HUMBOLDT — Friday morning Michael Gean sat back in a recliner, warmed by a colorful handmade quilt, and with grim determination plumbed the intricacies of Medicare by way of cell phone.
At 44, Gean shouldn’t being mourning the death of his wife, Lezlie, of 19 years. Nor worrying when — or if — he would be able to have a hip replaced. Nor be concerned about his 17-year-old son, Evan, who recently experienced a burst appendix. His recovery, after nine days’ hospitalization, carried on for several weeks.
Some of the family’s tragic setbacks happened over time. Others so quickly they were difficult to fathom.
TOWARD the end of November Gean noticed Lezlie was getting forgetful, unusual for the take-charge woman. “She paid the bills, did just about everything. Once I asked where something was,” something she’d gotten for him many times before, “but she couldn’t find it.”
A few days later came the headaches, not too bad at first, then worse. When she had one for three days straight, Lezlie finally conceded going to Allen County Regional Hospital’s emergency room.
“They couldn’t find anything wrong,” Gean said.
The next day, Dec. 1, the headache worsened. This time, the doctor’s examination found worrisome results. “He put her in the hospital (ACRH, again).” More extensive tests compelled transfer by helicopter to University of Kansas Medical Center.
“They put in a drain on the right side of her head to relieve pressure” — in anticipation that would help with the headache. Surgery was ordered soon after. A large fast-growing tumor was found, as well as bleeding.
“When she got back from surgery (on Monday), she didn’t have a pulse in her left arm,” Gean said.
By then, and into Tuesday, there was no question of what laid ahead.
“Wednesday evening Lezlie started breathing a little different and then went back” to breathing as before, Gean said. “About 8:30 I dozed off. At straight up 9 o’clock, she died.”
He and Lezlie had three children, Evan, Madison, a sophomore at Humboldt High, and Aiden, a seventh-grader. Gean also has two children, Garron and Ryan, from a previous marriage. His first wife died in a traffic accident the morning of Oct. 17,1998, the day he and Lezlie married.
GEAN SUFFERS from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder). He spent three years seeking disability to clear the way for Medicare and other benefits, although he was included on his wife’s Blue Cross Blue Shield policy.
“I’m hoping to get COBRA insurance,” which would give him a supplement to Medicare benefits.
“I’m trying to figure this all out,” Gean said. “She (Leslie) took care of everything. I just put my money in the bank.”
His hip problem has cut so deeply into his mobility. He needs two aluminum crutches that attach to his upper arms to move about. Everyday functions he once took for granted are difficult, some next to impossible.
An orthopedic specialist, “told me my hip was the worst he had seen in 25 years,” Gean lamented. “Half the ball was gone then. The next X-ray (sometime later) showed it all was gone. I’ve been getting steroid shots. They help a little, but not much.”
The COPD leaves him feeling as though there is a weight lying on his chest and its complications has given doctors pause about replacing his hip.
But, he’s hopeful, knowing life as it is, is far from a pleasant prospect.
On top of his physical problems and concerns about son Evan, Gean has the constant stress of “my wife just passing,” which is with him from the time he awakens each morning until sleep dulls his anguish.
He tries to stay upbeat, with the kids around, but, “It’s hard.”