Kadner: Give a hand to Dan Coghlan’s friends
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org April 5, 2013 11:14PM
Dan Coghlan is pictured at his Crestwood home Friday, April 5, 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 8, 2013 6:40AM
Dan Coghlan greets a visitor to his Crestwood home with a smile and a firm handshake.
It’s had to believe he’s lost his job, undergone two brain surgeries and spent every day for six weeks going to Rush University Medical Center for chemo and radiation therapy in 2012.
At 27, Coghlan’s prognosis for recovery is “good,” according to health care professionals.
But like many people stricken by a health crisis, he’s running out of money.
That’s why friends and relatives are putting a fundraising event together for April 13 at Gaelic Park, 6119 W. 147th St., Oak Forest, from 2 to 7 p.m.
To say that the Coghlan family has had its share of misfortune would be an understatement.
Sue Coghlan, maiden name Wintercorn, grew up in Chicago’s Beverly community and was hit by a drunken driver when she was 13. Administered the last rites, Sue recovered but lost hearing in one ear.
She ended up dating a local boy from Christ the King Parish named Mal Coghlan. They fell in love, married and had two children, Dan and older brother Jim.
Two photographs sit on an end table next to Dan’s couch. One shows the family standing in front of a scarecrow. The other is a portrait of Mal Coghlan after he received his law degree.
He died in a car accident driving home after trying his first case. Dan was only 2 years old at the time and has no memories of his father.
Sue Coghlan, despite her youth and physical disability, would have to raise the two boys on her own.
As for Dan, he went on to graduate from Mount Carmel High School, just like his father, and joined Local 6 of the International Laborers Union.
“I built scaffolds and disassembled then,” he said.
But he had plans to go back to school and enrolled at Moraine Valley Community College.
“I wanted to become a lawyer, like my dad and grandad,” Dan said.
“He kept telling me he was having problems keeping up with the work and focusing in class,” recalled his mother, who lives in Palos Heights, where Dan spent much of his youth.
“He thought it was because he had been away from school for so long and that once he got used to being in class things would get better,” Sue said.
Dan was battling headaches as well.
“I was taking Tylenol every four hours, but the headaches never seemed to go away,” he said.
In September 2011, Dan’s headaches became so bad one night that he decided to drive himself to the nearest hospital.
“It seemed like I sat around for about 10 hours, they took a CT scan and told me to go home and I would be all right,” he said.
About an hour later, Dan received a call telling him to return to the hospital, “Now.”
On the advice of his personal physician, Dan eventually went to Rush University Medical Center where doctors operated and removed a portion of a tumor on his brain.
During the initial surgery, it was determined that removing all of the tumor would cause too much damage to Dan’s brain. So a small portion of the tumor was removed and found to be benign.
But during an MRI exam five months later, the news was bad.
The technical name for the form of cancer Dan has is grade 3 astrocytoma, according to Laura Zuckerman, a neuro-oncology nurse practitioner who assists in Dan’s treatment at Rush.
There was another surgery followed by intensive radiation and chemotherapy.
“We had to drive him for the treatments every day for six weeks,” Sue said. “Family and friends took turns. Each day someone would take him for the treatments. My day was Friday.”
Dan lost part of his short-term memory as a result of the treatment and still struggles with some “everyday stuff.” But he continues to live on his own in his home, working odd jobs to stay busy.
He lost his health insurance when he lost his job and pays $800 a month for COBRA insurance. He continues to receive monthly chemotherapy treatments in the form of pills and said his COBRA covers most of that cost.
But as the Helping Hands for Dan website states, “As you can imagine, the financial ramifications of Dan’s diagnosis and the subsequent expenses associated with his condition are devastating.”
He’s enrolled again at Moraine Valley, only this time he’s hoping to get an engineering degree.
“Trying to study law would have been too much of a struggle,” Dan said. “My reading and comprehension are pretty bad. I can still do it. It just takes longer.”
He has his black Labrador, Lacey, to keep him company and has been helping his friend David Ayers, who is chairman of the Helping Hands for Dan benefit drive, build a tiki bar.
“We’re hoping to sell it at the benefit,” Dan said.
Honorary chairmen for the benefit are Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton and Chicago Ald. Matthew O’Shea (19th).
Dan Coghlan, whose brother is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, is an impressive young man.
Asked if he had learned anything from this experience, he said, “I hope it doesn’t happen to anybody else. I plan to fight through it and go on with my life.”
For more information about the benefit and donations, visit www.helpinghandsfordan.com or contact David Ayers at (773) 860-5866 or Sue Coghlan at (708) 285-1859.
The band rEZIDUALS will play from 2 to 4 p.m., and then Rubber will perform from 4 to 6:30 p.m.
Raffle tickets are $50 for cash prizes of $5,000, $2,000 or $1,000 and can be bought online and at the door of Gaelic Park.
If you know anyone who has ever experienced a catastrophic illness in the family, you know how important it is to support Dan.