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It's Happening: Cassie's Story

By Julie Perine on May 11, 2024 from It’s Happening via Connect-Bridgeport.com

UPDATE, JUNE 6, 2024:
 
Cassie has now been admitted to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh and placed on the transplant list. Her family sends love and appreciation to all who have reached out during this difficult time. They are depending upon and utilizing the Go Fund Me account for lodging, traveling and medical expenses. The account is still open. To donate, click HERE
 
 
ORIGINAL STORY POSTED MAY 11, 2024:
 
We know that life can change on a dime. For someone very special to the Greater Bridgeport Convention & Visitors Bureau and Connect-Bridgeport, that happened in November of 2022 when she began battling an adverse health condition that was a mystery for months. After initially being diagnosed with hemochromatosis, CVB Director Cassie (Ramsey) Busdeker discovered she has a very rare gene that is magnifying her condition.
 
Cassie has an Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency. Her body doesn’t make enough AAT – a protein that protects the lungs and liver from damage. In her case, it has affected her liver, leaving her battling cirrhosis and facing a liver transplant.
 
A graduate of Bridgeport High School and West Virginia University, Cassie is known in the area for her work with the CVB – promoting the City of Bridgeport, working to bring visitors here and to host events which benefit residents . She is also known for her longtime tenure as Promotions Manager at WDTV News Channel 5; one of her many projects including the annual fireworks display on Bridgeport Hill. Cassie and her husband Brant live in the Bridgeport area where they have raised daughters Alex and Tory. Her parents, Dean and Caroline Ramsey, also have lifetime roots here where they are involved in various aspects of our community.
 
Her family has served as a loyal support system throughout the past several months, during which her sodium and ammonia levels have fluctuated so much that she has endured many hospitalizations. Her condition causes her to retain dangerous amounts of fluid. The whole situation has been an ongoing cycle: Treating the plummeting levels with fluids, then getting those fluids off with medication.
 
Alex said the past 18 months have literally been a roller coaster, not only with the effects of the Alpha-1, but also finding it in the first place.
 
“She was feeling a little off and was gaining weight excessively. That’s when we first knew something was wrong and we went to her regular primary care physician,” Alex said.
 
Through bloodwork, Cassie was diagnosed with hemochromatosis – a condition in which the body builds up an abundance of iron to the level it becomes toxic and can cause damage to tissues and organs.
 
“After a couple of months, she had a liver biopsy which was sent off to Mayo Clinic and that’s when they discovered the Alpha 1,” Alex said.
 
Through the family’s research and conversations with specialists at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, they have discovered that although hemochromatosis has likely played a role, the Alpha 1 gene has been the biggest culprit of Cassie’s condition.
 
Cassie has been in and out of UHC in recent months during which time Alex moved home from Michigan to be close to and take care of her. Cassie’s last two hospitalizations were at UPMC where she has been seen regularly in recent weeks.
 
Despite the obstacle Cassie has encountered, she remains positive and hopeful. We are all so proud of her. Through stories I’ve heard, she has even helped to uplift other patients; those she has encountered through her own hospital stays.
 
A new liver would filter Cassie’s blood successfully and ultimately save her life. The family is trying to get her on a transplant list, but they have encountered another roadblock. Because she had surgery for melanoma in September of 2023, she is likely ineligible for the list until a year has passed. Regardless, Cassie must be in better physical health before enduring transplant surgery.
 
She and her family appreciate your prayers and the overwhelming support received. People continue to ask how to help. There are a couple of ways.
 
A Go Fund Me account has been set up to assist the family with medical, lodging and traveling expenses. You can access that opportunity HERE.
 
Also, consider becoming a living donor, whether it is to help Cassie or one of an estimated 100,000 patients across the nation who need an organ transplant. During a living-donor liver transplant, a healthy adult can donate a portion of their liver to someone with end-stage liver disease. The donor’s liver will regenerate in a few months following the surgery. UPMC has performed more living-donor liver transplants than any other program in the country.
 
A living donor must be between the ages of 18 and 60, be in good physical and mental health and have no history of liver, lung, kidney or heart disease, HIV, or active malignant cancers. Blood type must be a match and the donor’s body mass index must align with recommendations. Learn more HERE at the UMPC Transplant Services Web site.
 
Finally, Cassie encourages anyone who suddenly doesn’t feel like themselves or who has a sudden onset of symptoms to actively seek answers. Get second and third opinions. Be your own advocate. Learn the stories of others and pass that information on. It could save a life.
 
Editor's Note: It has been my privilege and pleasure to work with Cassie in recent years. She has taught me so much and has been a personal inspiration as well. I look forward to the years to come. I am blessed to call her my boss and my friend. Prayers continue for her health and well being. 
 



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