Monthly Archives: May 2017

Running For My Life

This past weekend several of my family members came to Fulton to participate in a 5k super samfor the Super Sam Foundation.  It was founded by my next-door neighbor who lost their
six-year-old son to cancer.  Sam’s mom, dad, and twin sister have worked hard to honor Sam’s wishes of taking care of all the children.  Their foundation funds childhood cancer research and comfort packs delivered to children in the hospital and also to their families.

This 5k had been postponed from April due to inclement weather because part of the route was flooded.  Now it was time for this delayed event to occur, and the night before, we had a tremendous thunderstorm.  Once again, the route was flooded and was unsafe IMG_1637for the 5k.  It was cancelled, but our family donned our “Super Sam” Shirts, and walked
3.1 miles in the neighborhood.  There was no fanfare, no people cheering on the sidelines, but a great family walk that was topped off when Sam’s mom came driving down the street and saw us.  She was amazed and encouraged that we walked anyway.

I had only participated in one other race.  It was 2011, and I was going through my training as a life coach.  Our training involved coaching in a group setting as we learned the skills to help others move forward in their lives.  That day in the session, the trainer asked if there was anything someone wanted to be coached on that they were struggling with.  I mentioned that I was really having a tough time being consistent in going outside and walking.  As I was being coached in front the other 25 or so coaching students, I blurted out that in my head I’m an athlete—I want to run, not walk.  Where did that come from?  I think I really wanted to experience that and to at least give it a try.

As a result of that coaching session, at the age of 61, I started self-training to run in a 5k.  A couple months later I posted on Facebook that I was looking for a 5k and I had frequent flyer miles.  Did anyone have any suggestions of where I could participate.  My cousin’s daughter in Phoenix, Arizona, responded and said there was the Pat Tillman imagesRun coming up, and if I wanted to come to Phoenix, I was invited to stay at her home and she would also run with me.  Offer accepted.  On April 16, 2011, I participated in the Pat Tillman Run.  It was such an amazing experience for me that when I returned to Michelle’s home after the run, I sat down and wrote what that day was like.  Here is that writing from that day.

What is it like to run my first race?  It got a bit intimidating last night. What did I do? Sign up for a race and it’s not even a 5k (3.1 miles), it’s 4.2 miles. I did sleep fairly well,IMG_0150 but when the alarm went off at 5:00 a.m., it was snooze button time!  Finally, at 5:10 a.m. I pulled myself out of bed., cleaned up, and put on my running clothes. Do I look silly?
No, but I was extremely intimidated by it. By 6:00 a.m., my cousin’s daughter, sweet, lovely, beautiful Michelle and I were in the car and on our way to Arizona State University. We parked at a shopping center a mile from the starting corrals. I liked that. I felt like the walk would help loosen me up. But the nerves were getting to me. Could I really do this?   We walked through a massive crowd of humanity.  We found the corral we where we were to start. There were over 22,000 registered runners and walkers.

We stood around for a few minutes. I put my iPhone in my arm band ready to listen to music I had downloaded. My old rock stars from the 60’s and 70’s were going to run with me today.  I told Michelle not to run with me, but to do her personal best. We would find each other in the stadium.  As we went past the starting line, she was ahead of me and I was fine in the mass of humanity. Old and young all moving along forward with the same goal: run, walk, run, whatever–go 4.2 miles and end inside Sun Devil Stadium at the 42nd yard line.

7922455-runner-take-a-water-in-a-marathon-race 2Pace yourself, Andrea, you don’t have to run fast. People are going all speeds from a slow walk to a fast run. It doesn’t matter–I just needed to do what worked for me.  I began a
nice slow run. I was not prepared for the dry desert air.  My tongue was literally stuck to the roof of my mouth. Where is the water?  I rounded the curve and saw a big sign saying “1 Mile” and people were handing cups of water.   Grab a cup and hydrate.

