My great grand niece, Reece Victoria Renae Balcerzak is a little girl who has coma a long way is just one year. Looking back on her first year of life can take her family from the deepest fear of loss to the greatest thrill of victory. Reece was originally due February 17, 2018, but on December 1, 2017, things went wrong in a scary way. While Reece’s parents, Katie and Keifer, were sitting on the couch talking about the future and the precious little life Katie was carrying, her water broke. They rushed to the hospital, where the staff prepared them for a ride in an ambulance to the airport, and a trip on Life Flight to Denver where they were taken to Presbyterian Saint Luke’s Hospital. They had such different plans for this time in their lives.
On October 5, 2017, Katie and Keifer found out that their bundle of joy was going to be a girl. They couldn’t have been more excited, and now on December 1, 2017, they couldn’t have been more scared. After all, Katie was just 28 weeks pregnant. Birth now was just too soon. Keifer later wrote, “Presbyterian Saint Luke’s Hospital has been an amazing place. The Doctors and Nurses are top notch and treat us like normal human beings. We have been told that they hope to keep Katie pregnant for another 5 weeks before she will be induced. However, it’s very scary because with her water being broken we all know she could begin labor at any given time. After Katie gives birth our baby girl will be here until her original birth day of February 17, 2018.” The goal of five more weeks was not to be, and on December 14, 2018, Reece made her entrance into the world. She was born at 2:23pm, weighing just 3 pounds 11 ounces. She was just 17¾ inches long.
That unplanned arrival marked the traumatic start to little Reece’s life, but her story did not end there. Reece received amazing care at Presbyterian Saint Luke’s Hospital. The are like God’s miracle working network for babies, preemie or just sick. A very long 60 days later, Katie and Keifer left Presbyterian Saint Luke’s Hospital, with very mixed emotions. They wanted to go home, but as any parent of a preemie will tell you, that carries with it the worry over your child. Nevertheless, before long, Reece’s sweet smiles and her darling personality soothed their worried minds, because it was obvious that their little girl was going to be just fine at home too. Reece has made amazing progress, and while she may still be a bit smaller than average, she is a happy, healthy one year old. Today is Reece’s 1st birthday. Happy birthday Reece!! Have a great day sweet girl!! We love you!!
It’s every workers nightmare…being faced with a life or death situation involving a co-worker, and you are the only thing standing between the co-worker and certain death. On a hot July day in Florida in 1967, a nightmare emergency situation would unfold making linemen history, and journalistic history at the same time.
Rocco Morabito was a journalist with the Jacksonville Journal. His day began as he was headed to a local news event. He paused to watch as linemen worked above him, before heading on to his job for the day, covering a railroad strike. H snapped a few images and then headed back to the office, but as he passed the linemen, he heard screaming. Looking up, he saw Randall G. Champion, unconscious, his body hanging limp but still in his safety harness. Fellow lineman, J. D. Thompson was an apprentice lineman, but in a nightmare emergency moment, he sprang into action with lightening speed, racing to the pole and quickly climbing up to Champion. The position of Champion’s body made it impossible to administer CPR, so Thompson cradled his head in his arm and began giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, working to breath life back into his fellow lineman. His quick thinking and actions, made Thompson a hero that day.
Being a photojournalist, Rocco instinctively snapped an image and then ran to his car, to use the radio to have the paper call an ambulance. In reality, Champion would owe his life to both men, because they both reacted quickly and did what needed to get done to get Champion the help he needed. Unable to further assist with the rescue, Rocco grabbed his camera. He backed up and continued to walk backward until he backed into a house. With no where else to go, he clicked “THE historic image.” As he snapped that last photo, Thompson yelled out, “He’s Breathing!”
After Rocco ‘got the shot’, he returned to his car and again radioed the newspaper dispatch, this time, telling them, ”You might want to wait for this. I think I’ve got a pretty good one.” The paper waited, and the wait was indeed worth it. Rocco Morabito won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for Spot Photography…the first of its kind. Bob Pate, the copy editor of the Jacksonville Journal is credited with the ‘slug that stuck’, ”The Kiss of Life.” From safety classes to anthologies, and even a documentary in 2008 on the 40th anniversary of that fateful event, the photo has maintained a life of its own. When I saw it, I was as moved by it as anyone else who has ever seen it and been told what it was. You just don’t walk away from that without having a sense of awe about the events of that day. And the training value of it would be phenomenal!!
