By Jon Bishop
If you play sports, then you probably know Ed Niser. You’ve seen the Nashoba sports editor take pictures; you’ve talked to him at games.
But you might not know his sister, Val Niser Flanagan. And you might not know that she’s sick and that her insurance company is covering only a portion of the surgery she needs.
She’s had to fight with them, and constantly, for they call at all hours. And they have also not sent her medical supplies on time.
She has many different disorders. One of them, pan-intestinal motility disorder, she has had since birth.
What it means is that her intestines do not function properly. And it has progressed over the years.
“In 2012, my entire intestinal tract collapsed — a month before my wedding,” she said.
She got married with a feeding tube.
Val had to end her career as an elementary school teacher, something she did for 10 years. Something she loved.
She can never do it again.
She had a system when she taught. Her classroom had doors to the two adjacent rooms, and when she had to leave for medical reasons, her neighboring colleagues would keep watch over her students.
There were frequent absences for surgeries.
But she was used to it. And she never let it stop her, never wanted to let it change her life. Even when she was getting ready for college, her dad said, Val, you know you don’t have to go off to school. You’re sick.
I know, she told him. “This is something I want to do.”
Now she has a colostomy, and it means she can’t sleep lying down.
“I get about two hours of sleep a night,” she said.
A colostomy is when doctors create an opening, or stoma, that allows a portion of the large intestine to exit the body. It is attached to a bag, and it is a way to relieve waste.
At night, she does not go out. She hides, as she put it, because she gets sick after dinner. And there is still the issue with the bag.
But this is not the only thing she must face. She has peripheral and sensory neuropathy, which means she loses feeling in her extremities. She takes 24 pills per day to handle it.
She can no longer drive a car. She trips and falls when she walks. And sometimes she inadvertently burns her hands, such as when she is cooking and forgets that she cannot always sense heat.
What’s worse is that neuropathy is always caused by another condition, but doctors can’t figure out what it is. So that means she has something else lurking within her body.
She has a neurogenic bladder. She doesn’t know when she has to urinate. And so her bladder must be catheterized, or it will explode.
And there is muscular degeneration in her legs. People have suggested that she use a walker, but instead she pedals on a medical bicycle in order to stay active.
This is the life she must lead. And it is why her upcoming surgery is so necessary. Others have preceded it. More will follow it.
What would happen is her entire intestinal tract will be moved from the left to the right. They are also going to take a biopsy of her intestines to determine if all of these conditions are linked.
That’s why she needs the money.
Luckily, her family takes care of her. Husband Jeff is always by her side, and Ed takes her to and from appointments; and when he isn’t available, Jeff does the same. And her dog, Jake, ever the companion, protects her when she is feeling sick.
Still, all she wants to do is return to the things she used to do. She doesn’t want to look outside and watch the slow ticking of time. She is only 33.
Ed has started a GoFundMe page, which can be found here: http://www.gofundme.com/r5nzjm8.
The total surgical bill — the one that is her responsibility — is $17,310.
The surgery is June 17.