Friday, March 30, 2007

Getting Crafty for Uma

I just got an awesome email from my friend Aaron's girlfriend Kelli. (It's amazing how people all over the country--no, all over the world--are coming together and spreading love and hope and inspiration for Uma)

Kelli has set up an online craft store for Uma, ALL of the proceeds will go to help Uma and John pay their medical bills. It's an awesome idea, and an awesome site. After all, there are a whole lot of creative people out there who have been wondering what they can do to help Uma--here's a new answer. There are two ways you can participate: (1) Use your natural (or unnatural) talents--make something crafty, put a little extra love into it, and donate your item to Kelli's online store! Or (2), check out the store ( and do some shopping! It's all about love.

Here's more detailed info FROM KELLI:

I think about Uma a lot. I pray for her recovery everyday. She's very blessed to have so many people surrounding her with love and encouragement. You have stated that she and John need assistance with the medical bills and I wanted to help. Here is the plan:

I have set up an account with at Etsy is a website that allows people to sell their handmade items online. It is sort of like an Ebay for handcrafted items except you don't bid on the items, as they have a set price.

Some members of my knitting group and I have donated a few lovely items to sell and I am expecting to get more items over the next couple of weeks. I am donating the proceeds to Uma and John.

I only have five items listed now. I want to encourage other people to donate items for The Uma Fund shop. The items don't have to be knitted! They just have to be original, handcrafted items! Some of the categories include:

Paper goods, Jewelry, Recipes, Baked goods, Patterns, Books and Zines, Pottery and Ceramics, Toys, Plants, Furniture, Clothing, Art, Photography, etc.

To donate your handcrafted items to The Uma Fund shop at, you absolutely must send the following items to

1. The donator's e-mail address

2. 2-6 good, clear pictures of the item (close ups, different angles, the whole item) ~Pictures must be 1000 pixels wide

3. A list of materials used (this does not have to be exhaustive, just tell me what it's made from)

4. How much you thinks the item is worth (I will use this as a reference).

5. A description of the item (May be edited by me. Trust me, I'm an English major.)

6. What you want to name the item

7. Your understanding that it will be your responsibility to ship the item(s) in a timely manner to the address I (Kelli) provide you via e-mail. Also, you will be donating the shipping costs as well. (If the item does not get shipped in a timely manner, that reflects poorly on The Uma Fund shop, and we want people to like buying from The Uma Shop so that they buy more and cover more of her expenses. Do it for Uma!)

So let's get all creative and crafty for Uma! Check out!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A benefit for Uma, Saturday night!

If you're in LA...

Please come join us for a lovely evening of chanteuserie!!

Bootleg Presents: SnatchBar in The Bootleg Lobby

Uma Spring into Sn-action!

Saturday March 24, 2007 @ 9pm Snatchbar is the brainchild of several women/men who identify with snatchbearers to make delicious music and art for social change. Each month you are invited to the Bootleg lobby for stellar musical entertainment; a portion of the proceeds will be donated to a different cause each month.

March is the birth of Spring and the re-birth of Uma. We gather to drink and make music and make-out to help Uma Nithipalan and John Ballinger cover the costs of her surgeries and rehabilitation from a recent aneurism.

Doors open at 9…Music starts at 930 with: The Brothers Landau a Superb guitar and cello duo!!! This month, the sassy songstressness of… Elizabeth Guilliams, Laural Meade, Pamela Samuelson, Patrice Quinn ...and on the keys Mz. Brenda Varda!!!!

Cover is sliding scale donation $15 - $30

Bootleg Theater:
2220 Beverly Blvd, LA 90057
(213) 389-3856

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

nearing 40K

I haven't had time to update the thank you list for awhile...but I just tallied up the most recent donations and updated the list to the right...we've raised about 2K this week! Amazing, awesome. The donations grand total so far is $38,953.29!

THANK YOU for your continued donations. Keep spreading the word. Let's raise 100K!

much love,

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The world is filled with seriously beautiful people...UMAmeter Update: $36,869.99!!!

I know that I said I was going to post this yesterday, but the math took me much longer than I expected because (1) math ain't my strong suit (like I said, I'm a bad mather), and (2) there were sooooo many donations to tally. Which is my favorite excuse for being late ever.

