Community members from both sides of the river banded together to keep one local family on their feet after a devastating blow.
Barbara Dufrene unexpectedly suffered a stroke and became paralyzed on the left side of her body in early December.
Barbara’s husband, James Dufrene, said that the outpouring of love from the parish was more than he could have ever hoped for.
“It was just pretty amazing that people, your friends, instantly become like family to you when something like this happens,” James said. “People that you never would have thought would do something like this, put their lives on hold to do things for us.
“It’s pretty heart-warming.”
Both Barbara and James grew up in St. Charles Parish. Barbara graduated from Destrehan High while James graduated from Hahnville High.
Barbara had just started full-time as a 911 operator for the parish in August when she had the stroke. She had previous experience in the field, but had taken time off from work to raise her two daughters, now 18 and 15 years old.
“She’s really good at her job and they’re really anxious to get her back – they’re being very supportive of us,” James said about Barbara’s job.
James said that because of Barbara’s age, 43 years old, and her positive attitude, doctors say she has a good chance at a full recovery.
“She’s real strong and very determined. She impresses the therapists every time they come – sometimes they just can’t believe the things she does,” James said. “She’s not wondering ‘Why me? Why did this happen to me?’ She thinks it could have been worse and tells herself it is okay and she’ll get through it.”
James, who also works with the Sheriff’s Office, said that their friends and colleagues have been amazingly supportive. One incident that really made an impact on James was when his friend bought food and hay for the Dufrenes’ horses, then tore up a check that James tried to write him to pay for it.
“It’s just very overwhelming the amount of support we have got. Nothing like this has ever happened to us before,” James said. “We are so thankful to everyone who has supported us and been kind to us.”
Their work colleagues held a special lunch and bake sale to raise money for the family’s medical expenses. They also started a Super Bowl pool to raise money.
“She’s going to be out of work for a while, so we were just trying to do a little bit to help them out,” said Paul Adams, one of the organizers of the lunch and a colleague of the Dufrenes.
Barbara is currently training with a therapist and getting home healthcare, but soon she will start going to outpatient therapy at St. Charles Parish Hospital.
“She’s progressing a little bit every day with therapy,” James said.