Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thoughts This Christmas Night

This Christmas night I'm sitting alone in bed in the candlelight. Memphis is at my feet curled up sleeping. I have a glass of red wine and Bridesmaids is playing in the background.

Christmas has always been kind of a serene day to me. The celebration of it all, church and family and food and that warm Christmas feeling, that's always been on Christmas Eve in my family. Christmas day is usually presents being opened in the morning and then watching movies and munching on food all day long. To me it's just one of those days that my mom always called "lazy days."

But it's Christmas night that this weird sadness always comes over me. Tonight was no different. I was driving home from my parents new house (which is about a 45 minute drive for me now). And even though Memphis was in the seat next to me, I felt alone. He fills many holes in my life, but tonight I kind of wished I was sitting shotgun with my hand curled inside someone's. I wanted to to come home and fall asleep in another person's arms. Instead I stopped by the liquor store, grabbed a bottle of Malbec, and came home to spend the night alone.

I'm not sure what makes me so sad about this night. I am actually relieved that this Christmas was spent with my family. I didn't feel like I was spending it with the wrong person or the wrong person's family. There was no fight or stress about the day. There was no worrying about exchanging gifts. I guess I just really want to meet my right person. And I'm insanely frustrated, almost exhausted, with thinking about when and how that's going to happen. And wondering why it hasn't yet.

In addition, Christmas time was when I met and fell in love with someone for the first time. And I haven't felt loved that way, or been able to love someone that way, since him. He's long gone from my life, but it doesn't change the longing I have for that kind of happiness. So maybe Christmas night has just compounded all of that sadness, nostalgia, and frustration and it's good that I have my sweet puppy, a movie that makes me laugh hysterically, and my trusty bottle of vino.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, December 19, 2011

30 Things to STOP Doing in 2012.

Sometimes dumb love-story movies make me feel better when I'm feeling a little lonely or depressed. I know that sounds like the opposite of what they do to most people, but for me they remind me that good things exist and for a minute I actually believe that my perfect fairy tale is still out there floating in this city (or perhaps another). Either way, tonight I saw one of these movies with a good friend of mine, and after reading the below "30 things not to do" article earlier today, I felt like writing. So here goes. I make no promises that this will make sense to anyone but me.

(Disclaimer: I may or may not have stolen and modified this from a magazine article I just read. But I really liked it so I don't care. And no one reads my blog anyway, so I'm not overly concerned about offending anyone, or being charged with plagiarism.)