The hard part came at the long steady incline. What should I do?  It’s early in the run. I am hot and dry and I don’t want to push too hard but I want to accomplish this run.  Okay, walk.  I reminded myself of those days walking at 4 mph on the treadmill. So, if I am going to walk, it will be at that pace. Don’t slow down too much. Now start running again.  So, there I am in the crowd running again. People with their children running, people with their dogs. Everyone in their Pat Tillman shirts.  A group of military runs past doing their chanting in cadence, people following behind in their rhythm.

Water, where is water?  Tongue stuck. Can’t get any moisture in my mouth. Suddenly I need to move. Someone is down. There are people around him. I turn to see, thinking they will be giving him water or wrapping his leg. No, as I look, to my shock, they are doing chest compressions. Yes, CPR, is occurring as I run past. That really threw me. Slow down, Andrea, your mind is back there. Walk fast, but more important, pray for that man lying on the ground. Pray that my God who resurrected from the dead will bring this man back to life. So, I prayed and ran and walked.  And I prayed some more.

I am turning the corner to the stadium. Someone is yelling, “Congratulations, only 1/2 mile to go.”  Really, I made it that far?  I am dry again. I can run, but it is hard because I need water. So, run and walk and run. My goal is to run into the stadium, right to the 42nd yard line where the race ends.  As I run into the Sun Devil Stadium, Die Symphony is playing through my earbuds. For those of you who do not know, Die Symphony was the band my boys were in. So now I am thinking of my children as I am running into the stadium to the 42nd yard line.

Honoring Pat Tillman, who gave his life to his country, who was #42 on the Arizona State tillmanUniversity football team, and #40 on the Phoenix Cardinals football team. After 9/11, he walked away from his football career to serve his country and died serving. Wow, what an honor to him. Who would have known his life now impacts many lives giving much needed scholarships to deserving military families.

I enter the stadium. I am running. I have made all 4.2 miles. I find Michelle and we hug. Thousands are still running in. And I was one of them.  I wasn’t the fastest, but I also IMG_0147wasn’t the slowest.  I accomplished something that I never thought I would be capable of doing.

What have you always wanted to do?  Did you tell yourself you are too old or too young or whatever to chase your dreams?   My granddaughter asked me while I was training for this run, “Grandma, what if you cannot run a 5k?”   I replied to her, “You are right, maybe something will happen that I cannot run a race, but at least I can say I tried.  What would it be if I could and had not tried?”

What do you want to do, but have not tried?  Why not give it a try? It’s not in the doing, it’s in the trying. You might surprise yourself of what you can really do!

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supersam            tillman foundation

Miraculous Healings in the Workplace

Miraculous healings?  Really?  At work?  Did I grab your interest?

i_love_hr_mugI loved my career in Human Resources.  I started thinking about going into Human Resources after working for several companies where the HR person was totally ineffective.  They couldn’t answer questions about policy, compliance, benefits—they were just pushing paper around.  I am a creative problem solver, so employee relations, and all areas of HR would be a delightful challenge.  I loved every bit of it.  Okay, I lied.  I loved 99.9% of it.  They don’t call it work for nothing.  There are always a few things within the scope of my job that I did not find pleasant, like endless conference calls, and a few other tasks.  I loved the area of employee and labor relations—how could I help employees be their best within the boundaries set by the corporation.

Before I tell you of the miraculous healings, I want to talk about parent-child 92379b954b4c41ff3d7ad60fa016d650_1000-images-about-punishment-clipart-kid-misbehaving-in-school_415-451relationships.  It is similar to employee-manager relationships.  The question for parents and for managers is, “who is running the household?”  Many parents do not realize that happy children need boundaries.  The kids will fight against them, but in the end, children are glad to know what the rules are, that they are required to follow them, and in doing so, they feel safe in their environments. I am not talking about abusive parents, but parents who want to raise their children in love.  Sometimes as parents we want to make our children happy, so we give into them and soon they are ruling the roost.

The same goes for employees.  I am not saying that they are children.  What I am saying is that they need to know what the acceptable boundaries are within the workplace. That is why you see corporate policies and employee handbooks—they are not contracts, but they are guidelines to the boundaries at work.

