On Wednesday morning, Raven Krueger of Calverton took her son Tristin to Stony Brook University Hospital for chemotherapy. It’s a routine the family has been forced to repeat twice a month since the teen was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in December 2013, just before his 17th birthday.
After this particular treatment, however, the Kruegers did not have a home to return to.
On Saturday, Tristin, now 18, was with his two older brothers in their Twomey Avenue home when they heard what sounded like gunshots. The noise came from shotgun shells exploding in the attic, where a fire had erupted.
All three boys made it out of the house safely before fire department volunteers arrived on the scene about 1:45 p.m., but the family is now temporarily displaced as much of the roof of their home of 13 years has been destroyed. Since the fire, Ms. Krueger and her husband, Lee, have been living at an area hotel while Tristin is staying with family friends and his brothers are with other friends and family in the area.
“To be suddenly displaced is a shock,” she said. “It breaks my heart for [Tristin]. The kid is going through enough. He already has cancer. And it is like, ‘Really? This has to happen to him also?’”
Mr. Krueger had taken his wife on a surprise vacation to Pennsylvania that was cut short when their oldest son Kyle, 27, called to tell them about the fire. After rushing home, the couple spent Sunday salvaging what they could from the house, but the fire had destroyed the attic, where Tristin’s room was, ruining most of his belongings.
Ms. Krueger said the most difficult part isn’t losing personal items, but not having a home base from which to care for Tristin, who uses alternative medicine along with chemotherapy to treat his cancer.
Ms. Krueger, for example, grows wheat grass for Tristin’s daily organic juices, something that is impossible to do from a hotel room.
The Kruegers are raising money for Tristin’s treatment through an online fundraising website Give It Forward. Donations can also be mailed to the family home at 184 Twomey Ave., Calverton 11933.
Gifts cards to Wild by Nature are also welcomed to help support Tristin’s specialized grocery needs.
Since he lost most of his possessions in the fire, Ms. Krueger said, Tristin would also enjoy having something to keep him entertained while he receives his chemotherapy treatments.
“He doesn’t have a book, he doesn’t have a computer,” she said. “It drives him nuts to be in the hospital. He dreads it like any other kid would. So anything to keep him occupied would be great.”
The other major downside of temporarily losing their home is that the family has lost its gathering place. Prior to the fire, their house was filled with music. All of the couple’s children play guitar and have studied piano. Their daughter Caraline, 20, previously won the local music competition Riverhead Idol in 2008.
“There is always a lot of activity in our home because Tristin can’t leave the house a lot,” she said. “That is the most devastating thing to us. We lost the ability to be together. We’re a big family.”
They appear to be taking it all in stride, though. Visiting the house Monday, Kyle said, “We’re all spread out, but we’re all right.”
Ms. Krueger said that once the family receives a check from their insurance company, a trailer will be placed on the property while the home is finished being rebuilt. They are hoping the construction will be complete in about six months. Until then, she said, “we are going to get through this.”
Correction: The print version of this article incorrectly spelled Tristin Krueger’s first name. We regret the error.
Caption: Tristin Krueger and his mother Raven survey the damage from the fire in the dining room of their home Wednesday morning. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)