The Echoes

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A New Normal

Kelli+Larson+goes+over+an+Antony+and+Physiology+assignment+with+junior+Sam+Clarkson+during+2nd+period.+This+is+Larson%27s+first+year+at+SHS%2C+but+she+has+been+teaching+for+13+years.+
Kelli Larson goes over an Antony and Physiology assignment with junior Sam Clarkson during 2nd period. This is Larson's first year at SHS, but she has been teaching for 13 years.

Kelli Larson goes over an Antony and Physiology assignment with junior Sam Clarkson during 2nd period. This is Larson's first year at SHS, but she has been teaching for 13 years.

Dani Pinet

Dani Pinet

Kelli Larson goes over an Antony and Physiology assignment with junior Sam Clarkson during 2nd period. This is Larson's first year at SHS, but she has been teaching for 13 years.

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Science teacher Kelli Larson is always on the run. Whether that’s running to school, running one of her three daughters to practice or running to the next event in her schedule, she is constantly busy.

But just over four years ago, everything came to a halt. Larson went into the doctor after experiencing headaches, double vision, nausea, vomiting and passing out frequently. An emergency MRI was done and the results were given immediately due to the severity of what they had found. Larson had a Hemangioblastoma on her brain stem.

“I felt a lot of emotions at the time, but I was mostly just scared. I didn’t know what to expect from the surgery,  all I knew was that I wouldn’t be able to handle losing my mom,” daughter, Kaia said. Kaia was 11 years old at the time and was a role model for her two younger sisters and source of comfort during this time.

Ten days later, on July 10, 2014, Larson went into the Swedish Medical Center in Denver, CO for surgery. The surgery was expected to last four to six hours and she would return home within a week. When the tumor was removed, it was so large that the spinal fluid flooded upon closing and damaged nerves. She crashed.

“I died and talked to God,” Larson said. “Why? Why would I die? Why do my girls have to grow up without a mom? Why does my mom have to bury her child?”

The four to six hour surgery turned into twelve hours, the week at the hospital turned into eight weeks and the only thing Larson could do by herself when she woke up was hear.

“Not being able to communicate was super frustrating for both of us. She knew what she was trying to say to everyone, but no one could understand her. She would even try to write down things, but she was unable to write due to all the nerve damage during surgery,” husband, Chad said.

Goals were set and Larson was determined to reach them in order to return to Scottsbluff and be with her family. The community and their friends and family were extremely generous to the Larson’s during this time. They held multiple fundraisers, helped take care of the kids and even mow their lawn while the Larson’s were at the hospital.

Each milestone brought rewards and another challenge to look forward to. Once she returned home, Larson had to go to therapy for six months but the family was so relieved to be reunited again.  Physical, occupational, and speech therapy were required. Eventually her husband began to help with her physical therapy which also strengthened their relationship. Each one of the Larson’s took their turn taking Larson on walks around the house so she could ditch the wheelchair. On January 1, 2015, Larson got to return her wheelchair and began to find her new normal.

“To see her progress after this event has been amazing,” Larson said. “She’s a hard worker and very determined. I don’t think people who interact with her today realize how much time and effort she put in to be able to do even little things like holding a pencil or tying her shoes.”

Larson’s whole perspective has changed because of this experience. She credits God’s grace more than anything else. She does not allow herself to have bad days because she’s here and she’s alive. She’s learned that no days are guaranteed and has become a much more optimistic person.

“I try not to focus on what I can’t do, I’m just grateful for what I can do,” Larson said.

Some days there is slightly less running for Larson but much more gratitude with each new day she is given.

Pullquote Photo

“I died and talked to God”, Larson said, “Why? Why would I die? Why do my girls have to grow up without a mom? Why does my mom have to bury her child?””

— Kelli Larson's experience during brain surgery

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A New Normal