Tag Archives: child

How I Cope with My Wife’s Stroke and My Son’s Spinal Cord Injury

At age 27, Sean McGonagle was attacked in a shocking act of violence at a bar just two days before Christmas. Shot in the leg and chest, Sean became paralyzed from the chest down. Two years after injury, Sean underwent surgery to remove an abscess on his spinal cord where the bullet had been lodged.

Just four days after his surgery, his mother, Kass, had a stroke that left her with limited mobility and communication skills. Sean and Kass stayed in the same hospital during recovery and pursued rehabilitation at Magee together.

Kass McGonagle Sean McGonagle HelpHOPELive spinal cord injury stroke boat Spirit Philadelphia

Kass and Sean stayed in the same hospital during their recovery.

Father and husband Dennis McGonagle helped to initiate fundraising campaigns with HelpHOPELive to support both Sean and Kass. Dennis explains how his family is living with the lifelong impact of spinal cord injury and stroke.


How is your relationship with your family? 


My relationship with my family is very strong. I retired early so I could be a caregiver for my wife and son, and I have three daughters and three grandchildren that I spend time with. It is very important to all of us to stay close and help each other.

Kass McGonagle Sean McGonagle HelpHOPELive

Dennis, center, retired so he could care for his wife, left, and son.


Why is fundraising important to you?  


Managing health is a minute-to-minute task. We have therapy three times a week, doctors’ appointments and daily care and companionship needs. As a quadriplegic, Sean suffers from a lot of pain and discomfort. Things will not get easier for him as time goes on; as a matter of fact, they will get progressively worse.

Kass McGonagle Sean McGonagle HelpHOPELive

Sean with Joanne from Magee Rehabilitation Hospital

He tries to keep a positive attitude and holds onto the thought that there may be some life-changing medical advancements in his future.

Kass McGonagle Sean McGonagle HelpHOPELive Magee Rehab physical therapy spinal cord injury

Therapy helps Sean cut down on “pain and discomfort” after injury.

For Sean, our last fundraiser was to help him purchase a new wheelchair. We have a long way to go, but the new chair will enable him to stand upright and increase his blood flow. In the long run, it will keep him from getting pressure sores and improve his overall health.

Sean McGonagle fundraising HelpHOPELive comedy hypnosis

Sean fundraises for a new wheelchair and other post-injury costs.

It has been almost three years since Kass’ stroke, and she is dealing with memory loss, speech problems and paralysis on her left side. She is reliant on a wheelchair for mobility support. Kass needs a stair lift to get up and down the staircase safely. We also need to make some modifications to her bathroom to make it safer and more accessible.

Kass McGonagle HelpHOPELive stroke

Kass fundraises with HelpHOPELive for home modifications, mobility needs and more.


How do you feel about fundraising with HelpHOPELive?


We have been in contact with the nonprofit since 2011. HelpHOPELive is a great nonprofit organization. From digital guidance and customized flyers to general understanding, HelpHOPELive has shown us the path to achieve our fundraising goals. We are also glad to have an avenue to allow our community to understand and support our fundraising goals and events.

Wheelchair van Sean McGonagle

“Picking up my new van! This never would have happened without your donations!”


Is it challenging to support a loved one as a caregiver while being a father?


Being a father and a caregiver is always a challenge, and in my case, I am helping to support both my wife and my son. They have similar needs and yet a lot of different individual needs as well. You can’t be in two places at one time, but somehow we have managed so far. Who better than a husband and father to take care of them? The best part about being a dad is the love of your children. A child is a gift and you get an opportunity to watch kids grow into young adults. My children are also my friends, which is very important to a healthy and honest family relationship.

Kass McGonagle Sean McGonagle HelpHOPELive spinal cord injury stroke boat Spirit Philadelphia

Dennis says his family “is more important than any material things.”

Remember that your family is more important than any material things. Remember to always look after and cherish your children. You never know when they will need you the most.


Learn more about Dennis, Kass and Sean at helphopelive.org. Do you know a family struggling to cover the out-of-pocket expenses associated with a catastrophic injury or illness? Learn how we can help with a tax-deductible fundraising campaign and one-on-one support.

