HOPE for healing

A new fund inspired by the life of Kristin Kuhlman aims to help lower income families

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Kristin Kuhlman is pictured with her brother, Joe Kuhlman.

A new fund aimed at helping lower income families with sick children is being developed by the Fort Dodge Community Foundation, according to Randy Kuhlman, chief executive officer of the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and the United Way of Greater Fort Dodge.

“We want to be able to help the families, typically on the lower income scale, that may have a lot of obstacles to overcome if they have a sick child,” he said.

The fund, called Hope for Healing, was inspired by the life of Kristin Kuhlman.

Its mission is to provide financial support for children, teens, and young adults, who are facing serious health issues and other emergencies and are in need of support and hope.

Kristin Kuhlman was a young woman from Fort Dodge who died from medical complications after a liver transplant was performed at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals in Madison earlier this year. She is the daughter of Randy Kuhlman and Roxanne Kuhlman.

A celebration is being held at Fort Frenzy on Friday to raise awareness of the need for organ donation and the Hope for Healing fund. A social hour, dinner, and program will be offered. The program will run from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Cost is $25.

Randy Kuhlman said the fund is something his daughter would have wanted.

“My daughter had just gotten her nursing license,” he said. “She went into nursing because she wanted to help people.”

Kristin Kuhlman graduated in the top 10 percent of her class from Fort Dodge Senior High in 2011. She graduated Iowa Central Community College’s nursing program in May 2015.

“In her honor and her spirit, we wanted to have a fund that would be there long term to help people, especially younger people that may not have the financial means to deal with the extra cost,” Randy Kuhlman said.

He said the fund would be there to help people in the greater Fort Dodge area.

Kristin Kuhlman was born with a chronic health condition, which affected her lungs.

“She had a very compromised immune system,” Randy Kuhlman said. “She had been hospitalized for various illnesses.”

Kristin Kuhlman battled through health issues throughout her 24 years of life, he said. She was diagnosed with a rare disease called hepatopulmonary syndrome in November 2015. Her condition required that she be on oxygen at nearly all times.

Ultimately, she would need a liver transplant.

After about nine months of waiting, it was determined that her nonbiological brother, Joe Kuhlman, was a match.

“They took half of his liver and transplanted it in Kristin,” Randy Kuhlman said.

The surgery was performed at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals in Madison.

The donated organ worked for five days, but then stopped.

“She was in a crisis situation and was moved right to the top of the list nationally,” he said.

According to Randy Kuhlman, it was about three days before the second transplant was performed.

“During that time her health went down fast and she didn’t survive,” he said.

Randy Kuhlman said doctors still don’t know exactly what caused her health to decline so quickly.

Through his daughter, he realized the importance of health care and organ donation.

“She saw firsthand the need for quality health care,” he said. “That’s why she wanted to become a nurse herself.”

According to Randy Kuhlman, about 90 percent of transplants nationwide are successful.

“Because she was needing an organ, we became very much entrenched in that whole arena of organ donation and learned firsthand that there’s not enough organs available,” he added. “We realized the impact organ donation can have on people’s lives.”

Randy Kuhlman said people don’t think often enough about organ donation.

“Organ donation is something you don’t think about until you get your license renewed,” he said. “Anyone can be a real super hero by becoming an organ donor.”

“During your lifetime you may not save one life, but if you are an organ donor, you may save two, three, four — eight people’s lives,” he said.

His daughter’s experience also showed him the sacrifices families have to make when supporting a sick child.

“We know people who have had to quit their job because their job says no you can’t get off,” he said.

The expenses add up.

“Motels can cost you anywhere from $100 to $160 a night,” he said. “Gas and food. All these expenses people have to incur when they are dealing with a sick child. It just adds more stress.”

“We really want to be able to help families in those ways,” he said.

Hope for Healing

Where: Fort Frenzy, Cardiff Center, 3232 First Ave. S.

When: Oct. 27

Time: 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Cost: $25

What will the fund support?

• Organ and tissue donation — to give hope for those in need of life-saving organ or life-changing tissue donation.

• Will help advance the nursing profession by helping students in nursing school in covering costs associated with getting their license and attaining their first nursing job.

• Support disadvantaged children and their families whose medical problems are not funded by insurance or other sources. Funds will help to assist families with travel, food, and housing costs when traveling to a specialty hospital for major surgery or treatment.

• Support for disadvantaged children and their families that do no have the financial means to pay for eye glasses, durable medical equipment or prescription drugs.