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Into the Andes

Part 1 of an adventure. Two years ago I set out into the Andes on horseback to visit the rustic memorial and ultimate site of the 1972 plane crash in the “Valley of Tears” deep in the Andes, that took the lives of 29 people. It was called “The Miracle of the Andes” because 16 did survive the most extreme and harsh experience imaginable. It’s been documented in many books, the 1993 movie “Alive” and many documentaries on YouTube. In 2018 I only made it to base camp, because of a bad respiratory infection. But because this story hit home, and stayed with me for decades, I knew I couldn’t accept my defeat. I returned again January 4, 2020 to Argentina, to rejoin Alpine Expeditions leader Ricardo Peña and wife Uly, and survivor Eduardo Strauch, and eight others to journey days and hours into the Andes, to see the crash site, to absorb the beauty of the mountains, to feel this unique and amazing experience. Here, I’ll discuss the trip itself. Next week, I’ll share thought about the “Alive” story and how it relates to leadership and hemophilia. Leadership has been on my mind lately, and in fact, in the February issue of PEN, we will discuss changing leadership and leadership challenges in 2020.

Andes Survivor Expedition 2020

You can’t be a leader unless you have someone or something to lead. On Sunday January 5, our new team all met up at 2:30 at the Hotel Raices Aconcagua, where we loaded our bags onto the bus. It was great to see Eduardo Strauch again, who I met two years ago. He gave me a big hug, and immediately said he wanted to learn more about my charity work in hemophilia. This was very kind, as he is a huge celebrity, and has met hundreds of people all over the world. In other words, his time, thoughts and energy is valuable and limited, and I was so pleased he was interested in hemophilia. Our new team consisted of five people from the US, one from New Zealand, one from the Netherlands and one from Scotland. All in all, it was a great team, and team dynamics showed themselves early on, in terms of who connected and how.

The next morning Monday, January 6, I had a quick breakfast at the hotel, and we started our trip to the Andes. This involved a two hour bus ride to a pit stop, a little restaurant we visited last time, with the same little dachshund puttering about! A few people recognized Eduardo, which was cool.

Eduardo Strauch, survivor

Then, off again for a two hour, very bumpy, grinding ride to the foothills. The ride was much rougher than I remembered. I did well, though, although I had picked up yet another respiratory infection just before leaving Boston, and was coughing the whole time and indeed, am still coughing as I write this blog.

We drove up the tight turns and rocky roads, where black rocks dotted the landscape with shocks of yellow straw-grass coming straight out of them, looking like so many surprised, stone-faced troll dolls.

Around 2:30 pm we reached the horse post, where Sybille, Victor, Juan and Veronica greeted us. They are our support team. It was late in the day to begin our ride to base camp at 8,000 feet, but we first had to have lunch. Sybille laid out a great lunch, and we munched on cheese, peanuts, olives, pickled onions, ham and soft drinks. Though Sybille put out wine, Ricardo forbade it as it is dehydrating. The Andes is extremely dusty and arid, and alcohol doesn’t mix well with altitude. Soon, we saddled up the horses and we were ready to head out for four days.

River crossing

The wind whipped us and the dust coated everything at once. We couldn’t speak, as the wind roared in our ears. It was nonetheless enchanting, to see the sloping sides of the Andes mountains climb upwards toward their pinnacles. The Cordillera de los Andes are the longest continental mountain range in the world, forming a continuous highland along the western edge of South America. The Andes are the second highest mountain range on earth, after the Himalayas. But no facts can describe their beauty, their majesty. Greens, golds, browns, tans… all colors seeping and weeping down from the summits.

¡Vámonos!

Across rivulets, up steep trails, then down steep, dusty paths which made the horses jolt and rock. Then across a pounding glacial river, which sank the horses up to their chests and caused them to step cautiously on the slippery rock bottom. We anticipated being pitched into the glacial-cold water, but they are surefooted and not one ever stumbled. Each of us was in our own internal world as the wind struck our ears. But by 7:30 pm we reached camp at last. The kitchen and mess tent were already set up; we got to work unpacking. I set up my tent with Uly’s help (Uly is a glacial geologist): a green Hornet by Nemo. I was excited to be back in a tent and in a sleeping bag, believe it or not. Dinner was at 10:30 pm, pasta. Eduardo welcomed everyone to ask questions–about anything. And this is significant, because his experience was so extreme in the annals of human survivor stories. I asked a lot of questions, particularly about the Exit sign he mentions in his book (I’ll share more about this next week).

