GREENVILLE — One of the biggest achievements for Brenda Wallace in 2015 was receiving her General Educational Development (GED).
The 65-year-old rural Greenville woman quit school in Greenville in 1968 because she was expecting a baby, and has always wanted to receive a diploma. So, she did earlier this month when Stratford Career Institute, an online course she took at home, sent her that diploma.
“Overall, my average was 80 percent, but I got a 76 percent on my SA in my first attempt,” said Wallace, who would have graduated from Greenville High School in 1970. “I have been out of school for 47 years, and I tried to get my GED so many times but I couldn’t comprehend the local classes and said, ‘to heck with it. There has to be something better,’ and I found this online. So, here I am.”
It took her eight months to earn that diploma.
“I would get delirious sometimes,” she said. “I had to study trigonometry and algebra. Some tests I had to take a second time around but passed with 70 percent or more. I love math…fractions, division, multiplication, decimals…I loved all that, but not so much world geography, English and punctuation.”
Nonetheless, she persevered.
“That’s my biggest achievement and accomplishment,” she said as she looked down at her diploma.
Her health woes began in 2011.
In 2010, she underwent a total knee replacement on her right leg through an orthopedic facility.
“I first went in for arthroscopic surgery for a torn meniscus and baker cyst on the back of my knee,” she said. “It was painful. I kept going to work and did my job at a local plant. I was told I needed surgery but that did not work out and I don’t know why. I went back to work and it kept hurting real bad. They gave me more steroid shots and that helped for a week or two weeks.”
Because of all the trouble that was causing her, Wallace lost her job.
That’s when she went to her doctor and asked if he cared if she went for a second opinion.
“So I quit going to him,” she said. “The problem with my left knee happened in 2011. I went back to my doctor but he was unable to do it because of a family matter he was attending to so I got hold of another doctor, who took me through my first surgery. He told me I needed a full knee replacement and had that done on Aug. 24, 2011. I came home in September and fell in the house, split it wide open and I was rushed to the local hospital, and they kept me for seven or eight hours and then I was rushed to [a Dayton hospital]. I woke up at 4 a.m. going back to my room.”
According to her, after 90 days there was infection. So another surgery was needed.
“It took six surgeries to get me to where there was no pain,” she said. “He [the doctor] decided to cut it off. But, he said he could no longer operate on me.”
So she went to her original doctor, who said there was no bone left on the tibia or on the femur, so he would not touch her leg either but put her in touch with a reconstructive doctor, who took her through her third, fourth and fifth surgeries. And, she said, every time, infection came back.
“By that time, I was dying in [a local nursing home] for six months,” she claimed. “I took it upon myself to get on the phone and get hold of an infectious disease doctor. And, I called [an ambulance service] to come and get me and they took me to the infectious doctor in Dayton. He looked at me and said, ‘Oh my God Brenda, I never believe it would have gotten that bad.’ Then, I learned of a doctor in Colorado Springs. I was out of the rest home in two months and the infection kept coming back. It was in the bone. I was taking vecamiacin, the strongest medication you could be on, and it wasn’t touching the pain.”
After her leg was amputated on Jan. 17, 2014, she went to [another area hospital] three days later.
“I was there for 10 days and did great until the eighth day,” she recalled. “I came back to my room from therapy and sat on the bed and had the most excruciating pain. My daughter and my fiance were there and I was crying my eyes out. I looked under my leg and there was a big puddle of blood.”
Nurses, she said, wrapped and cleaned her up.
“My leg had blown out,” Wallace said. “They sent me home like that for two days later with infection. I get home and Ned [Unger, her fiance] and the home health nurses had to pack my leg. I had never seen my leg from the time it was operated on and I asked to see it. I looked at it and said ‘I’m not standing for this’.”
She demanded she be taken to [a Dayton medical facility].
“They didn’t admit me right away but I saw a wound and infectious disease doctor,” Wallace recalled. “I had to be on the third floor of the burn unit. They then admitted me and I had 12 more surgeries within six weeks. They took me in twice a week to de-breed myself.”
After that, she returned to Greenville where she stayed at another nursing home for five weeks for therapy.
“I had two wounds vacs on me,” she said. “After 18 surgeries, here I am.”
When she was dismissed to go home, she then found herself with so much time on her hands.
“‘What is more more surgery,’ I thought and decided to have a gastric sleeve surgery done,” she said. “I was carrying extra weight with having one leg cut off.”
That surgery was performed April 16, 2015, and she has lost 80 pounds.
She said the gastric sleeve surgery has helped her 100 percent.
“Did I ever think I was going to be normal? No, not for along time,” she said. “Did I ever think that I’d be the person I am today with one leg? No. If others can do it, I can do it. Nobody has been in my shoes, only me. God was not ready for me to leave yet. He’s got many, many plans for me.”
Now that she has her high school diploma, Wallace would like to become a hospital receptionist.
She received her prosthetic leg in January this year, and with her weight changing, she will undoubtedly be getting a new prosthesis to fit her better.
“I have learned to walk with a walker at home without the leg on,” said Wallace, who has a daughter, Teresa Miller, and a son, Jamie Hileman
She makes her home with her longtime partner of 18 years, Ned Unger. They met in 1987 at the Eagles Lodge in Greenville one night.
Wallace is the daughter of the late Jack and Dolores Moran and one of seven children. Her siblings are John, Jim, Mary, Kathy and Patty. She and Patty are twins.