Tim DeHaven bursts into the showroom of the family business, propelling his wheelchair with both hands and one sneakered foot at a pace just slightly above a comfortably brisk walk. He speaks the same way, greeting a newcomer in mid-thought, as if he's been chatting up an old friend for hours.“I'm gonna run again,” declares the longtime cross-country coach at Lima Central Catholic, peeling off a sock to expose the tender flesh of his stump and strapping on his artificial leg, right there in the middle of DeHaven's Garden Showplace. “I want to go skiing again, too.”Those are amazing words coming from a man who nearly lost his life seven months ago. Complications during surgery led to the amputation of his left foot and lower leg. Gangrene also took his left index finger and a toe, and he lost the tips of other fingers and toes. Depression and infections further loosened his grip on life. A dramatic loss of weight followed.But the coach, father and boss had preached for years about the power of optimism. Following that advice helped save his life.He's now driving himself to occupational and physical therapy three times a week at Lima Memorial Health System. He's self-driven during those sessions, too, his therapists say. He's graduated from wheelchair to walker, and from walker to crutches. Now he's walking with one crutch. Those who know him have no doubt he'll run again.His vigor answers perhaps the second-most pressing question on the public's mind: How are you, Tim? The answer: He's regaining strength and stamina every day.Perhaps more importantly, the entire DeHaven family has strengthened. DeHaven says his wife, JoAnn, and their five children worked heroically to keep the family — and family business — in operation while he devoted himself fully to the business of getting better.And all of them have emerged stronger from the ordeal, DeHaven said.“You know what's good about this, it's made us closer,” he said. “We enjoy each other's company even better than we used to.”——“My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more.”— John 15:1-2,New Jerusalem Bible——Among gardeners, the grip doesn't lie, and his firm handshake answers what might be the third-most important question to come up during a recent series of interviews:Can you still use the pruner?It was an answer DeHaven had to answer for himself.“Actually, I went over to the garden center when I first returned, and they got a bunch of plants out, and I kind of did in-store therapy,” he answered. “Anybody that's a gardener, you have to prune constantly. I think people like talking to me, seeing me doing it.”It was a joyous rediscovery after losing fingers, fingertips, nerves, capillaries and tendons.That leaves the first and most fundamental question.What happened?DeHaven's ordeal began Sept. 7 with a robotic microsurgical procedure at St. Rita's Medical Center. The surgery was to repair a leaky heart valve. Other than a previous hernia repair, it was DeHaven's first operation.The surgery itself was successful, but complications arose immediately after.“They have to collapse your lung, then reinflate it. Well, they didn't reinflate my lung. And then my kidneys went down, and then all hell broke loose,” he said.“I guess in my mind, I didn't think it was such a serious surgery,” he said. “And I tend to want to get things done.”In retrospect, JoAnn DeHaven said, they probably should have considered their options more thoroughly before deciding how and where to have it done. “I think sometimes the most important thing you can remember when you're having surgery is, think about it,” she said. “If you've got time and it isn't anything you have to make any rush decisions on, get a couple of opinions. I think maybe we didn't have all the facts, or maybe we didn't know enough.”Tubes were inserted to pump air into DeHaven's lung. He remained that way, under sedation, for 17 days, he said, adding he doesn't remember much of that period. He underwent dialysis. His body swelled with fluids his kidneys couldn't process. Sores developed on his fingers, feet and knees. The sores became gangrenous.“I was so out of it. I don't think they were probably straight enough with me when I was aware, and I don't think they were straight enough with JoAnn and my son,” he said.They had arranged beforehand for JoAnn to make key decisions about his care if he became incapacitated. She said taking responsibility for a loved one's care turned out to be tougher than she'd ever imagined.