On Thursday, July 29th in the early evening I closed up my computer as I was signing off to start an anticipated week’s vacation with my family.

My kids and I were excited as it had been a rough year with the loss of my husband to COVID during the holidays in 2021.   We were looking forward to taking time off, being together and getting away.  

Within a few minutes, I felt what seemed like a flower opening in the back of my head.  No pain.  Just something happened.   I had the presence of mind to make sure the kids were aware in case it was something to be concerned about.   By the time I was in the hallway I had a pain in the side of my lower neck and couldn’t move my head readily.  I was also nauseous, but cognizant and not nervous.  I fully expected it to be nothing as there wasn’t significant pain. And, I was on vacation.

My 17 year old son, Derek Scott Smith,  had the presence of mind to realize something was seriously wrong and called rescue.  This launched my family into our journey through my brain bleed, hospitalization and brain surgery.

I could wax eloquent with all of the challenges and many victories.  Instead, I’d rather just praise and express my utmost gratitude to those of you who joined in the journey with us, lending support, rallying behind my kids, meals, prayers, love…. All of the many ways everyone who cares for us came together. 

There are no adequate words.
Thank you.

I spent 21 days in August under the care of the exceptional team @BaptistHealth in Kendall.  Dr. Wicks, my neurosurgeon, was joined by a team of colleagues, nurses and medical specialists whose talent, care and compassion is world class.    What a gift that I was airlifted to that hospital and landed in their care.  I am forever grateful.

Of course, there was a core group of family support led by my sister, Cindy Webb Baldwin, which ensured that I had the best care, was as comfortable as possible and knew I was going to make it.  Monica Manolas and Donna Ritacco Webb joined Cindy supporting me in the hospital and my kids at home in ways that can never be repaid.  I wouldn’t want to even think about what my life would be like without them always here for me when life happens.   Cathy Orrico, Chief Client Officer @Agero, led their support for me during this time.    There is no better place to work than this organization.  Thank you for being more like a family than a place to pick up a paycheck. 

While it was a struggle, God is so good.  Always God is good.

All these weeks later, I’ve been given the all clear to return to work and normal activities.  There appears to be no permanent damage or loss of mental capacity.  The cause of the bleed was identified and repaired through surgery.   Recovery is ongoing.  Each day is a victory and I continue to regain my physical stamina and have fewer noticeable “blips” in my short term memory. (Of course, if there are any grammatical errors or misspellings throughout, attribute those to traumatic brain injury and not my writing abilities. Give a girl a little bit of a break!)

For someone like me, maybe slowing down a bit isn’t such a bad thing.  Energy used to be my superpower.  That doesn’t mean it’s smart to drive too hard and too much.  Having to slow down and be present.  That’s a gift.  And, I appreciate the opportunity to move forward differently.  Valuing every single second.

Thank you for being on this journey with me.
So many of you have reached out and checked in.  I want to give an update.
I value all of you, so very much. 

It’s said, “it takes a village.”  I don’t want to seem conceited, but, my “village” from all aspects of my life whether that be family, friends, photography, Agero, Coral Shores sports, UM, Road America…… that combined village and all of these people is the best village there is.  And, I don’t know how I’m fortunate enough to be in it.  But, I’m not going anywhere.  This is the best village for me.

Thank you for the prayers.  My hair may not be back, yet, but I am.
Same as always, just a little more thankful, a whole lot grateful and full of love for those I’m fortunate to share this journey of life with.

These two photos are the most special from this time.  Jessie and I snapped a selfie as I walked out of the first check in appointment with Dr. Wicks in September when he took out the many stitches in my head.

The next is when Derek scored one of his first touchdowns this season.  Instead of celebrating with his teammates he ran down the sideline and found me.  This is the hug he gave me for being his mom.  What a tremendous gift and one I’ll cherish all of my life.

One of the many blessings of this time has been watching my kids experience the meaningful impact when family, friends, colleagues lean in and offer support during challenging times.  I hope this is a lesson they continue to pay forward for the rest of their lives. 

It takes a village.  I’m so grateful all of you are in mine.

Elizabeth Garcia Huyo

Hi Joy We are so glad to hear from you.We love you and your Family!!!.Thank you for this beautiful letter . You are all in our prayers 😘🙏

Well written and thank you for sharing, Joy. Continued prayers for you and your family.

Absolutely beautiful, Joy! You are truly an inspiration ❤️❤️

Hi Joy, very inspirational!! So sorry to hear about your husband and very glad you are recovering well. Please let me know if I can be of any help. God bless you. Best Regards

Sweet, amazing Joy, I had no idea and wish I could have been there to pray you through this along with your God-breathed and perfectly chosen Village. I stand in amazement once again as you trust and glorify our Heavenly Father in all circumstances. My prayer for you now is that you and your family get to celebrate this victory in the most beautiful and fabulous way. May the Lord provide all your needs, dreams and desires, not just because your deserve that but because he is the God you have always believed He is… a good good and glorious God. Love and hugs to you Joy as you continue to heal and embrace every new day of this remarkable journey ❤️

❤️ everything about this

Joy, you are an inspiration to all of us. I am so proud of you and all that you have accomplished.

Joy, you have the will to survive like no other person that I know. I hope you and the kids can take that well deserved vacation very soon. God bless you.

Eloquent, beautiful and inspirational. You are definitely back to normal.

Joy, you have the will to survive like no one else I know. I hope you and the kids can take that well deserved vacation soon. God bless you and your family.

So glad to know you are doing well and are able to celebrate life each day. You truly are a JOY in my life❤️

Wow, Joy! What a journey! I am glad you are still here to celebrate life. God is good!

Joyful do you know that you are the key to the village? You write from the heart. God bless you 😘

God Bless you Joy. You have been through a lot. God is good🙏

I knew it had been too long since we had talked, and laughed, and sometimes cried a little. I’m so sorry you had to go through this. But it sounds like, in pure Joy fashion, you went through it swimmingly. I know it couldn’t have been as ‘easy’ as you make it sound. I am so glad the village did its job, and Derek and Jessie stayed safe and sound, with minimal impact on their high school years. Those kiddos have learned resilience from the absolute, hands down, best teacher around. All my love to you all, you are in my thoughts and prayers always.

Joy, as we near the first year anniversary for Hannah and Jordan, each time I look at those pictures- I remember you and the pure Joy you brought to the day. You are such a special lady. I’m so sorry to hear of your past struggles- but we celebrate and have faith in who holds tomorrow! God is truly good. So blessed to have met you! Much love and prayers for you- the Stapleton’s from WV!

I had been thinking about you lately and now I know why! God is so good and faithful! If you need anything, I’m just a phone call away!

Hi Joy, I was surprised to say least when I read the above! No surprise however is the fact you came through with flying colors from what your note says. As always you continue to smile and charge onward. God bless as know you remain on of my all time favorites. Best regards.

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