Thursday, January 8, 2004
On a good day, Kimber Bias copes with debilitating pain to keep up with her rambunctious toddler, Kaitlyn, and 5year-old Jocelyn.
On those bad days when the pain flares out of control, the Lakeland woman can barely get out of bed, leaving her mother or husband to watch the kids.
At 28, Bias is learning to manage life with the knowledge that her muscles and some body functions are slowly wasting to one of the milder forms of multiple sclerosis.
As if that weren't enough, the young mother of two has been diagnosed with a rare nerve disorder called stiff-person syndrome. The disorder, more common among women, stiffens muscles primarily from the chest down.
Bias said she will eventually require a wheelchair, but for now she endures the pain with the help of medications and exercise, so that she can keep up with her girls.
"The only good thing about it is I get to be with them," said Bias, who recently quit her job as head receptionist at Lakeland Veterinary Hospital for health reasons.
The loss of income has put her family behind in its bills, requiring the help of The Ledger's annual Newspaper With a Heart program.
The Biases are among approximately 60 households approved for help so far from the 2003-04 campaign, which began in November and continues through January.
Donors have given $118,105, well below the $140,000 received at this time in the previous campaign.
That amount reflects monetary donations. It does not include the modular home that Palm Harbor Homes donated to the family of Willie Mae Raggs, the Waverly woman whose husband died of a heart attack last year, leaving her alone to raise their five children, granddaughter, and a niece and nephew.
The fully-furnished home is valued at approximately $80,000. The family hopes to move in by February or March, once the home is set up at additional cost to Palm Harbor on property to be purchased by the Heart program.
Despite their financial struggles, Kimber and Brian Bias are thankful for many things -- especially Brian's employer, Publix Super Markets, and its health benefits.
But the couple's daughters both have health problems that require expensive medications -Jocelyn suffers seizures and migraines; Kaitlyn has severe asthma.
Their out-of-pocket drug costs average $500 or more a month. Kimber Bias said she does without some of the more expensive drugs she needs because their budget is stretched razor-thin.
The family has lost additional income as Brian Bias has cut back on his hours at work to help his wife and care for their children.
Formerly an assistant grocery manager of a Brandon Publix, working 60-hour weeks, Bias, 26, now puts in 40 hours at a Bartow store as a stock clerk.
"I've got a real flexible schedule now," he said. "If I need time off it's not a problem."
Kimber Bias said her husband's sacrifice was painful but necessary.
"It was a cut in pay," Kimber Bias said, "but I needed him here."
To reduce expenses, the couple sold an Isuzu Rodeo that they were paying on; they refrain from long-distance calls and find creative ways to prepare pasta.
Despite her health problems, which were first diagnosed in October,
Kimber Bias said she's thankful for what she has. "We could be in a worse
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