Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mariah's Miracle

Story by Lorita OLeary

(This story was originally written in 2010)

Mariah Evans, one of the triplets born to my niece Melanie and her husband Mike Evans in Virginia, turned nine this April along with her brother Ethan and sister Savannah. Mariah was the largest but eventually the weakest of the triplets. Because of a prolapsed umbilical cord during pregnancy and possibly labor, and attorneys belief that there was negligent prenatal care while Melanie was hospitalized, Ethan and Mariah were born with Cerebral Palsy. 

Melanie said it started “with the fact that I had only one ultrasound for monitoring the entire 4 weeks I was in the hospital in preterm labor and ending with the fact that Savannah was the only one of the three who received oxygen at birth, and she is the only one not affected [with Cerebral Palsy].”  Mariah suffered severe symptoms and had more problems than her brother Ethan. In her early days Mariah spent much of her time in the hospital and had several operations. Doctors told Melanie and Mike she would never walk or talk.

Triplets - Ethan, Savannah, Mariah
Her triplet sister Savannah was normal in every way and a bundle of energy. She looked just like her mother did when she was her age. Her brother Ethan who was also born with Palsy could now talk in whole sentences, hold his head up and will possibly walk one day. He’s a very smart little guy with a high IQ and gets around in a motorized wheel chair.

Mariah & Ethan
Mariah could not hold her head up or move around like her siblings although she is very alert and understands all that is said. The Palsy seemed to affect her muscles most. What is evident is her happy and lovable spirit in spite of her handicaps. Since getting on Facebook my mom and I have come to realize how many people Mariah has touched.

When Mariah was around two-years-old the whole family, including my sister-in-law Wilda and her entire family except her oldest daughter Crystal, up and moved to Savannah Tennessee where they bought a twenty acre farm. The property was inexpensive and had a large house, a duplex and a trailer house included. Mike’s parents also moved there from Virginia and they all shared the property. After they got there they built Wilda a three bedroom pre-fabricated house with an attached porch on a section of the property.  

While there, Mariah always had nurses to help her and she had physical therapy to exercise her muscles daily. Her parents eventually got her a special wheelchair as she got older that helped to hold up her head. She loved her wheelchair as she could now sit up and see what was going on around her. It allowed her to be more involved with the family. From that point she blossomed. Mike and Melanie had two other children before the triplets – Jeremy who is a couple of years older and Andrew who was ten years older.  All the children loved Mariah and helped her in any way they could. 

Savannah, Ethan, Mariah with older brothers Andrew & Jeremy

After several years Melanie and Mike decided they wanted to move back to Virginia. They prayed about the move because it would disrupt all their lives as they were quite established now in Tennessee. They had not sold their previous house in Virginia but had rented it out.  One day shortly after they had decided they were going to move in October they got a call from their tenants telling them they were moving and would be out on October first. Melanie and Mike hadn’t even told them about their plans so it was obvious to them that God had answered their prayers.

At the Beach

Now, moved back into their home in Virginia which they always loved, Melanie had to make new arrangements for the triplet’s care. Melanie’s older brother Scott had come back to Virginia with them and moved into the bungalow on their property. Melanie found out she could get government subsidy for the triplet’s care so she could now pay Scott to help out. Eventually her sister Crystalee, who is a trained caregiver, offered to help also and did so until she had two children of her own.  But it has always been a family endeavor based on a strong faith in God. That family also extends out into the community now since Mike sometimes takes the pastor’s place in his absence. Because of this they have many supportive friends from their church.
Mike & Melanie with the gang

One day I was looking at Facebook, where we can keep in touch with the whole family daily, and Melanie had a short video clip of Mariah walking. We were so excited we had to turn that video on to see what was happening.  Soon we saw Mariah taking baby steps with the help of her mom Melanie. We could hear her squeals of delight as she put one foot in front of the other, a big smile on her face, as the rest of the family cheered her on. Mariah looked so determined and proud. Mike held the camera, giving words of encouragement as Melanie moved back and walked Mariah toward the camera again.  One of the most moving moments of this brief video was when her sister Savannah briefly appeared on the screen as a blur of excitement pushing Melanie and Mariah back to their starting point so they could walk toward the camera for a third time. You couldn’t see Savannah’s face but you could tell how thrilled she was because of her sister’s accomplishment. 

So, that made two blessings we experienced that day – the first because we were able to see this at all across all those miles, the second because everyone was so happy to witness what we would never have expected – Mariah walking. In the past we wouldn’t have been able to share this event on the same evening as the rest of the family –  Mariah's miracle brought to us by modern conveniences.

