By Crystal Thompson
In January of this year, Havre resident Wilma VanValkenburg was diagnosed with Membranous Nephropathy, an incurable kidney disease.
One night last December, VanValkenburg experienced extreme bodily swelling and was rushed to the hospital by her husband, Kip. Local doctors pinpointed the problem to the kidneys, and referred VanValkenburg to the medical center in Billings.
Billings doctors mentioned Lupus as a probable culprit, however results from the Mayo Clinic later confirmed Membranous Nephropathy, a rare kidney disease, as the source of VanValkenburg's problems. Membranous Nephropathy occurs in two out of every 10,000 people and can lead to dialysis and eventually kidney transplants.
In May, VanValkenburg began a six-month treatment program which was cut short because the treatments destroyed her white blood cells. She was also put on medication, which ended up making her ill. VanValkenburg's medical bills have been exceeding $1,000 per month, and her doctors are surprised at the rate at which the disease is affecting her body.
Before the onset of the disease, VanValkenburg worked the graveyard shift at the Super 8 Motel. She spent her days caring for her son Kasey, who was involved in an automobile accident in 1996 which left him unable to care for himself. Recently, however, the disease has taken its toll on VanValkenburg's body, and has left her unable to work. She said that she used to get maybe five hours of sleep each night, but recently she's been sleeping whenever she gets tired.
Following the advice given by her doctors to slow down, VanValkenburg said, "You just have to do what's best for you and your body." She said that it's been hard adjusting to the inactive lifestyle that the disease demands.
Kip's job at Patrick Construction is currently the only means of income for the VanValkenburg family, and with $1,000 in medical bills each month, there's just not enough money to cover everything. That's where Paula Adams comes in.
Adams is an Independent Sale Director for The Pampered Chef, and she has put together a fund-raising campaign for VanValkenburg, who formerly worked on Adams' Pampered Chef sales team.
Several local businesses will be selling Pampered Chef cookbooks to raise money for VanValkenburg. The cost of the cookbook is $10, and two are available, "Recipes from the Heart Cookbook" and "The Kitchen is the Heart of the Home Cookbook". $4 from every book sold, as well as all commissions will go to defray the cost of medical bills.
The VanValkenburgs have been blessed with much support from family and friends, Wilma said, and it has been much appreciated. Members of the Sixth Avenue Christian Church, as well as community members have given their time and donations to help out the VanValkenburg family.
Currently VanValkenburg has blood work done every week here in Havre. Her doctors also wish to begin the remainder of the six-month treatment, which destroyed her white blood cells, within the next month. Paula Adams hopes to sell as many cookbooks as possible by the Nov. 11 deadline to help Wilma with her increasing medical bills.
To order a cookbook directly, send a check or money order to: Paula Adams, Box 246, Havre, MT 59501. Any business or individual wishing to help with the cookbook fund-raiser by selling books, can contact Adams at 265-3626. Adams has also set up an account at Independence Bank for anyone wishing to make a donation.