PORT ANGELES — One spaghetti feed, garage sale, GoFundMe page and donation account later, a Port Angeles woman sits less than $5,000 away from undergoing stem cell therapy for multiple sclerosis.
And “Bingo!” — Jolinda Creery could reach her fundraising goal of $18,000.
So far, individuals and businesses in Port Angeles have donated more than $13,000 to Creery, who found out she was approved for an autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant in March.
“It’s amazing,” Creery said. “I’ve lived in different places and towns, and I’ve never seen the community support I’ve received in Port Angeles.”
On Sunday, the support continues.
From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Creery will host an all-ages afternoon of bingo and snacks at the Port Angeles Senior & Community Center, 328 E. Seventh St. Bingo cards cost $5, and snacks and refreshments are available with a $3 suggested donation. All proceeds go to transplant and transportation costs.
“I really think something good is going to happen,” Creery said of the upcoming fundraiser.
Donations also can be sent to the GoFundMe page “Jolinda’s Stem Cell Therapy Journey” or any First Federal bank location under the account “Jolinda M. Creery Donations.”
She’s also planning another fundraiser Dec. 3: a showing of “It’s A Wonderful Life” at the senior center.
Creery, now 45 years old, has lived with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis since the age of 25. However, in the past eight years of the disease’s progression, Creery’s mobility has declined from walking with one cane to two canes, from two canes and occasional wheelchair use to using a scooter all the time, she said.
“I went from dancing and wearing those cute high-heel boots to using a scooter,” Creery said.
But she remains hopeful of regaining some mobility. StemGenex Medical Group, a stem cell clinic in La Jolla, Calif., approved Creery for an autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant eight months ago.
StemGenex gave Creery 10 weeks to raise the money. She’s asked to extend the deadline three times for a lack of funds.
There is currently no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, stem cell therapy might slow the progression of the disease and limit its symptoms by inhibiting immune attacks against the central nervous system and stimulating regeneration of damaged tissue in the body, according to StemGenex.
The autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant will replace some of Creery’s stem cells with others found in her fat tissue.
“They will take my own stem cells out, clean them and put them back in my body,” Creery explained.
The procedure itself takes six hours, but three days at the clinic also includes pre- and post- consultations.
Donations will pay for Creery’s procedure and travel costs between San Diego and Port Angeles, where her two sons, Ian, 12, and Alex, 8, will remain.
“I’m hoping and praying for a miracle that I will be able to walk again,” Creery said. “[My sons] are hoping I come back walking, too.”
Creery’s also hoping to resume her passion for piano, which had to be put on hold when arthritis in her hands posed too great a challenge for the lifetime pianist.
“Piano has been my life all my life,” she said.
A piano instructor for 20 years, Creery taught people from 5 to 76 years old, from the elementary to intermediate levels. She stopped teaching about five years ago due to the disease’s progression.
“I hope to one day be able to walk, play piano and run with my kids again,” she wrote on the GoFundMe page.
For more information about upcoming fundraisers, contact Creery at 360-912-1684 or jolinda [email protected]
Reporter Sarah Sharp can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at [email protected].