Kina DentonPhoto by Caroline Anderson

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People who know Ayla’s Originals on Sherman Avenue have been working together to help Kina Denton, an employee in many capacities of the eclectic bead center and shop for more than 12 years. Ayla Pizzo, proprietor, said, “Everybody who shops here likes Kina. … Customers have been coming in all the time asking about her.”

Ms. Denton, just in her 40s, had a cerebrovascular accident – a stroke – on Halloween.

At Ayla’s full-time and going to school part-time, working toward a certification in making and fitting orthotics and prostheses, Ms. Denton has made the trek from home in Dolton to work in Evanston to classes at Joliet Junior College – one of only two such programs in the state – for a year and a half. She was planning to become a full-time student next year, while continuing to work full-time.

Though these plans have been derailed for now, Ms. Denton said, “Quite honestly, I’m an optimist. [I have] full use of everything, and family around – and the extended beading family has been so gracious.” Ms. Denton has, fortunately, fully recovered and gradually been able to resume working, but she now faces the aftermath of the experience: the trauma of the experience – and the bills.

Recommendations for stroke victims are that treatment be started within the first hour of the event. It took fully 12 hours after her stroke began for Ms. Denton to be admitted to the hospital. Though the doctor she saw recognized her symptoms – some right-side paralysis and difficulty speaking – and wanted her admitted immediately, her lack of insurance meant she could only be admitted through the Emergency Room. The Blue Island MetroSouth Medical Center ER left her waiting until finally her parents took her to an urgent-care facility that could, and did, send her immediately in an ambulance to Ingalls Hospital in Harvey, near Dolton, where Ms. Denton and her parents live. She says she received excellent care there. More, the hospital understood her situation – working but without insurance – and readily agreed to cover the hospital charges.

It has helped, but Ms. Denton, described by her colleagues on the Ayla’s website as “our lovely, patient, young, knowledgeable, meticulous, and extremely helpful Kina” is left with several thousands of dollars in bills for tests, bloodwork, doctors and medications yet to be paid. But, she said, “I’m not complaining. I’m just glad to be here.”

Ironically, Ms. Denton had only been without insurance for about a month, and had just the day before been on the phone with the agent from her previous insurance company to explore avenues of coverage. For much of the time Ms. Denton had worked at Ayla’s before this, the store had covered its employees’ insurance. Ms. Pizzo said, “We used to have insurance … but because of the economy, we were unable to keep it up. We had to let people go. It’s been hard.”

Ms. Pizzo added, “I felt I wanted to help Kina, help take care of her. We wanted to give back and help her. …Collette Quackenbush donated a day of work [for example]. People are amazing. Everybody has just gone above and beyond.”

At the annual bead show held at the Hilton Nov. 13, a silent auction was held and a raffle set up on Ms. Denton’s behalf, raising $2000. “Minuteman Press printed up flyers and raffle tickets as a donation,” said Ms. Pizzo. “Other Evanston vendors have donated goods for the raffle and individuals donated for the silent auction.”  Ms. Denton said she would like “to express how grateful I am to everyone.”

Raffle tickets are still on sale at Ayla’s at $5 for one, or 10 for $45. Winning tickets will be drawn on Dec. 15 during a “Special Beading Nite Benefit” being held at the store at 1511 Sherman Ave. from 4 to 8 p.m. Ms. Denton will be there with her colleagues, Ivy, Colette, Lucie and Ayla. Fifty percent of retail sale proceeds will go to Ms. Denton. Non-beaders are invited, too; among the raffle prizes are jewelry, theatre tickets, gift cards and a night’s hotel stay with breakfast.

For more information on the benefit or how to donate directly, call 847-328-4040, visit http://www.aylasoriginals.com or see Ayla’s on Facebook.