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When tragedy strikes at home

News editor

Among calls ambulance personnel receive, one provokes anxiety above all others.

“Here is small-town Kansas, almost every call is someone you know,” emergency responder Ben Steketee said. “But it’s almost unfathomable to think of responding to one of your loved ones.”

Monday morning, Hillsboro ambulance was out on a run when a call came in to dispatchers that a child had found a woman collapsed in the yard of her home in the 500 block of S. Ash St. in Hillsboro. Marion ambulance was dispatched.

Full-time EMT Kevin Marler was on the crew. The home was his. The woman was his wife, 37-year-old Amanda.

“He answered that call at his house,” Steketee said. “I can’t imagine.”

A Hillsboro firefighter who also was a first responder was diverted from the Hillsboro ambulance call and arrived first. Marion ambulance arrived at 9:02 a.m.

Emergency medical services director Ed Debesis, who lives in Hillsboro, also rushed to the scene.

“I’m thankful that Ed Debesis was there to step in and make the call to replace Kevin on the crew,” Steketee said. “He needed to be by her side, not giving her medical care.”

The ambulance arrived at Hillsboro Community Hospital at 9:29 a.m. with a patient in critical condition. Less than 20 minutes later, Marion ambulance was en route to Via Christi – St. Francis in Wichita.

All the efforts weren’t enough to save Amanda’s life; she died in Wichita.

Amanda had polycystic kidney disease, commonly known as PKD. Cysts that grow inside kidneys cause damage that can lead to kidney failure. She reportedly had been on dialysis since having surgery in April and was on a waiting list for a transplant. It was not known at press time how the disease might have contributed to her death.

Amanda’s legacy won’t be PKD, but how she and her family lived in spite of it, and also persevered through the tragic loss of three infants — Lily, Corey, and Mattie — in 2006.

“She had a joy and a peace about her in the midst of these immense struggles with kidney disease and overwhelming obstacles,” said Jeremy Matlock, discipleship leader at Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church. “She could have easily been destroyed by it. She had that light in her that we all saw that she was relying on God.”

The Marlers were a “strong couple” in dealing with Amanda’s health issues, Steketee said.

“We’re not there in their private moments, but from their outward appearance they seemed to take them in stride,” he said. “They seemed to remain happy people. Amanda was one of the happiest people I’ve ever met.”

Youth pastor Sara Waldron said she would remember Amanda’s sense of humor.

“She really loved to laugh,” Waldron said. “That was what was part of what was so fun to be around her, and I’ll really miss her laugh.”

Amanda never let her health issues get in the way of family, including her daughter, Trinity, Waldron said.

“Amanda was a wonderful mother,” she said. “She loved Trinity and supported and encouraged her. She kept her as a priority even amidst everything.”

Relatively new members at Hillsboro MB Church, the Marlers were baptized on Easter and shared their faith with the congregation.

“That was really special, and an answer to a lot of people’s prayers that they would commit to Jesus,” Waldron said. “They gave an inspiring testimony of God’s work in their lives.”

The congregation reciprocated, assisting with transportation for Amanda’s dialysis and preparing meals for the family.

Now church members are responding again.

“There’s been a tremendous outpouring of care and support for the family,” Matlock said. “They’ve not yet been overwhelmed, but they’re going to be. People have been talking about how we can care for them.”

Steketee said he and fellow emergency responders were ready to support one of their own.

“Everyone wants to be at the funeral as a show of support and unity for Kevin and the family,” he said. “There’s an incredible amount of unity. Everyone wants to be there for Kevin.”

Waldron and Matlock will conduct a memorial service at 10 a.m. Thursday at the church.

“I just hope that Amanda’s story and life will continue to bless people and point them to Jesus,” Waldron said.

A memorial fund has been established to defray expenses associated with her illness.

Last modified June 22, 2017

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