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"The only thing I ever knew was the importance of participating in and giving back to the community," said active Harnett County citizen Cornelia T. Stewart when describing her childhood. Born in 1935 in Harnett County, Cornelia and her family were financially poor but extremely rich with spirit and selflessness.
"There were two kinds of people in Harnett County when I was growing up - the poor and the poorer," explained Cornelia. "But I didn't know I was poor because I never experienced want."
As she describes her childhood, Cornelia paints a picture of a close-knit community where parents accept the responsibility of looking out for all the children in the community, enriching their lives along the way.
"These are the reasons I am so grateful to my community and spend almost every hour of every day on community projects," she said.
A few of Cornelia's volunteer forays include serving as a Salvation Army Board member and a Town of Lillington Planning Board member and countless church projects. Her most recent "pet project" fulfi lls a wish for her community that grew from a diffi cult time in her life.
"I am so pleased that I have so much energy. The care I received at WakeMed was exceptional. If it could be spread around the universe, the world would be a better place.” --Cornelia T. Stewart
"When I was 30, my husband of 12 years passed," she explained. "I had three boys, ages 9, 5 and 16 months, and the baby was very sick. We had to travel a long way for medical services, which took me away from work, home and our community. It was so time consuming. I remember lying in bed one night, thinking we need a medical facility here in our area so families don't have to drive so far away."
In early 2013, Cornelia's wish for a hospital in Lillington will come true with the opening of Central Harnett Hospital in Lillington. Cornelia, as the vice chair of the Harnett Health System Board of Directors, is thrilled to be directly involved with its planning and progress - so much so that she played an integral role in throwing a thank-you picnic lunch for all the construction workers and contractors involved in building the new facility.
"The picnic was such a happy day," recalled Cornelia. "It made me feel so good sitting there with my plate and watching all the people who were working so hard to build our new hospital enjoy themselves. It felt so good to give something back to them."
Those good feelings took a dramatic turn when Cornelia's heart rate suddenly dropped to 30. "I felt like I was paralyzed," she said.
"Dr. West Lawson from WakeMed was there and he and some others helped me."
A few weeks later, Dr. Marc Silver, an invasive cardiologist with WakeMed Heart & Vascular Physicians, implanted a pacemaker in Cornelia's chest. Her outcome was fantastic. "I remember how hesitant I was at fi rst to implant a pacemaker in her," recalled Dr. Silver. "I wanted to be sure her symptoms were from a slower-than-normal heart rate. When I came to see her the morning after the procedure, she told me she felt like a new woman. Nothing could have made me feel better."
"My heart is set at an even 70, and I am so pleased that I have so much energy," said Cornelia. "The care I received at WakeMed was exceptional. If it could be spread around the universe, the world would be a better place."
Her restored and renewed energy is what Cornelia is most grateful for from her procedure. "I got right back to giving back, and I am even more grateful to my community and its members who supported me after my procedure."
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