Help Kate Stay Above Water

My Dear Friends,

I’ve made a life altering decision in the last week and I need to ask for your help. 

My left foot and I are parting company.  I have spent seven years dealing with what my Greg affectionately calls “Kate Stew”:

  * Two high risk, Jone’s fractures;

  * Four major infections and hospitalizations;

  * Two surgeries, one to remove a portion of the left fifth Metatarsal (see pictures) and another to remove an abscess against the bone;

  * Home health care visits for wound vac care to draw granulated tissue to fill in the gaping wound (see pictures of the wound below but if you’re squeamish, don’t look!);

  * Three years of full contact casts changed weekly at the Wege Wound Care Clinic;

  * Treatments in Wege’s hyperbaric chamber (Ativan required for claustraphonia and panic attacks);

  * CAT scans, MRIs, vascular studies and X-rays;

  * Three years of weekly wound debreeding;

  * Bandages, bandages and more bandages ($1500/year not reimbursable by my insurance);

  * Individual and group therapy sessions to cope with depression and anxiety (not covered by my insurance);

  * Countless doctor and ER visits;

  * Two bouts with Cellulitis;

  * A diagnosis of Charcot Foot (a deforming, structural bone condition causing a series of stress fractures leading to a hyper fallen foot and mobility limitations.);

  * Hanger appointments to fit two, four pound orthotic boots contoured to my foot to provide support and prevent further damage;

  * Crutches were added for stability but led to debilitating sciatic pain;

  * Six weeks of IV antibiotics every eight hours;

  * Medications to combat high blood sugar issues from stress and inflammation;

  * Victosa was added for it’s effectiveness in controlling blood sugar however caused intense nausea;

  * Restless Leg Syndrome began and an additional medication was added to control it and allow for sleep;

  * Insomnia.
My last two weeks clenched the deal.   I spent a weekend in early July happily attending my 40th Class Reunion.  I was well.  I felt good.  I looked good. (see pictures)   The Monday after the reunion while working in the garden, I began to sweat profusely and went inside to take a shower.  I began to shake uncontrollably and although I felt extremely cold, Greg felt my head and I was burning up.  I made him get me a winter sweater (81 degrees outside) and pick up a frozen Coke on the way to the ER.   After my last sip of frozen Coke, they took my temperature: 103.8 degrees.  After six hours in the ER with no sheets or blankets, ice packs under my arms and neck and hooked up to two IVs, a diagnosis of Sepsis was made.  I was admitted.

On Thursday I received news that the MRI found ostiomylitis, an infection in three major bones in my foot: Infectious disease became involved.  My doctor came into my room Thursday night and spent 2 1/2 hours with me. We reviewed my medical history over the last ten years and discussed quality of life issues versus keeping the foot at all costs.  He had been taught in medical school that loosing a limb was a failure but after 17 years of practicing medicine he has a very different perspective. He's met with patients after amputations and they're upright and mobile, all smiles and saying they wished they had done it sooner. They’d gotten their life back. 

We discussed my extensive health improvements over the last year.  My A1C (three month reflection of blood sugars, I’m Type II Diabetic) is down to 6.6, impressively normal.  I’ve lost over one hundred and forty pounds in the last three years.  My vascular studies indicate I have 97% vascular integrity to my toes.  It’s a turning point. I’m strong. I can move forward in my life or not.  I choose to move forward.

My plan is to deal with several dental issues next week then amputate my foot mid calf at St. Mary’s Hospital before the end of August.  I will come home after one week to recuperate then continue with prosthesis fitting, and physical and occupational therapy at Mary Free Bed.  They estimate that it will be a nine month to one year healing, recovery and adjusting schedule.  I will need to have an umbilical hernia repaired in early 2018 to strengthen my core and minimize complications.  My long range plans are to lose an additional forty pounds, find part time then full time work, obtain my supervision and full LMSW licensure and open a private practice to address life and loss issues.  And start singing again… it feeds my soul.

I have lived on my savings since my 32 years at Heritage ended in January of 2016.  My finances were already at a critical juncture after taking care of my mother for the last six years of her life.  My savings are now fully depleted.  I have updated my application for disability and although I will likely be approved, the disability attorney I’ve consulted with says it will take six to twelve more months before I should hear anything.  To achieve this transformation, I really need to ask for your help.  

I have itemized my living expenses below covering the next 10 months to the best of my ability: 

Health Insurance Premiums (ACA, Obamacare coverage: $184/month) = $1840

Mary Free Bed YMCA Family Membership (discounted $45/month for both Greg and myself for strength training and physical therapy) = $450

Monthly Gas, Electric and Water Bills ($281/month) = $2810

Monthly Phone, Cable and TV Bills ($220/month) = $2200

House and Car Insurance ($200/month) =  $2000
2017 Summer & 2018 Winter Property Taxes  ($2500/year) = $2083
                                                          Car Repairs (water pump, engine rebuild $1200) = $1200
George Care (immunizations, two grooming appointments, food) = $350

Dental work (tooth removal, cavity repair, bite splint) = $1325                                  
Goodwill Wardrobe Budget (I’m down 140 pounds and NOTHING FITS) = $200

LMSW Application fees (including transcripts, fingerprinting, filing application) = $300

2018 Insurance Out of Pocket Maximum ($1400) =  $1400

Individual and Group Therapy  ($300/month) = $3000


I am troubled asking for financial help because I am no more deserving that any of you are and I don't know when and if I'll ever be able to pay you back. I can promise you that I will continue to be as generous as I can be with my time, my capacity to love and my resources regardless of my financial circumstances. I thank you for the opportunity you're giving me with your good thoughts, prayers and contributions. Please share this with whomever you feel may be moved to help. Thank you again for your time and effort.

Here I am with a classmate at my 40th Class Reunion the weekend before I became so ill three weeks ago.

This is Dr Poullian early on during one of my weekly wound checks and cast changes.

If you ever wondered how they get a deep wound to fill in...  This is a "wound vac" and it's filling the wound with granulated tissue.  Do not look at the second "after vac" picture if you're squeamish!

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Kate Barker 
Grand Rapids, MI