Local boy needs brain surgery Outside

Spaghetti feed, silent auction to be held Aug. 7


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From left, Carly, Mary, Robert and Ty Meacham pose for a picture in their Eagle River home Saturday, July 21. A spaghetti feed and silent auction will be held Tuesday, Aug. 7 at the Eagle River VFW to help Ty travel to Seattle for brain surgery.

MIKE NESPER

Recently, Mary Meacham’s son, Ty, had been complaining of frequent headaches.

But when the 14-year-old incoming Eagle River High freshman suddenly lost his balance and collapsed, his mother knew something was seriously wrong.

About a month ago, Ty was diagnosed with pseudotumor cerebri — a disorder that causes increased pressure within the skull, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. The disorder can mimic a tumor, the CDC said, and symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

It’s a disease Mary knows all too well.

She was diagnosed with pseudotumor cerebri 14 years ago, just six months after Ty was born. Mary has had 29 surgeries to date — something she’s determined to spare her son from repeating.

“I’ve lost my vision twice,” Mary said. “We just don’t want Ty to go through that.”

Too much pressure around the brain can affect nerve muscles in the eye and cause blindness, Mary said. To avoid that, Mary plans to have Ty treated by Dr. Jeffrey Ojemann at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Ojemann specializes in pediatric brain tumors, Mary said.

Ty will need a shunt installed to drain the fluid around his brain, Mary said. Shunts typically need to be replaced every eight years, she said, but the disorder is manageable.

“You have to maintain it just like you do your car,” Mary said.

However, there is no permanent cure, Mary said.

“He will have this the rest of his life,” she said. “They can’t operate and take it out. They can only operate and maintain it.”

The family is in the process of coordinating Ty’s surgery, and Mary hopes to be in Seattle by mid-August.

Though brain surgery is frightening at any age, Ty — who also suffers from Asperger’s syndrome — is handling it well, Mary said.

“He’s got a good spirit about it,” she said.

Mary said she reminds her son that remaining upbeat is key for overcoming adversity.

“Everything has to be positive,” she said.

Ty also has a support group — made up of his mother and some of her friends with the same disorder — to lean on.

“He’s watched me go through it,” Mary said. “It makes him feel good that he’s not the only one.”

Aside from being genetic, not much is known about the idiopathic disease, Mary said.

“They don’t know why people get it,” she said.

While insurance will cover visits to the doctor and Ty’s surgery, all the travel expenses to Seattle will have to be paid out of pocket. To help defray some of the cost, the Meachams held a spaghetti dinner and silent auction Tuesday, July 17 at the VFW in Eagle River.

Several local businesses donated food and auction items to help Ty, Mary said, and VFW Post 9785 donated Alaska Airlines miles.

“We’ve had a lot of community support,” she said. “It’s been amazing.”

The fundraiser brought in $1,500, and the Meachams are holding another spaghetti feed and silent auction at the VFW on Tuesday, Aug. 7 from 5 to 8 p.m.

One of the big items up for bids is a racing suit from NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan — a family friend of the Meachams.

“Brendan’s watched everything I’ve gone through,” Mary said. “Him and Ty are pretty good friends.”

Mary is still seeking auction donations. Anyone interested can contact her at 907-351-8943 or via email at c4u@mtaonline.net.

As owner of fundraising company Cookies 4 U, Mary is used to helping strangers, but not her own kin.

“It’s like being on the other side of the wall,” she said. “To have to actually do it for a family member is different.”

Mary said her main concern is ensuring Ty receives the best treatment available.

“We’re just trying to get him to the right place so he doesn’t go through what I’ve gone through,” she said.

An account has been set up in Ty’s name at Wells Fargo Bank for anyone wishing to help him and Mary. Named the Ty Meacham Medical Fund, the account number is 3574877043.

The family is also accepting donations of Alaska Airlines miles.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at mike.nesper@alaskastar.com

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