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My XMRMy XMR 2XMR

My Journey


                It was a sunny day on July 11th, 2003. That summer I was hired for a temporary position working for the city in the Public Works Department. It was the summer between my junior and senior year in high school. Incidentally my brother worked in the Public Works as a full time employee. That day he and I were cutting down trees that carried Dutch Elm disease. Our work day lasted until 4:30 P.M. everyday. As 4 o’clock came around, we came to the last tree that we were going to cut down for the day. The tree had already been topped by someone in a bucket truck who trimmed away the branches leaving about 10 feet of the tree for us to cut down. I was running the chainsaw while my brother was in the pay-loader, ready to push the tree over that I had cut part way through. As I was cutting through the tree, it fell to my right side instead of away like it should have. It twisted as it fell, and the lone branch that was left hit the back of my neck, severing my spine in two, but not severing my spinal cord. The next thing I knew I was laying on the ground with my hair brushing against the trunk of the tree, and my entire body was tingling.

My brother immediately got on the radio. I remember being very calm about the situation, but deep down I really knew that I was hurt very badly. In an instant my life was changed dramatically! Instead of working at my job and worrying about school, I knew right then that my main mission at that point to was to survive and not let it beat me. When the emergency helicopter came and picked me up,  I remember thinking that it was my first helicopter ride, and I couldn’t even look out the windows. At the hospital they told me the fourth vertebrae was broken, jumped over the fifth cervical vertebrae, and ended up with my spinal cord in an “S” shape stretched between them. After that they flew me to Sioux Valley Hospital (now known as Sanford) in Sioux Falls, SD. When I got there, I was immediately rushed into surgery were they fused the two vertebras of my spinal cord together with a plate and four screws, inserted a stomach tube, put me on a respirator, and performed a tracheotomy. After surgery I was on so many pain medicines that I was barely conscious and was only able to move my shoulders.  I began running a fever of 100° to 104° a few hours every day. The fevers could be from the injury, as the spinal cord regulates the body temperature. After a traumatic injury to the spinal cord it has to re-regulate itself. They did every test imaginable; West Nile, tick disease, Lyme, etc.

July 26th 2003    My gall bladder was taken out since a test showed it was sluggish. and a filter was put in to stop blood clots from reaching my heart and lungs. While in bed I work with OT and PT to keep my range of motion. Also, I work with a speech therapist to teach me how to swallow again. After a month of speech therapy and being hospitalized; I finally took a few small bites of soft food. At this point I was also able to sit reclined in a chair for a few minutes each day.

 

August 1st 2003           After a month of fevers and ice blankets, doctors think the fevers are antibiotic induced so they removed all antibiotics.

 

August 13th 2003         I was flown by air ambulance to Craig Hospital in Denver, CO. Craig Hospital is a rehab center for spinal cord and brain injuries. For the next 2 weeks, I was only able to get into my wheelchair for about 20 minutes a day. Fevers still continued. Then I was diagnosed with pancreatitis resulting in a lot of vomiting, and also developed pneumonia at this time.

August 30th 2003         At this time, I currently could have my bed at 15% incline without getting sick. Since by body could not regulate my blood pressure yet, so I was unable to go any higher. I was also still vomiting from the pancreatitis.

 

September 8th 2003    When I was able to sit at a 33 degree angle, I was finally able to watch TV. My pancreas counts were still high, and my fevers were subsiding. I was also able to sit in the wheelchair for a whole hour, allowing me to get out of my room for 30 minutes. I also was being weaned from the ventilator. The ventilator pumps air in and out of my lungs to keep me breathing.

 

September 15th 2003  My temperature is back up too (which the staff informed us were from the spinal cord trying to regulate my core temperature after the trauma on the spinal cord) along with nausea and vomiting so tube feeding was slowed down, and I am flat on my back again.

 

September 20th 2003  Surgery was done to insert a new feeding tube through my stomach, past my pancreas, and into my small intestine. This allows the pancreas to rest since does not have to digest food. I still continue with physical (PT) and occupational therapy (OT), working with my range of motion in bed. All of the range of motion and therapy up to this point was to help prevent a condition I had in my right hip from getting worse. This condition is known as heterotopic ossification. This results in extra calcium deposits beginning to form over joints, causing loss of movement. They reduced my IV’s from 8 to 3, and I was also on pain pumps.

