A fashion show fundraiser planned May 7 to help a longtime Tri-City leader battling ALS has been canceled because of medical complications.
Ann Philip is in intensive care at Trios Southridge Hospital in Kennewick.
She developed pneumonia last week and was on a ventilator Monday, although she was expected to be weaned off it and was showing improvement, said Helen McCoy, a longtime friend.
Donations still are needed as Philip’s expenses are mounting since being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in January. To help, go to www.annsfans.org.
“On behalf of Ann, I’d like to thank her many, many fans for all the love and support they've shown over the last few months. This disease has moved swiftly and insidiously to rob Ann of much of her life and yet she still manages to flash a smile,” McCoy said.
McCoy was helping organize the “Come Fly With Me” fundraiser.
The theme was a nod to Philip’s time as a flight attendant in the ’70s. She also was a model and helped lead several local organizations in her three decades in the Tri-Cities, from the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce to the March of Dimes.
The 64-year-old Kennewick woman first noticed symptoms last summer. The devastating, progressive neurodegenerative condition is relatively rare, found in about 2 per 100,000 people a year.
It affects the nerve cells that control voluntary muscles, like those in the limbs and face. Most people die within five years of symptoms setting in, though some live double that or more.
In an interview last month, Philip told the Herald she was determined to beat the odds.
At that time, her speech was impaired and she was starting to use a walker and wheelchair more frequently, but her humor and optimism shone through. “I’m being strong and positive,” she said.
Philip has raised her grandson, Nathan Suarez, 16, from the time he was a baby. The pair planned to move to Philip’s home state of Iowa at the end of the school year to be closer to family, but Nathan has gone ahead.
In the April interview, Philip talked of her love for Nathan and her appreciation for the friends who stepped up to help her.
“I have super great friends — and a lot of them. I can’t say enough,” she said at the time. “I am very, very grateful.”
McCoy said that the generosity shown by the Tri-City community has been “a true gift to (Philip’s) spirit.”
“We are all saddened that we will not have the opportunity to gather to celebrate her this Thursday,” McCoy said. “But please keep her in your thoughts and prayers as she continues on this journey.”