The Heart Of The Matter

Carol and Jim Bicking, with their children, Cody, Kolton and Kendall
Lisa M Leonard
Heartland News Writer

Raising three kids can be hard enough when your health is good and you’re able to work full-time. But when you’re coping with a serious heart condition and unable to earn an income, well, you can imagine how tough that must be.
Jim Bicking first became aware of his heart trouble as a child. When medication corrected the problem, the doctor took him off the medication. That turned out to be a mistake.
A bout with pneumonia last October revealed that Bicking’s heart needed much more intensive treatment. He was also informed that if he had remained on medication since first being diagnosed as a child, he most likely would not be struggling with such a severe condition.
In addition to medication, Bicking has undergone surgery to receive a defibrillator and an LVAD (Left Ventricular Assist Device) to help his heart do what it is unable to do on its own.
“It’s a scary situation,” Bicking says. “If I ever needed CPR, I couldn’t have anybody do chest compression because of the equipment I have in me. Only mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.”
In addition to sodium restrictions, Bicking is also limited on how much fluid he can take in. “I’m only allowed two liters of liquid a day. That includes salad dressing, gravy, and any food that contains fluid.”
To prepare for the much-needed heart transplant, Bicking needs to get his weight down. There are two procedures available. One is a lap band, which is wrapped around the stomach so it holds less food. The other procedure is the gastric bypass, in which some of the intestine is removed.
Three days a week, Bicking must go to the hospital for blood tests and rehab. “It gets expensive,” he says. “GoFundMe helped for a while. We raised about a thousand dollars, which helped cover gas expense, and we’re very grateful for that. But my wife can’t work anymore because I need her to stay home and help take care of our kids. Our disability checks cover rent and gas, but that’s pretty much it.”
Carol Bicking had been working in Elkhorn as a teacher’s aide for special ed. students but had to quit to stay home and care for her ailing husband and their three children. “She liked working there and is hoping to go back next year.”
Prior to having the twins, Kolton, and Kendall, Carol had to undergo treatment for cancer. Although she did go into remission, she worried that the cancer might come back during her pregnancy.
“Originally there were triplets,” says Bicking, “but one died because it started growing in the tube.” The two that survived were born five weeks early. “The twins are healthy,” Bicking says, “but our daughter has thicker heart walls.”
Their eleven-year-old son, Cody, just started sixth grade and is now in junior high. “He likes school,” Bicking says, “but he doesn’t like leaving me at home. He feels the need to be with me all the time.”
Like most boys, Cody does his best to conceal his fear. “He acts like it doesn’t bother him,” says Bicking, “but we can tell it really does.”
In addition to doing well in school, Cody is also taking karate lessons. Because he suffered the effects of bullying when he was a boy, Bicking has instilled in his firstborn the importance of standing up for himself. “He knows it’s wrong to start fights,” Bicking says, “but if someone’s hurting him, I want him to protect himself.”
The relationship between Cody and his dad is one to be envied. As a result of Bicking’s life-threatening illness, father and son have grown very close. “I don’t treat him like a son,” says Bicking. “I treat him like a friend, like the brother I never had.”
Like all kids, Cody gets in trouble when he does something wrong. But the eleven-year-old is constantly aware of the possibility of losing his dad all too soon.
“I’ve only been given two years with the heart I have,” Bicking says. “So we spend a lot of time together. He’s my best friend.”
Everyone has goals. Everyone has dreams. The Bickings are no exception. They’re hoping to buy an acreage outside the city. They want a quiet place to raise their kids. A safe place.
“We were driving through Ashland,” says Bicking, “and were amazed to see kids out riding their bikes at ten o’clock at night. They can’t do that where we live.”
All families have their struggles. All families have their plans for the future. The Bickings are hoping there is a future for them. For all of them.
If you would like to help the Bickings as they strive toward their goal of moving their family to a quieter, safer place as they struggle through all these various issues, please go to their GoFundMe account. https://www.gofundme.com/f/jim-and-carol-bicking-family-fund