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Kindness never goes out of style
A friend's misfortune offers a lesson in friendship and community spirit

  Lee Woolf's archive
  E-mail Lee Woolf
Date published: 1/19/2005


TODAY, I want to share a story about a high school friend of mine who is lucky to be alive.

He lives in my hometown of Winchester and was the sub- ject of a recent feature story in The Winchester Star.

But his recovery from a serious illness also offers a lesson about friendship, generosity and community spirit--qualities that are displayed and appreciated here in Stafford County and many other places every day.

My friend, who is a dentist, became suddenly ill last April with pancreatitis. That is an infection of the pancreas, and in his case, the infection got out of control and his kidneys shut down.

His doctors found it difficult to control the infection, or the pain. They decided to put him into a medically induced coma until they could stabilize him. He spent 40 days in an intensive care unit in Winchester--much of it in a coma--before he was stable enough to be transferred to the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville.

He endured five surgeries and numerous other procedures, but gradually improved and was able to return to his office by late November.

The fact that he still had a dental practice to return to brings me back to the idea of community spirit.

You see, while my high school friend was fighting for his life, a retired dentist who still lived in the area agreed to see his patients. This gentleman kept the practice going for about seven months and asked that the pay for his services be contributed to charity.

And here's the best part. According to the newspaper story, it never occurred to this man not to take on the job.

"This is Winchester," he told the reporter. "This is what you do."

That line touched me and made me proud of the place I called home until I moved on after college.

I called my dentist friend at his office last week, and he sounded in good spirits. His laugh carried me back to the halls of our high school 35 years ago. He has one more surgery to go and he said the experience has given him a greater appreciation for life.

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