This Friday, Oct. 13, the community of St. Helens will come together for a benefit concert and silent auction to help raise money for a local woman’s 14-year-old niece who recently suffered a stroke. It was a last minute effort that, in the midst of the “Spirit of Halloweentown”, defines the town’s true spirit: one that reaches out to care for their own.
“We were just really concerned about the family and what they’re going through with this trauma and wanted to alleviate some of their financial worries,” event organizer Michelle Bates said.
On the morning of Aug. 30, Trisha Rodriguez got up for work to find her daughter Kylie’s bedroom light still on. The teen had a friend sleep over the night before and, at 6:15 a.m., Trisha told them they needed to lie down and go to sleep. “At eight in the morning she called me with a really bad headache. I said, ‘Of course you have a headache, you were up all night,” Trisha said, but then Kylie started to cry. She was dizzy and had ringing in her ears and, a few short minutes later, she lost consciousness while on the phone with her mother. By that afternoon, Trisha and her family would end up at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital while Kylie underwent her first brain surgery.
Kylie was diagnosed with a posterior arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a malformation of a vein in the back of her right cerebellum. They can occur anywhere in the body and account for less than 15% of all AVMs. They are rarely in the brain, and Kylie was found to have three. To put it simply: Kylie suffered a brain bleed caused by a stroke.
“She was totally healthy. She played softball, volleyball … some people can live with them their entire life and some people it will rupture at different ages,” Trisha said. “There are no symptoms.”
Kylie has now undergone four surgeries. On Sept. 13, she endured a 10 hour surgery to remove the malformations in her veins and to replace the bone flap that had been removed on the Aug. 30. She has also received a tracheotomy, though she is now breathing some on her own, and a feeding tube. It took two weeks for Kylie to finally open her eyes, but she is unable to look around or respond to commands.
Trisha, who has worked in healthcare for the past 17 years, has been by Kylie’s bedside every step of the way. It’s put her out of work for more than 40 days now and, financially, concerns are beginning to pile up. “I would normally work 50-60 hours a week and without my income, we’re cutting it pretty close to not even being able to afford where we live,” Trisha said.
Trisha and her husband, Abel, also have two other children, a five-year-old son and a little girl who spent her 11th birthday on Aug. 31 in the ICU with her sister.
Kylie’s own 15th birthday is coming up on the Oct. 23, and she had planned to visit St. Helens for the Spirit of Halloweentown celebration. “That’s her favorite movie and she found out that the cast was going to be out there and we actually talked about going out there,” Trisha said. “She used to watch it over and over and over.”
Since Kylie is not responding to commands, Trisha has been unable to find a rehab that is willing to take her, which means her daughter may be coming home soon and the family is woefully unprepared. There are transport concerns because they don’t have a car that can fit a wheelchair, and they don’t have the necessary equipment to care for a bedbound child at home.
To make matters worse, two weeks ago, the family’s house flooded, leaving carpet and ceilings in need of replacement. “My husband is actually staying at his mom’s for a little while because we don’t have a house to live in,” Trisha said. “Seems like it’s one thing after another, after another but our number one focus is Kylie and making sure that she’s getting the care that she needs.”
Several fundraising efforts have popped up around town to help pay for Kylie’s care. There are two gofundme pages, a scentsy sale on Facebook, and shirts for sale, as well as a meal train. Donation jars are currently set up at Jackpot Market and T&H Marine in Scappoose, and at Red Apple in Market Fresh in St. Helens. There are also donation accounts set up at St. Helens Federal Credit Union and Rivermark Community Credit Union.
The benefit concert begins at 8 p.m. on Friday in Buccini Hall at St. Frederic Catholic Church, located at 175 S 13th Street. The event features two bands, The Seth Myzel Band and Crowded Habitat, and there is a $10 cover charge. Food and drinks will be available. “We have silent auction items and are still looking for more,” Bates said, adding that a few local artists are bringing some paintings for the auction. Bracelets emblazoned with “Kylie Strong” will also be on sell for the family. All proceeds raised will go towards Kylie’s care.