My tent, dwarfed by the mighty Andes

Most people recall the 1972 crash of the rugby players for one sensational aspect: the survivors had to eat the bodies of the dead. There was no other option, except to die. While this is the trigger that makes mostly people recall the story, whenever you read the books, or watch the movie or documentaries, it is to me the least important aspect; it’s just a fact. What stands out to me is how the survivors adjusted, created a mini-society, supported one another… all things I will discuss next week. And indeed, just like two years ago, the topic of food source didn’t really come up. In fact, what surprised me most was when Eduardo said that throughout his whole ordeal—the subzero temperatures, the starvation, the altitude, the death of his best friend, eating the flesh of the dead—it was the chronic thirst that was most unbearable.

Tuesday, January 7, we headed to the crash site. This would be a long day, and an emotional one. I awoke around 6:30 am in my little tent, and did not sleep well: the dust is insidious, the wind relentless. My coughing kept me up, and it was the reason I placed my tent far from the others.

Base camp view

I could hear stomping near my tent early in the morning as the arrieros got the horses untied and ready. I dusted myself off, and shook off dust from the sleeping bag, and dressed. It’s not that cold, maybe only dropping to 35° or 40° at night. Breakfast was hot scrambled eggs, muesli, tea and toast, served by the pretty Veronica. We saddled up the horses around 9:45 am. It took four long hours to get to the Valle de las Lágrimas, the Valley of Tears. The weather was perfect: not too hot, sunny, no clouds. Only the strong mountain winds sliced through the valley and kicked up perpetual dust. Our horses carried us over long, winding mountain trails, hemmed in by towering slopes of the Andes. We passed a few green glacial pools; the mountains are denuded, due to the arid conditions. The wind simply erodes anything trying to grow. It was hard to take pictures with the horses rocking, and the wind pounding us.

On a special trip like this, it truly helps to have a guide like Ricardo, who first discovered Eduardo’s jacket in 2005, while climbing in the valley. He returned it to Eduardo, they became fast friends and the rest is history! Their friendship allows us to enjoy the beauty of the Andes, the experience of a survivor, a rough and excitong trip, and learn about geology and glaciers from Uly. (To learn more visit Alpine Expeditions)

Finally, at 3 pm, we could see the Valley of Tears, and the high ridge where the Fairchild first struck the mountain. Beneath it, the steep slope on which the Fairchild tobagganed, and finally impacted to a halt. We could see the little mound in the foreground with the rustic iron cross, signifying the memorial.

The Valley of Tears, where the plane crashed

We dismounted and waited for the remaining riders. I was stunned when Eduardo took my elbow and guided me to the foot of the small ridge where the memorial waited. He wanted me to ascend with him. Only me. This impacted me greatly; it was an incredible honor. And when we reached the top after a few steps. I became so emotional. Me, who never cries. And never in public. I have read this story so often, like the others on this trip. The victims’ names are all familiar: Liliana, Marcelo, Arturo, Rafael, Susy, Diego, Numa, Enrique, Gustavo… and now we were here. Where their bodies lie in the cold, remote cradle of the Andes, I felt emotions well up that I have hardly ever felt. Tears seeped out, and Eduardo and I hugged briefly. He knows what this place does to people. He knows why they come. This is where his life totally changed. And his story—their story—has changed our lives. Surrounded by the towering, stark mountains we love and with hard rocks at our feet, our hearts felt at once heavy with regret and sadness, and yet alive with hope. These victims will never be forgotten. And people like me pay for the privilege to travel an arduous journey to be a small part of this.

Descending into the valley

Eduardo knows all this. He told me earlier that one year he stayed behind while the group went off to explore, and one of the horse handlers began talking to him. The handler confided that his son had committed suicide a few years before. And for a while, he considered it himself, too. But it was the “Alive” story, and the visit to the crash site and memorial that changed his heart. These Uruguayan boys were not given a choice; many died. The ones who lived fought with superhuman strength mentally, emotionally and physically to stay alive. One almost feels like honoring them by staying alive too, no matter how badly you feel. I told Eduardo, All that you endured then has meant something these 48 years. How many lives have you impacted and perhaps saved, simply by trying to stay alive?