“If you're advocating for somebody, it's a two-way street,” she said. “You have to respect the medical people, but the medical people also need to respect the advocate. It's important. Who better to know about someone? I've been married to Tim for two-thirds of my life. I know his habits. I know his physicality.”Sometimes, JoAnn said, when she was asking questions, “I felt like they said, ‘Why are you asking questions?' I'm asking questions,” she said. “I need to know. This is my partner in life. This is my husband of 42 years. I want to know what's going on.”Tim DeHaven added, “I think maybe they were thinking, if they were straightforward with me, that was going to be too hard on me, and it was going to kill me. I really think that was a mistake.”“They put him on some medications that I wasn't real thrilled about,” JoAnn DeHaven said. “I think they were trying, but sometimes you get beyond ... it's the elephant in the room, bigger than what you can imagine.”Tim DeHaven said, “They had me on Propofol (a powerful sedative) and morphine. Regretfully, I think that was a mistake too.”Officials at St. Rita's Medical Center have offered to meet with Tim DeHaven and discuss his concerns, “He has accepted that invitation. We have not yet set a date to meet, but look forward to the opportunity to provide answers to his questions,” said Jim Reber, president and CEO of St. Rita's Health Partners, Depression and fearOn Sept. 29, DeHaven's left leg was amputated below the knee. Gangrene had infected the limb beyond hope of repair.“It was like a dead limb on a tree,” he said. “You have to take it off to save the tree.”He said the decision to amputate didn't bother him as much as it did his wife and children. But the night before the amputation, he threw a fit in his hospital room. Unable to reach his call button, he started throwing pillows and other things within reach to get his nurse's attention.“I got scared,” he said. “I don't even know why I got scared.”“I think he was afraid of going back into surgery,” JoAnn DeHaven said. “He knew everything happened to him in surgery, and now he had to go back in.”That was the first time she could remember breaking down into tears.The amputation went about as well as anyone could expect, they said. They praised the surgeon, Dr. Lloyd Briggs, for his attentiveness to their concerns. They said Briggs helped them understand an amputation done correctly, followed up with correct therapy, is the best preparation for walking again — and maybe even running again — with the help of an artificial limb.Briggs recommended Jeff Luke, of Findlay, a specialist who custom-makes prosthetic legs. DeHaven recognized the name: Luke had worked for DeHaven's years earlier.They said a breakthrough came unexpectedly on Oct. 10 when JoAnn DeHaven contacted a family friend, psychologist Jerry Zimmerman.“Really, what helped me is when Jerry had to come and get me an antidepressant,” DeHaven said. “I did get depressed. Once I took that for about a week, my brain started functioning. I was able to be more cognizant, more directed.”DeHaven said he still takes a moderate dose of the antidepressant Zoloft every day. His doctors hope to take him off it later this spring.A change of directionOn Oct. 17, DeHaven checked out of St. Rita's and was transferred to The Ohio State University Medical Center.“The first thing they did was assign me an internist to deal with all the other doctors, to coordinate all my treatments,” DeHaven said. “I had an internist and a resident internist. They would meet with me twice a day.”On Oct. 22, surgeons removed DeHaven's left index finger and a right toe. They amputated the tips of other fingers and toes to remove gangrene that had refused to heal. Soon after, his kidneys began functioning again. He resumed a normal diet. He started taking steady doses of vitamins. But he was still very weak. He could barely move at all without assistance. He couldn't eat without assistance.On Oct. 24, the medical center moved DeHaven to Dodd Hall, Ohio State's building dedicated to physical therapy and recovery.Right in the middle of it, DeHaven's 92-year-old mother fell ill. She was in the final stages of Alzheimer's disease. JoAnn DeHaven found herself driving to two hospitals — one in Columbus, the other in Findlay. “She was in hospice but she got home from the hospital,” JoAnn said. “We were able to get Tim a day pass, and that was the first time he got in a car.”An Alzheimer's patient, Mary Catherine DeHaven was delighted to see her son. She knew he'd been ill but wasn't aware of his amputations. They managed to hide that fact from her during their visit.