Residents of the South Fork are rallying behind two residents facing incredible medical challenges: a volunteer dedicated to providing emergency services who finds himself paralyzed and on a long road to recovery, and a Sag Harbor mother who received an unexpected diagnosis that she is still trying to process.
Randy Hoffman, 59, is a volunteer and paid critical care EMT working on various ambulance squads and fire departments in the Sag Harbor, East Hampton and Montauk areas.
On December 4, the East Hampton resident underwent what was supposed to be routine spinal surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Unexpected complications led to a spinal bleed, leaving him paralyzed, his sister, Alison Hoffman Stern, said over the phone from her home in Colorado last week.
Mr. Hoffman has worked with the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps, the Montauk Fire Department, the Springs Fire Department and the Amagansett EMS for over a decade.
Barbara Borsack, East Hampton Village Board member and an East Hampton EMT, recognized Mr. Hoffman for his dedication and service at the last East Hampton Village Board meeting on December 20. She called Mr. Hoffman, who joined the East Hampton Village Ambulance Association in 2014, one of their “most dependable members.”
“This is a very active guy, and we’re all hoping for the best. He’s a really good, important person who gives a lot to this community,” Ms. Borsack said.
Mr. Hoffman has been responsible for saving many lives, responding to countless emergency calls and is known for his skilled response, dedication and wit, family said this week.
Ms. Stern said that, on average, the volunteers put in 100 hours per year — but her brother had averaged 250 hours of volunteer work per year. “He really put a lot of time and effort into his critical care work,” she said.
Mr. Hoffman has two college-age sons, ages 19 and 22, and works as an independent contractor, building kitchens and cabinetry as his primary livelihood, which he will be unable to pursue in the near future. His passion is building, restoring and racing vintage motorcycles.
His sister said Mr. Hoffman has a good outlook, and he’s taking it one day at a time, trying to remain positive.
Over that week, he had regained some use of his arms but is still unable to move his legs. On December 21, Mr. Hoffman left the ICU and moved into an inpatient acute care rehabilitation center, where he will have intensive physical therapy for several months.
Through it all, Mr. Hoffman continues to be “funny and charming and has not lost one bit of his coolness,” his sister said.
It is expected that Mr. Hoffman will need a great deal of future care and support after this devastating event, Ms. Stern said. He already has mounting medical bills, as well as rent, car payments and insurance payments.
Because of that, Ms. Stern started a fundraising page on Facebook to help cover some of her brother’s costs. Currently, the effort has raised over $80,000 toward a $100,000 goal. Within 24 hours, they’d raised more than $50,000 for Mr. Hoffman.
“We are completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, support and donations sent to Randy,” she said, adding that she set the original goal at $15,000 to cover her brother’s immediate expenses and to get him started on his health care costs in the new year. When the fundraiser went live, Ms. Stern was departing New York to go home to Colorado — and during that four-hour flight, they’d already reached the mark.
The Facebook fundraiser will help alleviate some of Mr. Hoffman’s bills for the time he is unable to work. “He needs to focus on his recovery,” his sister said.
Ms. Stern said she is sincerely blown away by the community outreach from family and friends. She said people from all over the world have donated, including friends in New Zealand and Wales.
“The outpouring has been incredible. It’s been really amazing to see how people touch each other,” she said. “We’re hoping for recovery. I wish I could say more. It’s going to be a lot of work.”
To donate via Facebook, visit facebook.com/donate/438123133804905/10215947521865859/. Checks can also be directly sent to Mr. Hoffman at P.O. Box 2763, East Hampton, 11937.
Meanwhile, Annijamila Jensen of Sag Harbor is raising money on a GoFundMe page to offset medical bills for a recent diagnosis of stage four lung cancer.
“This week has been a lot of processing,” Ms. Jensen said a week after being diagnosed. “I had the results from the MRI, and, unfortunately, it has spread to the brain.”
As of Monday morning, Ms. Jensen’s GoFundMe page had raised over $42,000 toward a $50,000 goal.
She visited the emergency room after having lower back pain following pneumonia. She thought it might be a kidney stone. To her and the ER personnel’s surprise, she had pleural effusion, fluid outside of the lung.
Ms. Jensen was transferred to another hospital right away and put into isolation, as they thought it might be tuberculosis. After draining the fluid, cancer cells were found.
It was sudden and unexpected, as Ms. Jensen has nurtured a healthy, non-smoking lifestyle for herself, her 4-year old daughter, Ava, and her husband, Alberto.
“We’re just trying now to figure out how to get the best treatment and what the next steps forward will be,” she said. “We are staying very positive and hopeful. Fortunately, there are a lot of good stories out there to hang on to.”
Ms. Jensen and her family are up against daunting financial odds, the GoFundMe page reads, requiring treatment, travel and connections. Currently, her recommended treatment is still being determined, but because of the advanced nature of her condition, it will most certainly involve radiation and long periods of hospitalization. The family’s insurance coverage is limited and medical bills are already coming in. Mr. Jensen will be looking after Ava, limiting his ability to produce income.
To help, visit gofundme.com/f/ec2jxn-help-annie-fight-cancer.