The award-winning memoir began with a central Ohio girl who gradually learned how to manage her diabetes. The narrative included stories about learning to sterilize syringes, injecting grapefruits and recovering from a kidney and pancreas transplant.
But Carol Wilson needed a proper finish.
In something of a storybook turn, the last chapter came to Wilson in a series of emails with the mother of the 9-year-old girl whose organs saved Wilson’s life in 1991.
“I signed the papers to donate her organs, in hopes of saving another child who was dying somewhere,” Jacquie Eichelberger wrote in an email to Wilson in September 2003. “Jami died at 1:15 p.m. on Jan. 12. An 11-year-old girl got her heart; a 36-year-old woman, her liver; a 76-year-old man, a kidney … and you.”
The final act to Wilson’s lifelong struggle with diabetes came Nov. 18 when she was taken off life support at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta following a pair of heart attacks and kidney failure. She was 58. A memorial service for Wilson will be held 4 p.m. Sunday at Parrott Funeral Home in Fairburn.
She leaves behind her only published work, “A Handful of Rain,” a memoir about her life weathering the debilitating effects of diabetes. A website for the book says, “Although imperfect control of her disease eventually quietly takes its toll, the author remained optimistic that someday she would be free of diabetes.”
Mick Wilson, her husband of 36 years, said his wife spent years working on the memoir, writing in fits and starts and occasionally sharing excerpts of it with him and her sisters.
“Writing is something that she always wanted to do,” Wilson said. “But she wanted to know if it was something that anyone would have interest in.”
Throughout the writing process, Carol Wilson constantly found new material through her battle with diabetes. She was declared legally blind in her mid-20s, had part of her right foot amputated and dealt with a seemingly endless number of doctor and hospital visits.
Wilson was unable to work or drive because of her health issues. But Wilson still got around her Peachtree City neighborhood with help from a golf cart, cared for her husband and maintained a wicked sense of humor, her sister Natalie Ward said.
“She was the stitching in our family,” Ward said. “She kept us all connected.”
Yet more than a decade after transplant surgery, Wilson had another connection she wanted to make. She needed to know the identity of the organ donor.
Mick Wilson said his wife remembered nurses in the transplant recovery room whispering that the donor was a 9-year-old girl who died from injuries suffered in a car accident. With that bit of information, Carol Wilson and a friend researched obituaries from January 1991 in Columbus, Ohio, where she received the transplant, and looked for possible matches.
They came across the story of Jami Snyder, who died of head and brain injuries from a car accident a few days before the transplant.
It took Carol Wilson a few days to work up the nerve to contact the family. A week later, she received an email from Jami’s mother: “It was really nice to hear from you. A shock, but nice.”
“That was a huge moment,” Mick Wilson said. “She had a way to end the book.”
Wilson also is survived by her parents Dan and Phyllis Ward of Powell, Ohio, two brothers, two sisters and several nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews.