Smarties, it is with such honor that I introduce you to this week’s Smarty Mom, Kristan Seaford. Kristan and I went to high school together. She is just a couple of years older than I, but we cheered together in high school (Go Cougars!) and have constantly crossed paths since graduation. In fact, her BFF, Jeannie, and I were roomies and running buds when we were right out of college and still living the single life. I distinctly remember Jeannie telling me how she was going to set up Kristan and “this guy” from her office, Brook. Well, that set up turned into true love. Kristan and Brook married and now have five children – one boy and four girls. Kristan and I have run into each other periodically over the years – literally and figuratively – mostly through church and races around town (she’s a crazy good runner).
The first thing I think about when I think of Kristan (and she doesn’t know this) is her laugh. She has the BEST laugh. She’s really tiny, but her laugh is REALLY big. Love that about her. And I still remember jokes she made in high school. That’s how funny she is. Twenty years later her seventeen-year-old-self’s jokes make me laugh.
This past November, Kristan got really sick and almost died. It’s truly a miracle that she’s alive, but after you read this post, you’ll see why. She’s a fighter. When we spoke on the phone a couple of weeks ago to do this interview, Kristan was in a lot of pain and had an uncertain day ahead. I asked if she wanted to reschedule the call, and this is what she said:
No, no. Let’s do it. If I want to do something, I’m gonna do it.
That attitude is why she is here today.
Mark May 31 on your calendar. That’s the date of the See Kristan Run 5k. It’s a race to raise money to cover medical expenses as well as the costs of extended care (they are SO CLOSE to their goal of $200,000 – donate here!!). It’s a race to show support for a mother and family facing extremely tough circumstances. It’s a race to show Kristan how many people believe we will See Kristan Run. I’ll be there with my family – meet me there!
Smarty Mom Kristan Seaford
Married to: Brook, 14 years
Children: Ben, 11; Caroline, 7; Lauren and Maizie, 5 ½; Jeannie, 18 mo
Years in Charlotte: Moved here when I was 6
Hometown: Born in Ohio but consider Charlotte my hometown
Occupation: Group Exercise Instructor/Counselor/Stay-at-Home Mom
Alma Mater: Charlotte Catholic; Duke University and Wake Forest for grad school
Tell us what happened in November. It was like a tsunami of different things. I got the flu and then the strep virus. Brook found me unconscious one Sunday morning after he had taken the kids to church and I had stayed back because I was sick. By the time I got to the hospital, it had turned into double pneumonia and then became septic. I was placed in a Rotoprone bed, which is a bed that flips you so you’re facing the floor. My blood pressure was so low that my organs were dying so they gave me crazy strong blood pressure medications. I was basically on life support. The blood pressure medications were able to miraculously save my life, but they took blood from my extremities. My hands and feet “died.” So, a month later, I had my hands and left foot amputated. They were able to save most of my right foot. My amputation is below the knee – I totally lucked out.
Do you remember anything? I remember very little. I do remember at one point waking up and looking at my hands, and they were black. I was lying on my tummy, saw my hands and thought that I had black gloves on. I remember bits and pieces of being at different hospitals (she was at 6 different hospitals for a total of 100 days and remembers three of them). It’s pretty crazy how much I was moved around.
How has being in Charlotte been a blessing? I am so fortunate to live in a city with such fabulous health care systems. You could argue I wouldn’t be alive today if I didn’t have access to such amazing healthcare. At one point, I was trached, and was sent to a special hospital to get off the trach! They also don’t have such amazing prosthetists in every city. All of my prosthetists – every doctor and specialist (and there are A LOT!) – are in Charlotte.
What went into the amputation surgery? I had two surgeons: an upper AND lower extremity surgeon. It was kind of like a mani/pedi, but not :-). One doctor did my hands and one doctor did my feet. It was quite a feat to get two surgeons’ schedules to line up, get OR time for a 5-6 hour surgery, and get everyone on board to operate at CMC Mercy (one surgeon operated at CMC Main so he had to get permission to operate at CMC Mercy), but it allowed me time to get stronger and get off the feeding tube. I had even learned to walk on my dead feet and ride a stationery bike. It was a big set back after surgery.
What did it feel like when you woke up after the amputation surgery? I was in agony. I just kept thinking They didn’t tell me it was going to hurt so bad! They gave me painkillers – even now I am on painkillers – but they didn’t totally knock it out and they still don’t. They make me more relaxed, but it still hurts. The nights were the worst. I remember just begging Brook to take me home. Here was my sweet husband who had been by my side every step of the way and I was just yelling at him to take me home. I was so frustrated.
How are you doing today? All things considered, I am doing awesome. I am walking around on one prosthetic leg and a walking boot. I am trying to take care of the kids a little bit. I can’t stay home alone with them (especially with Jeannie) but I am doing a little more every day. I celebrate doing something new every single day. Like, the other night I held Jeannie and stood up and walked her to bed. That’s huge! I was able to put in a microwave pizza for Ben – it turned out disgusting – but that’s OK. I made him dinner. I signed Maizie’s reading log with my new prosthetic hand. I used to hate that reading log, and now I am SO excited to sign it. It just shows what moms take for granted. I have a whole different perspective on life.
I’m nowhere near independent. I have a home health aid who comes every morning to help me shower and dress. She takes me to my doctor appointments – usually one or two appointments a day. Jeannie goes to my sister’s house every morning. I do about an hour to an hour-and-a-half of PT – I need a lot of work on my upper body and core to pull myself up. Then the bus comes with the rest of the kids, and you know what that’s like – bus to bedtime. We have a babysitter that helps in the afternoon from 2-6 pm. She is amazing and has such a big heart. She has mothered my children when I haven’t been able to – it’s made a world of difference. I am starting to get jealous to be honest :-). She lets me insert myself when I need to, but she has it under control if I am not there. Brook’s company has let him work from home indefinitely, so if I need him, I can just yell upstairs.
