EL PASO — A UTEP professor has a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. She's been out since August, dealing with serious medical issues. And in that time, colleagues and students joined together to help out.
A surprise to her students, Dr. Ana Schwartz walked into her psychology class on Tuesday, for the first time in months.
"It's so great to be back to my normal self... and to not be in constant pain is a wonderful thing," said Schwartz.
Students were glad to see one of their favorite professors. Happy and healthy.
"I am glad to see her and it's a blessing. She's a great professor. With all the multiple classes. It's like she can teach and she can incorporate great advice," said senior Kimberly Edwards.
Schwartz had surgery to remove pre-cancerous tissue in August. But, because of an error during surgery, she got an infection and developed a potentially deadly condition.
"My thoughts immediately go to how am I going to take care of my kid if I'm not physically able and that sends you into a panic right there and then. How do I tie up any loose ends on campus and make sure that I'm able to take medical leave," said Schwartz.
For the three months of her medical leave, the UTEP Psychology Department came together.
"I kinda felt like I was being lifted up by the arms. I was just being held up. And it was OK that my legs didn't have strength because I was being held up," said Schwartz.
Other professors stepped in to cover her classes and students and staff made sure she was taken care of.
"We just decided that we would get together and see what we could do to make sure that she wasn't alone... and so everybody started rallying around her," said administrative assistant Penny Graves.
"I've never lived in an area where genuinely non-biologically related friends, truly become in a deep sense – family,” said Schwartz.
Schwartz said she's thankful to be alive to continue what she loves doing; teaching and raising her 7-year-old son Diego.
Newschannel Nine asked the question: What are you most thankful for?
"My life. Being alive," said Swartz. "You can't top thinking... I'm here for this Thanksgiving and I'm here for another Christmas. The hope and wish is that nobody gets to that point ever, but when you do, that's the experience that you have."
Schwartz said she feels good enough to return to work as early as next week.