Terminally ill Army wife raises $20k, maybe be able to receive 3 months of treatment

Published: December 14, 2013, 1:20 pm, by Erin Prater

melissahorseA Colorado Springs Army wife dying of a rare genetic disorder now has enough money for three months of a life-extending treatment — two more than she initially set out to raise money for.

In October, Melissa Klein, a 21-year-old suffering from incurable genetic disorder mitochondrial neurogastrointestinal encephalopathy, started a campaign on a crowd-funding website to raise $10,000 for the treatment: erythrocyte encapsulated thymidine phosphorylase, designed to repair the molecular defect that causes her disease.

The treatment is being offered in London to those who can pay $6,100 a month for it. Because it hasn’t been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it isn’t covered by the Kleins’ insurance. Klein tacked on an additional $3,900 to her fundraising goal for travel expenses.

Klein is the wife of a soldier assigned to Fort Carson’s Warrior Transition Battalion due to injuries sustained in Afghanistan in 2011 when his vehicle struck a roadside bomb.

Doctors don’t expect Klein to live past 30, but the 63-pound Army wife doesn’t think she has long left.

When The Gazette posted an article about Klein’s plight at midnight on Dec. 7, she’d collected about $1,700. In the wee hours of Sunday morning, the article went viral.

As of late Friday, Klein had collected a little over $20,000 between her online campaign, funds donated to a Wells Fargo account she set up, and funds sent to her via PayPal and check, she said.

On Dec. 8, a donor offered to take care of the Kleins’ airfare to and from London. Between his offer and the funds, receiving three months of the life-extending treatment may be possible for Klein.

“But we have to figure out how we are going to survive first,” Klein said Friday via Facebook message. “If we stay there for over a month, I need my (total parental nutrition). I need my port needle changed weekly. We both have our medications. It will be very hard to just change everything to go to London.”

Klein is also unsure of when her husband will be medically discharged from the Army. If the pieces fall into place before his discharge, he doesn’t have enough leave saved up to be with Klein for very long. If the trip occurs after he has been discharged, he may have to work to make ends meet, depending on how much disability he receives and when the payments start coming, and may not be able to travel with her.

“We are starting to realize how hard all of it will be,” Klein said.

Klein has yet to hear back from Dr. Bridget Bax, a senior research fellow at St. George’s University of London who has researched the disease extensively, regarding when she might be able to start the treatment.

Those who wish to donate to Melissa Klein’s campaign can do so at www.igg.me/at/mngie-treatment or visit any local Wells Fargo bank and ask to donate to the Melissa Klein donation account. Melissa Klein’s first and last name must be used when requesting to donate, she said.

To read The Gazette’s story about the plight of Melissa Klein and her combat-wounded husband, click here.

To visit the Facebook page Melissa Klein launched to raise awareness about her condition, click here.

Melissa Klein can be contacted directly via email at melissa.klein3@gmail.com.