 

September 26th 2003    For my 18th birthday the nurse brought cupcakes and gifts. At this time I was still weaning off the respirator (which keeps me breathing) and was getting about 2 ½ hours up in my wheelchair each day. I also only had a couple of IV’s so I am more mobile and able to go outside for the first time since July 11th 2003.

 

September 30th 2003  FINALLY, I was able to come off the ventilator. A trach was put in that allowed me to talk. My pancreas counts went down to 893 in comparison to 1680 the week before. I was able to go to the rehab gym a few minutes every day.

 

October 9th 2003         At this point my pancreas counts are 750, which is still a long way from 100 which is normal, but still allowed me to consume Mountain Dew, mashed potatoes, gravy, and eggs.

 

October 17th 2003       I was put on a regular diet and able to get outside for 3 hours. I also started with a tutor to get me back to my studies. Between OT, PT, and studies I was exhausted! At this point, they are still trying to regulate my pain.

 

Beginning of November          I was moved to the east side of the hospital, which is where they send you about a month before you go home to try and get you ready for discharge. In these rooms you have your own private TV, dorm fridge, pull out couch/hide a bed, (allowing spouses, relative, etc. to stay with you), and it allows you way more room.

 

December 12th 2003   The day before I was leaving to go home, my parents planned to rent a U-Haul trailer to pull behind my mom’s Chevy Tahoe. We were going to do a slide board transfer from my wheelchair to the passenger seat, where I sat on a travel air cushion called a Roho. The passenger seat reclined all the way, allowing me to take most of the pressure off my buttocks. We ran into bad winter weather, resulting in our trip taking 14 hours to get home, instead of normally 9 hours. I was extremely stiff when we arrived at home and just wanted to get in bed. While I was in the hospital, an accessible bathroom was added on to my parent’s house, an overhead lift was installed, a hospital bed was moved in, and a wheelchair ramp was added onto the deck. When we got home, there was a big welcome home sign on the front porch, but at this time I was extremely nervous and worried about getting back to life and high school.

 

December 14th 2003   A reception was held for me in the high school gym in my hometown. There were approximately 150 friends, classmates and relatives attending. A short slide show presentation was explained what I had been thru, how my chair works, and the effects the injury had on my spinal column.

 

2004   As far as medical, 2004 was fairly uneventful for me, especially after what I had just been through. 

            After Christmas break was over, I returned to high school for the second semester of my senior year. It was more like a dream, or nightmare actually. I had a difficult time accepting my circumstances when I was in the hospital, but returning to everyday life made it worse. It was pretty much like moving to a different planet plus going to a new high school at the same time. As you can imagine everything was unknown, and I had no idea even how to begin a conversation with my classmates and not cry at the same time. All of my hopes, dreams, goals, and plans for after high school no longer were there. I could no longer do any of my hobbies or anything I was interested in or really do anything that I wanted which is something you can’t imagine until you are actually there. Even some of the things like putting on your blue jeans, was no longer simple.

For almost 18 years I had not even realized how fragile life is, and I have never really been treated the same as I had been since my accident. Also privacy completely went out the window. Nothing was the same from the morning, to school, during school, after school, and before I went to bed. It was like I was living somebody else’s life that had just started at the age of 17.  Out of everything that I’ve gone through going back to high school was the hardest; but I managed to finish the rest of my credits during the second semester of my senior year. I graduated with my class and with honors. When I was given my diploma the entire crowd stood up and cheered. That is a nice thing about living in a small town. There had been several benefits for me during the time I was hospitalized after my accident. I would just like to thank my entire town for everything they have done for me.

 

April 2004        Early spring I was hospitalized for a three weeks with pancreatitis from a physician upping my medication too fast.

 

Fall 2004         I had another helicopter ride to Sioux Valley Hospital (now Sanford) in Sioux Falls, SD. An extreme rise in blood pressure due to hypertension and had a subarachnoid hemorrhage. An artery burst and was bleeding in my brain. I was very lucky as it was small and did not do any damage. As the year continued I began to have more and more pain in my back, legs, and everywhere.

 

As 2005 came the pain still continued and was controlled with medication.

