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Benefit for Robin Martell set for Dec. 15

Robin Martell was diagnosed with hepatic encephalopathy and fatty liver disease after a three-day hospitalization in late October. A benefit planned by her daughter and family friends will be held Dec. 15 in New Richmond. (Submitted photo)

When Annastasia Martell came down the stairs early Tuesday morning on Oct. 29, she wondered why her mom’s car was still in the driveway and why she was sitting alone in the dark.

Her mother, Robin Martell, is a special education aide at Somerset High School and usually out the door by 7 a.m. every morning, Annastasia said.

Robin seemed confused and didn’t know what day it was, Annastasia said. She was swaying and shaking. When Annastasia went to get her brother Ambrose, they came downstairs to find their mom trying to clean something in the sink. She said she was getting ready for a friend to come over. But it was 7 a.m. on a workday.

They immediately thought she may have had a stroke, so they called a nurse hotline, who advised them to get her to a hospital immediately. However, when they tried to help her dress, she became belligerent, then began trying to drink out of a glass that wasn’t there.

As they waited for an ambulance, Robin began talking to them as if they were her parents, Annastasia said.

“I’ll admit I was freaking out,” Annastasia said. “I didn’t know what to do. When Ambrose tried to give her a banana she just ripped it up.”

Robin was taken to Hudson Hospital, where she went through countless tests.

“She finally started coming back to herself Wednesday night around 6 p.m.,” Annastasia said. “A few times she thought it was the 1990s and another time she thought Kennedy was president. She has no memory of that Tuesday.”

Robin was diagnosed with hepatic encephalopathy, a brain disorder caused by cirrhosis of the liver. The ammonia levels in her blood were 150, when they should be around 20, Annastasia said.

“Her liver was shutting down and basically the toxins her liver wasn’t taking care of were going to her brain,” Annastasia said. “That’s what was causing the confusion.”

Robin spent almost four days in the hospital. She has no insurance and will not be able to return to work until April at the earliest.

“The Somerset schools really stepped up and rallied together,” Annastasia said. “She had 90 days of sick time donated to her by other employees. I know the money and expenses are stressing her out the most.”

Annastasia said the doctors also discovered her mother has an Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Simply put, the body doesn’t make enough of a protein that protects the lungs and liver from damage, and can cause liver diseases and emphysema.

Annastasia, Ambrose and their brother Rory were told they should be tested for this gene, because the condition is genetic.

“None of us have insurance, so it’s not like we can stroll in and have a blood test,” Annastasia said.

Robin has also been diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, in which fat builds up in the liver and becomes inflamed. She has been seen by a liver specialist, and will go to a lung specialist the week before Christmas.

“My mom is not a drinker, so this was a big surprise,” Annastasia said. “Usually when people hear the words ‘liver disease’ they think of someone who drinks, but that is not the case here.”

Robin also has six gallstones and a heart murmur, though the murmur is unrelated to her current condition, Annastasia said. She is not allowed to drive because of the chance of her ammonia levels getting too high again.

Annastasia said her mom’s primary doctor in Hudson said things seem to be “evening out” and seems optimistic.

Robin is on a strict medication regimen, and some of those medicines are expensive, Annastasia said. She also said her mom is worried medication she took after her knee replacement and surgery for a torn meniscus may have caused the problems she’s having now, but the doctors don’t seem to think so.

The Martells lived in Somerset for more than 25 years and were active in the community, Annastasia said. They moved to Roberts two years ago, though her mom continues to work at Somerset High School. Robin enjoys going to work, crafting, knitting, sewing and organizing and planning events.

Benefit set for Dec. 15

A benefit for Robin will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 15 at Ready Randy’s R & D Catering in New Richmond.

A spaghetti dinner with garlic bread and Caesar salad will be offered at $10. Silent auction items, bake sale goods, raffle items and Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers will be available for purchase. They also have some games planned with prizes, Annastasia said.

Some of the big-ticket items include a signed Packers football from 2012, a Blu-ray player and a 32-inch flat screen TV. Annastasia said items have been donated from 36 area businesses.

“It’s amazing how you find out what people are willing to do if you mention it,” Annastasia said. “My mom is astounded by everyone’s generosity.”

For those unable to attend the benefit who would like to donate, they can go to any WESTconsin Credit Union location and donate to benefit No. 827255. For more information about the benefit, email Annastasia at or call her at 715-441-6024.

Sarah Nigbor

Sarah J. Nigbor serves as a regional editor for RiverTown Multimedia, a position she began in April 2017. She joined RiverTown Multimedia in October 2013 as a news reporter for the New Richmond News, before being appointed editor of the Pierce County Herald in Febraury 2015. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spanish and French in 2001. She completed a minor in journalism in 2004. 

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