With tears in her eyes, Rose Johannes of Honesdale shares her most fervent wish — for her son to get better.

With tears in her eyes, Rose Johannes of Honesdale shares her most fervent wish — for her son to get better.

Fifty-one-year-old Jeff Johannes of Hawley survived severe burns in 1983 following a bad house fire, a life-changing event that required multiple surgeries, skin grafts, and blood transfusions. Little did he know, as he recovered, that a new disease had entered his system, one that would lay dormant for over 20 years. In August of 2007, Jeff was diagnosed with Hepatitis C (HCV), a contagious virus causing inflammation of the liver, from the earlier blood transfusion. 

“I turned all yellow and jaundiced and got very short of breath,” he said. “My system just wasn’t functioning.” Jeff says he was almost in liver failure at that point. On top of that, Jeff has Non-Hodjkins Lymphoma, a blood related cancer, diagnosed in 2001.

Treatment for the cancer involved radiation, something Jeff says left his immune system “beaten up” so by the time they started the HCV medicine, Jeff got even more sick. HCV treatments started in October. “And by the middle of December, he was back in the hospital,” says daughter Tracy. Jeff says he’d filled up with fluid. “I gained thirty-some pounds in a matter of two weeks,” he said. “That put pressure on everything internally. I couldn’t breath,” he said. Jeff’s blood count was way off, requiring four units of blood and platelets during his hospital stay. Jeff says he’s still undergoing treatments to get his blood counts back to a tolerable range.

Necessary medical treatments cost Jeff over $6,500 a month. Jeff says about 60 percent of that is covered by insurance. He’s grateful to co-workers from Kimball Midwest (nationwide maintenance and industrial supplies company) for raising donations for him. His health hasn’t allowed him to work since July. He’s grateful to all the friends and family who have done so much for him out of love.

Hoping for good days
Tracy wishes her dad had more good days. She misses their family trips. “Even simple things, like we used to frequently go over to Scranton and go shopping or go to dinner. And it’s very rare that we can do that. He just doesn’t have enough good days. And a good day will turn into a bad day very quickly. He can be feeling fine and we might head to go out somewhere and get down the road and he feels sick. The biggest thing is I’d like to be able to see him being able to do more with my daughter. He used to be able to get down on the floor, roll around with her and play. He just can’t do that anymore.  I’d just like him to able to enjoy his time with his family,” she said. Tracy says daughter Emma is her dad’s pride and joy. 

“He used to go fishing with my brother (Jeff Johannes, Jr.) and now can’t,” Tracy says. Jeff says he’d give anything to be out there fishing again with his son. “I’d be happy to be back to work and doing what I used to do,” he said. “My future, at this point is dismal, because we don’t know where we’re going,” he says. “We’ve talked about transplants and partial transplants (liver) and bone marrow transplants. But there’s nothing definite.” Jeff says his Non-Hodjkins Lymphoma is in remission, but his HCV has progressed to liver cirrhosis. Tracy says they’re headed to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia on March 3, to see a liver specialist to discuss options. Tracy said they hope to find out whether or not a liver transplant is an option and how effective it would be.

Benefit bingo planned
A benefit bingo to offset Jeff’s medical costs is being held at the Hawley Ambulance Building on Saturday, March 8. Doors open at 4:30 p.m., with bingo starting at 6:45 p.m. Pre-sale tickets are $25; or $30 at the door. The event is organized by family and friends. Jeff is a former volunteer emergency medical technician (EMT) and paramedic, having volunteered with several local ambulance corps.: Honesdale, White Mills, Hawley and Damascus. As a paramedic, he worked in Lackawanna County and in the emergency department at CMC Hospital.   For more details about the bingo, call Tracy at 228-9824, Jeff at 228-7691, Sherrie at 253-6574, or Rick at 226-0801. They hope to sell 100 to 150 tickets. “Come to a good cause,” says Jeff’s mom, 68-year-old Rose, “We need their help.”