I have incredible news to report. Two updates. First, the latest Uma Update (because this is obviously the most important update I can share with you):

Uma had an incredible day today. I have a feeling that we have a lot of incredible days ahead of us. Now that she's had a successful shunt procedure, her intercranial pressure levels are decreasing and her fluid levels are getting back to normal. And that should open the door for much faster progress. Some of which we've already seen. This morning she wrote her name. Several times. It's John's birthday today and she signed a card for him! When John texted me the news, I was substitute teaching an 8th grade English class and I almost burst into tears in front of all of the mean 8th graders. I was just flushed with emotion, so was John. I realize that when Uma reads this she's going to think we're all ridiculous for being so excited about the fact that she wrote her name down, but you know what, Urp? Life is ridiculous, the past 37 days have been ridiculous, and you and your left-handed chicken scrawls are beautiful too, damnit!

And now for the second update, the UMAmeter update. Some amazing statistics:

Number of Days: 11

Number of Donors: 450 (and counting...)

Number of Dollars: $36,869.99

Yes, you read that right: we've raised nearly THIRTY-SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS! How incredible is that? All of the amazingly generous people listed in the column on the right side of this blog have helped us rocket past our goal to raise $20,000 for Uma's Air Ambulance--all of the support from friends and family, all of the support from strangers--every single donation, every single email, every single card in the mail--it's truly inspiring. We're making the world a better place. I don't care if I sound schmaltzy when I say that because it's freaking true. All of the love--all of the energy that we're collectively putting out there--it manifests itself in the world. It does. And as Uma progresses in her recovery, as she realizes what's been going on while she's been "away," she is going to be overwhelmed. In a good way.

Uma likes to act like a Miranda, which means (if you're not a Sex and the City fanatic) that she's cynical and snarky. However, there's also a side of her that's pure Charlotte, which means (if you're not a Sex and the City fanatic) that she believes in true love as deeply as anyone I know. And all of the love that's been circling Uma this past month, that love is as true as it gets.

We are so excited and impressed by how well the fundraising has been going that we now have a new goal. We've raised enough money to cover the Air Ambulance. Awesome.

But here's the thing: Uma's rehabilitation costs should be covered by Medi-Cal, yet there are still so many expenses that are going to need to be covered. Uma's not going to be able to work for a long time, and John's planning on becoming Uma's full-time caretaker (for as long as she needs a full-time caretaker). Which means that we're going to need to find a way to keep a roof over their heads. And there's the possibility that John will need to retrofit their home to make it accessible to Uma, depending on how long her rehabilitation takes.

So while we're on a roll, let's keep raising money. Let's be bold, let's be crazy, let's raise another $70,000. Whaddya say? Hopefully we'll raise TOO MUCH money and Uma will be all taken care of and then we'll use the money to help other people in similar situations, i.e. other young starving-artist types who don't have great medical insurance and have suddenly found themselves facing the biggest challenge of their lives, i.e. freaking brain aneurysms. There are many other people out there like Uma (we met some of them in the ICU with Uma) and they need our love and support too.

If you want to donate to The Uma Fund via paypal, please click on the link in the upper right corner of this blog. If you'd rather send a check, please email me, Erik, at and I'll give you all of the pertinent details. If this email has been forwarded to you and you don't have a paypal link in the upper right corner to click on, go to

Even if you only have five bucks to spare, you're making a difference, and we thank you with every ounce of our hearts. (And we've got big hearts, so that's a lot of thanks.) (And I'm bad with metaphors, so I'm sorry if I'm mixing mine.)

Let's make a difference. Let's change the world. We can do it one person at a time. Be that person who makes a difference today. Thank you...

Before I sign off, that reminds me of an anecdote that Uma's dad, Nithi, told me on Day Four. (Day Four feels like hundreds of years ago, but it was actually only 33 days ago. So weird.)

We were sitting in the ICU waiting room. This was back when Uma was still in the coma, before she'd opened her eyes for the first time. Scary days, hopeful days. (I will never give up hoping for Uma to have a full neurological recovery; it may take time, but she's going to get there.) We spent a lot of time during that first week just sitting in the waiting room, praying, praying, praying. Nithi told me this story. I can't remember if it was a true story or if it was an allegory. It certainly sounds like an allegory, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was a true story too, because that's how Nithi rolls. So it went like this: There was this old man, this grandfather, who was making a point about how the educational system is failing and kids aren't learning even the most basic things anymore. Like geography, for example. And to prove his point, this grandfather found a map of the world and he tore it up into several dozen peices and he gave the peices to his grandson and asked the kid to put the map of the world back together, certain that the kid wouldn't be able to. A few minutes later, the kid handed his grandfather the map, taped back together, correctly. The kid didn't actually know what the world looked like, but he was able to put the paper back together because there happened to be a picture of a person on the flip side of the map. And the kid knew what a person looked like. Okay, um, anyway, I feel like I'm butchering this allegory, but the moral of the story was something along the lines of: this kid put the picture of the person back together exactly as that person had been before, and the world on the flip side of the paper stayed the same. The implication being: if you want to change the world, you have to change people first, one individual at a time.

