Kevin’s Recovery

My name is Kevin. As some of you know, I have suffered from Crohn’s Disease, an immune disorder that attacks healthy tissue in the digestive tract, for much of my life. However, my condition was not diagnosed until my mid 20s, and by then, a lot of damage was done. I was discharged at 25 years old with over 100k in medical debt, which was crushing. Now I’m the 40-year-old first-time father of a beautiful 6-month old daughter, and I find myself in the midst of one of the worst struggles I have had with my chronic illness.

Among insurance gaps and other challenges with the system, I have undergone multiple surgeries over the years. This past August, I started an unfortunate downturn that has put me in four different hospitals for more than six weeks, most recently at Ruby Memorial at WVU. There, I had an excellent team of surgeons who were able to resection my small intestines, removing 2-3 feet that were so diseased and obstructed that they were dilated to more 10cm!

I was left with an ileostomy, which will hopefully be reversed when the internal portion of the surgery heals, and I must administer IV nutrition that runs at home in order to catch up with the malnourishment that comes with serious flare-ups.

I have pictures, some quite graphic, but I won’t shock you here. I am considering an Instagram account with fair warnings to those averse to gore.

I had been carrying that diseased segment of my gut around in pain for some time, and I do feel some relief after having it removed. After the resection, I had a second abdominal surgery in the same week because I was symptomatic again. I still feel like I’ve done a million crunches, without the benefits. In fact, in just over four months, I lost more than 55 lbs of muscle mass.

The most painful part of this difficult journey has been missing out on time with my first born daughter Opal. She and her mom Kim have kept me fighting through it, and I don’t know what I would do without them. It is difficult to know that I can’t support them as I would if I were well, and reaching out this way is truly beyond difficult for me. I’m from a large coal mining family from WV, and perhaps there is something to Appalachian work ethic and pride. I like to pull my own weight when possible, and I worked two jobs while I commuted to school in the midst of previous struggles with Crohn’s that required hospitalization.

Currently, we have many additional expenses due to my health crisis, and I am unable to work. I have previously benefited from Social Security Disability Income, but unfortunately, that money suddenly ceased in December when I missed an urgent letter during one of my hospital stays.

I was at home briefly for Christmas, and though still in a lot of pain before the corrective surgery, I was glad to see my family; the picture for this account came from that brief stay before WVU saved my life.

“When it rains, it pours.” I heard the phrase many times from wise aunts and uncles from my big family, both sides of which hail from McDowell County, long one of the most disadvantaged in the nation. It’s a cliche because it’s true.

Again, I have been more than hesitant to take this step, but I will do whatever I can to keep us going. My daughter and wife mean the world to me, and I’m determined to help in some way. We will have to travel back and forth to Morgantown almost weekly for a while, and many bills are behind. Obviously, medical bills are also adding up. I have to swallow some pride. Thank you for anything you can do to help.
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Kevin Darrell Smith
Ballard, WV

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