Tag Archives: Team Orange

#TeamORANGE: What’s your favorite line?

Fellow Orange Karen anthology author DSavannah George, who was just featured here on this blog not too long ago, shares her favorite lines from each story in the anthology on her blog – that’s 39 favorite lines!

DSavannah George says, "Come on over to my blog! I have cookies right out of the oven." Okay, maybe she doesn't have cookies. But go anyway.

DSavannah George says, “Come on over to my blog! I have cookies right out of the oven.” Okay, maybe she doesn’t have cookies. But go anyway.

Pop on over to DSavannah’s blog. Tell her I sent you. Read her favorite lines.

Do you agree?

Do you have your own favorites?

Let her know!

Still need to get your copy of the Orange Karen anthology? Get it here.

Remember all proceeds from book sales go directly to Karen to assist her with medical and rehabilitation expenses.

Orange Karen Book Trailer Premiere!

Many thanks to Glenn Skinner and Kim McDougall of Blazing Trailers who made this possible!

Announcing the Orange Karen: Tribute to a Warrior Book Trailer.

Take a peek, it’s amaaaaaaaazing!

Team Orange: Our Readers Expose Their Inner Orange

Thank you to everyone who has purchased a copy of Orange Karen: Tribute to a Warrior so far. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to Karen DeLabar to assist her with her mounting medical costs.

This short story anthology has something for everyone: humor, romance, suspense, sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal…even steampunk!

The great thing about a short story anthology is you can read a story on your break at work, or while you’re waiting at the doctor’s office (okay, maybe you can read a few stories there…). Short stories are perfect for people on the go.

Here are some of our readers showing us where they like to read the anthology.

Reader Brandi shows us her copy of Orange Karen (and in the background an orange glow. Coincidence?).

Reader Brandi shows us her copy of Orange Karen!

Orange Karen author Christopher Cantley is entranced into the pages of wondrous short stories.

Orange Karen author Christopher Cantley is entranced into the pages of wondrous short stories.

Reader Amy reads Orange Karen poolside.

Reader Amy reads Orange Karen poolside.

Reader Holly proves that spring is on its way and enjoys her short stories al fresco.

Reader Holly proves that spring is on its way and enjoys her short stories al fresco.

Author Anna Meade beams from seeing her story in print.

Author Anna Meade beams from seeing her story in print.

Have you read Orange Karen? Send us a picture of you reading and we’ll post it on the blog! Send to christina.esdon@gmail.com.

Introducing Team Orange: Christopher Cantley

Author Name: Christopher Cantley

Title of Short Story: My Orange Karen

In 25 words or less tell me what this story is about: This is a magical story about an old farmer who discovers a lost child in a storm, and their next few years together.

How did you come up with the concept for the story? Well, I’ve always been a big fan of the fantasy genre, but there are other inspirations for the story too. Karen DeLabar’s illness provided a key plot point. Much of the middle of My Orange Karen was an exploration of being a father. The final third or so was about Mrs. DeLabar being a strong fighter in her time of trouble, and all our willingness to help.

What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology? Initially, it was my friend, Stephanie Fuller, who posted the project on Facebook. I really enjoy writing, too, so I figured I‘d give it a go. I also wanted to do this in honor of my mom. She’s a Karen, as well. Ultimately, though, it was the encouragement and support of my wife that made it possible.

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio: I am huge movie buff, and ran a Quote of the Day contest on my Facebook page for quite a while.

What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why? Wow. This one’s tough. I’ll choose the orange of a flame, especially candles. Firelight always helps me relax.

“Would you light my candle?”

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it? I’d ensure everyone would have a safe fire source, and no one would have to be cold again.

Who inspires you? Why? The person who always inspires me is my late Grandpa Keen. He was always willing to listen, and never had a harsh word for anyone. We would spend hours just talking, or playing some silly game I’d invented. I hope I make him proud.

Excerpt:

In the years after that tragedy, my fiery-haired daughter redoubled her efforts at hunting. With Lucille gone, and my age rearing its ugly head, farming was nearly impossible. It was only Karen’s sojourns that kept food on the table and money in our purses. Sometimes she would be gone for a week at a time. I knew she was working hard to keep us going, but I couldn’t help feeling sad at her absence.

