By JAMES EIK
Friends and loved ones across the Medical Lake and Spokane region are coming together to help support Jackie Gleason.
Gleason, a fifth-grade teacher at Michael Anderson Elementary, suffered a brain aneurysm June 25 while swimming at the pool at Whitworth University. Just two days earlier, she participated in a fundraiser for her step-son, Steve Gleason, the former Washington State University and New Orleans Saints football player. Steve is fighting his own well-known battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
A fundraiser, Jackie's Walk, has been set up for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1 at Waterfront Park to help raise funds to offset medical bills incurred throughout her recovery. At press time, over 120 have signed up to participate, with many more likely to join as the event approaches.
Wendy Gilbert, a coworker and friend of Gleason's in the Medical Lake School District, said her recovery has been progressing at a promising pace. Just last week, Gleason was up and walking.
“Day by day, she's getting better,” Gilbert said.
Gleason was a frequent participant in triathlons and half marathons, physically active. That sort of competitive spirit is helping to drive her recovery, Gilbert said.
“From the moment she started to regain consciousness, she wanted to get out of that darn hospital bed,” Gleason's daughter, Keri Doolittle, said in an email. “She kept pulling herself up because all she wanted to do was move.”
Flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle following the aneurysm, doctors worked to stabilize her condition over the next few days. Gleason's husband, Mike, was by her side throughout the time.
“I am very proud of my siblings and stepdad, Mike, and how well we have worked together,” Doolittle said.
By July 9, an important day in the recovery process, Gleason was breathing on her own, and communicating through a series of nods. Doctors were initially on the look-out for possible brain damage, but further CT scans throughout the month showed no additional signs. Adding to the positive steps on July 9, was a large smile given to some visiting friends at the hospital.
“Day by day, she's made leaps and bounds and things are coming to her,” Gilbert said.
Now back in Spokane as of Saturday, Gleason is eating regular meals with some assistance needed for cutting up food.
Helping one of their own, the Medical Lake School District has posted information on local fundraising efforts on its Web page, www.mlsd.org.
Donations can be made to support the family through accounts at the Sterling Savings branch in Medical Lake as well as the WSECU location. Also, bracelets similar to the yellow Livestrong bands will be sold, with the word “Inspire” inscribed on them.
“We literally had the entire United States praying for her. Over the past several weeks, I have been receiving random emails from prayer groups and prayer circles that they are praying for my mom,” Doolittle said.
To help coordinate the numerous community support efforts, a Facebook page called Jackie Kaminski Gleason Fundraisers has been established. Donations can be made through PayPal on the page.
Other events are coming frequently throughout the next few months, including a bake sale Aug. 15 at Denny's Harvest Foods, a spaghetti feed at one of the Medical Lake schools and an event at the Pizza Factory Friday, Sept. 14.
“We are all so very thankful for everyone's support, each and every one of you have played a part in helping my mom heal and for that, I am forever grateful,” Doolittle said.
What once was a grim prognosis for a community beacon has turned into a situation filled with hope for a strong recovery. The support rallied from friends, family, loved ones and members of the community has helped strengthen the family's ties to each other. In turn, that support has encouraged others around her.
“She is absolutely an inspiration to all of us,” Gilbert said. “She is the one that inspires us, and now it's our turn to give back to her.”
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.