The way that Nithi told this story was much more profound than my weak retelling just now, but the point is the same. Let's keep making a difference. Thank you, and LOVE,


Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Donation tally coming this afternoon...(Colleen, I want a new UMAmeter!)

I'm going to post our latest "total donations" tally this afternoon--I'm a writer, not a mather, so adding up all of these numbers is taking me awhile--but I wanted to post a quick Uma update because it's freaking exciting:

John just texted me the following: "She's out of the ICU and in her own room."

This is HUGE and awesome and amazing and every other superlative you can think of. Because Uma still can't talk yet (she still has the trach) and she's been in that damned ICU bed for so long that I'm sure it feels like forever to her and she's been really down. But moving to her own's like, John can tell her that she's making progress, but the new's PROOF to her that progress is indeed being made. It's gotta be so, so good for her to feel that.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Monday, March 5, 2007

Last night's theater benefit performance...

Last night's fundraiser was a great success and I want to thank everyone who made it out to the Elephant Lab theater to partake in the festivities. The theater was (mostly) packed and we raised $1,280 for Uma! In one night! I am continually amazed by the generosity of strangers, it's a freaking beautiful thing.

It was very moving to hear David Nathan Schwartz' story of recovery, and everyone left the theater with visions of Uma having an equally remarkable recovery.

I haven't tallied up the donations in several days (I've been keeping track of the names of the donors, I just haven't gotten out the old calculator to find out the official tally), but donations continue to come in and we are so grateful for all of the generosity. Beyond the initial air ambulance need, there are going to be many other needs down the road, and your donations are going to help make this upcoming year much less stressful on John and Uma.

Thank you!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Thank you list

If you've made a donation and you don't see your name on the list to the right, please check back here on Monday...I won't be able to update the list until then...THANK YOU for all of your support, and sorry for the delay. Love and gratitude to all of you.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

THANK YOU, and keep Uma in your prayers and good thoughts

FIRST: Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of the amazing, generous, beautiful people out there. I've gotten several emails today from people saying that all of the giving has reaffirmed their faith in humanity. It's a beautiful thing that's been happening.

SECOND: John sent out an email earlier tonight, expressing thanks for all of the donations, and I want to post his thank yous here too because we seriously cannot thank you all enough. From John:


THIRD: If you live in Los Angeles...and you're still looking for a way to help out...the awesome David Nathan Schwartz is doing a benefit performance of his show "My Brain Tumor: A Mind Expanding Comedy" for Uma on Sunday night at 7pm at the Elephant Lab are only 30 bucks and all of the proceeds go to Uma. We still have plenty of seats left and I'd love to see you there. Thank you for all of the love and we hope you'll join us Sunday night for an amazing, heartwarming medical-miracle of a show! PLEASE CLINK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS,or CLINK HERE FOR TICKETS. Thank you!!

FOURTH: I haven't done today's tally yet, but I think we brought in a couple more thousand today. Again, thank you, these last few days have been awe-inspiring. I'm actually out of UMAmeters because we busted past 20K and that was the highest UMAmeter I had. (Thank you to Colleen Wainwright for designing the UMAmeters--Colleen designed many UMAmeters, one for each thousand mark rung in the ladder towards 20K, and the fact that I didn't get the opportunity to post so many of her images--because we shot to 20K so quickly--is crazy, but thank you, Colleen, for the images.) (Oh, and if you want to donate but haven't yet, don't let the fact that we've reached the tip of our UMAmeter stop you--we still need your support. The full green UMAmeter means that we will definitely have enough money for Uma's air ambulance, but there are of course other needs.)

FIFTH: Thank you for all of your prayers and good wishes and visualizations. Please keep them up...

with so much love,


Amazing! In just three days, we've already broken the UMAmeter. As of this evening, the total amount raised for Uma's medical expenses is $21,454.38!!!!

