For Eric and Patrice Cooper of Winston, help from the Wish Upon a Star program didn’t make all of their struggles disappear in 2016. But they said it sure made a huge difference at the time.

Akira Cooper, who was 7 years old at the time, was burned over most of her body. To make matters worse, the family returned home from a Portland hospital to find the family kitchen was flooded, and insurance didn’t pay for it. Eric Cooper had used up all of his sick and vacation time and was forced to go back to work.

The family, which included four kids at home the time, was nominated and selected for Wish Upon A Star, a partnership between Brooke Communications and area businesses, helping people in need during the holidays for the last 19 years.

The program paid for finishing the countertops in their kitchen, some plumbing, a new refrigerator, food for Christmas and some presents for the kids.

“I got choked up on the phone, I had to hand it to my wife so she could talk to them,” Cooper said. “It’s there for people who have issues that have to be solved now, and it’s not a cure-all, but it was a great thing to have happen to us.”

The daughter, who is now 9, has been making good progress with yearly trips north for appointments to stretch the skin as she grows.

“She’s doing pretty good, and we still have to do treatments up in Portland,” Cooper said.

The family’s insurance was taking care of the treatments up until this year, but now he says, the procedure will no longer be covered and they have a $15,000 bill that went to collections that they have to take care of. The daughter still needs the surgery once a year until she’s done growing, because it helps the scar tissue stretch and she will continue to need the procedure as she keeps growing.

“Fighting with the insurance company is the difficult part right now,” he said.

Her surgery was experimental, but the insurance company signed off it, Cooper said. Even though the surgery has been successful, the insurance company wants them to go back to an approved surgery which requires a lot more cutting and replacing of skin.

“With the laser treatment, you have three days of down time and you’re back to school and your skin’s elasticity is up,” Cooper said. “And it’s much less invasive.”

Cooper said the family is still getting through the financial issues with the medical bills, but he said he will always be grateful for the help from Wish Upon A Star.

“It made a huge difference at the time, we didn’t have anything extra, or anything at the time for Christmas, and we had that kitchen project that was going on, so that we could actually cook a meal for ourselves,” he said. “So if it wasn’t for that (Wish Upon A Star), we wouldn’t have had a very good Christmas that year, that helped out a lot.”

Editor’s note: The News-Review and Brooke Communications share common ownership.

Reporter Dan Bain can be reached at 541-957-4221 or e-mail at dbain@nrtoday.com.

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Dan Bain is the health reporter for The News-Review. He previously worked at KPIC and 541 Radio.

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