Judy Kay-Wolff



No doubt we all take life for granted.   Bridge players, especially as we grow older, with less to occupy our time, spend more days at the local clubs and tournaments.   Here is a real life story of a productive woman bridge player with a normal life who found herself in the throes of the worst nightmare one could have thrust upon one’s self.

These blogs are usually controversial and serious — but this one is heart wrenching.   I am going to condense the eight email pages accounting to a brief sketch of the ordeal of a perfectly wonderful woman who never stopped fighting, despite the gloomy outlook.

It all started in January of 2010, when Barbara Vasilevsky, a married woman with two college aged kids, who worked for the State of Nevada Department of Welfare and Supportive Services as a Family Service Specialist, started to experience breathing problems.   She was immediately advised to go to the Emergency Ward of Summerlin Hospital.   She woke up two weeks later in the Waiting Room awaiting transportation to Health South Tenaya where she remained for ten months.  It was touch and go because her lungs had filled with water, followed by an emergency tracheotomy, the use of a ventilator, and being non-communicative.  She could not speak but wrote on a white board to express herself.

Ten months later she had several blood transfusions, chest x-rays, ultrasounds, blood tests, etc.   You name it — she had it.     In October Barbara was transferred to a skilled nursing facility and the respiratory specialists started aggressively pressing for progress.   She was still on a ventilator  but had graduated to breathing on her own assisted by continuous oxygen.  At the one year anniversary, she began to read again, progressed to word puzzles because she was finally interested in doing so.   Bridge and "normal" friends also came to visit her throughout the duration of her confinement, which was uplifting.  In May, 2011 (about 17 months after the onset of this trauma), she was scheduled to be released but then suffered another bout with pneumonia.   In the meantime she was undergoing physical therapy and was re-learning to walk with the help of physical and occupational therapists.

She was finally discharged on June 18th, 2011, having spent 17 months and 7 days in medical facilities.   There is much more to the story, but enough of the suffering.   Now to the good part!

I was only an occasional acquaintance of Barbara’s when Bobby and I played on Tuesdays and Fridays.  Of course, all knew what had happened, and frankly, the mood was sullen and most everyone had given up hope that she would ever get out of the hospitals and medical facilities. — EVERYONE BUT BARBARA.    You could have knocked me over with a feather when last month I noted an attractive, healthy looking facsimile of the Barbara Vasilevsky I once knew in a wheel chair playing North-South.  (She even tried East-West the other day in her unyielding pursuit to recapture the Barbara of old.)   It seems just about every time she played this month when the scores were tallied,  she had topped the field.     I started to tease her, she should give us a handicap now that she is back and at her best!

What an admirable reversal of fortune – but it was no accident.   Barbara MADE IT HAPPEN!

Let me conclude with several remarks Barbara made which I’d like to quote ….

Less than two months after my discharge,  I am now off the oxygen during the day, playing 6 days a week, and appreciating life to the fullest.

All my home visits by the nurses and therapists have ceased, although I am continuing the routines.

I am grateful for my bridge friends, especially those who visited me regularly and those who made an effort to cheer me up and now have become fast friends.  

I still believe that I was the only one who believed that I would get out of the facility and make a life again.  Bridge reflects life in so many aspects and I believe that without those experiences at the bridge table I may have been defeated, but I overcame the experience.  My husband believes that it had to do with our children also — that I want to see how their lives develop, and how their approach to life will allow them to work up to their own potential.

In conclusion, the actual diagnoses of my 17 month ordeal was sepsis, an infection of the blood, which caused respiratory failure.    (Amazing).

People tend to say that I experienced a miracle, but I would like to think it was an ordeal which has made me realize and re-evaluate all the good and  bad that life has to offer.

It is an unusual individual like Barbara Vasilevsky who makes you realize, you NEVER give up — either at the bridge table or in real life!    WELCOME BACK!


JaneAugust 8th, 2011 at 9:23 am

Hi Judy,

You did a nice job of condensing, yet brilliantly describing what happened to Barb during her ordeal, and I think her miracle, of survival. I also agree that it was Barbara who made it happen. She made the decision to live and carry on, and I am happy for her. I only know her casually as well, and was as surprised as you were when I saw her the first time at the bridge club after her release from the medical facility. Being a retired nurse, I did not hold much hope for Barb to survive that first year, but as a nurse, I saw miracles happen when I was still in practice. Nevertheless, the will to live has to be strong, and obviously Barbara has it. Good for her!

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 8th, 2011 at 10:01 am

Dear Jane;

How meaningful coming from a retired nurse and one who saw the amazing comeback first hand!



ReneAugust 8th, 2011 at 10:04 am

A very poignant story and how interesting how Barbara gives a lot of credit for the will to survive at the bridge table.

Bridge can’t be all bad!

AlanAugust 8th, 2011 at 10:09 am

What a refreshing change from hearing about a finesse that doesn’t work or a squeeze that isn’t there. Life can be a bitch sometime — but this shows how determination and faith (and great medical help) conquers all!. Thanks for sharing.

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 8th, 2011 at 10:15 am

I must confess I read Barbara’s detailed version of her experience several times before I had the courage to attack the subject on this blog site. Normally, this story is not what blogging is supposed to be about but when I saw her attitude how she resigned herself to not give up and allied it with her feelings at the bridge table — I thought it was worthy of sharing her off the charts determination to fully recover. AND SHE DID!!!

She is really somethin’ else!

pod12@msn.comAugust 8th, 2011 at 10:29 am

The power and the lure of bridge….. along side a strong heart and a determined mind……such a recipe for success……such a winning combination. A lovely story which we can all learn from. Yours HBJ.

Steven GaynorAugust 9th, 2011 at 7:29 am

Thanks for this story, I think it is a fine topic for a blog! We should all remember that when life doubles you, you can turn it back!

Judy Kay-WolffAugust 9th, 2011 at 5:13 pm


A truly wonderful bridge philosophy and even more important to bear in mind in real life.