Something To Remember Me By
Even before he started to speak, Kelly looked into her doctor's face and seeing how scared he was, she became terrified.
The night before she had tried to sleep it off, thinking her headache was not so serious, since headaches had become somewhat usual, even the blurry vision. But with the pounding like hammer hits, in the morning she allowed her cousin to bring her to the Emergency Room, where they did a Cat Scan and MRI. She now sat with her family doctor to hear the results. "Nine brain tumors, the largest the size of a softball." She would have to go into Houston, about 135 miles from rural Crockett in East Texas, for the surgery.
Breaking the news
Kelly told her three children who were then 9, 11 and 12. They all cried together, but mainly she cried alone, not to scare them. She knew she might not make it. She hated adding to the burden of her mother, who had already borne so much illness and death among her children. Kelly is the youngest of her mother's twelve. "I could see in her eyes she was worried about her baby doll."
The date was set for February 24, with Houston County S.H.A.R.E. (now doing business as All Saint's Medical Assistance Programs) arranging for Dr. Pedro Caram to perform the surgery. Kelly had been coming to SHARE, a non-profit coalition of churches, for help with clothing, food, and utility payments. Spurred by the local Episcopal Church and a grant from St. Luke's Episcopal Health Charities, SHARE recently started to help with medical, dental and pharmaceutical expenses. And as in Kelly's case, they work with The Society of Physicians to organize pro bono care at Houston's prestigious St. Luke's Hospital. With ten days to get things in order, Kelly had a bad tooth pulled, joined a church and got baptized.
Through the night of February 23rd Kelly and her hospital roommate prayed and talked. "Then next thing we knew, the sun came up." The operation was successful. Kelly was up and about in a record five days, ready to get home to her children. The doctors pronounced her a miracle.
The experience "made me think about life a lot." Knowing "it could have been that I could not walk or talk or see," Kelly considers that "If I am blessed enough to be on my feet and active, sitting home doing nothing is a waste of my life."
Kelly is 30 and has been living on child support from the children's three fathers or on welfare. She left school when she was 17 and pregnant. She lives in the projects. She took some GED classes, but not the exam, and has worked little. When she visualizes, "Who would my kids be with, if I hadn't made it, and what would they be doing?" she realizes, "If I would have been gone, I would have left them nothing."
Now she wants her children to have something to remember her by and to not live on their child support. "They are mine. I should be able to put something in myself."
Keeping your head straight
Animated and rolling her dark brown eyes, she explains that she used to think that "you give a man your attention and your time," and he would give his support. "Now, I am going to do for myself."
She advises her girls, "Don't get a house full of kids and live check to check." She teaches her son to clean house and cook. She tells them all, "Finish high school, maybe go to college, keep your heads straight, and don't get things by depending on someone else."
Kelly does a lot of fun things with the children now. She punishes less and explains more. This fall she plans to re-enroll in GED, take the exam and get a job. She is proud she recently worked at a nursing home, a step up from what she did before. She did not let girlfriends "talking negative" dissuade her.
Something to feel good about
"What I went through was major. I want to do something to make me feel good about myself and for my kids." She grows quiet and rubs her head, explaining that there is still a knot under her hair. "I am always reminded."
Listening to Kelly's "new thoughts" her cousin, who is also her best girlfriend, says, "Whatever that doctor did with your brain, he must have put it back in right."
All Saint's Medical Program Services
(formerly Houston County S.H.A.R.E.)
- Serves the underserved, indigent, rural population of Houston County, where there are 18 people per square mile and 25% of inhabitants living in poverty.
- Helps people in crisis - with costs of prescription drugs and dental care, rent and utility payments, food, clothing and school supplies - while seeking longer-term arrangements.
- Coordinates with local public and private health agencies; arranges for discounted dental treatment. Developing initiatives in preventive healthcare and job training.
- Sponsored by Houston County Ministerial Association and supported by 21 area churches, civic clubs and businesses.
- Serves about 10% of county population. Clients are 80% African American, 20% Caucasian.