In December 1999, Dave Maney was set to undergo an operation to remove a cancerous esophagus, but a problem arose in preoperative testing. In order to withstand the cancer surgery, the 71-year-old would need triple bypass heart surgery first.
"Four days before they were set to remove the cancer, the stress test found three arteries that were in bad shape," he said. "If they'd have got me on that table, I'd have died."
So he underwent the triple bypass, recovered and six weeks later had the cancer removed. The esophagus, through which food moves to the stomach, was removed entirely. Mr. Maney's stomach was repositioned to act as a substitute esophagus. It took six more operations to get his insides properly readjusted.
Doctors were baffled by his recovery; Mr. Maney was not. He had prayed for a miracle and received one. The cancer was removed February 5, 2000. Three months later, Mr. Maney was back at his post of job counselor and motivational speaker with the local office of the Georgia Department of Labor - as if he hadn't missed a day.
"Two weeks after the bypass, I was giving workshops," Mr. Maney said. "I still had to have the cancer removed, so I would ask the kids to pray for me. I know, I know - you're not supposed to mix government and religion. But it was a gift. I could feel their prayers going through me. After the cancer surgery, I had to return to work to help them."
Mr. Maney works in the Labor Department's career center, assisting welfare recipients and fired workers trying to get back into the job market. He recently won the Georgia Older Worker of the Year award, representing Augusta.
He represented the state for the older worker national title, which was to be in Washington the week of Sept. 9. The event was canceled shortly after the terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"I felt I owed all my life to helping these kids," Mr. Maney said. "Some are 20 years old with two children, and they are bewildered. They've never worked and they don't know how to go out and tell someone that they have skills. It's 90 percent attitude, and that's where I can help."
Mr. Maney first came to Augusta in 1961 from Sumter, S.C. He was hired as the first planning director for the Augusta-Richmond County Planning Commission. He married an Augusta native and left the area after six years.
After working as a planning director along the Georgia coast, he was appointed regional director for economic development for the Southeast United States in 1972 by President Nixon.
He kept that post through the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations. He was again reappointed in 1989 by President Bush, but his wife, Frances, was diagnosed with cancer. He left Washington and moved back to Augusta, where his wife could be near her mother before she died.
He's been in Augusta since.
"I'm working at something I really enjoy," Mr. Maney said. "I've lived all over the world, but I like it here. You have access to the mountains or the ocean, the climate's great, but really the people are what make you stay."
Reach John Bankston at (706) 823-3352 or firstname.lastname@example.org.