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Aley needed an ear, Bella a kidney; parents turn to GoFundMe

COURTESY SEAL FAMILYBella Seal has been on dialysis all her life because her kidneys have not worked since she was born. Her parents turned to the fundraising website GoFundMe to help with medical expenses their insurance does not cover.
COURTESY SEAL FAMILYBella Seal has been on dialysis all her life because her kidneys have not worked since she was born. Her parents turned to the fundraising website GoFundMe to help with medical expenses their insurance does not cover.

A quick scroll through GoFundMe.com shows hundreds of Coast residents vying for attention and donations on the fundraising website.

Even the Golden Fisherman has an account. Remember him?

The fisherman was the Biloxi statue everyone loved to hate before 2005's Hurricane Katrina toppled and damaged him, then a metal thief made off with his remains. He was returned, in pieces, then stored away as evidence in the theft case. Now the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum is raising money to reassemble the gangly golden guy throwing his cast net. The goal is $50,000.

On GoFundMe, Coast residents are requesting donations for trips, funeral expenses, medical treatments, dance schools, housing, flood and fire repairs, and sick children. So many people are asking for so many things, it's hard to get noticed in this sea of need.

Two ears

Olina Nelson of Biloxi and Daisy Seal of Gulfport both started GoFundMe pages for their daughters. The money hasn't exactly flowed in, but they're grateful for every penny.

"We've got two ears!" Olina Nelson said in a telephone interview from Shiners Hospitals for Children in Cincinnati, Ohio, where her daughter, Aley, 10, had surgery to craft a left ear. The Popp's Ferry Elementary School student can now look forward to getting her ears pierced, but her mom will first be working on bake sales and more GoFundMe posts. A doctor in Gulfport will open Aley's ear canal, which tests show is intact, so she can hear through the ear.

Nelson is looking to raise $1,000 or more to cover what insurance won't pay.

Shoes vs. kidney

Daisy Seal feels embarrassed to ask for money, but she is trying to save daughter Bella's life. The 2-year-old's kidneys failed to function after birth, and she's experienced other complications, including brittle-bone disease. Bella needs a kidney transplant. Her mom will be the donor.

"There's so many accounts out there people are opening for dumb stuff, 'Oh, my child needs a new pair of shoes,' Seal said. "Well, my child needs a kidney. I think there are a lot of people out there who are asking for what they want, not what they need."

Social media is not second nature for Seal. She knows she needs to keep people updated on Bella's condition, but she doesn't want to post too many updates.

She wants people to see the page, but she doesn't want to bombard them. It's easy, she said, for people to scroll past her daughter's face without stopping to read her story -- if they even find her story.

"If we knew more people, then we could reach out to more people and I think it would be more successful," she said. After 20 months, Bella's GoFundMe page had brought in $4,270, out of $25,000 requested.

Those donations have gone to pay for medicine and other medical costs insurance would not cover.

Bella is hooked up daily to a dialysis machine and feeding tube. Her parents were afraid when she got old enough, she would pull on the tubes. But when her feeding tube fell out of her onesie, her mom said, Bella simply went, "Uh-oh."

Even though Bella must be hooked up to dialysis 12 to 18 hours a day, every day, she enjoys life. She loves music and cats, the color purple and her big brother Noah, who is 13.

Dialysis and tubes are all Bella has ever known. Her mom dreams of the day Bella can get her transplant. Money is not all the family needs. Bella must gain weight. She is only 18.5 pounds and needs to be at 22 pounds to handle an adult kidney. And one of the hormone levels in her blood needs to come down.

"A transplant is her only chance of making it," Bella's mom said. In additions to donations, Seal hopes people will pray for her baby. She longs for Bella to have a shot at a normal life.

"She's definitely earned it," Seal said. "We're trying to do everything we can to make it happen."

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