BROOKINGS – While he was still a student at South Dakota State University, Dellas Cole – aka “DC” – found his niche and began his life’s work as a sportscaster for Brookings Radio.
“I took over doing all of the Bobcat stuff about a year before I graduated,” Cole said. “The owners were looking for somebody who could handle play-by-play stuff.”
Handle it he did, graduating in the fall of 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and going on to become the “Voice of the Bobcats,” calling the action in a variety of Brookings High School sports – and still doing it three-plus decades later.
Over those years, DC has become an award-winning sportscaster, while supporting and earning the affection and gratitude of the Brookings community. And now in his time of need, the community is ready to support him: with a fundraiser, “A night for our very own … Dellas Cole.”
Not a candidate for a transplant
A few years back, while trying to get in and out of press boxes around the state, Cole found himself huffing and puffing. He was initially treated for pneumonia; but in March 2013, further diagnostic measures confirmed idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a chronic lung disease that diminishes lung function and is progressive and irreversible. Its cause is unknown.
“It’s any one of hundreds or thousands of things that can set this off,” he explained.
For whatever reason, something settled into his lungs causing scarring and loss of lung capacity, in Cole’s case “more so the left than the right. But it’s affected both. My lung capacity right now is about, give or take, half of what it should be. They won’t look at a transplant at all until you’re down to about 20 percent. So I’m quite a distance away from a transplant.”
Cole said a lung transplant could possibly bring 100 percent lung capacity; and his life expectancy would be five to seven years.
“We’re trying to head off that route,” he said. “Plus with my age, 58, I’m nowhere near being a candidate for a lung transplant.”
Presently he is “under control with medication. It’s not getting better; it’s not getting worse. The doctors I talked to, the pulmonologist in Sioux Falls, are pretty pleased with where things are at right now.”
As to a prognosis right now, Cole said, “Things are pretty good. I’m not near death or anything like that. It’s just a matter of keeping things where they are.”
However, he’d like to go beyond that.
He and his wife, Margie, have found a facility in Arizona that specializes in lung conditions, using stem cells to try to improve a patient’s condition. However, it is deemed experimental by insurance companies.
“Therefore, insurance generally doesn’t pick up the tab,” Cole said. “You’re on your own for footing the bill.” Two treatments are recommended; each treatment costs $7,000.
Explaining in simple terms how it works, he said the patient’s blood is drawn; healthy stem cells are separated out; later, the stem cells are reintroduced to the patient via intravenous infusion; the circulatory system then takes the healthy stem cells to the heart and pumps them into the lungs “where they go to work and override the damaged tissue in the lungs and, theoretically, hopefully improve the condition. It’s not a cure necessarily, but it improves things.”
Boss plans a benefit
When Alpha Media USA General Manager Cami Powers read on Facebook that Dellas’ step-daughter had set up a GoFundMe page, she came up with the idea of a benefit night, which would allow 100 percent of whatever was donated to go to Dellas.
“I know people in this community and I know how they support Dellas,” she said. “I just thought that (a benefit) would be something we could pull off in a heartbeat and get them the money that they need.”
Powers noted that initially Cole was not really open to the idea of a benefit, and it took some convincing to get his buy in.
“You know, he’s a very private guy,” she explained. “And up until this last month, I really didn’t know what was going on. He kept it to himself. We all kind of knew there were issues, but we never really asked.”
However, the news of his condition showing up on Facebook provided her the opportunity to ask him if anything else could be done to help.
“Then I had phone calls and emails from the public,” she said, “people who wanted to support Dellas after they heard the story.”
Enter “the guys at Cubby’s (Sports Bar & Grill in downtown Brookings),” who approached Powers to see “if there was anything they could do to help.”
The guys had heard about DC’s battle from Tyler Merriam – “the voice of the Jackrabbits” – during one of his radio shows from their watering hole. And the idea of a benefit began to really take shape.
“I asked Dellas and finally got him on board and got Margie on board,” Powers said. “The response has been overwhelming.”
The benefit – “DC” Night – is set for 5-8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, at Cubby’s. Festivities include a silent auction; blind auction (items available from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. in 9 Bar); split pot; raffle drawings; and live music and fun with Brad DeBeer, BS entertainment. Meanwhile, 20 percent of sales from lunch or dinner on Monday at Cubby’s will go to the Cole benefit fund.
Additionally, donations for the silent auction and raffle are being accepted at Brookings Radio. Also, there is a “Dellas Cole Lung Fundraiser” account set up at Dacotah Bank for cash donations. For more information, contact Powers at Brookings Radio, 692-1430.
“I think it’s going to be overwhelming,” Powers said of the benefit. “There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re going to probably double what he needs to get this done.
“I’ve never seen the support for a specific person like I have with this particular benefit, and I’ve done a lot of them. There’s a lot of people that just think the world of Dellas and, I think, realize that this is something he deserves.
“Dellas has done a lot for the community; this is the least that we can do in response.”
The benefit goal is $15,000. That would cover the cost of two treatments ($7,000 each) plus incidental expenses such as travel, lodging, gas and food.
Contact John Kubal at [email protected]