Eduardo walked to the small pile of debris, where pieces of the Fairchild were gathered: parts of the ceiling, the walls, scrap metal, signs, gears. I’m sure some hikers take pieces home as trophies, but this is discouraged. At the rusty iron cross, there is a mound where people place meaningful items, despite a sign asking people not to in Spanish. I forgot this rule, and took out a beautiful string of prayer beads with a silver cross, made by my friend Cazandra MacDonald, to lay on the memorial. We placed it near a painted rock signed by the children of Liliana Methol, who died in the avalanche on the 16th day. Then we move it to where the bodies are buried: Eduardo accompanied me, and we had Ricardo take our photo, for my friend Caz. Eduardo put his arm around me and said, “I’m so happy you’re here.”

Laying prayer beads and cross at grave site, with Eduardo Strauch

I felt I must apologize to Eduardo for being so emotional: I didn’t know these people personally, and this certainly is not my story; it’s his. But all of us cannot help but relate, for whatever reason. I think of their immense suffering, their sacrifices, the lost potential of these precious young people. This story is one of life: it is of trauma, tragedy, survival, suffering in the extreme, endurance, human spirit, courage, strength, love, community, fear, hunger, thirst, faith, loss, hope and rescue. Everything in life is in this story. Perhaps it’s why so many people can relate to it. There is so much to this story.

Plane wreckage: Photo by Ricardo Peña

Beyond the ridge where the memorial and grave lie, up ahead, is the actual crash site. We can clearly see it, but it is another hike to go there. I see the front wheels of the Fairchild in the valley below to the right. To my left, at the base of the ridge up ahead, I see the tail stabilizer, sitting there for 48 years. The wind kicks up and the others decide to go down into the valley; they will stay the night. I’ll return to base camp with Eduardo, and three other members of our team.

Our team at the Memorial site and mass grave

While Eduardo sat to eat a sandwich, I ventured over to the tail stabilizer, where two tall hikers were. I asked them to take a picture of me with the tail, and they happily complied. Their English is perfect; they are two 32-year-olds, Gonzalo and Eduardo, on a multi-day hike. They were not even that familiar with the Alive story. When I mentioned that Eduardo Strauch was with me (a fact they probably knew, as many people come when Ricardo and Eduardo come here, just to catch a glimpse of Eduardo), I invited them to come meet him. They were almost taken aback, like it was too great an honor. And they know that our team has paid for this privilege. But after reading Eduardo’s book, Out of the Silence, which is about the most important lesson learned–love– I told them I knew he would welcome meeting them. We walked over to Eduardo, and as I thought, he was warm and kind to them. And they were completely respectful.

I asked if they are hungry, and they startled almost, then politely said no. But I knew they were hungry. I gave them some cookies from our stash, and they were in heaven. They had been subsisting on trail mix for three days and the sugar in the cookies made them so happy! Gonzolo jokingly said, “I love you!”, in between bites.

We decided we need to return, as the weather was getting more threatening. It was another three and a half hours back, on horses. And it was now 3:45 pm. As we jostled down on our horses, the wind kicked up again and my cowboy hat flew off and away, down into the deep, deep valley, where it will never be seen again.

We passed one mountain that was brilliant in colors: like huge slabs of gelato on display, first milk chocolate, then mint chocolate, then coconut, then butterscotch, then double chocolate. At 6 pm we saw an arriero riding fast across the trail, coming towards us, a large package draped across his horse. We were shocked to know that our team didn’t have a the tent for those staying overnight! And what a night it turned out to be. For us at base camp, 40-50 mph winds, pounding our tents, making it impossible to sleep, and endless sprays of fine dust. For those at the crash site, hurricane force winds and bitter cold, so much like those nights 48 years ago, when a group of Uruguayan teenage boys, wearing only street clothes, with no food or survival gear, somehow survived a horrific crash, watched their friends die yet found the will, courage and leadership to survive 72 days in the Valley of Tears.

Laurie at the tail stabilizer
Dinner time!

Next week: Leadership lessons from the Andes.

To participate, visit: Alpine Expeditions

To learn more about the survivors experience, read Alive, by Pier Paul Reads, Miracle of the Andes by Nando Parrado, I Had to Survive, by Roberto Canessa, and of course, Out of the Silence, by Eduardo Strauch, all available in Amazon and in English

A Break from Bleeding Disorders: Two New Young Adult Books!

We are excited to introduce to you two books from our editor of 25 years, Sara Evangelos.

Sara has written two young adult books under the pen name, Sara Webley.

