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1/27/2013 2:38:00 PM
Donkey basketball fundraiser to help save Lonnie's life
By Stacey Chisam
Mirror Correspondent

ENTIAT-"He's the kind of guy every parent hopes their son will turn out to be," said Barb Ingersoll, long-time family friend of Entiat local Lonnie Larsen, a 49-year old father of three who waits for the gift of a lifetime-a new heart.
Larsen worked as a union carpenter for the last 17 years. In 2012, after he was laid off from his last job, he accepted a position at the Holden Mine clean-up site in a remote area near Lake Chelan.

Shortly after he started, Larsen began to experience extreme swelling and shortness of breath. With no history of heart issues, he attributed the symptoms to a severe allergic reaction. Larsen continued working and hoped his health would improve.

On July 4, as he prepared to return to his remote jobsite for a 7-day shift, his mother Donna changed his mind.
"I said to him, 'If you go out there in this condition, you're going to be one of those people that get air lifted out'."

She drove him to Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee, where he underwent testing to figure out what was causing his symptoms. Based on initial results, doctors were unable to pinpoint the exact cause of his condition.

After a week of observation and medication, he was released to his home. Unable to work, he struggled, watching the rest of the summer pass him by as his condition did not improve.

"Lonnie's a go-getter that loves the outdoors," said Ingersoll. "Whenever he was home, you'd catch him outside working on something, not sitting still."

In early October, he traveled to the University of Washington hospital in Seattle, where a battery of tests revealed only 10 percent of his heart was actually functioning. He was immediately admitted and shortly thereafter underwent open-heart surgery to implant a pump called a Left Ventricular Assist Device.

One end of the pump was attached to his left ventricle and the other to the aorta, to help his heart pump oxygen-rich blood throughout his body. Larsen wears his pump computer controller, a power pack and a reserve power pack on a belt around his waist. He's also been fitted with a pacemaker/defibrillator combination to help his heart get the job done, but all this hardware is just a temporary fix.

Specialists in Seattle determined that his heart may have been saved had he arrived shortly after the onset of his initial symptoms, but was now damaged beyond repair. He needed a heart transplant.

Larsen remained in Seattle, living in housing available for heart patients, as his condition required him to be near his heart team as a precautionary measure. His wife, Mary, quit her job in Wenatchee and immediately moved to Seattle to support his heart both emotional and physically, leaving the couples' youngest son, Keith, a sophomore at Entiat High School, and daughter Alex, an EHS 2012 graduate, holding down the fort with help from Donna. Larsen's eldest son, a recently retired multiple-tour Afghanistan Army veteran, works in Wenatchee.

Larsen visited Entiat several times since the pump was installed, always returning to Seattle to continue healing from the LVAD surgery. After three months of powerful heart medications, his condition stabilized, allowing doctors to finally put his name on the heart donor list. He returned home Jan. 17 to wait for the most important call of his life.
According to Columbia University Medical Center in New York, "A heart can be outside the body for only about four hours before it loses the ability to function once transplanted." Due to the urgent nature of this type of procedure, when a heart donor is located, Executive Flight in Wenatchee will have a jet and pilot standing by at Pangborn Memorial Airport to fly Larsen to Seattle for his life-saving transplant.

Fundraising for the Larsen family is in full swing, spearheaded by Ingersoll and friend Mona Stevens, the dynamic duo behind the Jan. 12 Chili Feed Fundraiser. "It was successful beyond what we'd hoped for," said Ingersoll, "and now we're gearing up for a donkey basketball and auction fundraiser at Entiat High School on Feb. 10 at 3 p.m. Bruce Wick, owner of Icicle Outfitters, is generously providing and supervising all the donkeys, and we've got four teams ready to compete." Interested riders don't need anything except an adventurous spirit as they take part in what is sure to be an unforgettable spectacle for fans of all ages. Tickets will be sold at various locations around town and at the door on game day. Local auctioneer George Honey will start a live auction immediately following the final game and all proceeds from the event will go directly to the Larsen family. In 2011, the estimated average billed charges per heart transplant in the U.S. came in just under a million dollars, so every dollar raised truly makes a difference.

Larsen is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from the Entiat Valley community. "He's always been the one to lend a helping hand when needed," said Donna, "so having the tables turned is hard for him. He gets very emotional when he talks about it."

For more information on the donkey basketball fundraiser, or
donating to the Larsen family, contact Barb Ingersoll at (509)784-1341.

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, March 11, 2013
Article comment by: Ron James

God Bless your wonderful community of Entiat. I had the great pleasure of working with Lonnie at The Rocky Reach Fish By-Pass in Wenatchee in 2002. Lonnie I know Heavenly Father will make your Heart Transplant a sucess. My wife and I will keep you and your family in our prayers for a speedy recovery. You are blessed to live in such a great community that helps one another

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