Life With A Rare Disease For 7-Year-Old Paul Mustol

At 6 years old, Paul Mustol was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Paul’s family began fundraising with HelpHOPELive in October 2015. Here is a look at life with DMD as told by Paul’s mother, Anna.

Anna and Paul Mustol HelpHOPELive

Paul with his mother, Anna


Describe a day in Paul’s life.


The morning begins with Paul calling to us to remove his nightly leg splints. We carry him downstairs. He takes two medications and several vitamin supplements with his breakfast. He needs assistance getting dressed. A special needs school bus arrives and Paul is loaded on the bus using a lift to avoid straining his legs.

Once he gets to school, he needs to rest before he does his work with the other students in his class. He needs extra help staying focused and understanding assignments. On a weekly basis, he receives therapy from a physical therapist, occupational therapist and speech therapist.

At dinner, he takes a few more vitamins. We practice deep breathing to keep his breathing muscles strong. We stretch and massage his muscles to reduce muscle contractures. We put the splints back on his legs to stretch them during the night.

Mustol family HelpHOPELive

“We…just try to enjoy each day,” says mom, Anna


What’s the most difficult part of the day?


The most challenging part of each day is at the end of the day when Paul is tired and weak. Instead of running around or riding a bike outside with friends, he is exhausted. It is a reminder of what he will face in the future.

We try not to focus on all the difficulties to come, but instead just try to enjoy each day. We want to appreciate the time we have together. It is uplifting to see how Paul has persevered with a smile on his face through the tumult of the last five months since the diagnosis. We feel blessed by the support and love coming from our family, friends and church community. From the minute we shared his diagnosis, people have offered help and have clearly shown us that we are not alone.


What does hope mean to you?


Hope cannot be taken away by a disease. A disease may shorten a life or make it more challenging, but it does not take away the value of that life. We have hopes for him and for his life. We hope that he can see his life as an opportunity to make a positive impact on those around him. We hope that through his disease, he can teach others about perseverance and overcoming obstacles. Of course, we always hope for a cure for DMD.

Paul Mustol HelpHOPELive Duchenne muscular dystrophy

“Hope cannot be taken away by a disease.”


What do you fundraise for?


The average annual cost per person living with DMD is over $50,000. When we first received our son’s diagnosis, we had no idea of the cost involved. Even though it is a genetic disorder, no one in my family had ever received the diagnosis before; it can occur as the result of a spontaneous mutation. Health insurance covers some of the cost, but many expenses are only covered after we meet a high deductible.

We will always need to cover the cost of daily medications, weekly therapy sessions and doctor appointments. He needs tests like echocardiograms or pulmonary functioning tests from time to time as DMD weakens his heart and breathing muscles. Every six months, we travel to the certified DMD care clinic, which is out of our home state.


How will Paul’s needs change in the future?


Because DMD is a degenerative disease, my son’s needs will increase dramatically with time. He will need a power wheelchair full time and an accessible van and home if he loses function in his arms, hands or legs. He may also face surgeries for bone fractures and scoliosis. Eventually, he will need machines to help with breathing and palliative care. The average life expectancy for people living with DMD is around 25 years, but the type of medical care one receives can make a big difference. Today there are more and more cases of people living with DMD living into their early 30s thanks to medical advancements.


How can we recognize Rare Disease Day in honor of Paul?


Think of someone you know in your community that has a disability or is sick. Find a way to show him or her kindness, whether through an act of service or just through a conversation. See the individual as valuable and important; don’t just see his or her disease. If the person wants to share his or her experience with the disease, listen and educate yourself. Ask how he or she is doing, and listen for more than just a standard quick response. If you are able, share your contact information and indicate that you are available to help if the need arises.

Paul Mustol HelpHOPELive muscular dystrophy

Celebrate Rare Disease Day in honor of Paul

The more attention rare diseases get, the more likely it is that researchers and pharmaceutical companies will investigate ways of treating these diseases. Awareness and knowledge also allows for earlier detection and diagnosis.


Follow Paul’s journey with DMD or donate in his honor on his HelpHOPELive Campaign Page. If you or someone you love is living with a rare disease or other catastrophic illness, start a fundraising campaign with our nonprofit to help offset medical and related expenses.