Time is running out for 8-year-old Mikaslyn Larson, and her family needs to raise $35,000 by Friday if the young girl is to get the critical leg surgery she needs.
Mikaslyn's surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 16, and the Texas hospital that is willing to undertake the unusual procedure needs the money by Friday.
"Mikaslyn is the only one in the family with medical insurance and it will only cover 50 percent of the cost, which isn't enough for the hospital," said Kristine Larson, Mikaslyn's mother. "What that means is we have to raise the money."
Mikaslyn - called MJ by friends and family - was born with a neurological/
neuromuscular disorder of unknown origin that has caused her many serious afflictions, including the inability to speak, chronic brain seizures called hypsarrhythmia and a weak skeletal structure that keeps her confined to a wheelchair.
Unbeknownst to her parents and physicians, Mikaslyn's left femur has slowly slipped out of the hip socket.
The dislocation became obvious last year when one leg appeared to be longer than the other, explained her mother, Kristine.
While it took years for doctors to diagnose the problem, it took nearly a year to find a doctor with the skill and the willingness to repair her hip.
Some of the nation's finest pediatric orthopedic surgeons and some of the most prestigious hospitals backed out on a promise to undertake the surgery because they feel it's too complicated a procedure for someone so young - and because Mikaslyn's Medicare insurance won't cover the medical bills, Kristine said.
No one in Montana can do the surgery, and out-of-state hospitals aren't willing to accept Montana's low-paying Medicare coverage, said Mikaslyn's father, Rick.
"Doctors have told us they won't do this surgery after the age of 9 because of the way kids' bones start forming, and anytime after that - while they are still growing - causes more harm than good," Kristine said. "We are chasing time in a lot of ways, and had we known about the leg earlier, had we caught this problem earlier, we would have fixed it earlier."
Mikaslyn's body language clearly communicates that her dislocated leg is painful and uncomfortable, Kristine said. The youngster has trouble sleeping, and her deep exhaustion is the likely source of her seizure "storms."
"The really irritating thing is that it is possible that had doctors found this earlier, it could have been fixed with a leg brace," Rick said. "Now she's at risk, her potential is at risk.
"For me, I see this surgery as a lifesaving operation that will save her future, and she deserves to have a good life as much as any one."
The Larsons have structured their lives around Mikaslyn and her needs. Kristine gave up her job as a paralegal six years ago to attend to her daughter full time, while Rick is a Web developer who works at home so he, too, can assist and help raise the couple's 2-year-old son, Magregor.
"We have no insurance, Mikaslyn is the only one in the family who does," Kristine said. "We have canceled cable television. We have canceled everything possible to pay for her medical treatments. We thought about selling our cars, but we need to be able to get around."
The couple has been humbled and stunned by the quiet fundraising effort friends have helped them launch through Facebook. About half of the immediate $35,000 they need has been raised through word of mouth and the Internet, and now, with time working against them, they are optimistic that others can offer financial assistance.
"Hopefully, if things turn around for us, we will be able to do our part and help others," Kristine said. "I know there's a lot of need out there."