Our Family’s Gratitude

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Thank you just doesn’t seem to be enough when we think of the close circle of people that were steadfast in their support of Steve.  We were comfortable in their presence, and their hugs and words of encouragement were our lifeline.  In addition there were special people that had the foresight and perspective to offer assistance they knew we needed even though we’d lost all focus on our daily lives.

Dedicated family supporters stepped in to assist with our family’s business, others were aware that Steve was in the process of major renovations to his house and showed up to complete them. Many realized that this incident created severe financial strain on Myoko, Adeline & Cecilia who could no long rely on Steve as a provider for the family.  There were friends who traveled to Colorado to survey the accident and collect Steve’s belongings.  Other friends that volunteered to provide spiritual guidance and holistic treatments including the amazing Reiki treatments.  Even family and friends far away were in constant contact with us, lending their support and speaking words of encouragement and support.  All of them contributed, and kept giving everything and anything they could think of.

What is so special about this unique group of people is that they had a common thread, a special circumstance that bonded them8135a28af98690025c404c8aa21c3ecd together.  All of these people had a deep love and appreciation for Steve regardless of how they knew him, and together they couldn’t fathom the thought of having to say good-bye.  Collectively they created a tidal-wave of love and prayers that were so strong, Steve could feel them. They gave him the courage and tenacity to endure the extreme physical and emotional pain and suffering ultimately resulting in his eventual return to them.

Thank you Steve.  We are all deeply aware that the road you have traveled through your medical recovery and rehabilitation has been long, painful and extremely challenging.  We all have our own reasons to be grateful that you had the strong will and determination to prevail in the face of such  incredible adversity.  You are an amazing person who is loved, admired and respected by this very special group of unique people who will continue to share this special bond as you recover, adjust and find peace and happiness in your renewed life.

The following are a very short list of people who’s love, kindness and support we could not have done without.

images-5Christus St. Vincent Hospital Medical Staff

Dear Dr. Tarek Dammad, Dr. Lee & the other ICU Intensivist.   The surgeons – D. Melisi, Dr. Dougherty and Dr. Varvitsiotis.  Dr. Schwartz, Medical Director Rehabilitation:

Sometimes I wonder if you know that even now, with the acute aspects of this tragedy months behind us that we will never ever forget that your combined medical brilliance saved Steve’s life.  From the day we met you, we ambushed you with endless questions and hung on your every word.  We were relentless and impatient at times.  Even though you didn’t know our family in the beginning, you could feel our terror and anxiety and treated us accordingly with the utmost respect and kindness.  You made it a point to meet with us daily sometimes one at a time and for long periods.  During instances of utter devastation you shared information honestly regardless of our reactions because you knew how important it was that we live in the moment and temper our expectations.  You always took our perspectives and insights into consideration and never made us feel intrusive or unimportant.  Somehow you knew how heartbroken and desperate we were wishing and praying for a miracle while you ran test after test and changed your medical strategy daily, tirelessly trying to find the right prescription for positive change.  Over time, we grew to have unprecedented faith in your medical judgement and even during the most critical times your commitment, dedication and aggressive approach to saving Steve’s life never wavered. We put the life of our son, brother, husband,  father, friend and colleague in your hands. You collectively kept him alive and ultimately returned him to health.  We hope you know that you have given us the greatest gift our family has ever received.  Our deep gratitude is eternal and you will always hold a special place in our hearts.

images-6Christus St. Vincent Hospital (ICU/CCU)

Dear Nursing Staff, Case Workers. Therapists, Father Terry & Sister Rochelle:

