Monday, January 6, 2014

Ringing in 2014

I can't believe it is already January 6th! 

The new year is already going way too fast. We went back to school last week and although at the time I was really dreading it, it was actually good to have a kick in the butt to get me back into school mode again. We had meetings on Thursday (good for socializing with coworkers and checking out our beautiful NEW high school) and then we took it pretty easy with kids on Friday. We played a game in my classes where kids wrote down some answers to a few questions and we took turns seeing if we could guess whose answer belonged to who (kind of like the "Loaded Questions" game). It was really fun and I got to learn what the newest things teenagers like as gifts. What I learned was that kids really like expensive things like Beats headphones, customized shoes from, PSXBoxWii game system things, or electronics! I think I am in for a wild ride in the future but for now I will just enjoy the fact that Michael loves anything that he can play with and use his imagination! 

(but seriously, I never knew how awesome Beats were until I tried them...I'm probably not in the market for them anytime soon since they look ridiculous, I am over 30 and I probably don't need that high of audio quality for listening to my NPR podcasts on my afternoon old lady walks). 

Anyway, all that is to say that I am home today on a Monday because school was closed off because of extremely cold temperatures. Wind chills are in the -35 to -45 range and hundreds of schools in the state have closed. It is pretty brutal out there and I am more than happy to hunker down at home. I did work for a few hours yesterday at school and brought some stuff home with me so fear not- I am still being productive. :o) 

I have been thinking a lot about the past year and about the year to come, mostly due to the prompting of others on their blogs. We are looking forward to lots of things in 2014: my brother's wedding, a short trip to Disney (and the accompanying aggressive savings/diet plans to get us there), summer break, putting in my 2nd year at my job (hopefully it is easier the 2nd time around) and enjoying our family. 

2013 was a good year and we did lots of good things as a family. It was also a hard year and I feel like I didn't give myself enough credit for making it through. I try to stay positive and count my blessings but there is no doubt that this year has taken its toll on me. I struggle often with feelings about working and wondering if I am doing the right things for my family. I still have days where I feel like Trace should be a little snuggly baby in my arms. I struggle with knowing when the right time is to have another baby (and what if that time is passed?). I worry that the feelings and inadequacies I have in the darker hours are the ones I will have always (even though I know it is not true). And to top it all off, dealing with the wild ride my family has been on since the middle of November. 

The local paper in my parents area did a story on my mom this past Sunday and I wanted to share it here. It was really hard for me to read...kind of like when something is written down on paper it becomes more real. When you put words to your thoughts and feelings they are out there and can stare you in the face. It reminded me of when I saw Trace's obituary in the paper, it just made it seem so real and final and it was there for the whole world to see. This was kind of the same thing except this one had a happy ending. I know everyone in my family has regrets and worries about the whole situation and that our journey is not over yet but it was nice to see the whole story in one concise form. I mentioned on facebook that the article did not mention how worried sick we all were here, how helpless we felt, and how happy we were to have her home. There were so many blessings along the way and we are thankful for those and for all the prayers that were said. 