The triplets just celebrated their 9th birthday

Mariah "WALKING" tonight!! Please excuse my yelling, but needless to say she made me one proud enthusiastic mommy! Hahaha! Thanks for watching! (click the link on "Walking" to see it)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

More Than Coincidence

Story by Lorita O'Leary & Wilda Lahmann

Randy with three of his children - Jon, Alissa & Crystalee

My husband, Randy, shook me awake, It must have been 2:00 A.M. He was hunched over, holding a hand to his chest. “Wilda, I need to get to the hospital,” he said, gasping. “Can’t breathe.”

“I’ll call 911,” I said, jumping out of bed.

“No time,” he gasped again. “Drive me. Now.”

I helped him up and got him in our van. Randy slumped against the passenger-side door. Fifteen miles to the hospital. Too far, I thought. We’re not going to make it. Send help, Lord.

We tore out of the driveway, engine roaring in the still night air. Could Randy hold on? About a mile down the road, at the bottom of a hill, I saw something in the street. We’re my eyes playing tricks on me? No, it was real. An ambulance!

“Look, Randy!” I shouted. A paramedic stood outside the vehicle. Like he was waiting for us. How did he know?

I slammed on the brakes, leaped out of the van and ran over to the ambulance, screaming for help. The paramedic and his partner went right to work. “Possible cardiac,” one said. They strapped an oxygen mask onto Randy and started treatment. Then they loaded him onto a stretcher and into the ambulance, unconscious. “Follow us,” one of them told me.

The next three days were touch-and-go. I never left Randy’s bedside, praying he’d wake up and be okay. Finally, he did. “What happened?” he asked.

“You mean you don’t remember?”

“Nothing after the ambulance,” he said.

“You had a massive heart attack. The EMTs said another minute or two and...” I squeezed his hand tight.

“You called them?” Randy asked.

“No,” I told him. “They received a report of a car crash at that intersection. They even called in to make sure that they were at the right location. They were. And then we came along seconds later.”

Fifteen miles on empty roads in the middle of the night. Randy’s heart attack would have been fatal if those paramedics hadn’t been there. I’d say they were in the perfect location.

Wilda & Randy

This story was published in Guidepost Aug 2005 issue

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Glacial Erratic Rock - Willamette Valley

Story by Lorita OLeary

Louise and grandson Ryan head up the trail to the site

Back during the last Ice Age (12,000 to 18,000 years ago) the Missoula Floods, originating in southwest Montana, deposited vast amounts of earthly debris over portions of Idaho, Washington and Oregon - eventually spilling into the Pacific Ocean.  Because of these floods, the Willamette Valley in Oregon became one of the most fertile regions in the state.  Vineyards sprung up - some 40,000 acres of grapes - which now produce some of the finest wines in the French Burgundy style.

At the top

When the 3,000 square mile prehistoric Glacial Lake Missoula flooded, the waters coursed through the Columbia River Gorge at 60-miles-per-hour carrying huge boulders with it.  Eventually the cataclysmic waters receded and what remained were “glacial erratics” stranded where they had come to rest. 

One such 90-ton boulder stands atop a hillside in McMinnville, Oregon surrounded by rich farmland and vineyards below. You can hike the 1/4 mile paved path year-round up to the site and see the largest glacial erratic found in the Willamette Valley. In fact, the only other place rocks like this have been found are in Canada. 

Soaking up the sun, taking in the view

My mother was raised on this hilltop in Yamhill County, her family moved there in the early 40s when she was 12, and she used to hike to the Rock throughout her childhood. It hadn’t been “discovered” yet and she knew it only as a cool rock and a good place to hang out (my slang, not hers). I also loved the rock as a child and remember finding it one day when I was at grandpa and grandma’s farm. It was a warm day and I climbed up on it’s sunny surface to daydream. I remember the rock seemed out of place here (being the only thing like it in the area) and I thought it was a special find, but I imagined it coming from outer space - like a meteor.

Over the years I traveled and moved to other states but was surprised to discover recently that the rock is somewhat famous and an Oregon State Park called Erratic Rock State Natural Site. Now anyone can climb to the top of the 250 foot hill to enjoy the scenery, the sun-soaked surface of this glacial erratic, and daydream.

