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Community bands together to raise money for one of its own

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By Ada Lang

Sometimes, It takes a rough patch before you realize how lucky you really are and that you have friends you didn’t know existed.  That was the case for Jennie Pinto.

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In late May, Pinto, a real estate agent and Cedar Key resident, was loaded into a car by her friend Ken Young and driven to Shands, in Gainesville. Her health had been deteriorating for two years, but on May 23, it hit rock bottom, and she was barely able to walk.

The emergency room's 65 beds were full, but after 14 hours, she got one, and an MRI, which revealed a tumor on her brain that was critically close to cutting off her ability to swallow and breath. Surgery soon followed. 

Fast forward to mid-July. She was undergoing rehabilitation twice a week at Seven Rivers Hospital in Crystal River. She was unable to work, and the bills were mounting up. 

So, a band of the Cedar Key Pirates in Paradise decided to pillage for a purpose and raise money to help out the woman who has volunteered in her community to help those in need so much over the past several years.  

On Saturday, Bobby and Jan McCabe rousted up a rowdy bunch of pirate pals and held JennieFest. On Dock Street, the Aquaculture Culture Association sold steamed clams, there was a “Dunk-the-Greeks” tank, a silent auction, as well as avariety of businesses  around town that sold special drinks and dishes, contributing more loot to the cause. The amount raised for Pinto is not known yet.

At a wrap party Monday evening, fans of Jennie Pinto gathered at Brian’s Big Deck on Dock Street to celebrate their success. Pinto was unable to hide her emotions. Shaking her head, she spoke of how she was at a loss for words to express her feelings. But that did not stop her from trying. 

“I never knew that ‘I knew’ this many people,” she said, adding that there were people supporting the event she "had never spoken more than five words to --- some I didn’t even know at all.”

Pinto said her doctors say that the tumor was probably slowly growing for about ten years. But, she said, it was only the last two years  that she knew something was wrong. When asked why she didn’t seek medical care sooner, she said it was because she was  uninsured.

 “I was afraid of how I could pay for it,” she said.

The bills aren’t all in yet. So far, one bill from Seven Rivers has come in at about $40,000, and she said she expects the final tally to top $100 to $200,000. 

Although she had no insurance and was considered a self-pay (uninsured) patient, she said, “I don’t feel I was shorted on care,” adding “There are some pretty special people in medicine.”

She said technology is what saved her. And it's  technology that has helped her stay in touch with friends who want to know how she is doing.

 “I just can’t say thank you enough and Facebook is a great way to let people know.”