WEST GROVE PA Jan 5 2017 More than anything else, Jeff Hostetter loved his job. Every day, during the school year, he worked security at Kennett Middle School, interacting and helping the students there. Even as late as last month, Hostetter could be seen directing traffic, talking to the kids, and helping them out as they made their way to and from school.
But Hostetter will never work that job again. And at age 50, it’s unlikely he will find employment anywhere.
It all started about two years ago when he developed severe migraine headaches. Then, his vision deteriorated, and the headaches got stronger. When a woman on the staff at Kennett Middle noticed he was no longer his glasses, Hostetter told her they didn’t work anymore. She insisted he see an eye doctor and even made the appointment for him.
The following week, just after Halloween, he couldn’t see anything.
“In a matter of weeks, he went from reading and driving to being totally dependent,” said Tammie Hostetter, Jeff’s wife.
When Hostetter saw the eye doctor, the news wasn’t good. He was totally blind in his left eye. He was told he had macular degeneration, and he was given medication.
Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, and it affects more than 10 million Americans – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined. It is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina. Macular Degeneration is considered an incurable eye disease.
Hostetter’s migraines would become so bad, he had trouble sleeping. He sought a solution at the Hershey Medical Center, and spent a week there, came home, but the problem persisted. On Dec. 2, 2016, his eyesight and his migraines became so bad, he could no longer work.
“His pain medications made him dizzy, disoriented and easily confused,” Tammie said. “He couldn’t go anywhere unless I took him there.”
Last year, the couple was forced to move from their West Grove home into an old camper on Tammie’s father’s yard in rural Lancaster County. Tammie was forced to quit her job at Signal 88, the same company Jeff worked for, to care for her husband.
A caseworker is working with the couple to help them apply for Social Security disability and other government programs, but that could take some time. Signal 88 continued their pay through Christmas, but now that has run dry. They have no source of income, no health care, and are receiving counseling through VisionCorps.
“Bill collectors don’t care that Jeff is blind,” Tammie said. “He tries to deal with his pain, and doesn’t take opioids because he doesn’t want to make the situation worse. Pete (Mango, owner of Signal 88 of Octorara), told me I had to be home to take care of Jeff. It was hard.”
Mango said he was amazed at how long Jeff Hostetter continued to work despite his illness.
“The thing that amazes me is he wanted to work even though getting to work created significant migraines,” Mango said. “Jeff had a passion for working with the kids at Kennett Middle. We had work for Tammie, but she had to be home to take care of him.”
Jeff Hostetter said even though he was dealt a bad hand, his spiritual faith will never be shattered.
“Prayer is powerful,” Jeff said. “It gives you comfort. It you don’t have faith, you don’t have much of anything.
“Look at Job,” he said, referencing the Bible. “He lost his job, lost his kids, lost his health and lost his wealth. But he got everything back 10 times because he had faith. You have to believe in the word of God.”
Jeff and Tammie often get calls and visits from friends at the Bible Study Room of Oxford, and it’s a warm comfort in-between calls from bill collectors.
“We have a lot of people praying for us,” Tammie said. “He won’t ever work again, unless there’s some kind of miracle and he gets his eyesight back.”
Mango, who often visits the couple, set up a GoFundMe site to help them, and all funds raised will be used for food, heat, shelter, and health care. To donate, the site is located at https://www.gofundme.com/jeffhostetter.