Everyone has a different story to tell. Where we were born, how we were raised, and the most important stories are the ones we have survived. My journeys have not been easy to make it through, but I have, and I am so much stronger because of it. I always focus on the positive and make sure and grow from the experience.

I was lucky to have been raised as a hardworking, independent woman. In my early years, my father was a farmer for Agri-northwest in the Umatilla area. It’s a large agricultural business that grows corn and potatoes. Oh my…the memories, truckloads of corn on the cob would arrive and we spent the day peeling. When I was 14, I had the bombshell surprise of moving to Ellensburg, Washington. This would be the town I spent the next 26 years. At the time I was very unhappy with my mother for this change, but now I thank her. What a lovely valley and amazing people that I now miss often.

The reason I talk of my hometown is so that you better understand how hard it was to leave. The move was a giant leap of faith and very unanticipated. Ellensburg is a small college town that they should have in the movies. The type of town you cannot even walk into the hardware store without being recognized. Especially, if you were involved in the community, as I was. I had the privilege of working in banking for 14 years, owning and operating 2 businesses and running my County’s United Way Campaigns. My beloved Coffee shop, which I owned with my mother, was my favorite endeavor and I still miss it to this day. The lucky thing is my mother still has it up and running. So why did I leave the business you ask? Well………….

Thursday, February 18th, 2016, 6 days till my 40th birthday!

I woke up late that morning with my head was pounding. The Coffee shop doors had to be open by 5:30 and it was already 5:15. I made it a few minutes late and found one of my favorite customers, Larry, waiting outside. Larry is  local 70ish year-old rancher that would come and make my day so much brighter. As that morning progressed, I started feeling even worse. He noticed I was not up to par and instructed me to go home. Of course, I fought him but eventually I listened and went home to reboot. At least that was the plan…….

My children were at their fathers’ houses, so I climbed in bed. I remember little of the next few days except fever, chills, exhaustion, and a headache like no other. As the days progressed my symptoms increased significantly. By Saturday afternoon I was hurting like no other and my mother insisted she take me to the emergency room. The ER ended up sending me home that night and had diagnosed me with a flu and a severe migraine. I went home and crashed hoping tomorrow would be a little better. It by far was not!

That next day my mother called the house  to check in on me again. According to her I was speaking gibberish. At the time she thought I must be half asleep and figured she would check in later. Around 10am she came by the house and noticed my garage door was open, and I was gone  Luckily, not long after she got a call from the coffee house letting her know that the hospital was trying to reach her.

When my mother got to the hospital the staff told her I appeared in a fog. I still only remember a few moments from that day, prime one being when they asked me my name. I do recollect being asked that question and not knowing the answer. As claimed by the staff I called myself a bright sunny star! I could have picked a worse name!! My mother was then informed that they were going to do a few tests and MRI to assess my condition.

After testing they said that I was suffering from a severe flu and migraine causing speech impairment. I was speaking gibberish off and on, sometimes clear and aware, then flipped straight back to gibberish. This is not consistent with what a Migraine could cause. Migraines can cause speech to be off, but they cause it to be straight gibberish, never off and on. The hospital treated me with migraine medication, IV for hydration and pain killers. Later that day they informed my mother, I would be checked out. She demanded that they do not and informed them that this is not the daughter she knows. I thank God for having such an incredible mother, if they had sent me home, I would most likely not be here today.

The hospital in Ellensburg went ahead further by contacting Virginia Mason Neurology Department in Seattle. At the time Virginia Mason was not able to confirm Encephalitis or Meningitis but they thought it was a definite possibility. They then informed Kittitas Valley Community Hospital in Ellensburg to start me on a medication. There hope was that if brain inflammation were occurring it would start to help reduce the swelling. A very smart move on their part.

I remember only a few brief moments of the next 48 hours. One being when I was in the Ambulance on my way to Seattle. I recall asking for my daughter Brooklyn and stating I needed to return home. However,  the craziest thing I recall is when Virginia Mason doctors threatened to strap me down and give me a shot. I was demanding again to get back to my daughter and threatening to walk out. The presence of my mother yet again saved the day. I recall her grabbing my shoulders and calming the moment.

The next few days the doctors did continual testing and kept me on the medication. The doctors then confirmed that the original guess was correct, I had Meningitis which they think is what lead to the HSV1 Encephalitis. The treatment they had started me on in Ellensburg was the right call. I went home a week later and recall extraordinarily little of the next few months. The funny thing is that the reason I went home so early was because I demanded it happen. This mother had to get back to her children and it was my 40th birthday after all!

The months following I was by far the hardest time of my life. I cannot tell you a lot about it and that is ok, those are not the memories I want to dwell on. What I want to focus on is how blessed I am to have survived and am still here for my children. Trying to always live in the moment because you never know what tomorrow may bring.

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