Debilitating Disease; Promotes Recycling Program
Evan Jones, Banner Editor
The night of November 15, 1997,
started out as so many others for Jackie and Judy Mayo. In their
comfortable Tiptonville home, they ate, watched a little TV and retired
But within minutes, a life-changing event had taken place and Judy is
still recovering and coping almost nine years later.
“I thought I was having a heart attack,” she said.
“Jackie drove me to the hospital and when we left, I could buckle my
seat belt and everything. But within four hours, I had to be carried to
Mayo, now 54, had been stricken by Transverse Myelitis (TM). It strikes
without warning and has no known cure.
It affects only four out of every one million people.
It is a disease that makes the body to attack its own spinal cord,
causing the myelinen around the spinal cord to swell and shut down the
nerves that allow the body to function.
“In my case it attacked the vertebrae C4, 5, 6 and 7,” she said. “I
completely lost my ability to walk, use my arms and hands and I had no
bowel or bladder function. And my body felt like it had a giant rubber
band around it from my rib cage to my hips.”
She spent 17 days in Baptist Central Hospital in Memphis following the
attack. “The hospital is now gone (closed and imploded in downtown
Memphis) but unfortunately, the TM is still with me,” she says with a
But her recovery, while slow, has been remarkable.
She has returned to her job as a customer service rep at Lake County
Utility District. She proved to be lucky in one respect. Only one-third
of those stricken have some form of recovery and she was among them. “I
did regain the ability to walk. I can use my hands and I did regain
bowel and bladder function to a point.
“Unfortunately, the banding did not go away and is a constant reminder
of the illness. I have learned to live with that and become somewhat
accustomed to it.”
She had to relearn to type because of weakness in her hands but has been
able to master that skill. “My hands are very weak and I have no
sensation from my chest down. I can feel a touch but I cannot
distinguish hot or cold or pain.”
She can’t distinguish extremely hot or cold water making even a shower
of bath a potentially hazardous endeavor.
“But my reflex function style works and I can automatically jerk back
from hot or cold, to a point.”
And then there is another hazard all Lake Countians can appreciate.
“Mosquitoes can eat me alive from the chest down.
“But I have learned to cope and keep going.”
She said her husband Jackie “has been wonderful. He and my little sister
(Donna Whitson Howerton) have been my hands through all this.”
She retains her cheerful outlook and smile and still looks more like 44
“Everyone at Lake County Utility District has been great,” she said.
“They came to pick me up when I couldn’t drive. My job was still there
when I got well enough to go back to work.”
David Gooch, Mayo’s boss and the manager of Lake County Utility
District, admires Mayo’s resolve through such a trying time.
“One day she was as normal as could be, and then the next, this happened
to her,” Gooch said. “But one thing you can say, she has never quit. She
keeps on going.”
Researchers have made gains in the past years but it still remains a
disease with no cure.
Now she is very active in the Transverse Myleitis Association (TMA) and
travels to other parts of the country to meet with other victims and
their families. “Families are important, “she added. “And this disease
has no respect for age striking everyone from children to persons in
As part of TMA, Judy is active
in their recycling program and urges everyone in this area to take part.
TMA has partnered with a recycling company to collect and recycle empty
printer inkjet cartridges and empty toner cartridges from laser printers
and copiers. For every empty cartridge that is sent, the TMA will
receive 35¢ to $3 per inkjet cartridge and $3 to $8 for every toner
cartridge. All shipping supplies are pre-paid and fees are pre-paid by
the recycling company so there is no cost to the person donating or the
“This program has incredible potential,” said Mayo. “Imagine if only 100
persons participate (that would be two per state) and they each sent
three inkjet empties per month! That is a potential of $1,800 per month.
Over a year’s time that amounts to $21,000. It is easy to see we can
make a huge difference.
“Recycling keeps large amounts of plastics out of our landfills. Every
year over 300 million cartridges are thrown away. This means for each
cartridge, about 2.5 pounds of plastic is thrown in a landfill and will
never go away.
“To produce a single new laser cartridge, over three quarts of oil are
used. In contrast, a recycled cartridge requires only one quart of oil.
This year alone, toner cartridge recycling will save over 11 million
gallons of oil!”
Persons who wish to recycle
toner and inkjet cartridges can contact Judy Mayo at 253-6873 or log on
For more information about the TMA check out
www.myelitis.org on the web.
"If all or part of the Class of 1970 will
join with me and do as the story suggests, I believe
we can collect a lot of things that can used." - Judy Mayo, Class of