She died twice and came back to life. Had her vocal cords cut during a tracheotomy. Needed a breathing machine to pump oxygen into her body, a sensation she described as like being forced to do sit-ups nonstop.
Rita Green had cancer — twice. She did two stints in the hospital in 2006 and 2007 for a total of seven months. Doctors gave her three months to live and put her on life support for three weeks.
“There’s not really a word that can describe the pain,” she said. “It was just tragic. It was unbearably horrific.”
During her second fight with the disease, nurses at St. Vincent Hospital donated Christmas gifts to her children. Even her parents, who visited every day from Plainfield, got gas cards.
“My first thought was everybody has to experience this at some point in their life,” Green said.
And that’s what she’s been doing since. It started with her family getting donations for a single family, but it quickly grew.
Before the operation got too big for Green’s family to handle by themselves, they would collect donations and drive around all day — starting around 10 a.m. and not finishing until 2 a.m. the next day — to drop off presents to families in need.
Green, 40, now has her own nonprofit, The Resource Hub, which this holiday season will put on the 10th Annual Community Christmas Giveback. The organization will serve more than 200 families, according to Green.
Families and their children — usually from single-parent homes — get a hot meal to go along with toys and other gifts.
The deadline to make donations is Dec. 15. Requested donations include toys for boys and girls up to age 15, boys and girls clothing up to extra large, and $30 cash donations to provide a dinner for a family of four.
There are two drop-off locations: Runway Diva Boutique, 2719 E. 56th St., and Green's office 7230 Arbuckle Commons, suite 102, in Brownsburg. Monetary donations are also accepted at theresourcehubfoundation.org. Call 317-721-7203 for more information.
Katina Roqueta has been with Green from the beginning. She even had Green at her house the day she was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 — which also happened to be Green’s birthday.
Roqueta, 38, said she’s proud of Green for the amount of dedication she’s shown in making Christmas a possibility for families who would otherwise have to go without for the holidays.
“I’m just praying that what she’s doing, it would catch on nationwide,” Roqueta said.
Green doesn’t think it will be long before she and her staff of about 30 have to change the model of the Christmas giveaway event. Right now it’s a standalone event, but that limits the number of people they can serve.
Green said the demand for their help is greater than what they can supply. She thinks the number of families served next year could get up over 300.
That means some changes are probably on the way, including possibly stretching events over a weeklong period to allow everyone who needs help to get it.
Green has been cancer free since 2007. She called her recovery “a miracle” with no explanation because radiation, chemotherapy and even experimental drugs didn’t seem to help. She still remembers the shock from doctors and nurses when their patient started talking after having her vocal cords cut.
“This is my purpose,” Green said. “I really don’t feel like honor is due. I feel like this is what I have to do.”
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.