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Benefit dinner planned for former Scottdale VFD chief

| Monday, May 6, 2013, 9:36 a.m.

Jerry Younkin of Scottdale received a lifesaving lung transplant last year, and the costs are still overwhelming.

In an effort to help the former Scottdale Volunteer Fire Department chief and his family with ongoing medical expenses, a spaghetti dinner fundraiser will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Scottdale Firemen's Club, 405 Porter Ave.

Younkin was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in December 2009. After nearly a year of testing at the Cleveland Clinic, he was approved for a lung transplant, and on Oct. 21, 2010, was placed on the national transplant list.

His daughter, Melissa Danser, said Younkin received a call almost two weeks later that there was a lung available for him. After traveling to the Cleveland Clinic and getting prepped for the surgery, the family was told the lung was not viable.

Several days later, the family again got a call that a lung was available. After going through the process again, they were informed this lung also was not up to transplant standards.

A few months later, the family got a third call. It was on Friday, Jan. 13, 2012. The family was told a lung was available and ready for transplant. Because of a bad snowstorm, however, the Cleveland Clinic sent a medical jet to Latrobe Airport to pick up Younkin and his wife, according to their daughter.

On Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, Younkin was wheeled into surgery at 6 a.m.

By 11 a.m., the family received the news that the transplant went extremely well.

Danser said it has been more than 15 months since the transplant and her father is doing great.

“He has had a few incidents of slight rejection, but Cleveland Clinic has treated that, and he is in the clear,” she said.

Younkin visits the clinic every few months for a checkup, and they are excited about how well he is doing, according to Danser.

Unfortunately, Younkin is unable to work, and the financial burden has been significant.

“With numerous trips to Cleveland Clinic for follow-up appointments and procedures, daily rejection medications and health insurance premiums, the cost is overwhelming,” Danser said. “It seems when things are already tight enough, something else happens, like the hot water tank breaks.

“They are doing the best they can since my mother is the only one working, but it has been hard for them going from two incomes to only one,” she added.

“We had a great turnout at the last fundraiser, with an enormous amount of support from our friends, family and local community,” Danser said. “We hope this one is just as successful.”

Rachel Basinger is a freelance writer.

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