One year ago today, I drove myself to McDonough District Hospital in Macomb, Illinois, because I was struggling to breathe. Little did I know I would return home 46 days later after experiencing a pulmonary embolism, two seizures, two strokes, and cardiac arrest for 56 minutes within a two day period. I still find myself stunned that I’m alive. To say I had a challenging year would be an understatement. As the year went on, I admit that my mind was increasingly full of questions regarding why I “woke up” (which is how I phrase it) and I felt that I was deeply learning about faith and trust.
So, when the 2016 began this past week, I couldn’t help but think that this year had to be different. My approach was to begin doing again the behaviors that helped me to successfully make it through 2015:
journaling, making to do lists, breaking big jobs up into smaller projects
One item I knew that I needed to add to my list was to look for messages of hope being sent my way. Yes, such messages were probably always there, but I had lost track of seeing them by the end of 2015 (when you have to remember to breathe at the same time that you bend your leg during physical therapy, it can be easy to forget to look for hope). This year, I not only wanted to see hope, but I wanted to acknowledge the messages of hope even if it meant talking out loud to myself so that I would hear the reminder. One message of hope, came my way on January 2, 2016, when my undergraduate alma mater, TCU, played in the Alamo Bowl.
During their record setting comeback, I couldn’t help but notice connections to my story over the past year, all pointing in the direction of continuing to persist in the face of a situation in which many would have already given up.
I see you hope.
For example, coach Gary Patterson attributed his change in wardrobe to assisting the horned frogs in their victory over the ducks. The ironic part is that the shirt he changed into was a purple shirt. Purple, which is one of the two colors of Western Illinois University where I currently work. Purple, is the color faculty, staff, and students are encourage to wear on Fridays. One might think that purple is my favorite color, but it is not.
For numerous reason, orange is my favorite color (hang in there…I promise there is a connection), and last spring when I was at OSF-Peoria my younger sister asked if she could be my social media PR manager (arguably this is a part of what she does for a living, so it was good professional experience and I could not do it). Little did I know, she would start a social media frenzy almost all of which related to the color orange.
Videos were created for me. One video was created for me by some former students, and several from various country music artists (for example, Brett Eldridge and Montgomery Gentry).
This resulted in me thinking that everyone on Facebook was wearing orange just for me. (Yes, I am now aware that it was due to my news feed being comprised of my friends and family…please see above life explosion as to why I might have been a bit slow to realize it. 🙂 ) Regardless, having orange all around me worked, and I dug deep to find my motivation to believe that I could walk again.
It even resulted in:
So, there was Gary Patterson on January 2, 2016, reminding me that all my friends and family were still wearing orange for me.
I see you hope.
And then there was Bram Kohlhausen (TCU’s back up quarterback) and his family. Not sure how many folks saw Dash Kohlhausen’s tweet “Special thanks to the #oregonducks fan who sold me his sideline pass and made moment possible @WinTheDay”. I am not sure who @WinTheDay is, but I couldn’t help but see the connection between@WinTheDay and #winthisday, which is a hashtag and motto that the family of another patient, Niko, created as a motto for his recovery. Niko, a 16-year old high school football player, happened to have a brain aneurysm and be in Peoria at the same time as me. (He also happened to at the time like the Oregon ducks…I’m trying to recruit him to WIU.)
I see you hope.
And then there is the story of the triple overtime, which resonates with the theme of persistence rising out of Bram Kohlhausen’s own story of playing college football. Messages of horned frogs not ever giving up, and believing the impossible were suddenly all over my news feed. This time the message was quite clear:
which is exactly my plan for 2016!