KP Cares Supports a Family in Need


Sara Thompson, KP News

KP resident Jillian Reese suffers from bone marrow failure; cause unknown. She will be 16 in June. Photo: Trina Flaherty

The Key Peninsula community has a way of wrapping itself around those in need of help. Trina Flaherty has been a part of that support network and now, as her family faces its own crisis, KP Cares has pledged to support her.

Flaherty’s daughter, Jillian Reese, who will be 16 in June, was a healthy 3-year old when she was hospitalized in Omaha with a life-threatening viral lung infection. She recovered, but a year later she was bruising easily and blood tests showed a very low platelet count.

Platelets are an essential part of the body’s clotting system and if they are too low, the risk of serious bleeding is very high. For the next decade, Jillian’s condition prevented her from activities where she might incur injuries that could cause bleeding. She could swim but not play baseball or run track.

When they moved back to the Key Peninsula in 2009 to be closer to family, Jillian was followed by doctors at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital for her blood disorder. Last winter, Jillian had problems with her red blood cells (which carry oxygen) and her white cells (which fight infection). Her bone marrow was no longer producing these essential blood cells.

Jillian began to wear a mask to protect her from infections but, in December 2016, her doctor said that her risk was so severe, she should no longer attend classes at Peninsula High School.

She is now a part of the PHS Home to Hospital program, with a tutor coming once a week. Her outings are limited to a weekly trip to the library. Her best friends can visit, but they must wear masks. She has needed weekly transfusions of platelets to prevent life-threatening bleeding for the last four months.

“Jillian is full of life,” Flaherty said. “She loves to read, loves anime and is a normal teenager—rambunctious, lively. I want her to be able to run and not worry about falling and bleeding out.”

The ultimate treatment is a bone marrow transplant. Jillian will be evaluated for one through the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance this summer. The procedure will involve a long hospital stay and she must be in Seattle during recovery to be close to her medical team.

Flaherty, who has a degree in horticulture and started her own landscaping business, stopped working in December so that she could care for her daughter. She is grateful to have good insurance that will cover all the medical costs. But keeping up with rent on her place has been a challenge. Her landlords and her loyal customers have been supportive and, although housing will be provided in Seattle, living expenses will add up.

That is where KP Cares comes in.

“Mindy Baxter, Sylvia Wilson, Marilyn Hartley and I began publicly organizing fundraisers on the Key Peninsula Facebook group in 2014 for people with financial needs due to personal crisis,” said Susan Freiler Mendenhall. “A year later, Marcia Gibbons joined to guide us through the 501(c)(3) process. In late 2016, Marcia stepped down and Janet Acevedo joined as our treasurer.”

As the Facebook page moderator, Mendenhall hears about people who need help. “This is a tightknit community and we are pretty connected to one another,” she said.

They offer monetary assistance in the range of $1,000 to $5,000.