Originally created 01/13/04

Senator returns to work healthy



ATLANTA - Nearly a year after a brain aneurysm sent her to the hospital, Sen. Faye Smith, D-Milledgeville, has returned to the Capitol and says she is "feeling fine."

The straight-talking lawmaker, a former schoolteacher by trade, credits her faith in God and prayer for getting her through last year's health ordeal.

Ms. Smith represents a sprawling district that covers parts of Green, Hancock, Baldwin, Jones, Morgan, Newton, Putnam and Walton counties.

She was attending a Feb. 22 civic function when she became ill.

"It felt like a bomb went off in my head," Ms. Smith said, referring to the moment when a blood vessel burst inside her skull, flooding her brain. "I was so hot, I was sweating water."

In her trademark style, Ms. Smith declined help from those around her, insisting she could manage on her own. She walked past several state troopers, got in her truck and went to pick up her husband, Tommy, before heading to the hospital.

Two days later, she awoke in the neuro-intensive care unit at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon.

"God must still have something for me to do," said Ms. Smith, pointing out she needed no physical therapy or rehabilitation after the surgery. "I'm blessed. I am truly blessed.'

Ms. Smith says she is excited about this year's session because of several challenging issues, including a 2 percent pay raise for teachers.

"(Teachers) definitely need that pay raise, but where is the money going to come from?," Ms. Smith asked, alluding to the state's ongoing budget shortfall. "It's going to be hard to say no to teachers in an election year. They should have gotten something last year."

Also on her agenda are plans to help prevent the Culver Kidd Medical Surgery Center in Milledgeville from closing and to protect the future of the state's HOPE Scholarship.

Ms. Smith, 57, grew up in Bogart and attended Oconee County High School. She earned her bachelor's degree in education from the University of Georgia in 1968 and served as the president of the Georgia Association of Educators before being elected to the state Senate in 1998.

She now serves on the Senate's Agriculture & Consumer Affairs, Education, Health & Human Services and Judiciary committees.

Reach Brian Basinger at (404) 589-8424 or brian.basinger@morris.com.