Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

I planned to give blood, but… May 24, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:43 AM
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THE BEST LAID plans don’t always work out. Case in point.

Monday evening my husband and I arrived at the local hospital to donate blood to the Red Cross. My rare AB positive blood is in high demand and I’m always willing to give when I can, the operative words being “when I can.”

With my Rapid Pass in hand, I was prepared to breeze through the check-in process and get down to the task of donating blood.

As we headed down the stairs toward the basement donation room, I observed how shiny and clean the stairs. This was a hospital, so I wouldn’t expect otherwise. And then it happened. I felt my legs stepping into air as I missed the final step on the stairway. I pitched forward toward the floor, door and concrete wall, apparently breaking my fall with my right shoulder. I lay there, stunned and hurting, until Randy helped me up.

At that point, I still thought I would be donating blood. But by the time we reached the donation site just down the hall, my pain was intensifying. I needed to see a doctor. Opting for the less expensive walk-in clinic rather than the ER, we headed next door. By then, the pain was so severe that I was crying.

You’ve likely determined by now that this story does not end well. X-rays showed a broken right shoulder.  As I’ve repeated my this is how this happened story to medical staff a half dozen times in the past few days, I consider how unbelievable that I would fall while at the hospital. This story is even better than fiction.

But this is reality, my reality of 8 -12 weeks of healing and physical therapy, when my body is ready. I’m currently in resting mode with my arm in a sling and instructions to ice as needed and to take Tylenol for pain. I’m starting a basic flex your elbow exercise today and will advance to the pendulum swing in 10 days. I am learning, adjusting and relying heavily on my husband for personal help and help with household tasks I typically do. He’s a great caregiver. He’s been through this with me before when I had my right hip replaced about 10 year ago.

I am not good at resting. I want to write and do photography and more. The photography won’t happen. I can’t hold my arm in the position needed to take photos. And this is prime photo season. Today is my first attempt at using my desktop computer. Typing with my right hand is a challenge. My blogging and other writing likely will be limited. Time will tell what I can and can’t do. I appreciate your understanding and hope you will remain in my readership.

When I start feeling sorry for myself, I consider how much worse my injuries could have been. I could have slammed my head into the concrete wall and suffered a concussion. I could have face-planted and broken by neck. I could have broken other bones that would have required surgery. My orthopedic doctor told me it I had to break a bone, I chose a good one to break. I’ll trust him on that.

So, dear readers, this is the situation I am in now. I am determined to do what I am told or risk additional injury and surgery. I don’t have to like that I am suffering this painful, limiting injury. But I will deal with it. There is no choice.

Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

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Nettie January 31, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:48 AM
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I WANTED TO BELIEVE HER—that her husband died eight months ago in a car accident, that she has cancer, that she has two teens at home, that she believed God led her to my church.

But I didn’t quite know what to think of the woman who walked into Trinity Lutheran Church between services Sunday morning. She was dressed nicely, although her light-weight coat didn’t seem warm enough for winter weather. Her fingers felt ice-cold as she extended her hand to shake mine and introduced herself as Nettie.

I offered her some coffee and orange juice, some doughnuts.

She declined and, instead, through lips lined with plum lipstick that matched her scarf, asked to speak with a pastor.

While my husband went to find a pastor, Nettie volunteered her story. I hadn’t probed, hadn’t asked, she simply told me about her dead husband, her cancer, the kids back home in Minneapolis, her need for money, the direction from God.

She spoke politely, warmly and with ease, her voice smooth as honey. I could easily imagine her praising God in a southern Baptist church choir.

All the while she spoke, I wondered. Was she telling the truth?

Had she really gone to the Salvation Army and the Red Cross and had those organizations turned down her requests for help?

Had she really, as she told me, just hopped in her car that morning and started driving, ending up in Faribault, at my church?

About that time, the pastor arrived and I introduced the two. They walked to a quiet area of the narthex, to talk, and, I could see, to pray.

A short while later Nettie walked out the door, into the cold.

I knew she hadn’t gotten the money she requested.

Today, more than 24 hours later, the entire scene replays in my mind. Should I have asked more questions? Could I, should I, have done more for Nettie?

Was she being truthful?

Did I fail Nettie?

And why am I so bothered by this encounter?

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Waiting on FEMA in Zumbro Falls October 11, 2010

“WE’RE ALL REDNECKS,” she says.

But she doesn’t mean the term in a negative way. Rather Tracy Yennie implies that she and her neighbors in flood-ravaged Zumbro Falls are hard-scrabble, independent folks who are determined to stay put.

