God worked it out Patience pays off in battle with pain

Published 4:54 am Friday, December 24, 2010

For Cecile and Earnie Hall of Vicksburg, Christmas 2010 dawned Oct. 2 and hasn’t ended.

That’s the day an Arkansas hospital gave Cecile Hall a new hip and took away the excruciating pain that had been her constant companion for years.

“It’s like a miracle unfolded,” said Earnie Hall, director of River City Rescue Mission and chaplain at the Warren County Jail. “We’re just continuing to praise God for it.”

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“They are so appreciative of what happened, and so grateful for it,” said Gene Allen, president of the mission’s board of directors, who played a critical role in the story.

Earlier this year, Cecile Hall, 52, was employed at a local grocery store, walking or standing on her feet most of each day. A degenerative joint disorder, causing the cartilage in her hip to deteriorate to “bone against socket” whenever she moved, was only getting worse.

“I had a terrible limp,” she said. “It was really hard for me. I had a lot of pain all the time.” After work each night she would just go home and climb into bed. With a family, including teenagers, it was tough, she said.

Cecile had worked there long enough to qualify for the store’s health insurance plan, but a glitch in paperwork forced her to wait an extra year for the next open enrollment period.

When that time came around, she signed up for the family plan, and saw 70 percent of her paycheck go toward the policy premium — but worth paying if it would buy her the medical care to relieve her pain.

She saw the necessary doctors and scheduled the hip replacement surgery, having X-rays and pre-op tests and completing the hospital’s pre-admission paperwork.

On the night before surgery, a representative of her insurance carrier called to say it would not pay, Cecile Hall said.

“They said it was a pre-existing condition and I’d have to wait another year to qualify,” she said.

Knowing she couldn’t endure another year of the pain, she quit the job, losing the health insurance, too.

“I was so devastated,” Cecile said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I bet I cried for three days.”

“Then,” said Earnie Hall, “God intervened.”

Earnie Hall told his wife’s story to the Rev. Robert Sanders, a member of the mission’s board and pastor of Vicksburg’s Jubilee Revival Church, who told him, “We just have to believe God has a better way.”

“We started to pray,” Earnie said, “and things began to happen.”

Someone left the mission’s thrift shop, and Cecile was able to get the job there working with her husband.

Then Allen heard about the problem. He told his son-in-law, Mike Bailey, an executive in health care who has worked with physicians and hospitals across the country. “He said, ‘Let me see what I can do with it,’” Allen said.

Soon the Halls received a call from Dr. Bill Hefley Jr. of Arkansas Surgical Hospital in North Little Rock, who listened to Cecile’s story, studied her X-rays and arranged for her to be one of the beneficiaries of ASH’s “Day of Giving” to celebrate its fifth anniversary.

Hefley, other doctors, nurses and staff donated their services, medical device firms donated implants and equipment and ASH provided the facilities — a gift of thousands of dollars worth of medical care and intervention.

Cecile Hall was one of 12 patients ASH helped, people suffering from back, knee and hip problems and other conditions.

“This day demonstrates why we all became doctors in the first place,” one of the surgeons said in a release. “Our desire is to help people. This is our chance to expand what we give back to the communities we serve, to provide healing and compassion for those in need.”

The hospital is physician-owned and specializes in orthopedic, spine, breast oncology, cosmetic and podiatry surgeries, as well as pain management procedures and diagnostic testing. It’s top-rated in Arkansas, among U.S. News and World Report’s Best Hospitals in America and first on Becker’s Hospital Review list of 40 orthopedic hospitals nationally.

But it was the hospital’s heart, not its orthopedics, that touched and amazed the Halls.

“We were treated like royalty, like God’s own family,” said Earnie Hall. “Everybody we talked to talked about Jesus.”

“Everybody was a Christian,” Cecile Hall said. “They talked about it and they lived it.”

She was provided with pre-operative care and set up with a family doctor, Jay Holland, and nurse practitioner, Susan Martin, in North Little Rock. Martin’s father runs a homeless shelter there and is chaplain at the jail — just like Earnie Hall.

Back in Vicksburg after the surgery, Cecile Hall was provided with post-op care by Dr. Robert Ford and will return to Arkansas in a few weeks for another follow-up check.

Allen said the River City board planned to help Cecile Hall pay for post-op physical therapy expenses, but she hasn’t needed it. Hospital staff showed her what to do and she’s doing it on her own.

“She has been a most remarkable patient,” Allen said. “She’s an example of someone who is strong enough mentally and physically to endure the pain and do the work on her own.”

“The board of directors here (at River City Rescue Mission) have been so generous,” said Earnie. “They have been so good to my wife and myself, and shown so much love.”

“I can do everything now without pain,” Cecile said. “I can run, walk, ride a bike, stand for hours, get in and out of the bathtub and car. I’ve already found myself trying to think of ways to pay it forward. It gives me so much hope. I was feeling so hopeless. I just had to have the patience to wait for God to work it out for me.”