During Karen’s last trip, I noticed something amiss. I would awaken in the night, feeling as though a steel band was wrapped around my lungs. Not long after, the incessant coughing started. When dark blood joined the coughs, I knew what was wrong. It was the same Deathlung sickness that took my first daughter. As much as I hated to, I had to send Karen away. Two nights later, she came back all smiles. I was sitting by the fireplace, wrapped in a blanket.

“I’m home, Papa!”

I had to smile. All grown up, yet she still called me Papa. I tried to greet her, but a fit of blood-filled coughing silenced me. Karen came into the living room, orange hair pulled back into ponytail.

“I found some boars yesterday,” she said hanging up her bow and quiver. “They were really tough but—”

She went quiet when she finally turned toward me. The smile faded from her face, but when she tried to step forward, I waved her back.

“What’s wrong, Papa? What’s happened?”

I struggled to take a breath.

“I’m dying, Karen. It’s Deathlung.”

“No,” she shook her head. “No! You can’t be dying!”

“It’s only a matter of time now, child. And you have to leave.”

Karen stumbled backwards, pain flaring in her eyes.

“You’re sending me away?”

I nodded as another fit of coughing wracked me. The young woman stood taller, hands balled into fists at her sides. She was furious.

“Why? Why can’t I stay and take care of you?”

“Because you could get sick, and I can’t allow it,” I said, voice straining to be heard. “You’re grown now, and you need to find your own life. Please go.”

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Bio: Christopher Cantley is a factory worker residing in Lapeer, Michigan. He’s a devoted husband to JoAnn and father to Samantha, Tabitha, and Andrew. He also has four fur kids: Mickey, Tinkerbell, Ninja, and Abbie. He heard about this project from his good friend Stephanie Fuller,  aka The Book Hipster, and leapt at the chance to contribute.

Introducing Team Orange – Kip Ayers: Cover and Release Date Reveal!!

The time has come … are you ready?

You’ve been so patient waiting for an announcement for the release date of the Orange Karen Anthology.

And I bet you want a sneak peek of the cover. Right?

RIGHT?

I’ll give you a moment to make sure you’re sitting down. *takes a drink of water*

Ready?

*** COMING THURSDAY APRIL 11, 2013 ***

OrangeKaren_Final_Front(1)

Join our Facebook Release Party for more details and excitement!

(Find us on Goodreads)

What do you think? Isn’t is a gorgeous cover? Many thanks to our cover artist, Kip Ayers, who donated his time and talent to create this stunning cover. Want to get to know him? I thought so.

Please extend your comments and thanks to our cover artist, Kip Ayers!

– Christina

Tell us a bit about how you started doing cover design.  I started drawing and painting as a child, and always loved it, but it wasn’t until my 30’s that I made the move from being a massage therapist to a full time freelance illustrator. I used massage to pay my way through college and all the while I built my illustration skills. After school I dove right into to working from my home studio doing book covers, concept art, basically any work that came my way.

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:  I have been a vegetarian since I was 16, and the respect for all life is very important to me.

Hidden Talent: I love and am pretty good at playing Native American Flute. I have two that I keep on my desk in my studio, and I often take breaks from illustrating to play.

What was your inspiration for designing such a great cover? As with most of my cover designs, the inspiration comes from an intuitive connection with my clients. They share their vision with me, and I bring that to life.

What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why? That would have to be an orange Vespa Scooter. I imagine myself and my fiancé cruising around the Italian countryside on a bright orange Vespa.

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it? I’m guessing you’re referring to when I’m called in to save the world from the moped riding beasts from outer space bent on world domination, and the only hope is the superior performance of my orange Vespa with racing stripes.

Who inspires you? Why?  Thich Naht Hanh, his words about peace, love, and being present in every moment inspire me.

kip_ayers

Kip Ayers

http://www.kipayersillustration.com/

I was born in upstate New York, and currently live just outside the Binghamton, NY area. I have lived in many different locals, from Boston to a remote part of the Adirondack Mountains, but something always brings me back to my home town. Sure the art scene here is a bit malnourished, and you may ask why would an artist choose to live in an area like that, but truly it is the natural beauty that keeps me here. I am closely connected to the land. It also helps that the cost of living is extremely low, so it’s a perfect place for an artist who’s starting out to help build an arts community.

