By Sandra Zunino
Cynthia Wooters, a pre-school teacher at Manor Discovery Center in Easton, is counting down the days until September 19, when she can have a life-saving surgery at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore. The countdown actually began in 2000 when Cynthia contracted a mysterious case of pancreatitis – mysterious, because at 23 she was the youngest case ever seen by the doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Hospitalized for two weeks and out of work for a month, Cynthia was lucky to have survived the raging infection. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning. A year later, she was stricken with one ailment after another from gallstones, diabetes, muscle and joint issues, hormonal problems to liver and kidney malfunctions.
It was eight years of tests, doctor’s visits and fistfuls of medications before endocrinologists finally pinpointed the source of Cynthia’s problems. An endocrine disorder called hypercortisolism was the culprit. A complex laparoscopic stomach surgery is the light at the end of a long dark tunnel for Cynthia.
One problem, however, is Cynthia’s limited health insurance doesn’t cover the surgery. Additionally, she will not only have to take a month’s leave from her job, but years of medical bills have already caused her financial strain. Out of desperation, Cynthia and her husband reached out to the community. Little did they know, they would be swept away by a tide of generosity.
“We’ve been so blessed because we live in such a wonderful community,” says Cynthia, “The kindness of strangers donating money, helping out, volunteering time and doing whatever they can is just overwhelming.”
The first fundraising event was a spaghetti dinner held at the firehouse. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, pre-school parents and area businesses banded together to donate the menu items as well as items for a silent auction, raising more than $7,000 for the cause.
Trying to find innovative ways to continue raising money, Cynthia and her husband held yard sales every weekend throughout the summer. Rising at 4:00 a.m., they set up merchandise on their front lawn. While some items came from Cynthia’s home, many more were donated including children’s clothing, house wares, books and toys.
Often customers, hearing Cynthia’s story, would go back to their cars and pull out an item to donate or write her a check. “It’s overwhelming how kind people can be,” she says.
In the age of email, Cynthia says she believes a hand-written note means a lot and makes a point of writing one for each donation whenever possible. “How do I thank people enough for what they have done?” she asks. “My husband and I are just so grateful for everything everyone has done.”
Every surgery has inherent risks. Cynthia will have a line of internal staples and there is always the possibility of infection. Understandably, she is frightened, but she’s confident the procedure will not only solve her medical problems, but may also give her a chance to finally enjoy the best life has to offer.
Because of the hypercortisolism, Cynthia has been unable to bear children. After the surgery; however, doctors told her she might consider trying next year. “That’s all that I’ve been able to think of,” says Cynthia. “My husband and I love children. I keep that focus in mind.”
If you wish to make a donation, visit any PNC Bank and make a deposit to the Cynthia Wooters Fund.