Zo in the Roosting Tree tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who wakes up one morning… as a crow! She doesn’t know how it happened, but discovers she loves being a crow. Yet she must find the secret to becoming human again. Follow Zo’s adventures as she learns to fly, plays games with a goofy cardinal named Rufus, and surfs the wind with her wings in the clouds. Kahr! Kahr!

Being Zo the crow is fun! But when Zo discovers the dangers of her new life—owls and bobcats and cars—she misses her human family. And time is running out; her family is leaving their vacation home at the end of the month. Can a mysterious snapping turtle help Zo find the magic she needs to go home again?

This nature-inspired fantasy by Sara Webley is perfect for ages 7 and older. Illustrated by Robin Prisland.

Zo in the Roosting Tree is available for purchase on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07TRP7NWM/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Somewhere Besides Denver takes place in 1907, with best friends Violet and Marion excited about their upcoming trip to Europe—a rite of passage for wealthy teens after high school. But they’re not too excited that Helen, a rancher’s daughter with a rich aunt, is joining them.

All three teens know the rules for well-bred young ladies: Don’t go anywhere without your chaperone! Don’t speak to strangers, especially men! And when you return to Denver, settle into a life of boring parties and pleasing your husband.

But they’re already restless.

What awaits Helen, Violet, and Marion in Paris, where society rules aren’t as strict? Where they meet a famous fashion designer, a ground-breaking female artist, and some fancy-dressed dogs? And in London, where they join the fight for women’s rights?

Will their chaperone Lena, a rule-breaker herself, keep them out of serious trouble while giving them the freedom they need to become women of the new century?

Ages 11 and older will love meeting young women of the early twentieth century in this charming young adult historical novel. Available in ebook and paperback. Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07TRP7NWM/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Sara Evangelos is a partner in JAS Group Writing and Editorial Services, addressing the communication needs of clients in the area of human services. Sara edits, writes and contributes to books, journals, newsletters, brochures, grant proposals and reports. She is also a published poet. Sara earned her bachelor’s degree in writing and psychology from the University of Illinois, and received advanced training in technical writing and editing from Northeastern University. She has worked for LA Kelley Communications since 1995.

What an Action-Packed Year!

I’m sitting at my desk, waiting for a snow storm to roll in, and thinking about how we are ending this amazing year. There was the usual travel to attend NHF’s and HFA’s annual meeting, and I also attended the Bombardier Blood movie showings in California (at FFF Enterprises and Genentech), Michigan, North Carolina and Utah!

My work was honored at a spectacularly beautiful gala hosted by Hope for Hemophilia in New Orleans, where I received a beautiful award and watched a video about my work–that was amazing and surreal! Save One Life, the international nonprofit I founded, received an award at NHF’s gala in September.

Laurie Kelley with NHF CWO Val Bias and Save One Life
executive director Chris Bombardier

I cycled in Massachusetts to raise money for Save One Life while honoring the memory of Barry Haarde, climbed Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to raise money for it as well, and rode a bike for three days with the likes of Kim Philo and Michael DeGrandpre, through three states to raise money for HFA–Gears for Good.

Hiking Kilimanjaro

I visited Haiti, Tanzania, Kenya and the island of Zanzibar. Haiti was a less than 24-hour visit due to the violence, but something good came of it, as we established enough of a toehold to start the first ever hemophilia program in Haiti! If nothing else happened this year but this, I would be completely happy and call it a successful year!

Team Philo!

I visited many old friends and colleagues throughout the country, and also hosted visitors from India, the Philippines and Kenya in my home. I endured a torn meniscus, back spasm, altitude sickness or something like it, flipped over my handlebars in Maryland in a tunnel, and was hit by a car while on my bike in Massachusetts. But I’m still standing!

For fun I saw Metallica, the Rolling Stones, the Who and many other bands, visited the Museum of Natural History in NYC, Buddy Holley’s hometown of Lubbock, Texas and the crash site in Clear Lake, Iowa, and hiked up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire and all through Zion in Utah.

James Hetfield of Metallica… because
Nothing Else Matters!

Save One Life was restructured and welcomed a new executive director, Chris Bombardier!

It’s been quite a year. And so we are finishing our 29th year of existence at LA Kelley Communications! Next year is our 30th anniversary…. 30 years of bringing original and ground-breaking publications, all free. We thank our sponsors for supporting our work here in the US, which supports indirectly our work in developing countries. And we thank you for reading our publications, allowing us to help bring news and insight about bleeding disorders to you, and for all your support for Save One Life!