As with most artists, I have always been interested in the arts. From my early days with crayons, to my current endeavors with a Wacom Cintiq, creating visually is what I am meant to do.  After high school, I took a break from art, and became a massage therapist. I enjoyed the work, and spent 8 years in the profession, but something was missing. It wasn’t my first love, and I knew that I had to get back to my artistic roots. I used massage to pay my way through fine art school.

After college, with so many options, I was somewhat unsure of what direction to take. I greatly enjoyed working in oil and thought about working my way up through the gallery scene, that is until I stumbled upon the Wacom Cintiq. Lets just say it was a love story from the beginning and it wasn’t long before I replaced my brush, with a stylus.

Today, I work from my home studio as a freelance digital illustrator. My focus has primarily been in the fantasy publishing industry, but I have worked for the gaming industry and done design work for logos, and album covers. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. I wake up every morning knowing that my job doesn’t feel like work. I am truly grateful.

Introducing Team Orange: Susan Ethridge

You have been introduced to some of the authors in the Orange Karen anthology, but there has been some amazing behind the scenes action from Team Orange. There’s one person in particular who works tirelessly behind the scenes, and her work is all over the pages of many of the stories. Who is she? Why, editor Susan Ethridge, of course! Once you’ve finished reading her interview, take a moment to pat her on the back, give her a fist bump, or even a beer (not too many though, we’ve got to keep her upright and ready to work!).

Thank you so much, Susan for all that you have done. We couldn’t have got this far without you.

Three cheers for Susan! Hip hip hooray!!

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– Christina

What’s been your favorite thing about being involved with the Orange Karen Anthology?

Reading all of the different stories that were submitted has been incredible.  Each of our authors was asked to use the color orange as a strong thematic element, and the talent and imagination they displayed in response to that simple constraint was phenomenal. Working with the other members of the Anthology team has also been really fun and rewarding – in the course of the last few months, I’ve enjoyed a number of new friendships with some incredibly funny, smart and generous people.

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:

I have a long-standing love of muscle cars and recently bought a ’72 Charger that I’m in the process of restoring. Rrrawwrr.

1972 Charger. Can we say, “Dukes of Hazard”? Bitchin’ wheels, Ma’am. 🙂

Hidden Talent:

I wouldn’t really call it a “hidden” talent, but I think I’m a pretty good cook. Maybe one day I’ll go to culinary school and turn it into a second career.

Susan dreams of going to culinary school one day…maybe we’ll see her on Chopped?

What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why?

When I think “orange” the first image that comes to mind is of those gumdrop candies that are shaped like little orange segments and coated with glittery sugar. My grandmother used to give them to me; it’s one of the simplest, happiest memories of my early childhood.

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it?

I guess that would depend on the nature of the threat – it’s pretty hard to stop the bad guys with nothing but a bag of gumdrops. Maybe I could use them as bait, and trap the bad guys in a cave…or if the threat was some kind of bomb or chemical weapon, maybe I could encase it in a 20-foot-thick gumdrop shield, kind of like those Kevlar blankets the bomb squad puts on top of bombs to contain the explosion.

Who inspires you? Why?

People who do what they do with real passion, and experience evident joy in the process. I once watched an orchestral performance in which the solo was performed by a brilliant tubist; as he played, the expression on his face was literally one of rapture. It made me want to pursue my interests with that same intensity, and on a very fundamental level, it made me want to be a better person.

susan(1)Susan Ethridge works in marketing, and enjoys graphic design, painting, cooking and writing. She and her husband live in Texas with their two cats.

Introducing Team Orange: Patty Blount

It’s time to meet another one of our amazingly talented authors on “Team Orange”! Read on to meet Patty Blount. I approve of her world-saving ideas…do you?

Author Name:  Patty Blount

Title of Short Story: Murder is a Job Best Left to Professionals

In 25 words or less tell me what this story is about: A former NASCAR champion deals with his professional jealousy over his much younger rival.

