A 57-year-old Reddington man has battled asthma as long as he can remember, and the condition is threatening to take his life.
Jeff Richerson was told by his doctor in August he will not see 65 unless he gets a bronchial thermoplasty.
The surgery, requiring three separate procedures, has a price tag of about $100,000, but his insurance company has denied his request to cover the cost.
So a fundraiser has been scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Actors Community Theater of Seymour, 357 Tanger Blvd., Suite 208, at Shops at Seymour to help pay for the surgery.
The event will feature a bake sale and a silent auction of about 60 items donated by local businesses.
Richerson and his wife, Vickey Oliphant, also have opened a trust account with JCB to collect donations.
“Anyone who wants to make a financial donation can just go there,” she said. “They can go to any branch.”
Donors will need to tell the bank they want to contribute to the Jeff Richerson Medical Fund.
“Hopefully, if we can get enough money, the hospital will accept it and do a couple of the surgeries,” she said.
A bronchial thermoplasty is a procedure for severe asthmatics to reduce the smooth muscle mass of the airway. By reducing that mass, there’s less narrowing and constriction during an asthma attack, potentially relieving symptoms.
The procedure was approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 2010 and has been practiced for more than 15 years, but Richerson said his insurance company has told him the procedure is “experimental.”
The procedure, which would be performed at Columbus Regional Health, is performed by inserting a bronchoscope into the airway through the nose or mouth. Once the scope reaches its destination, the Alair Bronchial Thermoplasty system releases a small wire from the scope with four wire arms that expand to contact the smooth muscle.
Radio-controlled frequencies are engaged for about 10 seconds to heat the muscle throughout the airway in an effort to reduce smooth muscle.
With the surgery, Richerson has been told he could have an average lifespan and not have to use as much medication or perhaps none at all.
He currently takes eight medications to breathe and uses three rescue inhalers.
The process has taken a toll on his family, who have cared for him and worry about the future.
“It’s been a nightmare for my wife and daughter,” Richerson said.
He said the frustrating part is the insurance battle because he said the company pays so much for his medication the series of surgeries would be better financially in the long run.
“Here’s a surgery, yes it’s $100,000, but it’s less medication, and in two years, it would be paid off,” he said, estimating the company pays about $40,000 annually for his medicine.
Richerson also has been told 80 percent of patients who have the procedure are off of medications after a year and the other 20 percent use less medications.
The condition also has affected his career. After a medical appointment in August, he had to go onto short-term disability.
Prior to that, Richerson was an electrician at Carlisle Brake and Friction in Bloomington.
He has been told if he has the surgery, he would be able to return to work, something he wants to do.
“I enjoy my job,” Richerson said.
His short-term disability only pays 65 percent of his wage.
“It’s been financially difficult,” he said.
That has forced Oliphant, who is 68, to return to work even though she was retired.
She works full time at Brown County State Park and has been working overtime to try to keep up with the medical bills.
Returning to work has been frustrating because of medical costs and because it keeps the two away from each other during a difficult time.
“It’s frustrating, it’s stressful and I’m not ready to give up on him and not ready to give up on our life together because he is my soulmate,” she said.
The couple used to ride horses every weekend, but Richerson has been unable to do that for several years.
If he has the surgery, Richerson said he would be able to return to riding and help care for the horses and chickens on the couple’s farm.
Their daughter, Laura, has asked for help learning different things about horses, Oliphant said, but he is unable to help because of his condition.
“I know he still loves horses, and I know he still would if he could,” she said.
Richerson said he is approaching the situation the best he can and remains positive as he fights for his life.
“I don’t fear this. I plan on beating it,” he said.
If you go
What: Fundraiser for Jeff Richerson
When: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Actors Community Theater of Seymour, 357 Tanger Blvd., Suite 208, at Shops at Seymour
Why: To help cover expenses for surgery insurance has denied
Other ways to help: Financial contributions can be made at any JCB location by telling customer service you want to contribute to the Jeff Richerson Medical Fund