Fraser musician turns to crowdsourcing to pay medical bills
Sky-Hi News contributor
Fraser-based musician Andy Irvine thought he was suffering from a bad cold while he was on the road touring in early March. His work as a bass guitar player, educator, and author keeps him traveling on average more than 200 days per year, so a visit to the doctor wasn’t high on the professional bass player’s list of priorities.
“I said to myself, ‘I am too busy to go to the doctor’,” said Irvine.
Fast forward six weeks and Irvine was having serious difficulties breathing. He suspected pneumonia and so he made that trip to the doctor. Irvine was quickly admitted to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Denver and spent the following 12 days there.
Chest X-rays revealed a large pleural effusion (fluid in the chest between the lungs and ribs) causing one of Irvine’s lungs to collapse 50 percent. Irvine, who moved to the Fraser Valley in 2000, had a chest tube inserted in order to drain the fluid, which was full of a viral infection. His medical team determined surgery was necessary to repair the damage done to the lung.
“I was fortunate to have an excellent surgeon and the operation was smooth and successful,” Irvine said.
While hospitalized Irvine had access to his bass guitar, and it didn’t take him long to start making music again. When Irvine posted a video of himself picking his bass in his hospital gown with plastic tubing up his nose, it was viewed over 133,000 times within 48 hours. At the end of the video, Irvine breaks into a great big genuine smile.
Irvine, who started playing bass guitar when he was 12, expanded his professional circle to the international level five years ago when he formed a partnership with a German musical instrument manufacturer called Warwick.
“I brought some fresh and organized marketing ideas to the owner of the company which involved combining music education with direct face-to-face grass roots marketing via fun public events and workshops worldwide,” said Irvine.
Since the program launched, Irvine has toured throughout 25 countries on six continents. As a result, his facebook page is awash with get-well messages from all over the world.
“I’m truly blessed to have had the experience to travel the world and meet so many people. The way they all seemed to chime in at once to offer encouragement really blew my mind,” he said.
Now Irvine is back home in Fraser with his wife Kay, recovering. His plan is to play locally for the summer and cut back on the travel schedule until he feels 100 percent, which should be in four-to-six weeks.
Bills to pay
Twelve days in the hospital and the cost of surgery left Irvine, who has health insurance, with thousands of dollars due out of pocket. He has paid for health insurance for years, but the plan he could afford had increasingly higher deductibles and does not cover all of the costly procedures, medications, and hospital bills.
“So even with ‘good’ health insurance I still will have to pay thousands of dollars on my own,” he said.
Irvine’s guitar player John Ohnmacht (known as “Johnny O”) encouraged him to start a GoFundMe campaign, using the popular online crowdsourcing platform, to raise some money. Ohnmacht had an unexpected stroke the year before and had been successful raising much-needed money to pay for his medical bills.
“I was reluctant at first to do the GoFundMe fundraising thing. I just felt awkward and somewhat embarrassed,” said Irvine.
In spite of his initial trepidation, Irvine’s GoFundMe campaign has raised $10,025 of his $25,000 goal so far. With his contacts around the world, Irvine has discovered that GoFundMe gives the people in his life an option to help him, even if they are too far away to bring by a casserole or offer to mow the lawn. Through the site, friends from as far away as Quebec or right down the road in Tabernash have an easy way to contribute to his health and recovery by giving as little or as much as they can afford. Donations range from $5 to $1,000.
“We certainly all get by with a little help from our friends; I’m more grateful than words can express,” Irvine said.
GoFundMe launched just over five years ago, and has raised over $1.1 billion to date. Anyone can use the San Diego-based crowdsourcing site — the campaigns do not have to be connected to a nonprofit or any official organization, although donations are not usually tax-deductible.
GoFundMe takes 8 percent of each donation given to cover their business expenses, which is lower overhead than most major nonprofit fundraising organizations such as the Red Cross (9.1 percent) and the Wounded Warrior Project (41.9 percent), according to their website. So for every $100 given, Irvine receives $92.
GoFundMe is a for-profit business.
Many of the campaigns on the crowdsourcing website are for medical expenses, but the other top areas of usage are educational, volunteerism, personal emergencies and sports/teams.
Irvine’s is one of very few active campaigns in Grand County area.
A Kremmling area family closed their fundraising page receiving over $333,000 (the original goal was $4,000) for their 14-year-old-son, Austin, who was born with Goldenhar Syndrome that causes birth defects of the face and head. Austin is scheduled to have his 53rd major surgery this summer.
There is another medical campaign for a skateboarder named Thomas Scott who broke his hip earlier this year. The Sky-Hi News was unable to reach Scott for comment.
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