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After a week under heavy sedation, the first thing Amy Saylors said was, "I've got to pay my bills."
Saylors had been hospitalized with a case of pneumonia so severe that doctors at the Medical University of South Carolina did not have a name for it. They said she was lucky to be alive.
It was New Year's day when Saylors became so sick she had to be transported by ambulance from Springs Memorial Hospital in Lancaster more than three hours south to Charleston to MUSC.
Sick since before the Christmas holidays, she resisted going to the hospital, because earlier, the 48-year transplant patient had received a letter from Medicare informing her that she was deemed fit for work and therefore would not be receiving its benefits any longer.
Saylors was devastated. She had worked for years until the ravages of childhood diabetes 1 drove her to heart and kidney failure, which led to dialysis and, ultimately, kidney and pancreas transplants.
Since she no longer has been able to work full time, she could not get a regular job with benefits. And employers, especially in this small former mill town, are unable to hire someone so sick that insuring them would be a financial strain. So, Saylors had relied upon Medicare to cover major medical expenses. She still pays 20 percent, which has translated into thousands of dollars.
While she cannot work for pay, she has volunteered teaching children to swim, raising awareness for organ donation and the Transplant Olympic Games; and has devoted her life to her church and aiding the elderly.
Because she must take anti-rejection and other drugs to maintain her health, Saylors faces $800 a month in medical bills - $200 more than her monthly Social Security stipend. Somehow, she has gotten by. But now she simply is overwhelmed.
Saylors is a fighter. As she prevails in her latest battled with death, she worries how to pay the mounting hospital and health care expenses.
Her friends and community now want to help her.
On Jan. 26, there will be a barbecue benefit from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church to raise money to help Saylors pay her medical bills.
Tickets will be sold at Porter's Used Cars, Herchek's, At Salon Dimensions, Mike Williams Realty and First Presbyterian Church. First Citizens Bank of South Carolina has established an account, "Save Amy," to manage funds from T-shirt sales, contributions and barbecue proceeds.
For more information, contact Dick McKinnon at 320-3824, Donna McKinnon at 320-3636 or Mary Etta Williams at 804-2362.