A few weeks ago, we launched a contest to share one more pair of tickets to see Reinventing Radio: An Evening with IRA GLASS at Ryman Auditorium with our readers. Since the show is Valentine's weekend -- and Ira Glass (above) is the renowned leader of story-sharing radio institution This American Life -- we figured the most logical approach was to have you guys share your love stories, and to pick our favorite.
Expectations were pretty high, given our town's creative bent. But the submissions went well beyond expectations. Stories of young couples-turned-beloved Moms and Dads, heartfelt memories of love blossoming, several men and their fuzzy-tailed BFFs… Y'all had us laughing, crying, occasionally cocking heads like confused terriers. Enthusiastic applause and huge thanks for sharing your love with us -- reading these stories has been a Valentine's Day gift to us, and how.
The winner of this contest, Judi Winfield-Ferri, introduced us to two important men in her life: her husband Ed and their "furry family member," Jack. Each faced life-threatening illnesses. Both stepped up to save their buddy's life.
Their story -- which follows in its entirety, below -- made our hearts grow three sizes. So did Judi's response to her win. Since she won't be able to use the tickets, Judi is generously Valentine's-gifting them to the contest's runner-up, Aaron Prather.
We tried to pick a mix of serious and funny, and Aaron's is decidedly the latter:
Congrats, Aaron -- you have another date with Ira, at The Ryman, courtesy of Madstone Productions & Show and Tell in association with the Steven Barclay Agency (with a little help from Judi Winfield-Ferri).
Below, the story of Judi, Ed and a loving and loved pup named Jack. Thanks again for sharing, everyone.
My Favorite Love Story, by Judi Winfield-Ferri
Those who know our family personally and medically understand the bittersweet challenges that have existed in our lives since 2008.Sometimes love stories are about two human beings who experience a personal relationship with one another. It is private and protected. I have witnessed a love story about my husband, Ed and the dog, Jack, who saved his life.Early in the morning on November 28, 2008, I was awakened by a piercing, howling sound that was haunting. I looked over in bed and the only thing I saw was one of our rescued 124-pound Great Pyrenees, Sonny, lying closely by my side. Ed and our other “furry” family member were not in the bedroom. I kept hearing the howling and I got out of bed and entered the living room where my husband was leaning down in the chair with Jack circling around him. Jack was sniffing Ed and tapping his arm. Ed was clearly not moving.Jack jumped in Ed’s lap and Ed awakened with glazed eyes and a body that I did not recognize. Ed’s skin was completely yellow from head to toe. I called Dr. Whitfield, and he said, "You need to take Ed to the nearest hospital."After spending many hours in the ER, Ed was transferred to ICU where he remained for four months. He had to be put in a medically induced coma because he suffered a dramatic response from detox and was suffering from liver and kidney failure. Ed had tubes in every direction, received a trach and had many days of dialysis. A team of angels are also a part of this love story: Dr. Fleser, Dr. Pulliam, Dr. King, Dr. Taylor and many nurse techs, nurses and physical and nutritional therapists. They were the ones who said, "We do not know the outcome that Ed will have, but we are doing everything we can to help him survive." There were people that came out and said, "Your husband is not going to make it; if he does, he will not be able to walk again and will be on dialysis for the rest of his life."After four months, Ed was able to go to a regular room and had MIRACULOUSLY gone off of dialysis. His liver started to regenerate although his kidneys were still compromised. From 2008-2011, Ed had four surgeries; three out of the four were life-threatening.In February of 2009, Ed was bleeding profusely and I received a call at work telling me I needed to come to the hospital right away and Ed had to be sent back to ICU. Because of the team of experts that surrounded Ed, Dr. Pulliam and Dr. King scoped Ed and found that Ed had a birth defect unrelated to his liver and kidney. This defect was a right abhorrent subclavean artery with an aneurism. Because of Ed’s compromised health, they would not be able to perform the needed 12-hour surgery. He was given over 30 units of blood and a stent was administered through surgery.We went to Stallworth Hospital for Physical Therapy, but Ed was not able to walk. We went home and had home health-care providers. Ed did not get out of his wheelchair until Jack started tapping Ed’s arm and circling and dancing around his chair. Jack started pushing Ed’s legs apart and pushing at the wheels until one day Ed decided to stand up slowly. Jack started barking for joy and wagging his tail. This went on for a few months and Ed was out of the wheelchair and had donated it to someone else who needed it!Six weeks later, I heard that piercing sound from our dog Jack and I looked at Ed and he started vomiting blood and fell into my arms. I thought, "God, please save this man! He is wonderful and special and has been so strong." Jack gave me the look like, "Let’s help Daddy." The ambulance came and Sonny ran away but Jack tried to stay as close by Ed as the paramedics would allow.Ed spent the next few years with stents getting infected with MRSA and dangerously high fevers. He had two more surgeries until he was strong enough to have the 12-hour surgery to reroute his artery in front of his esophagus. The family came in and we had over 50 people in the waiting area praying and pacing the floors. I felt that somehow I might lose Ed and I was heartbroken, scared and numb at the same time. All of a sudden, Dr. Fleser greeted our family and friends and said, "This man is a true miracle -- he has faced death so many times and keeps hanging on."Ed came home and this time, had more energy to fight and take care of the dogs while I went to work. Fast forward: It is May 2013, Jack started crying this time and it was not for Ed, but himself.Jack suddenly could not walk on his hind legs. We took him to NVS where he was diagnosed with an FCE, an embolism on his spinal cord that could not be repaired. We were told that Jack was not in pain, but that he likely would not walk again. We were faced with the decision to put Jack to sleep or venture into the world of the unknown. We went home and Ed said, "When we come back tomorrow, I need a sign to tell us what to do. Not sure of what it is, but we will know."The vet said that Jack was eating well, had a great disposition and could have a quality of life. Only if we understood that it would be a tough road. We both have been on a tough road. We were told that he would need to be expressed 4 or 5 times a day, physical therapy for his legs and living life with a paralyzed dog.We went to visit Jack and all of a sudden, he started barking and tapping Ed’s arm like the way he did when Ed was dying. He scooched his way out of the cage and put his head on Ed’s lap. "The sign," Ed said, "I have the sign. Jack saved my life with a tap and now I am here to save his life from his tap." The Dr. said, "Ed, due to your health issues, this may be very hard on you." Ed said, "Nothing is too hard."Ed now calls Jack “scooch” because that is what he does. Some wonderful friends built a new ramp and deck for Jack. People got together and got Jack some wheels. We have seen such an outpouring of love for our family.The pictures hopefully portray the love, endurance, faith and unconditional love between man and his best friend -- a "furry companion."
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