I have sat in too many management meetings where a manager is complaining about his/her problem-child employee.  They make a comment that we should write a new policy, or update our policy to take care of the particular problem created by their problem-child.  My comment has always been, “Do you really want to make a policy for the 10% who cannot stay within a boundary, and punish the other 90%?”  They look at me kind of sheepishly, and then I would have to use tough love and say, “Manage your people.”  They didn’t like the tough job of confronting the employee with an issue.  It doesn’t have to be a confrontation, thus miraculous healing.

One day at work a new department director came to me with a problem with his Wife_Soup 2employee whom I shall call Joe.  Joe had been coming to work an hour to an hour and a half late several times a week.  He was missing important staff meetings, and therefore, was behind the eight ball of what was going on in the department projects, and his coworkers were behind knowing where Joe was in his projects.  This director told me he had looked at Joe’s time coming into work and found that he had been doing this for quite a while, even before this director had taken over this department.  He told me that Joe told him that his wife was sick, and he was taking time in the morning to take care of her.  I told the manager to send Joe to me because I thought we could work with the issue of his wife being ill.

For those of you who are not aware of FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), here is an explanation in a nutshell.  If your company has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius, federal law requires you to offer Family Medical Leave in case of a serious illness of the employee, spouse, child, or parent.  This might be what we may have to offer Joe.  It will help protect his job in that we cannot discipline him for any absence made within the rules of FMLA.

Joe came in to see me, and I told him that his manager was concerned about his tardiness.  Joe explained that his wife was ill, and he stayed home to clean the house and make meals.  Hmm?  Okay, that might still fall under FMLA if her doctor says that Joe is needed for these tasks to help his wife recover.  I handed him the application for taking leave under FMLA.  I explained that on the days he needed to be there for her care (which was intermittent), he just needed to call and tell us that he was taking this leave.  Until he used up all the allotted time by law, we could not discipline him for his absences.  His wife’s doctor would need to complete this form explaining the need for Joe to take care of his wife.

I never received the application back.  Joe never came in late any longer.  Apparently, his wife was miraculously healed!  In reality, Joe knew that his wife was not seriously ill that required his being there (or maybe she wasn’t even ill in the first place).  I didn’t have to confront.  I just had to make an offer if this was a legitimate illness.

A couple months later, a friend of mine who owned a small business called me.  She was very frustrated with one of her employees and she didn’t know what to do.  Her overheatedcompany had less than 20 employees so she was not required to offer any type of FMLA.  Her business had a warehouse that was not air conditioned.  It can get very hot and humid in St. Louis throughout the summer.  She provided her employees water and Gatorade, fans throughout the warehouse, and was not a taskmaster if the employee needed a break.  Her employee, whom I will call George, came to her around 11:30-noon every day and said the heat was getting to him and he needed to go home.  She didn’t want to be unfair to him, but found it excessive in his needing to leave.  She wanted to know what she could do to make sure this was legitimate.
I told her to accommodate George.  She was taken back by this because that sounded like it was okay to just be taking off whenever he felt like it, if he was taking advantage.  I explained to her that accommodating didn’t mean that he needed to go home.  I suggested she tell George that from now on, when the heat was getting to him to come into the air-conditioned office, and she would find work for him to do in the coolness of the office.  She asked what kind of work could she give a warehouse worker in the office.  I told her that anything she could find for him to do – shred paper, clean the break room, make coffee, replenish the water in the refrigerator, anything to keep him working in the office.  She was skeptical of my idea, but said she would try it.

The following day, around mid-morning, she went out the warehouse to find George.  She informed him that she was concerned about him not feeling well in the heat, and when he was feeling that way, he should feel free to come in the office and she would have some tasks for him to accomplish.  George thanked her for her concern, said he was feeling much better, and from that day on never left for home at noon due to the heat.  Miraculous healing!

In both those cases, there could have been legitimate medical issues, and if there were, management should always be mindful of the health and wellbeing of their employees.  It is usually with a “problem-child” that these means are taken.  Be kind and mindful, but offer a solution to the issue.  Many times the problem will just go away.  Miraculous healing!

