Debbie Bearden has seen the light. But it almost signaled the end.
What started as a simple knee replacement surgery turned into an eight-month-long medical rollercoaster for Bearden.
On Sept. 30, 2014, Bearden underwent knee replacement surgery on her right knee at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Both her knees had been bothering her for years and she was ready to rid herself of the daily pain.
With the surgery and her recovery deemed successful, Bearden was released in a few days.
A few days later, however, she was awakened by excruciating pain.
“At 2 a.m. Tuesday I felt like fire took over my whole abdomen. I woke up Duwayne and told him I needed to go to the doctor, now.”
After a three-day stay at Allen County Regional Hospital, she was sent by ambulance to Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park.
“I was immediately taken off of food and water and I only had an IV,” for nutrition, Bearden said. “They gave me antibiotics for three weeks and then started me on a feeding tube.”
The problems seemed to be in her pancreas, the part of the system that breaks down and processes food with enzymes and also produces insulin.
Her pancreas was inflamed and doctors thought a gallstone had plugged its opening. When they did tests on her pancreas, a stone was nudged away. Treatment began for pancreatitis.
The first part of November, more than a month later, she was able to come home for a few days with the assistance of Home Health services. But only six days later she was back in the ER because of pain so severe she could hardly stand up without blacking out. She was then taken back to Menorah via ambulance.
It was then discovered Bearden had a C. difficile infection throughout her body. In Bearden’s case, an upset balance of organisms in the gut caused the C. diff. Bacteria grew out of control and made her body sick.
Her blood pressure continued to drop and things became dim for Bearden.
“I started looking down a dark tunnel and I saw it, I saw the light,” she said. “Duwayne was telling me “You can’t die now!”
A nurse resuscitated Bearden. Her blood pressure had dropped dangerously low – 56 over 32. A normal blood pressure is 120 over 80.
She spent Thanksgiving in rehab. On Dec. 2 she had her gallbladder removed.
“It wasn’t an issue but they told me it hadn’t functioned for 10 to 15 years,” Bearden said.
She came home on Dec. 3 with still multiple outpatient procedures ahead of her.
One of her medications is called pancrelipase, which costs $450 a month.
IN FEBRUARY her health again began to fail.
Increasing her current medications didn’t help, and in fact, seemed to turn her skin an odd shade of gray.
Bearden was transferred back to Menorah and then over to a hospital in Wichita.
When she arrived in Wichita via ambulance her symptoms were low blood pressure, a urinary tract infection, dehydration, her kidneys were in renal failure and her liver was not working.
The Wichita doctors told Bearden because her blood pressure was so low the C.diff had caused her body to begin shutting down organs to survive. They did a few CAT scans and discovered her adrenal gland had shut off.
“I had no hydrocortisone in my body,” she said. “Once they gave me medicine my kidneys made a miraculous recovery,” she said. “My skin began returning to a normal hue.”
BEARDEN is required to be on hydrocortisone for the rest of her life unless her adrenal gland begins working again.
So what did the knee surgery have to do with her health’s demise?
“My knee wasn’t related at all,” Bearden said. “It was a coincidence.”
Bearden works part-time for Allen County Farm Bureau and also farms with her husband. On Thursdays she tries to help Duwayne with the Farmers Market.
“The Lord saved me through all of it, for which I’m thankful,” Bearden said. “I’m so thankful for the help from home health and the hospital.”
Even so, the Beardens now face up to $500,000 in medical bills.
Debbie and Duwayne don’t have traditional insurance. Instead, they are members of the Christian Healthcare Ministries, a nonprofit health cost sharing ministry through which Christians voluntarily share each other’s medical bills.
To help with medical costs Bearden’s friends are hosting a fundraiser from 5 to 8 p.m. on June 27 at the First Baptist Church, 801 N. Cottonwood.
Organizer Durenda Frye said a free-will donation dinner of sloppy joes, baked beans, chips, drink and dessert will be served. Patricia Pulley will perform for the crowd. There will also be a silent auction.
Although the bills are costly Bearden has faith everything will work out.
“I’ve got to be thankful for my time given,” she said. “You just never know how many days we have. The Bible says we are just a vapor. I have to have faith.”