How freaktastic is that? Thank you to all of the friends, family, and strangers who have supported us--your names are all listed over there on the right side of this page and you are all beautiful people. As I've watched the donations come in these past few days, it's been breathtaking. There is so much goodness in this world. We will definitely be able to afford the air ambulance to bring Uma back home and for that I thank you with all of my heart. I want to give each and every one of you a nice, warm hug like this one:

We have achieved this first goal, and it's awesome. But if you haven't donated to Uma yet, you still can. There are still many other medical expenses that will need to be covered, and we thank you for your continued support. Making donations is super simple: you can either click on the "make a donation" button in the top right corner of this blog, or if you want to send a check you can email me at and I'll give you the pertinent details.

Also, if you live in Los Angeles, there is going to be an awesome benefit performance of David Nathan Schwartz' one-man show "My Brain Tumor: A Mind Expanding Comedy" this Sunday night at 7pm at the Elephant Lab Theater. More details HERE. Tickets are $75 and all of the proceeds go to Uma. David doesn't know Uma, he doesn't know John, he doesn't know me--but he read about Uma on Bonnie Gillespie's blog and he was moved by what Uma's going through and he offered to help out by putting on this benefit performance. It's very exciting, and if you'd join us for an evening of good theater--followed by some good boozy times (we'll have lots of wine)--we would be so honored to have you with us. After the show, I'll probably tell some Uma stories and talk about what it's been like for her at the hospital. I'll share some stories that haven't made it to the blog. I know that a lot of you are tapped out right now because you've made incredibly generous donations, but if you're still looking for a way to participate, this should be a very fun night. There are only 40 seats in the theater, so seating is limited. Make your reservations now.


(Oh, and a quick question about the list on the right: I've only listed the names that showed up on the paypal account, but I assume that some of the donations came from couples, rather than just one person. If you have a spouse/significant other that you would like me to list with your name on the right, just let me know and I'll make the correction. I don't want anyone to feel left out or unthanked! All of your support is so greatly appreciated and you should all feel the love.)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Check it out:

$13,807.09 to be exact.

In two days. How cool is that?

Thank you and keep spreading the word. Now, let's not merely achieve our goal this week, let's freaking demolish the thermometer while we're at it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


I am completely blown away by all of the generosity and love out there. I haven't tallied up all of today's donations yet, but we've definitely passed the $10,000 mark! I want to send out a huge thank you to everyone listed in the right-hand column, you are all beyond rockstars. So many generous contributions. Crazy, beautiful, lovely--thank you. I will tally up all of today's donations before I go to bed tonight and post an exact figure of where we're at, but I just wanted to let you all know the exciting news that we've definitely passed the $10K mark. So freaking awesome. Thank you.

Check out the UMAmeter! It gives me goosebumps!

I talked to Marie earlier tonight and Ums is still doing well. She had a CAT Scan today and the results looked good. I am going to talk to her again soon and I will report more on my blog when I have a more detailed report.



THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ALL OF THE DONATIONS THAT HAVE BEEN MADE SO FAR. As of this morning, Tues February 27th, we were at $5,000! (Hence the updated UMAmeter, above.) Donations are continuing to come in and I will post a new UMAmeter either tonight, or tomorrow morning.


Uma seems to be getting more and more aware of her situation and of the long road of recovery that she has ahead of her, and she's kind of melancholy right now. I can only imagine that it must be incredibly frustrating to not be able to talk to us, to not be able to communicate. She will be able to talk soon--let's visualize that. And let's also keep sending her thoughts of love, and heaps of joyful energy too. So keep dancing for Uma and sending those healthy, happy dance vibes her way. Thank you.

Raising money for Uma's Air Ambulance!

This email is going out to all of Uma Nithipalan's awesome friends and family (and friends of friends):

Uma should be able to move out of the ICU and into a neurological rehabilitation facility within the next two weeks—possibly as soon as this week. We are planning on moving Uma to an excellent rehab facility where she can receive the best neurological care possible. We are close to finalizing her rehab facility, and will let you know as soon as we know. Thank you to everyone who has helped on that end. Uma has received so much love and support, and we are all incredibly grateful for it.

