I took my father to the hospital emergency department for chest pain on Tuesday. He didn’t want to go, but he knew he needed to. I was ready and waiting to take him, but I had to wait until he put down the guitar and stopped singing to his grandchildren. He took his time packing a bag and making sure his house was in order despite my protestations. When we finally arrived, he walked through the doors while I parked the car.

The next day, my dad found out that the only thing that would keep his heart beating much longer was open-heart surgery. This wasn’t easy news to take in. He had spent the last many years trying many dietary, exercise, and natural supplementary treatments in attempts to avoid this, an ailment that runs in his family.

We took comfort in the fact that he was in the very best hands in terms of the hospital and surgical team. We even learned to be grateful that the VA had not called him back in an entire week — during which he had left numerous messages regarding chest pain — because it led to him being in the hospital in Charlotte, local to all his family and friends, with the very best doctors, and not hundreds of miles away in a small VA facility, all alone.

On Thursday, the VA finally decided to call him, but only to inform him that they would not cover his surgery in the Charlotte hospital. They wanted him transferred by ambulance, despite his fragile condition, to a small mountain town hours from anyone he knows — this is the same organization who could not be bothered to call him back for a week when he was reporting chest pain. We made a few phone calls to trusted friends who advised us not to allow the VA to operate.

We knew he needed to have this surgery right where he was. But the hospital told us it would cost a minimum of $150,000, and they needed payment.

If it were up to my dad alone, he might have agreed to go to Asheville for this surgery. He seemed disappointed, discouraged, and nearly resigned to accept this option. But we, his family, could not bear the thought of his life hanging in the balance anywhere but in the very best hospital money could buy. My dad should live another 20 years at least, and those 20 years are worth more than any amount of money. We told him that we would figure out how to keep him here in Charlotte and get him the best surgery that could possibly be had.

So, we asked you, his friends and supporters, to give.

We just knew that if you folks knew what he was going through, you would band together to get him the surgery he needed, when and where he needed to have it, to give him the best chance at another 20 or more years of teaching, writing, sharing, and playing the guitar for his grandchildren.

Although I felt from the beginning you would come through, I am completely blown away by your response. As I write this, over 880 people have pitched in to make sure he is taken care of. I see many, many donations of $100. Some given anonymously, others given with names and words of encouragement, all so appreciated.

I am blessed beyond measure to see amounts of $1,000 or more being donated from those who have means and have it in their hearts to dig deep. And when I see donations of $5, $10, and $20, it nearly makes my heart burst, knowing that this money was given from people who might not have as much to give, but who still freely give what they can. What a blessing to know how many people rallied together to take care of my dad in his time of greatest need.

On behalf of my dad, his family, and all who love him, I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart. You have shown us great love, and surely you have treasure waiting for you in heaven.

—Leigh Fransen (nee Rood)

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