Respiratory conditions make everyday tasks hard for Heidi Willcocks
Showering, getting dressed and folding laundry are simple tasks for many. But when Heidi Willcocks takes on such mindless chores, she quickly runs out of breath and is left to hope she will have enough energy the rest of the day.
Willcocks was born with many medical conditions including asthma, allergies, chronic sinusitis and eosinophilic esophagitis, which cause her lungs to work only at roughly 45 percent of what they should. These conditions force Willcocks to work much harder for each breath, and she wheezes and becomes exhausted after most tasks.
“Getting in the shower today and getting ready is my aerobic exercise for the day … and most people just take that for granted,” Willcocks said.
In February 2012, the Linwood woman was diagnosed with allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, a rare type of allergy to certain molds. It is impossible for Willcocks to prevent contact with certain airborne molds.
Not only is the 42-year-old allergic to the molds in the air, she wheezes from petroleum products, dust, soaps, perfumes, cigarette smoke and harsh chemicals such as those in cleaning products.
Willcocks rarely leaves her air-purified house because of the risk of running into an allergen that could cause a reaction.
“This is my safe zone,” she said.
Her husband, Jeff Willcocks, spends several days a week mopping, dusting and vacuuming to remove any dust that could worsen his wife’s breathing. Those duties fall on top of his job as an emergency medical technician with North Memorial Ambulance and his volunteer work with Linwood Fire Department.
Heidi Willcocks could not even go to school as a child due to allergens in the classroom. She listened to her classmates and teachers at Southwest Junior High School through an intercom system until ninth grade.
Heidi Willcocks realized that system would not be practical going forward, so she went on a steroid called Prednisone and was able to join her classmates at Forest Lake High School.
Major side effects caused Heidi Willcocks to hate the steroid. She said her face began to swell up, she was always hungry, had stunted growth, was emotional and her body became addicted to the steroid.
“I become crazy on Prednisone. … I can’t sleep, I can’t focus, and I can’t think straight,” Heidi Willcocks said.
After being steroid-dependent for 27 years, she now only uses the steroid in emergencies when she has trouble breathing.
Heidi Willcocks avoids Prednisone by taking supplements and using an inhaler and a nebulizer. She spends almost $200 a month on supplements of calcium, vitamin C, anti-inflammatory vitamins and antioxidants.
In the past year, her allergies and asthma have become much worse, causing her to take a break from her job at a chiropractic office. At home she researches her conditions, looks for possible cures and pays medical bills.
“It’s a full-time job figuring out medical bills,” Heidi Willcocks said.
The couple has been dealing with financial setbacks on top of the medical bills. A broken water heater, vacuum filter and lawn mower have caused the couple to dip into their retirement fund.
Friends are throwing a benefit in hopes of raising $20,000 to help the couple pay medical bills and living expenses and purchase medical equipment such as a nebulizer machine, air filter and water distiller to improve Heidi Willcocks’ breathing.
The Willcockses said they have faith the benefit will be successful and appreciate the help of those who will donate money, give time and pray. They said they don’t lose hope when times get hard. Surviving through her struggles and seeing the miracles of God have only strengthened their faith, Heidi Willcocks said.
“Everything happens for a reason,” she said. “I have to remember God’s in control and he has a plan.”
Barn Dance Benefit
The barn dance benefit for Heidi and Jeff Willcocks will be held Sunday, July 28, at Pinehaven Farm, 28186 Kettle River Blvd. N., Wyoming. Doors open at 2 p.m. and dinner will be served at 4:30 p.m. The Killer Hayseeds will play from 4-8 p.m. The event will also feature mechanical bull rides, a silent auction and farm animals. Western attire is encouraged.
More information can be found at www.barndancebenefit.com, where donations can be made and $10 tickets can be purchased for the dinner and dance. Tickets for the dinner or dance alone cost $5. An account for donations has also been set up at First State Bank of Wyoming.