  1. Stop spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you. You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot. Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth. And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.
  2. Stop running from your problems. – Face them head on. No, it won’t be easy. There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them. We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems. That’s not how we’re made. In fact, we’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall. Because that’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time. This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.
  3. Stop lying to yourself. – You can lie to anyone else in the world, but you can’t lie to yourself. Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult chance we can take is to be honest with ourselves. Read The Road Less Traveled.
  4. Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. – The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too. Yes, help others; but help yourself too. If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.
  5. Stop trying to be someone you’re not. – One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you likeeveryone else. Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be younger, but they will never be you. Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.
  6. Stop trying to hold onto the past. – You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.
  7. Stop being scared to make a mistake. – Doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing. Every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success. You end up regretting the things you did NOT do far more than the things you did.
  8. Stop berating yourself for old mistakes.We may love the wrong person and cry about the wrong things, but no matter how things go wrong, one thing is for sure, mistakes help us find the person and things that are right for us. We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future. Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.
  9. Stop trying to buy happiness. – Many of the things we desire are expensive. But the truth is, the things that really satisfy us are totally free love, laughter and working on our passions.
  10. Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness. – If you’re not happy with who you are on the inside, you won’t be happy in a long-term relationship with anyone else either. You have to create stability in your own life first before you can share it with someone else. Read Stumbling on Happiness.
  11. Stop being idle. – Don’t think too much or you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place. Evaluate situations and take decisive action. You cannot change what you refuse to confront. Making progress involves risk. Period! You can’t make it to second base with your foot on first.
  12. Stop thinking you’re not ready.Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first.
  13. Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons. – Relationships must be chosen wisely. It’s better to be alone than to be in bad company. There’s no need to rush. If something is meant to be, it will happen – in the right time, with the right person, and for the best reason. Fall in love when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.
  14. Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn’t work. – In life you’ll realize that there is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach you. But most importantly, some will bring out the best in you.
  15. Stop trying to compete against everyone else. – Don’t worry about what others doing better than you. Concentrate on beating your own records every day. Success is a battle between YOU and YOURSELF only.
  16. Stop being jealous of others. – Jealousy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own. Ask yourself this: “What’s something I have that everyone wants?”
  17. Stop complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. – Life’s curveballs are thrown for a reason – to shift your path in a direction that is meant for you. You may not see or understand everything the moment it happens, and it may be tough. But reflect back on those negative curveballs thrown at you in the past. You’ll often see that eventually they led you to a better place, person, state of mind, or situation. So smile! Let everyone know that today you are a lot stronger than you were yesterday, and you will be.
  18. Stop holding grudges. – Don’t live your life with hate in your heart. You will end up hurting yourself more than the people you hate. Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me is okay.” It is saying, “I’m not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever.” Forgiveness is the answer… let go, find peace, liberate yourself! And remember, forgiveness is not just for other people, it’s for you too. If you must, forgive yourself, move on and try to do better next time.
  19. Stop letting others bring you down to their level. – Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.
  20. Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others. – Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it anyway. Just do what you know in your heart is right.
  21. Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a break. – The time to take a deep breath is when you don’t have time for it. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly.
  22. Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments. – Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and discover they were the big things. The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to you.
  23. Stop trying to make things perfect. – The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done. Read Getting Things Done.
  24. Stop following the path of least resistance. – Life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile. Don’t take the easy way out. Do something extraordinary.
  25. Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn’t.It’s okay to fall apart for a little while. You don’t always have to pretend to be strong, and there is no need to constantly prove that everything is going well. You shouldn’t be concerned with what other people are thinking either – cry if you need to – it’s healthy to shed your tears. The sooner you do, the sooner you will be able to smile again.
  26. Stop blaming others for your troubles. – The extent to which you can achieve your dreams depends on the extent to which you take responsibility for your life. When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you give others power over that part of your life.
  27. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. – Doing so is impossible, and trying will only burn you out. But making one person smile CAN change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but their world. So narrow your focus.
  28. Stop worrying so much. – Worry will not strip tomorrow of its burdens, it will strip today of its joy. One way to check if something is worth mulling over is to ask yourself this question: “Will this matter in one year’s time? Three years? Five years?” If not, then it’s not worth worrying about.
  29. Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen. – Focus on what you do want to happen. Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story. If you awake every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay close attention, you’ll often find that you’re right.
  30. Stop being ungrateful. – No matter how good or bad you have it, wake up each day thankful for your life. Someone somewhere else is desperately fighting for theirs. Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Resolution: Pass/Fail halfway Mark


1. Live within my means (budget). Fail.
2. Be picky about who I date. Find a good, worthwhile person to spend my days with. Fail.
3. Drink less. Know my limits. Fail.
4. Work toward my dream job with an innocence project. In Progress (in grad school!)
5. Be a better friend. Be more thoughtful. Pass.
6. Smile. Be friendly to strangers especially when out running or at work. Fail.
7. Journal daily. In Progress (not 100% but I do have a journal going).
8. Be more comfortable and confident with just being me. Fail.
9. Continue learning to cook. Fail.
10. Love life. In Progress
11. Be brave. In Progress
12. Read and write more. Fail.
13. Keep up Memphis blog. Pass.
14. Say how I really feel. Pass.
15. Get back to God and being an integral part of the church. Fail.
16. Spend time with babies. Fail.
17. Fall in love again ... but don't pretend to. Find something real. On hold.
18. Run a marathon. In Progress (training for a 5k, baby steps =))
19. Earn my masters. In Progress
20. Spend less time on social media/email. Only check/update once a day. In Progress
21. Be able to define what's unique about me. Fail
22. Train Memphis. Fail
23. Find and love living with a roommate. Might be my last opportunity to do that! In Progress
24. Respect my body. Fail
25. Go on a trip with Dad to DC/NY and cruise with Gma. In Progress
26. (one to grow on) ... Find something new to do that I love. Still working on it...

