The fight of their lives
Local teen and his mom combat mystery illness from Madison hospital
By Eileen Persike
Classes are underway in the School District of Rhinelander, but school is the furthest thing from the mind of a Rhinelander High School senior and his mother. Instead, Gavin Schinke, 17, is in a Madison hospital fighting for his life.
About six weeks ago, Gavin’s mom, Angie Fanning, noticed her normal healthy teenager’s eyes and skin were yellow. After a trip to the doctor and many tests later, Gavin and Angie began the journey they are still on today to find an explanation for his illness. His hemoglobin numbers were low and dropping every day, requiring numerous blood transfusions. Cancer and autoimmune diseases and very rare diseases had been ruled out. After developing more symptoms, however, Gavin was taken by ambulance to UW-Madison Children’s Hospital Aug. 21.
In Madison, Gavin’s spleen was removed; he was in liver failure and was added to the transplant list. More tests, x-rays, cultures. More questions. Doctors found scarring on his lungs, Gavin was having difficulty breathing, elevated heart rate and mental confusion, and his kidneys were now failing. Every day was a bigger mystery with the answers seeming even further away.
Through it all, and still today, Angie has been by Gavin’s side. As a victim advocate at Tri-County Council and Lily’s House in Rhinelander, Angie has made a career of helping others through difficult times. Her “work family” at Tri-County this time wants to be her support.
“As you can imagine, it has been tremendously frightening for Angie, to see her son so critically ill and no one can figure out why,” said Shellie Holmes, Tri-County executive director. “We are such a small family at Tri-County Council that what affects one affects us all – the emotional pain and fear for them is huge.”
Adding to the stress is the fact that Angie’s nine-year-old son Jaxon can’t be with her in Madison, and is living with friends to attend school in Rhinelander. She is staying at the Ronald McDonald House near the hospital to be close to Gavin and consult with his doctors on a daily basis. Until they find the source of Gavin’s illness, doctors are responding to the emergencies and treating the symptoms.
“We just keep Angie and Gavin in our prayers and hope that others will also, praying for complete healing and recovery,” said Jean, Angie’s co-worker.
“We are asking our community to rally around this family and donate whatever they are can do right now,” Holmes said. “Gavin has insurance but that does not cover Angie’s expenses away from home.”
Accounts have been set up at CoVantage Credit Union and Nicolet Bank for anyone who would like to donate and there is a Go Fund Me page in Angie’s name.
A dart tournament benefit at Moonlighting bar in Rhinelander is scheduled for Oct. 10 at 1 p.m.
“Please help if you can-it is appreciated more than you’ll ever know,” Holmes said. Anyone with questions about donating can call Shellie Holmes at Tri-County Council, 715-362-6841.