Champion and Thompson both continued to work as linemen until retirement. Champion retired in 1991, but sadly passed away in 2002 at the age of 64, as a result of heart failure. Thompson retired around 1995 having received several awards for his heroism and quick thinking. He is noted as having said that, “he was acting on his training and was thankful he could revive his downed co-worker.” He was just “doing his job.” What?? I don’t think so!! This was not just doing his job. This was heroic. That is typical of most heroes. They were “just doing their job.” Rocco worked for the newspaper for a total of 42 years. For 33 of those years, he worked as a photographer. He retired in 1982, and passed away at the age of 88 on April 5, 2009. His work, including “The Kiss of Life”, will continue to live on, illustrating the harrowing work that our linemen men and women perform every day, and sometimes just how heroic they really are.
Sometimes in life, you find that something is just meant to be. This is a story of just that…something that was meant to be. A while back, my niece Lacey Stevens introduced her brother, Garrett Stevens to a friend of hers, Kayla Smiley. That was the first step in a journey that for Garrett and Kayla would lead to happily ever after. They became engaged in a romantic setting in the Big Horn Mountains, with the involvement of her family, in which Garrett popped the question on the top of a hill while the fmily was taking pictures. Kayla had no idea. Good job Garrett.
For the rest of the family, this relationship has been a bit unusual, in that Kayla lived right next door to our mom’s house. I suppose that many people would feel like that could be a bit awkward, but not Kayla and Garrett. In fact, it was there that Kayla’s true self was shown to all of us. Kayla is a very caring person. She gives of herself easily, and that was exactly what we needed at that time in our lives. During Mom’s last couple of years, there were a times when an ambulance had to be called, because she was having some occasional bronchial issues. That is such a stressful thing for the children, especially when one child, in this case, my sister, Cheryl Masterson had to be there by herself at the time the ambulance needed to be called. Kayla, the instant she heard the ambulance, came right over to see what she could do to help, and if for no other reason, just to be there and be supportive to me sister, my mom, and to me as well. If you have never been in the position of needing to call an ambulance for your parent, you simply can’t know how devastating that feels. You find yourself forced to watch the proceedings, and there is nothing you can do to help. All too often, the emergency workers are so focused on their patient…as it should be, but they have no time to see you standing there quietly falling apart. Kayla…and Garrett too, while they were as worried as we were, came to support us as we went through this horrible ordeal. That is a kindness that can never be forgotten, much less repaid.
We knew that Garrett had found a gem of a girl, and so when he called to say they were engaged, it was with much joy that we congratulated them. They are both such sweet, loving people, and I know that their life together will be blessed in so many ways. God will repay their kindness with joy and love for years to come. I am so excited for them. Today is Kayla’s birthday. Kayla we just don’t know what we would do without you in our lives. Happy birthday Kayla!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Yesterday, I attended the funeral of Casper firefighter, Captain Jeffrey Atkinson. The service was beautiful and filled with all the pomp and circumstance befitting a hero. The ceremony included bag pipes, the Shriner’s Calliope Band, the sounding of the last bell, and the presentation of the helmet, badge, and flag to his widow, Kristen and his sons Eddie and Christopf. There were tributes about his bravery, his humor, and his caring ways. He was a firefighter, but more than that he was a husband, father, son, brother, nephew, uncle, cousin, and friend. His family loved him so much, and now cancer had taken him from them. It was a terribly sad time for a lot of people, in the firefighting community and the entire city too.
As I sat there listening to the ceremony, my mind drifted back over the last nine years, and my own encounters with Jeff and the other firefighters. As a caregiver for my parents and my in-laws over the past nine years, there have been more occasions than I care to think about when I would have to call for an ambulance for my loved ones. As most of you know, the fire department is often the first responder on those occasions. Since my husband Bob had been the fire department mechanic for many years, the firefighters knew me, but it wouldn’t have mattered. They weren’t just there because they knew Bob and me, they were there because they care about the people of Casper…or anyone in need.
Jeff and a number of other firefighters came to my rescue on more occasions than I want to think back on. In nine years of caregiving, there have been dozens of times when I had no other choice but to seek help in emergency situations. The firefighters and ambulance personnel were always professional, caring, and gentle with my parents and in-laws, but the firemen always seemed to look beyond just the patient. They saw me…standing there in the middle of it all, trying desperately to stay in control of my emotions long enough to be able to give them the information they needed in order to help their patient…my loved one.