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Lessons Learned at Death’s Door

I could have easily died on June 6, 1979.  I have told my story to doctors who find it amazing that I am here to tell about it.  I was only 31 years old.  Over Memorial Day weekend (May 26-28), I was having some cramps—a bit uncomfortable, and felt discomfort standing straight up.  It went in waves.  The only person I told was my sister-in-law who was visiting us from Chicago.  She noticed that I seemed uncomfortable.  I told her I would call the doctor after the holiday.  I did and set an appointment for mid June.  I was due my annual OB/GYN checkup anyway.  The cramps went away in a couple days and everything was back to normal.  Well, until the morning of June 6.

It was nine days since Memorial Day, and I had quickly forgotten the discomfort I had felt that weekend.  I remember my day very well.  I woke up in the morning having severe lower abdominasick.jpgl pain.  I decided I must just have bad gas pains.  Maybe taking something for that might help.  My husband drove to the pharmacy and brought back what I had requested.  An hour later the pain really hit.  I was doubled over.  I called the doctor, and he told me to come in early afternoon.

My husband left for work, and I crawled into bed with four little boys somewhere around the house.  My mom was to come to take me to the doctor.  Later that morning I heard water running.  Where was it coming from?  Where were the kids?  I crawled out of bed and heard voices outside.  I looked out my upstairs bedroom window to see my four year old son and my two year old son.  Both were in their pajamas.  Well, not completely.  The 2 year old only had his pajama top on and nothing below.  My 4 year old had a hose and was hosing him down.  I tried to open the window to call them inside.  I had no strength, and could only open the window about an inch, and then I proceeded to call out to them to come into the house.  To my surprise, I could not speak above a whisper.

Now panic set it.  What was wrong?  I was in pain.  I couldn’t talk above a whisper.  I didn’t have the strength to open the window.  I called my husband, and told him he needed to come home immediately.  Something was terribly wrong. He said he could not come home because the small retail store he owned had already opened.  I asked if there were any customers.  He replied that there were no customers, but it was store hours, and he couldn’t leave.  I asked him to put a sign on the door that there is a family emergency and come home.  He said for me to call a neighbor to get the kids inside.  Wow, really?  I proceeded to call a neighbor.  I was so embarrassed.  Telling her I didn’t feel well and my kids are outside, naked and being hosed down and I don’t know where the oldest is or the baby, but I think the baby is still in his crib.  Diana, my neighbor, came and got all my kids gathered and dressed.  She informed me that she was taking them to her house until my mother arrived.

By the time my mother arrived, I was even weaker. She suggested I take a shower.  That was my mom—don’t go anywhere with dirty underwear—you may end up in an emergency room!  I knew if I tried to take I shower I would pass out.  She brought me soap, a washcloth, towel, and a pan of water.  I took a sponge bath in my bed and dressed to see the doctor.

I was in such pain and feeling so faint that I sat on the top step and slowly moved my bottom down to the next step until I made it down to the first floor.  My mom held onto me as she walked me to the car.  We picked up the kids and drove them to my friend’s house who was waiting for us.  As Phyllis came to the car to get the boys, I told her I would be back in a couple hours . . . little did I know.

When we arrived at the doctor’s office, I informed my mom to hold the doors open and not stop me.  I was afraid if I stopped moving I would collapse to the ground.  My mom was not a very healthy person, and I sure didn’t want her trying to catch me or lift me from the ground.  I remember her slow little run to the door so she could open it before I got to it.  As we walked to the elevator, and the doors opened.  Someone knew I couldn’t stand still!  I arrived in the doctor’s office, and for the first time since seeing these doctors for eleven years, they immediately took me to an examining room.

Dr. Smith walked in.  I always liked Dr. Benjamin Smith.  He was an older gentleman who was so calming.  He patted my hand and asked what was going on.  I finally was in a safe place to let it all go.  I started sobbing and telling him about the pain I was in.  Now I had severe pain between the shoulder blades.  I was dizzy and weak and really scared.  He examined me.  He poked on my abdomen and asking if it hurt more when he poked or when he let go.  Within minutes he told me that he thought I was hemorrhaging internally and I could possibly have an ectopic pregnancy, and I needed to go to the hospital immediately.  Did I want an ambulance?

