For Hall County Sheriff’s Deputy Joey Haban and his wife, Kristina, the birth of their daughter was supposed to be a new and joyous chapter in their lives.
However, only 24 weeks into Kristina’s pregnancy, their daughter, Katelyn Jo, was born and weighed only 15 ounces, which Joey compared to the size of a 20-ounce coke bottle.
Katelyn Jo has since been through multiple surgeries and was not expected to survive, but the family celebrated her first birthday in May.
Those surgeries and other medical expenses, however, have put a strain on the Habans’ finances.
“He’s maxed out his county health insurance, he’s $1.5 million in medical debt and the bank just foreclosed on his house,” said Tom Petska, a friend of Joey Haban, who has two daughters of his own.
Joey Haban works 12-hour shifts at the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and works part-time jobs laying tile and doing construction work in order to provide for his family.
Kristina Haban was required to resign from her position with the Arcade City Police Department in Jefferson to take care of Katelyn Jo full time.
“Her career is that child,” Joey Haban said, referring to Kristina. “We’ve gone from two incomes to one income.”
Petska said Joey Haban has managed to stay positive throughout the entire process.
“He goes to work with a smile on his face,” he said. “You would never know he’s facing what he’s facing.”
And for that reason, Petska has been organizing a raffle to raise money for the Habans. The prize will be an official NASCAR hood from Turner Motorsports belonging to the No. 38 Great Clips car. Petska won the hood at a previous auction in Las Vegas.
“Every year I try to do something good, either for the community or for a group or for an individual and immediately the light bulb came on,” Petska said. “I said ‘you know what, I won this hood raffle in a charity. I’m going to put something together and I’m going to raise some money for Joey and his family.’”
Joey Haban said he was not aware of Petska’s intentions to hold the raffle until three weeks ago, and was very grateful when he heard about it.
“I’m humbled, very grateful,” he said. “You never know who your friends are until something really serious happens in your life. I really don’t have words for it.”
Although Katelyn Jo wasn’t expected to survive, she has defied the odds and doctors are hopeful she will live a normal life, Joey Haban said.
“Once we got out (of the hospital) it was sometimes two doctor’s visits a day, five days a week,” he said. “We’re down to maybe one doctor’s visit a week.”
Katelyn Jo remains on oxygen and requires a feeding tube, but she has come a long way since birth.
“We’re just blessed,” Joey Haban said. “Every time I walk in the hospital down there I always see somebody that’s in a worse predicament than I am and that’s a real disheartening thing because there’s a lot sick kids that are there.”
With the support of family and friends, Joey says he and Kristina have been able to remain hopeful even with their mounds of medical debt.
“The sheriff’s department, they’ve bent over backwards and that’s been a very humbling experience,” he said.
“When this happened it really put it in perspective that there’s a lot of people here that care about me and my family.”
The raffle was originally scheduled to occur Sunday. However, Petska opted to postpone it in order to raise more money.
“It’s been a long road,” he said “It’s been very hard to get this thing off the ground.”
Petska has raised about $1,000 thus far, but he hopes to raise close to $20,000.
Petska said he hopes to schedule the raffle close to Thanksgiving.
Raffle tickets, which are $20 each, can be purchased online at www.lanierpartners.org or in person at The Tilted Kilt Restaurants.