Music drives Salem church organist after health scare - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Music drives Salem church organist after health scare

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SALEM, Ohio -

For 57 years, Ila Paxson's been a fixture playing the organ at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Salem. A major health scare almost ended that run, but nothing could keep her away from her music.

"I just, I want to be here," said Paxson.

Just a year ago, she wasn't sure she'd ever be back. It started out as a little trouble with her balance. Before she knew it, she was in a wheelchair, unable to walk and unable to play the music she loves.

"My neck, the vertebrae were broken and they were sticking in my spinal cord. So I couldn't walk and I couldn't use my hands," said Paxson. "It was very scary."

Last March, she had surgery to fix the problem, but even then, doctors said at best it would be a year or maybe a year and a half before she could play again. That wasn't good enough for Ila.

"I'm kind of an impatient person. I want to do it yesterday," said Paxson.

So the organ became the reward, pushing her through the rehab process through all the ups and downs.

"I knew that to get her back to feeling better, it would take getting her up here to the organ," said Ila's daughter Amy.

Throughout it all, she stayed focused on making it back to the church. And now, she's right back to where she always wanted to be.

"I had to have a note from the doctor that said I could do it. Felt like I was back in school again," said Ila.

"That day that I brought here up, I couldn't quit crying. I cried the entire time," said Amy. "I was so happy that she made it up here, because that was her goal and she did it, and she didn't give up."

"Just so satisfying," said Ila. "I was doing what I wanted to do, and my fingers were doing what I wanted them to do, because for a long time they wouldn't."

Now, she's back in the best seat in the house, the same one she's held since she was 16. A long climb, but Ila made it back to the top.

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