SEBRING — Members of the Sebring business community have seen Rob Bullock at several places over the years, but not admitted to a hospital.

He spent 100 days this summer fighting a critical illness, and now that he’s home, in recovery, fundraisers have begun to help him offset his costs.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to finally come home,” Bullock said by phone Friday.

Friends who visited him at AdventHealth Orlando and who kept in touch via social media, Bullock said, helped keep him going.

“There were days I couldn’t find my phone,” Bullock said. “It meant the world to see how many people in the county care about me. It was so great to see all those people come to visit me.”

In the relative dark and gloomy environment of an out-of-county hospital, he said, “when you see a smiling face, it brings you back up.”

In an upcoming fundraiser, Florida Farm Bureau and Young Farmers & Ranchers will host a take-out barbecue this Saturday, Aug. 24, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Bert J. Harris Jr. Agricultural Center.

Bullock has served on the board of Greater Sebring Chamber of Commerce. As a member of Farm Bureau, he has advocated for agriculture in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.

He also served both with Highlands County Emergency Medical Services and as captain for Highlands Lakes Volunteer Fire Department, with which he’s worked to organize the the county’s annual firematics competition.

Over this summer, however, most people who know him have seen him on social media, struggling against necrotizing pancreatitis.

Bullock said it started with right-side abdominal pain and fever. His mother drove him to an emergency room in Port Charlotte and admitted him.

Surgeons there did an exploratory surgery, found a blocked duct and cut it open to drain it, then put a stent in it.

However, they failed to realize he had pancreatitis, Bullock said. He was still in pain from post-surgery complications when he came home a month later.

He got admitted to Highlands Regional Medical Center where doctors correctly diagnosed his problem and called Orlando-based surgeons to get him admitted there.

Naturally, his mother followed to assist him. He got the treatment he needed, but also had several close calls and further complications.

Some days looked bleak.

“I was deathly ill, preparing for decisions no mom should have to make,” Bullock said. “I could eat the wrong thing and be back in an attack.”

Medical staff had to slowly reintroduce food to see how his pancreas would handle it. Bullock said it’s only at 25% of regular function. He must stick to a strict low-fat diet and take prescriptions to help his pancreas handle regular food.

People have done fundraisers already to help him, but the costs keep coming.

“I couldn’t be more appreciative,” Bullock said. “Insurance is not covering everything. There’s still co-pays.”

The benefit barbecue will help offset the accumulated medical costs and out-of-hospital expenses.

Participants can buy tickets this week, then from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, can swing by the Bert J. Harris Jr. Agricultural Center in Sebring to pick up their meals.

Tickets are $8 and can be purchased from:

• Blueberry Patch at 231 N. Main Ave. in Lake Placid.

• Florida Farm Bureau at 6419 U.S. 27 South in Sebring.

• Glisson’s Animal Supply at 4525 U.S. 27 South in Sebring.

• Happiness Farms at 704 CR 621 East in Lake Placid.

The pick-up lunch has barbecue pork, green beans, potatoes and a dessert.

Checks should be payable to “Rob Bullock.”

Donations may also be made at Wauchula State Bank under “Rob Bullock Benefit Fund.”

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