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Church members rally for liver-transplant candidate

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

For more than 20 years, Sandra Mills has been a member of First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, giving of herself as a kindergarten teacher, a receptionist, as well as helping in the accounts payable office.

Now that she is in need of a new liver, her fellow church members are helping her raise money for a transplant.

Family Fun Day at the Park: a Liver Transplant Fund-raiser for Sandra Mills, will take place at Battleground Park in Jonesboro on Saturday, April 18, from 10 a.m., to 1 p.m. The event, coordinated with the Georgia Transplant Foundation, will help Mills raise the thousands of dollars she needs for immunosuppressant drugs to sustain a new liver.

Battleground Park is located on Lake Jodeco Road, adjacent to Suder Elementary School. The event will include: food, drinks, dessert, games, and music. In case of rain, it will be held in the First Baptist Church of Jonesboro Fellowship Hall.

In 1989, Mills was diagnosed with primary sclerosing cholangitis, a progressive disorder which thickens the ducts that carry bile away from the liver, causing pain, inflammation, jaundice, and other symptoms. She was able to manage the disease until this November.

"I was able to maintain until late last year," Mill said. "I became jaundiced, and the liver was not functioning correctly. I've lost lots of weight and I don't have the stamina that I used to have.

"Right now, I'm on the list," for a liver transplant, she said. However, "I'm just waiting."

Holly Vanager-Crummell, transplant fund-raising program director for the Georgia Transplant Foundation, said even sick patients can face difficulty getting a liver, if they can't demonstrate an ability to pay for immunosuppressant drugs. She said without the drugs, a patient's immune system will often attack the new liver as a foreign object.

"Organs are so rare, so they [hospitals] want people to be able to have a way to pay for their post-transplant medicine," said Vanager-Crummell. "With insurance, you may be paying $1,000 to $3,000 a month for medications. Sometimes, the hospital will say that in order to be listed, you must have a certain amount of money."

"For a lot of people, raising this kind of money is intimidating," she added. Vanager-Crummell said that whatever donations Mills is able to garner, the foundation will match, up to $10,000.

DeLores Fain, a friend and fellow church member of Mills, as well as a fund-raiser and organizer, said Chick-fil-A, and other businesses have donated food and equipment, in order to make the fund-raiser a success.

Fain hopes the effort will encourage Mills, as well as provide an inspiring event the community can enjoy.

"[Mills] is truly one of God's servants," Fain said. "She's the kind of person who would do this for someone else ... our hope is that a lot of people will come ... we're hoping for 300.

"I have been hearing about what people are doing to help people through these hard times," Fain said. "I would hope that this will be inspiring, and it might give them some ideas."

Tickets to the fund-raiser are $12 for adults, $6 for children. For more information, call (770) 719-2993.