 

November 2005          I had another urine infection and was hospitalized. They were also doing some medication changes, that I reacted to, so back to Sioux Valley I went. My thighs swelled as big as volleyballs, I was full of blood clots! The Greenfield filter that had been inserted in 2003 saved my life as it blocked the clots from reaching my lungs and heart. Eventually the veins in my legs re-routed around the clots and the swelling went down with the help of blood thinners.

              My pain was getting worse, and an MRI showed that scar tissue had grown at the injury site and was blocking the flow of spinal fluid in my spine.

I still was returning to Craig Hospital every year for an annual checkup so the MRI results were sent there. They informed me that surgery had to be done fairly soon because scar tissue had to be removed (called untethering), and a permanent shunt needed  to be placed to help drain the fluid.  They would review this when I arrived in May and set a date for surgery.

 

October 2nd 2005        I arrived at Craig Hospital on Sunday, and spent the next week doing tests and preparing for my first surgery on October 11th. This surgery is expected to take 5-6 hours. The purpose of this surgery was to place a shunt in my spine that runs into my stomach so the fluid can drain. The second surgery is more risky and expected to take 8-10 hours.  During that surgery they will drain the cyst that has developed on cervical vertebrae 3 and remove scar tissue/tethering from around cervical vertebras 4 and 5, my actual injury site. They will replace the scar tissue with cadaver skin so it does not scar back up.

During the week of pre-op we did have some free time, and we drove to Rocky Mountain National Park to see the elk and went to the Colorado Zoo.

October 3rd, 2005   On Monday extra fluid was discovered on my lungs so surgery had to be postponed. I had a plural infusion, a pocket of fluid between the outer layers of my lung. They inserted a chest tube, which drained out 1 liter of fluid over the course of a few days. A day later they checked, and the fluid was coming back! They drained it again, and I was told that my lung looked ridged like cauliflower instead of being smooth. The lung could be made smooth again by blowing it out, but at this time they do not think it will be a problem. They attribute this to previous medical problems.

 

October 18th 2005       I was finally cleared for surgery. One incision will be made on my back about 7 inches long, another small one on the back side of my hip, and another on my stomach. The smaller two will be used to feed the shunt tube into my stomach.

Surgery went well and lasted 3 ½ hours. I was placed faced down with knees and head slightly tucked under and my head resting on a halo of about 8 prongs.  After surgery I have to stay flat for three days so the fluid does not return in my lung.  The second surgery for untethering is now scheduled for October 25th.

BAD news; the fluid is returning to my lung. This time another 1 liter is drained out, and they blew the lung out, inflating it, so it is all smooth again. The second surgery is now going to be November 1. If there are no more complications I should be dismissed November 15th.

November 1st  2005     Surgery was as scheduled, and they found I had two cysts, one at the injury site, cervical 4 & 5, and one up higher. The cysts were separate so they put in two more shunts. Surgery was 6 hours.

 

November 2nd 2005     In the early morning hours, I am very agitated, and fever keeps going up. At 3 A.M. my fever reached 109.1. Yes, 109.1!!!! I am now in the Critical Care Unit at Swedish Hospital. Swedish is connected to Craig by an underground tunnel.

I have malignant hyperthermia, definition: A group of inherited muscle problems characterized by muscle ‘break down’ following certain stimuli. Malignant hyperthermia (MH) can be brought on in susceptible people by anesthesia, extremes of exercise (particularly in hot conditions), fevers or use of stimulant drugs. Problems associated with this condition result from ‘over-excitable’ muscle which contract uncontrollably, severe fever, abnormal heart rhythms and kidney failure.

 It took them about 12 hours to diagnose me, as MH is very rare. I survived because the treatment is a drug called dantrium, a medication I was already receiving in small amounts for my muscle spasticity. I was given a drug, Norcuron that would totally paralyze me temporally so I could heal.  They kept me on this drug for 16 days. During the 16 days it was like I was in a coma. I also have pneumonia and I am back on the ventilator. I do not think there is another spot on me to put another IV; I have about 21 of them. The ice blanket becomes my friend for several days.

            Rumors at home say that I have passed away…..

