Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

Fundraiser held for local mechanic

Donnie and Melodie Hayes have been through an ordeal, but it was made easier by doing it together. Photo by Rick Tobin.

Donnie and Melodie Hayes have been through an ordeal, but it was made easier by doing it together. Photo by Rick Tobin.

Neighbors and friends of Donnie Hayes consider him a self-made man who established a successful auto mechanics business who has since fallen on hard times, health wise. A fundraiser was held Saturday at Living Word Church on Barracada Road in Walterboro, to help with costs associated with his illness. In the not-too-distant past, Donnie was the head of vehicle maintenance for Charleston County. However, after he and his wife, Melodie, had a child rather late in life, he decided to go into business for himself. He started his business, Hayes Automotive, working out of his residence on Pioneer Lane near Walterboro.

Having a son enriched the lives of both Donnie and his wife, Melodie (formerly Melodie Beach), even though the birth occurred rather late in their lives. Donnie was 47 and Melodie was 41. It wasn’t until after Madison, now 14 and a freshman at Colleton County High School, was born, that Donnie decided he wanted to be near him, so he went full time with Hayes Automotive. Friends praise Donnie for his mechanic abilities.

Patty McBride donated one of her paintings to be used to help with health expenses.

Patty McBride donated one of her paintings to be used to help with health expenses.

“There is nothing he doesn’t know about cars, and, if he doesn’t know, he will study and learn it,” said friend and neighbor Patty McBride. “Living across the road from him on Pioneer Trail, I see all the cars going in and out tow trucks, 18 wheelers, delivery trucks at all hours of the day and night. Even when they are sleeping, there might be a tow truck hauling in a vehicle to be worked on. I don’t think he has ever said ‘no’ to anyone for anything, including people who cannot pay his or her bill. If my tractor were broken down in the field while cutting grass in 100-degree temperatures and I called him, he would come to me immediately and get me going again. But, he would never charge me a dime, unless, of course he had to order parts; and, even then, sometimes he can use another part lying about and use that instead.”

“I’ve always been the kind of person to give more than I take,” Donnie said Thursday. In addition, recently, his kindness has been returned. “People have been coming out of the woodwork to help us.”

Melodie said that Donnie’s health problems began several months ago. “He was out in the yard, and he started coughing up blood,” she said. “When we got him to the hospital, he was full A-fib (atrial fibrillation).” His blood pressure was 250 over 140, and his heartbeat was about 189 beats-per-minute. He was in full-blown cardiac arrest when we got him to the hospital.”

Melodie said Donnie was put into a drug-induced coma at Colleton Medical Center, and was later transferred to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Hospital in Charleston. Donnie praised the doctors at that facility for helping to save his life. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.” Altogether, during his hospitalization, Donnie was in a coma for 20 days.

Three quilts were auctioned for the fundraiser.

Three quilts were auctioned for the fundraiser.

Neighbor Patty McBride remembers that period well. She said that she and Melodie spent their time hoping and praying. “We went into heavy prayer until we were exhausted. About four days later, he opened an eye. After a few weeks, he started to move an arm, then a leg, and then speak. However, he was hallucinating terribly. He was 10 floors up, but told me one day that, “last night, he and the doctor had dinner outside on the balcony right outside of his door. I informed him that was not possible, for that was not a door, but a window, and he was 10 floors high.”

Patty noted that Melodie was strong, and was always there for her husband. “Mel was a trooper. She stood beside him and told him he would have to work hard and concentrate after he begged her to go home. He was still on a feeding tube and could not walk. Eventually he was able to move but not walk, so he was sent to Georgetown for therapy. His determination to get home to his son was stronger than whatever was physically wrong with him. After two weeks, he was ready to go home with a walker.”

After leaving MUSC, Donnie was transferred to the Waccamaw Hospital near Pawleys Island, where he underwent a rehabilitation period. Melodie noted the doctors there were also surprised at his resilience. “More than one of his doctors told me that he’s like a cat, he has nine lives, and this makes me very proud of him.”

It wasn’t long after this therapy, however, that life knocked Donnie and Melodie back down. Donnie was recently diagnosed with larynx cancer after cancerous growths were discovered growing in his throat. He was to start his first radiation treatment Thursday afternoon, and daily chemotherapy treatments are starting this week. “You just don’t expect to end up in a situation like this,” Melody said.

Melodie pointed out that she probably couldn’t have gotten through what she has experienced without the help of her childhood friend, Bonnie McLauchlin. Bonnie has been staying with the Hayes family since Donnie first fell ill. “I’m here to help them because they’ve always been there for me. Donnie has always tried to help everybody he knows, and I’ve known Melodie since we’ve been eight years old. I’ve been living here since last October when Donnie first got sick.”

Patty was the person who got the ball rolling for Saturday’s fundraiser. “I contacted Pastor Cooper at Living Word Church, and he said we could use the church and kitchen, and that they would donate everything we needed. Then my boyfriend, Keith Connelly from Connelly Farms in Ulmer said he would cook the barbecue. He not only cooked it, but he also bought 90 lbs of Boston Butt. Then I made a page on facebook and the people came in droves to help. Everything was donated for the event; right down to the paper-ware, bread, and someone also donated five gallons of slaw.” Patty added that hash, rice, and cakes to sell at the event were also donated. At press time, it was reported that the fundraiser had raised $2,730.

However, Patty felt that she wasn’t doing enough to help. “I couldn’t help but feel there was more we could do. I had just finished a painting in which I was keeping for myself but decided to sell it and donate but I needed someone to buy it. I contacted Tammy Varn at Off The Wall on Washington Street and asked if she would someway, somehow, auction it off as an online auction on her facebook webpage, and she agreed. I knew she had a much larger base that I could ever get. Then two other people stepped up and offered their services on the online auction, one for a pesticide treatment and the other to get your taxes done. When I dropped the finished and framed painting off to Tammy, she said that a man had heard that we were trying to raise some money for Donnie and that Donnie had helped him with his vehicle many times and never charged him so he was dropping off a check for $100.00. Yesterday I called our local country store to ask if I could post some signs and he not only said yes but he also wanted to leave a check for me for $200.00. Others decided they wanted to do more so they decided to hold a raffle at the church this Saturday during the BBQ with three homemade quilts, and a beautiful pottery piece. Others have gotten their churches involved and I have yet to find out what surprises they hold.”

Concerning their ordeal, Melodie said, “We’re just looking forward to what will hopefully be a healthy future. It has truly been an amazing journey. We want everyone who helped us, prayed for us, and showed concern for our welfare to know just how much we appreciate what they have done.”

Donnie has another slant on his ordeal. “All that time in the hospital, I don’t remember a thing. You’d have to ask my wife about that. This has been a journey that I know nothing about. Sometimes it’s a blessing not to know what’s going on. People walk up, shake my hand, and say they saw me while I was in the hospital, but I don’t remember a thing.” Donnie noted that he would be closing his shop due to health reasons.

Donations to help defer medical costs can be made in the name of Donnie Hayes, and may be sent to 281 Pioneer Trail, Walterboro, S.C. 29488.