The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 26, 2013

Shawn Wood's column on motorsports: You'll never walk alone

Daily Item

---- — A month before the season began, I received a 'Thank You' card in the mail from Stevi Pusey (pronounced Pew-zee), the girlfriend of 410 sprint car driver Nate Snyder, of Halifax.

Getting such a card for something you did in my business is about as rare as finding a four-leaf clover.

While the content of the card is private, Pusey was thankful for the outpouring of support from the racing community while she was battling an illness.

The support from the racing community was something she didn't know was there.

She's been dating Snyder -- who didn't tell her he was a race car driver until their third date -- for more than four years.

Her grandfather, Ron Taylor, who owned R.F. Taylor & Sons, sponsored 410s in the late '80s and early '90s.

Pusey, who is originally from York, went to the races at Williams Grove and Lincoln speedways and played in the infield. Her favorite driver was Todd Shaffer and she's become friends with him and his family through racing.

It was about a year ago that she noticed something was not right with her health.

"My eyes swelled up as I slept," she said. "My doctor told me it was allergies for almost a year. I went to a new doctor and she looked at me and told me I had kidney problems."

So Pusey went and had a blood test done.

"The test showed that my kidney and liver functions were off, but since I had been living with it for a year, they gave me the OK to go on vacation," she said. "So Nate and I went on vacation and a day into it, my back swelled up. I thought they whipped me off the inner tube too hard in the lake and that I though I had pulled something. I gained a little more weight and I couldn't fit into my pants. So I went to the hospital there and they said you probably ate something that you are allergic to and we went back to our vacation."

A few days later, Pusey was still not feeling right.

"I was so big and swollen by Saturday that Nate drove me to Holy Spirit Hospital (Camp Hill). They thought I was pregnant," Pusey said with a laugh. "I thought Nate was going to have a heart attack when they said that."

Pusey spent a week and a half at Holy Spirit and that's when they found that her kidneys had given out.

"When I got to the hospital, my heart had pretty much given out too along with my gall bladder and liver," she said. "You never think that at 28, you would go on vacation and end up in the hospital for a week and a half."

A biopsy was done on Pusey's kidney and that was sent to Hershey Medical Center.

"They (Hershey) couldn't figure out what was wrong with me and my mom (Bonnie Taylor) is a doctor at Aberdeen Proving Ground (Md.) military base. She got hold of a specialist at Johns Hopkins (Md.) and they got me on the right track of medicine and steroids. I was so big, (Pusey is 4' 11'), that my knees wouldn't hold me. Every time I stood up, I would pass out because of my heart."

A month before she got sick, Pusey took part in a 5K mud and obstacle course run in Elysburg.

"I weighed 130 pounds and with all of the fluids in me, I was up to 180 or 190," she said. "My mom had to go buy me new clothes. My face blew up with the steroids that I couldn't see past my checks on Christmas Eve."

Pusey is now closing in on her normal weight.

"The support from the racing community has been awesome," she said as she teared up.

Her friend Kira Leitzel, whom she met through Nate, has driven her to Johns Hopkins. Stacey Cannon, wife of sprint car driver Pat Cannon, who works at Holy Spirit, stopped in each day she to see how she was doing and to talk with her.

As fate would have it, 410 sprint car driver Nicole Bower's grandfather was in the room next to Pusey at Johns Hopkins.

"She's friends with Nate and she came over and sat with me for a good half hour, although I was kind of out of it," she said.

A year later, the doctors still don't know why her kidneys shut down.

"It could come back again, or it couldn't," she said.

Pusey said she is moving forward with her life despite the unknown, with a positive mental attitude.

"I get to come off my chemotherapy in June or July and I'm going to keep on smiling and hope for the best."

An avid hunter, Pusey is looking forward to turkey season after missing the hunting season last year. She is also back to work.

I got to know Stevi during these past four years though talking with her and Nate at the track. Like many others, I reached out in support through Facebook or stopped by the hauler to ask Nate how she was doing. It wasn't done to get a "thank you" card, it was done because racing is family and no matter what happens, family looks after each other.

And Stevi, welcome to the family!

n Correspondent Shawn Wood covers motorsports for The Daily Item.