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David Samson, Published March 28 2014

A change in luck: Moorhead couple getting boost from family, friends with Sunday fundraiser

MOORHEAD – Jim and Lynne Barnum have had a lot of luck when it comes to their health over the years.

Unfortunately, much of it has been bad.

The south Moorhead couple have battled severe health problems that led to them both having their right legs amputated.

Jim has also had heart and kidney problems.

Lynne mostly gets around with a wheelchair, and thanks to the accident that led to her amputation, also has an artificial right elbow.

The crush of medical bills, particularly in the past three years, has made it impossible for the couple to remodel their modest bungalow for full handicap access, so friends and family have stepped in.

There will be a “Barnum Benefit” from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Moorhead American Legion Club, with a goal of raising at least $20,000 to get the needed work done on Jim and Lynne’s home. If more money is raised, it will go to help defray the couple’s medical bills.

The fundraiser was kick-started by one of Jim’s friends. But since, one of the couple’s daughters, Shannon Barnum, has taken on the lead in planning.

“We’ve talked about a benefit a long time. They’ve struggled financially,” Shannon said Friday.

The benefit will include a silent auction with more than 220 items, a bake sale, food, and a meat raffle and meat auction. Plus, at 6 p.m., there will be a band.

Shannon said $7,000 to $8,000 has already been raised, and that the benefit is in line for a $5,000 matching donation from Lend A Hand of the Dakota Medical Foundation.

“We’re getting incredible support from people,” said Jim’s brother, Jerry Barnum. “What’s really amazing is their attitude is really wonderful. They’re really neat people.”

Jim, 66, worked for most of his life in sales for firms such as ABC Seamless and Western Products, and in marketing nutritional products.

He was also known for many years locally for his love of weightlifting.

He broke his ankle at age 20, then broke it several more times. When he was 35, a doctor tried to fuse the ankle and insert pins to stabilize it.

A staph infection then settled in the bones. That led to more than 15 surgeries to try to correct the problem.

In 2001, with the infection threatening his life, Jim decided to have his leg amputated.

The surgeries and medicines used to fight the infection damaged his kidneys, liver and heart.

He had a heart valve replaced. He also wears a “defibrillator belt” that delivers a shock if his heart stops.

For years, Jim was on dialysis, but recently he was told his kidneys had improved enough to take him off the treatments.

Lynne, 67, worked for 34 years as the church secretary for Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in south Moorhead.

But in 2011, while she was trying to hang a flower basket in front of their home, she fell, crushing her heel and elbow, and damaging her knee when she landed.

As part of her 14 surgeries, she ended up getting an artificial elbow, which she said works well.

But damage to her leg was too great, and it was amputated just above the knee in 2013.

Lynne, who was forced to retire due to her injuries, is still working on walking more than a few yards without a walker or using a wheelchair.

“It’s kind of been like a domino effect,” Jim Barnum said. “If we hadn’t had any bad luck, we wouldn’t have any (luck) at all.”

Jim said their medical history is so complicated, that to save time when people ask, he’ll “tell people we were in the same accident.”

They’re both overwhelmed by the generosity the community has shown in putting on the benefit.

“Holy smokes. It’s the idea that people care, and they really do,” Jim said. “There’s a lot of great people in this area.”

If you go

What: Barnum Benefit

When: 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: Moorhead American Legion Club, 303 30th St. N.

Info: The benefit is being held to raise money to make the home of Jim and Lynn Barnum more handicap accessible.

The event includes a silent auction, meat raffle and meat auction, bake sale, food and a social gathering.

To help: Donations can be dropped off at any Bell State Bank location, or checks payable to the “Jimmy Barnum Benefit Fund” can be mailed to Bell State Bank, 1333 8th St. S., Moorhead, MN 56560.

Online donations can be made at www.dakmed.org/lendahand, click on “Donate,” and then click on “Lend A Hand benefiting the Barnum family.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583