The Heart of Kernersville

By NJ Clausen

Hello! This month I have the pleasure of introducing you to two extraordinary women who embody the attributes of strength and love, Liz Reilly, and her daughter, Sharon Reilly Tucker.

Born in a castle converted to a hospital in Scotland, Liz was the oldest of three siblings. An interesting coincidence is that the man she would later marry was also born in that same castle a few years earlier! One of her favorite childhood memories was when she was a young girl walking in Scotland and a Rolls Royce drove around the corner, Liz looked over and it was Queen Elizabeth in the vehicle waving at her!
When she was older, Liz went to beauty school and then worked as a hairdresser. While at a dance, she met Ed, who at the time was working in a shipyard where the Queen Mary was built. Liz saw Ed, and he saw her. That was it for both of them, and soon Liz and Ed married. While Ed was working as a director of jet engines with the airlines they would periodically travel and relocate.

Sharon was born in Canada and has an older brother named Mark. When Sharon was three, the family moved to Texas. She loved to play soccer as a kid, but the memory that really stood out was when the family all became US citizens. When the family came home after the ceremony, they saw that her Uncle Stephen had mowed their yard in the form of the US flag. Sharon remembers how proud they all were of becoming US citizens, and how they do not take it for granted.

Three moves later, Ed was transferred to North Carolina. After Sharon graduated from high school in Pennsylvania, the family moved to Kernersville. While trying to determine her future course, Sharon worked part time and attained her associate degree.

On November 10, 1999, Liz was out Christmas shopping in Greensboro, when she started to feel sick and unsteady. A woman came to her to see if she could help, and Liz asked for help getting to her car. The woman called the ambulance instead, and when the paramedics came Liz asked to be taken to a hospital in Winston-Salem. The paramedic replied that there was not time. Sharon received a call at work from Ed, who had been transferred back to Pennsylvania and was staying up there during the week, coming home on weekends to be with the family. He told her that there had been an accident and asked her to pick him up at the airport. When they got to the hospital, the neurologist told them that Liz had had a massive stroke; she had a blood clot in the brain stem, and she would probably not make it through the night. Liz was in a coma for several days, and she received last rites. Liz’s brother flew in from Scotland and her son rushed down from Virginia as the family gathered close. One day Mark was alone with Liz and he made some noise with his chair, at the sound, Liz suddenly woke up from the coma. Following rehabilitation, the doctor diagnosed that Liz had Locked-In Syndrome, this means Liz was locked inside her own body, paralyzed from the neck down and unable to speak, but with her mind fully intact. Now, there is a pill that will lessen the side effects of a stroke, but for Liz each day is a struggle and a challenge. She is bound and determined that she is going to get up every day and fight through the challenges. After rehab, where Liz learned to communicate with a computer equipped for her special needs and an alphabet board, she was moved up to a nursing home in Pennsylvania near Ed. Liz had asked Ed if he wanted to leave her, to which he responded, “I have been married to you for 25 years—I am not going to leave you now!” On the weekends, Ed would fly home to mow and take care of the house and Sharon would fly up to be with Liz.
The biggest challenge in the early years was getting people and staff to use the communication board (now a convenient smaller size), a necessity for Liz to communicate if something required attention.

When Ed’s job required him to relocate to Missouri, Liz came back to the Kernersville area where her daughter had remained. Sharon loves living and working in Kernersville and was surprised and honored to receive the 2020 Business Advocate of the Year Award.

Liz and Sharon are amazing women who support and love each other. They have fun shopping together, Liz particularly loves being outside, and enjoying each day, living it to the fullest as tomorrow is not promised. When asked what they would say to others facing challenges, Liz encourages them to get outside and to do something every day, and Sharon emphasized the importance of a positive attitude.

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