{Travel} The Trip That Almost Wasn’t….

In April I got a call that no child wants to receive. A call from my mom that my dad was in a head on collision. Those words were all I needed to hear and I was headed to Red Wing.

In my heart I knew it was useless because due to Covid no one, but the patient was allowed in the ER. While on my way a nurse called to ask me some questions about my dad and she said she needed me to come in and talk to him. I asked her why and she said “the doc will explain everything to you when you get here.”

On the surface he looked like his normal grumpy old self. He had some bruises and scratches, so to me he seemed ok. Then the doc came in and started explaining his Troponin level was off the charts and that he needed to be sent down to Mayo.

I stood by and watched as the EMTs loaded him up and rushed him away. It broke everything in me knowing that I could not follow that ambulance to Rochester. I could try, but there was no way I’d get in. So I did what my dad always says to do in a time of trial, I prayed. I prayed that he was going to be all right and I headed back home.

My dad had his second sudden cardiac arrest. This time it was while he was driving home from our cabin with Ruby (his trusty dog. Ruby did not sustain any injuries in the crash, she walked away unscathed to chase a turkey for another day). The Doctors figure the impact of him hitting the airbag/steering wheel restarted his heart. There is nothing they can do to prevent it from happening again. So we decided to live life, to live a full life because the next time it happens he might not walk away.

In June we had planned to go to Yellowstone, I had to move our trip to September due to his accident and Covid. September finally arrived and I was excited to get this trip underway. This was his first time on an airplane. As the plane lifted I looked over to see him in his seat pretending to fly the plane. I could feel the tears welling up and I fought them as hard as I could. It was in that moment the reality of our summer sunk in. I could have easily been traveling to Yellowstone alone.

It made me realize that these Daddy/Daughter trips will not go on forever. As much as I’d like time to stop, I know it has to end eventually. And that I as his daughter need to fill whatever years he has left with adventure and make memories. I want to have stories that I can tell to my children. Hell I want to be able to take my kiddo on trips with their grandpa, so that they can have stories to share.

In the end when the drip finally stops, all that is left of us is our stories. And I pray that you have people in your life who will continue to tell your stories when you are gone. Charlie used to tell me that “date of birth and date of death don’t matter on a tomb stone. It’s the “dash” between those dates that matters. Some of us chose to die while living and others my friend, they live while their dying. Your dash is your story, it’s the nuts and bolts of a life well lived or a life well mourned.”

Somewhere between the ghost towns of Montana and the valleys of Yellowstone, I added to my Dad’s dash. He kept saying over and over “I never thought I’d see Yellowstone. This is a trip of a lifetime.” he was right, this was a trip of a lifetime for him. We set out for Yellowstone in 2019, but only made it to the entrance due to car trouble. We vowed that day to come back, to come back and finish what we started. When I parked in the exact spot our trip ended in 2019, my dad looked around and looked at me and said “We completed our task!”

Garnet Ghost Town, Montana
Nevada City, Montana
Norris Geyser Basin

Indeed we did and all I have to say is Yellowstone is beautiful beyond measure and the mountains of Montana speak to your soul like no other place can. I would take this trip with him a million times over, including the tiny cabin with a broken heater that we stayed in.

Tiny Cabin at Pine Creek Lodge
Grand Teton National Park
Mammoth Hot Springs
Yellowstone National Park
Golden Gate, Yellowstone National Park

If you have a dad don’t take your time with him for granted, for he is not immune to growing old. Take the time today to start making memories. It doesn’t have to be some grand trip, it could be lunch or even just a walk in the park. Memorize his every word so that one day when he is gone you can pass his stories on. Even the highly inappropriate stories. Even the ones that make you cringe a little. When he is gone from this world his words will matter and you will be thankful that you have them to keep you company.

And as for my dad, I thank God every darn day for his third chance at life. I could not imagine this world without him and travel just wouldn’t be the same. He is and will always be my road trip buddy.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park
Devil’s slide, Montana
Garnet Ghost Town, Montana

{Go Red} Barbara Ann Is Why I Go Red

In 1987 my mama met Barb on the night shift at the Seminary Home and they became fast friends. Barb supported my mama during my childhood illness, lifted her up and gave her hope that my surgery would go well. Barb was rooting for me.

Barb followed my mama to Rem Park Heights, together they worked side by side on the night shift for 15 years. Barb took care of the ladies, my mama the men. They had each others backs and kept each other company though the quiet nights. Well mostly quiet, my mama and Barb have some pretty great stories from the night shift.

Barb had a huge heart, she loved on all of the babies and I was lucky enough to be one of them. She has been apart of my life for as long as I can remember. Barb sold Avon and my mama loved her some Avon products. I loved going with my mama to pick up our order, mostly because Barb always had a hug and a treat for me.

Chocolate bars are like the go to Halloween candy choice, and I trick or treated for a bag of candy I couldn’t eat. My mama would always have us trick or treat at Barb’s house and she would always put a huge bag of gummy bears or sweet tarts into my bag. Ms. Barb didn’t want me to be left out, so she always made sure I had something to enjoy too. Barb went out of her way to make me feel special.

When my mama got stuck at work doing paper work Barb would pick me up and take me to school. The oldies station was always on and Barb greeted me with a smile and “morning doll face!”