MOVILLE, Iowa | Dennis Rumohr laughs about it now. Cries about it, too.
Quickly confessing he doesn't much care for Mexico, Rumohr is just as quick to admit his wife, Julie, owes her life to a Mexican surgeon and two residents of a beach at Punta Minta, Mexico, on the Pacific Ocean.
And to his wife's sisters, and other family members, who help the couple navigate a week-long ordeal, scant little of which Julie Rumohr remembers as she was in a coma.
The bizarre series of events amounts to 2.8 million pesos ($214,000), a handful of maxed-out credit cards, and a stack of bills written in Spanish and bound in international red tape that figuratively stretches 2,000 miles from their home north of Moville to the vacation spot Julie enjoys until she falls.
Julie's home now, returning to work on Tuesday as a nurse at Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City, the hospital she's served for 33 years.
As a patient in November, hearing the name "Mercy" finally brought her peace of mind. Laying in a hospital bed in the center of a tiny Lear jet flying at 3,500 feet (she couldn't fly any higher, the pressure may have caused her brain to swell, killing her), she heard she'd soon be wheeled into the emergency room at Mercy in Sioux City.
"Mercy," she says, smiling, "when I heard Mercy, I knew I was home."
Home. Julie Rumohr leaves their home north of Moville on Nov. 4. She has time off from the hospital; Dennis has corn to harvest. She schedules a 10-day break to spend with her youngest sister, Karen Goettler of Colorado. Goettler, 50, was diagnosed with stage IV terminal lung cancer two years ago. She's since made a few trips to a condo at Punta Mita, not far from Puerto Vallarta.
The sisters spend nine days lounging in a pool, taking walks and eating in memorable places, like the restaurant that has but one menu item, ribs.
A day before their scheduled Nov. 14 departure, Karen asks her older sister if there's anything else she wants to do. Julie, 54, notes she hasn't gotten a chance to swim in the Pacific Ocean. So, they spend Nov. 13 doing just that. As Karen surfs, Julie wades and swims in the warm waters of an ocean that, according to local lore, has no memory.
Julie remembers little else. Her last image from that day occurs on the beach. She walks by a boy playing drums, accompanied by his dad on trombone. She snaps a picture.
She then falls on steps leading to her sister's condo. She doesn't remember falling. She hasn't consumed alcohol, either. Just Gatorade to ward off dehydration. She's a nurse, remember.
"I had to have passed out, that's the only thing I can think of," she says.
Falling back, her head strikes steps multiple times. She suffers minor scrapes on her back. The head injury? Major.
Karen tends to her sister and takes the advice of a former professional surfer and a retired Canadian nurse who offer aid. Both urge Karen to call an ambulance and get her sister to a hospital in nearby Puerto Vallarta.
Back in Moville, Dennis Rumohr moves his combine through rows of corn. Karen calls from the hospital in Puerto Vallarta. Julie has fallen. Before she's treated, the medical staff needs an insurance number.
"I'm a glass-full kind of guy, but I sense Julie's sister is protecting me," Dennis says. "She calls again and says it's serious. I really don't know what to do."
He has trouble seeing rows of corn late that night, out crying in his combine.
The next morning, Nov. 14, Karen, who has already paid $20,000 for her sister's hospital care, must leave Mexico and return to Colorado for her scheduled radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Luckily, two of Julie's sisters, Mary Balzart and Linda Goettler, both of Minneapolis, can fly directly from the Twin Cities to Puerto Vallarta. They meet with Karen for 10 minutes to exchange vital information.
A doctor meets the pair of sisters at the hospital and shares a grim outlook. "They told my sisters I'd be a vegetable the rest of my life," Julie says, recounting the prognosis second-hand.
Dennis works with son Sam Rumohr at home to get as much corn picked as they can. He likely glances at his phone 1,000 times, awaiting updates from Julie's sisters, who can see her only 15 minutes every two hours.
A surgeon takes a tiny piece out of Julie's skull in his attempt to alleviate the pressure and swelling on her brain. The surgeon succeeds, but Julie remains comatose.
By 5 p.m. Nov. 15, Dennis is told he'd better get to Mexico if he wants to see his wife. Maybe, for the last time.
At 5:30 a.m. the next day, Dennis heads to Moville to meet his pals at Misty's Restaurant on Main Street. He's making plans to switch his cell service to an international plan. He's going to purchase a one-way ticket to Mexico.
