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New Trier alum Davie Benjamin (left) and his mother, Marlene Saunders. Photo Submitted
Hilary Anderson, Freelance Reporter
10:46 am CST February 28, 2020

Davie Benjamin needs help.

The 22-year-old Wilmette resident and 2016 New Trier graduate experienced massive trauma to his nose earlier in February.

Benjamin was in the process of getting insurance but it was not in effect yet. He needs financial help to pay for needed surgeries to rebuild his nose. Plastic surgeons usually ask for their fees upfront when doing these procedures.

“My sister, Holly, and I set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for medical expenses incurred,” said Brent Wortell, a Glencoe resident who lived there for 30 years and has since moved.

The GoFundMe account launched on Feb. 25. As of Friday, Feb. 28, the account had raised $39,850 of its $50,000 goal. 

The incident occurred when Benjamin’s dog, Rocky, who earlier had been hit by a car, bit off a large part of his nose and the area surrounding it when he tried to pet the animal good-bye as he left for school at Oakton Community College.

“We know Rocky did not mean it,” said Marlene Saunders, Benjamin’s mother. “The dog was hit by a big, black SUV — perhaps a Cadillac SUV — right in front of our house.

“The kids saw it happen and told the driver who stated she did not see the dog nor offered help of any kind. We took Rocky to the vet who said there were no broken bones and he was all right. But now, we think the dog had a concussion or somehow was hit in the head and had brain damage.”

Rocky seemed to be all right.

Benjamin kept the dog by his side thinking he must have been upset by the experience. Nothing out of the ordinary happened with Davie and Rocky until the incident.

The challenge for Benjamin’s mother was finding a board-certified plastic surgeon who has done facial reconstructive surgery. One of Benjamin’s friends asked for help for Benjamin on nextdoor.com. Neighbors on the site suggested possible physicians who could do this.

“We spoke with six plastic surgeons and chose the doctor who seemed most comfortable with doing the procedure,” Saunders said. “We selected a Kenilworth doctor suggested by our nextdoor.com neighbors. He said he would possibly only charge for the first surgery. We also had to consider hospital charges that could not be waived. A couple of the doctors do surgery in an off-site surgical center. They require we pay up front the costs of the operating room and the anesthesiologist.”

Benjamin will need several surgeries to rebuild his nose. He needs the surgical care sooner than later.

“The doctors who saw him say they are surprised an infection has not set in yet,” she said.

Saunders is a home health-care nurse.

Brent and Kathy Wortell know of her and son, Benjamin’s, situation because she cared for their 102-year-old father until his death last year.

Now she cares for their mother who is 98 years old at Wilmette’s Mather Place.

“We know how devoted Marlene was to our father, Marvin,” Brent Wortell said. “We believe part of the reason he lived so long is because of the great care she gave him. She even would make healthier meals at home for him and bring them to him to eat. Now she does the same for our mother.”

The apple did not fall far from the tree when it came to Benjamin helping the Wortells’ mother, Esther.

“Davie would help her with some chores,” Saunders said.

The family could not afford the cost of keeping Rocky in quarantine, which amounted to about $600 a day to test for Rabies or other diseases that caused his action toward Benjamin.

Saunders drove him to Animal Control on Chicago’s South Side and got lost.

“I encountered some young men who stopped the car, opened the car doors and asked what I was doing in their neighborhood,” she said. “Rocky had his redemptive moment when he started barking at them and scared them away. He then put his head on my shoulder as though he was saying, ‘I’m sorry but everything will be all right.’”

The dog has since been euthanized.

The GoFundMe account will be used to help pay for Benjamin’s medical care and expenses. 

“I want to thank all of our nextdoor.com neighbors who have come with suggestions, help and donations,” Saunders said. “We are so lucky to live in the best community ever!”

To donate to Davie Saunders’ GoFundMe account, visit bit.ly/2T6vCa8.