How did you come up with the concept for the story?  When the request for “Orange” stories came out, I immediately thought of Home Depot. A few years ago, we’d tried to paint our kitchen a Tuscan orange color but what we got was the Home Depot trademark color. I knew I had to write a story set in or around Home Depot, which became “RenovateIT” in the story and the NASCAR sponsorship made that easy to do.

What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology? The fabulous Jennifer Gracen is my RWA local chapter mate and through her, I learned all about Karen’s ordeal. Even though I’ve never met Karen IRL, I felt a connection to her through Jen and wanted to help make things a little easier for this amazing survivor.

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:  I suffer terribly from self-doubt. Every success I’ve achieved is because I didn’t listen to my inner nag.

What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why? Have you ever heard of the chocolate orange? You whack it and then unwrap it and the chocolate is shaped like orange wedges. I am the world’s biggest chocolate addict. The chocolate orange is a big indulgence. I’ve had it maybe three times in my life, but it remains one of my favorites.

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it?  *laughs* Save the world, one piece of chocolate at a time? I know the effect chocolate has on me. Calming. Soothing. I wonder if we could achieve world peace if we gave everybody on earth a piece of chocolate at the same time?

Who inspires you? Why? Maybe I’m old and jaded but I don’t try to emulate celebrities and sports stars anymore. Instead, I look at real people for inspiration. People like the school teachers who stood in front of a madman’s gun to protect their students. People like the passengers on the fourth flight that never hit its intended target on September 11th, 2001. And people like Karen, who could curl up in a ball and cry about what happened to them, but instead, fight and keep fighting.

Story Excerpt:

“Yo. Harlan Hot Shoe Anderson. I’m a ‘uge fan. ‘uge! The name’s Tony.” The man sticks his cigarette between his lips and holds his hands three feet apart to prove it.

I nod politely and he whips out a cell phone, slings his arm around my other shoulder, and clicks a photo without even askin’ first.

“Hey, yo, Bobby! Check it out, it’s freakin’ Hot Shoe himself. Don’t piss him off now, don’t want him throwin’ a helmet at ya!” the man called Tony shouts into the crowd.

“Come on, Tony, back off. Let the man breathe.” A smaller guy I’m guessin’ to be Bobby steps out of the crowd, slaps a hand on Tony’s chest, pushes him back a foot. I nod my thanks.

“Yo. We came here to see Beau Givens. Is he comin’ or what?” Another ornery voice shouts.

Before I can reply, Dwayne shifts and adjusts his NASCAR cap. “Well, ol’ Beau — he’s around here someplace. Here now, how ‘bout a nice T-shirt?” He reaches into the show car, pulls out a box. “Here, Harlan. Start tossin’ shirts to the crowd.”

“He’s here? Oh, shit!” The man callin’ himself Tony lights up like a swarm of lightnin’ bugs and turns to me. “You ain’t scared, are you, Hot Shoe? Heard you two mixed it up last week after the Nationwide race.”

“No, sir.” I shake my head. “Beau just needs to be reminded to act like he’s got some raisin’ up to be done still, and I reminded him is all.”

Big Tony blinks down at me like I’d spoken in tongues. That’s when Dwayne’s assistant come runnin’ out of the store, eyes buggin’ and pale as a ghost.

Dwayne takes her elbow, leads her away from the crowd. I follow. “What is it, sugar?”

“He’s dead, Dwayne,” she whispers in a shaky tone. “Oh, Lord, he’s dead. They found him in the restroom at the back of the store.”

About the Author

Patty spends hePatty Blount_085_Fr days writing facts and her nights writing contemporary romantic fiction. A coworker once said if Patty were a super-villain, she’d be called The Quibbler. Her costume would be covered in exclamation points. Fueled by a serious chocolate obsession, a love of bad science-fiction movies, and a weird attraction to exclamation points, Patty looks for ways to mix business with pleasure, mining her day job for ideas to use in her fiction.

Introducing Team Orange: J.L. Gentry

Many people have made the Orange Karen Anthology possible and we are grateful for each and every one of them. In the upcoming weeks we will be featuring the amazing people that are part of “Team Orange”. You’ll get a chance to meet the authors who have contributed stories, the editors, our cover designer who donated his time (and you’ll get to see the cover!), and those helping to format the books. It’s a big job and I’m so thankful to have an amazing team to help bring the dream of having an anthology where proceeds go to Karen DeLabar to fruition.

