College football season is many Southerners’ favorite time of year, but it takes on a whole new meaning this year for Elizabeth Zweigel and her family.
Zweigel, a graduate of the University of Georgia, where she met her husband, Scott, recently recovered from a March bout with sepsis, which cost her both hands and both legs below the knee.
In the past the Zweigels, who are members of The Temple, have thrown a party for about a dozen friends to celebrate the Dawgs’ season opener. This year that party will have a few extra guests: Thanks to support from the community, it will be hosted at SweetWater Brewing Co. as a fundraiser for Zweigel’s medical trust.
The first signs that anything was wrong with the mother of two young children came one Saturday in late March. Zweigel was feeling tired and sluggish and blamed her symptoms on the flu.
“I’ve never had the flu, but it felt worse than a cold,” she said. “It wasn’t until Sunday that I started feeling much worse. My husband flew in from out of town, and I ended up in the ER later that night.”
Zweigel added: “They realized pretty quickly I was septic. My hands were very cold, and they struggled to get any blood to flow to them. It was close to midnight before we all knew how serious it really was.”
She remembers some of what happened Monday morning but spent the next two weeks in a coma. In that time, the damage to her hands became more severe as less and less blood flowed to them, and by the time she woke up, they had been amputated, along with her left forearm.
“My organs had started to shut down,” Zweigel said. “Amputating my hands allowed the organs to start recovering. When I woke up, I still had my feet, but the blood flow was leaving them, and I could tell what needed to happen.”
After 6½ weeks at Northside Hospital, she moved to the Shepherd Center in early May for recovery and rehabilitation. Zweigel said the difficult process has been a learning experience. “I’ve had to relearn everything. When I first went to my physical therapist, I couldn’t even sit up by myself. I’m very mobile now though.”
Zweigel said she has received incredible support from the community, and she’s thankful to everyone who reached out to bring food or donate to help her and her family, including son Carson, 3, and daughter Mia, 9 months, through trying circumstances.
“The Temple was incredible,” she said. “My son had been going there (for preschool), and the families of his class have been amazing, making lunch for him and doing everything they could. That was really the most important thing to me.”
The fundraiser Sept. 1, to help with such expenses as prosthetics, rehabilitation services, child care and renovations to adapt the Zweigel home to her needs, will include a live band, raffles, an auction, souvenir glasses, and plenty of food and drink. The menu includes Zweigel’s famous buffalo dip.
“I’ve always loved college football kickoff,” Zweigel said. “I love getting together with friends, having some food. I think having a fundraiser tied to it was a really good idea and fun for us.”
What: BBQ, Booze and Buffalo Dip, a benefit for the Elizabeth Zweigel Health Trust
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1
Where: SweetWater Brewing Co., 195 Ottley Drive, Buckhead
Tickets: $75 in advance (fundraiserforliz.eventbrite.com) or $85 at the door