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Seeing opportunities, not challenges

POSTED: August 26, 2013 7:33 p.m.
Photo by Paul Floeckher/

Dwayne Fort is applauded as he is announced as a finalist for the 2013 C. Edward Helmey Humanitarian Award.

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Margaret Edwards maintains a positive outlook toward life’s challenges.


“You have to dance in the rain,” she says with a smile.


And Edwards has weathered her share of storms. She lost one of her eyes to cancer as a young child, and she and her husband Kyle’s first son died from cancer at just 3 years old.


Even in the darkest times, though, Edwards’ colleagues at Effingham Health System say she remains committed to helping her patients and volunteering for community projects. For that, EHS honored her Saturday with its 2013 C. Edward Helmey Humanitarian Award.


“Her personal integrity and ethical behavior coupled with her love for God and mankind make her an excellent choice,” said Effingham Health CEO Norma Jean Morgan.


“People forget that even when things aren’t always good, you’ll get through it if you just can keep on going,” Edwards said. “No matter what it is, eventually there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”


Edwards, a radiology technologist at EHS, was recognized at a ceremony, along with the two other finalists for this year’s award, restorative aide Dwayne Fort and registered nurse Linda Rigsby.


“It’s a blessing to work with these individuals,” Morgan said of the three nominees.


“The people make the hospital,” added Ann Lowe, one of C. Edward Helmey’s daughters.


Edwards credits her mother, Sarah Ford, with instilling in her the value of helping others. She was active in church, school and community projects, despite having a prosthetic eye in place of the one she lost to retinoblastoma as a young child.


“I just did like everybody else; I didn’t really think about having a disability,” Edwards said. “It never really has slowed me down a whole lot.”


Not long after the Edwards’ son Kyle was born in 1992, he was diagnosed with the same type of rare eye cancer his mother had. At one point during his treatment, she stayed at a Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia — where her already-keen perspective on life was sharpened even more.


“Just when you think your life is rough,” Edwards said, “there are about 10 more staying there, and theirs is a lot worse than yours is.”


Their son suffered another setback when, at 15 months old, he was diagnosed with a second type of cancer — this time in the soft tissue of his body. He lost his battle in 1995 at age three.


Edwards then resumed working full-time at Effingham Hospital, where she has been employed since 1984. She acknowledged she has seen “a lot of change” from the mid-1980s to now at the renovated and expanded Effingham Health System campus.


However, one constant through the years, according to those who work closely with her, has been Edwards’ commitment to her job and to her community.


“She is a role model of how to live through the unexpected events of life,” said EHS human resources director Vicky Little. “To me, the most painful experience a parent can ever have is losing a child, and Margaret faced it with tenderness, strength and understanding. She was able to accept what happened and continued to work and still provide the utmost of service for every patient she had.”


Surrounded by family and friends at Saturday’s award ceremony, Edwards shared the story of adopting son Noah, now 13. With her arm around him, Edwards beamed as she spoke.


Not wanting to risk genetically predisposing a second child to cancer, Edwards did not get pregnant a second time and she and her husband considered adopting a child. Five years passed after young Kyle’s death.


Early one morning in 2000, as Edwards participated in Effingham County’s Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society, she asked for spiritual guidance. Making a lap around the track at about 3 a.m., Edwards prayed.


“I finally got to a point in life that I said, ‘Lord, either let me be a content parent or let us be a content couple, whatever Kyle and I are supposed to be,’” she said.


Little did she know she would get her answer just a few hours later, before she even left the Relay. She received a phone call from Dr. Todd Robinson around 8 a.m.


“He said, ‘I delivered a five-pound, 14-ounce baby boy yesterday, and I want to know if y’all are interested (in adopting him),’” she recalled.


“That’s the quickest answer I’ve ever gotten from God in my whole life.”

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