As a high school senior, Ashley Frederick is looking forward to graduation and her post-secondary plans, which include becoming a nurse.
That road has become much tougher for the 18-year-old Ringtown teenager, who is battling gastroparesis and other severe stomach ailments that have caused frequent hospitalizations and forced her to continue her studies on a homebound basis.
Ashley is the daughter of Scott and Alice Schilling Frederick. The family has roots in Coaldale and still has relatives there.
Prior to her illnesses, Ashley attended North Schuylkill High School in Fountain Springs, where she was a member of the Spartans' girls soccer squad and debate team.
A group of friends and family called the Gutsy Gang has organized a fundraiser for Ashley on Saturday, Feb. 19 at the Ryan Township Fire Company, Route 54, Barnesville.
The doors open at 11 a.m., with a "cornhole" tournament scheduled for 1 p.m. and a basket auction at 4 p.m. Steve Ney the DJ Guy will provide music. Food and baked goods will be available.
Ashley was first diagnosed with gastroparesis, which is a paralyzed stomach, in 2009, which resulted in three hospitalizations. With gastroparesis, a patient's stomach muscles do not function normally, which can cause nausea, vomiting and bloating.
"Since I was a kid, I always seemed to get illnesses," explained Ashley. "Then, two years ago, I got really sick. I spent 15 days in the hospital and was diagnosed with gastroparesis. I was a bit better for one and a half years, then started getting sick again."
Since then, Ashley was also been diagnosed with Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome (SMA syndrome) and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) in October, 2010.
SMA syndrome is a rare, life-threatening gastrovascular disorder that includes abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and stomach distention. With POTS, the autonomic nervous system does not function, causing excessive heart rate in an upright condition, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, brain fog and cold extremities.
The maladies caused Ashley to be tube-fed, until the feedings were rejected. She now has a PICC line through which she receives intravenous nutrition 18 hours a day.
Since September, 2010, she had been hospitalized at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) seven times. She is currently on nine different medications.
Her future treatments are uncertain. A possible return to tube feedings, intestinal bypass surgery and a gastric pacemaker are being considered.
When asked how she is managing, Ashley said, "I'm all right. It's a long haul, very slow. I have my good and bad days, but I will make it through this.
"It's very complicated. We've been traveling to CHOP. They are amazing there, and they are doing the best they can do to help me."
After playing soccer since the age of 6, being homebound is not something Ashley enjoys, but she has come to grips with it.
"It was a big adjustment," she related. "My friends come and visit, but it's hard not being in school and not going to all of the events. I'm hoping I'll be there at graduation. I'm trying to keep a positive attitude toward everything."
She has maintained A's and B's while taking homebound instruction, despite dealing with complications from blood clots and infections.
"That spikes your fever up over 100, and that knocks you off your feet," she mentioned.
She is grateful for those who have organized the fundraising efforts for her.
"It really helps knowing there are some great people out there, and that have been supportive," Ashley noted. "The medical bills are outrageous. I hope this will take a lot of stress off my parents' shoulders."
The illness hasn't changed Ashley's college plans.
"I got my acceptances for Wilkes and Marywood College," she said. "I plan to go for pediatric nursing and oncology."
Ashley continues to look forward as she battles her condition.
"Everything happens for a reason, and I want to get through this. I am not going to give up," she stated.
For more information on the fundraiser for Ashley Frederick, call (570) 645-3930 or (570) 645-7462.