A word of warning. This post is not the usual story about our travels. Honestly, I’ve been struggling on whether to write it. However, I feel I must. I did not want to end this year’s travel blog without a final chapter. This post is a personal account about the circumstance of our journey home and how life can change so abruptly. I understand if you stop reading here. It’s perfectly alright. I’m sure it is not what you expected to see. There is no wondrous places or epic adventures shared below — only how our world turned upside down.
The day started like any other day. Grammi and I were loving our time in Grand Teton National Park. We wanted to stay longer, but we had to find another campsite. We would have liked to stay longer at Gros Ventre Campground. It is a great location with beautiful scenery and good cell service, but there were no sites available. You would think with 360 sites there might be something, but that was not the case. So we set out to look at a U.S. Forest Service campground called Atherton Creek.
As we drove the winding road up the hill and further away from Jackson Hole, our cell phone service disappeared. The campground located on a hillside overlooking Lower Slide Lake was secluded. We scouted it out and made some notes on which sites we liked best and made plans to return with the camper in the morning.
As we drove back down the hill, my phone dinged twice. I had two messages. The first was from my mother. The second was from our daughter Amber. I played the second message first.
“Hey dad, It’s Amber, umm…please call me back, we umm…Kacie is okay…she’s on…just give me a call back. Okay? I know Granny (my mother) called and …umm…give me a call back when you get this, please. I love you. We’re okay, WE ARE OKAY.”
The stress and cracking in her voice was enough for me to know things were not okay. My heart sunk to the pit of my stomach. I dialed Amber’s number, but the call did not go through. I tried again and again and again. Finally, after driving for about fifteen minutes and getting closer to our campsite did the call go through.
Amber told us that Kacie had a seizure. She was on the way to the hospital in an ambulance. Kacie’s husband, Derrick, was following behind. Amber said she was also on her way to the hospital, as was our other daughters — Jessica and Shanna. She will give us an update as soon as she could.
My head was racing trying to figure out what was going on. Kacie has no history of seizures. She’s always been healthy. I was in a panic. Listening to my mother’s message, who lives next door to Kacie, only made things worse. It was ten seconds of incoherent panic. My wife, who usually handles stressful situations better than me, sat quietly trying to stay calm. I turned and looked at her and said, “We are going home. As soon as we get back to our camper, pack up and get ready to pull out.” All I knew was I wanted to go home.
Once we were back at the campground, I called Derrick. He was at the hospital. He said a scan showed a clot in the base of the scull and the doctors were preparing for emergency surgery. I became overwhelmed with dread and anxiety. I wanted to go home. I wanted to see my daughter I wanted to hold my daughter. We were on the road in less than an hour. More than 2300 miles lies ahead.
Our thought was to go to Denver, find somewhere to leave our truck and camper and fly home. I focused on the road ahead with long anxious periods and no cell service. It was gut-wrenching not knowing what was happening. Silently, I prayed to God. Over and over — I prayed.
We passed through a town with cell service and received our first update. The doctors said the surgery went well, but they will have to wait and see how she responds after she wakes up. “That could take a few days”, the doctors said. She will be going to ICU in the meantime.
Another town, another update — Amber said Kacie is now in the ICU. She is hooked to a bunch of wires and tubes. Derrick and Amber plan to stay in the room for as long as the nurse will allow. The current hospital policy, with the COVID restrictions, allows for only one visitor per day and no overnight stays. Amber told us how she managed to get pass security by going to another entrance and talking her way inside. Jessica and Shanna tried the same tactic, but were denied.
Next update a few hours later— Kacie opened her eyes and tried to talk. The nurse was very surprised. She wanted to say something but couldn’t because of the tube down her throat. Amber handed her a pen and paper and Kacie wrote, “I am with it.” Praise God! Four little words that mean so much. It meant she knew what was going on. It brought tears to my eyes when I heard this.
Our daughter Jessica and her husband Bryan called and offered to fly to Denver and drive our camper back so we could fly home. With the news of Kacie responding well, Amber didn’t think we should fly home from Denver. “What’s the point, Dad? They won’t let you in the hospital. You might as well keep driving.” We thought long and hard of our options, coming to the conclusion that Amber was right. We bypassed Denver and drove into the night. We eventually stopped at a truck stop for a few hours rest.
During the night, my phone rang and roused me out of bed. “It’s Kacie”, I said to Grammi. She FaceTimed us. I don’t think she meant to, but there she was. We could see her. The tubes had been removed from her throat and she was able to talk. Amber and Derrick were no longer there. They were told to leave. At times, she didn’t make a lot of sense as she was still under the effects of anesthesia. We made sure to tell her we loved her and we were coming home. It was such a blessing to see her and we felt some comfort.
While driving the next morning, we talked on the phone to Kacie and Derrick. They said a parade of doctors have stopped in to see her and so far there has been no deficits detected. “We never see this” said one of the doctors. “This is an amazing recovery”, said another. “So far, everything is looking good. We can’t explain it”, said yet another doctor. When I heard that, a chill went through me because I knew I could explain it — God had answered my prayers.
Over the next three days, we drove for as long as we could, stopping at Walmart for some sleep before heading off early the next morning. It was the first time we had stayed the night at a Walmart. Under the circumstance, it was our best option. Kacie remained in ICU for another day before being moved to a regular room. She had some test to undergo before they would send her home.
After only three days in the hospital Derrick brought Kacie home. We arrived less than an hour later. The timing could not have been better. I can’t express the burst of emotion that engulfed us all. There were tears and hugs. It was so good to wrap my arms around my daughter.
We have been home for a few weeks now. This blog has always run 2-4 weeks behind real time — even further after the recent events. I’m happy to finally bring it up to date.
Kacie continues to improve each day. She is working from home and things are slowly getting back to normal. Last week, her story was featured on Love What Matters. It is a platform that shares stores about life and love. It has over 8 million followers on Facebook. Here is a link if you would like to read it. https://www.lovewhatmatters.com/nurse-endometriosis-infertility-coach-kindness-womens-health
I’m not sure what the future will bring. Our cross-country adventures have been put on hold for now, although we have some in state camping trips ahead. The good news is the world has righted itself — though it is a little more tilted than it used to be. The hope is we will soon be back to sharing The Adventures of Grammi and Grampa.
Until then…happy days, safe travels and praise the Lord.
Photo Credit: Free-Images.com