Kay Barber Schwegler Bingaman, pictured here with her husband, Tom, is in need of surgery. A fund-raiser is being conducted in Miller County to raise money for Bingaman’s procedure.
An uninsured Albany native, in need of a surgical procedure that could potentially save her life, is reaching out to her community for donations to help cover the cost of the procedure.
Kay Barber Schwegler Bingaman, who grew up in Putney and lived in Dougherty and Lee County most of her adult life, touched the lives of many children during her dozen years as a home daycare operator and later as director of the Albany YMCA’s afterschool program in Lee, Crisp, Worth and Turner counties.
In addition, Bingaman was instrumental in raising money and managing fundraising campaigns for children in need of medical care, as well as writing grants to help rural children participate in after school and summer care. Now she needs help
Bingaman has suffered from numerous medical issues for years, including fibromyalgia, non- alcoholic fatty liver disease, a heart defect, arthritis and degenerative joint disease in her spine and recurring kidney stones.
Hospitalized and in emergency rooms for over 20 admissions and procedures in recent years, including stent placements and lithotripsy, Bingaman’s blood work revealed a high calcium level and she progressed to seeing six doctors a month, was on oxygen and taking 16 medications. A divorce left her without health insurance, and she has already depleted her funds with existing health expenses.
“My pain increased, my symptoms of extreme bone pain did also, and in ’09, I finally reached a point where I simply could not walk through a store, keep my own house, or even stand to cook dinner,” said Bingaman. “My body was wracked and still is, from my shoulders down my arms all the way to my feet.”
Soon, Bingaman complained about deep bone pain, and blood tests were taken by the only doctor she could afford at the time.
“I was told I was nothing but a “laundry list” of ailments. I knew that, but I needed a doctor to start doing laundry and give me some diagnostic help – fast.”
Last summer, symptoms progressed and began to affect her vision. Having moved to Bainbridge nearer her new husband, Tom’s, place of employment, she then began to experience hair loss, falling and losing the use of her arms and hands because of the pain, every new issue putting additional stress on her already weak heart.
A return trip to the doctor for more blood work revealed nothing.
“At one point, I knew that because of not having insurance I was literally dying from lack of medical testing. I needed a bone scan, a new stress test on my heart and several other things that maybe would have, with insurance, saved me from the fall of ’09 being my breaking point,” she said.
Still wracked with migraines, bone, chest and stomach pain, a swollen liver and overtaxed kidneys, Bingaman and her husband again sought answers from a doctor, knowing her lack of insurance would still be an issue. This time, blood tests revealed something new, a non-functioning parathyroid gland, where calcium levels in the body are regulated.
“That week, I had been carried in to my doctor’s office nearly hysterical with pain. Hair was coming out in handfuls, my arms were numb, then my legs … my gut felt like I had been beaten in it. I woke up every night, if I was lucky enough to get to sleep, screaming with pain.”
Her diagnosis is hyperparathyroid disease, paired with extreme hypocalcaemia. Her parathyroid gland has stopped working for one of two reasons, either a tumor or growth on the gland or cancer, possibly from her bones that have likely leeched calcium into her system for years. Only surgery will reveal which one she faces, but without insurance, the prospect was dim. Not to mention that very few surgeons are capable of the performing the specialized procedure Bingaman needs.
“After long searches, we’ve found that no surgeons that have any pro-bono funds available. We have called every agency you might think. We have inquired about Medicaid and were told if we divorce, I can get it. No. God is not going to think that is the way we should take, with our strong marriage and faith.”
So the search was on, and The Bingamans have a consult on Feb. 1 with a surgeon who started performing this procedure a year ago, and who they are hoping will be able to work out a payment plan, if the funds in her campaign are high enough to cover his consultation, a down payment, pre-surgical testing and hospital arrangements. It is another dilemma for the Bingamans to hope that the hospital where the surgeon performs will work with them under a payment agreement also.
Sadly, without campaign amounts climbing quickly – they’ve raised $2,800 thus far – the Bingamans may actually have to wait until donations raised are enough to satisfy both the surgeon and hospital with promise of payment.
But time is crucial. The initial goal is $13,000 to get Bingaman in the lineup for the surgery. Additional funds will be needed for travel and other expenses, including follow up care. A couple of her husband’s coworkers at the Miller County Board of Education have organized a fundraiser for Bingaman. Donations can be sent to the Miller County Board of Education, Attn: Bingaman Family Fund, Jeff Hatcher – Trustee, 96 Perry St., Colquitt, GA 39837.
Donations should be made payable to Bingaman Family Fund. Donations are tax deductible.