Still Lisa: Strep infection turned childbirth into battle to survive

Photos by Laura Seitz
Deseret Morning News

Published: Sunday, March 12 2006 12:00 a.m. MST

"One of the ways we can get through this is by knowing that the why will not be easily revealed; it will be revealed in time," he says. "So, to keep a positive attitude, instead of saying, 'why did it happen' we say 'why are you here?' "

She is here to love her family and to be loved. She is here to teach her children, even if the lessons might not be the ones she once imagined. She might or might not take them to Morocco. But she can certainly teach them to savor all journeys, big and small.

She has reprioritized the lessons, she says. Love of nature has fallen to third place. First is compassion and open-mindedness toward those who are different, regardless of how. "Secondly," she says, "I want to try to keep our family together in a healthy manner." They are all adapting to new roles, all cautiously learning how to take care of her. Their feelings are still so tender, almost raw, she says.

In dark moments — and Lisa admits there are still many — she looks at the future and it seems short. She's a nurse, she says, so she knows that her life-span has changed. She will always battle malnutrition. She doesn't know if her heart was damaged or if her kidneys will fail again. She starts now from a weaker point, and any injury or infection or damage to her organs could kill her.

She and Steve have practiced what they will tell Hannah and Lily some day about what happened. It was not the birth that made her sick, it was bacteria, they will say. They will explain it like this: Mommy came back to be with you.

Lily turned 1 two weeks ago. She celebrated by sticking one finger tentatively into her birthday cake, followed by her elbow and more fingers and then her fist. Soon she was covered in frosting and everybody was cheering — nurses and neighbors and all the friends who have helped Lisa get through the worst year of her life.

· · · · ·

It's March again, that capricious month when the earth can't decide whether to howl or coo, to knock you down or give you hope. Ice, sun, Ides, buds, wind that tears the limbs off trees. The promise that, as always, something new will grow. The month that asks only that you ride her out.

On the anniversary of the first day she almost died, Lisa sits on a snowmobile at Lily Lake, wedged safely between two friends, leaning forward slightly because her tailbone always hurts.

Lorie Hutchison had made a practice run to the area the day before, checking out the site with a critical, can't-walk-to-it eye, watching the weather reports, expanding the list of needed gear to cover every possibility. They have high-altitude sleeping bags and all the toys, the GPS, the medical supplies, a carry board, gear for every conceivable whim of nature.

Everybody but Lisa is a Life Flight nurse, trained in survival, and a couple are also experienced climbers. But they were picked for this journey for one reason: They are her friends, the people with whom she feels physically and emotionally safe.

At night, sheltered in their camp, the women tell stories. The day that started with wind and rain and ice has cleared. The women tease each other around the fire, and, sitting there, Lisa doesn't feel shorter or less capable or more afraid. The trip that was planned to help her see what is possible is also about the food and the weather and the trip in and out and who got lost on the way in and who didn't believe their GPS. It is about friends laughing and life and of just being — regardless.

The next day, the sun is shining and snow hugs the branches of the aspens. Lorie places Lisa on the snowmobile, and they head off through the woods to a clearing, where they cut the engine. Lisa sits, perfectly still, listening to the silence.

E-mail: lois@desnews.com; jarvik@desnews.com; seitz@desnews.com

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