When I first heard the news April 10 that Columbia County Elections Director Debbie Marshall was in the hospital where she had just undergone emergency surgery for a brain tumor, the information at the time led me to believe she wouldn’t live through the night.
My heart sank. Delivering the news to my colleagues was even more painful as I watched the information suck all the breath out of the room.
Debbie? Couldn’t be. Not Debbie. As I told a mutual friend – and there are a great many of them; we’re both Harlem High graduates and Columbia County natives – the news was hard to believe for two reasons: First, because she had always been in such great health that it didn’t seem possible; and second, because no one wanted to believe it.
The improved prognosis since then has resulted in relief bordering on euphoria. While the miracle workers at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital had been grimly pessimistic at first with their worst-case scenario, they were far more hopeful after those first few days had passed.
Debbie’s family, deeply rooted in faith, was more optimistic all along. Even when things seemed darkest, they’d been smiling and upbeat, expressing their firm belief that with so many prayers going up, God’s blessings were showering down.
You’d have to be a flint-hearted atheist to believe otherwise. She’s not out of the woods yet, but doctors were expected this weekend to again start bringing Debbie out of her medically induced coma. They’d begun the process earlier in the week, but backed off when some of the signs indicated more stress than they wanted. Given a few more days’ rest, they were to try again as early as Friday.
When Debbie wakes up, as several people have pointed out, she’ll initially have no idea of the events of the past two weeks. She’ll think she’s just gone in for surgery, and like Rip Van Winkle, won’t know all this time has passed, and that people all across this community were hoping and praying for her recovery.
I’ll be thrilled when the family is able to tell her, and even more thrilled when she’s able to see her youngest child walk across the stage next month at Greenbrier High School’s graduation.
If you’ve already had Debbie and her family in your prayers, I’m sure they’d appreciate it if you’d continue. If you haven’t, there’s no time like the present to start.
Professionally, one of the more important duties facing the Columbia County Board of Elections office is the preparation for the July 31 primary. Even if Debbie were able to work right now, her office would still look like the proverbial swimming duck: Calm on the surface, paddling furiously underneath.
Because of local, state and congressional redistricting that thoroughly scrambled Columbia County, the office is preparing new precinct maps to match. That will require splitting a couple of precincts and sending voters to new locations. It’s a tedious, one-voter-at-a-time job, and has to be finished so every one of the county’s voters can be notified before early balloting starts in July.
The good news is that the Board of Elections staff is as good as they come, with competent, experienced, detail-oriented people in place to carry on the work. They’re all determined to make sure that getting the job done is one less thing for Debbie to worry about as she recovers.
When you vote in July, be sure to remember all the work that went into making it possible.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)