Accident Proves a Lucky Break - Literally - for County Resident


(Monday, August 11, 2008 6:10 AM EDT)

Falling and breaking your wrist usually isn't considered a stroke of good luck. But, for Arlington resident Ed Speary, it was a blessing in disguise.

When he fell during a dizzy spell on July 1, the 60-year-old Speary was taken to the emergency room at the Virginia Hospital Center for treatment of wrist fractures. But the issue that concerned doctors most was the reason he had fallen in the first place.

They found that Spear had pancreatitis (inflamed pancreas) and renal (kidney) failure. He also was diagnosed with a staph infection in his blood, and that a “vegetation” (a large piece of the infection) had actually started to grow on a valve of his heart.

“If it broke off, I would have died,” Speary said in a recent interview. “I had to have open-heart surgery and have [the valve] replaced.”

All this news came as a surprise to Speary, because, even though he has been HIV-positive since 1989, Speary said he's “never been sick and never been to the hospital.”

If Speary hadn't broken his wrist, he may never have gone for treatment and found out about his life-threatening condition, his best friend, Susan Shepard-Siple, said recently.

Ten days after his fall, Speary had open-heart surgery, and has been slowly and surely getting better. But in his current condition, getting around and doing daily activities is difficult, and his family and friends are hoping for support from the Arlington community.

“There is nothing Ed can't do. He's a quilter, a seamster, a musician, a painter - he's an amazing cook,” Shepard-Siple said. “We want the community to know that this person is among them, and that he's given so much to the community. I don't want him to go unnoticed.”

Speary has lived in Northern Virginia since 1985, and has worked as a music therapist and a Realtor in his years in the area. Before becoming ill, he worked part-time at G Street Fabrics at Seven Corners Center in Falls Church.

“Ed to me is one of the kindest souls I know. He helps anyone in need,” said friend Robert Cooper. “He's a big inspiration. It's hard to put into words how great he is. He's like an uncle to me.”

Whether it's donations of cash, a ride to an appointment, food or prayers, all forms of support are welcome.

“We really want people to know they can give whatever they can,” Shepard-Siple said.

Although complete recovery will take a while (about three or four months), Speary is in good spirits.

“I have a very positive outlook,” he said. “When I was told about my heart, somehow I had the courage to know that I'd be OK.”

“This is not the end of the story. This is the beginning,” Shepard-Siple said. “He has a whole new lease on life. There's no telling what he'll do.”

For information on opportunities to help, call Susan Shepard-Siple at (703) 598-5352, or e-mail

A trip to the hospital for treatment of a broken wrist turned up other health problems for Ed Speary, but he is on the road to recovery.

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