February 6, 2017
The moment I picked up the phone that day and heard my sister, Kathy, on the other end I knew it wasn’t going to be good news. I heard her take a deep breath and after collecting her thoughts, she slowly asked me if I had heard what had happened to Anna. As every possibility was rushing through my head, she quickly said Anna had fallen during her high school gymnastics practice, hurt her back, and was being life-flighted to the nearest hospital back in my hometown of Kansas City. The next day, they performed surgery on her T10 spinal fracture and fused T8 through T12. She lived and breathed gymnastics and was even crowned the state champion.
It was August of 2015 when I found out that my 14-year-old baby sister, Anna, was paralyzed from the belly button down.
I was living in Tucson, Arizona at the time and felt completely helpless. Less than three weeks prior, I gave birth to my daughter, Kinsley, and couldn’t travel there to comfort my little sister or my family and vice versa. And to be honest, the whole situation was hard to comprehend, as not being there in person made it really hard to catch the gravity of the situation. It wasn’t until three months later, after I had finished my wedding season, that I was able to fly back home and see her for the first time.
Through all of this, I got to see Anna in a whole new light. I see how much she has grown and matured. How she is using the unfortunate circumstance of her injury to share her story, her faith, and benefit others. She has even started a charity called Grades for Meds that helps children and their families in the Philippines receive medical care while encouraging local students to improve in their academics.
One afternoon on the phone, Anna told me that she was GRATEFUL that she was even able to walk on this earth for the 14 years she was blessed to have. When Anna said this, I knew everything was going to be okay. This is the quintescence of her outlook on life. She is THE strongest, most positive, human being I know and her undying faith in God flows effortlessly through her kindred spirit.
Flash forward to today, February of 2017, where I have spent the last three weeks as Anna’s in-home caretaker, while my parents have been traveling throughout the Philippines for medical missions. Not only did I have to cook, clean, play house and be the stand-in mom to a dog and two resilient teenagers (Anna and my brother, AJ), I had to continue to take care of my crazy little toddler, and of course all of Anna’s medical needs throughout all hours of the day and night. I got to experience the ups and downs of her emotional and physical struggles. To say it has been tiring is the understatement of the century.
I’d like to say that I handled everything perfectly and with ease, without any issues. But that’s not real life. It was HARD! It challenged me, stretched me, pushed me to the edge emotionally, even made me cry. I’m not one to show weakness, so this is even hard for me to admit.
But this experience made me realize and appreciate just how much my mother, stepfather, and other family members do for Anna and how this truly is a lifestyle change for everyone. And that the support I received, though in plenty, just barely touched the surface of how much I actually needed. Maybe it was because my body was not yet accustomed to sleepless, interrupted nights or the fact that I just had so much on my plate, but either way, it showed me just how much we all need to be there for her and for each other. Often times on social media, we put our best foot forward and show only the good things that are happening in our lives right now, but don’t show our struggles and the mountains that we are climbing. But when we do, we become a little more human and realize that we do need each other for support through the rough patches in life.
It wasn’t all exhausting, though, we had many fun experiences like learning how to monoski at Snow Creek, watching The Bachelor on Monday nights, went to an escape room at Breakout KC, and cooking delicious recipes for almost every meal. On most of my trips to Kansas City, I intentionally schedule a photoshoot with her. I treasure these photos so much because they capture not only her outward beauty but the joy that exudes from her heart.
Follow her journey on the Pray for Annaboo facebook page.
If you feel so inclined to donate to her ongoing medical expenses, check out her GoFundMe page.
And more than anything, we ALL appreciate your prayers. I KNOW we serve a God who can do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING through the power of prayer.
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Pure in Art Photography is a Wedding Photographer, Engagement Photographer, Boudoir Photographer, Portrait Photographer, and Destination Wedding Photographer based in Tucson, Arizona. Serving Arizona, including Tucson, Oro Valley, Marana, Vail, Green Valley, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, Flagstaff, Sedona. Available for destination travels worldwide. Featured on The Knot, Wedding Wire, Best Tucson Weddings, and Tucson Bride & Groom. Graduate from The International Academy of Wedding Photographers.