anything to endanger his health.

One niece is contributing proceeds from a Scentsy party.

Another fundraiser is being organized later this month at Bullfrog’s, a Lee’s Summit bar.

Vospette has created an account at www.GoFundMe.com, a crowd-funding site, where people can donate. It is under her name.

Tynor said her fundraiser will be selling burgers, hotdogs and brats, along and Embrace the Grape Beverage Catering will be serving beer, wine and top-shelf drinks, she said. All proceeds will go to Nichols fund, Tynor said.

At the Uptown Eatery they’ll hold raffles and auctions for gift certificates and prizes, including a 7,500 BTU air-conditioning/heating unit installed by J.D. Nichols Heating and Cooling. Joey Nichols brother is donating the labor for installation.

Many downtown merchants are contributing, she said. Tynor said she also has been helping Vospette take steps needed to account for the money, such as setting up a bank account solely for Nichols’ expenses.

Knock Kneed Sally, which is performing at the Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation Jazz & Blues festival on Green Street tonight, when finished with their set will move over to restaurant to continue playing for the fundraiser.

Tynor said she had planned to have a private party that night to celebrate the opening of her restaurant the next week, but morphed it into the benefit for Nichols when she heard about his plight.

She’d grown up with the Nichols family in Lee’s Summit.

“It’s all I need to do just before opening,” Tynor said. “But I really wanted to, I just love this family.”

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