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Fund-raisers help community support Schrimshers in health battles

December 8, 2012

David and Bobbi Schrimsher.

There's nothing new about Culver family and friends rallying around well-known, lifelong Culverites David and Bobbi Schrimsher, but the community is focusing its support even as the focus of David's health becomes more pointed. Part of that is a bake sale to help the family offset expenses -- organized by longtime friend and classmate Anna Neher -- scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 15, starting at 8 a.m. at Park N Shop in Culver.

Then there's a website, "A New Chance for David," at www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/a-new-chance-for-david/35712, which has raised $1,750 (or eight percent) so far of its $20,000 goal.
That new chance, says Bobbi, may be both a new liver -- his second such transplant since 2010 -- and new kidney for David, whose Hepatitis C illness was first diagnosed around seven years ago. The disease was likely contracted almost 20 years prior, doctors told the Schrimshers, possibly from an ear piercing "one night with a bunch of guys," says Bobbi, who adds learning of the news came at "a terrible, terrible time."

Bobbi's father, well-known local personality Allen Weaver, had just passed away then, and David Schrimsher had just been laid off work. Just then, the family learned it was being audited by the I.R.S.!

"You know it's a rough year," Bobbi says she told one woman at the I.R.S., "when the best thing that's happened to you is an audit!"

A specialist told the Schrimshers David would eventually need a liver transplant, though work began right away to clear up the hepatitis through treatments similar to chemo therapy for six months, with weekly shots of interferon and daily doses of a host of medications.

"It was like having the flu all the time," recalls Bobbi of her husband's state of health. "He ended up having a mini-stroke, so they took him off (some treatments), but it didn't clear him of the hep B."

When David's health problems began, the couple's son Craig and daughter Caitlyn hadn't yet had their own children, but by the time David's transplant was drawing near, Craig had married wife Shelly and there were two grandchildren -- Ches and Charlie -- for David and Bobbi to think of, with Caitlyn's first child on the way.

When her daughter, Summer, was born, David and Bobbi visited, though in the chaos, Bobbi didn't even get to hold her new granddaughter.

Plans to remedy that the next day were halted when a call from Indiana University hospital in Indianapolis came in, advising them that a liver was ready for David's transplant. He and Bobbi were almost to the hospital -- at break-neck speed, she says -- when a follow-up call came through: "We're sorry; the liver won't work for you."

"So we turned around and went home," says Bobbi. "You can imagine our emotions went from a million to zero. But we were making plans to go see the baby the next day."

Those emotions flip-flopped again when, early the next morning -- March 20, 2010 -- the hospital called again, with news of an almost unheard-of second liver, a second day in a row -- and this one for sure.

While the transplant obviously gave David a second chance, it also left him in the hospital for six months, several days of it in an induced coma.

However, back home at last, things were looking up until the complications began, which led to a series of procedures and checks, with David and Bobbi on the road sometimes as much as two or three times per week to Indianapolis.

Still, says Bobbi, "We were just really, really thankful and wanting to do something to show our appreciation, so (daughter-in-law) Shelly got the idea of this Liver Walk they were having in Indianapolis that following June. So we started raising money for that, and we raised over $3,000. That was actually the second largest amount raised. They gave the family an award because it was such a small group and our first time ever fund raising. They were amazed we were able to do that much."

While the rest of the family prepared for the Liver Walk, Caitlyn once again went into labor, so Bobbi and David decided to stay. It was a fortunate choice, since Caitlyn experienced life-threatening complications, and her parents were able to be present to support her.

The incident was the second of what David and Bobbi laughingly refer to as "Babies and livers," occurring simultaneously.

As David's condition improved, another treatment was put into play in February, 2011, but his system reacted very badly to the interferon drug, and he nearly lost both kidneys as a result.

"He was in ICU in Indianapolis for four weeks and then in the regular hospital for another two weeks. In the meantime, they kept him in an induced coma for three weeks," Bobbi explains.

"They called and said, 'Better call the family in.' They didn't think he was going to make it. So all the family members came down and said their goodbyes."

But make it David did, and, says Bobbi, "The doctors to this day say it was mostly God's doing, not theirs. He had enough kidney functions that there was no dialysis, but he did damage his kidneys."

That's when David's new liver began to fail.

Doctors added the news that he'd need one new kidney as well.
"He takes 24 different types of medicine a day," notes Bobbi. "Between that and the damage done and everything, his kidneys are now struggling. We're fighting for him not to have dialysis, but it's getting to the point where he probably will...and again Caitlyn's expecting a baby and we're thinking, 'We're trapped in this baby - liver cycle -- one of us has got to stop doing this!"

An extensive process will have to take place to discern David's eligibility for a second liver. Hoosier, says Bobbi, are actually fortunate in that the IU hospital is really the only liver transplant site, so unlike some states, no single part of Indiana is competing with another for availability, should a liver come up. Once one does become available, it's only viable about 12 hours, so candidates can't be more than two hours from the transplant site.

Meantime, David's condition is requiring more hands-on attention and aid, so Bobbi has taken three weeks off from her position as a lab supervisor in the Culver Academies science department.

"I have to tell you the Academy has been so amazingly understanding with me so far; I can't say enough about what they've done to help us through this. But they are a business too and they have to be fair to their other workers. so my clock is ticking.

But now it's about my husband. We've been together for 35 years. I have to be with him right now. I don’t know if he's going to get another chance."

In fact, the couple raised their children at a house on the south end of town which had been in the Schrmisher family for four generations by the time David and Bobbi were forced to sell it to make it survive his first transplant.

Many will recall beloved, late Culver crossing guard Eunice Schrimsher, David's aunt, and his parents, Sam and Betty Schrimsher.

But even the sale of the house, says Bobbi, seemed another in a long line of miracles associated with their situation, since the buyers happened to come to town on a Sunday and ask Caitlyn, at work, if she knew of a house for sale.

"There were too many examples of God's hand in so many things, miracles we can't deny Him. He is in charge," Bobbi says.

"We're just relying on God and friends to help get us through this," she adds, "to see where we're going to go next on this journey. It's a miracle (so far), but it's a hard one to go through."

She says the couple has been blessed, in part because David has been able to see his grandchildren. They, she notes, are "why David keeps fighting.

"When he first heard he needed another transplant he was like, 'I don't know if I can do this again. Then we found out Caitlyn is expecting another baby, so he said, 'I've got to try.'

"I truly, truly, truly believe there is a reason we're going through all of this," Bobbi continues. "It's about faith and family and friends. If you have that, you don't really need anything else."

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