JANESVILLE—Deanna Hatch caressed her husband's head as he snoozed in his hospital bed in their home and considered a reporter's question.
How do you feel about all the people helping you?
One person dropped off an envelope with $1,000 and a note saying it was in memory of Dennis Eitel, a Wisconsin man who died in the Vietnam War.
Another person gave $500.
Some came to her door with money.
Others have donated more than $2,600 to an online fundraiser.
Deanna was nearly in tears when she talked about continuing help from the Drozdowicz family, who discovered her needs and helped with plumbing repairs, as detailed in an earlier Gazette story.
The earlier story is what prompted all the help for Deanna's husband, Francis, 49.
Francis was an Army paratrooper who was injured in a bad jump in 1989 and re-injured in the Gulf War, Deanna said.
He suffered from post-traumatic stress, Deanna said, and a reaction to a medication for night terrors in 2012 sent him into a coma. She has cared for him ever since.
“I honestly feel guilty,” Deanna said of the donors.
“I feel I want to repay everybody, and I don't know how. I'm just trying to help other vets when I can.”
Doctors did not expect Francis would wake up, but he did in 2014. He still can't walk or easily move any of his limbs. He started moving his legs two weeks ago, Deanna said.
“We exercise him. We do the best we can with him,” said Anna Levy, a nursing aide who comes in six hours a day and seems like a member of the family.
He forms words, but not perfectly.
“You know what he's saying. Just have to look at his eyes. He's a smart cookie,” Levy said.
His medical difficulties continue, including a recent bout of pneumonia and an infection in a feeding tube, which almost killed him, Deanna said.
He needs constant care.
Francis sometimes smiles a smile that lights up the room, but he is hard to manage when he is unhappy. Deanna once had to leave him at the hospital.
“Baby!” she could hear him calling out as she left. He has always called her that.
He put up such a fuss that they called her to come back.
He loves the TV shows “NCIS” and “Law & Order,” and he has always been a big science fiction fan.
He has soft little “Star Trek” dolls that they place in his hands, so that the spasms won't cause him to dig his nails into his skin.
He likes hard rock, such as Metallica and Led Zeppelin, but one of his daughters, a nurse, played Judy Garland's rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” while he was in coma.
Now, the song calms him down, Deanna said.
Deanna declined an offer of help from one person, sending him to help another veteran, she said.
She heard of a veteran who needed a new roof, so she told a home improvement store, which will do the job, she said.
She received a coupon for a spa treatment but gave it to the woman who gave her the $500.
They turn Francis every two hours, even at night. Deanna sets an alarm so she doesn't miss a turn.
It's more than doctors recommend.
“They recommend I sleep,” Deanna said. But she is determined to provide the best care possible.
She is a medical technician who is short one semester of school to become a registered nurse.
“People say, 'you've given up your life,'” Deanna said. “But I haven't. This is my life.”
The Veteran's Administration pays for Levy's time, but Deanna pays for more help.
“We have a 10-year-old. He needs time with me, too,” she said.
The couple also have four adult children.
Moving Francis to the living room to watch TV or the bathroom requires a lift. The crane-like machine on wheels often refuses to work. A technician has been called, but it takes days to get repairs, Deanna said.
That's one thing the home improvements would fix. Rails would be installed in the ceiling, and a lift would ride on those rails, connected to a sling, so Francis could be taken around the house.
All the improvements are mandated by the Veterans Administration, which has strict specifications for them, said Greg Odden of Glen Fern Construction, a Lake Geneva contractor that specializes in such work.
A door to the garage will be widened and a wheelchair lift installed so the wheelchair can descend into the garage for trips in the cold months.
Those and other upgrades will cost about $100,000, Odden said in an email.
The VA pays for much of the work through grants, but it's not enough, which is why Deanna is trying to raise money.
Francis' limbs are stiff and painful, so another improvement would be a gurney-style “shower bed,” which can be wheeled into a small addition to the bedroom, where a wheel-in shower will be built, Odden said.
Deanna and Levy have given him sponge baths since the coma took hold.
Leaving the house in a wheelchair will be easier when carpeting is removed and a hard-surfaced, nonslip floor is installed.
Hallways will be widened because they're too narrow for the way Francis has to sit, with one arm protruding.
A new fire exit to the outdoors will be installed in the bedroom at one end of the ranch-style house, where Francis and Deanna sleep.
Levy said she got three bids that were “out of this world” before she found Odden, who was “very fair."
“I'm overwhelmed by everybody's goodness,” Deanna said.
"Please just say thanks to everybody in the community for me. They are amazing.”