Break Even

I always know when I've hit a breaking point, because the only way I break is through writing. And tonight, I had to sit down what I was working on for school and come here. My little beach ball blog that I turn to when I need to get it all out. It is my safe place. And I know people can read it, which is kind of the beauty of it. If they want to read it, they can. But I'm not shoving it down anyones throat or putting this out there as a plea for help. I don't really know where to start, but I feel like my life has spiraled out of control. I'm not sure where I lost it or why, but I think the first step in getting it back together is admitting to myself I need to.

I woke up today. Literally. I woke up and decided this is my life and I am letting it slip away. To drinking. To lust. To money. To meaninglessness. To sadness. To technology. To ignorant people. To what other people want.

When I make decisions, this blog helps me commit to them. I know it sounds crazy but self control has never been my strong point. So when I write them on here I feel obligated to try to uphold them. Here is what I've pinned to my vision board (a little bulletin board in my bedroom) for the rest of 2011 (I'm trying to be realistic here and make this doable).

1. STOP the madness with anyone who doesn't have a vagina (e.g., men). I try to say I'm not worried about finding someone, but I am. Obsessed actually. And I've let this little (understatement) obsession turn me into someone who has no self-respect, confidence, or brain to be quite honest. And I know deep down I am not ready for someone. I became single, and I can't get in the car and go to work without wondering if there are cute boys in cars around me. Am I actually going to meet someone in a car on the 5 minute drive to work every day? No way. I am self-admittedly a boy-crazy woman. And need to get a grip. Not because I don't want someone. But because I want someone worth waiting for, and I am forcing myself to wait. This other method (something I would describe along the lines of being a s.l.u.t.) is not me. And I refuse to let me become that. I am not for sale. And I am d.o.n.e. looking as of 6 am today (when I woke up). I don't want a man in my life again until I am me again. And me has not made her way to the surface yet. In fact, I think I buried her even deeper than she was pre breakup with the live in boyfriend. Either way. I have officially taken myself off the market and am in a relationship with just me until further notice. Because I am a very organized/goal oriented person, I am going to say at least until my 26th birthday. Because 26 is not dead, and 26 does not equal single for life if I don't have a boyfriend. And because I would like to think that by the time I am 26 (8 months from now) I will have learned to demand and seek out only the best for myself and stop settling for c.r.a.p.

2. STOP drinking. This is something I have a really hard time admitting. But I think I have a drinking problem. No. I'm not going to check myself into AA. I don't think I am so far gone I can't fix it. But I think I have a problem. I think I drink too much, too often, and make awful decisions as a result. I think I have withdrawal headaches also as a result. And I know it must stop. So I am done drinking until 2012. And maybe longer. Depending on how strong I feel at that point. And then I want to learn to drink socially and not like the crazy 21 year old party girl I was in college. Those days are over and when I woke up today, I put them in my "great memories" compartment and smiled as I closed that door.

3. START planning for what's pinned to my vision board. Along with the 2 above goals I also want the following things in the near future: (1) a substantial savings account; (2) to run a 5k; (3) to live in a house with a yard for Memphis; (4) to get Memphis a sister; (5) to get an iPad for myself as a reward for paying off my credit cards; (6) to start my own innocence project.