Never will we forget compassion, kindness and respect we were given by the entire staff of the Emergency Room and ICU/CCU.  Your professionalism and competency helped save Steve’s life.  The ICU/CCU staff members are specially trained and capable of saving lives and we watched you perform almost on a daily basis.  Your unique capacity to save a life one minute and arrive with a coffee and a smile the next is a testament to your professionalism and dedication.  You read our faces like a books and understood that Steve’s progress was directly correlated to the emotional strength of our family members. Your ICU/CCU team worked tirelessly 24/7 and partnered with our family providing exceptional care with professionalism and courtesy.  We could feel that you were genuinely invested and highly motivated to help improve Steve’s medical, physical and emotional condition.  You always greeted him with kindness and compassion and made yourselves available to keep him (and us) genuinely involved and honestly apprised  of his situation.  There were times when the situation was grave and terrifying.  You met these instances with incredible calmness, honesty and sincerity.  Father Terry and Sister Rochelle arrived daily to offer faith based support and prayers and confession sessions that Steve was grateful for. For months, you hugged us, talked us through tears, gave us hope, and prepared us for set-backs, being careful to keep us fully informed of Steve’s medical condition.  We trusted you, relied upon you and literally left each evening gently placing Steve’s life in your capable hands. Your team delivered flawlessly encouraging us to call regardless of time if we needed an update.  We were never turned away regardless of the time we showed up or how long we remained.  Steve’s stay in the ICU/CCU was one of the longest you had experienced.  Spending each day in the ICU/CCU, witnessing what the nurses are faced with was an eye-opening experience.  We grew to admire each one of you individually.  You consistently went above and beyond professionally and personally.  Your collective efforts kept us sane, and ultimately gave our family the greatest gift by returning Steve healthy, strong and ready to take on his rehabilitation.

Unknown-3Kindred Hospital – Albuquerque

Dr. Masotti, Dr. Rossi, Nurse Practitioner, Yelana

Steve’s transfer to Kindred Hospital was a turbulent time.  This transfer was a result of the very serious medical issues that continued to be unresolved.  Attempts to remove Steve from the respirator continued to be unsuccessful.  In addition, a flesh wound (bed sore) on his lower back had become a serious issue that would ultimately require surgery.   We had received conflicting reports regarding how long it would take for Steve to get off the respirator, enabling him to breathe independently and eat regular food.  Estimates ranged from weeks to years causing us a great deal of concern.  Upon our arrival we were skeptical, faced with a new group of medical professionals and nurses.  We had all been through so much, we had all developed a hypersensitivity to Steve’s oxygen monitors and would panic if his saturation dropped below certain levels.  Your nursing team picked up on this sensitivity and developed a crafty plan of deception that was pure genius by leaving Steve’s breathing tube connected but turning off the oxygen, literally tricking him (and all of us) for an entire day.  The following day you announced that he had been breathing on his own for a full 24 hours, restoring his confidence and ultimately resulting in Steve’s ability to breathe independently.  The days that followed with quite remarkable.  Stephen moved from the disgusting liquid diet he had endured for weeks, to eating soft food and ultimately returned to eating normal food.  You got him involved in physical therapy and worked with him to reach the 3 hour per day endurance goal that would enable him to be transferred to Lovelace Rehabilitation Hospital.  Additionally, the nursing staff worked on improving the flesh wound on Steve’s lower back.  This wound was a very limiting factor that also stood in the way of Steve being able to achieve the 3 hour physical activity goal that would enable him to transfer to Lovelace Rehabilitation Hospital.  The team at Kindred was able to bring both issues to a successful conclusion in a very short period of time.  We were impressed and appreciative of your approach and the tactics you knew were necessary to move all of us forward.  While at Kindred, we were all pleased that Steve began to assume all responsibility for his medical treatment and rehabilitation schedule.  You worked with him, kept him informed and encouraged him to assume complete responsibility and accountability.  This was an important and beautiful turning point that made us feel that Steve’s life and emotional intensity had returned.

images-7Lovelace Rehabilitation Center – Albuquerque

Dr. John Henry Sloan – Director of Lovelace Rehabilitation, Dr. Sorg and physical therapists:  Geneva and Linda and Susan; Occupational Therapist, Linda,

You have a top-notch facility and I am fortunate to have been rehabilitated at Lovelace. Your staff worked well together so that all of my caretakers were educated on my condition and needs for progress. Your methods helped me move from frail to strong both physically and emotionally. Geneva and Linda, I feel you both took me under your wing and nurtured me. You also pushed me when I was ready allowing me to progress quickly. I want to thank you all for my care and progress and am truly indebted.

 –Sincerely, Steve

Dear Alex Valenzuela – In the days and weeks after the accident, I was overwhelmed.  Would Steve survive?  Nothing else mattered.  However, I was forced to face the realities ahead.  How could I help Steve and his family going forward?  It was critiical that our business continue to be successful to provide financial support to his family but Steve had been performing 75% of the inspections.  We were in the midst of repairing Steve’s home so it could be put on the market and he could move into a better school district.  Now the home had to be made handicapped accessible.