Doll face, she always call my Doll face. When I was ready to start using makeup my mama brought me to Barb. I remember sitting on her living room floor as she explained lipstick, eyeshadows, mascara, foundation and skin tone to me. She told me “girl you’ve got pale skin, stick with pinks!” Barb told me “a pretty girl always washes her face before bed.” I took her advice and always wash my face. I bought my makeup from Barb up until the day she stopped selling it. Avon was my brand and she will forever be my Avon lady.

I would give anything to hear “Doll face” right now. Barb passed away from complications of an enlarged heart on January 2, 2015. My mama couldn’t believe that her best friend was gone. She called Barb’s brother Greg and he confirmed that she was really gone. My mama lost her best friend of 28 years and I lost my second mom. Barb was one heck of a friend to my Mama and together we are navigating a world with out her. Barb had so much love for all the babies, dogs (especially George), and the people she took care of. Maybe that is why her heart was so large. So large because she loved with every ounce of her heart.

Barbara Ann is why I go red

{Hearts on 22} Celebrating My 4th Borrowed Year

{Photo by Stephanie Ryan Photography}

{Photo by Stephanie Ryan Photography}

There are moments were I feel like the little girl from Schindler’s list. You know the little girl in the one scene of the movie where everything is in black and white except for her red coat. Over the past four years I have heard more stories of pulmonary embolism loss than survival. I realize that only 1 out of 5 patients will survive a pulmonary embolism, yet it still moves me. Long ago I stopped asking God why he spared me and called another home in my place. At some point you stop wondering and start living. Living my life is the only way I know how to honor the four people who died so I could be the one who walked away. I vowed to make every year, month, week, day, hour, minute, and second of my life count, as I know I am living on borrowed time.

I have crisscrossed this country, speaking in church basements, town halls, elementary school classrooms, and college campuses educating women on the side effects of birth control. Educating women on heart health, blood clots, and mostly empowering them to be their own health care advocate. They listen wide-eyed as I tell my tale and go over the symptoms/warning signs. Only to find tears in their eyes as they realize that I almost died five days before my 27th birthday.

That out of anything I say is what sticks with people, the fact that I almost died five days before my 27th birthday. I can still see my Mam’s face as she walked into my room, her fear was so thick you could have cut it with a knife, her eyes filled with tears as she whispered “It should be my laying in that bed, you are to damn young for this.” She took my hand, rubbed my head, and promised me that we were going to beat this. She allowed me to cry for one minute and then I had to put my big girl pants on and fight. I had IVs coming from all directions, wires and leads tapped to every limb, in that moment my future looked bleak, yet I knew that this would pass, and that I would bounce back.

I’ve wasted enough precious time thinking about what I can’t have or do. Its taken a while but I have come t terms with the notion that I will never carry a child of my own, that I will not run a marathon, or climb a mountain. Instead I now focus on what I can do, I can adopt a child, walk a 5K really fast with my sister, and I will settle for the top of a hill any day. Most of all I can use my story to help educate my girlfriends and strangers about the deadly side effects of birth control. I can share my story with my Legislators, Congressmen, and Representatives, to strengthen the fact that we need more research on Heart Disease and Stroke in women.

My pulmonary embolism was the ER staffs main concern and my slight stroke was just a bonus. They both wreaked havoc on my body, yet I am still standing. When I look in the mirror I no longer see flaws, instead I see a body that’s been through hell and back. I see a body that survived a pulmonary embolism with infarction and a stroke, I have no doubt that it will carry me through a lot more. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never have my pre-PE/Stroke body back. I am just happy to be standing.

I am haunted by a comment my Mama made, she said “if my daughter didn’t get to the hospital when she did, I would have been picking out her urn instead of her 27th Halloween themed birthday cake.” That comment humbles me and reminds me how close I cam to death that day. My heart goes out to the families who have had to bury a loved one who died unexpectedly from a pulmonary embolism. That’s the thing, they are silent, and one never knows that they have a blood clot in their lungs until its to late. Most don’t even know why their child suddenly dropped dead, that is until the autopsy results confirm that they died of a blood clot in their lungs. I think about the women who never got to hold their niece, about the fathers who never got to walk their daughters down the isle, and about the women who were called home all to soon.

I live each day of my life for all of the women who died and for all of my survivor sisters still fighting the good fight. I will stand with my survivor sisters as we continue our wrongful injury/product liability suit against the makers of the Nuva Ring. One day justice will prevail, the souls of the lost will rest, and the broken will heal.

THANK YOU: A day doesn’t go by where I do not think about my care team at Woodwinds Health campus. Because of the ER staffs quick thinking and action I am alive today. I am alive because the doctor stopped what he was doing to ask me “by chance do you use birth control?” Extra test were ordered, a CT scan was given, and with in 30 minutes the clot was found. It was found because of that one little question and I am forever in debt to him. My stroke was stopped in its tracks because of the thrombolytics I received and for that I am forever grateful. I wouldn’t be alive today if it were not for the Doctors and nurses of Woodwinds, for they put this broken girl back together again and sent her back out into the world.

Because No Woman Deserves to Fight ALONE!

To Learn more about Pulmonary embolism and blood clots please visit the following:
Resources from the Mayo Clinic:
The National Blood Clot Alliance – Stop The Clot: http://www.stoptheclot.org/

To Learn more about Stroke and Heart Disease please visit the following:
Resources from the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stroke/DS00150
The American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/
The American Stroke Association: http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/
Power To End Stroke: http://powertoendstroke.org/
Go Red for Women: https://www.goredforwomen.org/
Please Join me in making a difference by joining “You’re The Cure”: http://yourethecure.org/aha/advocacy/default.aspx