Reaching out for help in difficult times

A compassionate woman, Kelly Carroll has devoted considerable time to helping others in her community. It's just her nature.

Kelly Carroll

Kelly Carroll

A compassionate woman, Kelly Carroll has devoted considerable time to helping others in her community. It’s just her nature.

She carries a warm smile, extends a genuine hand.

But her life has taken a sudden turn for the worse in recent months. Her health has deteriorated. She faces mounting medical bills. And now, the 46-year-old Kent woman, a disabled 12-year U.S. Army and National Guard veteran, is desperately asking others for some help.

“I’m trying to believe in myself,” Carroll said from her East Hill home, where she is confined to a hospital bed in the family living room. “I’ve never asked for anything on behalf of myself. I’ve always asked on behalf of others.”

Carroll went in for a day surgery a year ago to have a medical pump installed to help her cope with severe back pain. Instead of relief, she awoke paralyzed on her right side.

She struggles with lupus and asthma. She has lost vital organ function. She has trouble collecting her breath with a weakened, severe lung condition.

Family has done its best to surround her with care, trying to keep the woman’s spirits up as she awaits two major surgeries.

“It’s tough. I’m by her side,” said Dominique, the oldest of Carroll’s four sons who has moved back home to care for his ailing mother. “You support her, but she actually needs the kind of help to be OK, the help to bring her some sort of self-efficiency in life.”

Carroll, a wife and mother of five, is a longtime advocate for the needy. She and her family operate R Place of Refuge, a Kent-based nonprofit relief agency that has worked tirelessly in seeking donations to help hundreds of families – veterans and homeless people in the Seattle area, from victims of Hurricane Katrina who moved to the state, to young working parents battling terminal illnesses.

The relief agency and its partners deliver food, clothes, supplies to families. It brings toys to children during the holiday season.

The family’s charitable relief organization was born from Carroll’s own plight. She accidentally punctured a lung when she collapsed while preparing an Army transport of supplies stationed in Belgium.

Honorably discharged from the service, she came home and struggled trying to gain proper health care. She realized she wasn’t alone.

Looking to make a difference in the lives of other veterans, she founded the relief agency. The effort soon expanded to helping others in the community and beyond.

Carroll and her family vow to keep the agency running as she deals with her own condition.

The Carrolls’ situation grabbed the attention of a Federal Way company, Brandner Communications, which adopted the family for the holidays. The hope is to help bring some financial and resource relief to the Carrolls. One of the goals is to help convert the family’s ill-equipped, multi-level home into a more handicap-accessible living quarters.

“My hope is mainly to help her with her independence,” said Carroll’s husband, Norm, a systems programmer. “She likes to cook. … My hope is to get some adaptive things so she can do the things she likes to do.”

Carroll said she believes good things eventually will come. She refuses to dwell on her own problems.

“If I allow myself the opportunity to think of why and spend too much time on that, I might as well give up,” she said. “What I try to focus on is what can I do and where can I reach out and know that somebody else is going to grab my hand at this time, the way I have done it for so many other people.”


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