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Local woman hosting yard sale for brother's heart, double lung transplant

By: Stephanie Garcia, Press Tribune Correspondent
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When Roseville resident Sue Howton found out her older brother would need a double lung transplant or he would die, she sprang into action. Howton is on a mission to raise $15,000 to help him.

Dave Rosh, 56, suffers from Eisenmenger’s disease. This condition develops in individuals with significant heart defects. As far as Rosh knew, he didn’t have a heart condition. But when he came down with a severe case of pneumonia six years ago, that was the diagnosis he left with.

“It was the most bizarre thing,” Rosh said. “The nurse came in to get my blood oxygen levels and then said she’d be back shortly. All the sudden four ER doctors come in to examine me.”

That was the beginning of the life-changing diagnosis. Rosh’s oxygen levels were registering at 82. Rosh clearly remembers one doctor telling him that deceased people register at 84.

Rosh was referred to a pulmonary specialist at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. UCSF is the only facility on the west coast that has the capacity to treat this kind of condition and transplant. There, doctors confirmed that Rosh did have Eisenmenger’s disease, as well as a hole in his heart.

The prognosis was grim: Rosh would need a heart and double lung transplant, or he would die. Rosh’s wife of more than 23 years, Tina, notified family members immediately. When she called her husband’s sister, she couldn’t believe the news.

“I kind of freaked out,” Howton said. “I cried, and I prayed and I didn’t know how to react. This was a major thing.”

The staff at UCSF started to talk to the family about the next steps. There was nothing to do but move forward and acknowledge a new reality. “This is happening,” Howton said.

The family gathered together and braced for the unimaginable. The next phase of treatment would consist of a series of daily medicines, combined with a check list of things Rosh would need to do before he could be put on the donor list. “The meds have stalled the disease,” Rosh said. “But they haven’t made it better.”

For a while, the medicine worked. But late last year, Rosh was told that it was time to make serious changes so that he could be placed on the donor list. Without the surgery, Rosh’s life expectancy is between three and five years.

The first thing on the list was to lose 60 pounds, and he did it by attending Weight Watchers meetings with his daughter, Emily. “I lost 54 pounds in 7 months,” Rosh said. “I feel great, but I know I am sick.”

Rosh completed several more items on the list such as getting up to date on his immunizations, and even receiving clearance from his dentist.

One June 7 of this year, Rosh received word that he was being added to the national donor list as an approved recipient for a double lung transplant and possibly a new heart.

Now the family, their children, 21-year-old Emily and 23-year-old Tyler, waits for Rosh’s cell phone to ring. “It could happen any time,” Rosh said. “Once I get the call, we have four hours to get to UCSF.”

The reality brings Rosh to tears. “I’m scared, but I try to concentrate on the positive,” he said. “Right now I’m just trying to spend time with my kids and my wife, because you just don’t know.”

The family isn’t wealthy by any means, and there are costs that insurance will not cover, such as housing. Part of being discharged from the hospital is that Rosh remains in the area for at least eight weeks.

“They will need money for housing, food, gas and medicine after the surgery,” Howton said. “I know I can raise money for them so that he can recover and rest knowing that they are not going to be drowning in debt.”

To help with the extraordinary costs, UCSF, where Rosh will have his transplant surgery done, recommended fundraising. Howton established a fundraising campaign through the nonprofit HelpHOPELive to raise money to help the family with uninsured expenses. “I chose this nonprofit so that Dave and Tina would not have to pay taxes on the donations,” Howton said. “I want to raise a lot of money for them and they don’t need the stress of figuring out how much they will be taxed, plus this site makes it easy for people to donate.”

To begin the fundraising, Howton and her friend Liz Rizzo have organized a yard sale. “Liz came up with the idea of a yard sale,” Howton said. “She knew someone who raised $5,000 to help a cancer patient. I thought it was a great idea.”

Reaching out to friends and family members, Howton and Rizzo are already seeing an influx of donations, and most of all, complete support for a good cause. “It’s really overwhelming,” Howton said. “With all the negativity in this world, and in our state, people are committing to donate time, items for me to sell and money to help a stranger.”

“I have found that people in general care,” Rizzo added. “They want to come together and serve a purpose.”

Howton’s yard sale will take place on Saturday, July 14 and Sunday, July 15 at her home at 1418 Crestmont Ave. in Roseville. “A group from my church (Bayside, Granite Bay) will be holding a bake sale at the garage sale, and we are receiving gourmet coffee and pastries that we will be selling as well,” Howton said. “I’m already receiving contributions and I’m really touched by the generosity of everyone who has taken time to help.”

A wine connoisseur and educator, Howton will also host a wine tasting event at Capital Cellars in Granite Bay in September. All funds raised from both events will be donated to Rosh and his wife.

As Rosh waits for that special phone call, he spends his time living and not thinking otherwise. His positive attitude and big smile make it hard to see that this is a man who is living on borrowed time. “I’m scared, he said. “My children are terrified, but I believe I will survive this.”

Doctors believe too. Using a numerical system to measure the survival rate of a patient like Rosh, he has an 80 percent chance of not only surviving the surgery, but leading a normal life afterwards.

“I’d walk over hot coals to get better,” Rosh said. “Right now, I’m living every day to the fullest.”

He also attends monthly transplant support group meetings.

“Talking to these people who have gone through the surgery I am facing gives me hope,” he said.

Howton believes in her older brother. “I know he can do this,” she said. “I hope I can raise enough money to take some stress away from him so he can heal.”

“I’m stunned by the outpouring of support,” Rosh said. “Thank you to everyone who is helping me. I just want to be well. I’m ready. Let’s go!”

For more information on how you can help by donating monetarily or items for the yard sale, visit www.helphopelive.org and search for Dave Rosh.

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Infobox

What: Yard sale fundraiser for Dave Rosh

When: 7 a.m. to noon Saturday, July 14 and Sunday, July 15

Where: 1418 Crestmont Ave., Roseville

Info: www.helphopelive.org, search for Dave Rosh