Here’s to a new year! May yours rock!

A Special Christmas Carol

‘Twas December 23 and all through the BDC*,
Everyone was busy decorating their tree.
Or lighting their candles or baking some sweets,
Or messaging friends or sending tweets.

And wrapping up the year, here in Georgetown,
We could hardly wait to share what we found.
Rather than sending cards that end in the trash,
We decided to do something rather rash.

Om Krishna

We love our boys and girls with factor VIII or IX,
But many will never get factor at holiday time.
Those overseas face a grim holiday
With pain, swollen joints and sorrow they can’t allay.

We try to help them all throughout the year,
But a special case came to us, that made us tear.
A boy in Nepal, a faraway land,
Was truly in need of a helping hand.

A medical team from Mary M. Gooley was there,
To volunteer their services and provide great care.
Surgery! A new knee! What rejoining they made,
Until they learned: the prosthetic had never been paid!

The surgery was tomorrow! What to do?
In desperation they reach out to you-know-who.
And we said yes, of course we could.
And the surgery happened, as it must and should.

If you don’t get a card from us, don’t feel slighted.
Our Christmas budget went to a boy who’s delighted.
He got a new knee, one that works right.
He is our Christmas star, our Hanukkah light.

Movie of the Year!

His name? Om Krishna, and you can see him
As he’s also a star in a new medium.
Instead of watching this season a movie like “The Grinch,”
See “Bombardier Blood,” by Patrick J. Lynch!

Om Krishna’s the one who lost his brother,
Who lost his home, and only has his mother.
But he never complains, and he’s grateful to be,
Always wears a smile, and now a new knee!

We wish you a blessed holiday and happy new year,
Keep the poor in your hearts and share your good cheer!

From Laurie and all of us at LA Kelley Communications

*Bleeding Disorder Community

See the Bombardier Blood teaser here
To sponsor a child like Om Krishna, visit SaveOneLife.net
See more photos of Om Krishna and his home here.

Bubba’s Outcome

Part 3

Bubba did start to wake up, and that made us very happy. He opened his eyes and was almost immediately able to focus on Ashley. That made us happy too. Then he made a very unhappy face, an incredibly unhappy face.

He started sniffling. Then he started crying.

We were a bit concerned.

The crying got louder. The crying began to include screaming.

We didn’t have the slightest clue what was going on. What was wrong? Did his chest hurt from the surgery? Was he scared because he woke up somewhere new?

Let’s take a break for a learning experience. You may or may not be aware that some small children have an adverse reaction to anesthesia. The reaction does not occur when they are initially anesthetized; it happens when they wake up. It’s called emergence delirium.

The attending nurse reassured us that this was not uncommon. She did acknowledge that it was difficult. I’m sure she’d seen more than enough parents come through and experience angry kid syndrome upon waking. We were also told that they could give medicine prior to surgery that would decrease the severity of this reaction.

The whole process lasted about 15 minutes. Bubba slowly calmed down and began to resemble the child we sent into surgery, not the angry little monster that had emerged into the recovery room. He was obviously exhausted. All of us were ready for it to be over. We were cleared to head back to his room.

Bubba had made it through the surgery and we were good to go. The reaction to coming out of anesthesia was actually minor in the grand scheme of things. Ashley and I were on our way to becoming more active in the role of Bubba’s care. With the port in place we’d be trained how to infuse him at home. All of the stress that we were currently experiencing would be more than worth our troubles in the end.

The true test would come when it came time to test the port. Being a medical newbie, I had no idea how complicated or how simple this process would be. Bubba would be given sufficient time to rest, but we all knew that a functional port was the only path to us getting home.

Later, I joined three nurses in an exam room located right down the hall from our hospital room. It might have been a procedure room. The combination of fluorescent lighting and white overload made the room incredibly uncomfortable.

The goal was to ensure that Bubba’s port would function properly so we could determine how much time he’d need to remain in the hospital. The nurses were upfront and honest about the fact that he would not react favorably to this process.

My job would be to help hold Bubba still and do my best to calm him. I wanted to do my best on both fronts. He remained accessed because the surgery site would be far too sensitive to access with a new needle. Our goal was simply to connect a line in and make sure that everything could be pushed with no problem.

Bubba is accessed, so the nurse is now ready to push saline as soon as she gets blood return.

