A story of community and gratitude

Editor’s Note: The following article is the second of a two-part series.

One brush with a tablesaw, and her life was changed forever.

On Sept. 2, 2012, Karen Camp accidentally cut her hand open while she was working in her garage. She severed all but one tendon and one nerve in her hand. She was almost sent to Des Moines to have her hand amputated, but was instead sent to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Surgeons there were able to save her hand.

Camp endured an arduous recovery process. She had to keep her arm hung for four weeks, and could do little while on her medication. She was cleared to return to her jobs at Fareway and Hamilton County Public Health in the closing days of 2012. However, one of those jobs was not waiting for her when she returned.

After working as a direct care worker at Hamilton County Public Health for 20 years, Camp said she was told at a public health board meeting that they had to hire someone during her three months of absence. Camp was told that her position had been filled.

“With the amount of clients and so on being down, they didn’t have any work for me when I came back,” Camp said.

She was told that public health didn’t have any seniority or tenure, and that the person hired in her place would continue her job. The decision was devastating to Camp, who not only lost her health insurance through her job at public health, but also lost a job where the people she worked with were considered family. As a direct care worker, Camp regularly met with clients to help them clean and do chores, but also got to know them over many years.

“When you take care of someone like that, they become part of your family,” Camp said.

Camp initially began her work at Fareway part-time to help pay for her insurance at public health, which she said was about $600 per month before her position was filled. Now out of that first job, Camp was also soon to be out of her work’s insurance plan.

Through her struggles, Camp was far from alone. Her co-workers from both Fareway and public health took up collections for her and also brought food, groceries and books to her home. Camp said Fareway was awesome in helping her through the loss of her full-time job by giving her more hours.

Help also came from unexpected places. Camp’s daughter, Julie, sent in a couple Christmas wishes for her mother to a Des Moines radio station, which hosts an annual wish granting program. Julie’s first wish was that the station grant her mother enough money for her last month of insurance. She was later called by the radio station, and after telling her mother’s story on air, Julie was told that the radio station would grant that wish.

Camp said that Julie broke down in thanks, but almost forgot about the second wish she had submitted. When Camp injured her hand, the tablesaw shattered a couple rings in her wedding set, and a wedding band had to be cut off during medical treatment. Julie’s second wish was that the station could replace Camp’s rings, which the station also granted. Fiscus Diamond Jewelers, of Ankeny, let Camp pick out new rings, which she said are similar to her old set.

“One of the diamonds is a little bigger, through,” Camp said. “I like to joke that for my 35th anniversary, I got an upgrade.”

It was that gift of jewelry that inspired one of Camp’s coworkers to send the Daily Freeman-Journal a tip about Camp’s story.

Camp also said that Steve Doering donated some work to her garage. He had someone work to finish the trim work in Camp’s garage. That trim work was what Camp was doing when she injured her hand.

In the months since losing one of her jobs, Camp said things have been coming along. She has been able to find insurance for her husband, who is disabled and for whom Camp is the primary caregiver, but she has been unable to find insurance for herself. She was denied for several reasons, including medication she is taking for high blood pressure and more.

“One person told met that because I had visited a chiropractor, it meant that I must have a bad back. It was little excuses like that why I couldn’t find insurance,” Camp said.

Camp hasn’t touched a tablesaw since her accident. She’s found herself spooked by the meat cutting machinery turning on at Fareway. Her son, Lance, took the tablesaw from her garage, and told her that he has it locked up and stored safely away. She has used several tools, including screwdrivers and drills, but doesn’t see anything much heavier in her near future.

Through her turmoil and loss, Camp said she was immensely glad for the support she received from her family, her friends and the community as a whole. Camp said she would not have been able to get through her ordeal without her faith.

“Our God is a great God and he gets you through the worst,” Camp said.

Right before Camp went into surgery, she wondered if surgeons would be able to save her hand so she would be able to play the handbells again. Through the help of those close to her, the work of the surgeons at Mayo Clinic, and her determination and faith, Camp will play that handbells at a concert on May 3 at Trinity Lutheran Church, Webster City. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m.