Tim and Michelle Kersten of rural Hillsboro are no strangers to trouble, 2012 has been an especially difficult year for them and their five children. But despite the medical and financial problems they face, they are not discouraged. Instead, they hope their witness of life during trials will offer others hope.
“2012 has been so difficult, but as people of God, we know things will work out,” Michelle Kersten said.
Marilyn Herzet of Hillsboro nominated the Kersten family for Hoch Publishing’s True Meaning of Christmas donation, and Wednesday they received a gift from the program.
“This is such a surprise, and such a blessing,” Michelle said. “We definitely want to say ‘Thank You’ to all the people who made this happen. This is such a blessing.”
Scheduling a propane delivery topped the list of needs that could be met with the gift, but medical issues that have plagued the family continue.
“On Dec. 28, we will be taking Tim to KU Medical Center to talk to the transplant doctor. He needs a kidney, but we already know it will be a two-year wait,” Michelle said.
The Kersten family moved to a rural home and land that belonged to Michelle’s family a year and a half ago. She grew up in the Hillsboro area but spent many years in Abilene. She has a daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren who live in Gardner. Tim has roots in St. Louis and two older sons that live there still. Two more children live with the Kerstens near Hillsboro, Jordan, a senior at Hillsboro High School, and Amy, a sixth grader at Hillsboro Middle School.
Tim has polycystic kidney disease, also known as PKD. He has known for some time that he would need to get on dialysis to maintain regular body functions, but a horse-riding accident in December of last year brought about more damage than his body could sustain.
“On Dec. 28, he was bucked off our horse and ruptured a large cyst that was on his kidney,” Michelle said. “He ended up in the hospital for 12 days, had to have a blood transfusion, got a bacterial infection, and experienced complications that could have caused him to bleed to death internally.”
Because of days missed at his job at AGCO in Hesston, Kersten lost that employment, insurance, and a major source of income for the family. It was not until May that he was finally able to land another job, this time at Hillsboro Elementary School as a custodian.
Six weeks ago, Tim started home dialysis, a process during which he is hooked up to a machine that extracts fluid from his body, holds it, cleans it, and infuses it back. All of this takes place at night while he is sleeping.
“He feels so much better now,” Michelle said. “But there is always the added expense of it all.”
In June, Michelle was called to pick up her daughter Amy from a birthday party where, while dismounting a trampoline her body went one way and her leg stuck in the edge of the trampoline.
The result was a broken femur right above the knee and a grueling summer for the active 11-year-old. She spent months in a cast, on crutches, and needing twice-weekly trips to Wichita for physical therapy.
On Dec. 19, doctors removed screws from Amy’s injured leg and measured her growth plate, which was shattered in the accident.
“We still don’t know if things are healing properly yet and have to wait another month for another measurement before they decide if the growth plate can be closed,” Michelle said. “We continue to go two days a week for therapy and she is still on crutches six months after the injury, but we are hopeful this is all getting better.”
Michelle, who works at A Cut Above in Hillsboro, said the most difficult part of dealing with the injuries in her family, was finding ways to pay for it when insurance was lacking.
“Tim now has Tri-Care insurance through the army reserves, but has been forced to take an early retirement because he is no longer deployable,” she said. “This means that next month, instead of paying $219 per month for insurance, we will be paying $1,000 per month.”
Mortgage payments also loom large for the Kersten family as they stretch minimal paychecks to cover medical and family needs, in addition to utility and vehicle expenses.
“Through all of this, we continue to be reminded that the Lord is good,” Michelle said. “Just last week a neighbor drove by as we were trying to get some wood cut in our hedge along the road, and he offered us a free load of aged wood that he had no use for. That was just miraculous.”
Just recently the family made a difficult decision to sell part of their farmland and continues to struggle to make ends meet. They remain active members of Zion Lutheran Church in Hillsboro and model unwavering faith and hope for the future.