“She was happy to see him, and that actually was the last good day she had,” JoAnn DeHaven said. “After that, she went in the other direction.Mary Catherine died Nov. 29. She was buried Dec. 6, a day the DeHavens described as one of the coldest, wettest days of the year. “He wasn't even allowed to go to both days of the funeral,” JoAnn DeHaven said. “The day of the burial we were able to get him out. They were worried about him. They didn't want him to catch a cold. He was still prone to infections.”“They didn't want me shaking a lot of hands,” DeHaven added. “But I had to go to Mom's funeral.”He had to put on a suit, too — something he hadn't done in three months. Getting dressed was exhausting, even with the help of two nurses, a therapist and his wife. And the suit hung on him — he'd lost so much weight.DeHaven's father, John R. DeHaven, died three years earlier at age 91. His parents founded the family business in Findlay in 1953.A week after his mother's funeral, Tim DeHaven was discharged from Ohio State and returned home to Lima.He was referred to Dr. Kurt Kuhlman, a Lima-area specialist in physical therapy who had been the head resident at Dodd about a decade earlier. Kuhlman took charge of DeHaven's recovery and his transition from Dodd back to Lima.Now he gets a highly supervised workout every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at Lima Memorial's occupational and physical therapy departments.— — —“‘And some seeds fell into rich soil, grew tall and strong, and produced a good crop; the yield was thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold.'” — Mark 4:8, New Jerusalem Bible— — —Jennifer Sloan takes the heated pads from Tim DeHaven's tightly bound fists. The wraps and the heat help stretch tendons severed months earlier when his swollen, gangrenous fingertips were amputated. The heat helps stimulate his healing nerves and capillaries.DeHaven winced in pain when Sloan, an occupational therapist, wrapped them. Now he rubs his hands together as Sloan hides 10 pea-sized rivets in a glob of red Silly Putty. She times DeHaven as he works the glob, removing each rivet with his fingertips.“Everything here has a purpose,” Sloan said. “He has to open bags of potting soil. He has to handle change.”“In Columbus, They had me folding laundry,” DeHaven said. “That works out great because Mrs. DeHaven doesn't like to fold laundry.”Next there's a resistance cycle to strengthen his arms and shoulders. It's a brisk cardio workout, too. Within minutes, DeHaven's breathing hard and breaking a sweat.Occupational therapy stretches and strengthens him, DeHaven said. It prepares him for the physical therapy next door.At physical therapy, Stacy Schroeder inspects DeHaven's prosthetic leg. This one's temporary, DeHaven said. He can't wear it all day. The stump of his left leg must be conditioned and built up before he can start wearing a permanent artificial leg.He also needs to build up a callous — and give more time for a formerly gangrenous patch on his knee to heal. That's according to Dr. Wilfred Ellis, a wound specialist DeHaven has been seeing weekly since December.DeHaven said Ellis spent three hours with him that first appointment, meticulously dabbing Betadine solution on his turtleshell-hard scabs and peeling them away, layer by layer, to get at infected tissue underneath.“Dr. Ellis, he's a pretty amazing person,” DeHaven said. “You find out about people when they give you their all. I could see, this guy gives you his all. I bet you he threw away, 15, 20 sets of gloves that day. He doesn't take anything for chance.”And after that ordeal, DeHaven went straight to physical therapy, said Betsy Trame, head of physical therapy at Lima Memorial.“He comes down here, and I'm like my gosh! Trame said. “He tells me what he was going upstairs, and I asked him, ‘Are you sure you want to do therapy today?' And he said, ‘Well, sure.'“And you know how charismatic Tim is. He's usually in and out of here during one of the shift changes, so now I notice, he talks to all the housekeepers, all the people coming in and out of here. Everybody knows him.”And everyone's a friend. Everyone wishes him well. The DeHavens return the kind words and hugs with grace and gratitude. They're reaping the kindness they've made a point to sow in other people over many years.