Back in June, Peggy Wright began to feel bad; her legs were sore and stiff. The pain was so intense it woke her up at night. By the end of the month, she could go down stairs, but could not get back up them.
Wright, who previously walked four miles a day for exercise, knew something was wrong.
Doctors thought that the busy Wright was just overdoing it. Wright is Bland County’s unofficial photographer, shooting photos of events around the area, including the Festival of Leaves and Heritage Day. She’s been taking pictures since her 35-year-old daughter was a little girl.
“I like to do it for the history of the county, and so people can look back one day and see it,” she said.
But in early July, she didn’t feel like taking photos. One day, she saw a doctor who told her if the pain got worse, to head to the emergency room. When she got home, Wright couldn’t climb the four steps to her house.
“We tried for 45 minutes, and I couldn’t get into the house,” she said.
She immediately headed to the emergency room in Princeton, where she underwent X-rays, and doctors thought maybe arthritis was causing her problems. Then, she headed to a rehabilitation facility in Princeton, where she got worse instead of better. So, officials there sent her to Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where doctors eventually diagnosed her with a rare disorder that is difficult to diagnose in its early stages: Guillain-Barre syndrome, caused by the body’s immune system attacking nerves.
Weakness and tingling in your extremities are some of the first symptoms. The sensations can spread quickly, eventually paralyzing the body. The cause is unknown and there is no cure. However, it can be treated to ease symptoms and reduce the duration of the illness, according to the Mayo Clinic’s website. Most people recover, but can experience lingering effects like weakness, numbness or fatigue.
“Your immune system turns on your body and eats away the covering on your nerve endings, and all of that has to recover,” Wright said. “It comes on fast, but it leaves very slowly.”
As of this week, Wright is slowly improving and can take a few steps with a walker. She has home health care and is taking physical and occupational therapy at her Hollybrook residence.
Before doctors would release her from the hospital in August, there was one demand: she had to have a ramp leading to her front door to accommodate her wheel chair.
That’s where the Bland Ministry Center and local residents stepped in to help.
Dee Dee Hoosier, center director, said Brenda Thompson contacted her and explained Wright’s situation. Luckily, there was a group of volunteers coming from the Laurens Baptist Association out of Dublin, Georgia, to help out at the center. The church also made a prayer quilt for Wright.
“Those guys built the ramp,” Hoosier said, adding that it is nearly 39 feet long.
While at Wright’s home, the volunteers realized that the bathroom door was not wide enough to accommodate her wheel chair. The group from Georgia did not have enough time to address that issue, so the Mechanicsburg Charge Methodist Men’s Group took over, widening the door and installing grab bars in the bathroom.
Volunteers made the improvements, and volunteers paid for it.
When she learned of Wright’s plight, Hoosier knew the ramp had to be built, but who was going to pay for it? Wright is on a fixed income and the ministry center had not budgeted for it.
For help, Hoosier turned to Randy and Goldie Kiser, who know nearly everyone in the county and have popular social media pages. The Kisers put the call out, and money came in.
“It is just overwhelming, the businesses and people who have come in to give,” Hoosier said, adding that people stopped center employees on the street to donate money.
“This goes for Peggy Wright,” they said.
“I knew we would help because Peggy has always helped us out by being the photographer for many of our events and we just love her so much,” Goldie Kiser said. “Unfortunately this fell close to time for Heritage Day and the Bland County Fair, so it was going to be impossible to set up a fundraiser in that short of a time span with our other commitments. So I told Dee Dee that we would step out in faith that the need would be met. I put out an appeal on Facebook and talked to folks when we saw them. People came through in a huge way.”
In the end, the ministry center had more than enough money for the ramp and bathroom improvements, and will give the remaining funds to Wright.
“Everybody said that what is left over, they want going to Peggy,” Hoosier said.
“I appreciate it, and I appreciate and thank God every day for everybody here in Bland,” Wright said. “They are all my friends; I think they know that.”
To reach reporter Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 35, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.