The thought of going in an ambulance was scarier to me than the severe pain I was in.  I refused anUnknown-1d let my mom drive me.  My poor mom.  I laid in the back seat as she sped down the highway to Missouri Baptist Hospital.  The emergency room was waiting for me and was ready for my immediate admission. I was admitted to a room at 3:30 pm on
the OB/GYN floor. Doctors, nurses, lab technicians, you name it, were showing up drawing blood, taking medical history, poking and prodding.  I suppose I did okay giving all that information—I had just been there a year earlier delivering my fourth child.  The
doctor and nurse wheeled me to an examining room.  As the nurse started to help me out of the wheelchair, I started to crumple to the ground.  The nurse and doctor caught me.  From that point on the orders were written in my chart that I am not allowed out of the bed.

My mom was at the hospital.  My sisters arrived.  Where was my husband?  Oh yeah, the store was open.  As the end of the work day came, my husband finally arrived.  I was told they were going to perform an exploratory laparotomy.  That literally meant they were going to open me from my sternum to my pubic bone and check every organ in my body to make sure they knew exactly where I was hemorrhaging.

So far, a very long day.  Time seems to fly when everyone is abuzz around you.  I was laying on the gurney in the hallway of the Operating Room suites for about ½ hour.  It was dim and very quiet.  Surgeries are not going on this time of day.  I heard the doors open behind me and a man yelling, “We have the blood.  You can roll her in.”  It was 157394888June, and my blood type is O+.  I can only get blood from other O+ or O- donors.  The hospital was waiting to have enough blood supply before they opened me up.

The surgery started at 10:05 pm concluded at 1:20 am, and a total of five units of blood were given to me in surgery and in the recovery room.  The adult human body has
approximately 1.2 – 1.5 gallons of blood.  Five (5) pints is equivalent to slightly over ½ gallon.  I had lost half of my blood supply.  When I tell people I was given 5 units (pints) of blood in the operating and recovery rooms, they have commented that I am fortunate to be alive!

By this account, I shouldn’t even be here today.  I had an ectopic pregnancy or also called a tubal pregnancy.  This is when a fertilized egg gets stuck in the fallopian tube and does not move to the uterus.  The egg starts to grow where there is no room and causes the fallopian tube to burst and bleed uncontrollably.   When this was discovered in the surgery, my doctor said they found an old blood clot, which apparently had started Memorial Day weekend, and then stopped, until it started with a vengeance on June 6, 1979.  How does one hemorrhage for so long and still stay conscious?

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By the way, I missed baby #4’s first birthday.  His birthday is June 10, just four days after this surgery.  Above is a photo of the birthday party with his three brothers (the three little guys around him) and a cousin (the tall one in the back).  That was difficult for me, but I am here now to celebrate all my children’s and grandchildren’s birthdays.

What are the life lessons I learned from being at death’s door?

  1. Life can take you by surprise.
  2. Anyone can die unexpectedly at any age, and it could have been me.
  3. Not everyone you depend on is dependable.
  4. My family is the best—my mom and sisters became the caretakers for 4 little boys for the next eight days.
  5. Giving blood is important, especially being O+.images-1
  6. It takes a long time for the body to heal from trauma, and sometimes it affects the soul.
  7. God had much bigger plans and much for me to do on earth (that took a long time for me to learn).
  8. God is gracious, even in bad times. My life was spared, many people helped with meals, the kids, and being there for me.

Maybe I knew I needed to be there for all my babies.  Maybe God had a plan for me I knew nothing of at the time.  Maybe both of those things.  It took six months to recover from this trauma to my body—six months where I could not make it through a day without getting exhausted and needing a nap midday.

Today as I was recounting this story to my husband of almost four years, I just paused and held back the tears.  It all felt so real all over again.  I am so grateful to be here today, to love life and embrace it, to see my children grow up, to know my grandchildren, and to be loved by my wonderful husband.

God is good all the time!