CRESTVIEW — Wanda Sue Thompson is $1,655 closer to a healthy liver.
Friends, family and Full Gospel Tabernacle Church members helped raise money for the 58-year-old with a chicken-and-dumplings dinner and bake sale on Friday.
"It went above and beyond our expectations," Janet Lundy, Thompson's sister, said.
The church kitchen was busy with volunteers preparing plates with a side of green beans and a piece of cake for dessert.
It’s a familiar scene for the church’s membership, which enjoys hearty feasts — especially when they help others.
"We are a church that loves to cook and eat," said Jean Marie Belle, one of 10 volunteers. "It’s for a good cause and we are glad to do it."
Waiting for a liver
Thompson is on a waiting list for a liver following a primary biliary cirrhosis diagnosis in 2009. The disease causes irritation and swelling of the liver’s bile ducts, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Bile, a fluid produced by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, aids digestion of fatty acids.
"The liver starts to attack itself and they don't know why,” she said of the condition, which often affects middle-aged women.
"There is no help or cure for it," Lundy said. "The only alternative is a transplant."
More than half of patients reportedly lack symptoms upon diagnosis, but Thompson has begun to feel the effects.
"I feel okay, but I get tired very easily," she said, adding she has bouts of itching, a common side effect.
Other symptoms can include abdominal pain and jaundice.
Later this month, Thompson will make her fourth trip to Jackson Memorial Hospital to meet with doctors. It’s the closest medical facility that can assist her.
Once a liver is available, Thompson must immediately fly back to Miami for the procedure. An air ambulance will transport her and one family member within four or five hours from receiving notice.
Lundy has organized three fundraisers since Thompson’s diagnosis. Prior to Friday’s event, $2,000 from a prior dinner and yard sale offset medical costs along with food and gas expenses. The pair’s brother, who lives in Miami, provides lodging.
Every bit helps for someone with a fixed income.
Thompson, a former registered nurse, recently started receiving disability checks, but they pay very little, she said.
The sisters hope to escalate fundraising efforts in preparation for post-operation costs such as a required month's stay and meals at the hospital, along with surgeons’ check-ups.
"So far, we are just making enough to cover each trip," Thompson said. "We would like to do something on a bigger scale."
The women seek fundraising suggestions from the community.
In the meantime, the church will continue accepting donations for Thompson, said Lundy, who’s planning another fundraiser for the near future.
"She has been my lifesaver during all of this," Thompson said.
Want to help?
ContactFull Gospel Tabernacle Church, 682-0203, to donate to Wanda Sue Thompson’s liver transplant fund.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.