By Jennifer Kotila
COKATO, WINSTED, MN A benefit will take place Saturday, April 27 for a Cokato Vietnam Veteran and his wife, who both have been dealing with serious health issues.
Ken Franet’s illnesses stem from being exposed to Agent Orange after serving in Vietnam from 1968-69.
For the past two years, Ken has been hospitalized on numerous occasions for pneumonia, including being placed on life support over Easter 2012. For the past year, severe pain in his hip was added to the mix.
Doctors told Ken that chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder was responsible for the pneumonia and any spots on his lungs, and pointer pain and arthritis were responsible for the hip pain, according to daughter Amelia Franet.
Pointer pain is caused by a bruise to the muscles on the outside of the pelvis from getting squashed between a hard object and the strong pelvic bones.
Finally, after being admitted to the hospital before Christmas for the seventh time, sister-in-law Donna Koopman told Ken’s wife, Vickie, to have doctors test further.
“Nobody gets pneumonia this much,” Koopman told her sister.
Vickie found out Christmas Eve her husband of 31 years had stage IV small cell carcinoma cancer in his lungs and hip. She and Ken told their three children, Roberta, Matthew, and Amelia, the devastating news Christmas Day.
“We held off (celebrating) Christmas for about a month,” Amelia said.
Although the family was able to eventually celebrate Christmas between Ken’s cancer treatments, it was hit with another devastating blow Feb. 13.
Due to a faulty water heater, Vickie suffered third degree burns over 40 percent of her body while taking a bath.
While adding more hot water to warm her bath, the water started sputtering. Vickie tried to shut off the faucet, but scalding water burst from it, covering her mid-chest to her knees.
After being in the hospital for just a couple of days, Vickie was to be released to a nursing home.
“But, because of the great care of her children, she did not have to go to a nursing home,” Koopman commented.
Amelia, Roberta, and Matthew have all been trained as nursing assistants, and had the ability to assist Vickie and change her dressings while she came home to recuperate before returning to the hospital for skin grafts.
“They are there for us. Amelia and Donna helped with my bandages. I wasn’t able to do it all on my own,” Vickie said.
Although Roberta and Matthew both work full time, Roberta often helps with rides and running errands, and Matthew fixes their cars and helps with other maintenance.
Amelia has been her father’s main caregiver for the past two years, going to the home daily to get him ready for the day and make him breakfast and lunch.
Vickie returned to the hospital Feb. 28 to receive skin grafts, and was released less than a week later.
Less than a month after, she was able to return to work as a head cook at Park View Care Center in Buffalo, where she has been employed for 33 years.
“She couldn’t wait to get back to work,” said sister Julie George.
Although Ken is retired, he owned and operated Ken Franet Motors in Montrose for years, and had an auto repair shop in Maple Plain before that.
However, he still likes to tinker, and has much of the equipment he needs to work on cars at his home north of Cokato.
“He’ll help anyone at the drop of a hat give them his last dollar. That’s just who he is,” George said.
The Blue Note in Winsted offered its ballroom at no charge for the Franet family benefit, which will take place Saturday, April 27.
A silent auction and bake sale will take place from 6 to 8 p.m., and the band Rusted Revolver begins at 8 p.m. (There will be a cover charge of $10 for the band).
A benefit account has also been set up at First National Bank in Cokato for those who wish to help the family.
“The generosity of the community has been overwhelming,” Koopman said. “They haven’t heard any ‘no’s’ from businesses for donations for the silent auction from here to Howard Lake, even all the way to Delano.”