To start, let me introduce one of our authors, J.L. Gentry. After the interview below, read on for a “sneak peek” of his story to whet your appetite.

Enjoy!

Christina

Author Name: JL Gentry

Title of Short Story: Little Wing

In 25 words or less tell us what this story is about:  It is a fantasy of a young, winged woman and her winged guardian facing terrible obstacles to reach their final destination where the truth of their existence is revealed.

How did you come up with the concept for the story?  My inspiration was the Jimi Henrdix song of the same title.

What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology?  I have been an e-friend of Karen’s for a long time. We share a love of writing and running as well as a birthday.  To top it off, she lives a few miles from where I grew up. How could we not be friends?

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio I’ve never watched any of the Twilight movies or read the books, so I don’t know what that glitter thing is all about.

What is your favorite “orange” item? Why?   Carrots. They are good in any form, add great taste to other dishes and don’t have a lot of attitude.

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it?  It would be as an orange sonic screwdriver (tip o’ the hat to Doctor Who)

Dr. Who Sonic Screwdriver combined with the power of “Orange” would be able to save the world!

Who inspires you? Why?  Music, my friends and family. Inspiration is all around me and I become more aware of it every day.

Excerpt:

The jolt of the air was devastating. Each attempt to reconcile her flying failed. She gasped as the pain of her injury seared through her body. The air around her was almost too violent to breathe. She coughed, trying to fill her lungs while falling through the stormy air toward land she could not see. A rocky peak appeared out of nowhere. She tilted her body, racked in pain, to avoid collision. Barely clearing the obstacle, she righted herself, lowering her flight to view a barren surface full of sharp rocks and dark sandy soil. The surface below the storm was like none she had ever seen or imagined. She had known only the fertile glades and hills of her homeland. This space, outside of the lochs that bounded her land, felt of desperation. It was a desolate place. A place they were only allowed to pass over on their final journey. So taken by the ragged, sharp vision, she lost perspective; the surface seemed to reach up and grab her, pulling her into its grip. She stumbled, lurching forward, wings clutched for protection, but still her limbs were bruised against the rocky surface. The wind roared around her and the blowing rain masked her tears of desperation and pain. Failure consumed her as she pulled herself into a ball and felt the irritation from the many cuts and scrapes administered to her by the unforgiving rocky surface.

      It was done. Her first and only mission. Her one goal in life, smashed against so many rocks on a desolate coast. The pity absorbed her as she shivered; the pain in her knees a suitable punishment for her inability to meet her obligation. With one deep breath, she envisioned her demise on the rocky shore. Her soul would abandon her long before she perished for lack of food or water. She had been raised to thrive in the bondage. Without that, she would fade away like the mist being devoured by morning sun.

JL Gentry portrait

J.L. Gentry is the author of SYN:FIN, the first in the Jim Harrison Chronicles. His alter ego is an IT professional with over thirty years of technical and managerial experience. When he is not working, writing, or harassing his family, he can be found running the roads and trails of wherever he happens to be that day. Enjoy life and run free.

A Final Word: Orange Karen Anthology Countdown

It’s the day after the official deadline for submissions for the Orange Karen anthology. First off I would like to thank everyone who submitted stories. We’ve had an overwhelming response and can’t wait to finish reading through all the short stories. We will be contacting you individually via e-mail in the next couple of weeks to let you know if your stories will be included in the anthology. Hang tight! We have a lot of reading to do!!

Thank you also to everyone to read and shared the posts. We have had great activity on this blog the website the past two weeks and that’s all because of you!Finally a thank you to everyone who posted such wonderful, funny, tender and heartfelt posts on the blog, you are all amazing.

To wrap things up, I’ve called in Glenn Skinner. He and the resident fairy in his head have some final words. Take it away, Glenn and fairy!

