Gorge Benefit Concert Earns Money for Musician

On Saturday evening, Feb. 23, musicians from the Columbia River Gorge gathered for a benefit concert in Hood River, Ore.

On the minds of attendees and performers was Josiah Hill, age 17, a gifted pianist and piano instructor. Quite unexpectedly, Hill's life began to change. While participating at the regional piano Baroque competition, he developed a nose bleed.

More symptoms began to occur, including unusual tiredness and additional nose bleeds. Hill's parents, Jim and Irene, were referred to Doernbecher Children's Hospital at Oregon Health Sciences University.

After tests, doctors diagnosed Hill with idiopathic anemia, a failure of bone marrow to produce enough blood to sustain life. He had approximately 10 percent of his stem cells remaining.

The treatment of choice was a bone marrow transplant from a matched sibling donor, however neither of Hill's brothers were a match. Desperate research for further answers revealed a study by Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md. The treatment in the study used chemotherapy to weaken the immune system, allowing the unharmed stem cells to regenerate. It offered a 70 to 80 percent recovery rate. Hill was given other treatments, but seemed to be losing the battle. So the family headed for Johns Hopkins, where he received chemotherapy and was released after just 14 days, less than one-third of the average post-treatment stay.

While the Hill family was at Johns Hopkins, Diane Beterbide, Hill's piano teacher, mounted a fund drive. She heard their insurance company had denied coverage. Beterbide also contacted Perry Cole, director of the Mid-Columbia Community Choir, and miracles followed.

Cole quickly set to work, organizing a benefit concert in Hill's honor. Musicians from throughout the Gorge were contacted. The choir was joined by the Gorge Brass Quintet, the Riverside Chancel Choir, and the Mid-Columbia Adventist Christian School Hand Chime Choir. Piano and vocal students from the community were included.

During the program, Cole invited Jim and Irene Hill to the platform where he asked questions regarding the illness and recovery. The parents quickly gave God the credit for many answered prayers and for direction. They marveled to find the church packed with people who enjoyed an evening of outstanding music. Hill also played the piano.

To cap the concert, the various groups joined together in singing hymns. During the evening over $4,500 was received to apply toward a mounting hospital bill. The Hills say, "the English language does not have a word or phrase big enough to express our heartfelt appreciation to everyone who has given of their time, talents or finances to support us through this ordeal."

Three months after returning home, Hill is transfusion-independent, and his blood counts are normal except some of the white blood cells remain low.

July 01, 2008 / Oregon Conference