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Thanks to all who gave me this 'Bonus Year'

Date published: 11/22/2012

On Thanksgiving Day 2011, while participating with our daughter Tracy and son-in-law Dan Deitz in the annual Turkey Trot 5K fundraiser for Mary Washington Hospital, I suffered cardiac arrest without warning and collapsed.

A young man who identified himself as a Navy corpsman stepped up and began CPR. Soon others, including Rob Weiderman and volunteers Tim Carlson and Tyler Willamson of the bicycle unit of the Fredericksburg Rescue Squad, took over.

A portable defibrillator and oxygen were deployed by Tim and Tyler. They succeeded in restoring a weak pulse and labored breathing. An ambulance soon arrived and I was taken to Mary Washington Hospital, where I remained in a coma for five days.

During the "coma days," my family members from several states gathered in Fredericksburg and set up a rotating schedule so that I always had family present. Dr. Henry Clemo implanted a defibrillator in my chest. He and Dr. Ashok Prasad, Dr. Zarmina Yusufi, Dr. Adam Sims, and Dr. Rohit Goyal contributed their special skills to my recovery.

Of special note, when things looked bleak indeed, was the message of intensive-care specialist Dr. Mohammed Alattar. "Don't give up hope," he encouraged. Neurologist Jeffrey Poffenbarger diagnosed and treated the injuries to my neck and spinal column sustained during the fall to the pavement.

What an incredible group of nurses! They were well-trained, efficient, compassionate, and completely dependable. As a former member of my local Florida hospital board of directors, I say we would welcome to our hospital family all the Patti Swans and Heathers and Cathys and Stephanies and Missys and Maggies.

As Christians, we all appreciated the strength of the steady and practiced hand and the message of hope of Chaplain Harold Nelson.

To the management of Mary Washington Hospital, I can only say that you have set and achieved a standard that all hospitals should aspire to. Leadership comes from the top down. Kudos.

Today, one year later, I look back on my "Bonus Year" and humbly thank all of you who helped--especially my family--to make this day truly a day of Thanksgiving.

Claude Smoak

Steinhatchee, Fla.