Radio Man Raises 11K For Eye Surgery

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By SHAUN SAVARESE

Of The Record Staff

Dunn’s guiding voice needed direction, and it was provided, by Dunn residents and through the help of local businesses and media.

The GoFundMe webpage of B.J. Jenkins, “Stem cell surgery for my brother,” (https://www.gofundme. com/ stemcellsurgeryformybrotherNC4BJ) shows $11,394 of his $22,000 raised by 70 people in one month. Most of the donations came offline. The money is to be used to send him to Florida for experimental, stem cell surgery on his eyes.

That is an incredible influx of support since a March 27 article in The Daily Record reported the total funds raised were just $590.

Mr. Jenkins, his brother and his wife printed the March article and included a raffle ticket on the back of it as a flyer, which they handed out at a ham radio festival in Raleigh last week. The Raleigh Amateur Radio Society (RARS) donated a table and announced from the stage information about Mr. Jenkins’ fundraiser.

“They were outstanding to us,” he said, “We had a total, when we concluded that activity, of $1,200 in ticket sales … . The ham radio community has been just wonderful.”

The raffle tickets, sold for $5 a piece, enter the purchaser into a drawing for a retractable awning or $1,000 in cash and Mr. Jenkins’ brother, Ed, of Chapel Hill, will hold the drawing between May 15-20.

The fundraising team has since left those same handouts at several See Radio Man, Page 3

Jenkins Radio Man

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Dunn restaurants. “Any contribution, any gift, large or small, they’re all important and critical to us,” Mr. Jenkins said.

The $1,200 raised in Raleigh was deposited into a speciallyheld bank account along with an additional $9,300 that is to be used to send the North Orange Avenue resident to Margate, Fla., for experimental stem cell surgery on his eyes.

Mr. Jenkins requires surgery because he is suffering from macular degeneration, which made him legally blind and left him with only peripheral vision.

The experimental stem cell surgery is scheduled for June and so his fundraising goal must be met by May 15. The $22,000 is for travel, room, board and the cost of the operation which could possibly give him back his vision.

The longtime North Carolina disc jockey began to lose his sight 17 years ago. After losing sight in his right eye, he began to spend a lot of time in consultation with eye specialists to save the sight in his left.

“Macular degeneration is the part of the eye that reads The Daily Record and can look up and read a sign 100 yards down the street,” he said, “That part is dead gone.”

He said he has peripheral vision, but everything in the center of his sight line is a color-blended blur. His current vision is 20/400.

“(The) procedure consists of taking stem cells out of both hips,” Mr. Jenkins said. “They put it in an FDA-approved centrifuge and they make the medicine from that, that goes, ultimately, into each eye. Up to three shots into each eye and some of it is put in intravenously.”

He said they would go through a routine check in Margate and analysis at Raleigh Opthamology with Dr. Bob Brownlow. He’s been told of the possible recovery rate to a vision reading of 20/45 with results possible in between three and six months.

Mr. Jenkins said he began listening to some European radio broadcasts regarding stem cell surgeries and heard a statement from Senate Leader Mitch Mc-Connell in which he criticized the (Food & Drug Administration) FDA for not funding stem cell surgeries. “The FDA sort of took a tail chewing from Senate Leader Mitch McConnell … he said on the news cast, that the FDA is essentially standing in the way of progress,” Mr. Jenkins said.

This statement incited him to research experimental eye surgery, and after receiving an article from a colleague on the stem cell work being done by Retina Associates, he contacted the Florida clinic.

“If I fail to get to the target by May 15, no later than (the) 20th, I don’t know exactly what my position will be. I know that I will lose, probably, my June space,” he said.

“We are going to keep right on with it, but it would be nice if I could get this thing done in June.”

He said the clinic needs 30 days notice in order to get blood tests drawn locally for their anesthesiologist. He has informed the Margate, Fla., facility that he is nearing his fundraising goal, but reiterated the importance of the mid-May deadline.

“I’ve told them that we are working on it. But they have a schedule that they have to set up and they like a 30-day window … .”

He reassured donors the clinic and operation are legitimate saying that the doctors, Steven Levy and Jeffrey Weiss, have both been vetted.

“The attorney general said they’ve got a clean bill of health. We’ve looked at every angle we can look at,” he said, “The government is watching what they’re doing and they are reporting to the FDA.”

According to Mr. Jenkins, there is a less than 2 percent chance of the doctors damaging his existing peripheral vision, calling the risk “negligible.”

The eight-year veteran of the Army National Guard poured out his heart for those who have opened theirs.

He was appreciative of local radio stations and newspapers, like The Four Oaks Benson Review, as well as the restaurants and businesses that have raised awareness about his condition.

“I’m a tenderhearted rascal, and the outpouring of support on my behalf has been an overwhelming and touching experience,” he said.

For more information on how to donate, contact Mr. Jenkins by cellphone at (910) 890-2112 or by mail at 306 N. Orange Ave., Dunn, N.C., 28334.

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