Jean Weightman heard the oven bell ring. Time to join the other Ya Yas downstairs for breakfast casserole.
This marked their 23rd annual gathering, a celebration of friendship and remarkable loyalty of women who have known each other since they were in kindergarten in Middletown, Ohio. Now in their 60s, most of them have dealt with empty nests and serious health problems. But these reunions are happy affairs amid luxury and fine wine, maybe even a spa treatment.
Jean couldn't wait to get started. On the Ya Yas' first morning, Feb. 13 at a beautiful home on Enterprise Island near Sanford, she bounded toward the stairs and followed the smell of fresh coffee and the sound of laughter.
Somehow she missed a step. This athletic woman, a regular tennis player whose only hospital admittance in 63 years had been to deliver a baby, left the party on a stretcher, her right leg shattered below the knee. Doctors inserted a rod and screws to hold it in place, but the worst was yet to come.
On the third night in the hospital, Jean felt overwhelmed by panic. She labored to breathe. She felt like leaping from the window. Lucky for her, a 30-year veteran nurse named Jolene was on duty and recognized the symptoms. Potentially lethal blood clots had moved into both lungs. Doctors injected her in the stomach with blood thinning drugs, and she spent the next two days in the intensive care unit.
A few days later, Jean transferred to a hospital closer to her home, Florida Hospital Zephyrhills. By awful coincidence, Sylvia Young lay in a room five doors down with several broken bones suffered in a fall on Feb. 16, opening day of the Pasco County Fair.
Though both are retired, Sylvia Young and Jean Weightman remain arguably the best-known female politicians in East Pasco. Sylvia, 70, broke the gender barrier on the County Commission in 1980 and served for 20 years; Jean served on the School Board for 16 years before retiring in 2006.
Few people have contributed more to the county fair over the last half-century than Sylvia Young, and that's where she was again on opening day — in Higgins Hall, in the booth she maintained for her beloved native Darby community. She reached up to turn off a TV and fell hard onto the cement floor, breaking her pelvis, hip, left leg and ankle.
Sylvia's longtime friend Shirley McCarthy spoke for her the other day at the Zephyrhills hospital. "She's a fighter, but she's hurting.'' It's unclear when she might be able to return home. Jean transferred to a rehab center in Brooksville but expects to go home in about a week.
As both women endure painful physical therapy, word of their accidents has been limited to family and close friends. That changes today. Jean Weightman and Sylvia Young belong to all of Pasco County. Godspeed to both.