“I go to the grocery store, and Tim wants to know what took me so long,” JoAnn said. “Everyone stops me and says hi, how are you? How's Tim? It's so good to see you back!” Never the same again“The first night he came home from Columbus, that was hard,” JoAnn DeHaven said. “Logistically, we had nothing. We had prepared, I had actually put a ramp in. We put handicap bars in all the restrooms. It was hard for me physically, when we were using the wheelchair, I was lifting it out of the car all the time, and it was every day. I'm not a great big person. I've got some muscles now.”Tim DeHaven admits coming home was frightening. He felt a bit like Morgan Freeman in the movie “Shawshank Redemption.”“I'd been institutionalized,” he said. “I was in an unbelievable bed, I could turn in every direction. I could push a button and have a nurse come in. I was spoiled.”Their fears included sleeping together again. He feared she would bump into him and hurt him, or that he might simply fall out of bed.JoAnn DeHaven has been in charge of wound dressing for the surgeries and amputations. She arranges and maintains all the gauze and other bandages, salves, creams and other topical medications.“It took JoAnn, initially, one and a half to two hours to dress all my wounds. That made us both crazy,” DeHaven said.Between his ongoing healing and her increasing efficiency with practice, she's got the daily routine down to about 20 minutes now.JoAnn said the ordeal gives her fresh appreciation for caregivers.“I can see how hard it is. God bless those people who have it day after day after day,” she said. “Those people have not just a burden but a big responsibility, because you have to do things right. I'm tired, we're late at night, and ‘Oh no, we can't let this go. We have to do it.' I mean, it's not like you can just say, ‘Well, I'll just do it tomorrow.' I'd get cranky. I would definitely get cranky.”“Well, I'm really hyper,” her husband admitted. “I think I drive JoAnn crazy.”“Well, he's real precise too,” she responded. “There's times when he'd say, ‘You have to get this or get that for me,' because he couldn't do a whole lot when he got home. I'd say, ‘Tim, I've got two hands and two legs, and I'm going in two different directions trying to do all this,' and I can see why people do get a little nuts and need a break from it.”JoAnn got her first true break from the caregiver's routine with a two-day business trip in mid-January. She left daughter Holly in charge. Their son, Patrick, was appointed backup.“Sure enough, I got deathly sick,” Tim said. “I got C. diff.”That's short for clostridium difficile, a bacterial imbalance in the gut that happens when antibiotics wipe out the good bacteria. The imbalance causes severe diarrhea.“We went out to dinner, and the next day ... everything went out of me. I thought I had food poisoning.”Dr. Wilfred Ellis immediately diagnosed the problem and prescribed medicine to reverse it.“It was almost like, ‘Gosh, I'll be gone for two days. This is great,'” JoAnn said. “But then in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, ‘This is worrisome. I'll be gone for two days, he's still having a lot of health issues. I don't really want to be gone.' I'm pulled in both directions. I'm feeling guilty and I'm feeling relieved I'm going to be gone at the same time.Then there was the night she threw his walker out the door.“I got really mad at him because he said ‘I'm gonna start running again,' and he hadn't even started walking yet, and, ‘I'm gonna go skiing.' My level of frustration had reached ... I said, ‘Tim, we are not gonna worry about running. We are not gonna worry about skiing. We are gonna worry about living and walking, and doing those things in proper order.' And this guy's already out in the field. I know he's the one who had the amputations, and I know he's the one who went through all of this, but there was a point in time where he didn't know anything that went on. He had no idea what was happening.”And how did he react?“She told me, if I didn't shut up, she was going to throw me out the door next,” he said, a grin on his face, “and I shut up.”“I was mad,” JoAnn recalled, though she also was smiling now at the memory. Did he realize then how mad she was?“Oh yeah,” he nearly whispers. “I tend to want to push the limit, and I sure did then.”