Complete strangers are stepping forward to assist 41-year-old Karen Stewart of LaGrange, who nearly died and had part of her right arm amputated and her left arm severely damaged after a dog attack on Nov. 12.
One of those caring individuals, Teresa Davis of Otis, thought it might be helpful if more people knew how they, too, could help Stewart, who is faced with living a life that will never be without pain.
Teresa learned that Joanne DeCesere of Four Corners Variety Store in LaGrange established a fund to help Karen, and Teresa e-mailed me that information.
The fund is at Penobscot Federal Credit Union, and checks can be made out to the Karen Stewart Fund and mailed to PFCU, 205 Main St., Old Town 04468.
Teresa told me she was touched by Karen’s story and decided to do something about it.
Teresa called Karen, and that was how she learned about the fund.
I spoke with Karen this week and marvel at the courage of this woman, whose life will never be the same after she took an evening walk and ended up in a fight for her life.
The dog attack was so severe Karen was taken by LifeFlight to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and then transferred to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
She was put in a drug-induced coma, and it was not known whether she would survive.
But Karen pulled through and is recovering at the home of her friend Vaughn “Sonny” Adams, whom she credits with saving her life immediately after the attack.
When Karen and I talked, I learned that she and Sonny have been having some major financial difficulties.
For instance, during this recent stormy weather, their home was without oil for two weeks. That’s what happens when you have to choose between oil for your home or gas for your car, Karen said.
Then I learned her 1999 Ford Taurus has no heater.
Karen can drive and often takes her mother to doctor visits and other appointments, and is worried about her mother’s comfort.
“That’s kind of bumming,” Karen said. “I’d sure like to get some heat in there. You’d like to have some heat for your mother.”
While they were able to use Sonny’s car on occasion, that now is no longer an option, since that car lost its transmission.
It is obvious Karen is a very strong woman, and she is fortunate to have a wonderful and infectious sense of humor.
But life has seriously changed for her, and she knows it. Her memory has been affected by this incident, and she is in pain “24-7,” she told me.
Although Karen has disability insurance and Social Security, in this economy the money doesn’t cover her many needs, which is why her friends are trying to help.
The Bangor Daily News previously had reported that the Boston hospital bill is more that $200,000, and Karen also faces bills from EMMC, LifeFlight and Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln. She has a co-payment for her medical expenses, and she has to travel to and from her many medical appointments.
Karen is grateful to Sonny for his care, knowing that “if it’s a really bad night, he’s right there for me.”
She recognizes, too, the kindness of others and was impressed with the treatment she received from doctors and nurses in Boston.
“They treated me just like family,” she said. “They were so good to me. I had one nurse, and when I was praying to please get me home, she started praying right with me. That was really amazing.”
Karen also is appreciative of the medical care and treatment she has received back at home.
“I’ve been treated well here, too,” she said. “A lot of people up here are pulling for me.”
She received many cards and notes during her hospitalization.
Karen recalled one homemade Christmas card from a young man with Down syndrome, expressing his hope that she would have a merry Christmas and a happier new year.
“I showed that one to Sonny,” Karen said. “It brought tears to his eyes.”
More than anything else, Karen wants everyone to know that “I really appreciate all the prayers and everything else.”
And although she will no longer live a life with two arms and free of pain, she is struggling to do the best she can, and she thanks you for your support.
Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; email@example.com; 990-8288.
www.bidmc.org/ Beth Israel
www.ndss.org/ down syndrome