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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

Tom Kelly and his trusty sidekick, Toby

A Man Who Gives
Needs Something Back

By Jeanne Sager
LIVINGSTON MANOR — January 30, 2004 – One of life’s “givers” needs a hand.
Tom Kelly has been at the beck and call of his community as long as he can remember.
The immediate past chief of the Livingston Manor Fire Department is a 30 year veteran of the fire service, putting in time in both Port Jervis and his hometown of Manor.
He was once a member of the ambulance corps, and he’s a familiar face at Manor events.
He’s also the dad of one of the country’s bravest – Kelly’s son, Hugh, 32, is a reservist fighting in the sands of Iraq.
Instead of sitting down with the whole family for Thanksgiving, Kelly received a cell phone call from his son, who could finally let down his guard to tell Dad he just wants to come home.
Kelly thought he’d had enough heartache in life. He lost a child several years ago, he’s been divorced and helped his fiancée through a bitter custody battle for her children.
Then the real tragedy struck.
On January 7, Kelly was helping his disabled fiancée, Kit Coney, out of the shower when he felt a searing pain shoot through his shoulder.
Assuming it was an old injury acting up again, Kelly thought nothing of it.
He got in his Dodge Caravan and drove up Route 17 to his job at CarQuest in Liberty.
“By the time I got to work, the pain was so severe . . .” Kelly said.
He turned the car around and met Coney at home.
She took one look at his face and hurried him out the door and up the highway to Catskill Regional Medical Center in Harris.
There they diagnosed Kelly’s problem – he’d had a heart attack.
One of his arteries was completely blocked, they said.
Kelly’s 55. He’s not overweight, and he said he has stress in his life, but this wasn’t something he ever expected.
“It just shows you it can happen to anyone,” he said.
Since that day, Kelly hasn’t been allowed to do much of anything. They’ve finally allowed him to drive, but he isn’t supposed to go back to work, and he’s been kept from firefighting duties.
When the whistle went off in Manor and sent trucks screaming to a home on Arts Boulevard, only a few thousand feet from Kelly’s home, he took a ride down to watch the action just to feel like he was part of what was going on.
“I wanted to do something, but I couldn’t,” he said.
But the hardest thing for Kelly now is figuring out how he’s going to pay for all the treatments, medicines and doctors visits resulting from the attack.
He had to drop his health insurance last year when the costs got too high to handle the premium.
That means Kelly is facing more than $40,000 in medical bills out of pocket, not to mention the costs of pills he’ll probably be on for years to come.
“The sad thing is they can send people to Mars, but they can’t make health care affordable,” Kelly noted. “Financially, this set us back.
“It’s amazing how much they can charge just for a cardiac cath and to have a stent put in.”
A bill from one doctor alone is $10,000.
And Kelly and Coney still have to pay for the basics.
Her salary as a teacher’s aide isn’t enough to cover the costs of his bills plus those of the household, and they need to put food on the table for her two children, 6-year-old Ariel and 10-year-old Ian.
The firefighters have rallied around the family, and Kelly is “forever grateful.”
“You grow a bond with these guys, you put your lives in each others hands, and it’s really great what they do for one another,” he said. “There are a lot of nice people in this community, and this is the way the firemen are.”
But more help is needed. For more information on the Kelly family, call 439-3825.

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