* * * * *

A Final Word

Purchase the Orange Karen Anthology, or the fairy in my head will haunt you in your dreams!…

There, that about covers it. What else is there left to say. For the past 15 days, this blog has been hosted by the finest, most talented, assortment of writers and friends I have ever known. Through their words we have learned everything there is to know about our orange top warrior Karen DeLabar, and her struggles and triumphs. We have felt the passion, and compassion, that this group revealed from deep within their heart and souls. They have inspired us, made us laugh and made us cry. They are the humble group we label as #teamorange. I don’t think there is anything I can add that hasn’t been already been said.

Tragedy hits everyone differently, but for every Yin there is a Yang. Tragedy while it sometimes brings out the worst in people, it often brings out their best. Back in June this was the case for a tight knit group of writers who banded together in prayer and support for a friend in need. So strong was their support, that it went viral across the net. In a desire to help their friend in need, they did everything that was within their power. Whether that everything was filling Karen’s room in intensive care with cards of support, or sending a “Doggy Howser” flower bouquet, complete with balloons, chocolates, and a single orange bow to symbolize our solidarity and support. A stranger sent pizza, so Eric wouldn’t starve while sitting by her side. Another sent a new pair of shoes to brighten Karen’s day, knowing it could be months before she could wear them. When Karen was released, their support continued, whether it was simply moral support, visits, or meals, they never let up. It was no surprise when #teamorange learned of the mounting medical bills, this group would do nothing less than rally for their beloved orange warrior.  As such, the Orange Karen Anthology was born (OK, the anthology has a cooler name than that, but the fairy insists I keep it simple).  We live in tough times. Every day we struggle to keep our heads above water. If you’re a group of talented writers (and a hack like me) what do you do to help? You write. You write from deep within holding nothing back. You reach out across the net and you ask others to join your cause.  You rally your cause from every street corner.

The deadline for submissions has past; many talented people took the time to help a friend in need. Many of whom, have never met Karen, but were moved by the compassion put forth by her friends. What remains now is to wait while the submissions are reviewed, the stories selected, and the anthology brought to completion. All that will remain then will be to purchase a copy and spread the word. There are so many people in need in this world today, and so many good causes. Why should I spend what little I have on this particular cause, you might ask?  My answer to you is quite simple; you should do it for you. The stories in this anthology will reach deep into your soul. They will make you laugh, make you cry, and inspire you. The proceeds that will help Karen, will pale in comparison to what the anthology will give you back. Feel the power that is orange.

P.S. (Don’t make me send the fairy after you)

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Glenn Skinner is a fantasy writer and amateur astronomer who has spent a few nights too many with his head in the clouds. With his trusty muse the fairy by his side, he spends many an evening spinning tales of imagination, bringing color to the grey. His current work in progress is a fantasy series called “The Keya Quests”.

Learn more about him at:

http://glennskinner.com

Or his work:
www.keyaquests.com

Karen DeLabar: This is Simply My Story – Orange Karen Anthology Countdown (Day 15)

By now, Karen DeLabar should need no introduction. She’s the “Orange Karen” we’ve been writing about on this blog for the past two weeks. She’s the reason we’re doing this anthology. She is our friend, our inspiration and our warrior. Today marks the deadline for accepting submissions to the Orange Karen Anthology. Some of you know Karen, some of you don’t. But none of you (save a few) know the whole story about Karen’s sudden, and deathly illness, and how she came out alive, swinging fists after a long battle.

She still struggles with typing, and often writes by hand before dictating it to her computer. I can only imagine how difficult it was for her to reflect on the past six months and try to put into words what happened. But she did it. This kid’s got moxie, folks. Oodles of it.

It is my absolute honor to share with you Karen’s story, written by the one, the only, the true Orange Warrior, Karen DeLabar.

Note: Karen has put up some pictures on her website which further depict her battle with Toxic Shock Syndrome and her recovery. While some of the pictures may be graphic, they show the marvels of modern medicine and they show the resilient spirit of our dear friend.

* * * * *

This is simply my story.

It started like any other Saturday. Eric was rushing around trying to get the kids ready and I was being lazy not wanting to get out of bed. Until, that is, I realized what was happening this Saturday. That evening was our oldest daughter’s very first dance recital. I was beyond excited. If you know me you know I love theater, the arts, entertaining. The thought of my daughter following in my footsteps just makes me want to push her out of the spotlight and take her place. Just kidding. 😉

As the day went on I started to feel tired, run down. I brushed it off thinking it was just the normal mom feeling of having to do everything in a short amount of time. I remember swaying back and forth as I tried to perfect her braid and scolding myself for doing a half-assed job.