“The whole town is awesome. Everybody knows everybody,” says Yennie, who’s called this place home all 31 years of her life. Up until the September 23/24 floods, she and her family lived in a house several hundred yards from the Zumbro River along “the river road,” Wabasha County Road 68, just outside of town.

Since the flood deposited four feet of mud and cinder block in her basement leaving her home uninhabitable, she’s been camping—in a shed on her property—and waiting on FEMA. “They’re just dragging their feet. They’re not affected,” she says, the frustration in her voice palpable.

With winter approaching, she’s worried about where she—where anyone in this town—will live.

“This has been the most stressful two weeks of my life,” Yennie says as she hangs out next to the Salvation Army trailer, across the street from the fire hall/city hall turned command center on a Sunday afternoon.

 

 

Tracy Yennie hangs out in downtown Zumbro Falls.

 

For weeks now this mother of four boys, ages 2 – 9, has been sifting through her life, she says, trying to decide which of her belongings to keep and which to throw.

Early on, when she talked with her boyfriend on the phone as he watched the river rise and cross the road toward her home (she was out of town), she knew what was most important. She told him to save the baby pictures. But he couldn’t find them. Yennie later found the box of pictures buried in mud. She threw the photos in a bucket of water, dried and saved them.

She understands what can, and can’t, be replaced.

For the most part, Yennie sounds strong. But you can see the worry in her tired eyes and sometimes hear it in her voice, when the tough veneer cracks just a bit. “People are starting to get stressed,” she says, repeating that word, “stressed.”

She has no flood insurance. Few residents did. The town isn’t in a flood plain, she says.

 

 

A flood-damaged home in downtown Zumbro Falls.

 

 

The owner of this water-ravaged home along Minnesota Highway 60, the main route through Zumbro Falls, still has a sense of humor as Halloween approaches.

 

Despite all of her worries about the future, despite her anger at FEMA, Yennie is quick to praise the Red Cross, the church groups and others who have thronged to this community to assist flood victims.

 

 

A Red Cross Disaster Relief vehicle pulls into the command center at the fire hall Sunday afternoon.

 

Twenty-four men from Barron, Wisconsin, with Mennonite Disaster Services, came to her aid, helping with clean-up at her riverside home. She’s grateful to them.

 

 

Inside the Zumbro Falls fire hall, a Thank You Wall recognizes those who have helped with flood recovery.

 

Now, as Yennie ponders a question about life someday returning to “normal,” she laughs. “What’s normal?” she asks. “Normal is a setting on a washing machine.”

 

 

Trash containers line gutted businesses in downtown Zumbro Falls as the community works toward returning to "normal."

 

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Reaching out, helping Faribault area flood victims October 7, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:00 PM
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TWO WEEKS AFTER floodwaters inundated many southern Minnesota communities, including Faribault, efforts continue to help those in need. Tonight I attended an all-you-can-eat chili feed at Hy-Vee Food Store. Proceeds will go to the local Red Cross chapter to assist flood victims in the area.

Rice-Le Sueur Counties Red Cross Executive Director Angela Storch, who has been on the job only nine months, was at the feed, passing out hugs and information and sharing her obvious passion for helping others. She is a non-stop bundle of energy and, she readily admits, can’t stop talking.

But that’s a good quality. You need someone with Angela’s leadership abilities and communications skills to handle a disaster like this. As she shared general stories about families who’ve been pushed to the edge, reeling from the loss of their homes, or severe damage to their homes, I could feel her genuine care. About 70 homes in Faribault were affected by floodwaters or sewer back-up.

The Red Cross has been dealing not only with the physical needs of flood victims, but also with the mental health issues that often follow a traumatic event such as this, Angela told me as she grabbed a bowl of chili. She’s referred individuals to other agencies qualified to assist with those health needs.

She’s quick to praise Faribault’s mayor, local emergency directors, the Salvation Army, area food shelves and businesses like Hy-Vee that are reaching out to help. The grocery store donated $9,000 in hand-sanitizers/disinfectants. She’s thankful for the volunteers who’ve aided flood victims, for those who are organizing benefits—there are three more in the next several days—for the spirit of “Minnesota Nice” that prevails.

I asked if volunteers are still needed to help with clean-up. She needs to get updated on that, but suggested calling the coordination center. Angela expects requests now will be for people with wheelbarrows and crow bars and strong backs and arms who can gut and cart building materials up stairs and out of flood-damaged homes.

Through the entire process, this former Faribault United Way director says she’s learned so much. She once considered Red Cross funding requests, but now she understands, really understands, she says, just how much the Red Cross does.

For today, that’s mainly helping victims of the devastating floods that swept through southern Minnesota two weeks ago.

FYI: Call (507) 332-6234 to volunteer with flood relief efforts.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling