Go Fund Me Supporters Raise Funds for Simi Valley Athlete

By Tim Pompey

When 17-year-old Vincenzo McFadden developed a severe cough, neither his parents nor his pediatrician thought it might be life threatening. Eventually, when the cough persisted, Vincenzo’s doctor prescribed steroids. On a Friday, the cough got better and parents Rick and Rita McFadden thought everything was okay.

Late Monday morning, Vincenzo, who had just started his senior year at Royal High School in Simi Valley, called his parents. He couldn’t breathe. Vincenzo’s parents rushed him to Simi Valley Adventist Hospital. That’s when their world was turned upside down.

“They took an X ray of his chest,” said Rick. “They found a mass was collapsing his lungs and his air passage was 90% blocked. So he had to undergo emergency chemotherapy just so he could breathe.”

Vincenzo was flown to UCLA for further emergency treatment. For the McFaddens, the bad news leaked in slowly.

“At UCLA, they prepared Vincenzo for a biopsy and a CAT scan,” Rita explained. “Then, as he laid down and the scope went in, he started coughing and he almost died. They weren’t ready for that.”

Neither were the McFaddens. They had rushed him to the hospital worried initially that he had a respiratory problem. In fact, the problem was much worse. Vincenzo was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. As they later learned, their son’s condition was so serious, 80% of his bone marrow was filled with cancer cells.

As Rita described it: “It’s like you go to tie your shoe and you lose your foot. You just don’t think that can happen.”

Everything about Vincenzo’s condition had been turned on its ear.

For one thing, the prescribed steroids he had taken only temporarily shrank the mass, which had settled in his lungs just above his heart. But the shrinkage was only masking the real problem. When the mass roared back, Vincenzo almost died of suffocation.

The other problem was that the size of the mass made surgery a risky option. “It was so large that it was inoperable,” said Rick. “They couldn’t risk surgery because of the cancer’s size and its location near the heart.”

Vincenzo is now on a four-year treatment plan. For the moment, he’s being aggressively injected with four different types of chemos. The first part of this treatment is called the Induction Period. Traveling down to UCLA at least once a week. Four weeks of heavy chemos

That will be followed by seven months of additional chemos, less strong, and adjusted based on how he responds to the first induction period. After that, he will have three years of maintenance. Doctors project his odds of surviving at 75%.

As for Rick and Rita, they’re still dealing with the shock of Vincenzo’s diagnosis.

“It’s so overwhelming to see our son go through this,” Rita stated. “It’s hard, even though they can tell you till you’re blue in the face.”

Rick mourns his son’s lost opportunity to enjoy his final year of high school. “The tragic part is that he’s seventeen, and he just started his senior year, his last year of high school football. When you think back on school, the senior year is your magic year.”

The McFadden family has Vincenzo’s youth and fitness as an advantage. This is due in large part because Vincenzo has been active in sports for most of his life. He started playing football at five. He is a cornerback for the Royal Highlanders football team. He is also active in varsity wrestling and grew up playing little league baseball.

His father Rick has coached the majority of his youth teams—head coach in little league and assistant football coach on his son’s football teams.

They have also coached together. The McFadden’s have an older brother, Steven, age 29, who is developmentally disabled. Rick and Vincenzo have been active in coaching Steven in the Special Olympics.

“Vincenzo has always been there with me,” said Rick, “coaching softball and basketball.”

The McFaddens are grateful for the support they’ve received both from UCLA Hospital and from the local community. “UCLA has been very supportive,” Rick avowed. “Many times they’ve offered different social workers or therapists that we can get involved with. We’re trying to get him to have a peer the same age that’s already been going through this.”

They also have friends and family who have been very attentive. “Our family has been very supportive. They call all the time,” said Rita.

“Her parents don’t live too far from here and she has a sister in Simi and my mom and my sister are always calling,” Rick affirmed. “A lot of people have been reaching out through Facebook There are a lot of people who are sending good wishes and prayers, so we know we’re not alone.”

Though they have health insurance, they know that eventually money will be an issue. Even with insurance, there are deductibles and other expenses they have to pay out of pocket. And they have both taken leave from work to be full-time caretakers.

To help with the reduction in income and the costs of Vincenzo’s treatment, supporters of the Royal High School football team have set up a Go Fund Me Page. Rick and Rita continue to be touched by the page’s financial support, particularly from people they don’t know.

“As far as the Go Fund Me Page, that has been astonishing,” said Rick. “We are very humbled by how many people have responded. Half the people we don’t even know. It’s astonishing how many people are willing to help financially. It really lifts us up.”

For Rita, it gives her comfort to know these finances are available. “It’s only been a month that our lives have been turned upside down,” she explained, “so to know that the Go Fund Me account is there and that we can draw from it, it’s like I can breathe because I was so worried that come January we’re looking at our deductible having to be satisfied again. Just to know that this is going to be covered, that peace of mind is going to be unbelievable.”

The McFaddens have a long, uncertain road ahead of them, but they remain strong and hopeful about Vincenzo’s survival. In football and in life there are adversaries and challenges but also strength and victories. As a family, they support each other. As a community, Simi Valley supports the McFaddens.

As Rita describes it, they are learning to take one day at a time. “We just go day by day,” she said, “and tackle whatever comes up that day and we handle it.”

Anyone interested in supporting Vincenzo and his Go Fund Me account can easily donate at the following site:  www.gofundme.com/2mnu6xvb

My Project

Vincenzo McFadden

Tim Pompey, a freelance writer who has done lots of local affairs and entertainment/cultural writing, lives in Oxnard. Tim is also a fiction writer (Facebook Page). You can presue is books his page on Amazon.com: amazon.com/author/booksbytimpompey.


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