And just as a release from the bottom of my heart, because I can't cry and I can't scream and I can't tell all of these idiots who have hurt me in some way shape or form in the past few months to their face: You don't know a t.h.i.n.g. about me (thank you Kelly for those words) and although I am often sad you didn't take the time, I'm grateful because I keep realizing how uninterested I actually was anyway. And to you ... the one who I FINALLY told I would never be able to let back in my life ... I am so very happy you have moved on with yours. Honestly. It was huge of me to admit to you in the first place that I didn't and couldn't possibly ever love you again. But it's even more amazing now that you are gone. A piece of me always, yes. But you have finally disappeared and that is seriously the best gift you ever could have given to me. You taught me that I do know what love is, and that I am capable of letting it go. Even if it took this many years.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Year 25


This was written over the course of a 10-day vacation and time of solitude while I was in Florida and Kentucky celebrating my 25th birthday.

Every year during my birthday week I visit my grandparents in Florida. I call it a vacation; it’s really a time for me to find my center. It’s like my “New Years.” I think about the past year. I plan for the one to come. I pray. I sit and let the ocean wash over me. I am reminded how beautiful life is. I write. It’s one of the only times I have to just be alone with myself and pour out all of the pent up emotion. Every year I vow to journal, to write daily. And every year I realize I’ve neglected to do this, although I believe it’s one of the most valuable things a woman can do for herself. It will be a goal of mine once again in year 25.

What prompted me to write today? I was reading Real Simple on the plane and came across an essay contest with the prompt, “When did you first understand the meaning of love?” My first thought was, “Can I write about this if I’m not currently in love?” and the second was “Do I understand the meaning of love?” Of course I can and I do. In fact, I think I might have more clarity about when it was I understood because I am not in love … with a man, anyway.

I plan to get to that while I’m here this week. But there are much more pressing things on my mind that I need to attend to before I will be able to gather myself on that subject.

I always try to organize my thoughts before I write, but I think I need to write straight from my heart. So I don’t promise this to be in logical order, but it will be honest and it will be a reflection of exactly where I am.

First: reflection on year 24. In one word, it was painful. Year 24 was extremely painful. I am still sore from the amount of growing and beating up that went on this past year. I don’t think I need to go into the details of the lost relationship or the first year at my “big girl” job. I think what I really need to get to in order to explain the pain is what I’ve done to myself.

Year 22 … this is the last time I remember being true to myself. I was living for me. I had big dreams, high hopes, strong self-esteem and plenty of self-respect. I was so alive. And then I graduated from college, and instead of taking off I grounded myself. I got scared. I was so incredibly scared. Would I ever find the man of my dreams? Would I be successful? Would I even find a job? When you start letting fear creep in, it spreads like heat through a wet towel. Was I spending enough time with my family? How long would grandma and grandpa’s health hold up? What about Mom and Dad’s health? Where did I want to live? Should I go to law school? Where in the world do I go from here? For the first time I didn’t really have a plan. The morning after graduation, someone knocked on my door, offered me a much-needed answer to all of my uncertainty, and without so much as a blink I said OK. Someone sat down in front of me, poured out his love to me, and I said OK. I actually started the entire relationship on a lie. Because the truth is I nodded and said, “yes I feel the same way,” and I was still half-asleep. Literally (because it was 7 am the morning after my college graduation), and figuratively (because I had no idea how I really felt about him; I just knew he offered me the security of knowing exactly what he wanted … me, and that’s something I was entirely clueless of for my own life at the time). So I went with it. Did I fall in love with him? Absolutely. Was it for the right reasons? Absolutely not. I didn’t love him enough, and I think I might be the only person that understands what I mean by that. It certainly didn’t make sense to him when I told him, anyway. In fact, I think when you tell a man you don’t love him you are quite possibly the closest you will ever be to understanding what the meaning of love is. Breaking someone because you have led him on and lied to him and made him believe that you felt how he truly feels … that broke me. All I wanted to do was go back to the day he knocked on my door, look him in the eyes and tell him the truth … “I don’t know how I feel about you,” or “I’m not ready for this,” or ANYTHING besides, “OK.” Because undoing the love I built with him has shattered any ounce of strength I rebuilt from all of those who came before him.