I'm sending out this email because we now need to arrange for Uma's safe transport. Because of her still-fragile medical condition, it looks like we must book an Air Ambulance with a nurse escort that costs approximately $20,000. We're hoping to raise this money in the next week so John doesn't have to put it on a credit card. I'll explain how you can help out in a moment, but first, in case you don't know all that Uma's been through this past month, let me backtrack:

Uma is a smart, mischievous, funny, irreverent, snarky, deeply passionate 27-year-old woman. On Tuesday, January 30, Uma flew out to New York City to visit her fiancĂ© John, a musician who was in New York for a gig and who had proposed to Uma on Christmas eve. Uma's usually the type of person to take her time before making any big decisions—if you watch "Grey's Anatomy," Uma is very Cristina Yang—but this was a moment that I think Uma was secretly hoping for, waiting for, ready for; she said "yes" to John immediately and then started calling her closest friends. I've never heard her sound so happy. John has been by her side at the hospital since this happened and he will be with her every step of the way as they continue on this journey.

Early in the morning of Wednesday, January 31st, Uma had a series of seizures. Fortunately, she was with John and he was able to get her to St. Vincent's Hospital, where they discovered she had a brain aneurysm, which had burst. By that afternoon, they had coiled the aneurysm, but Uma was in a Stage 5 coma and the doctors told John that Uma was probably going to die or remain in a vegetative state the rest of her life. That was a scary freaking day. BUT:

That was 27 days ago. And Uma has repeatedly confounded her doctors (in a good way) since that scary freaking day.

Uma has had many ups and downs this past month—including a stroke—but despite what the doctors told us on that first day, her health and neurological condition continues to improve. On Day 13, she opened her eyes for the first time; on Day 15, she started focusing her eyes on us and really waking up. Since then, she's been trying to talk (the tracheostomy in her throat prevents her from making any sound, but she is TRYING), she's been trying to move the right side of her body (this is the side of her body that was affected by the aneurysm and has shown only limited movement, but there is SOME movement), she's been smiling, she's been frowning, she's been rolling her eyes at us when she gets annoyed, and she's been laughing at (some of) our jokes. She's also been getting frustrated at her inability to communicate as she becomes more aware of where she is and the journey ahead of her.

She is showing us many signs of Uma-ness. Every day is like a little miracle. The doctors are weaning her off of her ventilator, as well as weaning her off of all of the other tubes and machines that she's currently connected to. This is all very exciting.

Any help you might be able to offer would be incredibly appreciated. We have already raised $1,000 (and THANK YOU SO MUCH to those of you who have already made donations to Uma) and I feel like we can raise another $19,000 easily. If we can find 950 people who would be willing to donate 20 bucks, then boom: we've made our goal. And if I've learned anything in the past month, it's that anything and everything is truly possible. Dream big, live big, HOPE big.

If you can donate more than 20 bucks, that's awesome and amazing and much appreciated. If 20 bucks is way too much for you right now (and believe me, I know the feeling), even a five dollar donation would help. Thank you in advance. We couldn't do this without all of your love and support and visualizations. You are all rockstars.

We are collecting donations via PayPal. If you don't already have a PayPal account, please follow the simple instructions (listed below) to open an account. It literally takes 1 minute. Then click on the SEND MONEY tab and send your donation via John's email (
Or, if you'd like to find out where to send a check, email Erik at


I will update the UMAmeter daily. (Thank you, communicatrix, for your UMAmeter design!)Let's get Uma back to California!

much love and gratitude,

Erik (and John)



(My grandmother asked for "explicit paypal instructions," so I'm going to make this as easy as possible.)

1. Log on to
2. Click on the "sign up" button at the top of the page
3. Select "personal account," select which country you live in, then click on "continue"
4. Enter your personal information, choose a password, then click on the "I agree, create my account" button at the bottom of the page
5. You will receive an email from paypal. Open the email, click on the link, enter your password, and voila, you have a paypal account. (See Grandma? Very easy.)


1. Click on the "send money" button
2. Enter John's email in the first box (, the amount of your donation in the second box, in the "category of purchase" box you should select "cash advance," and then fill out the other boxes as you please. Then hit the "continue" button.
3. Enter your credit card info and billing address, then hit the "add card" button.
4. Then you should be brought to a page that has your "payment details." If everything looks good, click on the "send money" button, and you're set. Paypal will then send you an email to confirm that the payment went through.

Email Erik at and he will give you all of the pertinent details (where to send the check to, etc.)

Again, thank you, thank you, thank you!