After spending time in an abusive marriage, Dustina Haas-Lanier, one of the Northwest's most visible lesbian activists today, fled to a women's shelter with her kids and little else. More than a decade later she's one of Portland, Oregon's most prolific domestic violence activists, helping hundreds of people and educating state workers and private groups on domestic violence and sexual assault in the LGBT community.
Now Haas-Lanier needs help from others. Her wife, Jennifer Lanier, an actress who played a medical examiner on Grimm, has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for a month at the Mayo Clinic.
Haas-Lanier has a Chiari malformation of brain and a pseudotumor cerebri, which causes an excessive buildup of spinal fluid resulting in pressure within the head, fluid pressing on her optical nerve, and a litany of symptoms that go with it — including loss of vision, muscle deterioration, inability to keep food down, and more. It can be fatal if not treated properly.
The activist has been fighting the condition since 2010 when, in one terrifying week, she lost 70% of her vision and had to have emergency sheath fenestration of her optical nerve. But the pressure in her brain continued to build and, to date, she's had 19 spinal taps, and a surgery to implant a stent in her brain to drain off the excess spinal fluid.
Haas-Lanier has lost feeling in her legs and lost muscle in all her limbs; she now uses a wheelchair to remain mobile. After losing her job due to the disability, her insurance ran out, but the escalating and debilitating symptoms did not. Her physician, Dr. Karen Gosselin of Vancouver, Wash. (just over the border from Portland) has recommended that the Mayo Clinic take her on to see if they can figure out how to save Haas-Lanier's life.
The GoFundMe campaign, Lanier says, seeks to come up with enough money to rent a wheelchair-accessible van and insurance to make the trip from Vancouver, Wash. to Minnesota, where the Mayo Clinic is located, and to help cover expenses for the family of four for a month, and help cover medical costs like prescriptions. The couple has two teenage sons, D'Artangan and Darius, who are both LGBT ally activists, and Lanier would have to stop working for a month to accompany her wife. The family has spent all their savings on medical and hospital bills in the last several months.
In addition to her activism on LGBT, domestic violence, and sexual assault issues, Haas-Lanier has been involved with the Imperial Court System, one of the oldest and largest gay organizations in the world. She recently served as Miss Gay Pride Vancouver (Wash.) Imperial Highness Princess 36 of the Reign Tree Empire. She was also cofounder of the queer big girl burlesque troupe, Bang Bang Betty's Big Beautiful Bombshells (a.k.a. B6).
To see how you can help, visit GoFundMe.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The writer (pictured above, center) has been acquainted with Haas-Lanier for several years, and co-founded B6 with her in 2008.