It was like being injured all over again. Except one thing, this time I told myself that I was not going to let it beat me. I decided to enjoy what was left of life and the things that I could do. My outlook changed completely. I decided to enjoy the present as much as I could and not worry about the next day or minute. I decided whether I was home or in the hospital that it could still be enjoyed, and you could still have fun. When I was in 5th grade I broke my ankle playing soccer, and I was so worried about going back to school and what other people thought. I literally worried myself sick and was sick for an entire week until my mother told me that I was going to school on Monday whether I went naked or not. I decided not to worry if I was going to be alive or not the next day. I just worried about enjoying the present. I realize that if I was going to die or have something worse happen to me, it would be a seriously silly not to enjoy the time I had left. Instead of just worry that something is going to happen “tomorrow”. If God decides that it is my time to go, he will take me whether or not I worry about it.

 

November 13th 2005   I Keep running a temperature and my pneumonia is getting worse. They do blood cultures, urine cultures, etc. to try to find the source. Tomorrow they will do another tracheotomy and insert the ventilator in my throat and take it out of my month. They have not moved me at all.

November 19th 2005   I have improved and now am back at Craig Hospital. They stopped all antibiotics. Later that day I began to run 104 temperature, so more cultures were done on urine and blood. I had begun to wean from the vent, but that was stopped as it now tires me. I am being fed through a tube in my nose. The cultures came back and show that I have infection in my central line and in my urine. They took out my central line, which goes to the heart and allows me to have antibiotics at the arterial line.

November 22nd 2005               Blood cultures are now negative, and they will try and get me in my chair a few minutes today, as I have not been up since November 1st. I also started weaning from the vent again.

December 2nd 2005     I sat in my wheel chair for 3 hours and weaned from the vent 2 hours and 15 minutes. I am eating pureed food and still have that tube in my throat. I am improving slowly and they told us we won’t be home for Christmas.

December 4th 2005     I am taking steps backward again, running fevers, vomiting and very low blood pressure. I am too weak to even have an MRI done on my spinal cord to see if placing the shunts and doing the untethering surgery was a success. Weaning has also stopped, and antibiotics are back on.

December 5th 2005     They pulled out the central PIC line and put in a new one.

December 7th 2005     The feeding tube was removed from my nose and a "G/J" tube was surgically put in to my intestine. The "J" tube goes directly into my stomach, pass my pancreas, and into my intestine for the tube feedings. I am not getting any food as they are pumping my stomach for secretions/infections, and I have a lot of nerve pain.  

December 9th 2005     They placed the wrong stomach tube and back to surgery I go! I have pancreatitis AGAIN. They think it is from all the medicine I have had in the last month. With pancreatitis there is a lot of nausea and vomiting, so they stopped the tube feedings.

December 24th 2005   I have not had any fevers since the 15th. This week they checked my bladder for stones and found none and finally did the MRI on my spine to see if my surgery was a success.  They said it looked fantastic and cysts were completely dissolved. My liver and pancreas counts are coming down slowly, and hopefully I am on the mend. I have a long way to go as I will need a lot of therapy to get back to where I was before my surgery.

January 2nd 2006        I spent New Year’s in ICU at Swedish Hospital as I developed a yeast infection on my central PIC line and became septic. Pancreas counts jumped again and they think it is from the antibiotics. They also did a spinal tap and checked for meningitis; and it was negative. They also checked for blood clots.

January 9th 2006         Now that I was feeling better, they did an MRI on my brain to see if I had any brain damaged from the 109.1 temperature that I had two months prior. I also went through lots and lots of cognitive testing, and they could not find any brain damage, I was very, very lucky. They determined that the extreme fever only damaged my eye sight. Ice was not put on my head, thus the optical nerves in the back of my head were damaged. I am weaning again from the vent and still have some fevers off and on. Liver and pancreas counts go up and down depending on how fast they run my tube feedings. Still have the “G” tube which is pumping my stomach.

January 13th 2006       My temperatures were back earlier this week along with vomiting and elevated pancreas counts. Tube feedings have been dropped to 20 and 80-100 is normal. I just cannot seem to tolerate them any higher. I have had TPN and few other IV’s since November. My goal is to get that line out as I do not want a fourth infection in that central PIC line.

                          FINALLY I AM ABLE TO GET OFF THE VENTILATOR.

 

February 4, 2006   I have been feeling very nauseous along with stomach pain and have not been in my chair for 6 days now. Because I have been so sick they are giving me my meds in my “J” tube. I still also have pancreatitis. With all the things that I have been through, I think pancreatitis was the probably the worst. I would not wish it upon anybody and hope you never have to deal with it.

