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Woman survives illness, delivers toys to sick children

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Karyn Harwood, left, poses for a portrait with husband Cliff Harwood III. Both are Wilson County natives. Drew C. Wilson | Times

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By Drew C. Wilson
The Wilson Times

Monday, July 16, 2018

WILSON — Karyn Harwood walked into the James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at Vidant Health on July 3.

Harwood, of Black Creek, brought 48 Scentsy Buddies, scented stuffed animal toys, for the children there.

It was a delivery delayed, a delivery that almost didn’t happen.

“I am a medically retired nurse from Wilson County Health Department,” Harwood said.

After Harwood’s 15-year career with Wilson County ended, she needed something to do.

“I could no longer work. I saw these Buddies and knew what it could actually do for children,” Harwood said. “I just felt like it was something that I could give back to the community, especially those who are sick. I felt like it would be something that would be great for any child to get.”

With the Wilson Evening Optimist Club’s support, Harwood ordered the dolls with the intention of soon donating them to four units at the children’s hospital.

“When I ordered them, about a week and a half later, I got sick,” Harwood said.

It was three days after she celebrated her 47th birthday on March 22.

Harwood had a gallbladder attack resulting in a long series of medical setbacks that threatened her life. Her kidneys failed. She developed sepsis, had respiratory failure and other complications.

“Basically I was put on life support,” Harwood said. “The prognosis was very poor.”

“At that point, they asked me what her wishes were and asked if she was going to be an organ donor,” said husband Cliff Harwood III. “They had one more thing that they wanted to do for her and if that didn’t work, they wanted me to notify the family that a decision had to be made.”

Karyn Harwood was put in a medically induced coma in the first week of April.

Even though the outlook was grim, Cliff Harwood, a retired Wilson County paramedic, did physical therapy with her as she lay in bed.

“Range of motion, moving her feet, moving her legs, moving her arms, because I knew if I didn’t, she would be stiff,” Cliff Harwood said. “I encouraged family members, if they wanted to do something for her, that was the best thing they could do.”

Harwood went so far as to shave her legs and arms and wash her hair.

“I didn’t give up on her and I made sure the medical staff didn’t,” Cliff Harwood said. “I told them that she’s in there and I know it. I know her and I could hold her hand and she would have some type of reaction.”

Eventually Harwood came around and made steady improvements.

After 42 days in a bed at both UNC Rex Healthcare in Raleigh and at LifeCare Hospital in Rocky Mount, Harwood was discharged.

She transitioned to home health and occupational rehabilitation and began her recovery.

In late June, with the help of Kimberly Williams, Harwood began assembling packages of Scentsy Babies.

On July 3, with Ray Davis, treasurer of the Wilson Evening Optimist Club, Harwood walked into Vidant to deliver the babies.

“Every single one of them had an American flag,” Harwood said. “That was for them to celebrate their survival and help celebrate them healing and offer care to their family members.”

She has since heard on email and on Facebook that the stuffed animals have been well-received.

“It warms my heart to hear that they appreciate it,” Harwood said.

Harwood said she believes it was God who helped her.

“Without his grace and love I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Harwood said.

“I think that one of the reasons could be because of me helping the children.”

Harwood said families faced with a similar situation should be patient and be willing to wait for a loved one to recover.

She said her devoted husband was willing to wait.

“Don’t be so fast to take them off the ventilator because I feel like if he hadn’t been there, they probably would have pulled the plug on me,” Harwood said.

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