Lily ready to take the stage at her dance recital

Lily ready to take the stage at her dance recital

When we got to the recital I started to shake with cold sweats. Taking shallow breaths and hoping not to pass out in the wings, I watched my little ballerina hit every move. After her second dance I couldn’t stand any more and opted to go home to bed. After tossing and turning that night and the following day with a high fever, Eric took me to the ER Sunday night. The night nurses took my blood, found nothing out of the ordinary, gave me fluids and sent me on my way, diagnosing it as a viral infection.

Under this advisement I went home and spent all of Monday in bed as severe pain ravaged my body, especially in my neck, shoulder, and abdomen. By Tuesday morning I was vomiting and too weak to even stand. Eric and I actually discussed not going to the hospital because of cost but I soon felt too sick to care and insisted we go. We later learned that had I not gone to the ER that Tuesday morning I would have died Tuesday night.

The total time from onset to fatality, four days.

I spent all day in the ER and after test after test with no answer as to what my ailment was I was admitted into the ICU that night. The last thing I remember was turning to the doctor, pointing to Eric and telling her to make sure he ate something. Another doctor looked down at me and said, “Lie back, we need to intubate you.”

When Eric left that night I was just intubated, when he walked into the room the next morning I was hooked up to 13 different machines. My body went into shock and they couldn’t figure out why. Just overnight I lost blood flow to my hands and feet; the toxins then pooled where there was decreased blood causing an intense rash which then turned to blisters which popped open and left open wounds. Disgusting, angry, limb losing wounds.

I lost my left thumb almost immediately. The infection was causing my body to throw out random clots. I was also placed on four machines that are designed to pull your blood to your core. The machines saved my heart, and my life, but they doomed my hands and feet. My family watched as my extremities turned black knowing there was nothing they could do to stop it.

At one point I had 19 extra liters of fluid in my body. Think of a 2 liter bottle of soda. That’s a lot of soda.

The doctors were stumped, they had no idea what was causing my sickness. I was dubbed the sickest person in the hospital by the Dean of Medicine. I’m still waiting for my plaque.

My heart was only pumping at 25 to 30% and there was concern that my body wouldn’t be able to handle the severe attack of the infection. However, thanks to the sheer determination of the many doctors and nurses on my case, a day and a half after they started antibiotics I started to turn around.  At this point I was placed on hypnotics which allowed me to respond to the doctors but I would have no recollection of the events.

I woke up 10 days later to my husband and brother looking down on me with big goofy grins on their faces. Two days later we had a cause. A culture finally came back with toxic shock antibodies. My infection had a name, and it was Toxic Shock due to strep. Yep, your everyday strep got into my blood and there you have it. It’s cause is still unknown. It was NOT caused by tampons, or the mud run I had just raced in, or anything like that. Somehow strep got into my blood and tried it’s damnedest to kill me.

We were told that 8 out of 10 don’t survive what I went through. My doctors attribute my survival to three main reasons:

1. My age. I went through all of this, which includes mastering the bedpan, just a few short weeks of my 30th birthday.

2. My strength. Before my illness I was working out five days a week, sometimes twice a day. I would have loved to have been awake when the doctor told my mom, who used to criticize my workout schedule, that my physical strength was one of the reasons I survived.

3. I’m stubborn. My body basically refused to quit. They had me on enough narcotics and medicine to down a 300 pound man for a week, and yet I was struggling with nurses to remove my own tube, even tried to punch one who went to stop me. I struggled to let them know that I was still inside, that I was still fighting.

During that week and a half in the ICU I was placed on a dialysis machine, had several blood transfusions and more than one central line put in to administer medicines. The last one I had went straight into my neck and into a main vein; it was put into place right before I woke up. I kinda miss that one. They’d put in pain meds and before they were down pushing it all in, I would be out. Until the one nurse left the syringe in my neck and I didn’t realize it.

“Karen…” Eric asked me ever so cautiously, “is that a syringe hanging out of the side of your neck?”

