‘I can be a witness’

Published 9:31 pm Saturday, January 23, 2010

All her life, Annie Corrine Eaton has been plagued with illness and tribulations, but — with tears of joy — she still praises her Lord.

She says has been hospitalized more than 100 times, her heart has failed twice and she has been on heart and kidney transplant lists.

“All my life I’ve been sickly with one thing or another,” she said. “But God has blessed me. He has worked miracles in my life.”

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Eaton is the daughter of the late Collins and Carrie Hatton of Suffolk and wife of Gene Roland Eaton.

In 1994, Eaton was exhausted — always tired, she said. She found out her heart was operating at 10 percent efficiency, and she was immediately placed on the heart transplant list.

“Through prayers and good doctors, though, I made it off the list, and I’m still living with the heart I was born with,” she said.

Her most recent medical tribulation began in 2000 due to kidney failure.

She couldn’t have more than 32 ounces of water a day, she had dry skin and she was on dialysis for nine and a half years.

When she decided to try to get on the kidney transfer list, she broke her foot and had to wait two years while it healed, because a person has to be completely healthy to receive a transplant, and her body healed slowly due to the lack of fluids.

Eight years after her kidneys failed, she was able to get on the list.

“It was hard work trying to get on the list, but God was with me,” she said.

Eaton’s daughter, Gwen Williams, and daughter-in-law, Tonya Eaton, were both failed matches, but her only son, Gene Jr., was a perfect match.

On May 9, 2009, they were scheduled for surgery.

Her hopes for health were soon dashed when she underwent an emergency blood transfusion. She was, however, still on the list and in July received a call that a kidney had become available. But it was a false alarm.

Finally, four months later, she received another call.

“What are you doing today, Mrs. Eaton?” said Carl Newman.

“I’m about to eat breakfast and go to dialysis,” she said.

“Well, you can do one of those – but don’t you eat breakfast, because today is your day,” Newman said. “You’re getting a kidney today.”

“Hallelujah, hallelujah,” Eaton said over and over again with tears in her eyes when retelling the moment.

Surrounded by her pastor, Robert Lee, husband and sons, she went into operation.

While she was on the operating table, Eaton said, her heart stopped and Dr. Thomas Whelan, chief kidney specialist, came out and told Gene Jr. chances of her making it through were 50/50.

“He told Gene I’d had a cardiac arrest,” she said. “I was looking down.”

Recovery was slow for Eaton. She slept for 11 days in a row, and her heart failed again on Nov. 4 when they removed a catheter from her chest to put it in her neck.

“I can’t stop praising Him,” she said. “I can’t stop praising Him.”

On Dec. 5 she returned home, but her husband was unable to take care of her and she became ill again.

“I was crushed,” she said. “It was just too much for my husband.”

After recuperating in the hospital for some time, she was transferred to Consulate Health Care, where she has spent “many lonely days and nights,” she said.

She is working on regaining strength in her legs and says she thinks she’ll be going home soon and will be better equipped to take care of herself with some assistance from friends and family.

“I’m looking forward to watching my grandkids grow up now,” she said. “And I can’t wait to have some fried chicken legs.”

Despite the dark valleys Eaton has traveled through, she said she isn’t sad because Jesus walks and talks with her and has given her new life.

“He lets me know I am his own,” she said. “I thank Him for sparing my life and now I have a new life. I can be a witness. I can be a witness.”