A sigh of relief — community supports resident’s recovery

Yuri and Vionna Konica pose with a bird house that Yuri won in a raffle during a benefit to help cover Barbara McKean's medical expenses.

Photo by GLENN WALTON, Special to the Eagle // Buy this photo

Yuri and Vionna Konica pose with a bird house that Yuri won in a raffle during a benefit to help cover Barbara McKean's medical expenses.

Gemi's Café

2800 Davis Boulevard, Naples, FL

The aroma of Albanian food filled Gemi’s Café (2800 Davis Blvd. Naples) as family and friends came together Saturday afternoon to help raise money to cover Barbara McKean’s medical expenses.

McKean is 56 years old and a mother of three and grandmother of five. She was first diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in 1993. Since then, the lung disease has taken McKean through numerous infections, antibiotic infusion treatment, therapy, hospitalization with testing and evaluations for pulmonary disease. McKean is currently on oxygen 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The benefit in her honor was sponsored by Gladys Webb, family, and friends of McKean.

Joyce Ives said, “It is a big burden and Barbara McKean does not deserve this.”

Gemi’s Café owners Gent and Genta Konica wanted to prepare something different for their guest and chose a variety of Albanian cuisine from their home country. The Albanian buffet consisted of meatballs that, according to Gent, were seasoned with special Albanian herbs. The buffet also consisted of grape leaves, liptao, tzatziki sauce, pita bread, cheese sticks, spinach pie, and feta and yogurt pie.

Volunteers dressed in Shamrock t-shirts scurried around selling 50/50 raffle tickets and raffle tickets for the numerous items donated by local business to help raise funds needed for medical and travel expenses for McKean.

Carol Gillespie, who helped to organize the fundraiser, explained how she loved the fact that people had been so generous.

The proceeds raised from the event will go to cover expenses for a new treatment McKean is planning to undergo. She is expecting to be treated with Regenocyte Adult Stem Cells therapy, which uses stem cells from the patient’s own blood, not cells derived from embryos. This procedure has been used by tens of thousands of patients. The process begins with a complete medical evaluation to determine the patient’s overall medical condition. Once the patient has been qualified, adult stem cells are extracted from the patient’s own blood via a standard blood draw. The stem cells that occur naturally in the patient’s blood are cultivated and partially matured into millions of stem cells in a lab. These stem cells are educated to perform specific healing actions and become regenocytes, which are then administered into the area of need for the patient.

In McKean’s case the regenocytes will be injected directly into the lungs to increase the blood flow to this area, which in turn will help promote the growth of new blood vessels and tissue. The hope is that McKean’s lungs will function at a greater capacity.

This process is not FDA-approved yet although it should receive approval in about seven years. Because of this, some of the process has to be done outside the United States. The blood will be sent to a lab in Israel to grow the regenocytes and once they are grown, they will be sent to the Dominican Republic. McKean must travel to the Dominican Republic to have the regenocytes injected. This procedure is not covered by insurance.

McKean has been told she will start to see a gradual improvement after about three months of the procedure.

One patient who underwent the treatment now has to use oxygen only at night. Gladys Webb, McKean’s 96-year-old mother, said, “Sure hope we can get her well. She is worth every minute of it.”

McKean’s granddaughter Chelsea Pliskka has put together a Web page describing her grandmother’s condition: www.myspace.com/pulmonarybenefit.

If you wish to make a donation to the Barbara McKean’s Pulmonary Benefit, Inc. (A Florida not for profit corporation) an account has been has been opened at Sun Trust Bank. Make checks payable to Barbara McKean’s Pulmonary Benefit.

© 2008 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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