Wright lives in Rockville, Ind., with her husband, Sylacauga native Randy Wright. They met in the late 1970s while both were in college at Auburn University, where she was a member of the university’s swim team. She became gravely ill a few years ago, and says she survived on Blue Bell milkshakes for seven weeks while she was too sick to eat while waiting for a liver transplant.
“When I was sick, right afterwards my mother-in-law and husband said, ‘You ought to write to Blue Bell and tell them about it. Maybe they would give you some free ice cream,’” she said.
She chose not to do that, but when Blue Bell announced its “Do Tell!” contest, in which fans of the frozen delight were encouraged to write essays telling their Blue Bell stories, she didn’t take much convincing.
“We enjoy hearing from our fans and reading the many letters we receive each year,” said Carl Breed, director of marketing for Blue Bell, in announcing the contest. “Our Do Tell! contest is one more way for our fans to share their stories. We’re looking for unique, fun and heartfelt stories about Blue Bell.”
“I had a hard time keeping it to 500 words” Wright said. “I had to go back through and cut it. Then I was sitting at home about three weeks ago and I got a phone call that said I was one of the finalists.”
The contest rules said there would be eight finalists, but in the online listing, Wright’s story is No. 9. Each of the finalists will receive a half-gallon of Blue Bell ice cream every week for a year, and the top vote-getter in the online contest will get a VIP trip to the company’s Brenham, Texas, headquarters to see how their favorite treat is made.
Wright said her family has used Facebook to reach out to friends and family to encourage them to vote. Her husband, the county historian for Parke County, Ind., wrote a press release that reached local media, and the family has also been in contact with people who prayed for Wright while she was sick.
“There were tons of prayer chains when I was sick, all the way from Indiana to Sylacauga, and that was a big part of me getting better,” said Wright, 54.
Wright explained that she fell and hurt her back in March 2009, and treated her back pain with an abundance of over-the-counter medications for months before going to the doctor. That December they discovered she had a compound fracture in her back, but that’s when her real trouble began. Apparently the medication had caused liver damage, and she learned that she would require a liver transplant.
But first, there was a viral infection that wouldn’t get well.
“I was in the hospital for seven weeks, in and out of intensive care. The doctors had my husband call our family in. They said there was nothing more they could do. I had multiple organ failure and I was septic. They did a liver biopsy and I was bleeding internally.”
While the Blue Bell milkshakes nourished her, Wright believes her personal determination and the prayers of many people helped her heal. She was released from the hospital to go to rehab to be trained how to walk again, but still she couldn’t eat.
“Prior to my discharge, we learned the cafeteria had Blue Bell, and my husband discovered a store in Indy carried your product. Oh, happy day!!!” she wrote in her essay. “You see, NOTHING tasted right or good except ice cream. Luckily, my doctor informed me that milk is the perfect food, and since Blue Bell contains whole milk, voilà, a match made in heaven.
“Sadly, Indy is 50 miles from home, but the silver lining was that going for doctor’s appointments and tests meant a chance to get Blue Bell. They had discovered that I needed a transplant. While those seven weeks on the waiting list felt like forever, I survived on Blue Bell milkshakes, lovingly made by my husband and No. 1 caregiver. On August 4, 2010, I got the call and received the most precious gift imaginable – a second chance at life!”
Wright’s essay said that since then, stores in her area began carrying Blue Bell. “I never miss a chance to tell people it’s the best ice cream they’ll ever taste,” she wrote.
“I’ve been blessed and really fortunate,” Wright said.
Her mother-in-law, Dianne Hornsby Wright of Sylacauga, called Wright “a walking miracle.”
“Her doctors have been amazed. She exercises and swims all the time and is on the town council. She stays busy all the time,” Dianne Wright said.
Wright’s essay concluded, “Three years later, my doctors say I’m remarkably healthy. I walk over 1,200 miles a year and go to the gym 4-6 times weekly. People are impressed by my dedication. Little do they know I really do it so I can indulge my love for Blue Bell! … Our freezer never has fewer than two half gallons and often has more. I can’t risk running out!”
To vote, visit bluebell.com and become a member of the Blue Bell Country Club, then click on “Do Tell!” to read the contestants’ entries and place your vote. Each member may vote once per day, and voting continues through this Friday, Oct. 4.
The winner will be announced on Wednesday, Oct. 9.