Frye family fights through life's obstacles
|Lewie, Dina and Abby Frye of Dixon have kept their spirits high even after Lewie was in a near-fatal motorcycle accident and as Abby continues to battle a kidney-related disease. (Alex T. Paschalfirstname.lastname@example.org)|
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DIXON – Last year, Abby Frye, who has long suffered from a kidney-related disease, saw her health worsen. As a result, she returned home from an Arizona college.
The 22-year-old went on dialysis and was put on a list for a kidney transplant. Her parents, Dina and Lewie Frye, cared for her.
Then the family had another tragedy. In May, Lewie got into a near-fatal motorcycle accident as he was riding home from work.
He was in a coma for a while, then part of his right leg was amputated.
Now, Dina is the family’s caregiver, and its sole breadwinner, working as a secretary for Dixon High School.
Her income is not enough to support the family. They’re able to cover medical bills through her insurance, but are having trouble with other household expenses.
Friends and relatives plan to have a dinner fundraiser for the Frye family in September.
Lewie building his strength
On May 25, Lewie was headed home from his job at Etnyre & Co., a road-building equipment manufacturer in Oregon. Police say he was on South Lowden Road near Oregon about 3 p.m. when he lost control of the bike, which skidded on its side and slid into a car.
“I went in and saw Dad [at the hospital], and it was bad,” Abby wrote on her blog that night. “I knew it was, but seeing him like that, I lost it. Can’t lie. And I don’t know if I can handle going in there again.”
Lewie is undergoing three physical therapy sessions a week at the family’s two-story house on East Chamberlin Street. In a wheelchair, the 49-year-old stays on the first floor. A hospital bed was moved into the living room.
Friends have made the downstairs bathroom handicapped-accessible and widened the entryway into the kitchen. They built a ramp from the back door to the garage.
Lewie aims to build his strength so that he can scale the steep stairs to the second floor, but the family still hopes to move to a one-story house, as they had planned to do before the accident.
The Fryes have two other children, Mike Frye, 27, of Dixon, and Ashley Frye, 28, of Mount Morris.
Their young grandchildren made what they considered a wooden foot for Lewie.
During an interview, he put it up against his leg.
“It doesn’t quite fit,” Dina said, smiling.
Battling disease all her life
At 21 months, Abby was diagnosed with hemolytic-uremic syndrome, a disorder that usually occurs when an infection in the digestive system produces toxic substances that kill red blood cells, causing kidney damage. When she was 8, she received a kidney from her father, shortly after Father’s Day in 1998.
Abby’s bedroom is upstairs. A room next to hers has been converted into a medical supply room.
Handwriting covers her walls and ceiling – passages from songs, movies and the Bible, “things that I want to remember.” On her floor is the Wonder Woman symbol. Figurines of the superhero stand on her shelves.
She got the Wonder Woman nickname when she was younger because she repeatedly defied doctors’ predictions that her kidneys would stop functioning.
Abby, a 2008 Dixon High School graduate, is into shoes. Dozens are on shelves around her room – the most prominently displayed are high heels. She doesn’t know how many pairs she has; she says she usually gets them on sale.
In the middle of her room is a piece of dialysis equipment about the size of a mini-refrigerator.
For 2 hours each day, Abby undergoes dialysis. During that time, she can lie in bed and watch TV or read.
Abby is one class from getting her degree in English literature at Grand Canyon University, a private, Christian school in Phoenix. She attended 2 years at Sauk Valley Community College, then spent a year at the Arizona school.
During her year at Grand Canyon, she started feeling tired all of the time. Her health took a turn for the worse. She needed blood transfusions.
After Abby returned home, Dina woke up one night to hear her daughter pounding her foot on the floor. She discovered Abby having a seizure and called paramedics. Abby was airlifted to OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford.
“I don’t remember any of it,” Abby said. “I woke up at OSF.”
In October 2011, she started dialysis.
Dina takes charge of that procedure every day.
“It’s not a pleasant thing,” her mother said. “I have to stick needles in her.”
Abby’s aunt, Dianne Frye, asked the Make A Wish Foundation to give her niece a chance to speak with “Chuck” actor Zachary Levi, calling Abby a “huge” fan. Levi granted the wish and spoke with Abby via Skype for about 20 minutes.
Despite having the disease for most of her life, Abby has stayed active. She has held part-time jobs at a local bank and other businesses, and she and her mother have taken three missionary trips to Belize.
These past couple of months have been busy for Dina, but she had to return to work.
“If I don’t work, we don’t have insurance,” said Dina, 49.
When Dina is working, the Fryes can count on a list of people willing to drive them to appointments.
‘A bit overwhelmed with this life’
In a July 24 blog entry, Abby said she takes 12 or 13 medications – “and that adds up to feeling pretty crappy all the time.”
She writes that she often tells people she’s fine because “no one likes a complainer.”
“But if you were to ask me how I was doing today, and if, by chance, I were to answer truthfully, here’s what it would sound like, ‘I don’t know. Life is a mess. My emotions are a mess. ... I do feel a bit overwhelmed with this life that is way more than I can handle,’” Abby wrote.
But she said if you don’t want to hear her get outraged or cry, “then my answer remains, ‘I’m fine.’”
The Lewis Frye Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Sept. 1 at Bethel Ministry Center, 131 N. Court St. in Dixon. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children 9 and younger.
Dinner includes spaghetti or lasagna, garlic bread, tossed salad, drink, dessert and an entry to win a door prize. Dinner is served from 5 to 6:30 p.m., and the auction will start at 6.
Tickets are available at Oliver's Food Pride, Bethel Church and Dixon High School, or by contacting Dianne Frye at 815-973-0599 or Sheila Frye at 815-973-8505.
Checks can be made payable to Lewis Frye Benefit Account at any Sterling Federal Bank location.
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