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Let the music play

Friends rally around local artist

MARQUETTE — Marquette Area Music Hall of Fame inductee Karyn Johnson sees a real need in the community and wants to fill it. Johnson, is coordinating a local fundraiser in February to help pay for medical bills for what should have been a run-of-the mill emergency room visit.

In fact, when her bandmate Tony Norem went to the emergency room in Iowa City, Iowa, on Oct. 8, the Negaunee resident and his family could not have imagined a worse outcome. Norem, who plays keytar, keyboard and provides vocals in a local band called Diversions, was diagnosed with pneumonia in his right lung while on a family visit there. He has no medical insurance.

By Oct. 12, Norem was still not feeling well and was admitted to the hospital and transferred to Davenport East Hospital the next day. There he went through numerous tests, was treated with several antibiotics, all of which yielded no definitive answers as to what was causing the illness that had begun to spread to his left lung by Oct. 16.

Over the course of nearly two months, Norem has spent time in the hospital’s intensive care unit, has been put into a medically induced coma, had kidney problems and required blood transfusions during his lengthy hospital stay, and that does not even scratch the surface.

Candace Norem said she has no idea what the cost for her husband’s treatment for what his doctors have ultimately diagnosed blastomycosis, a fungal infection cause by Blastomyces – a fungal infection that lives in the environment, but it is likely extremely expensive.

“I know the ECMO (Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) he was on was $70,000 a day, but without it, he wouldn’t be here today,” she said.

Friends have rallied around Tony and his wife Candace, starting a GoFundMe fundraiser for Norem in order to pay the mounting medical bills.

Norem is still in Iowa City, Candace said. Hospital staff are trying to transfer him to Davenport so he can be closer to his family. He cannot be transported to a hospital in or near Marquette until his tracheostomy (trach) tube comes out, she said, which could be a couple of weeks.

After he gets back home, he will likely face several weeks in rehabilitation, she said.

“He lost all his muscle while he was really sick and in a medical induced coma,” she said. “It will be a month or more in rehabilitation.”

As for the support the Norems have received from family, friends and the community, she said they are “very humbled.”

“Our friends have been amazing even with little things like helping to take care of our animals that are back home,” she said, “We have never seen such generosity and support.”

She said the first priority is get her husband well, but recognizes there may be struggles ahead.

“We are looking into what options we have as far as insurance now that he is not working and (not) getting paid,” Candace said.

For more information or updates on Norem’s condition or to donate visit www.gofundme.com/f/medical-help-for-tony-norem.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.