What I believe is even more heartbreaking than what I just explained, though, is from that day I said “OK” to him following my graduation, I continued to make the same mistake in every other part of my life. I kept saying “OK” when things really weren’t OK at all. OK, I’ll stay in Columbia instead of moving to New York or Chicago or Kansas City or back to St. Louis. OK, I will practically move in with you and become a ghost to a roommate I never gave a chance. OK we don’t have to go to that church that I loved and where I met God if it makes you uncomfortable. OK I don’t have time to do my bible study/journal anymore because I am too busy running the dog or doing your laundry or hanging out with your family. OK I will stop talking to my guy friends because you’re jealous. OK I’ll let you convince me I need to grow up and the girls are hindering that. OK I will fall asleep to the TV on even though I never had a TV in my room growing up and I sleep better in a dark, quiet room. OK I will be miserably uncomfortable sleeping next to sweaty boy and dog that scratches me and walks all over me all night. OK, I will accept my terrible LSAT score instead of trying harder. OK I will let my ex continue to poison my heart by letting him back in. OK, I will take a job because it’s a job and I should feel blessed to have the opportunity. OK I will live with you, even though I never wanted to live with a man before I was engaged. OK I will try harder to make this work because I can’t stand to see you hurt like this. OK I will stay in this apartment alone and take all of the responsibility so you can move on because I am so ravished with guilt I can’t look at myself in the mirror. OK I will let a guy stand me up three times and still give him the time of day when he drunk dials. OK I will still carry on a conversation with a guy who has informed me he has a huge crush on my friend … and me. OK I will agree to do work I don’t have time to do but it’s what I love and I’m sorry but I will probably let you down, yet again. OK! I am not at all OK. This is why year 24 was so painful.

So here are my Year 25 resolutions. First, here is the prayer from the bottom of my heart for this year and for my life:

Father God, bring me back to where I was with you. I surrender. Forgive me for going astray. I love you, and I truly believe in your plan and will for my life. Give me the self-control and confidence to become a woman who shines with the good kind of love, the love that only you have to offer.

In your name, Amen.


1. Live within my means (budget).
2. Be picky about who I date. Find a good, worthwhile person to spend my days with.
3. Drink less. Know my limits.
4. Work toward my dream job with an innocence project.
5. Be a better friend. Be more thoughtful.
6. Smile. Be friendly to strangers especially when out running or at work.
7. Journal daily.
8. Be more comfortable and confident with just being me.
9. Continue learning to cook.
10. Love life.
11. Be brave.
12. Read and write more.
13. Keep up Memphis blog.
14. Say how I really feel.
15. Get back to God and being an integral part of the church.
16. Spend time with babies.
17. Fall in love again ... but don't pretend to. Find something real.
18. Run a marathon.
19. Earn my masters.
20. Spend less time on social media/email. Only check/update once a day.
21. Be able to define what's unique about me.
22. Train Memphis.
23. Find and love living with a roommate. Might be my last opportunity to do that!
24. Respect my body.
25. Go on a trip with Dad to DC/NY and cruise with Gma.
26. (one to grow on) ... Find something new to do that I love.

Here is how I feel right now.

I feel alone. I feel desperate. I feel ashamed. I feel scared. I am afraid of never finding true love. Afraid of never having a family. Afraid of wasting my gifts and my life. And every time I start to let all of these feelings start to restrict my breathing, I say, “I trust you God. I trust you.” But how do I ACTUALLY trust Him? How do I let go of all of my anxieties and just trust the Lord to work. That’s a really difficult thing to do when you’re lonely and hurting. When you know how much love you have to give and you don’t feel like you have someone to give it to. When you know how much you have to offer but you don’t feel like it’s being put out into the world. I will keep pouring out my heart, I will keep praying. I will continue to trust the best I know how. I know that things aren’t going to change if I continue down this same road though. This self-destructive shameful path I’ve created for myself. I have GOT to find some self-control. With men, money, and alcohol. I have got to stop excusing what’s not acceptable for my life. I know better. Now I must do better (thank you, O and Maya). Maybe typing out what I won’t do will help. Creating some rules, if you will, try to humor me.


