Once again, Yumans have opened their hearts and their wallets to help one of their own, this time a 6-year-old girl who was suddenly struck with a serious illness that has her facing a long road to recovery.

The response has been amazing, said Kris Leon, who set up a GoFundMe account in early September to assist the family of Rosemary Reed, a first-grader at Gowan Science Academy who has been undergoing treatment at a Tucson hospital after coming down with viral meningitis and its complications.

On Aug. 15, Rosemary became ill and her parents, Ian and Giovana Reed, took her to the Yuma Regional Medical Emergency Department. She was admitted to the hospital with viral meningitis, possibly the result of a mosquito bite. After two days at YRMC, she was flown to Banner Children’s Hospital in Tucson where her condition progressed to ADEM (Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis).

According to the Internet, ADEM is characterized by inflammation in the brain and spinal cord leading to neurological symptoms, including difficulty coordinating voluntary muscle movements such as those used in walking.

At Banner, Rosemary received high doses of steroid treatments.

So far, said Leon, Rosemary has been able to wiggle her toes.

Her doctors are optimistic she will eventually make a full recovery, and she was released from the hospital on Friday. However, she will require a significant amount of physical therapy for the next year or two to regain motor function and sensation to her legs and learn to walk again.

Meanwhile, the family also is expecting their third child, another girl, in early October. Rosemary also has a little brother, Jackson.

“I am setting up this GoFundMe account to assist Ian and Gio in being able to stay on top of their medical bills from this unexpected illness of Rosie,” Leon said in the account. “The road to recovery will be a long one. Your donation can help ease the strain that an illness such as this can have on not just the sick but their family. Your donation will help lessen the financial strain caused by this unexpected event.”

Leon said he set a goal of raising $15,000, the amount he estimated the Reed family will need to meet out-of-pocket medical costs, travel expenses to Tucson and medical equipment Rosemary may need upon her return home as well as long-term physical therapy ahead of her.

In addition to the GoFundMe account, Rosemary’s fellow Gowan Gators raised money for her by paying a dollar each to participate in a non-uniform day. Other fundraisers may follow but nothing definite is planned yet.

Leon said he got involved because Ian Reed is a close friend as well as a fellow firefighter with Yuma Fire Department Station 1. The two had served on the same shift and crew for more than two years until Reed was promoted to fire engineer and moved to another shift. In addition, Reed’s father is a retired firefighter and his father-in-law is a firefighter.

After learning of the Reed family’s crisis, Leon and another firefighter decided they wanted to help by setting up the fundraising account. Firefighters also are offering to cover Reed’s shifts while he is with his daughter.

“We wanted to make sure the family was doing OK,” Leon said, noting that the Reeds do have good support at home with grandparents not only visiting Rosemary in the hospital but also caring for Jackson.

“We wanted to support Ian as part of the firefighting family … and he’s part of the community,” Leon said. And he’s overwhelmed with how the community has stepped up to help the family.

“What an amazing response,” Leon said, adding that $1,800 was donated within an hour and more than $8,000 was raised in the first couple of days after the account was set up. Word has been spreading through Facebook and word of mouth.

He continued: “I spoke with Ian a bit … an hour after the GoFundMe was set up and they are extremely appreciative of the support friends and family have given. He wanted me to pass on that they are extremely grateful and that the amount of support has exceeded what they thought was possible. They feel very humbled by the love and appreciation our community is showing them. Thank you to everyone that has donated and shared the link thus far.”

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