No stranger to adversity

Published 4:27 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Judy Kimbrel Collins McDonald is no stranger to hard work and adversity.

Daughter of a Baptist preacher, Judy graduated from Jemison High School in 1977. She did not attend college, but got a job with the Social Security Administration and a year later was married. She became mother to Eric, John Mark and Amanda over the next several years.

After two failed marriages, Judy Collins began to attend Sunday school and worship services at Westwood Baptist. Not looking to date, Judy joined the singles class taught by Dan Acker and George McDonald.

McDonald’s wife died of an aneurism a few years earlier. The McDonalds had four children — Amanda, Pamela, Franklin and Charles. George and Judy were in a card group together. Out of the blue, he asked her to lunch. They began dating in August 2000 and married May 26, 2001.

Judy was very happy with her new husband. She said he was the sweetest, kindest man she had ever known and they looked forward to many happy years together.

For 18 months, life was looking very good. Then, in November 2002 (the day after Thanksgiving) Judy was out shopping with George’s mom when she received the call that would change her life.

George collapsed at home, the caller said, and 911 was on the way. Unfortunately, on a holiday weekend, there was a shortage of people in place at the hospital to do the CAT scan and neurological testing so valuable in the first critical hours following such an event. A ruptured aneurism, shunt, heart attack, loss of speech, intensive care and Lakeshore therapy followed in the next several weeks.

Judy continued to hold her job until April 2003. When they lost home health care services, Judy could not and would not put George in a long-term facility. She had made that promise to him when they married.

McDonald lost his insurance, stock options expired — the family didn’t know of time limit. Company car and impressive salary were gone.

Judy is a talented seamstress, takes in ironing and baby-sits but still keeps a vigil near George. She has him and all his needs in the dining room so he is in the center of activity.

It is heartbreaking to see his condition but Judy takes it all in stride. Hospice was called in November 2008 due to his “failure to thrive.”

This is a story of compassion, dedication, determination and love. Whatever God has in store, Judy McDonald has the faith to see it through.

Community columnist Sandra Thames can be reached by e–mail at