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Nearly two decades of caring for Cindy Thomas' bed-ridden husband put her household in financial need this year. When electricity to her home was in danger of being cut off, the Neediest Cases fund helped.
"That program, had it not been in place, would have made it very difficult to keep the electricity on," said Thomas. "And the electricity is a necessity because of the medical equipment we have in the house with his care."
Thomas' husband, Bishop Eddie Thomas, suffered a massive stroke and was in intensive care for four months this year. He needs a life support machine and round the clock care to live.
The fund gave $372 toward the couple's electric bill.
The family stands among hundreds this year assisted by Chattanooga Times Free Press readers who contribute to the Neediest Cases Fund.
The fund, started by the late Chattanooga Times publisher Adolph Ochs, generated $47,000 during the 2014 season that assisted some 300 families.
"People who are contributors, they help," said Thomas. "Sometimes you might judge people from the outside, but you never know what's going on with the things they're experiencing."
Readers are asked to contribute to the Neediest Cases fund from Thanksgiving until the end of the year.
"What placed us in this situation is that my husband has been sick for a long time, for the last 18 years," said Thomas.
Hospice started assisting with her husband's care in 2012. Doctors then gave him two weeks to live. After he lived for another a month his family took him out of hospice care and searched for more aggressive treatment. In March this year he had a massive stroke that left him paralyzed, unable to speak or move. He communicates only through his eyes, she said.
The hospital bill for that visit alone was $400,000. The family's portion of that after Medicaid and Medicare is $10,000 and that was only for his hospital stay at the beginning of this year, said Thomas.
"Whatever is not covered by insurance, we have to cover out of pocket," she said. "So trying to keep up with everything, it gets to be enormous."
Since Thomas and her husband married in September 1976, he was the primary breadwinner in their family, supporting Thomas and their four children as a musician, pastor and church founder.
"He was awesome when it came to the arts," she said. "He was a writer. He wrote short stories, plays and songs and a lot of them were performed."
Bishop Eddie Thomas founded World Restoration Center/Home of Thy Kingdom Come Ministries in 1990.
The church still stands as a center of hope and charity in the Alton Park community. It annually distributes backpacks to students full of school supplies. It helped to establish an annual health fair that includes free HIV screenings, eye exams and hearing test. And the church has hosted computer and reading classes.
Thomas' son, the Rev. Jonathon Thomas, became pastor around 2003 after his father's health began to fail.
Meanwhile, Cindy Thomas has cared for her husband full-time for the past 18 years.
"It's easy to bail out," she said. "But for me, the word is endurance. I choose to say that I will outlast this circumstance before it outlasts me."
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6431.