She was at a hospital with a son who had just had open heart surgery, listening on the phone to one of the five children she is raising on her own tell her that her boyfriend had just died in her driveway, when doctors told her son’s heart surgery had not been successful. And that is just part of the reason her friends have decided to hold a “Let’s Help Angie” fundraiser May 4 for Angie (Banks) Elliott at the Common Ground Community Church near Hillsboro.
A 1985 Lynchburg-Clay High School graduate, Elliott has been a Licensed Practical Nurse for 31 years at Heartland of Hillsboro. She is currently on family and medical leave while she is helping her 13-year-old son, Steven Elliott, recover from his fourth open heart surgery. Her children range in age from 5 to 16. The three oldest are adopted. The younger two are her ex-husband’s grandchildren that she kept when they divorced. The two 16-year-olds, Lacey and Logan, are twins. Logan is autistic and has special needs.
If that wasn’t enough, in between Steven’s third open heart surgery in March and his fourth open heart surgery on April 26, 6-year-old Brayden broke two fingers and Angie found herself in the emergency room again.
The fundraiser is being held by Angie’s friends, former co-worker Alicia Shaffer said, because of all she has gone through and all the time she has had to take off from work.
“She’s been just an absolutely amazing nurse for 31 years, and of course, being a nurse, she wants to take care of people,” said Shaffer, adding that Angie has returned to Heartland even when she was not working to help her patients. “She’s just somebody that would give her right arm for anyone. …It’s now our turn to help her.”
It’s been a struggle the last few months, Angie said, but it is her faith that helps her through the darker times.
“I listen to a lot of Christian music and talk to God a lot,” she said. “When I start losing my pace, things start falling apart in my head, so I worship, listen to music and talk with God, because that’s all I can do.”
A distant cousin to his mother, Steven was adopted from Texas by Angie when he was about 30 months old. He was born with a congenital heart defect and had his first heart surgery when he was 10 days old. When he was one he was diagnosed with liver cancer, went through chemotherapy, and had the fifth lobe of his liver removed, according to Shaffer. He had his second open heart surgery in 2009 and his third – to fix a leaky valve – in March.
It was after that surgery, when she was learning that Joe Butler, her boyfriend of two years, had died from a heart attack in her driveway and Lacey had tried to perform CPR, that doctors told Angie that Steven’s stitches had come out and the surgery had failed. On April 26, Steven received a mechanical heart valve.
Steven tires easily, Angie said, and is in a little bit of pain, but he seems to be doing better. Still, it will be a while before his mother can return to work.
Angie said she always wanted kids of her own, but it never worked out. Then the idea of adoption came up.
“I think the Lord was telling me this is your shot; this is for you,” Angie said. “I have a love for kids and a desire to help kids out. Once you have them, you fall in love with them, and there’s no way you can let them go. They’re just yours.”
“I think that just indicates where her heart is,” Shaffer said.
Angie gets some help from her mother with babysitting, neighbors help too, and she said Lacy takes on a lot of the task of helping the other kids.
All five children are students in the Lynchburg-Clay School District. The youngest, 5-year-old Gabriella, is in preschool. They all attend church with their mother at the Common Ground Community Church, 7406 Mad River Road, Hillsboro.
The May 4 fundraiser will be held from 5-8 p.m. at the church. There will be a spaghetti dinner, silent auction, and cake and dessert auction. For more information contact Shaffer or 937-403-3849, or visit Let’s Help Angie on Facebook.
Emotion tugged at Angie’s voice when she started talking about the fundraiser.
“I think it’s great. It just really touches me that people would do something like that for us,” she said. “It will be a great help to me and will take a lot of the burden off my heart.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or [email protected]