1. I will not respond to any of the "time-wasters" I've managed to find since being single (including ex's and those found at douchecastles- thank you Shallon for that glorious term).

2. I will not call or fall back on him. He deserves to move on and be happy.

3. I will not disrespect my body.

4. I will not feel unworthy.

5. I will be friendly and smile.

6. I will put my heart out there, but I will not accept arrogance or ignorance from a man.

7. I will exude confidence and happiness because that is the only way anyone I’m actually interested in is ever going to find me interesting.


1. I will not use credit cards.

2. I will stick to my budget.

3. I will not spend recklessly on food/dining out/shopping.

4. I will learn to conserve and live within my means.


1. I will not drink more than a 93.5 lb girl should drink. Translation, I can drink 1 drink to my friends 2-3 and I should embrace this (it will also help save the money I speak of above)

2. I will not drink and drive.

3. I will not drink more than 2 days per week.

I have printed this out and stuck it on a bulletin board in my room. Each week I’m going to evaluate myself.

· Have I stuck to my rules?

· Am I finding myself happier, even if I am alone still?

· Which rule can I work on harder this week?

Same goes with my resolution list.

· Can I cross anything off?

· Which one could I work toward this week and how?

· Is there anything that needs to be updated/modified?

Here's to me and Year 25 ... a year I hope is at least twice as happy as 24 was challenging.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Note From My Mom

Hi baby girl:

I enjoyed yesterday and wanted to say I love you and you are one of my blessings.

Enjoy today and have a good week.


I love you too, Mom. Needed that today.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Memo from an ER Doctor at St. Johns Hospital in Joplin, Missouri

My name is Dr. Kevin Kikta, and I was one of two emergency room doctors who were on duty at St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, MO on Sunday,

May 22, 2011.

You never know that it will be the most important day of your life until
the day is over. The day started like any other day for me: waking up,
eating, going to the gym, showering, and going to my 4:00 pm ER shift. As I drove to the hospital I mentally prepared for my shift as I always do, but nothing could ever have prepared me for what was going to happen on this shift. Things were normal for the first hour and half. At approximately 5:30 pm we received a warning that a tornado had been spotted. Although I work in Joplin and went to medical school in

Oklahoma, I live in New Jersey, and I have never seen or been in a tornado. I learned that a “code gray” was being called. We were to start bringing patients to safer spots within the ED and hospital.

At 5:42 pm a security guard yelled to everyone, “Take cover! We are about to get hit by a tornado!” I ran with a pregnant RN, Shilo Cook, while others scattered to various places, to the only place that I was familiar with in the hospital without windows, a small doctor’s office in the ED.
Together, Shilo and I tremored and huddled under a desk. We heard a loud
horrifying sound like a large locomotive ripping through the hospital. The whole hospital shook and vibrated as we heard glass shattering, light bulbs popping, walls collapsing, people screaming, the ceiling caving in above us, and water pipes breaking, showering water down on everything. We suffered this in complete darkness, unaware of anyone else’s status,
worried, scared. We could feel a tight pressure in our heads as the tornado annihilated the hospital and the surrounding area. The whole process took about 45 seconds, but seemed like eternity. The hospital had just taken a direct hit from a category EF5 tornado.

Then it was over. Just 45 seconds. 45 long seconds. We looked at each
other, terrified, and thanked God that we were alive. We didn’t know, but
hoped that it was safe enough to go back out to the ED, find the rest of
the staff and patients, and assess our losses.

