Cross Your Heart for Eric
Locals Band Together to Help Ellicottville Local MS Patient
Story and Photo By John Thomas
Eric Feldbauer was diagnosed with MS fifteen years ago. Needless to say, it came as a shock to the former ECS student, a former snowboard instructor at Holiday Valley and guitar player. He had two young daughters at the time, and the disease took a toll not only on Eric’s body but on his family as well. As the malady progressed, he had to move back in with his parents. He is a Computer Systems Administrator for Navient, a company that helps graduates deal with student loan debt. The company has been amenable with Mr. Feldbauer, allowing him to work flexible hours and telecommute.
Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that attacks the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It causes a range of symptoms from psychiatric problems, to double vision, muscle weakness, and trouble with coordination. Patients experience periods of being symptom-free, then temporary attacks of the symptoms that get progressively worse over time. “He’s an amazing good sport about it. He doesn’t complain.” That’s Eric’s mother, Cathy Lacy, explaining that Eric wants neither sympathy nor charity. Once a week he undergoes stretching and aroma therapy with local holistic healthcare practitioner, Darlene Allen.
It was in one of those sessions that Ms. Allen hit upon an idea to provide some help to Eric and his family. Together with some friends, she is making custom jewelry crosses to sell at local shops. On a rainy afternoon last week Ms. Allen, Eric’s mother, Molly Billingsley, Charlene Carr, Many Markum and Darleen Baugh were hard at work making the crosses. Eric’s mother Cathy teaches jewelry making and was operating the small kiln used to fire the crosses. The copper pendants are coated with a binding agent; then powdered glass is put on the surface in decorative swirls. The crosses are fired in the kiln so the glass can adhere to the metal. Then small stones are set into the glass, and the metal fired again. Once cool, the bangle is attached to a chain and ready to wear.
Now 39, Mr. Feldbauer travels to the Cleveland Clinic for therapy every three months. He takes a raft of medications, one of which is over $600 per month and isn’t covered by insurance. There are other concerns as well. For Cathy Lacy, her biggest concern is that one day Eric will fall, and she and her husband will be unable to get him back on his feet. They are saving to purchase a Hoyer lift for non-ambulatory patients. At their own expense, they are building a handicapped accessible bedroom and bathroom to provide adequate accommodations for Eric. They will allow Eric to be safer and more self-sufficient in his daily life. Proceeds from the sale of the crosses will help facilitate the addition, go towards the purchase of the Hoyer lift, and other expenses. The crosses will be sold at local churches and other stores. The plan is to raise $5,000 to help the family with the ongoing expenses of treatment. Ms. Allen explains it’s Eric himself who is the inspiration for the crosses, “He’s got a great spirit about him, he’s got a great energy.”