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INCREDIBLE ORDEAL

Longtime Oregon City resident Sylvia Soumokil noticed a couple of bruises that just didn’t seem to be healing, and this concerned her since she has lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Sylvia Soumokil, far right, is pictured in her hospital room with, from left, her sister Dorothy Wenzel, son Brandon Soumokil-Freer and husband Kevin Freer.  She went to urgent care, and, after the doctor took one look, she was taken immediately to Providence Portland Medical Center.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Sylvia Soumokil works with two physical therapists as she attempts to take her first steps with her prosthetic feet.“I got a call from Sylvia that she was in ICU. When I got there, she was all bandaged up and said she had a blood infection that the doctors were trying to control,” said Dorothy Wenzel, Soumokil’s sister.

That blood infection, Purpura fulminans, ultimately caused sepsis, cutting off circulation to Soumokil’s extremities. Within days of being hospitalized, Soumokil lost both feet, her left hand and the index finger of her right hand.

And Soumokil was lucky that her Providence doctors transferred her to the Legacy Emmanuel Hospital Burn and Wound Unit, Wenzel said, since doctors there have been doing research on this rare blood disease since 2010.

“Amputation is the only cure for it,” she added.

Upcoming fundraiser

Soumokil has supported the city of Oregon City and the school district all her life. She graduated from the old high school, has been the wardrobe coordinator for the OCHS marching band for eight years; has volunteered at the graduation party for six years; and runs the Snack Shack at OCHS football games.

Now, Wenzel said, it is time for the community to come together and support Soumokil, and there are numerous ways to do that.

Chief among them is a fundraiser dinner and concert, beginning at 5:30 p.m. May 2, at the Oregon City High School Commons; tickets are $25.

Bugatti’s restaurant in Oregon City has been “amazing,” said Christy Parrish, Soumokil’s friend and a fellow member of the OCHS Band Boosters.

“They have donated 400 servings of pasta and will supply the servers for the buffet,” she said, noting that people need to buy their tickets right away.

And, she noted, world-renowned, new-age pianist and philanthropist Michael Allen Harrison will perform a special concert in Soumokil’s honor.

“Michael does an annual benefit for the band, and when we needed someone to do the concert, he said he’d be there and do whatever it takes,” Parrish said.

The OCHS band also will play that night, so the $25 ticket for the concert, the dinner and a silent auction with “really great items” is “a steal,” she added.

People who cannot attend the concert may donate money at the register at Bugatti’s, and a fund has been set up at the Oregon City Wells Fargo bank. Because the school district has allowed the fundraiser to be run through the district’s nonprofit, people may send checks to the high school, but must put Soumokil’s name at the bottom of the check.

“This is the community’s chance to rally. Everyone can do a little tiny thing, and make that a big thing for Sylvia,” Parrish said.

Cancer, medical expenses

As posters around Oregon City note, the Soumokil family has “endured an incredible and life-altering ordeal.”

In the spring of 2013, Soumokil’s son Brandon, now a senior at OCHS and member of the marching band, was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He received chemotherapy and radiation, and is now in remission.

“All through his chemo he showed up to band practice. Even though he was sick as a dog, he continued to be there,” Parrish said.

And all through her son’s treatment, and even as the medical bills grew larger, Soumokil was maintaining a positive attitude and “telling Brandon that life is worth living. She kept saying ‘We’re going to be OK’ so many times last year,” Parrish said.

After enduring six surgeries in four weeks, Soumokil has “flipped that attitude around on herself. She wants to get her life back the way it was. She believes everything she told Brandon last year.”

And Soumokil’s own medical treatments “have to be incredible in terms of expenses. The Legacy Burn Center is very expensive care, and now she is working her way through prosthetics, and that has to cost a fortune,” Parrish said, noting that Soumokil can’t work as a checker at Fred Meyer right now.

In fact, she added, a lot of people in the Oregon City area know Soumokil from Fred Meyer, where customers would often change lanes at the store to go through Soumokil’s line because “she was always smiling.”

Help from friends

Sheri Jones, another band booster member, has taken on the role of driving Soumokil to her appointments.

“She’s my friend; when I connect with a person and we have a friendship, I help my friends,” she said.

Calling Soumokil an inspiration, she said her friend still has a smile on her face, and the attitude that “nothing is going to get her down.”

Jones said that Soumokil is determined to put adaptive devices in her vehicle so that she can drive, and she is determined to return to the Snack Shack in September.

“People have called her a warrior. She is going to keep moving forward. Most people would be sitting in a hospital bed, wallowing in negativity, but not Sylvia. She is not complaining,” Jones said.

“We all go along in our day-to-day lives, and then a stumbling block comes along and we overcome it and move forward. Sylvia is having to do this on a greater scale — that puts it in perspective.”

As for why people should support Soumokil and her family by attending the event or donating money to help defray medical expenses, Jones said, “look inside your heart and help this incredible woman.”

Dana Henson, musical director at OCHS, described Soumokil as a “can do” person who helps organize band trips and, as the uniform coordinator, keeps the marchers looking their best.

“Sylvia has touched the lives of everyone she meets. She is always full of energy and spirit. She has donated hundreds of hours to make sure all of our band students look their best. She has taken care of our marching uniforms to ensure they last for years to come. Without her help and support, the band would not be where it is today,” he said.

People should attend the event, “because Michael Allen Harrison is not only a great performer, he is also a great person. He will be performing on the piano he donated to OCHS through his Snowman Foundation,” Henson said.

He added, “Our community will not only be able to hear Michael Allen Harrison in concert, it will also be an evening of fun and community. We will have dinner, silent auction items, and performances by our high school jazz band and jazz choir.”

Sylvia Soumokil fundraiser

What: Benefit dinner, concert and auction to raise funds to defray medical costs for Sylvia Soumokil and her family

When: 5:30 p.m. Friday, May 2

Where: The Commons at Oregon City High School, 19761 S. Beavercreek Road

Tickets: $25, available online at tinyurl.com/mdb7s65.

More: Visit facebook.com/groups/SupportingSylvia for more information on this fundraiser and other opportunities to help. For those who wish to help but can’t attend the fundraiser, make a direct donation to the family, at Wells Fargo bank, or make a direct donation at the Oregon City location of Bugatti’s restaurant. Send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



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