Four months ago, he feared she was dying. Now, they’re back home for Christmas

Ken Hammond helps his wife Rene into her bed Thursday at their home in Warner Robins.
Ken Hammond helps his wife Rene into her bed Thursday at their home in Warner Robins. jvorhees@macon.com

René Hammond is spending Christmas on a hospital bed set up in her living room, but it’s a merry one to her nonetheless.

Four months ago her husband, Ken, wept in the hallway outside her room at Houston Healthcare because he feared she was dying.

A diabetic, René had gone to the hospital after having an allergic reaction to medication she was taking. Lesions had broken out on her skin, and she went to the hospital to get proper treatment for the wounds. She’d also had trouble keeping food down for the previous two months.

At the hospital, doctors determined she had pancreatitis, which no one had considered before because she wasn’t having internal pain.

But as it turned out she also had internal neuropathy. That’s a nervous system disease related to her diabetes that prevented her from feeling the pain that pancreatitis would ordinarily cause.

She had been on dialysis for years, but because she was in the hospital she had dialysis there, and soon there was panic. A rapid response team was called in, Ken said, and that’s when he feared he was losing her.

About the same time, René’s mom suffered congestive heart failure and ended up in the room right across from her. Her mom recovered and got out the hospital before René did.

“That was the scariest moments, when they had to call the rapid response team in,” Ken said. “I heard them called to her room right after I got off the elevator.”

René eventually stabilized enough that she was moved to Regency Hospital in Macon for rehabilitation. But she took another turn for the worse there and ended up on life support. That came after she had decided to sign a do-not- resuscitate order, but the paperwork hadn’t gone through when she was put on life support.

Ken said he didn’t know whether she would have lived through that or not if the paperwork on the order had been completed.

“Everything happens for a reason,” he said.

René slowly began to get back to her old self once her personal doctor cut out all of her medication except that which she had been taking for diabetes, Ken said. She doesn’t remember much that happened before that, though.

She returned home Dec. 16

“This is the ultimate blessing, being back home,” she said. “My family doesn’t have to worry so much.”

And as if Murphy’s Law hadn’t struck enough, while René was in the hospital, the hot water heater at home broke and flooded the kitchen. While that was being repaired, asbestos was discovered and Ken couldn’t stay at home. But there was one upside to that.

René had been in a wheelchair for three years because of a stroke. She loves to cook but her kitchen wasn’t handicapped accessible. Ken decided to go ahead make it wheelchair accessible during the repairs. She was so excited when she got home and saw it that she decided to try it out by baking cookies.

For all the troubles they have been through, the two are looking forward to enjoying Christmas at home. Both of their children and their three grandchildren will be there with them.

“That’s the Christmas miracle,” Ken said. “That’s the greatest thing because everything has been disjointed. Everything is back to the way it is supposed to be.”

He just got their Christmas tree up on Thursday.

The two have been married for 36 years and have been together since high school. Ken, who teaches at Westside Elementary School, said their graduating class from Warner Robins High School, their church and the school have been especially supportive during the ordeal. A friend even set up a GoFundMe account for them.

He was out of work without pay for about two months. Fundraising efforts on their behalf, he said, were just enough to pay for his lost wages.

Asked if she had anything else she wanted to mention, René brought up a cousin of Ken’s who had cerebral palsy. When René and Ken started dating in high school, she noticed how Ken would care for the cousin and spend time with her, when others would not.

“I believe completely that the Lord brought him into my life because he knew what was ahead for me,” she said, “and he knew this was a good person who would take care of me.”

Wayne Crenshaw: 478-256-9725, @WayneCrenshaw1