“Like a bomb went off. ” That’s the only way that I can describe what we
saw next. Patients were coming into the ED in droves. It was absolute,
utter chaos. They were limping, bleeding, crying, terrified, with debris
and glass sticking out of them, just thankful to be alive. The floor was
covered with about 3 inches of water, there was no power, not even backup
generators, rendering it completely dark and eerie in the ED. The
frightening aroma of methane gas leaking from the broken gas lines
permeated the air; we knew, but did not dare mention aloud, what that
meant. I redoubled my pace.

We had to use flashlights to direct ourselves to the crying and wounded. Where did all the flashlights come from? I’ll never know,
but immediately, and thankfully, my years of training in emergency
procedures kicked in. There was no power, but our mental generators
were up and running, and on high test adrenaline. We had no cell
phone service in the first hour, so we were not even able to call for
help and backup in the ED.

I remember a patient in his early 20’s gasping for breath, telling me that
he was going to die. After a quick exam, I removed the large shard of
glass from his back, made the clinical diagnosis of a pneumothorax
(collapsed lung) and gathered supplies from wherever I could locate them to insert a thoracostomy tube in him. He was a trooper; I’ll never forget his courage. He allowed me to do this without any local anesthetic since none could be found. With his life threatening injuries I knew he was running out of time, and it had to be done. Quickly. Imagine my relief when I heard a big rush of air, and breath sounds again; fortunately, I was able to get him transported out. I immediately moved on to the next patient, an asthmatic in status asthmaticus. We didn’t even have the option of trying a nebulizer treatment or steroids, but I was able to get him intubated using a flashlight that I held in my mouth. A small child of approximately 3-4 years of age was crying; he had a large avulsion of skin to his neck and spine. The gaping wound revealed his cervical spine and upper thoracic spine bones. I could actually count his vertebrae with my fingers. This was a child, his whole life ahead of him, suffering life threatening wounds in front of me, his eyes pleading me to help him.. We could not find any pediatric C collars in the darkness, and water from the shattered main pipes was once again showering down upon all of us. Fortunately, we were able to get him immobilized with towels, and start an IV with fluids and pain meds before shipping him out. We felt paralyzed and helpless ourselves. I didn’t even know a lot of the RN’s I was working with. They were from departments scattered all over the hospital. It didn’t matter.
We worked as a team, determined to save lives. There were no specialists
available -- my orthopedist was trapped in the OR. We were it, and we knew we had to get patients out of the hospital as quickly as possible. As we were shuffling them out, the fire department showed up and helped us to evacuate. Together we worked furiously, motivated by the knowledge and
fear that the methane leaks could cause the hospital could blow up at any

Things were no better outside of the ED. I saw a man crushed under a large
SUV, still alive, begging for help; another one was dead, impaled by a
street sign through his chest. Wounded people were walking, staggering,
all over, dazed and shocked. All around us was chaos, reminding me of
scenes in a war movie, or newsreels from bombings in Bagdad. Except this
was right in front of me and it had happened in just 45 seconds. My own
car was blown away. Gone. Seemingly evaporated. We searched within a half mile radius later that night, but never found the car, only the littered, crumpled remains of former cars. And a John Deere tractor that had blown in from miles away.

Tragedy has a way of revealing human goodness. As I worked, surrounded by
devastation and suffering, I realized I was not alone. The people of the
community of Joplin were absolutely incredible. Within minutes of the
horrific event, local residents showed up in pickups and sport utility
vehicles, all offering to help transport the wounded to other facilities,
including Freeman, the trauma center literally across the street.
Ironically, it had sustained only minimal damage and was functioning
(although I’m sure overwhelmed). I carried on, grateful for the help of
the community.

Within hours I estimated that over 100 EMS units showed up from various
towns, counties and four different states. Considering the circumstances,
their response time was miraculous. Roads were blocked with downed utility lines, smashed up cars in piles, and they still made it through.

