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COVID patient’s family holds fundraiser

Still under medical care
$20K goal to pay bills
Stephen Miller, his children and his wife, Ashley, gathered in the hospital on Christmas last year. Miller is recovering from COVID-19 at Cranberry Place. Submitted Photo

Stephen Miller of Butler went into the emergency room with COVID-19 on Oct. 1, 2021. He has yet to make a full recovery or return home.

In an effort to handle medical bills and living expenses, family members have planned a spaghetti dinner fundraiser from 3 to 7 p.m. May 21 at Prospect Fire Hall, 373 Main St.

“(Stephen) left the house seven months ago and hasn’t been home since,” said his mother, Kathy Miller.

The fundraiser has a goal to raise $20,000 and will feature a basket raffle and 50/50, as well as a meal prepared by Kountry Katering. Kathy said more than 50 baskets have been donated and they expect more.

Ashley Miller, Stephen’s wife, said it has been tough to make things work given their financial situation.

“My husband is a Butler native, and he’s worked hard all his life. He appreciates everyone helping him,” she said. “If we were in a better situation, we would help people out as well.”

Stephen’s story

Stephen entered UPMC Passavant-McCandless Hospital and was put into the intensive care unit and intubated a week later.

“It was tough, our first wedding anniversary we both had COVID,” Ashley said.

Kathy said the hospital called Oct. 11 to say Stephen wasn’t doing well.

“They called and said we better get down there because they thought they were losing him” she said.

“The ventilator wasn’t working, it was hurting more than helping,” Ashley said. “Their only chance was to get him to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital and get put into a medically induced coma.”

Stephen was flown to the hospital for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a procedure where a tube pumps blood outside the body, removes carbon dioxide and transports it back to the body.

Kathy said Stephen’s condition changed when Dr. Christina Thorngren increased the air pressure in the machine to his lungs.

“There’s a danger of bursting the lung tissue,” Kathy said of increasing the air pressure. “Then (Thorngren) said ‘let’s reduce the sedation and see if we can get him to wake up.’ He woke up, and everything is going his way. I credit her with saving his life. Not that there haven’t been setbacks.”

On Jan. 3, Stephen was taken off the extracorporeal oxygenation. He’s been recovering at Cranberry Place since March 2.

“He’s had a hard time coming to terms with what’s happened. He lost six weeks of his life and woke up in a different place. Now he misses home. He’s sad he’s missed out on holidays and birthdays,” Ashley said. “There’s no date in mind for when he can come home; he hopes to attend the fundraiser.”

“He’s eating now, he can walk 100 feet with a walker. He’s building up his muscles. We can hear him speak now; he’s still on a ventilator,” Kathy said. “He’s been praying a lot. I swear that everyone’s prayers are the reason he’s gotten this far.”

Even if you don’t know their family, Ashley said she hopes folks will join them at the fundraiser.

“Everybody out there surely has been affected by COVID in some way or another, so coming to the spaghetti dinner, you can give a donation in memory of someone else,” she said. “(Stephen’s) an amazing person, a great dad and a great husband. No one deserves to be in this position and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”

Presale tickets for the fundraiser are $10 each, or $35 for takeout for a family of four. Tickets at the door are $12. For information on presale tickets, visit the Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser for Stephen Miller Facebook page. To donate, visit givesendgo.com/StephenMiller1982.

Stephen Miller of Butler went into the hospital for COVID-19 in October and has yet to return home. A spaghetti dinner fundraiser is being held for his family on May 21. Submitted photo