I brought my hand up and lightly touched around what they called the IJ (inter-jugular) pick.

“Why, yes, yes it is.” And I went back to reading.

He spent the rest of the afternoon calling me “Frankenwife”.

After a month in the hospital and physical rehab facility I was released to go home on July 4th; a day that is now my own little Independence Day.  I thought I was in the home stretch, but my recovery was only beginning.

When the podiatrist first saw me he said the worst case scenario was double amputation up to my knees. No one should ever have to hear those words. I never felt so helpless in my life. I just kept thinking about my two little girls at home; how I could never dance or run with them again. He recommended a hyperbaric chamber to help circulation in my feet to aid in the healing. For 55 days I spent two hours breathing pure oxygen at twice the atmospheric pressure. I laid in that gigantic glass tube, completely closed off from the rest of the world watching “Frasier” reruns on Lifetime. It could have been worse.

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The hyperbaric chamber (L); Karen gets ready for one of many hyperbaric chamber treatments (R)

My afternoons were spent at various doctors, cardiologists, hand therapists, and surgeons.

With every appointment I continued to defy the odds. They told me that it would take at least six months for my heart to recover. By the end of July it was already back to normal. When August rolled around it looked like my feet were going to be saved, minus a pinkie toe.

My thumb was still the only question mark.

The first hand surgeon wanted to amputate it, sew my new stub of a thumb to my groin and grow a new thumb from there. Yeah. Let me just walk around with my hand down my pants for six weeks. I’m sure no one would notice.

But thanks to a second opinion I am now working with a brilliant micro surgeon out of the University of Penn. I am currently undergoing a series of surgeries to reconstruct my thumb using tissue from my arm.

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“Look ma, a new thumb!”

I don’t remember anything from those 10 days in which I fought for my life. A part of me wants to but looking at the sadness in my family’s eyes when they recall that time I’m guessing it’s for the better that I don’t. What I do remember is waking up to two whole walls of the ICU room covered in get well cards. Nurses and doctors would randomly come in, hug me, kiss my forehead and thank God I pulled through.  My social media sites, Twitter feed, Facebook wall, were filled with seemingly endless posts of prayers, well wishes and notes of people wanting to help.

I have never been so overwhelmed in all of my life.

I’ve learned a lot this past year, patience, humility but most of all what friendship and love really means. I’ve learned to be thankful for the smallest things and I’ve gotten pretty good at finding the silver lining in darker moments.

I learned to laugh at myself.

Everyone who looks at my hands and my troubled gait say they’re so sorry that this happened to me. But please, don’t feel sorry for me; never feel sorry for me.

I’m alive, and I’m in control of my recovery.

But I am sorry. I am sorry for my parents. They had to watch their only daughter’s hands and feet turn black before their eyes, knowing there was nothing they could do to stop it. I’m sorry for my husband who called up his parents to tell them to come say goodbye to me and how he had to figure out what to say to two little girls about their mommy who went to the hospital and didn’t come back.

But I’m most sorry for my two little girls who knew nothing of what was going on and just wanted their mommy to hold them. That’s who you should be sorry for, for my loved ones who had to watch me fight this and could do nothing to help.

However, that is all in the past. So instead of feeling sorry, I try to remember to celebrate. I’m here for birthday parties, holidays, smelling honeysuckle waft through the air on a cool June night. And yes, I’m even excited to be here to potty train our soon to be three year old.

Life is truly a blessed and beautiful thing. I have many reminders by way of scars, pain, and overall way of life that reminds what I went through to ensure that I have a life to live. Whenever pettiness and pride creeps in to ruin my day I just have to look down to my hands or feet to remember how precious life is and what really matters.

I urge you to stop and take some time to yourself and be thankful for all that you have because within four days it could all be gone.

I want to quickly give thanks to everyone who has worked on this site, submitted posts, submitted stories for the anthology, and is currently working on putting everything together. Another big hug and thanks to all my friends and family who have rallied behind us during this trying time. To my doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacies, and hospital staff, thank you for your dedication to help others. And last, but not least, my husband, Eric. Yours was the last face I saw before I went out and the first one I saw when I woke up. I want to keep it that way. 

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A DeLabar Family Christmas 2012