Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Annual Fund

Silliman Wass 2

Deborah Silliman Wass, the daughter of diplomats, has lived all over the world, from Europe to Iran, Pakistan and the African Congo. After a career as a graphic designer and art director for Mobil Corporation, she moved to the Island where she met her future husband, Jeffrey Wass, an Island builder. A calligrapher as well, she has also written for several magazines.

June 2014

Dear Friends,

Sight-unseen, but with the feeling it could be the right place for me, I abandoned the corporate world in 1997 and moved to the Vineyard. Chalk it up to serendipity – I met my now-husband Jeff in the parking lot of Alley’s General Store and Martha’s Vineyard Hospital saved my life – three times.

In the spring of 2005, I had no idea there was anything wrong with my health. After routine blood tests, Dr. Ellen McMahon, my primary care physician, noticed I was slightly anemic and my kidney readings were suspicious. Further tests didn’t confirm any specific problems, but she was still uneasy. “Perhaps this is just an anomaly,” she said, “but I’d like you to come back again in three months.”

In retrospect, I realize I was avoiding her. When I didn’t show up, Dr. McMahon called and persuaded me to undergo additional testing. All my diagnostic work – x-rays, bone marrow biopsy and blood work – were all done right here at our hospital. In January of 2006, I got my diagnosis: amyloidosis.

Amyloidosis, an abnormal protein build-up in tissue, afflicts only eight people in every million. Most doctors work a lifetime without ever encountering this disorder. It’s often confused with more common diseases – kidney disease, heart disease and multiple myeloma among them. So the fact that I got my diagnosis here was amazing.

Dr. McMahon immediately connected me with the Amyloidosis Center in Boston where I underwent a brutal course of high-dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. This involved completely destroying and then re-starting my immune system. Only 50 percent of patients survive the treatment I underwent in Boston. I am so lucky to be one of them.

However, as it turned out, that medical crisis was not my only experience at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Sometime later, the Hospital’s mammography department discovered I had breast cancer. Proving that bad news comes in threes, I was later found to have a hyperthyroid condition. Very fortunately, all three medical issues were caught early by our Hospital and I am eternally grateful for the excellent medical care I received.

As a result, Jeff and I are currently composing our will to include a planned gift to support the Hospital. I encourage you to support Martha’s Vineyard Hospital as generously as you can too. Please do not underestimate how important our Hospital is to the health of your family, friends and yourself.


Deb Silliman Wass

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