BELLOWS FALLS -- Darla Fletcher's son, Cody Morin, had his first liver surgery when he was just 12 days old.
Morin, now 17, appeared to be out of danger after that, until last year when something didn't seem quite right with him.
"Somebody said to me, ‘You need to look at Cody's eyes,'" Fletcher recalled. "They were all yellow."
Morin's liver problems had returned, leaving him jaundiced. He was born without bile ducts in his liver and since last year has undergone 13 procedures (two of them major ones) to clear a pathway for bile to drain. But Morin's doctors say this just buys him some time and he needs a liver transplant to survive.
But the price tag that comes with that surgery, and the constant travel to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., has been enormous. Just one week of treatment consisted of 1,000 miles of travel and upon hearing that the life-saving transplant could run approximately $250,000, Fletcher decided to get in motion to help her ailing son.
She is organizing "Walk for Cody," in which she and her partner Khalif Shabazz will leave Bellows Falls and walk for 24 consecutive hours. The walk is slated to begin at 8 a.m. on Monday, April 15, and the pair plan to start in the village and walk along Route 5 to Brattleboro before heading to Keene, N.H., via Route 9. From Keene, they plan to go to Walpole, N.H., and then mosey back to Bellows Falls.
"This is a huge circle, but where there is a will there is a way," she said, "and I would circle the universe for my child."
Fletcher is requesting pledges per mile or donations at the discretion of each donor. Pledges and/or donations can be made by contacting Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 62 Williams St. Ext. 101, Bellows Falls, VT, 05101. The money will go toward medical expenses, travel, food and lodging.
Fletcher said the transplant is expected to take place this spring at the Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, Mass. Fletcher and Morin plan to meet with Dr. David Axelrod, MD, an organ transplant doctor at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, today to try to determine if Fletcher is a donor match for her son. Doctors want to wait until Morin turns 18 on Monday, May 6, to perform the transplant because as a minor he would have to go to Boston Children's Hospital while Fletcher stays at the Lahey Clinic. They want to remain at the same location.
If Fletcher is a match, she will be a living donor and give the right lobe of her liver to Morin.
Morin said his mother's efforts mean the world to him, especially after a disappointing turnout at a benefit held at the Loyal Order of Moose in Bellows Falls this year. Many people feeling ill could not attend because Morin cannot be around sickness due to his ailment. Still, the event generated about $500.
Ed Thomas, an administrator at the Moose, said the benefit event fit perfectly with the fraternal organization's mission.
"That's what we do for people. We try to help," he said. "We do good for the community."
Morin is hoping for a little more widespread support from the community for April's event.
"I'm hoping for a little bit of support from anybody at this point," he told the Reformer, adding that the currently feels just so-so. "I'm fed up with it all at this point."
Morin gets Medicaid now but will enter the Vermont Health Access Plan once he turns 18. This means he will not have full coverage and he will have a co-pay.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.