Appreciation For Life

Sooner or later life throws everyone a curve ball.

Such was the case with Mark and Carmen Jones. Mark is the president of Mark E. Jones, CPA and his wife Carmen, owns Speechworks INC. He worked all hours of the night, February through April, crunching numbers, and she fed an inner passion by helping children overcome speech impediments due to neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism and apraxia.

The couple raised two children, and helped them into their college careers. They shared a love for fresh vegetables harvested from their gardens and were always active disciples in their church.

Then came May 9, 2006.

"I [went] home for lunch and then came back to the office," said Mark. "I just didn't feel good. I really believed that I was having a heart attack." His first thought was to go home and get rest. Then he decided the best thing would be to have the family doctor check him out. "I was having my secretary take me to the doctor and by the time I got to the car I knew that I had better get to the hospital."

After being admitted into the hospital, a series of tests were run and it was determined that Mark wasn't having a heart attack. That was the good news. Then came the bad. Within forty-eight hours he was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), suffering from kidney failure due to acute pancreatitis. He had been diagnosed with the condition earlier in life, with the source being hereditary, but on this day, the medications failed.

"Maybe it was the stress of having just finished the tax season, but whatever the reason, we just don't know why it happened," Carmen said.

Within a short time the doctors agreed that a ten-day, medically induced coma was necessary. Mark's brain was producing too many enzymes and not allowing his organs to rest. The only solution was "mental starvation."

After thirty-five days in ICU and unable to absorb any fluids, surgery was done to determine what was wrong and the best way to repair the problem.

"It was only after that first surgery that it was determined that his pancreas was full of abscesses. If it had not been for that surgery, I know that he would not be here today," Carmen said.


Complications from that surgery led to more and more times that doctors had to put Mark under anesthesia to repair internal injuries.

"I spent a total of six months and one day in the hospital. Forty-eight of those days were spent in ICU," said Mark. "The total number of surgeries while in the hospital and the few I have had since total forty-nine."

The key to his recovery has been discipline. His self-made exercise program included making laps around the island in his kitchen and walking from one end of his house to the other. He has always pushed himself so as to be able to return to work.

"I went home on November 10, and was not able to eat until January of this year," he said. "Its funny, I never cared for it before but after being able to eat solid foods again, I love yogurt."

However, the celebration of being home was short lived. Soon after, the medical bills started to arrive. Day after day, stacks of various medical invoices showed up in the mailbox.

"Most medical plans have a cut-off for a single illness of $500,000, and a life time cap of one million dollars. Our insurance stopped paying early in the process," said Mark. "We have had hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills forgiven by a number of doctors. The total amount of medical expenses owed before figuring in the last two surgeries is about $677,000."

"When a crisis hits, you have a choice. You have a choice of being a victim, or you have a choice of learning from it and moving on. I have always chosen the later," said Mark.

The couple recently celebrated their 31st anniversary. Uncertain about the future, they take life one day at a time and say that they are just happy to see the sun shine in the morning.

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