At the time of those calls, I didn’t know if my loved one was going to make it through this. I felt like I was falling into a bottomless pit. Those were the worst moments of my life, and they saw me at my absolute worst. It didn’t matter to them. They saw that I was scared and trying desperately to hold myself together. It was at that point, as the EMTs were taking my loved one out to the ambulance that the firefighters turned their attention to me, asking if I was ok. Of course, that was the breaking point for me, and the tears flowed. Several of the firefighters, including Jeff took it upon themselves to give me the hug I really needed, and the encouragement to go forward and make my way to the hospital to give the information needed to the hospital staff too. I don’t think I could have made it without that hug. A hug might seem like such a small thing, but when your parents are sick and you have to be the one to make all the decisions about their care, it can feel so overwhelming. I felt lost and alone. They showed me that I wasn’t alone after all. With Jeff’s passing, the city of Casper has lost a great firefighter.
Few things can bring a parent to their knees in prayer faster than a sick child…especially when the situation is very serious. This was the position my niece, Susan Griffith and her husband, Josh found themselves in when their younger daughter, Kaytlyn became ill when she was just 18 months old. Kaytlyn was running a fever of 104.5° for most of the morning, nothing Susan did seemed to have much effect on the fever. Susan knew she had to get more help, so she took her to Urgent Care. The physician at Urgent Care, sent them to the Emergency Room at the hospital immediately. The doctors took blood, ran tests, gave her something to bring down the fever, and told Susan to keep a close eye on Kaytlyn, and bring her back if anything got worse. When they left the hospital, Kaytlyn’s fever was at 103°.
Taking Kaytlyn home proved to be a very bad idea. By the time they got home, Kaytlyn’s tongue was swelling, making it difficult to breathe. Susan immediately took her back to the Emergency Room. The doctors gave her an anti-swelling medication and said more tests were needed to determine the problem. They did a spinal tap, which is among one of the scariest test imaginable for a worried mom. Then they took X-rays and more blood. Still they had no answers. Kaytlyn’s fever was still fluctuating between 103° and 104°. They decided to keep her overnight, and it was going to be a long night for Susan…especially since Josh was working in North Dakota.
Because the hospital in Powell is small, Susan and Josh decided that they wanted to take Kaytlyn to Billings, Montana. The doctors were very much against the idea, but after a while, they consented, provided they went by ambulance. Susan rode with Kaytlyn in the ambulance, and Josh left North Dakota, headed for Billings. Josh’s mother went to their house to get some clothes for Susan and Kaytlyn. Susan’s sister, my niece, Machelle Moore, picked Susan’s other daughter, Jala up from school, and kept her overnight…unheard of for Jala on a school night, probably causing her to worry too.
The ride to Billings seemed to take hours, but finally, Kaytlyn was admitted to the Pediatric Unit at Saint Vincent’s Health Care…it was 11pm…a horribly long day. Josh’s mother made sure Susan and Kaytlyn got to the room, and then had to head back to Powell. Josh was still en route to Billings from North Dakota, but Kaytlyn seemed to be doing better now, and her fever had dropped to 102°. She was finally able to sleep, but for Susan, there was nothing to do but sit and think. It occurred to her how blessed they had been, that they had never had to bring their children to a hospital before. Still, they were there now, and she didn’t know what was wrong yet.
Nothing is worse for a parent than sitting in a hospital, wondering if they are going to lose their child. Susan finally dozed off at some point before Josh arrived…from pure exhaustion. She awoke to the phone ringing. It was Josh. He had made it to Billings, but his truck broke down on the interstate. Someone helped him get it off the road, and a highway patrolman gave him a ride to the hospital. I can imagine how Susan felt when Josh arrived…like falling to pieces. She needed someone to hold her together, and thankfully, Josh was finally able to be there. Pure relief rained over her. The morning brought more relief, when the doctor said it was Tonsillitis. They recommended that her tonsils be removed in a month or so, and sent them home. They went home with thankful hearts. Their baby girl was still with them, and they knew just how blessed they were. They would never forget their miracle. Today Kaytlyn is 6 years old. Happy birthday Kaytlyn!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!