“He doesn't realize everything that I went through while he was sick, and all this stuff I was worried about,” she said. “And he's talking about skiing and all this, and everything's lah-de-dah, and I'm thinking, ‘Buddy, let's get our priorities straight here!' And I knew it was probably just talk.”The priority — basic, everyday routine — meant a simple thing like going to the bathroom unattended became a feat of heroism. But when all is said and done, it's just going to the bathroom.They both laugh now about that blow-up. They also laugh about some of the physical limitations he's quickly learning to overcome.“When we'd go to people's homes for dinner, or go out to play cards with friends, Tim would say, ‘I can't get up from the toilet. There's no handicap bar.' You never think about those things until you need them.”“I tell my friends when we visit, ‘I have to give you a bad grade. You're not handicap-accessible,” he said.And then there was New Year's eve, their first night on the town after DeHaven's discharge from Ohio State.“We went to dinner, and then we went to see this Frank Sinatra-type singer at the Convention Center, and he had to go to the restroom,” JoAnn said. “Thankfully, there was somebody there, because I can't go into the men's room to help him.” JoAnn said. “I told her I could handle it,” Tim DeHaven said. “But I got into the bathroom and I couldn't get my pants up.”JoAnn was outside, talking with Jim Chiles, head of Chiles-Laman Funeral and Cremation Services, and his wife, Betsy.“JoAnn got worried about me because I'd been in there a long time, and she sent Jim in to check on me,” DeHaven said. “I told him I couldn't get my pants up, could he give me a hand? I figured Jim wouldn't mind, but I joked with him, ‘You probably haven't pulled them up on a live person much.' Well, we just laughed and laughed.”“People have been nice,” JoAnn said. “And people are helpful, and honest to Pete, you can always find somebody to hold a door, or if I'm having trouble trying to lift a wheelchair out of the car, I can't tell you how many times people come and say, ‘Do you need help?' Maybe adversity brings out the best in people.”Not a surprising response, really to a man and family who radiate kindness and good deeds for others.“I hope I can do some more goodness to people,” DeHaven said. “I think it's important that you try to be kind to people.”Family mattersOfficially, Tim DeHaven is retired. He's drawing Social Security. Eldest son John, 42, is now president of the family business. Twins brothers Tom and Dave, 35, also play central roles: Tom manages the store in Findlay; Dave runs the garden center and the growing operations. A fourth son, Patrick, 31, and a daughter, Holly, 25, live and work in the Columbus area. John's two sons, Joe, 15, and Nick, 13, represent the fourth generation of DeHavens to work in the family business.DeHaven said the retail operation slowed in his absence, mostly over uncertainty about his future stake in it.“Tim's a very strong individual, and it was hard for any of us to see him the way we saw him,” JoAnn DeHaven said. “The fact the he wasn't working, I wasn't working, not that we're all ends of the business, but we're one part of the business. You take that little link out of the chain, and the chain goes in every direction.”DeHaven said his absence actually helped the process of handing the business over to his sons — a process that pleases him now that it's done.“When I was gone, John had to take responsibility,” DeHaven said. “He had a lot of challenges. He had to deal with the bank, vendors, employees, the other partners. He didn't have me around to talk to. It really made John have to strengthen up.”In January, there was a family meeting. “John stood up and said, ‘Mom, Dad, I want you to get out of my way now.' And when he said that, I felt relieved. I was thinking I'd been expected to come back and take the same role, and I don't think I can do it. And we were hurting his relationship with his brothers — they were coming to us instead of to him with their concerns.”DeHaven's still active in the business, playing the role of figurehead and promoter. Tim and JoAnn still appear in “Garden Minute” television spots because that's good for the business — and because their son asked them to do.The family is celebrating Easter today at the home of their daughter, Holly, who is expecting her first child in a couple of weeks. They're attending Mass at the suburban Columbus church where Holly is a youth minister.They have plenty to celebrate.
After amputation, Tim DeHaven vows: "I'll run again"
After amputation, Tim DeHaven vows: "I'll run again"