How has your outlook on life changed? It’s opened my eyes to a world of joy that I never recognized. I had it, but I didn’t recognize it. I am really enjoying my kids every day that I am here. It’s made me appreciate what’s there. A sunny day, the wind, people. My faith has increased a thousand fold. I have met so many people that I would never have been in the same circles with. Amazing people. I’ve learned interesting life stories and appreciated them so much more. I’ve talked about my faith with so many people who I otherwise wouldn’t have.
What are your short-term plans and goals? My plan is to go into a rehab facility for a prosthetic “boot camp.” It’ll basically be uninterrupted practice for using my new hands. I am so lucky to have gotten these hands – they’re actually so high-tech that there isn’t a therapist in town who has had experience with them. The company who made them sent representatives to be in my surgery so they could take casts of my hands and leg and started making everything right away. They understood that I wanted to get going and not miss any time with the kids.
So, people from the prosthetic company will teach my therapists and me all the nuances of the hands. It’ll just take time. For instance, right now I can’t tell how hard I am squeezing when I shake someone’s hand. Prosthetic hands are twenty times harder to master than feet, and it’s actually very rare that I’ve lost both of my hands. I only know two other people in Charlotte that have that, and it’s even more rare to find a therapist who has experience to help.
Click here to see Kristan using her new hands!
But since I have been on my feet, my whole attitude has changed. Now that I can get up and move around, I can hug Brook and have my body next to his. I can be around my kids. Since I a mom of 5 kids, I am used to moving constantly. I’m not a very good stay-at-home mom – we are always out and about doing things because when the kids are home, you know how it is, your house just gets destroyed. They need to be somewhere destroying someone else’s house :-). It was just very difficult not being able to move – it’s much better now.
You are an avid runner and a group fitness instructor. You’re obviously in great shape. Do you think this helped save your life? Absolutely! My lungs and heart bounced back so quickly – nobody could believe it. Had those muscles not been so strong, I wouldn’t be here today. It definitely saved my life.
I’ve also been able to speed up the recovery some. When I first got my prosthetic leg and boot, I was allowed to put weight on my leg with the help of a walker. I started out tentatively walking around with the walker. That was on a Wednesday. By Thursday, my therapist decided to experiment – she put a rope around my waist and guided me across the room without a walker. It turns out the walker was holding me back. I think because I was a runner and was moving all the time and was athletic, my body remembered it much sooner. Brook is constantly amazed at how fast I am progressing.
Do you have any long-term fitness goals in your “new” normal life? Do you want to run another marathon? Maybe help other amputees with fitness goals? Actually, getting back to the “new” normal is a really lofty goal. I want to drive – hopefully sooner than I think. I was a horrible driver before this, so we’ll see how it goes :-). But driving is kind of an important thing for a mom to do, so I want to be able to do it.
I definitely want to run. There’s an amputee running group that meets every other Wednesday night, and I am going to get involved with them. You know, before all this happened, running would’ve seemed so important. Now marathons aren’t on the list. I’ve already checked those off the bucket list, so I’m good. I hope to get back to teach at the Y – probably just weight training. No step aerobics for sure. 🙂
That’s probably not the right answer, but I really don’t have any fitness goals. I just really want to take care of my kids. I want to be there and volunteer at their school and just be a mom and a wife. That’s a big goal.
I do want to go back to work. I am a counselor, and this experience will allow me to be a better counselor. I know God put that in his plan – I could put myself right in and help people. There are enough amputees in Charlotte to really have a great community, and I know I can help others. When I was still in hospital even before surgery, amputees would come visit me and encourage me and teach me and show me how far they’ve come. They dress and look so normal. I want to do that for others because so many people did it for me. I want to pass that on. I want to show another amputee what I can do. What they can do.
How are your kids doing? They are doing better everyday. I’ve had different conversations with each child based on the age. For example, for the first 6 weeks at home, I slept downstairs in the guest bedroom, and finally I just wanted to move upstairs to my own bed. I was crying about it, and I said to the twins (who are 5 1/2): “You know how you want your own room? Well Mommy wants her own room now!” They can relate to that. Ben recently had his birthday party, and I was a total hit at the party. He kept showing off his mom’s new hands. There are definitely some perks. I think my kids aren’t going to say: “Mom is disabled.” They’re going to say: “Mom is bionic.”
We have no doubt you will reach ALL of your goals and be the most amazing bionic mom in all the land, Kristan!!! Now in typical Smarty Mom style, we wanted to end the interview with just a few “fun” questions.
Favorite restaurant to take the kids: Chick fil A
Favorite restaurant for date nights: Sante in Matthews
Family’s favorite home-cooked dinner: Tacos. If I put anything in a tortilla shell, my kids will eat it. I can put chicken casserole in a tortilla and say “Taco Night!” and they’re thrilled.
Guilty pleasure: Coffee during the day and wine at night. Can I say that?
CSP Note: Kristan is now at “hand camp” – as her kids call it – because it sounds much better than “rehab hospital.” We know that sunny, happy, strong thoughts sent to Kristan by hundreds of CSP readers would be greatly appreciated! Kristan: you will ROCK this! 🙂
Here are race details for the See Kristan Run 5k:
Saturday, May 31, 2014
5k Run 8AM
1-Mile Walk 8:30AM
Callonwood, Clubhouse, Matthews NC
1001 Hammond Drive, (corner of Hammond Dr. and Sarandon Lane)
100% of the race fees, pledges, and donations will go to the See Kristan Run Fundraising Campaign.