Set Matt Free Of RSD
The following article appeared in The North Providence Breeze newspaper on Wednesday, July 16, 2008.
With help from donors, Matthew Irving flies to Germany for treatment
By JANET KERLIN, Breeze Correspondent
NORTH PROVIDENCE - The parents of Matthew Irving were unsure of two things: whether their son would be chosen for an experimental treatment in Germany, and how they would get the money to pay for the trip and medical care.
Some of the answers have come in recent days: Matthew's declining health moved him higher up on a list of people waiting for a treatment for complex regional pain syndrome, formerly known as RSD, reflex sympathetic dystrophy.
The 21-year-old is now in Germany, and was set to be admitted to a Saarbrucken hospital on Tuesday, July 15.
And the continued donations from the people of North Providence have uplifted his parents' spirits and enabled their son to take part in the risky treatment that involves putting him in an anesthetic-induced coma for at least five days.
Russ Irving, Matthew's father, is appreciative of the kindnesses people have shown the family since the journey began on Friday.
New England Ambulance donated the use of staff and an ambulance for the trip to Boston's Logan Airport, Russ said.
Transportation Safety Administration officials were touched by what Russ told them.
One TSA worker told him to get an emergency pass so that he could spend 45 minutes with his family while they waited for their flight.
"That TSA woman gives Matthew her religious medal, and another woman gives a prayer card," and a TSA supervisor inquired about the health of another RSD patient that they had met.
When buying the airline tickets on short notice, they were told it would be $53,000 for Matthew's stretcher ticket, Nancy to accompany him in business class, and son Daniel's seat back in coach.
But a Lufthansa manager, after hearing the story, priced their tickets at a much cheaper $15,000, as if they had bought in advance.
They also learned the manager was from Saarbrucken, the same small town where the family was headed for treatment.
"What are the odds? I look at this as another example of God watching over us," Russ said.
Expenses figure prominently for the family. They will spend $400 to transport him to the hospital. Matthew's medical treatments in New York and Philadelphia, are not covered by Russ' health insurance because they are considered experimental.
"Fund-raisers are important," Russ said. He said he is embarrassed by having to ask for money, but does so because he has used up all of the family resources and does not qualify for more loans.
His family will be spending 4 to 6 weeks in Germany, and then Matthew will need follow-up treatments in Philadelphia.
Donors have put $75,000 in a fund, which buys 44,000 euros, an unfavorable exchange rate that shocks Russ, who had hoped the amount would cover the trip and medical care in Germany. It won't, he now realizes.
A car wash held June 21 at the high school by Cougar Alumni, Parents and Students, organized by Jim Curtis and teacher Susan Bennett, raised $5,350.
A golf outing at Atlantic Golf Center in South Attleboro on Saturday raised at least $7,500, according to Kathy Rongione, who has been a longtime friend of Nancy's. She and husband Anthony, owners of the golf center, lived in North Providence for 40 years and are now Smithfield residents.
"We feel as if (Matthew) needs a better quality of life," Kathy Rongione said. "It is great to see people come together."
And a swim-a-thon held at the town's pool and fitness center, organized by Lois Barbieri, recreation director, raised $1,800.
A spaghetti dinner is to be held July 26 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Mary Mother of Mankind Church.
Russ is a computer programmer who has set up the Web site, Setmattfreeofrsd.com. He's added a blog to give updates on what's happening in Germany.
* Donations are accepted at: Matthew Irving RSD Medical Fund, c/o Sovereign Bank, Att: Suzanne C. Hebert, 1025 Smith St., Providence, RI 02908.