After parking along Oldsville Road, there's an interpretive sign which allows visitors to learn about the rock. Once on top of the hill, there's a picnic table in case anyone brings a lunch.  On a warm day its nice to sit or lie on the rock and soak up the warmth. You will also be rewarded with spectacular vistas -vineyards, orchards, farms and the Oregon coast range.

Enjoy the behemoth, which is composed of metamorphic rock called argillite but leave it there because it seems to be shrinking. The reason: geologists estimate visitors have removed more than 70 tons of the rock over the years.

Park along Oldsville Road off of Highway 18 to reach this park. From Oldsville Road, you'll need to walk up the quarter-mile paved path to the rock itself. The trail becomes steep briefly as you near the rock. There is no fee to use this park.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Nephew John Lahmann

Story by Louise Lahmann

In late April of 2010 I got a call from my sister-in-law Hilda Jones from Kansas. She told me our nephew John Lahmann had died in Nebraska. He was 62, two years older than my son, and had been ill for some time. Hilda and I spoke occasionally over the next few weeks and John often was a part of these conversations.  

John Stanley Lahmann 1947-2010
His early life was complicated with drugs and drinking. He may have been somewhat of a rebel - arising from the Easy Rider days (he even had a motorcycle). He served in the United States Army right out of high school. Following his discharge he owned and operated Mutha's Autobody in Wahoo, Nebraska where he specialized in automotive body repair and painting. He married his first wife, Beverly Bohaty in 1968 and they had a son named John. Her family never approved of the marriage, and soon after the baby’s birth, Beverly and the baby were whisked away by her parents. John never really got over this and only saw his son a couple other times before he was two years old.

Unfortunately John sold drugs from his business and local complaints and fear of retaliation from police caused him to move to California. Here he married his second wife, Carol Krueger, in 1976. The marriage only lasted two years. Someone told me he didn’t want children. He may have been worried about losing them, as he had his first son, since this was a very hurtful experience for him. 

John's first marriage
Somewhere during this time he was involved in a hit and run accident where a pedestrian was killed. He left California and went to Arizona, where his second wife was originally from. The only reason I knew about the accident was I happened to see the article his mother Phyllis had cut out of the newspaper when I was visiting one time. I don’t know what ever became of this situation.

Bad luck followed John to Arizona where someone intentionally ran him off the road while he was riding his motorcycle. He skidded down the embankment and hit a telephone pole. The accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. John had started another automotive business in Arizona and his father Henry (my husband’s older brother) sold the business and moved John back to Nebraska to live with them.

John had to go through therapy and it was a long time recuperating. He had to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. His parents fixed the house to make it wheelchair accessible and built a pulley system so he could easily move from room to room and in and out of bed. His arms were strong and soon he was driving with a hand control device.

John in his device
After automotive school he decided to open another business in Wahoo. He hired young boys to help him do the jobs he was unable to do because of his condition. One day I saw an article in the newspaper advertising a motorized piece of equipment that allowed paraplegics to stand upright or lie in a reclining position. I sent the article back to John’s mother and he purchased it so he could work on his cars more easily. He could be upright and move around or slide under the cars. Later, Phyllis told me he considered it one of his most important pieces of working equipment. Mutha’s Autobody grew into a thriving business and John was somewhat famous in his home town. He also did all of his own ordering and bookwork.

John's dad Henry with Cisco
Over the years John had physical problems from continually sitting in the wheelchair. He was thin and had lots of pressure points that created sores. He also had poor circulation and eventually had one of his legs amputated. John’s dad died from heart trouble in 1985. Years later, in 2007, John unexpectantly lost his younger sister Maxine. She’d lived in California and left four children who hardly knew their uncle. Then a year later his mom Phyllis died of cancer in a nursing home.

John’s last few years were plagued with infections. Finally, he had to sell his automotive business when he could no longer do the work. 
Through it all, John was a cheerful, kind man who had made many friends in Wahoo over the years. One day he passed out and someone found him on the floor in his home. 
Sister Maxine, John, mom Phyllis

After that he was hospitalized and then spent months in a nursing home. Doctors never thought he would be well enough to go back home but one day it was decided he could, under a nurse’s daily care. 

In his last days he found pleasure rolling his wheelchair down the street and getting out of the house for short jaunts. Hilda told me when John was very sick and on oxygen, he mentioned his son that he never saw,  and said someday my son will know who I am.  On April 30, 2010 his nurse found him dead of a severe infection from a bed sore that wouldn’t heal. He was buried at Sunrise Cemetery and Military Funeral Honors were conducted by Wahoo American Legion.