DOBSON — Contributions by more than 100 people, and counting, are expected to “ensure” that a Dobson woman who suffered severe burns will recover.
The donations were centered around a special campaign to provide Ensure, a type of nutritional supplement drink, to Earlene “Cathy” Simmons, 56.
Because of a fire in December 2011, Simmons was left badly scarred and unable to keep down solid food — recently wasting away to what one observer called “a bag of bones.” After her doctor recommended that she drink six bottles of Ensure each day to supplement her nutrition, Simmons — who is on a fixed income — sought help with the expensive product from Foothills Food Pantry.
Though it normally seeks stockpiles of non-perishable foods, the pantry issued an urgent appeal last month to address what it considered a special case. And the public responded in overwhelming numbers, according to Beverly Jones, coordinator of the food bank.
“At least 100 participated,” Jones said of people who either donated bottles of Ensure, which cost between $6 and $7 per six-pack, or gave money to buy the product for Simmons. “I’m still getting checks that I’m earmarking specifically for Ensure.”
Jones added that Simmons’ story touched people’s hearts, not only the burn victim’s plight but the courageous manner in which she’s handled her ordeal. “Most people said they were just heartbroken when they read it,” Jones added.
“I’m whining for days if I burn my pinkie,” the pantry coordinator explained. “She did not come in here whining and complaining.”
Since buying the Ensure would eat up 20 percent of her family’s monthly income, Simmons first had visited the Surry County Department of Social Services for aid. Though it had no program to help, it referred Simmons to the food pantry as it often does in such cases.
Jones said the DSS has drawn some criticism for not assisting Simmons, but pointed out that department personnel should be commended for consistently trying to find alternative ways to help people.
Meanwhile, the food bank official said local residents once again can pat themselves on the back for being sensitive to the less-fortunate.
“We required some help with this special need and Surry County’s citizens responded overwhelmingly.”
Recipient “Deeply” Touched
Simmons was overcome by emotion when she heard about the Ensure donations.
“Well, I broke down and cried — it really touched me deeply,” she said. “I can’t believe that there are so many people that took the time…to reach out to help me.”
Simmons said it has been an uphill battle to recover from the blaze that occurred last December while she was cleaning out her garage. Some carpeting there caught fire and the flames were fanned by the wind.
The woman said she was able to get her car out of the garage, then went back in — “not thinking, I guess, that the fire was as bad as it was.”
She blacked out during the incident, which Simmons thinks was due to being overcome by smoke. “Apparently I had fell into the flames. My next-door neighbor heard me screaming.”
The burn victim considers herself lucky just to be alive. “They only gave me like a one-percent chance of survival, ‘cause I was burned on the whole upper part of my body.”
Simmons had to return to the hospital in September. “Since I came out of the hospital, I’ve had a real hard time breathing,” she reported. “But I wake up every day and thank the Good Lord — he gave me another chance to live.”
Jones said that so far, Foothills Food Pantry has received what amounts to a four-month supply of Ensure for Simmons. The gifts of money will provide Simmons another six- to eight-month supply beyond the product donations.
“She did not feel well enough to come in and get the first load,” said the coordinator, who explained that Simmons’ husband made the trip to the pantry instead.
The monetary donations will be used to buy more Ensure, not only for the injured Dobson resident, but other patients who might require such a nutritional supplement.
Jones cited an ongoing need for Ensure as well as other drinks such as Boost. One man served by the pantry is limited to a liquid diet. “And we have cancer patients who need that little extra nutritional supplement,” she said. “So we always have a basic need.”
In relation to Simmons’ case, Jones said, “Our pantry will continue to support this family as long as they need us.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.