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  • Writer's pictureCity of Wildwood

The Ultimate in Gratitude

Updated: Nov 23, 2022

This is the season of giving thanks. Many of us have a lot to be thankful for but none more so than Wildwood’s own 38-year old Erin (McHugh) Gilbert. Erin grew up in Media and went to Penncrest High School, but spent all of her summers in Wildwood Crest and Wildwood. She is an island girl through and through. So much so that she now lives full time in the Virgin Islands…which almost became the place she died.

Erin used to vape CBD, and in 2019, she purchased an organic, vegan, mango CBD vape pen from a store in the Virgin Islands. It was a Thursday. By Sunday she had pneumonia-like symptoms and went into acute respiratory distress. She ultimately coded six times. With little time to spare and limited resources in the Virgin Islands, Erin was moved to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital by a lifeflight. There, they found blood clots in her lungs and they put her on an ECMO machine for almost 3 weeks, all the while, she was in an induced coma.

Her husband Packy (Patrick) and her mother had some tough decisions to make. Erin had blood clots that were moving from her legs toward her heart - a death sentence for anyone. Her family decided to amputate her right leg above the knee and her left leg below the knee in an effort to save her life. The mother of three (Fiona 11, Hazel 9, Patrick 8) was clinging to life. But live, she did! These days, Erin is perfectly healthy. Her once persistent vape cough is gone.

These days she’s exactly who she wanted to be - a mom and homemaker. She never stops. You might say she is bionic. She has robot legs, and she can do anything she wants to do with them…except ride roller coasters. When you are from Wildwood, you get how difficult that can be. Nothing mattered but getting home to her kids who keep her going and are as resilient as their mom.

She tries to educate everyone, especially young people, on the dangers of vaping. The time she bought this particular brand, she was intrigued by the cute, little hippie store that was selling it. It was the first time she had ever bought the brand and the flavor. Now she knows that testing is not done and there are no controls for what is on the market. Kids don’t know what they are buying and putting into their bodies. Her message is to value yourself; you don’t know about those products or what they can do to your body. She begs everyone to just read the CDC warnings. Consider that aside from addiction, they also can cause depression.

It frightens her how enticing these products are for children. The CDC eventually pulled her mango CBD vape off the shelf, but there are many pending lawsuits. Over 2,000 people were hospitalized at the same time she was, and 35 died. This is no joke.

She made one bad choice and she owns it. It took her a long time to forgive herself, but she says you can’t stay angry at yourself or the world. Besides, she’s actually digging her robo legs, scooter and parking perks. Her message is very simple: Enjoy life and take care of each other. And yes, she is writing a book - what a book it will be!

The Wildwood community is second to none and so helpful. As she laughingly puts it, “It takes an island to help me out!” She is thankful for her life, her family and her community. Her new life has brought her closer to people, especially her mother, Colleen. The number one thing she has learned is confidence and security. She used to be afraid to enjoy herself, and now she wants everyone to see her enjoy life. Ask anyone who knows her; she doesn’t let anything stop her. Her advice: Get out of your own funk. There are bigger things in life. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

People don’t know what to say to her. She simply says thank you!

Erin just celebrated her 3rd annual “Live Day” on August 21st.


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