For the past week and a half, family and friends have been raising money on a GoFundMe page to support Ron Hellstern, a local conservationist.
In June 2018, Hellstern, the chairman of the Cache Valley Wildlife Association and former Nibley City Council member, was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. After the doctors gave him the green light to keep traveling and doing business as usual, he was able to do most anything he wanted to with few side effects.
After starting a new chemo treatment in November and leaving for a cruise to South America at the beginning of December, Hellstern started having an increasing number of concerning symptoms. Fever, chills and leg pain led to jaundice, nausea and an emergency flight back to the U.S. and a weeklong stay in intensive care at Miami University Hospital.
While most of the hospital bills are covered through insurance, Hellstern’s daughter Tana Cambra said her father had to be flown by medical helicopter across the country, requiring a $40,000 payment upfront.
“It has been a lot different from what we expected the end to be like,” Cambra said. “I started the GoFundMe to help my mom so she wouldn’t have to worry about the money while she is worrying about my dad and everything else.”
In just one week, friends and community members raised close to $5,000 and left comments on the page about Hellstern’s impact on the community.
After 11 days in the McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden and faced with the choice between hospice or living out the rest of his days on dialysis, Hellstern decided on Christmas Eve that he wanted to go back home to Nibley without further medical intervention.
“It is hard to see someone who loved to be outside, who cared so much about the surrounding environment and who was always out at parks or caring for his bees, to be stuck inside in a bed for the remainder of his days,” Cambra said. “But when I think of my dad, I can’t picture him in a nursing home; and this way, his family, who are almost all in the valley, can come visit him anytime.”
Cambra said she is heartened by the responses so far on the GoFundMe page and is grateful for the nearly 230 shares but can’t help but feel anxious to get more people involved.
The GoFundMe page can be found at gofundme.com/f/get-ron-hellstern-home.