CHURCH FIGHTING FOR PASTOR’S WIFE’S LIFE

Spears Creek Baptist Church is always interested in saving souls, but now it’s also trying to save a life.

Joyce Fuller, wife of the Rev. Stanley Fuller, has a life-threatening liver disease, primary sclerosing cholangitis, and members of the church are having a fund-raiser to help pay for a liver transplant.

Sunday, July 15, will be Joyce Fuller Day, and a special “love offering” will be collected at the 11 a.m. worship service. Church member Swayze Legrand said letters were mailed to 20 churches in Columbia Northeast and Kershaw County asking for additional contributions.

“Our goal is to raise $40,000,” Legrand said.

The surgery is expected to cost about $175,000, and 80 percent should be covered by insurance. The church hopes to raise enough money to pay the difference.

After the transplant, medication will cost from $8,000 to $12,000 per year, and an annual checkup at the Mayo Clinic will cost $5,000.

It was hoped Mrs. Fuller would have the surgery in July since an above- average number of livers become available around the Fourth of July from accident victims. But while undergoing tests at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., doctors discovered she had a rare form of hepatitis and decided to treat her for a month with a new drug.

The Fullers returned Saturday and are expected to return to Rochester after Mrs. Fuller’s treatment.

“When Joyce was first hospitalized in Jacksonville and we got the diagnosis, I was totally devastated,” Fuller said. “It was like I kept shaking my head trying to wake up from what was happening to us.”

Fuller, 40, said he and Mrs. Fuller were forced to talk about things they thought they would not have to discuss until old age, such as where to be buried and whether or not they wanted to be put on life-support systems.

It was only two months ago, and they were making plans for the summer.

They planned to go to the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans and, when school was out, take their children, Wendy, 14, and Carrie, 11, on a family vacation.

But fate intervened.

“In late April, Joyce began to lose her strength and appetite and on the weekend couldn’t get out of bed to attend church,” Fuller said.

Realizing something was wrong, he took his wife to a gastroenterologist. After some tests, he diagnosed the liver disease, but sent her to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., where it was confirmed.

What’s more, it was determined she was in the third of the four stages of the disease.

There are treatments for the earlier stages, but in her case, the disease had progressed to a point that a liver transplant would be needed to save her life. Without one, she was given six months to one year to live.

Fuller said that his wife had an episode of ulcerative colitis in 1978 and that he learned recently that sometimes leads to sclerosing cholangitis.

In 1978 doctors treated her with massive doses of cortisone, and she was advised to be checked once every year for 10 years because most of the time the illness will turn into cancer, Fuller said.

In October of 1988 when Fuller moved with his family from Rock Hill to become pastor of Spears Creek Baptist Church, Mrs. Fuller went for her 10-year checkup in Columbia and was told there was no sign of cancer.

Then, in April, she became ill.

She doesn’t know how she got the disease and knows of no one in her family who had it.

With a hint of optimism in her voice, she said she wants the transplant, though she feels bad that someone has to die to give her life.

At the age of 37 with two young daughters, she would like to live to see her children grow up and believes the experience of having a liver transplant could help someone else.

“I’m a Christian, and I put my faith in the Lord’s hands,” she said.

The church is behind them 100 percent, and everybody at church has been wonderful with helping out, church member Coley Rose said.

“They’re a wonderful couple,” he said. “We’ve got a prayer vigil going around the clock.”

Contributions may be made to The Joyce Fuller Fund, c/o Spears Creek Baptist Church, 116 Spears Creek Church Lane, Elgin, S.C. 29045. Please mark the envelope, attention: Swayze Legrand.

July 5, 1990  State (published as The State)  
Columbia, South Carolina
Page 55
July 5, 1990  State (published as The State)  
Columbia, South Carolina
Page 57

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