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The Story of Joe and Beth Furman

Joe and Beth Furman have dedicated their lives to those in need. But after a series of hardships, they found themselves to be the ones in need.

Born and raised in Bicknell, Ind., Beth moved to Georgia in 1988 and met the love of her life, Joe. They married a year later, but Beth became homesick and moved back to Indiana in 1995. Joe followed a year later, after earning a master’s degree in public service administration, and the couple began to set down roots: Joe took a job as job coach for the Knox County Association for Retarded Citizens, and Beth went to work helping low-income families obtain government child-care vouchers through Vincennes University and Work One.

But by 2011, both had lost their jobs. They also lost their health insurance. And, because they could not find other work, they soon lost their home and their cars.

Destitute, they moved in with Beth’s father and his wife and spent money only on food and other necessities. Joe started to ignore the increasing pain in his left foot; Beth began denying the severity of her recent weight gain. Neither one could afford the insulin needed to treat their diabetes, so they ignored that, too.

But Joe’s pain became unbearable, and Beth’s father drove him to the emergency department at Good Samaritan Hospital. ”My foot was so swollen and red that when I put it flat on the ground, my toes were completely separated and they could not touch the floor,” he said. A CT scan showed foreign objects embedded in his foot, and Dr. Austin Muranaka decided to perform surgery.

The surgery was successful. Taking a closer look at the scar tissue, Dr. Muranaka informed the couple that Joe had had glass and metal pieces inside his foot for almost six months. “I never go anywhere without shoes. I even wear them in the house,” said Joe. “We have no idea where the metal and glass came from.” Joe was sent home a few days later, and arrangements were made for Dalene Hall, a transitional care nurse, to visit and check on his recovery.

Dalene expected to have a routine appointment. “When I went to Joe’s home, I was going to meet his wife and speak with both of them to talk about Joe’s rehabilitation, treatment options for his diabetes and discuss their financial circumstances and how we and other organizations in the community could best help them. I could never have imagined what I would find when I walked in the door,” she said.

Beth was sitting on the couch when Dalene arrived. “My initial reaction when I saw Beth was shock! She was very pale, and the size of her stomach was very disproportionate to the size of her frame. Her abdomen was about the size of an exercise ball!” Questioning Beth about her health, Dalene soon learned that Beth was also living with untreated diabetes for the past two and a half years.

However, Beth was unconcerned about her weight gain – she believed it was because she was not very active and eating more. “I was in denial,” she explained. “We both had lost everything we had worked so hard for, and I felt like I was just eating more and lying around the house because I was so depressed.”

Dalene convinced Beth that she needed to go to the Primary Care Clinic immediately. Jamie Truelove, a nurse practitioner, examined her there. “I immediately thought of a possible growth in her abdomen. She had trouble walking into the exam room,” Jamie explained. She ordered a CT scan to be done as soon as possible. “I felt this may be a life-threatening situation.”

Indeed, it was. “They informed us that the CT scan showed a mass in my pelvic area that needed to be taken care of immediately,” Beth said. “The hospital had already prepared a room and I was directly admitted. Everyone kept throwing around the idea that the tumor could be cancerous. Surprisingly, I wasn’t afraid. I just wanted the tumor to be removed.”

Dr. Shalin Arnett, D.O., examined Beth in her hospital room. “I thought she had two large pillows lying on her stomach,” she said. “The size of the tumor was about three feet by four feet. I have only seen tumors that size in medical textbooks.” Dr. Rang Yang, who also examined Beth, was surprised, too. “The tumor looked like those we see in a third-world country, where people do not have access to any medical care.”

The tumor needed to be removed as soon as possible, but due to its size, the risk involved with the surgery and the belief that it was cancerous, Beth was sent to Deaconess Gateway Hospital for removal of the mass.

On July 1, 2013, a 150-pound tumor was removed from Beth’s abdomen; it was the largest tumor Deaconess Gateway had ever seen. A few days after her surgery, Beth was transferred back to Good Samaritan Hospital for a couple of weeks for rehabilitation. “I was happy and relieved to come back to Good Samaritan. Everyone there is so nice, and it was easier on my family being closer to home,” said Beth. “The staff is sensitive and understanding to our situation,” added Joe. “Donna Stoops, our case manager, has been wonderful.”

Donna had many kind words for the couple, too. “This job has been the most rewarding experience I have ever had. Our Transitional Care program was created to help patients just like Joe and Beth, who have lost everything and have no medical care,” she said. “The people we see are so used to being let down that they start to think they deserve to live a certain way, with nothing.”

“I think the most important thing people need to take from the Furmans’ story is that there are people out there in our community who can help, just like the Primary Care Clinic at Good Samaritan Hospital,” added Dr. Arnett. “The hospital, along with other organizations in the community, offers multiple programs that will help those who cannot afford health care.”

After the kindness shown by the medical staff and the support of their family and friends, Beth and Joe feel optimistic about life again. “It feels great to be home,” exclaimed Beth. “I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.”