Just after 5:30 a.m., he receives an urgent text from an international number. "I'm at the hospital," the text reads. "I need your help!"
Dennis tries, but can't get through. He rushes to the Verizon/Wireless World outlet on Sioux City's east side a few hours later. He enters as the business day starts and explains his predicament. The clerk looks up and explains he received the same urgent text that morning, around 4:30 a.m.
"A customer next to me said she got the same message texted to her around 5 a.m.," he says.
It was spam. Of all the people to get a spam message like that, it would happen to a man in Dennis Rumohr's situation.
Dennis makes his upgrades, buys a tablet upon which he'll be able to Skype from Mexico. He buys his one-way ticket to Mexico and plans to leave Monday, Nov. 18.
The flight will wait, however, as a doctor advises Julie's sisters that they can get her on a plane and fly to the United States. The family connects with a neurosurgeon in Des Moines who will see her.
That's when Dennis asks officials at Julie's employer, Mercy Medical Center, if she could get to a neurosurgeon there.
Early Monday morning, Mercy Medical Center agrees it can happen. But Julie first must be off life support before she can fly. She is taken off life support that Monday morning (Nov. 18) and breathes on her own.
A medical flight is secured and will leave at 5 p.m. Nov. 18. Two hours before the plane departs, the family is told it must pay $110,000 before the hospital will release Julie.
Dennis says he's learning this is standard operating procedure south of the border.
An American Express card, along with one of Julie's credit cards, raises funds necessary to get the flight home expedited.
And then? Thunderstorms keep the airplane grounded.
On that day, several farmers around Moville convene to combine the final 300 acres of the Rumohr corn. The first two farmers to show up are Lane Tabke and his son-in-law, Grant Streck, a pair of farmers who lost a home, several outbuildings and hundreds of acres of corn in a tornado barely six weeks prior.
"Those guys who'd been through so much were the first ones to bring their combines to us," Dennis Rumohr says. "I never cried so much in all my life."
Overnight, Julie improves and by 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, she's conscious and demanding to go home. She awakes to find two of her sisters with her, but not the sister she expected to see, Karen.
Fog keeps the plane grounded until late Tuesday afternoon. Around 5:15 p.m., the small jet with its doctor, its nurse, its two pilots, the patient and her sisters takes off and flies to Laredo, Texas, where a customs inspection takes place.
The flight cost $28,500, a sum, like most other expenses, the Rumohrs hope will be covered by their health insurance.
Dennis heads to Sioux Gateway Airport around 7 p.m. on Nov. 19. An ambulance from Siouxland Paramedics arrives at the runway shortly after 8 p.m. Staff at Mercy Medical Center awaits.
And then? And then?
"We lose contact with the pilot," Dennis says. "Nothing."
The ambulance has to take another call, which leaves Dennis and his family awaiting Julie's arrival. An employee with JetSun Aviation, according to Dennis, finally picks up the flight and speaks with the pilot, giving him the green light to land.
Another ambulance returns and takes Julie to Mercy Medical Center, where she receives a CAT scan at 11:45 p.m. She remains there in rehab until Nov. 26, when she walks out the door, intent on hosting Thanksgiving for her family on the farm north of Moville.
"Dr. (Quentin) Durward (a neurosurgeon serving Mercy Medical Center) said the surgeon in Mexico did excellent work and saved her life," Dennis says. "What we expected and what we ended up getting were on opposite ends of the spectrum. What we got was so good."
Five days before Christmas, a scan shows Julie's hematoma is gone, the swelling in her brain subsided.
"We attended the Christmas Eve service at Hope Lutheran Church in West Des Moines," Julie says. "The message was about coming home; how you can come home."
"We got her home," Dennis says as a tear drops in a straight line down his left cheek. He wipes the tear and immediately breaks into laughter, shaking his head at all the odd twists he calls "sidebars to the story."
"It was a battle," he concludes, "but we got her home." 

So there you have it!

Goodbye, 2013! 

We are looking forward to great things in 2014!


  1. I have to go to stop reading at work. Seriously.
    Hot mess in my teeny-tiny cubicle.

  2. This story is so heartbreaking. I've kept you and your family in my daily prayers. I'm so sorry she had to go through this but so thankful this story had a happy ending. God Bless-


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