Packed into a waiting room at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Carson in mid-September, at least a dozen friends of Eric Lackey were trying to make their visits short and sweet. This wasn't due to a lack of time but help him maintain his energy while on a respirator as well as to alleviate the already-high stress that his family had to endure.
All too often, one would find Lackey—sometimes working at Portfolio, sometimes serving mimosas at Berlin—walking and talking non-stop. And talking, in Lackey's sense, has many forms: singing, rapping, laughing, or just continually feeling the need to connect to others. Given his jovial affability, it is not hard to understand why any friend of his would be disheartened and pained to observe him in a comatose-like state.
"It was immensely rough to see him like that," said Stephanie Pacheco, a close friend of Lackey's. "But the first thing that came to a lot of of our minds is how we can help him out."
Like many young Angelenos, Lackey commutes to and from his various jobs from his home in Los Angeles, including to one of his jobs here in Long Beach. And equally like many young Americans across the States, Lackey lives day-to-day and over-the-counter when it comes to his health: the common cold can't see a doctor, only time and some generic medicine.
That common cold became a fast fall into an ICU unit as Lackey's simple cold turned into bronchitis which then turned into pneumonia in the matter of a few days. Deathly ill, Lackey was hospitalized at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Carson on September 12, leaving his friends not only worried about his physical condition, but his financial one as well.
For those without insurance—either through their employer or partner—the daily cost of an ICU visit can run, on average, anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500.
And it is here that Pacheco and friends—particularly Lackey's best friends, Daniel Martinez and Steve Bramble—opted to have a simple, Long Beach-style house party: they provide the food and drinks, visitors chip in cash.
"We had already started a GoFundMe account [that has already raised over $1,500] but knew we could do more," Pacheco said. "We knew we had to do more."
But even more like Long Beach is the word-of-mouth build-up that Lackey's health dilemma caused along the 4th Street community. In Pacheco's words, things simply "snowballed," with business owners, patrons, and passers-by wanted to—in any way, shape or form—help Lackey out.
"This is a family for us," Pacheco said. "We all work and live and play around together. And even though Eric hasn't been in Long Beach very long, everyone immediately took him in their arms—and that just speaks to how beautiful of a person he is and how much he is truly loved."
Kerstin Kansteiner and Jan van Dijs donated their Art Theatre space to create EricFest!, an go-all-out, raffle-music-festival-celebration fundraiser that has attracted some of Long Beach's best bands and musicians, including Kevin Ulster & Peter Fahey, The Dovelles, Matteran Ghost and Gorgeous. Businesses have chipped in gift cards, merchandise, and pledges to donate proceeds, such as Art du Vin next to the Art, which will donate 20% of their profits that night to Lackey's medical fund.
"In the end, it's not about the numbers," Pacheco said. "Even if we are able to raise just enough to cover this month's bills so that he can get back on his feet [when he becomes healthier], then it's worth it, y'know? Every time I think about the response we've had just in the last week, I just kinda want to cry out of happiness. It shows the impact he has on other people's lives."
As Lackey's health slowly begins to recover—he is officially off the respirator though remains in ICU—his friends hope that the banding-together of 4th Street will ultimately result in a bandaging of his random dance with illness.
"Though he is finally off the respirator, he'll most likely still be in the hospital," Pachecosaid. "And he's probably gonna be really upset that he can't have a drink with us."
EricFest! A Benefit for Eric Lackey will take place on Thursday, October 3 at the Art Theatre, located at 2025 E 4th St beginning at 7PM. A $10 minimum donation is required at the door and patrons are encouraged to bring cash. All proceeds will go directly to Eric's medical fund. To RSVP on Facebook, click here. To donate to his GoFundMe account, click here.