'Super tough kid' fights back

RaeLynn Ricarte
Staff Writer

“Mom, will I die and go see Jesus? Will He be waiting there for me?”
“You are not going to die because I will have to go with you and we have your brother and dad to take care of.”
That is one of the recent conversations between Fabiola Driver and her 12-year-old daughter, Palin, who is fighting a rare pediatric Crohn’s disease.
In the last month, Palin has been in the hospital more than out; the most recent trip to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane last week for an emergency tied to inflammation of organs and her digestive tract.
A group of community members have rallied to help the Driver family cover the huge medical bills that come from having a seriously ill child. They are organizing a fundraiser dinner on Saturday, Nov. 13, at the Ag Trade Center in Colville, 317 W. Astor Avenue.
Doors open at 5 p.m. and $15 tickets are available in advance at Redbird Boutique and Immaculate Conception Church, both in Colville. They can also be purchased at the door.
The event includes a 50/50 raffle, door prizes, a dessert dash and both live and silent auctions. Dinner is being prepared by the Catholic Daughters of Immaculate Conception Church, which the Drivers attend.
Marilyn Beaudry is organizing the event  with Christi Pax, Debbie Wishon, Cindy Campbell and others.
She said local businesses have been donating “wonderful” items for the auctions, and Jeff Pitts has volunteered to be the auctioneer.
“Our community is extraordinarily generous, especially when it comes to the needs of a chronically-ill child,” said Beaudry. 
Organizers are still collecting items to sell. They are looking for things that would interest men, such as tools. Topping the wish list is a vehicle, trailer, cords of wood, or similar big ticket items.
“We are thinking big but are very grateful for everything we are given,” said Beaudry.  
North 40 Outfitters, where Palin’s dad, Bill, works has donated a gun safe that Beaudry anticipates will be a popular bidding choice. 
Fabiola said the family is eternally grateful for all the support they have been receiving from their church family, friends and community members.
She said Father Kenny St. Hilaire has been steadfast in his prayers and counseling. He recently sent her and Bill to a marriage retreat so they could get tips to help keep their 24-year relationship strong during a time of tremendous stress.
The couple also has 9-year-old son, Colt, to care for during days that are often hectic because of Palin’s medical condition.
Every day, Palin has to take 30 pills at specific times and her diet is severely restricted because of her internal distress.
She even has to wear plastic contact lens at night to keep inflammation from misshaping her cornea and causing her to see double, or not to be able to see at all.
Palin is a “super tough kid,” said Fabiola, because she tolerates constant pain far better than even most adults would. But the once active girl, who even hunted with her father, is now mostly on bedrest and can get “grumpy” now and then.
“She loves to draw, but one day she was having a hard time and couldn’t think of anything that she wanted to draw. She was pretty grumpy. So, I suggested she draw Bambi. She looked and me and she said, ‘I eat Bambi,’” laughed Fabiola.
Palin’s artwork will decorate each table at the Nov. 13 dinner and be auctioned off. Her specialty is birds and she makes sure every intricate detail is included in her drawings.
Her favorite color is purple so that will also be represented at the event. What will be missing is Palin’s actual presence.
Due to her compromised immune system, Palin can’t risk potential exposure to COVID-19 or another illness, said Fabiola.
She said Palin has been a straight A student with the goal of becoming a veterinarian and the Drivers want to see her go into remission to resume her studies and plans. Steroids and chemotherapy have zapped her energy, but these are the treatments that doctors believe can beat back the Crohn’s enough for Palin to resume her life.
Fabiola said Palin was their miracle baby. She had been told that she would never conceive and then one day, her dreams of being a mother came true.
“Bill had been hunting and came home and said, ‘I got the biggest buck,’ and I said, “I’m pregnant,’ and he said, ‘You win!”
Fabiola initially wanted to name her daughter, Sarah, after Alaska’s former governor, Sarah Palin, a strong woman she greatly admired.
But then she decided that Palin was differentiated from other “Sarahs” by her last name, which would be even stronger more empowering. “I dream big,” she said. 
When Palin was born, the Drivers lived in Alaska, so they contacted Sarah and she wrote them a letter saying how honored she was to have a namesake. 
Several years later, the Drivers were blessed again with Colt and poured themselves into raising their family. “Colt and Palin adore each other — and he has a hard time when she’s away at the hospital,” said Fabiola. 
She quit working outside the home to stay with Palin as her daughter’s condition worsened.
“They say that she was probably born with Crohn’s,” said Fabiola. “She started having a lot of digestive problems when she was 5 or 6, but they did not diagnose what was wrong until she was 12.”
Every morning, Fabiola gets up at 4 a.m. to make a variety of foods that might tempt Palin’s palate. Meal choices are limited: lean chicken, banana juice with almond milks, berries without seeds,  turkey burgers, white rice, white pasta cooked with a dab of olive oil, no sugar whatsoever, among other bland choices
Every day there are homemade rolls on the table. 
Because Palin’s system can only handle a few bites at a time, she must consume something every two hours and Fabiola makes sure there are plenty of possibilities lining the shelves of the refrigerator. 
“She is not physically developing with all of this going on and that’s why we need to get her into remission,” explained Fabiola.
The one thing she doesn’t do is sing for her daughter because that is not exactly appreciated. “She says, ‘Mom, you are hurting my ears,’” joked Fabiola.
She stays strong for Palin but admits to crying alone in her car when she is running errands because that is a way to vent her stress. 
“I’ve become really hyper and can’t sleep so I drink a lot of coffee,” said Fabiola.
Her family is in Peru so can’t help out, but Bill’s dad, Phil Driver Sr.,  lives with them and watches Palin when Fabiola needs a break or has to take care of business.
It is difficult tending to the tasks of daily life when her daughter is so desperately ill, she admits. 
There is a huge comfort in having so many people showing support, she said.
”We have to thank the whole town because they have come through for us in amazing ways,” said Fabiola. 
Palin’s condition is chronic so she will always have to take medications and watch her diet, but Fabiola wants to see her get to the place where the disease is managed enough to not impede her daughter’s life. 
“She’s sharp, even in her lowest moments,” she said. “Palin’s a beautiful girl, inside and out.”
Fabiola said on dark days, the family relies on their faith to keep them strong. 
“God will provide one way or another,” she said. “He has always been faithful and I have no doubt that He will get us through this.”
In recent weeks, Fabiola said God’s provision can be seen in support that arrives at just the right time. Packages show up at the door when Palin most needs a smile. She was recently gifted with a coveted Play Station 4 and the family is now trying to collect games that can be a distraction.
“I would give anything to take my daughter’s disease, to take her pain,” said Fabiola in a tearful moment.
“I am a mom, that’s all I am, and we all would do the same.”

People with items to donate to the auction can send a message through the Rally for Palin Driver Facebook page, or call 509-690-0410.