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Running

There are many things I miss about being able-bodied, and one of the big ones is being able to be active. Working out or going for a hike or a run has always been one of the best coping skills and stress reliefs for me, and I struggle with not having a comparable activity now that I’m not able to do those things.

Though I usually ran just for fun, I had set a goal for myself once of running a race someday. I figured even if I did just a 5k one day, I could knock it off my list and enjoy the experience. Well I sat on that goal for too long, and it never came to be.

Fast forward to today… I came the closest I will to meeting that goal! My friend and fire partner, Michael, who has a lot of miles under his running shoes, teamed up with me to do a 5k together. We chose a virtual 5k that fit our friendship perfectly, mapped out a course, and he pounded the pavement while pushing me in my wheelchair. It was glorious! When I closed my eyes and listened to the rhythm of his feet against the ground, with the fresh air tossing back my hair, it almost felt like I was running.

I know it wasn’t easy; he had to navigate getting my wheels across places with no pavement, bump me up and down a few curbs, and push me up some ginormous hills.

He never complained, and just chugged along like a freight train. It was such a special day of fun and friendship, and I’m so thankful for Michael going above and beyond to help me accomplish something in the best way I could.

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Partner

There have been a select few people who have stuck like glue through the somewhat turbulent stretches of my life. The more experience I have, the more I realize how rare and valuable that is. My wish for each of you, dear readers, is that you would have a friend like my fire partner, Michael.

A partner in Fire and EMS is such a multifaceted thing. You have to be able to trust them with your life, whether you like them or not. They can be your best friend, or your biggest annoyance, and sometimes you just hope for tolerable. Michael and I met at the fire station as I was finding my way as a new recruit, and him a seasoned member. He was always helpful and courteous, and before long we were pulling the same shift together. From the start he was the kind of partner who knew what I wanted without having to say it. That’s the best kind of partner to have. He was always willing to jump right into whatever crazy ideas I had to improve the department or the care we gave, even when that meant spending hours on a Sunday at the station to complete my projects.

I got to be the first person he ever poked with a needle, and he willingly sacrificed chest hair to my ekg patches so I could practice. He patiently taught me how to drive the giant water tank on wheels, and we spent many evenings scrubbing station toilets and floors together. He poked fun at me having to climb the giant tires to see into the engine compartment of our trucks, and he understood my desperate need to have a label maker always at hand. Whatever we were doing, we were the perfect team.

Unfortunately it wasn’t terribly long into our partnership that my disease really started hindering my ability to perform. I was eternally grateful for him picking up the slack for me where I needed it, but eventually I had to admit I couldn’t continue. This is where he showed his true loyalty. Instead of bidding me goodbye, he was visiting bedside when I was long days in the hospital, frequenting my house to love on me and my family, and was always a text or a phone call away when myself or my family members needed it. I learned this was the kind of guy who would literally give you the shirt off his back, no questions asked.

He and his wife Katie rose up to meet my family and I numerous times in our last months in Colorado. Taking the kids when we needed it, bringing us meals, picking up groceries, helping drive me to appointments when Mark had to travel. There was never a time they said no.

Relocating to Ohio didn’t change my partnership with Michael. Within weeks he was on a plane to come see us in our new home, and he continues to do so on a regular basis; having guy bonding time with my husband, standing in as help for my family when work takes my man away, and loving and caring for us in every way he can think of.

If he’s not cooking up our favorite tacos, he’s looking for things to fix or improve around our abode. He has cleaned up my messes, picked me off the floor, and sat in silence with me when that’s all I needed. He reaches out to meet my wingman where he’s at, offering love and camaraderie to the man who carries our family. He plays with my children, helps them with their math, and isn’t afraid to keep them in line when they need it. He will long be a trusted figure they know they can run to.

We giggle at how he can come up with a solution to most things we are clueless to fix, smirk at how the owners of our local hardware store recognize his face, and we make fun of him for nerding out over things we fail to understand.

Michael has loved my family through days of joyous celebrations, as well as walked with us through heavy and disheartening days, and that’s what makes him different than most. He has never backed away. He is a safe haven for any one of us, and it’s the most comforting thing to know you have a friend that you can trust like that. I know that in the weeks and years ahead he will continue to be a soft landing place and strong anchor for each person in my family, and regardless of what I’m capable of, he will always be called my partner.

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Gone

My heart hurts tonight. This afternoon I went through my paramedic jump bag to get it ready to pass on to my partner. That hurt. 13 years worth of remnants of a life that thrilled and fulfilled me. Perhaps I’m a little bit angry this time to have to leave it all the behind. I’m so deeply thankful for this time I have now, but I do miss working as a medic terribly, and I haven’t quite learned to reconcile that yet.

My signature green scissors… my brightest helmet light… the fun bandaids I always made sure I had so no one would have to get a boring one. Unused gloves and sheets of paper waiting… for the next call that won’t be coming.

Look at this I found. It’s so ridiculous, but you must know.

