Dollars for Beijing

By Gus Bode

A paralyzed Murphysboro women and her friends and family have one goal – to raise $35,000 in one year.

After three years of moving around the country for therapy, 22-year-old Racheal Worthen is back in Murphysboro with her parents, trying to raise money for an innovative surgery in China.

Worthen was paralyzed in an accident in May 2003 after her truck’s wheel caught gravel and rolled five times near Murphysboro. Worthen was ejected through the window on the second roll, bending her eleventh and twelfth vertebrae. Murphysboro Police confirmed the accident.


Worthen is paralyzed from the waist down and relies on a wheelchair. The operation – called olfactory ensheathing glia surgery – will “open the door to neuro-regeneration, repair, and functional recovery,” according to the Web site for the Beijing Xishan Institute for Neuroregeneration in China.

The surgery is fairly new and not conducted in the United States, Worthen said.

Steve Vogt, Worthen’s friend of four years and an employee in the Intensive Care Unit at Alton Memorial Hospital, took charge of the fundraising effort for the surgery. He opened the Racheal Worthen Benefit Account at First National Bank of Ava about two and a half weeks ago.

“It’s kind of a joke that people refer to me as the ambassador for Racheal Worthen,” Vogt said.

On Oct. 28, Vogt and Worthen organized a “stop sign” fundraiser in Murphysboro. Worthen’s friends and family stood in the street asking for donations from passing drivers and raised $1,700.

Vogt said the account held just more than $1,900 on Wednesday.

Worthen said she discovered the surgery through a friend who also severed her eleventh and twelfth vertebrae. Worthen said her friend underwent a $50,000 surgery in Portugal that allowed her to walk via braces and a walker.


The same surgery is performed at the Beijing Xishan Institute for Neuroregeneration in China for $20,000.

The waiting list for the surgery is about a year long, Worthen said. She said a year should be ample to raise $35,000 – just enough to cover the surgery, therapy, travel expenses and her visa. Vogt said one other person would go to China with Worthen, but Worthen has not yet decided who will accompany her.

Worthen said she was excited about the money raised so far.

“Anything is better than nothing at all,” Worthen said. “It’s just amazing how fast all the news travels. Everything’s just kind of falling into place.”

Vogt said he is thrilled with all the progress and enjoys leading the effort.

On Nov. 12, The Bread of Life Church in Jackson, Mo., plans to hold a dinner after its service in honor of Worthen and will donate the proceeds to fundraising for the surgery.

Just after Thanksgiving, Sept. 11 firefighter and author of “Firehouse Down: Life After Ground Zero,” Jonathan E. Wright will donate the proceeds of 100 of his books to Worthen’s cause, Worthen said. Vogt also said Wright is currently working with the Murphysboro fire department to set up a benefit dinner for Worthen around the first week in December.

Vogt said there are more fundraising ideas pending for winter and spring.

Alexis Boudreau can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 255 or [email protected].