We continued to carry patients out of the hospital on anything that we
could find: sheets, stretchers, broken doors, mattresses,
wheelchairs—anything that could be used as a transport mechanism.

As I finished up what I could do at St John’s, I walked with two RN’s,
Shilo Cook and Julie Vandorn, to a makeshift MASH center that was being set up miles away at Memorial Hall. We walked where flourishing neighborhoods once stood, astonished to see only the disastrous remains of flattened homes, body parts, and dead people everywhere. I saw a small dog just wimpering in circles over his master who was dead, unaware that his master would not ever play with him again. At one point we tended to a young woman who just stood crying over her dead mother who was crushed by her own home. The young woman covered her mother up with a blanket and then asked all of us, “What should I do?” We had no answer for her, but silence and tears.

By this time news crews and photographers were starting to swarm around,
and we were able to get a ride to Memorial Hall from another RN. The chaos was slightly more controlled at Memorial Hall. I was relieved to see many of my colleagues, doctors from every specialty, helping out. It was amazing to be able to see life again. It was also amazing to see how fast workers mobilized to set up this MASH unit under the circumstances.
Supplies, food, drink, generators, exam tables, all were there—except
pharmaceutical pain meds. I sutured multiple lacerations, and splinted many fractures, including some open with bone exposed, and then intubated
another patient with severe COPD, slightly better controlled conditions
this time, but still less than optimal.

But we really needed pain meds. I managed to go back to the St John’s with another physician, pharmacist, and a sheriff’s officer. Luckily, security let us in to a highly guarded pharmacy to bring back a garbage bucket sized supply of pain meds.

At about midnight I walked around the parking lot of St. John’s with local
law enforcement officers looking for anyone who might be alive or trapped
in crushed cars. They spray-painted “X”s on the fortunate vehicles that
had been searched without finding anyone inside. The unfortunate vehicles
wore “X’s” and sprayed-on numerals, indicating the number of dead inside,
crushed in their cars, cars which now resembled flattened recycled
aluminum cans the tornado had crumpled in her iron hands, an EF5 tornado,
one of the worst in history, whipping through this quiet town with demonic
strength. I continued back to Memorial hall into the early morning hours
until my ER colleagues told me it was time for me to go home. I was
completely exhausted. I had seen enough of my first tornado.

How can one describe these indescribable scenes of destruction? The next
day I saw news coverage of this horrible, deadly tornado. It was excellent coverage, and Mike Bettes from the Weather Channel did a great job, but there is nothing that pictures and video can depict compared to seeing it in person. That video will play forever in my mind.

I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to everyone involved in
helping during this nightmarish disaster. My fellow doctors, RN’s, techs,
and all of the staff from St. John’s. I have worked at St John’s for
approximately 2 years, and I have always been proud to say that I was a
physician at St John’s in Joplin, MO. The smart, selfless and immediate
response of the professionals and the community during this catastrophe
proves to me that St John’s and the surrounding community are special.
I am beyond proud.
To the members of this community, the health care workers from states away, and especially Freeman Medical Center, I commend everyone on unselfishly coming together and giving 110% the way that you all did, even in your own time of need. St John’s Regional Medical Center is gone, but her spirit and goodness lives on in each of you.

EMS, you should be proud of yourselves. You were all excellent, and did a
great job despite incredible difficulties and against all odds

For all of the injured who I treated, although I do not remember your names (nor would I expect you to remember mine) I will never forget your faces.
I’m glad that I was able to make a difference and help in the best way that I knew how, and hopefully give some of you a chance at rebuilding your lives again. For those whom I was not able to get to or treat, I apologize whole heartedly.

Last, but not least, thank you, and God bless you, Mercy/St John’s for
providing incredible care in good times and even more so, in times of the
unthinkable, and for all the training that enabled us to be a team and
treat the people and save lives.


Kevin J. Kikta, DO
Department of Emergency Medicine
Mercy/St John’s Regional Medical Center, Joplin, MO