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Near death to recovery’s road

August 24, 2012

Kaye Mellencamp

    (EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is an account by Tony Mellencamp of Berne of the events that nearly took the life of his wife, Kaye, earlier this summer.)
    There are certain events that happen in our lives that we always remember where we were at, what time it was, and what we were doing. One such event for me is 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. Our lives changed at that moment.
    Normally, because of the different shifts we work, I would have already left for work and let Kaye sleep. But for some reason, that morning I decided to go over to her and say goodbye and tell her I would be back in a while.
    Perhaps it was my excitement in voting that day, since I was on the ballot for county council, that made me want to wake her up to say goodbye and tell her I love her. Whatever it was, it was just after we each said "I love you" that she grabbed her head and exclaimed, "Oh, my head." As I was looking into her eyes, they suddenly rolled into the back of her head and all I could see were the whites. She was seizing and sputtering and was unresponsive to me calling her name.
    A few seconds later, she stopped breathing and was completely still. I remember thinking, "It must be a heart attack." Time both stood still and went quickly, all at once. I know that sounds contradictory, but while it was going quickly I remember having time to recall an article I had read in Reader's Digest about how CPR had changed. It was now done by giving only chest compressions to the beat of the song "Staying Alive." So I did just that, and she started sputtering and seizing again.
    I went to wake my son, Blake, to tell him something was wrong with his mom because I needed help calling 911 and taking care of her. Shelby had already gone to school.
We knew it was extremely serious, but we didn't know then that it was worse than we ever imagined.
    Kaye was taken to Adams Memorial Hospital where it was discovered she had significant bleeding in the brain and would need to be transported to Parkview Regional Medical Center as quickly as possible. Since an ambulance was there and already loaded, it was decided to take her that way rather than wait for a helicopter to be summoned.
    As urgent as it was, Blake, Sharon (Kaye's mom) and I were told to come and see Kaye quickly before they transported her. I am sure Dr. Lazoff was afraid it might be the last time we would ever see her alive.
    Friends and family all traveled to Parkview North, where she was taken from the emergency room to the intensive care unit. Dr. Kahtri informed us that she had a subarachnoid hemorrhage, and that there was a 1 in 10 chance of survival. As they tried to coil another aneurysm during surgery, it also ruptured and things became even more serious.
    "The next few hours will be critical," Dr. Kahtri told us.
    For two weeks she was in ICU, and we were told by several nurses that she was the most critical of all the ICU patients there.
    Those two weeks with Kaye in a deep, drug-induced coma were extremely long for all of us as she was as much dead as alive. In that two-week period, I slept at home two nights; and when I wasn't sleeping at home I was at the hospital keeping vigil.
    Sharon also remained by her daughter's side as much as she could. With Sharon not being in the best of health, either, I told her to stay home as much as possible and let me be with Kaye. Blake and Shelby were so good through everything it amazed me. They visited when they could, worked at home and at the store to keep things caught up there.
    My employees at East of Chicago were all so good through this as well, covering for me in my time of need. Many people helped out with prayer, gas cards, etc. After posting a request asking for prayer the night it happened, it went viral over the next few days. There were literally people praying all around the world for us. We had not heard of many of these people, but they were touched by the story and took time out to pray and to get others to pray as well. It was simply amazing.
    Things reached its lowest point the evening that we were told we should say our goodbyes to Kaye because it was just a matter of time. I accompanied Sharon, Blake and Shelby into Kaye's room where we had to say our goodbyes quietly, as stimulus could cause her brain pressure to swell and possibly kill her. After we said goodbye and cried, it was time for me to accompany Kaye's friends in to say goodbye. Terri, Jenny, Dawn, Lyn, Casi and Ali all said their goodbyes.
    A few days later I had nearly lost all hope for a recovery of any sort, and if she survived there might be no quality of life. I remember sleeping in the van in the parking lot of the hospital, waking up and posting my Facebook status that morning as "I've got a feeling that today's gonna be a good day" and that I was reinvigorated with a feeling of hope.
