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It has only been three weeks since Bobby Rydell died at age 79 due to the effects of pneumonia. However, few will struggle to know that the former 1960s teenager, known for the songs “Wildwood Days” and “Volare,” shared a deep bond with a young woman in Philadelphia for nearly a decade.
Rydell, born Robert Ridarelli, and Assiah Phinisee, share part of a liver each of them received as a transplant recipient on July 9, 2012, when Assiah was just four years old.
Now, as her 14th birthday approaches on May 9, Assiah’s mother, Rasheena Phinisee – pronounced “like Tennessee” – says Rydell’s death came as a shock to her and to Assiah, the principal recipient of the liver, and that his blossoming maiden should center before publicly addressing Rydell’s passing.
“It was a real shock to us when we heard the news, and it really took us a few days to process everything because this year would have been 10 years with their transplant anniversary, which is important,” Rasheena told Fox News Digital.
She continued, “It’s a milestone to really celebrate. So, we were a little upset. It took us a few days to process it before we finally said something publicly. But Assiah was definitely surprised, you know. She dropped a few tears when I told her. But as I told her, he lived a very long life. He would have turned 80 this year.
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In their tribute post to the ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ star, Rydell, Assiah and her mother wrote in part on social media: “We will miss our dinners and our visits with you. Words cannot express how much we We are grateful to have won a family thanks to our donor.”
“It was a real shock to us when we heard the news, and it really took us a few days to process everything.”
July 4 will also mark 13 years since Assiah’s very first liver transplant. She’s had two in her life so far.
Assiah began feeling the debilitating effects of biliary atresia – a blockage of the ducts that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder and intestines, and when trapped in the liver, creates scar tissue that causes cirrhosis and possible liver failure.
Currently, Rasheena and her daughters are traveling nearly five hours from Pittsburgh, Pa., to get transplant care for Assiah after a 2018 dispute over the effectiveness of a prescribed trial drug.
For Rasheena, a woman who began studying public relations at Temple University before putting her own dreams on hold to care for her daughter’s long-term care, the many tribulations she and Assiah have endured have changed his whole orientation in life.
In 2016, Rasheena graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication after dropping out in 2008 after Assiah was born.
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Yet, while pouring every ounce of energy she has into Assiah’s care, Rasheena faced her own battle for health – a battle that only helped Rasheena realize that the circumstances of her life “are for the greater good” of humanity after receiving a breast. diagnosed with cancer in January, just 10 months after giving birth to another daughter.
“Every day is a gift, literally,” Rasheena said of the daily drive she maintains to not only raise two daughters as a single mother, but also to fight the ill effects not only of the state of Assiah’s liver, but also of her own health problems. ductal breast cancer with metastases to nearby lymph nodes.
“It’s so funny that you asked that because I was talking to someone not too long ago, explaining to them when you’re facing difficulties that include health issues and I even told them when Assiah got better after the first transplant and life was normal, because we had been through so much medical trauma for so long, it took me years to emotionally and psychologically move out of where we were,” Rasheena said.
“We’d had years of hospital vacations, years of family reunions and different hospital reunions, so when things were normal at home, my mind mentally and emotionally wasn’t there for years. because all I could think about those days were the bad things until there was enough time between our experiences and our past that I could actually understand that it was safe to live in the moment and enjoy these moments,” added Rasheena.
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Rasheena said it was Assiah’s reaction to her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis that ultimately brought Rasheena down to earth, as it was now Assiah, who was gathering strength to serve as her mother’s support system.
“I think over the last decade we’ve gotten so used to life being so normal that when January of this year came around and I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my daughter Assiah l ‘took very badly,’ Rasheena lamented. “She’s better now, but the first few weeks she was just like, ‘Life isn’t fair. lives,’ because she was really scared.”
Despite the cancer diagnosis, Rasheena is a published children’s author with her daughter and still operates Assiah’s Liver Fund, an award-winning non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness for organ donation.
Over the past decade we’ve gotten so used to life being so normal that when January of this year came around and I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my daughter Assiah took it really badly .
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She has since also become an advocate for every woman not only to get screened regularly for breast cancer, but to strengthen her epidemiological knowledge to mitigate the determinants and variables associated with cancer and other health issues.
“All that we continue to deal with regarding Assiah’s health and my dealing with breast cancer, when the diagnosis came I never understood the impact that breast cancer has on the Afro community -American – how we are twice as likely to die of breast cancer as a white woman,” Rasheena explained.
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Rasheena said her breast cancer diagnosis cut seven months off her breastfeeding journey with her newborn baby. She also nearly completed a chemotherapy regimen which, while debilitating to complete, she says, opened her eyes to the inconsistencies that certain groups of people face when it comes to receiving optimal medical care.
Last week, Rasheena completed her fourth chemotherapy infusion and has just two left before moving on to surgery, radiotherapy and targeted immunotherapy for six months.
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“I never realized that with organ failure, black people are twice as likely to get these diseases. And as you learn these things as you go through this experience, and you do this walk in life, you find that you are compelled to connect with other people and share information with people who, if you had not been afflicted by these situations, you would never have imagined in your life that things actually exist.”
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