Though a liver donor has yet to be found for noted music critic and author Robert
Palmer, in his wife's eyes the first step to recovery has already begun.
"It's very reassuring and very energizing," said JoBeth Briton, by phone Tuesday from Westchester County Medical Center, where Palmer is undergoing treatment for his life-threatening lillness. "Overall, it's not just a matter of money coming in to help pay bills: There's really a wonderful emotional and spiritual boost from seeing all these people rally together and pitch in."
As musicians and fans rally to his side with support as well as contributions toward his medical fund, the highly-respected author and record producer, who is in his early 50s, continues his wait in the New York hospital for what family, friends and fans hope will be a life-saving liver transplant.
Among those lending a hand to raise money for Palmer, who has no medical insurance, are alternative rock pioneer Alex Chilton and Allen Toussaint, who were expected to join a host of musicians at New Orleans' House Of Blues Tuesday night at a benefit concert for the author and music critic. Additional benefit concerts are in the works for New York and Los Angeles.
Palmer -- who wrote the seminal genre-study Deep Blues and was music critic for New York Times as well as producer of such blues artists as
R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough -- entered a hospital in Arkansas at the
end of August before being moved to New York. Doctors there are hoping to
find a single donor who can provide a combination liver and a kidney for Palmer to increase chances of organ acceptance and decrease risks that his body will reject the transplants.
"He's doing better now after undergoing an exhaustive battery of tests a
few days ago that weakened him," Briton said. "From the time that he first
went into the hospital on Aug. 31 he's improved dramatically. Even
miraculously would not be an overstatement."
Although it was previously estimated that Palmer's medical bills would top
$100,000, a spokesman for the writer said that figure is likely to rise.
"Nobody can say what the cost is going to be for this," Mark Pucci said. "We don't know what's going to be involved with the operation yet specifically. We don't know how long the after-care is going to be."
Though precise figures of how much had been raised were not yet available,
Pucci said, "We've got a long way to go." Palmer's family has collected the $10,000 needed to begin the initial battery of tests leading to a transplant, according to a Rhino Records spokesperson; Rhino has taken an interest in the cause.
The label representative said that although Palmer was in the care of doctors at the Tulane University Medical Center in New Orleans for the past three years, where he underwent monthly liver function tests and blood tests, his condition kept deteriorating. Finally, according to the Rhino rep, Palmer was refused admission to the hospital because he had no insurance and was considered a financial risk.
Doctors at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Medical Center, where Palmer was subsequently admitted, discovered a chronic kidney infection that would kill him, if left untreated. He was soon transferred to the medical center in New York for further treatment and testing.
The hospital has been looking for a donor ever since.
Tax-deductible contributions made out to Giorno Poetry Systems/Robert
Palmer Fund (Tax ID # 23-739-7945) may be sent to: 222 Bowery, New York, NY 10012. [Wed., Oct. 1, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]