on March 6, 2013 - 12:17 AM
, updated March 6, 2013 at 1:30 AM
Kenmore resident Benjamin Woodrow heard so many wonderful stories from his friend who had found happiness on the other side of the world that he decided to follow in his footsteps and settle in the Philippines.
Three weeks after arriving Jan. 4, the retired Buffalo special-education teacher and popular church singer was at death’s doorstep.
Woodrow was a passenger on a small motorbike when the driver lost control on a slippery stretch of gravel in a rainstorm on the island of Bohol, slamming Woodrow’s right leg into a guardrail, according to friends and family.
The driver used strips of Woodrow’s clothing to make a tourniquet to stop the bleeding until he reached a hospital, where a major artery in his leg was repaired. He was given antibiotics, sent home the same day and told the prognosis was good. Woodrow, 62, would be on crutches for about three months and then able to walk on his own.
But three days later, his body developed a severe infection that was diagnosed as sepsis, and he was taken back to the hospital. This time, doctors were uncertain if he would survive. His right leg was amputated from the hip down, and his kidneys and liver stopped functioning.
Placed on dialysis, oxygen and heavy doses of antibiotics, Woodrow somehow survived.
Now those who love him hope to bring him back home, possibly as soon as next week, though money is still needed to hire a doctor to accompany him on the commercial flight of about 24 hours.
Still in the Ramiro Community Hospital on Bohol, Woodrow has learned some hard lessons about health insurance.
His insurer here has covered his extended hospital stay but not the other expenses, according to relatives. Woodrow’s friend Dennis “Butch” Thomann, who was originally from this area before moving to the Philippines and marrying, has used his personal savings to buy antibiotics and cover the cost of what had been regular blood transfusions.
“Butch actually had to empty his savings to put a down payment on the services that the hospital was providing. He’s now buying the medicines with cash that we’ve sent him,” said Jacqueline Woodrow, who with her sister Jessica Woodrow, has spearheaded fundraising efforts to pay their father’s medical expenses.
To date, a total of $6,000 has been sent to the Philippines to purchase lifesaving medications and transfusions.
Just a week ago, Woodrow was weaned off oxygen and declared strong enough to make the long journey home under a doctor’s care.
If there is any silver lining to this story, Jacqueline Woodrow said, it is that her dad had purchased a round-trip airline ticket in case things did not work out.
“We only have to come up with about $3,000 for a round-trip ticket for a doctor over there that we think is willing to accompany dad on the flight home. We also may need money to pay the doctor for his time,” she said.
In frequent telephone contact with her father, she said, “He is keeping an extremely positive outlook on everything that has happened.
Butch told us dad is making jokes about his leg. The doctors can’t get over his positive outlook.”
Back here, Woodrow is also known for his positive outlook on life and his singing.
He often performed Thursday evenings at Trinity Episcopal Church on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo.
“Ben had been singing at Trinity for three years and has been an instrument of faith and love to many, and I can honestly say he is kind with a comforting smile, a twinkle in his eye and an open ear,” said friend Lisa Jo Schaeffer.
Contributions to assist Woodrow can be made to a fund established in his name, “For the Benefit of Benjamin Woodrow,” and mailed to: Jessica Woodrow, upper apartment, 314 Linden Ave., Buffalo, NY 14216.