 

They administered my medicine to me into the “J” tube and noticed about 15 minutes later that the medicine was being sucked out with the “G” tube!! The next day they noticed it again, but by the time the doctor got there the meds where unnoticed in the “G” tube. It happened later that day. The nurse came and let it drain in a cup and sure enough they were my meds! No wonder I have been feeling TERRIBLE!

 

My G/J tube was put in the first week of December because of my pancreatitis and the secretions/infections that I had.

 

The “J” tube goes into my stomach, past my pancreas, and into my intestine so my meds and tube feedings bypass my pancreas. That way the stomach and pancreas  can rest. The pancreas secrets the juices to the stomach to help digest the food.  The “G” tube goes into the stomach and sucks out the natural secretions everyday so I don’t get so nauseous. So how can the meds going into the “J” tube be coming out in the “G” tube? The tubes were placed wrong all this time!!!! No wonder I feel AWFUL, back to surgery to have it replaced.

 

February 5, 2006   I have had uncontrollable stools so they did a culture and it came back clostridium difficile (C. diff). C. diff is a Gram-positive bacterium that causes severe diarrhea and the other gastrointestinal problems. It commonly occurs to people after taking broad-spectrum antibiotics that wipe out most of the intestinal microbial life. Once this happens C. diff can grow in the GI tract and produce toxins that cause diarrhea. Others get C. diff when visiting a hospital or similar facility.

 

February 11, 2006   I am finally feeling better and back into my chair 3.5 hours a day and my pancreas counts are coming down.

 

February 22, 2006   I have been off the respirator for a month, and my trach is going to be removed. I can’t wait! They left it in so they could suck secretions out of my lungs, which kept me from getting pneumonia. They did have it capped so I could talk.

 

I also have been drinking clear liquids for about a week now. They did a swallow test, and I passed so I can now have Jello, puddings, etc. I had a little pureed food for a couple of days in December, but this is the first real food and water since October 31, 2005. Oh, it was so good!

February 24, 2006   They shut off my “G” tube, and I have been doing fine without it. My tentative discharge date has been set for March 23rd. I did continue to improve each day and was dismissed on that day. It has been a long and tough 5 months.

 

In the first 33 months after my accident, 13 of them were spent in the hospital. I pray that it gets better.

 

April 5, 2006   My family waited for me to get home so we could celebrate Christmas all together. Mom left up the Christmas tree and everything. The best thing about coming home from a hospital stay is knowing you have family that care about you, especially a hospital stay where you have almost died and went through tremendous setbacks.  I cannot express how much luck and joy I feel after going through something that has caused other people to die or have gotten brain injury because of it. But like I said on my home page, I truly believe that if you fight for it, and want it bad enough, have that will to live, and enjoy life, anything is possible.

 

The next few months I continued to get stronger and only had a couple of infections in my urine. That is common because of my super pubic catheter.

 

September 3, 2006   Everyday I have range of motion done on my legs and arms before getting up for the day. While doing my leg stretches, something popped! I had a lump above my knee. The ambulance was called and to Aberdeen, SD. I had a broken femur.

 

My family did not want me to have another reaction to the anesthetic. And neither did I. However at this point in time, I had sort of crossed the threshold. I was not really concerned about this surgery because if something was going to happen, it is going to happen regardless of whether it scared me or I worry about it. Things happen that you cannot avoid and cannot explain or understand. As humans we grid our teeth and push through it, sometimes against all odds.  

 

 Malignant hypothermia can weaken the bones and muscles, and the fact that I do not use my legs is another factor that causes weak bones.

 

A call was made to Sioux Valley Hospital, and they were uncomfortable about accepting me due to my previous episode. Since it was also Labor Day weekend, I will be flying to the University of Minnesota in the morning.

 

At the University of Minnesota, several doctors consulted together, they decided to brace my leg and let it heal on its own. This meant I would be bed ridden, and it would take much longer to heal. Needless to say, I did not agree with that idea, and to say I was not very happy is an understatement! This also means that the possibility of sores from the brace was very probable. I had the brace on from Saturday through Wednesday and was in severe pain. They decided to do surgery and put a rod and pins in it.

