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Community rallies to help local man stricken in Panama


CHATHAM–For Columbia County resident Kenneth Young, what started as an ear infection, has turned into an epic of dire health threats that leave him fighting for his life.

Kenneth Young’s older son, Luke, started a GoFundMe campaign on March 10, 2018 but people on Main Street in Chatham had already been talking about his misfortune by then. On the website, Luke told the story of how his father, who was traveling to Panama for vacation, suffered a burst eardrum as the plane landed. From that he developed a fever and received antibiotics at a local clinic, which was not enough. He was taken to Clinica Hospital, San Fernando, Panama City, where he was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.

Ken Young and friend in better days. The county resident is seriously ill in a Panama hospital. Photo contributed

Doctors induced a coma and performed surgery, but there were complications. One of his lungs collapsed, and his condition was too fragile for him to be transported back home.

Luke explained that although Kenneth has medical insurance, it does not cover out of country treatment. His traveler’s insurance covered the initial hospital expenses, but that money quickly ran out.

The hospital was demanding payment upfront before there could be further treatment. Thus the GoFundMe campaign. High regard for the family in the community is clear. In the first 24 hours of the GoFundMe campaign more than $100,000 had been raised in a campaign with a goal of $95,000.

Updates posted on the website during subsequent days described improvement in Mr. Young’s condition. He was out of the coma, removed from the ventilator and then conscious and talking. Then on March 16 Luke reported that his dad had fallen and hit his head and was back in the intensive care unit. “It’s back to square one,” Luke reported.

The fundraising campaign continues, and as of late Monday, March 19 had raised $125,585 from 523 people, with donations ranging from a few dollars to several thousand, which hints at the range in economic resources of those who hold Mr. Young in their thoughts.

The family has a long history in Columbia County. Mr. Young is the owner and principal architectural designer at Nicholson Blunt, LLC architecture firm, whose office is on Main Street in Chatham, a company he formed in 1993. Kenneth Young and his wife, Irene, have three children: Luke, Esther and Evan. The Youngs had been considering finding a retirement home in Panama. A very good friend of Mr. Young comes from Panama. The weather there is warm and would be more comfortable for Irene, who is dealing with arthritis.

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