HogWild for Honey: Thankful for what you have

by Sonja J. Keith

Instead of focusing on what she’s lost, Honey Hufstedler chooses to be thankful for what she has — a future with her loving son and devoted friends who were there when she needed them the most.

About 5 p.m. Sunday, June 2, Honey was “taking a leisurely ride on her motorcycle” along Highway 64 west of Morrilton when she was run off the road. A vehicle traveling in the opposite direction was passing another car and entered her lane. She speculates that the motorist “just didn’t see me” because no one stopped to check on her and no one reported the wreck.

The motorcycle traveled down an embankment and Honey landed near a field, which had just been plowed for planting.

“I woke up by my motorcycle,” she said, explaining that it took 30 minutes for her to find her phone to call for help.

“I didn’t know what to do, so I called my son (Zac) to come get me,” she said, adding that she was pretty scraped up and thought she might have a head injury. “I needed stitches in my leg.”

Zac took his mom to a walk-in medical clinic where she was examined and treated. “She sewed me up, and I went home,” Honey said, adding that she was embarrassed by the wreck and had decided she wasn’t going to tell any of her friends about it.

On Monday and Tuesday, Honey stayed home from work to recover. Feeling nauseous, she stayed on the couch. On Wednesday, she began to experience fainting spells. Her son’s girlfriend stopped by to check on Honey and noticed that something was wrong. She called Zac and told him, “Get over there now! Something is wrong with your momma.”

As Honey opened the door for Zac, she told him to catch her as she passed out again. With his mom unresponsive, Zac called 911. “When they loaded me in the ambulance, that’s the last thing I remember,” Honey said, explaining that she has little recollection of the emergency workers in her home and the weeks that followed.

“And then it went downhill from there,” said close friend Lisa Lovell.

Honey was taken to Conway Regional, where the fight to save her life began. When Honey arrived at the hospital, the bottom of her foot was black and her system was shutting down. Dr. Brock King, a family friend, performed emergency surgery and amputated her foot.

Tests would reveal that she had contracted necrotizing facitis — a highly dangerous, flesh-eating bacteria. Honey said few people survive the illness, explaining that she was told that UAMS had seen 12 cases and seven of those patients did not survive. “It moves very quickly,” Lisa added.

The outlook was bleak, and Zac was told to call family and friends to the Conway hospital. Honey was transferred later that night to UAMS, but hospital personnel were uncertain if she would even survive the trip to Little Rock.

Within the week, doctors removed more of Honey’s infected leg, to the shin, but the infection continued to grow up her leg. Honey was placed in a drug-induced coma and treated in ICU, where she remained for 22 days. More surgical options were discussed, with doctors trying to save as much of Honey’s leg as possible. Zac, who had researched the infection, made a difficult decision that he felt would give his mother the best chance for survival: remove the entire leg.

Honey spent five more days in ICU after the amputation. On June 26, with her condition much improved, she was moved out of ICU.

Physical therapy began almost immediately after the final surgery. Her body was weak after so long in a hospital bed.

Lisa and other friends have rallied around Honey, offering their love and support. “I felt every single one of them flow through my body,” Honey said of the prayers. “An ad wouldn’t be big enough to thank everyone for what they are doing for me. I want to thank everyone.”

A Facebook page — titled Hog Wild for Honey — was created to post updates on her condition. A bank account has also been set up at Metropolitan Bank for donations to help defray the expense of Honey’s prosthetic leg. Plastic bracelets with “HogWild for Honey” are also being sold for $5 each.

Honey is a big Razorback fan, which is reflected in the theme. “I love the Razorbacks!”

Today, Honey gets around really well with her wheeled walker, which is red and decorated with Razorback stickers. She suffered a minor setback when she developed a blood clot, but overall recovery is going well. Soon, she will be using crutches as her body heals.

“Crutches give me so much freedom. I’m really excited about them.”

Honey is proud of her son, who has moved back home to help care for his mom who is making great progress. She knows that for a 20-year-old, it was a big load to carry, making the decisions he did to save his mother’s life. “I didn’t know any of this was happening,” Honey said.

Honey is highly complementary of the medical care she received at Conway Regional and UAMS.

“The nurses were so caring,” she said. “They didn’t think I was going to make it.”

Honey and Lisa are eager to share Honey’s story with others so they will be aware of the illness. They are uncertain where Honey picked up the bacteria. “People need to realize it’s rare, but it can happen to you.”

While she still suffers with “phantom pain” where her leg used to be, Honey is “just happy to be alive.”

She remembers waking up in the ditch after the wreck and thinking, “I’m going to hold my grandbabies” at some point in the future. “Yeah, it sucks (I lost my leg), but what do you do? We’re doing whatever we have to do to move forward.”