I was running on a very intoxicated transient man one night, and as we neared the hospital I reached across him to grab the phone we used to call report ahead. It had one of those old school curly cords. Well as I stretched the cord to reach my ear the receiver snapped out of my hand and smacked my poor patient right in the middle of his forehead. It hit him hard enough to split the skin, and blood trickled down toward his eyebrows. I was mortified. I stammered apologies as I tried to get him cleaned up. He assured me there was nothing to worry about; that I was doing a great job and he was just fine and not to worry. I was impressed he was taking it so well, and rummaging for a bandaid. It just happened that pink Hello Kitty bandaids were all I had left. Oh my goodness this was getting worse! At this point he was still encouraging me and swearing he had no cares in the world. I marched into the emergency department that night in a hot blush, wheeling my drunk, homeless victim with a pink girlie bandaid right in the middle of his forehead. By this time he was telling everyone what good care I had taken of him, and asking me to marry him. I was so embarrassed to tell the hospital staff what happened, but he was just the most gracious man, beaming up at me with that goofy bandaid. I definitely needed his grace that night. I have always wondered though what he thought the next morning when he woke up with that pink Hello Kitty bandaid on his head.

I miss getting to connect with people like that. I miss the rawness and the realness and everyone just trying to do their best for one another. I’m honored to pass my bag on, even though it’s hard. I know it will be in good hands, and it will see to caring for many more people who need compassion and a helping hand. I’m glad to see it have life once again, though maybe for a nostalgic moment it made me miss who I was.

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Home, the Place Where I Belong…

My tribe and I are elated to be spending some time in our old stomping grounds, Colorado Springs. Mark had to travel out here for work, so we made him drag us along! There is so much good to be found in the bright sunny skies and horizon full of majestic, towering peaks. This is our place.

We have seen so many friends this visit. So many. There are still more we couldn’t even squeeze into our days, but we have dearly enjoyed each heart we’ve been able to reconnect with during our time out here. Old friends are the bestest friends.

My little people have enjoyed days full of swimming, playing with friends, visiting their favorite spots, and then snuggling in for crafts, movies, and massage trains. It has been a wonderful break for our hearts and minds, and we have found joy in our minutes.

Our visit is too short to fit in all the goodness we left behind here, but our love tanks are full as we wrap up a wonderful week packed with sweet memories. Thankful for the Giver of such gifts.

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Giving it Up

This week I had a pretty hard doctor appointment that revolved around the words “severe muscle impairment,” “tracheotomy,” and “ventilator.” The same day I received an email reminding me it is nearing time for me to recertify my national Paramedic license. It was a sobering day.

For these past couple years, I have let my husband’s encouraging words and glass-half-full spirit spur me on in believing that I will walk in my Medic boots again. He was always reassuring me that we would get through this; I would get strong again and go back to the career that I love. During that time I have struggled with who I am when I’m not a paramedic or a firefighter. It became such a big part of what motivated and moved me that when it was gone I struggled with depression and wondering who I was. I still do at times.

Being a paramedic and firefighter is unlike any job on earth. To get to walk into people’s lives at the time they need you most, it’s indescribable. It was a privilege and an honor to get to show up in homes, cars, churches; all the places people have built their beautiful messy lives, and serve them at their most vulnerable moments.

I know that I am loved and cherished as I am. I know I am still me, and the people that matter the most will accept me as I am, but it has been a painful walk to slip further and further from my polished boots, the distinctive smell of bunker gear, and the smooth weight of my stethoscope around my neck. Like most folks in my line of work, I am a strong type A that likes to have everything under control. It is extremely humbling, and sometimes discouraging to see that I have lost much of that control, and have to surrender to something that controls me, rather than myself controlling it. What an important lesson in life though; one I undoubtedly needed to learn. We are not our own, and the power is not ours.

Most nights I don’t dream, but when I do it is of being back on the streets alongside my cherished partners, rushing toward the danger and the opportunity to help save a life. I know they are just dreams, but until I can’t anymore, I will keep clinging to them with a smile.

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Vacancy

After another night of tossing and turning, I woke this morning with my heart feeling heavy, raw. A strange, sick-butterfly feeling tumbled in my stomach. It’s funny what the heart remembers before the mind even has a chance to catch up. Today it has been five years since I was woken by the call that my little brother had unexpectedly passed away.

I suppose it still feels so raw because in the years that have passed there have been many curveballs to handle, which have left little time for the grieving process that I know is still to come. Even so, my chest squeezes tight and my eyes pool with watery thoughts as I ponder back on the special friendship I shared with my brother. There is so much I wish and need to talk to him about right now, and it’s crushing that I can’t.

I want to work on the streets again with him side by side. I want to drive to Kansas to cheer through his epic fourth of July firework extravaganzas. I want my youngest to know his Uncle Ben as he grows. All these things in a beautiful, painful tangle of joy and heartbreak and anticipation of an eternity.

The rhythm of life continues to ebb and flow, even with these hole-shaped pieces of my heart unfilled. Someday, all will be new, but while I am waiting I’ll never stop missing him here.

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