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Ducking Death & Loving Life

May’s Luckiest Hoosier Alive: Jeff Hull

Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing

They say “third time’s a charm,” and that’s certainly the case for Jeff Hull, who has cheated death twice and now has been named May’s Luckiest Hoosier Alive by Hoosier Park Casino.

It was 2014 when Hull started experiencing flu-like symptoms that wouldn’t subside. After enduring multiple digestive problems that landed him in the hospital twice, he traveled to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for further evaluation.

“They tore me apart,” says Hull, noting that he had pancreas problems, an enlarged spleen and a liver that was being destroyed by cirrhosis because one of the main bile ducts was completely closed and doctors could not get it open. Diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, the reason he felt so lousy was because his liver was getting bombarded by waste that his body couldn’t expel.

Shortly after the diagnosis, Hull’s gastrointestinal specialist performed extra analysis when taking samples for a biopsy and found abnormal cells, indicating the early stage of cancer.

“Very few people survive once cancer is in the bile ducts,” Hull says. “The prognosis wasn’t looking good.”

They needed to act quickly.

Physicians at Johns Hopkins told him he needed a new liver, pronto, and they advised him to go back to Indiana to wait for one.

“You have one of the best transplant facilities in the country in your backyard at IU Health,” they said. “You’ll get a transplant much faster there.”

They were right. It turns out that the silver lining to Hull’s grave prognosis was a dramatic jump up on the transplant list to No. 4. Though a lot of patients spend 5 to 10 years on the list, Hull was blessed with a healthy liver three weeks later.

With a new lease on life, Hull was feeling pretty fantastic for a stretch of time. In December 2016, however, two years after his transplant, he suffered a new health scare while taking steroids for inflammation following a colonoscopy. Though he had been on steroids in the past with no adverse reaction, there’s always that slight chance that complications can arise, and they did.

One afternoon, Hull wasn’t feeling well so he decided to take a nap while his wife, Julie, took the kids to the movies. When she kissed her husband goodbye, she noticed his breath had a sweet smell to it, a sign of high blood sugar. They rushed to the emergency room and found that Hull’s blood sugar had reached nearly 600, which is on the cusp of entering a diabetic coma.

“My heart rate spiked to over 200 beats a minute, sending me into diabetic trauma,” Hull says. “The ER team was expecting me to code at any minute.”

Thanks to Julie’s goodbye kiss, her keen observation and the fast-working ER staff, Hull survived again.

“If I had laid there and taken a nap for several hours, I likely would have gone into a coma or died before my family returned home from the movies,” Hull says.

Needless to say, he feels extremely lucky.

Hull and his wife own three Massage Envy clinics in the area in Greenwood, Evansville and Lafayette. Julie, with an MBA and a background as a nurse practitioner in health and wellness, runs the clinic while Hull handles the financial matters.

Hull learned about the Luckiest Hoosier Alive contest when reading a copy of a Towne Post magazine.

“People tell me every day that they can’t believe what I’ve been through and how fortunate I am to be alive,” Hull says.

Though he typically doesn’t care for the spotlight, he was compelled to enter a nomination for the Luckiest Hoosier Alive contest because he’s grateful that Hoosier Parks Casino is recognizing people’s good fortune and sharing uplifting stories with area readers.

“I’m 57 and I’m still here when I could have been dead — twice,” Hull says. “The staff at IU Health is a big part of the reason I’m here today. They handled both of my situations and I couldn’t be happier for it.”

About Christy Heitger-Ewing

Christy Heitger-Ewing is an award-winning writer and columnist who writes human interest stories for national, regional, and local magazines. She is also the author of the book “Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat” (www.cabinglory.com).

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