ABE employee repays the gift of life 154 times – and counting – for husband
Sometimes, a sign is just that.
Not that Carol Sikler was looking for one to provide guidance back in December of 2000. She already had plenty of other things on her mind. Her husband, Chuck, was lying in a hospital bed in Indianapolis. His diseased colon had been removed, leaving only a scar that ran from his groin to his sternum.
And now there were complications. The incision wasn't healing properly.
Cammie, their 5-year-old daughter, was back with family friends in Logansport. For three months, Carol, a communication specialist in Purdue's Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, had pinballed between home and daughter, hospital and husband, and work. She put up a facade of strength that told everyone that everything was going to be just fine.
And she believed it with all her heart.
Photo by Tom Campbell
Carol Sikler is proud to wear the hat of a platelet hero.
Carol would leave work at 4 p.m. and drive to Indianapolis to spend time with Chuck, who was pastor of the Baptist Temple in Logansport, Ind.
Carol knew exactly when she had to leave her husband's bedside to get home and spend a few minutes of mom time with Cammie before putting her to bed. Still, Carol felt this commuter craziness was cheating both her husband and her daughter. Time she spent behind the wheel was not time she could spend with either Chuck or Cammie.
Chuck's recovery was sustained by countless blood transfusions but slowed by infections that heavy doses of modern medicine and time-tested prayers were unable to overcome.
And then there was the sign.
It was almost 7 p.m. as Carol headed home up a darkening Meridian Street when she passed the Central Indiana Regional Blood Center. There was a small, metal sign on the sidewalk in front of the building. There were only two words on the sign that was about as big as a real estate yard sign.
She stopped in just as they were closing for the day. A woman told Carol there were a lot of people who were creating a big draw on the supply right now.
"Yeah," said Carol, thinking of her hospitalized husband. "I know one of them."
Carol had participated in a blood drive back in high school in Tennessee and had given sporadically in the years since. But the very next day, she began to work off a debt she is still paying 12 years later, although, by all accounts, the ledger should read "paid in full."
Carol recently donated her 154th unit of blood. That's more than 19 gallons of life. "The whole thing about giving blood is to be able to say 'I helped.' I'm not saving anybody's life, but I'm helping. It's a very simple thing."
Chuck left the hospital that December in 2000, but he was far from recovered.Twice each day, Carol would remove the bandages on Chuck's abdomen, clean the wound and re-bandage her husband again so he could live as normal a life as his surgery would allow.
The staph infection that kept Chuck in the hospital for three months never went away. It made him susceptible to infections, both giving and getting, which made it tough to be a pastor. He couldn't visit church members in hospitals or senior centers where there were people whose own immune systems might be compromised.
"It really limited what he could do in his ministry," Carol said. This was no way to live.
So on Jan. 29, 2003, Chuck went back into a hospital for a surgical procedure that was expected to last about 90 minutes.
Doctors told the Siklers they thought they could clean out all of the infection, put a barrier on the abdominal wall and reconstruct the small intestines.
But they had underestimated the amount of scar tissue left from the first surgery in 2000. It took a team of eight more than seven hours to examine every inch of his small intestines.