Alex had been performing inspections for us part time.  He had a construction business, was managing and maintaining some of his own property, and had other irons on the fire.  Without hesitation, he agreed to replace Steve as our lead inspector which is more than a full time job.   At the same time, he personally re-stuccoed Steve’s house with a few helpers and became actively involved in the planning to make the house handicapped accessible.  The business has survived this crisis and is doing well.  A new bathroom and kitchenette have been installed to suit Steve’s needs and he is back home.

There is no way we could have survived this crisis without the hard work, expertise,  good judgement, and caring attitude provided by Alex.   There is no way to properly thank you.   Ralph

UnknownDavid & Anne McDonald — A huge thank you for your tremendous donation of your Toyota Camry to me.  This amounts to a incredibly generous gift worth thousands of dollars.  I am overwhelmed by your generosity and thoughtful gift.  It allows me to have the independence to go to the doctor and therapy appointments, to pick my children up from school, to shop for groceries and to be part of the world.  I now have the ability to make decisions about when and what I want to do.  I am not dependent on my family to constantly drive me where I need to be.  I feel empowered to have this independence.  I now can feel like I can give back to my family, by picking up the kids, going shopping, etc.  This gift is worth more than I can explain and is truly making my life easier to negotiate.  David and Anne I thank you from my heart.  You are great friends and wonderful souls to have in my life.  God bless you both!   With lots of love,   Steve
images-2Bob Pierce  – You did not know me when my accident happened.  You decided to visit me at Kindred Hospital in Albuquerque when I was just out of ICU.  At that time I was still on oxygen, could not eat solid foods and was very weak in both mind and body.  When I first met you, I thought you were amazing, to be able to get around so well in your wheelchair, to work full time, and to have such a positive outlook.  I did not have much hope about anything at that point.  To hear you talk about how things would change, how life would get better and about your experiences in a wheelchair, gave me hope that I could have a fulfilling life. I also saw that you were athletic and we talked about your adventures skiing, biking and traveling.  This really hit home for me as I have been an athlete my whole life, and did not want to give up this important side of myself.  You took time out of your busy schedule and continuously visited and supported me while I was in the hospital and in rehab.  You talked with my family about the challenges of being paraplegic and supported them through this process.  Your support has given me so much hope for the future.  You are an amazing person.  I want to thank you for being by my side through the hardest times I have endured.    Steve

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Dear  Sylko & Gail Dorssett – In the days that followed the accident, you returned to the scene in Colorado to help us collect Steve’s belongings and handle insurance issues related to his truck.  You were one of the first of Steve’s friends to visit in the ICU to offer him encouragement and spiritual support.  You called almost daily to check on Steve’s status.  You and your lovely wife Gail were generous with your offers of assistance  and holistic ideas for recovery.  I remember one evening, on the way to the hospital very early you sent your love to me, Steve and the family over the radio waves and asked all of your listeners to pray in support of us.  This touched my heart in a special way.  Thank you.  Diane

How-You-Can-HelpThank from Myoko to our Family and Friends and Community

Family and friends near and far gave hours of support and comfort in the darkest days.  I was blessed with a community that eased me through my process and helped me put together the resources I needed to maintain my life with the girls for immediate and long term.  Special thanks to my mom and family for paying my mortgage while I was without income, and for my mom’s trip to Santa Fe at the beginning of the school year to facilitate my return to work and the girls’ transition to Kindergarten. Many people made financial donations, dropped off meals and gave  strong words of encouragement. The girls were showered with gifts  – Windy Peters, a former colleague gave them the sweetest set of dolls, accompanying beds, furniture and a wheelchair that the girls play with endlessly.  Thanks to Anne Salzmann and David McDonald who gifted counseling sessions, to Jan Pitlak and the teachers at StudioNia who held a space for me to dance my way through grief and gave me scholarship to keep dancing when I couldn’t pay, to Stacia Schiffler for nurturing massage. Even a former student who works where I shop had heard of the accident and bought my basket of groceries.  The overwhelming generosity humbled and grounded me and I will never forget the outpouring of my community.

La Miraposa Montessouri - A community held Adeline & Cecilia close and provide much needed support to Steve and Myoko.

