Community rallies around Fremd staffer after wife's leukemia diagnosis, daughter's premature birth
Family, friends and colleagues have rushed to provide support -- including through a pair of fundraisers -- to the family of a Fremd High School employee whose wife last week was diagnosed of a rare form of leukemia, leading to the premature inducement of their daughter's birth.
Kurt Conley, a network technician at the Palatine school, said Wednesday that while the situation is far from resolved, both his wife, Ashley, and newborn daughter, Harlow, are making progress.
Ashley is receiving chemotherapy that has a 90% effectiveness rate but required her to give birth before she began treatment. While she's experiencing some complications and pain, her blood test results are normalizing.
She credits her pregnancy for the speed with which she sought medical care when she began suffering bruises, bloody noses and bleeding gums in the days leading up to her diagnosis.
Harlow, meanwhile, is gaining strength but expected to remain in the newborn intensive care unit at NorthShore Evanston Hospital until approximately the time of her originally expected delivery on March 28.
As rare as Ashley's form of leukemia is, doctors expect she'll be released from the hospital before Harlow.
But that doesn't mean things are going to be back to normal for the Conley family anytime soon. Ashley will have to see her doctor every day even after she returns to the family's Cary home.
"When that doctor confirmed that diagnosis, I knew my life would never be the same," Kurt said. "It changes your perspective on everything. I'm hoping it's for the better."
Despite the challenges ahead, Kurt said the family is grateful for the outpouring of support for him, Ashley, Harlow and their three young sons. Ashley's mother traveled from her retirement home in Michigan to help, Kurt's Fremd colleagues have chipped in with meals and fundraisers, and the blood donations of strangers have saved Ashley's life.
Kurt said he hopes to reach a point where he can start to pay it forward by coordinating a blood drive in Ashley's name.
A GoFundMe drive -- Comfort for the Conley Family -- was set up by Kurt's cousin and had raised $15,925 of its $20,000 goal by Wednesday afternoon. An annual staff chili cook-off at Fremd that typically raises about $2,500 happens to have been scheduled for this Friday, so this year's proceeds will go to the Conleys.
While the family has insurance through Kurt's job at Fremd, Ashley cannot maintain her at-home work as an administrative assistant for a financial company and Kurt hasn't earned as many paid sick days as he's needed. Because of quarantine and testing protocols since the COVID-19 outbreak, Kurt said he's had to use about 12 or 13 sick days for the few times he's felt ill in the past two years.
He said he's overwhelmed by the support that's been shown his family in the past week, especially since he's only now marking his second anniversary at Fremd.
Though it's been a challenge to keep everyone updated about the changing situation, Kurt said the outpouring of help is a strong reason he keeps trying.
"It's been unbelievable," Kurt said. "We've just been blown away by the support. I've made a lot of friends here, but the support has been amazing. These people took the time out of their day to support us."