To Hell and Back

In 1994, my mother left her job in administration at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester to pursue her dream of writing. This journey brought my family to Duluth, MN, where she would begin a Master’s Degree in English Literature with a long-term goal of a Ph.D. I was eight years old, and as an only child, clung to our pet basset hound as my only friend that summer, waiting for school to start. My dad was a retired high school principal and passionate boundary waters explorer, feeling very comfortable in this new place we were going to call home.

Within six weeks of our move, dad hit a deer on the way home one evening, and after a bump on the head wouldn’t stop bleeding, he had blood work done at a local emergency room, and was told his lab values were concerning and he would require follow up. As a child, I can’t remember the next few months well, what I do remember is mostly from what others have told me. Appointments and lots of testing which led to a diagnosis: acute leukemia. I can vividly remember sitting in an office somewhere with some physician when he told my dad that he thought he might live 30 days, and that was only if he could stay clear of catching any infections.

Mom and I both started school in the Fall, while dad started treatment. We did travel back and forth to Rochester as dad had a team of hematologists at Mayo that were involved with his care along with the medical team in Duluth. I would sometimes return with my parents to Duluth, or I might spend time in Rochester with my grandparents. Mom tells a story of one night, sitting on the couch with my dad in Duluth and watching his face turn pale and his eyes look fatigued, a sign she had learned, meant his lab values were dropping in front of her and he needed emergent evaluation. She rushed him to the local emergency room, he was admitted for two nights, and then they returned home. Once settled, they found themselves sitting down on the couch again, almost as if the previous two days hadn’t occurred. Mom turned to my father and said, “its like we have been to hell and back.” He responded, “well, at least we know the way.”

Dad would die peacefully on July 17th 1995 a little after 7:00am in the morning. What our family went through for eight months while he fought for his life changed me, and my mom. Twenty years after his death, now a wife, mother, and registered nurse, I told my mom we should do something for families that went through what we did. She agreed and has stood by my side in support of the MedCity Foundation. Together, we hope to be there for those that might feel like they are going to hell and back, because like dad said, we know the way.

Kristina Hesby, President & Founder

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To Hell and Back