La Miraposa Montessouri – A community that held Adeline & Cecilia close and provide much needed support to Steve and Myoko.

La Mariposa Montessori and Community

At the time of the accident the girls were enrolled in preschool, which had already been a place of stability and support through the transition of divorce. Their teachers watched Addi and Ceci closely, helped them process their emotions and communicated with us frequently while we were in the throes of Steve’s ongoing battle to stabilize and strengthen.   An enormous gift to our family from the school was tuition for the girls to stay in attendance through the end of the school year and through the summer.  In addition to the stability, fun and learning that the girls enjoyed, this provided me with the hours I needed to visit Steve daily at the hospital and to gather myself for the reality of this major event in all of our lives.  I needed time to process so that I could be present and maintain some normalcy with the girls.  I also required time to finish up my semester of graduate school and most importantly find a teaching position for the fall.  The community of families at La Mariposa graciously showered us with homemade meals, gift cards for groceries and money that allowed me to supplement my very small budget in the absence of Steve’s contribution.

images-4House Painting and Yard Clean Up 

Friends and family gathered to work together in Steve’s honor to carry on renovations that had been in progress at the time of the accident.  We were sustained through the weekend of work by food generously donated by the Cowgirl Hall of Family.

Thanks to the friends who joined us:

Nina  and Alex Valenzuela, Will and Jen Silverman, Cara and David Esquibel, Ramona Kaplan, Robert Perea, Casey Duncan, Zach Taylor & Mara Bruton, Anne Salzmann & David McDonald, Joan Henderson, Andrea Cermanski, Amy Schroth, Lisa Adler, Laura Shields, Angela Matzelle, Robban Kring, Chamisa Gordon, Stacia Schiffler, Alec Hornstein, Paul Wingren, Gwen Gilligan, Jan Hamilton, Mary Breneke, Jason Miller

Other Supporters:

Santa Fe Web Design – Ken Harris  –  Thank you for volunteering to develop this web site in support of Steve and his Family, and for your friendship and kindness.

180 Networks – Eric Montgomery – Thank you for working on the website with us and for helping us get the word out to family, friends and collegues all over the world.

Gary Lowenthal & Susan Cedar- Thank you for your financial support when Steve’s life was in danger.  We know you understand.  Ralph & Barbara 

Dear Kristina – Thank you for visiting Steve and providing Reiki treatments that he found to be an effective part of his holistic and spiritual healing protocol.  He was always happy to see you and always gave you a big smile.

Virginia Brooks – Your guided me through the maze of Social Security Disability and Medicaid  regulations which were at times impossible to understand.  Thank you.  Ralph

Dear Dance Station Friends – Being able to continue to dance and have the support of such caring friends was a positive part of my life.  Thank for your prayers and support during this long ordeal.

Thank you Lawrence for the compassion and encouragement at a time when you were trying to cope with your sister’s accident and her serious injuries.  Thank you Tony for your wise advise and support.  Thank you Mary and Jason for your work at Steve’s house.  You are my salvation and

 I love you all!     Barbara

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Alex Hirsch – The sacrifices you’ve made for me, my parents, my brother and his family are a true testamentIMG_1068 to your moral integrity and character.  You were selfless when I said goodbye and told you I had no idea when I would return and through out the months I remained in Santa Fe.  Each night you listened as I cried myself to sleep and helped me to put things into perspective.  Your constant encouragement enabled me to stay strong and be a positive force in the face of daily encounters with terror and fear.  Since I’ve been home, I have had many difficult, challenging and sad times. I’m truly blessed and grateful that you have supported me through all of them.  Each day you unselfishly put the needs of others squarely in front of your own and  strive to do your very best to love  and care for everyone around you.  You are a remarkable and amazing person with genuine heart and soul….I Love You – Diane

Diane Pattelena Zammit –  You are the last person on this thank you list by design.  You put everyones needs before your own.  You left your home and family in California and spent over 2 months in Santa Fe.   You spent countless hours in Steve’s room in the ICU and would not let Steve give up even during the darkest times.  You provided much needed support to us when it appeared there was no hope.  You kept our friends and family informed through your moving Facebook posts,  You helped design and implement this website.  Your love and committment to your brother and to us is limitless.   Thank you.  Mom & Dad.