 

I started to run a temperature so they postponed surgery until Friday. Instead of using an anesthetic that could possible trigger "MH", a spinal block is going to be used. I warned the doctors that they must remember that they are dealing with “Brock” and unusual things can happen!

 

During the one hour fouty-five minute surgery, there was an unusual occurrence. After drilling for rod placement, they pulled the drill bit back, but the bit detached and stayed in my leg. After some commotion and trying a couple of different things they removed it and put the rod in.

 

When I was told we all just chuckled because it was not the first time something odd had happen to me and probably will not be the last. I did well after surgery and was able to return home a couple of days later.

 

Next I'll need to concentrate on building my stamina again so I can go archery and rifle hunting in a couple of months.

 

Late in the fall of 2011, I received a new wheel chair as mine was now 9 years old. I was fitted for it in the spring on 2012. My elbows tend to flair out because of tight muscles. The arm rests were not adjusted quite properly and after being in them for a couple months I got a pressure sore on my right elbow. After 7 1/2 months of dealing with a wound specialist, I felt it was time for a second opinion and I was referred to a vascular surgeon from Sioux Falls, SD. He wanted to do a debridement surgery within a couple of days after seeing him. I had a Staph infection in the sore which had traveled up into the bone of my arm. I had the debridement surgery in March 2013. They had to remove part of the bone to get all the Staph infection out, and I was put on antibiotics for eight weeks to make sure the Staph was all clear. However, I lost some range of motion and now wear a prosthetic brace to protect the elbow.  

Since the Spring of 2013, I have been pretty healthy. I have 4 – 6 urine infections per year, but that is fairly normal for a quadriplegic.  I had a couple of colds in 2014 but found that my hemoglobin was quite low and that is better now. They keep checking my spleen as it is enlarged, but it doesn’t bother me. I continue to enjoy life and pray that my good heath continues. As I hope yours does also.

I was unsuccessful and was not drawn for an East river deer tag so I did not hunt that fall of 2014.    

February 13th 2015    I began to run a temperature. I had not run a fever since I had malignant hyperthermia in 2006. Saturday my fever was higher so on Sunday I headed to the ER. I had double pneumonia and was admitted to ICU. On Monday I knew I was worse and that they did not have the equipment to get me well, as I am a complicated case.

On the second night they could not wake me to give me any of my medicines. My caregivers came that next morning to help get me up and I woke up and said “Mom, I’m floating in the clouds and see big bursts of light. Touch my shoulders so I know I am still alive!” and I drifted back to sleep.

Mom immediately went to the Dr. and gave him the phone number to contact Craig Hospital in Englewood, Co. In less than ten minutes he was back and said we need to fly him to Sioux Falls today.

 At about 5 pm. I was finally on my way. After arriving at the hospital I began to seizure. They pulled all my meds and immediately put me in ICU and starting running tests. On top of the double pneumonia I had RSV. RSV is a Respiratory syncytial (sin-SISH-uhl) virus, is a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. It usually affects children but when adults contact it the virus can go to the brain and causes seizures.

I seizured for 28 hours. During the seizures I could not see even though my eyes were open, I repeatedly said, “Mom, I can’t see you but I know that you are there. I’m floating in the clouds and see BIG burst of light but I know I’m not dead!” then I would go back into unconsciousness. I repeated this the whole 28 hours.

The tests showed that I did not have cephalitis or meningitis. I was then diagnosed with encephalopathy of the brain. The causes of encephalopathy are both numerous and varied. Some examples of causes of encephalopathy include: infectious (bacteria, viruses, parasites, or prions)It causes swelling of the brain.

 All my other tests were negative so the Dr. said I would overcome it completely once the swelling went down and the seizures stopped.

            When the seizures stopped I awoke briefly and my dad was with me. I said “Brock’s not dead, Brock’s alive!” and then I would drift off again. I did this repeatedly for about two hours until I was fully conscious.

I recovered quickly from the pneumonia and was dismissed on Monday. I spent eight days in the hospital.

Since then I have been healthy besides the usual 4-5 urine infections, colds, and flu.

Follow my hunting and side-by-side adventures as I will be posting pictures and videos on my website and Facebook. And I give a massive thank you to my entire family, especially my mom and dad, all of my past and present caregivers, and to everyone else who has supported and is supporting me. Without you NONE of this would be possible.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read my story and visit my website.