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From pain to philanthropy
Turlock Christian students raise thousands for causes
Friends and teammates of Russell joined in on a Fantasy Football league to fundraise for several organizations, raising over $2,900. Top row in order from left to right: Kaylene Baskin, Abbie Morelli, Tori Vieira, Hannah Bergman, McCalister Russell, Mikalya Yagi and Sadie Roos. Bottom row in order from left to right: Cassie Balswick ,Hannah Sawyer, Meghan Mark and Madison Yagi

Hospital doctors and nurses take care of various patients for a multitude of issues every day, but they rarely have the opportunity to see their patients performing successfully in life once they have left the hospital. After a traumatic experience that left Turlock Christian sophomore McAllister Russell in the hands of the Children’s Hospital of Oakland for several weeks, the local student felt it imperative to give back to the people who helped save her life.

“I have no words to describe the people at the Children’s Hospital of Oakland. They treated me like I was their daughter, they were so amazing. These are people who give their lives to helping others, but rarely see the outcome,” said Russell.

Russell spent two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit at the Children’s Hospital of Oakland after she collapsed due to shortness of breath last June. Besides being more tired than usual, there were no signs that Russell would be diagnosed with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, a life-threatening condition that prevents oxygen from being passed from the lungs into the blood stream. A rare condition, 30 percent of people who are diagnosed with ARDS do not know what caused it and neither does Russell.

“The doctor’s didn’t know what happened to me,” said Russell.

After needing procedures to clear out the fluid in her lungs, Russell wore a BiPaP mask for a week which regulated her air intake by pushing 95 degree oxygen through a mask that covered her forehead and face, forcing her to write things down to communicate. A relatively new phenomenon, the mask has been revolutionary in the field as prior to its invention individuals rarely survived from the threatening condition. Russell also spent time in respiratory therapy sessions before making her way back to Turlock. The condition has forced Russell, a very active and athletic student, to pare back her activities.

“I played three sports and I was always moving and I was very involved. I was an outgoing teenager trying to do as much as I could and initially it was hard for me to not be able to do that anymore,” said Russell.

After deciding not to play volleyball this past season, Russell was able to still participate in basketball this winter and in swimming this fall, both activities that when taken slowly are helping to build up Russell’s diffusion rate, or  the ability of her lungs to transfer oxygen to the bloodstream. The less active lifestyle was initially difficult for Russell who felt disconnected, but with the support of her friends and family, she and her father conceived of a way to stay inspired by giving back to others through a Fantasy Football league.

The ‘Dads and Daughters’ league was composed of Russell and her friends and their fathers and through the competition users competed against each other as virtual managers of football teams composed of current players. When the league was formed back in November, each girl chose a charity or nonprofit to sponsor and funds from the competition would go towards that organization. The girls were penalized for dropping or adding players to their team, won money for successful picks and donated five dollars for each game played. The fathers also took a moral approach by penalizing the girls $25 if a player they selected was implicated in a scandal.

Overall, the girls raised more than $2,900 to benefit local and national charities such as Jessica’s House, Westside Ministries and St. Jude’s hospital. Several girls also chose to contribute to the Children’s Hospital of Oakland, Russell’s choice organization that spurred the competition.

”We all wanted to be there for Cali so when the doctor said she couldn’t do anything active for a while, this was a way for us to come together and still spend time together,” said Tori Vieira, a Turlock Christian junior and friend of Russell’s. “It was amazing to see what we could do as 15- and 16-year olds to bless these organizations.”

Russell and her friends that chose to support the Children’s Hospital of Oakland will be making a trip to there over their spring break to present the money to the staff. As Russell continues to recover and stay healthy, she aims to spend more time giving back to others and enjoy daily activities rather than spreading herself too thin.

“The doctors didn’t know what helped me get better so quickly, but I think the prayers from the community and friends and family and the support of the Facebook page they set up for me really helped,” said Russell. “Now the goal isn’t so much to get back to playing three sports and being as busy as I used to be, but to do more things that are meaningful. I’ve learned that I don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything.”