    When I walked into the waiting room and asked the receptionist who Kaye's nurse was that morning, she replied "Hope." I had to ask her again. Kaye's nurse that morning was named Hope, on the same morning I posted the status about having hope.
    It was later that day that I was called to Kaye's room where they told me she had opened her eyes. It was the most amazing thing ever. We still didn't know what the prognosis would be, but they told me it was a miracle she even opened her eyes.
    Eventually she began doing well enough to be transferred to Parkview Randallia for therapy. A few weeks after that she was sent to Hook Rehabilitation Center in Indianapolis to continue with more advanced therapy.
    On her second day at Hook she developed a blood clot in her lung and was taken to ICU at Community Hospital East where she remained for a week. A filter was implanted so that no more clots could enter her lung, heart or brain. Eventually, on July 15, she was released from the hospital.
    She is continuing to amaze everyone with her recovery. She is not able to get around  very well physically, and while there is some memory loss and confusion, she is doing very well considering what she has been through.
    Each hospital she has been to refer to her as "the miracle girl." Medical staff members at Parkview North were peeking into her room because they wanted to see "the miracle girl," and the moniker followed her to the other hospitals as well.
    Frank Gray wrote an article about her in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette which allowed even more people to become aware of the miracle of Kaye. People all over the world have messaged or posted on Facebook, sharing their stories and letting us know they were praying for all of us. It was overwhelming to see the outpouring of unconditional love.
    Kaye is now recovering at home and receiving home health services. It will be a slow process with visits to the doctor and regular CT scans and medications, but at least she is on the road to recovery.
    (EDITOR'S NOTE: The following, written by Tony Mellencamp, talks about the support received in the near-death of his wife, Kaye, earlier this summer.)
    People have had such a willingness to help with things, it is humbling. There are far too many to thank each one of them. Besides our great friends and family, a couple that stick out in needing special thanks are Pastor Jerry Flueckiger and his wife, Bonnie. They were so helpful through all of this and were there anytime we needed them, without being intrusive.
    Scott and Jill Bollenbacher and his staff at Bollenbacher and Associates began helping from day one. Kaye had always done all the payroll and books for our restaurant, East of Chicago, and I had no idea how to do any of that. They took care of the payroll, and continued to do so, until Kaye was able to start doing some of it again a couple weeks ago.
    Many people offered their homes to stay in, or to clean up throughout the entire process. We want to thank all of them, in particular Jodi Yoder Phillips and Tonya Nevil who put us up in their homes for a night when we needed a place to stay.
    I apologize if I am forgetting anyone. As I said, there are too many to remember everyone who was there for us when we needed them.
    The medical bills, as you might imagine, are astronomical; but folks have jumped in to help there also. A Kaye Haines Mellencamp Benefit Fund was set up at First Bank of Berne, and donations to that fund may be made at any First Bank of Berne Branch. Thanks to Scott Bollenbacher and Kent Liechty for their help with that.
    First Mennonite Church is donating to the medical fund using the proceeds from their Swiss Days booth. It is great to be a member of that church, and they certainly came to our aid when we needed it.
    Emily Rogers Collins, another great friend, is helping with a weight loss challenge on Facebook which will provide help for medical bills. A "WeCare" account has also been established on Facebook for people to easily donate from around the world if they wish.
    Now, Jeff and Tammy Bulmahn, Jason Banter and Takoa Hough, Donna Boeglin, Wade and Taya Augsburger, Rosi Hough,  Allison Affolder, Rich Dressel, Jennifer Toledo — along with several others — are spearheading a Poker Run benefit ride, live auction, and dinner of which details are being provided along with this article.
    From the bottom of our hearts, the Mellencamps thank all of you who care. We have shed more than a few tears, both sadness and tears of joy, throughout this ordeal. And now when we need help again, there you all are. We can never adequately thank you or repay you. Just know we love you and will never forget the kindnesses and thoughtfulness you have shown and continue to show.

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