Eddie Ramsaier and his wife, Mary, pose with the Whitewater girls soccer team before a playoff game. The Lady Wildcats, inclu
It takes a special family to smile through the darkest of times. The Ramsaier family has to keep smiling despite some truly trying days. With the help of friends, family, and strangers, they will keep fighting.
On February 19, Eddie Ramsaier went to the hospital thinking he had the flu. Eddie slipped into a coma for nine days before waking up. There was of course relief that he had woken up, but they found out a little of the hard road ahead of them. Eddie had a double bacterial infection in his blood stream that moved to his spine. Several abscesses have left him paralyzed from the neck down.
"It's tough when you walk into a hospital and you don't walk out," said Eddie. "Could you imagine? You could walk out of here and all of a sudden you're not walking again. It's tough to swallow."
Somehow, throughout everything, the family can still smile and laugh. The love doesn't wane. They're able to sit around and joke and Eddie keeps them on their toes.
Along the way, there has been so much support for Eddie and his family. When the wife, Mary, says they were always a close family, Eddie makes a joking gesture to say not really before she says they are a whole lot closer now.
The family of Eddie and Mary and daughters Ali, Gaby, and Mary are a delight to be around. They beam when talking about each other and sharing stories of the well wishes they've received.
Eddie has made a lot of progress in the few months since, but there's still a long way to go. He has been able to gain mobility in his arms. Two of the abscesses are gone and one is slowly disintegrating, but there is much work left to be done.
The family is asking everyone to come out and celebrate for Eddie. A benefit concert, dubbed "All About Eddie," will be a chance to gather for a good cause. A friend of the family has provided the space, Village Church in Hapeville. More than 25 live acts are slated to perform. There will be lots of inspirational videos sent in from across the country. There will be silent auctions and raffles with the proceeds going to help the Ramsaier family. The funds are of course needed. The celebration is needed just as badly.
The family has been so touched by all the support they have already received. Neighbors have brought food and cut grass. Family has flown in from out of town to gather up strength. Strangers have sent messages of love and hope.
"It's unbelievable that so many people could care," said Eddie.
Daughter Gaby talked about getting cards from people they've never met. "One woman wrote that 'you don't know me, but I've been praying for you'," recalled Gabby. "The random outreach from people that don't even know us is so touching."
"We have people of all different faiths praying for him," said wife, Mary. "It's pretty powerful. It really is."
A nun in Panama who is a family friend has been praying with the kids she teaches and making homemade cards to send to Eddie. Eddie is still taken back by the gesture.
"These are the poorest of the poor. It's brutal. They have to look for their next meal, but they spend time to make a card for you," said Eddie.
There were plenty of people that Eddie touched when he was at the rehab center at Emory. While he was there, he became affectionately known as the Candy Man because he always had chocolate ready to hand out. When it was time to send him home, the people there must have hated to see him go. Eighteen people came to see him and say goodbye on his last day. His doctor said he hadn't seen that in his 30 years there. One girl who would bring him his meal tray even gave him a $25 gift card.
"When he was leaving the hospital, so many people were coming back to say bye to him. Some weren't even working that day, but they heard he was leaving and wanted to say 'you're awesome and we love you'," said Gaby. "He doesn't realize how many people he touches, not just as a friend, like a father figure even."
Another moment that had Eddie beaming was when the whole Whitewater girls soccer team wore shirts before a game proclaiming a "Fast Recovery For Fast Eddie."
"Phenomenal," was how he had to describe the team supporting him on their shirts. "This whole team comes running out (in the shirts). Are you kidding me? Print it."
The shirts were a fun project by the daughters, including Mary, a member of the soccer team. They were a far bigger hit than they could have ever imagined.
"We only had to sell 50 shirts, but we ended up selling over 300," said Mary. "We had to print more because so many people wanted them."
The shirts have even hit internationally, selling not just around the USA, but making it over to Greece as well.
Eddie and Mary's anniversary this year is another sweet story. On May 8, they celebrated 31 years of marriage. Eddie signed a card to his wife. It was the first time he had written his name since he went into the hospital. That card is worth more than any riches in the world.
Their daughter, Mary, also had a surprise for the anniversary. She had written Notre Dame in hopes of getting something uplifting for her dad, who is a big Fighting Irish fan. She got back a personally signed photo and letter from their football coach, Brian Kelly, just in time to surprise Eddie.
"I was crying I was so excited," Mary said. "Mom got her card and surprise and I said I've got a surprise for you too, daddy."
If you go back a bit, you get one reason why the nickname Fast Eddie was so appropriate. Gaby shared the story of how her parents fell in love and it was fast.
Eddie grew up in Brooklyn before moving to Georgia in the early 1980s. Mary's family is Greek and Eddie's sister married a Greek man so the families ended up mingling. Mary spent a month in Greece before heading to New York for a spell. While she was in New York City she even went on a date with Eddie's best friend. They ended up having dinner at the home of Eddie's parents. His mom even said "I wish Eddie would meet a girl like you" to Mary. The next time Mary would see Eddie's parents would be at their wedding 10 months later.
Mary and Eddie met up when she returned from New York. It was a fateful night of bowling between two Greek families. After a couple of games, Eddie asked if anyone wanted to go out to eat. Mary was the only one that took him up on the offer. Just a week later Eddie proposed. A few months later they were married. Eddie said he 'didn't see a point in wasting any time.'
If you have a chance to meet the family, you'll be in luck. There are so many stories to share. And so much love. It'll be all day and you'll never notice. Eddie will leave you with some important words. He's had to learn them all too well.
"Don't take life for granted."