A young man in Portage la Prairie has been suffering from a constant headache for about a year now, and the doctors can't explain what's wrong. In a search for a diagnosis and remedy, Donnovan Hillman has reached out to the Mayo Clinic south of the border, and his family initiated a GoFundMe page to help cover the costs. He describes the pain and how it's affected him. 

"It's always there when you wake up, and when you go to sleep. The intensity changes based on a few factors and the like, but overall, it's been there."

Hillman says his general practitioner, Dr. Nelson, has been excellent throughout the ordeal.

His daily routine has lessened to include only what must be done and activities that he can't do without.

"I can go to work and that's about it," describes Hillman. "That's been a saving grace for mental health and to get you up in the morning. Anything more than that, you can't do it. You constantly have the pain. Pain medications take a little bit of the edge off but nothing has been able to take it fully away."

Hillman says this means many activities are missed including trips. 

"Like anything from going outside or driving, or anything like that, it's very hard," says Hillman. "The more activity or stimulation of the brain almost immobilizes you."

His mother, Tara Hall, describes how it's been for her to see her son go through the harrowing experience.

"Your worst nightmare," says Hall. "For somebody who has worked so hard to get to where he is, he's been so involved in the community, it's tough. He misses family activities. He's kind of a shell of who he used to be."

Though his time with the doctors has made it as easy as possible for the time being, as time went on, they've tried everything such as acupuncture, Botox experimental medications, and numerous painkillers. Nothing seemed to touch the problem.

"So, it was brought up that maybe going south of the border was not the worst idea," adds Hillman. "When we reached out to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and when they saw how rare and elusive it was, they agreed to take it on, which was good, and a little bit flattering, but it also comes with a heavy price tag. This is where there's a fundraiser."

Hillman's family began a GoFundMe page. Those who responded include neighbours, friends, family, and coworkers, especially. 

"Just people around the community have been donating, which is very humbling," says Hillman. "I certainly didn't expect that amount of support. We're just at $4,900 or so, right now, with a goal of $10,000. Overall, the total cost of the trip is hard to predict, but it's a minimum of $10,000 USD, so you also have to take into account the exchange rate. Then that's on top of flights, hotels, meals, and then all the medical costs."

He has his flight booked for September 18th. Hillman will be staying in Rochester for about eight business days. 

"The hope is diagnosis, right now," continues Hillman. "That would be quite pricey on its own and, hopefully, any treatments would take place and be facilitated up here, just due to the convenience and cost factor. But that's still unknown."

Hall adds it's very humbling to see the amount of support for her son that came in.

"It's really nice to see that for the community that he's loved," notes Hall. "He's lived here all his life, mostly. They're backing him, they're rooting for him, and they want him to get better. This trip and the donations have been a bit of hope that this family hasn't had for a long time. So, we want to thank them and his doctors for being so great, and helping us get there." 

Hillman adds he went to university in Brandon and decided to return to Portage based only on the community feeling that's here. 

"I had that all along when I was growing up here," notes Hillman. "The amount of people donating and whether they're known to me or just complete strangers, is kind of resemblant of that fact that it's a strong community-minded city. I'm very humbled for all the support."

Donnovan's GoFundMe page is here.


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