The Austin Chronicle


By Virginia B. Wood, November 25, 2011, Food

Just in time for the national holiday dedicated to gratitude, it turns out I have plenty to be thankful for. Until recently, this year really sucked. It's not that I haven't had bad years before: Age 20 was awful, when poor judgment and lack of discipline fueled by drugs and alcohol cost me a college scholarship and the opportunity to get the training necessary to pursue my first career choice, and 35 was another doozy, with drugs and alcohol, business failure, and costly personal decisions disastrous enough to finally scare a gal sober! But 60 – well, 60 honestly nearly did me in. All that hard living I assumed I'd gotten away with in my 20s and 30s came back to bite me in the ass in the form of various medical misadventures. The condensed version: two cancer scares, two episodes of severe hypoglycemia requiring emergency medical treatment, five ambulance rides, six hospitalizations, kidney failure caused by prescription drug interactions, heart trouble, and an abscessed ovarian cyst the size of a football that required major surgery.

If it sounds terrible, believe me, it was. For most of the past year, I was only able to accomplish the bare minimum required to do my job and stay employed. Now that I'm well again, there are so many people to thank: My sisters Suzy Wood and Anhara Wade were with me all the way, and my nephew Todd Frank and his wife, Kelly, brought a precious 18-month-old ray of sunshine to visit me in the hospital last summer, just to cheer me up. It worked... My friends Jennifer Biggs, Kathy McCarty, and Ike John­son literally saved my life on separate occasions by coming when I called and making sure I got the necessary medical attention... The firemen and EMTs who responded to calls in my neighborhood, even though having cute boys in my bedroom used to be a lot more fun... My friend Suzann Dvorken who learned how to perform my intravenous antibiotic infusions and then stayed with me until I could do them myself. She and Kathy also ran the email network that kept my friends and extended family up to date on my condition during and after surgery, which was invaluable... Everybody at Seton who took care of me, especially Jessica in wound care, Ian the PICC line prince, and all the doctors, nurses, clinical assistants, and physical therapists in the ER, ICU, and intermediate care who treated me with kindness and compassion during a difficult and frightening time... My cardiologist, Dr. Kunjan Bhatt, and the talented army of doctors, physicians' assistants, and nurses at Seton's Specialty Care and Transplant Center, all real champs... Dr. Jack Bissett and the staff at Austin Infectious Disease Consultants worked overtime to get me out of the hospital in September and then kept the poison football under control until my surgery... Dr. Paul Loar, oncologist and surgeon, anticipated and planned for every possible contingency and saw me through a potentially deadly situation with skill, compassion, and an appreciation for my sense of humor. The guy is a rock star... My employers and the entire Chronicle family – I'm incredibly lucky to have a job I really love that provides excellent medical coverage, but I'm even luckier to have had their support and concern.

In fact, I'm truly blessed by the support of my family and friends through this entire ordeal. Once I knew when my surgery was set, I told everyone that whether they had a prayer circle, a Wicca circle, or just a good thought for the day, I really needed them focused on my recovery. I'm convinced all that love and positive energy saved my life. As 2011 draws to a close, my surgery was a success and my recovery quick and painless; I'm 100 pounds lighter, and my diabetes, kidney, and heart problems are under control with a minimum of medication. I'm a whole new woman, living with a definite attitude of gratitude. Happy Thanksgiv­ing!

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