No blood return. That’s fine. Ports can be finicky. She tries again. No blood return. Not a problem, we’ll just put his arms above his head and that’ll open things up. A pattern began to emerge. The nurse could not get blood return.

Bubba was rolled onto his side.

Bubba was allowed to sit up.

We maneuvered and finagled him around trying to get blood return. Each time the nurse drew back the plunger nothing happened.

Bubba was getting angry. He got even angrier as the nurses tried to adjust the needle that was used to access the port. Any form of sedation or local anesthetic had worn off quite some time ago. He was now a one-year-old with a needle being moved around in his chest.

The noises started as intermittent crying. The intermittent crying became more constant. The crying was then joined with some attempts to get out of our grip. My willingness to keep him on the table was beginning to fade. I just wanted to pick him up and get him out of the room. Bubba soon began screaming at the top of his little lungs. His face was soaked with tears and bright red in color.

The issue with the port simply added to our emotional ups and downs. We began as parents frightened because their small child needed surgery. The emotional upswing came when we thought about more effectively managing his condition. We were scared to death when he went back for surgery and elated when he came out. My spirits hit rock bottom again when I went back to the room to tell Ashley that the port was not functioning.

It was not long into the day when a physician approached us.

A gaggle of short white-jacketed medical students were in tow. To be completely honest my first thought was, “Ugh.” The last thing I needed was the medical neophytes peering over us as the actual doctor spoke.

The physician explained to us that it was clear the port was not functioning.

The x-rays that they’d taken showed the line from the port was pushed up against the wall of the vein. This meant that there wouldn’t be any blood return. The opening on the end of the line was simply sucked up against the wall of the vein.

The med students continued to hover. I began to fume.

We were informed that the line would need to be moved in order to make the port functional.

“So, will he need to have another surgery?” I asked in a noticeable irritated voice.

The physician answered yes.

“So, the first surgery was done incorrectly and now he has to go in again?”

This is the type of time that my wife would often describe as “Derek acting like an ass.”

I should have been more aware that there was no reason to be angry with the surgeons. They were trying to thread a line into the body of a baby. That cannot be an easy task.

The physician calmly indicated that the line placement was not optimal and that Bubba would need to have another procedure. They wanted to schedule surgery as soon as possible. The surgeons would be able to use the existing incision.

We ran into one major issue: clotting factor.

There was none. You can’t operate on a hemophilia patient unless they’re factored up. Without available factor, there would be no surgery.

We were fortunate to have an incredible point of contact for our specialty pharmacy. Her name was Julie and she was aware that we were headed to St. Louis for Bubba’s surgery. In fact, she had given me her personal cell phone number in case anything happened. It didn’t really register at the time that the number might come in useful.

Our nurse told us that it could be a few days before they could be restocked.

I was not ashamed to call Julie. As expected, I didn’t get her at first. She probably saw a weird number come up on her cell and didn’t feel like hearing about her car’s expired warranty.

… and then Julie called back.

I explained what was going on and how we were certain she was a factor wizard who could make our necessary medication appear with the wave of a wand. Problem number one was that the pharmacy could not ship to the hospital. We found out that insurance would cover having Bubba’s factor shipped to us in St. Louis. We’d just take possession and then hand it over to the physician.

Julie was awesome and, I imagine, is still awesome. I doubt she’ll every read this article. If she does, Julie you are a superhero in the eyes of the Markley family.

We made one major change. Bubba was given medication prior to surgery that would help us avoid him turning into a screaming little devil spawn when the anesthesia wore off. We had faced enough challenges in a short time and there was no reason not to stack the deck in our favor in any way we could.

The outcome this time was far better. Surgery went quickly, Bubba did not awake yelling and crying, and we were able to ensure that the port was functional. Our emotional rollercoaster had finally come to a gentle stop instead of catching fire, going off the rails, and slamming into an animal shelteer filled with kittens. Things were much better the second time around.

Now the work would begin. Ashley and I would be trained to administer factor twice per week via Bubba’s new port. A new chapter in our life had begun!

Derek Marley lives in Saltillo, Mississippi with his wife Ashley and their children Abbey and Bubba. He is the executive director of two University of Mississippi regional campuses and an assistant professor in the school of education. Ashley is a fourth grade teacher in the Tupelo Public School District. Derek is author of The Bubba Factor, which can be ordered on Amazon.com.

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