Friends support ill alumna

by Jeremy Taff

It began as one of her usual stomachaches, but within days University graduate Jennifer Plucker found herself in a strange hospital bed in a new town and without health insurance.
But now Plucker, 24, is getting a little help from her friends.
After graduating last June, Plucker landed a job as the Outdoor Education Director this October at Bertie County YMCA in Windsor, N.C.
But one week after arriving, Plucker started feeling ill. The next week she was hospitalized, and within two days diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and spent the following three weeks in the Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville, N.C.
Crohn’s Disease is a severe, chronic inflammation of the digestive tract that causes loss of blood and can lead to the removal of the colon.
Plucker’s hospital stay consisted of feeding tubes, testing procedures and a blood transfusion. After she left the hospital, she was on eight medications. Currently her prescription calls for five medications.
Plucker battled with ulcerative colitis — a similar, but less severe condition — since her freshman year at the University. The difference between the two diseases is that ulcerative colitis affects the colon, and Crohn’s Disease can affect the entire digestive system.
“The most frustrating part of all was that I had just graduated with this great new job, and I couldn’t get any financial assistance unless I quit my job and didn’t work for a year, then I could claim disability,” Plucker said.
Plucker is unable to get other insurance because of her health, and insurance benefits from her new employer, which begin in 90 days, will not cover this pre-existing condition.
The social service department at the hospital told Plucker that if she was over 21 and had no children, there was nothing they could do for her.
Yet, Plucker said that every time a doctor came into her hospital room during her stay it cost her $115. “My first month’s prescription was almost $600,” Plucker said.
Plucker’s debt from almost one month of medical attention could add up to $60,000 — or the amount she would have paid in buying a new home.
“When we heard of Jen’s condition, we knew we could help,” said University graduate Lisa Elliott, one of Plucker’s four college friends that have organized a fund-raising measure to help her. “Jen has done so much for the University, so much for others, she deserves this.” Elliott said.
To help, Elliott and University alumnae Amy Apfelbeck, Kate Klingberg and Sarah Ranney are sending fliers and information to friends, family members, Plucker’s former employers — anyone who could contribute to her mounting hospital bills.
The information, which the friends are starting to distribute today, gives a history of Plucker’s illness and an address of where people can send their contributions.
The friends hope Plucker’s past service to the community will be repaid in her time of need.
Plucker graduated from the Department of Recreation, Park and Leisure Studies with an emphasis in Outdoor Education. She was actively involved in various YMCA programs at the University. She was also a resident assistant at Comstock Hall.
Her new position at the Bertie County YMCA included starting a summer camp and creating a class focusing on youth at risk and character development.
But, more than money, Plucker said her friends are offering relief from worries about her money problems and her illness.
“I could have never made it without them,” Plucker said of her friends. “They would send me care packages and call me everyday.”
Plucker’s parents were unable to visit her in the hospital, but she said she was very fortunate. “The couple I was staying with drove an hour every day to see me in the hospital,” Plucker said, “they even took care of (my dog) Logan.”

Send any contributions for Plucker to:
Lutheran Brotherhood Branch ##8932
Ev Krigsvold Treasurer
2830 13th Street
Eau Claire, Wis. 54703
Make Checks payable to:
LB N.W.E.C. Branch ##8932
Memo: For the benefit of Jennifer Plucker.