Bob White is hosting a fundraiser for Jason Ferguson on Wednesday, Oct. 15, at The Party, and the cause is dear to White.
Ferguson, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma – an incurable blood cancer – in May, was at White’s side when White suffered a debilitating car accident that left him in a wheelchair.
“Jason stood by my side 10 years ago when I was hurt and in a coma,” said White. “He frequently visited me at the hospital, and he brought me a van full of groceries six months after I got out of the hospital. I simply want to give back and support him and his family in their time of need.”
White was also hospitalized about 20 years ago after being severely head-butted while refereeing a basketball game in Johnson County.
White choked up when talking about his friend, who is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation and is on medical leave from Cummins Technical Center in Columbus. (He hopes to return later this month after getting clearance from his oncologist.) Ferguson continued working longer than expected because his duties were restructured, which allowed him to work from his wheelchair or at a desk.
Ferguson and his wife of 18 years, Brenda, have four sons, Cole, 15; Chase, 13; Cooper, 5; and Cody, 3. They live in Whiteland with their dog, Shadow, two frogs and two fish. Ferguson has coached his sons in baseball, basketball and football while officiating the latter two. He was named the Indiana Officials Association’s Football Official of the Year for 2013, and he called a state championship game last year. He has also officiated Special Olympics (with White) and a state final game in boys basketball.
“We were devastated with the diagnosis,” said Mrs. Ferguson, assistant to the Office of Marketing & Communications at Franklin College. “He had been having rib pain for several months, and he thought that he might have broke one while serving as a ‘human jungle gym’ for our little boys, but neither of us thought too much of it. When he was mowing grass in April, he felt another rib break.”
X-rays determined that Ferguson’s earlier hunch of a fractured rib was spot-on. He was encouraged to get a bone scan but initially put it off because outside of the pain from his ribs, he felt too good to have cancer. And, he reasoned, the test was expensive.
However, continued discomfort compelled him to undergo testing, which revealed that he had lesions throughout his body. Additional testing resulted in the diagnosis of multiple myeloma, said Mrs. Ferguson, who was informed that her husband has a life expectancy of eight to 12 years.
“It is devastating to hear that type of news, but I also had prepared myself to hear the words ‘months.’ I was very thankful that the doctors were talking ‘years.’ A lot of advances can take place over the years.”
Since his hip had become fragile from being afflicted by the largest lesion in his body, he was advised to not put weight on it. He went from running and playing sports with his children to using a walker and a wheelchair throughout the summer. “It was difficult to watch, but he handled it very well,” she said.
At first it was believed that Ferguson would need a hip replacement, but the most recent X-ray shows remarkable healing. Doctors said if he continues to take it easy and let his body continue to heal itself, then he can avoid a replacement. However, one may be necessary as Ferguson plans to officiate again.
Mr. Ferguson had a stem cell transplant in early September at the Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis. “We were alerted that any fever could be life-threatening. He felt pretty good afterward, but then the chemo kicked in, and he became sick and weak. He’s lost about 15 to 20 pounds and has lost his hair. We will soon find out if the stem cell transplant accomplished its goal. We’re prayerful that Jason will be in remission for many, many years.”
And that’s what the people at the fundraiser will be hoping for.
“It is going to be a fantastic night to stop by The Party (7350 Madison Ave.) and say hi to Jason,” said White. “We are going to celebrate his life. Whatever money we raise will be fine. We’re just trying to help a friend.”
Running from 4-11 p.m., the event will feature a buffet, live music from Larry Lobdell, Glen Pierle, Highway 9 and Scenic Fire, drawings for door prizes every 15 minutes and guest appearances by local celebrities.
Donations will be accepted at the door; White is hoping that most people contribute at least $10 or $15.
“We’ve got more than a 100 raffle prizes, and some of them are great: two Colts-Patriots tickets, hotel and dinner packages and a basketball signed by Bobby Knight,” said White, who’s been hounding people every day for door prizes. “You just have to keep after them. I’m trying to tie up the loose ends. I know I will sleep a little better when it’s all over.”
“Bob is very special to Jason,” Mrs. Ferguson said. “The way Bob handled his situation has served as a great motivation and inspiration to Jason through his battle with cancer. I remember Jason immediately praying for Bob after hearing about his car accident.”