LISBON, Ohio — When Madison Cope, 14, of Leetonia, Ohio, walked into the sale ring at the Columbiana County Fair market hog sale Aug. 3, the auctioneer, Ken Baer, handed her the microphone.
She made an emotional announcement: her friend, Ella Golden, also 14, is struggling with pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections, also known as “PANDAS.” Golden needs treatment that insurance will not cover, so Cope wanted to use her market hog sale to support her friend.
Baer further explained the plan: the 233-lb hog would be sold twice, first for Cope, then for Golden. The first buyer would agree to donate it back for the second round of bidding.
The Katelyn Dickey for Judge campaign bought the hog first for $10.50 per pound, then donated it back. The second time, Leo and Suzanne Hickey, of Hickey Metal Fabrication, bought the hog for $45 per pound, after a fast-paced, aggressive round of bidding. Baer’s announcement of the sale was barely audible over the applause. Cope was visibly tearing up during and after the sale.
“That was just insane,” Anne Golden, Ella’s mother, said in a later interview with Farm and Dairy. “It was just overwhelming. We were so grateful; my husband and I just couldn’t believe it.”
Before and during the fair, Cope and her mother posted on social media, put up signs and recruited the hog committee to put ads in show programs to draw potential buyers. But it wasn’t until Cope’s announcement in the sale ring that Leo and Suzanne Hickey heard about Ella Golden.
“We had no clue when we came here today,” said Suzanne Hickey, after the sale. “We knew nothing about it.”
When they heard about the situation, they knew they had to help.
“We had a personal tragedy in our family this year, which has caused us to do some charity,” Leo Hickey explained.
The Hickeys were at the sale to buy hogs as representatives of their business, Hickey Metal Fabrication, which they have done for 10 years. Their purchase of Cope’s hog, however, was something different.
“Today’s donation to this girl is [from] us personally,” Leo Hickey said.
Cope has known Golden since second grade. They played basketball, volleyball and track together at Crestview public school, in Columbiana, Ohio.
Anne Golden, Ella’s mother, said her daughter was a four-sport athlete before PANDAS.
“Ella is so sweet and innocent, but on a basketball court, she will take your face off,” Anne Golden said.
Anne Golden described her daughter as a funny, happy-go-lucky child who was always up at the crack of dawn, ready for anything.
“She’s always the funny one in the group … she kinda made it all better,” Cope said about Golden.
What is PANDAS?
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, “PANDAS” is the abbreviation for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections.
Children can be diagnosed if they develop obsessive compulsive disorder or tic disorders after a streptococcal infection, or if OCD or tic disorder symptoms become worse after such an infection.
Symptoms can also include becoming moody or irritable, experiencing anxiety attacks and having concerns about separating from parents and loved ones.
The symptoms are typically dramatic and sudden.
Treatments include antibiotics if the strep infection is still present, medications or behavioral therapies to help manage neuropsychiatric symptoms and, in severe cases, plasma exchange or immunoglobulin (IVIG).
At the beginning of the 2018 school year, Ella Golden had a streptococcal infection. Not long after, she began struggling to function at school and would often need to be picked up early because of the anxiety she experienced. She then had what Anne Golden described as a “seizure-type episode.”
A family friend, whose daughter has PANDAS, recommended the Goldens take Ella to see Dr. Jan Kriwinsky, a Cleveland-based pediatrician who specializes in PANDAS. In January 2019, he diagnosed Ella Golden with PANDAS.
Golden has been unable to attend school since December 2018 — the last time Cope saw her. Golden is currently home-bound because of the severe anxiety and agoraphobia she experiences.
“This is just not my child,” Anne Golden said.
Before PANDAS, Ella Golden loved shopping with her mother, visiting friends at their houses, going to the movies and other activities.
“She has one of the worst cases,” Cope said.
The week before the fair, Cope found out her friend’s situation was worse than she originally realized.
Golden needs a treatment called immunoglobulin, or IVIG, but her insurance will not cover it. The treatments are $15,000 each.
“This is no joke,” Anne Golden said. “It’s very frustrating as a parent when a doctor is telling you something can help your child, and they [the insurance companies] are telling you ‘no.’”
Cope decided to donate the money from her market hog this year to Golden’s family to help cover her friend’s treatment.
“I don’t like to see her like that, so I wanted to donate to help her get better,” Cope told Farm and Dairy before the sale.
Anne Golden said Madison Cope’s parents, Ray and Amie, called to talk to her about Madison’s idea. At first, she was reluctant to accept Madison’s offer.
But the Copes insisted.
“Ray Cope said, ‘It’s a done deal,’” said Anne Golden. “When you hear Ray Cope tell you that, you know he means business.”
So, the Goldens agreed.
According to Anne Golden, Brooke Brubaker, who attends Crestview and is a year younger than Ella Golden and Madison Cope, also donated the proceeds from her market hog, although her donation was not announced at the sale.
Golden’s older brother, Drake, 16, is selling T-shirts for his sister. He already has 400 orders.
“He misses his sister,” Anne Golden said. “He’s incredible. I have good kids.”
Another family friend created a GoFundMe page that raised $15,000 in three days, enough to fund Ella’s first treatment.
The first treatment is scheduled for later in August. While they do not know how many treatments Ella will need, Anne Golden said they will start with the first two, scheduled six months apart, and hope to see improvements from those treatments.
Anne Golden said Ella is aware of the support she has gotten from her community.
“I know she’s happy, because she said, ‘I get to have my first treatment, Mom,’” Anne Golden said about Ella.
The Goldens have been supported not only by friends and family, but also by strangers.
“It just makes you think that there are still good people in the world,” Anne Golden said.
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