Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, May 02, 2008

Truth Stronger than Fiction

by Kerry Blair

I have wanted to post the following guest blog for two weeks now. Somehow I missed Friday last week. (Yes, the day.) Then earlier this week, I vowed to post a topic that is writing-relating. Alas, my guest blog is not. Or maybe I should say it wasn’t intended to be. My hope is that with some convoluted Robison-like-thinking, I can yet tie it in.

More or less.

Here goes: one of the questions I am asked most in fan mail is if I actually know someone who is a dwarf and/or suffers from XP. The answer is no. And yes. I based Clytie, a character with achondroplastic dwarfism, on a girl I read about in a magazine. I have since met that young woman, corresponded with many of her friends, and received a certificate of merit from Little People of America.

Similarly, I based Arjay, a character with xeroderma pigmentosa, on a kid I read about in the newspaper. When he passed away, his parents gave me permission to use his initials (RJ) as a name in the first Nightshade book. In Mummy’s the Word, Arjay raises money to send needy kids to Camp Sundown – a not-for-profit night camp in New York State for kids unable to go out in the daylight hours. It seemed like such a great idea that I copied it in real life. You can read about my efforts here. (And, while it isn’t up on the website yet, thanks to an absolutely stunning donation I received at a recent Ladies Night in Glendale – thanks, Deb! – my readers and I were able to send a third XP kid to camp this summer.)

I guess what I’m saying is that while these brave, upbeat, incredible characters weren’t real to me – at least at first – they were based on people who are. Pretty much all of you know that I am a big movie fan and baseball fanatic. That said, not a single one of my heroes come from the ranks of the rich-and-ridiculous. My heroes are people – often young people – who overcome obstacles every day that most of us couldn’t contemplate.

Today’s guest blogger, thirteen-year-old Abby Mortensen, is one of my heroes. Many of you met her at the last Mystery Dinner. She was the beautiful blonde with the luminous eyes and contagious laugh. (Yes, the one in the wheelchair.) I was considering writing a book about Abby when Jeff gave me a sneak peek at Farworld: Water. It took my breath away. He channeled Abby’s strength and goodness and magic perfectly. (But if I was harder on him in the critique than I should have been, it’s because I wanted kids around the world to recognize the struggle that the real-life Abbys overcome – somehow – with grace and goodness and even good humor, albeit with superhuman spirit rather than powers.) As much as I love Farworld, I’ve already promised my ARC to Abby. (With an inscription, Jeff!) Her spirit lives in that book. I want her to see herself there before everybody else does.

And I want you to see her here. Abby’s mother sent me an essay that Abby wrote for school. Her life-story is hinted at in these few paragraphs – better than I could ever tell it.


by Abby Mortensen

Life is weird! Actually, it is totally unpredictable because you never know what is going to happen. For example: the unexpected surgery I had this month. My family and I totally did not know that there was even a problem with my back until we went to the doctor for a post-surgery check-up. I had a spinal fusion on December 4, 2007. Dr. Vu (Voodoo …just kidding) took an X-ray to examine his wonderful work...or so he thought! It showed that two of the screws were too long and protruding out of the spine on the other side of my vertebrae. He tried to not look concerned, but he wasn’t fooling my mom for one minute.

Dr. Vu ordered a CT scan with contrast. For those of you who don’t know what it’s like, let me explain. A CT scan takes a three-dimensional image of the inside of your body from a large series of two-dimensional X-ray images. You have to lie inside of the machine. When they have to do it with contrast it sucks! The techs put an IV in my vein. The liquid is then injected into the vein and the contrast goes into my bloodstream. I can feel the cold liquid going all the way up my arm and in to my body. As it goes through my body it gets warmer and warmer. Sometimes it makes me want to throw up. Just once I would like to throw up on the tech that is poking me with the needle.

After the CT scan, the radiologist read the scan. He said that two screws were pushing against my aorta and that one of them could possibly be in the aorta. Not good. The aorta is the largest artery in the human body, about the size of a garden hose. The aorta carries blood from your heart through your entire body. Life being as unpredictable as it is, I was scheduled for another surgery. I was so irritated! This surgery will be the 16th surgery in my life…so far.

The morning of surgery we had to be to the hospital by 5:30 a.m. I HATE waking up early. I am NOT a morning person! For me the surgery seemed quick. (I slept through the whole thing). For my parents, four hours of surgery seemed like forever. The doctor finally came out and said that the surgery went well and the aorta was not damaged. He took the two screws out and replaced them with two shorter ones. My parents were glad to get the good news and then my mom wanted to punch his lights out for putting in screws that were too long in the first place. My dad was mad too, but he doesn’t show his emotions like my mom does.

I was in the hospital for four days. Every morning after surgery Dr. Vu would come in at 5:30 a.m. to check up on me. I would always hate having him come in that early because, remember, I am not a morning person. Every time he would come in, I would always be half asleep while he was talking to my mom or dad and making sure I was okay. The one good thing was that Dr. Vu gave me the screws that he took from my back. The funny thing about the screws is that whenever I show someone the screws they’re always grossed out. They want to know if it grosses me out, but it doesn’t. I think they are pretty awesome.

What I have learned through all of this is that life is not the way it's supposed to be. It's the way it is! The way you cope with it is what makes the difference. The only thing in life that you CAN count on is that life is weird and totally unpredictable.

What I have learned through all of this is that awesome, awe-inspiring people like Abby (and the young people I used as patterns for Clytie and Arjay) asked to come to earth the way they did to bring hope and joy and courage to the rest of us.

God bless them, every one.


At 5/02/2008 12:45 PM, Blogger Cheri J. Crane said...

An inspiring blog, Kerry. =)

At 5/02/2008 1:26 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Kerry, you continually amaze me. You take us all, those with visible differences and those of us with inner idiosyncrasies, and love us all--not in spite of our differences, but because of them. You are one of the few people I know who truly sees everyone you meet as a child of God. Is it any wonder we love you back?

At 5/02/2008 3:25 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Great post. Abby obviously has a great outlook on life--what a strong person! She's a kindred spirit for sure--I detest mornings too. :)

At 5/02/2008 5:36 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

What an amazing and incredible young woman. Thank you for bringing us her story.

At 5/02/2008 7:05 PM, Blogger J Scott Savage said...


Somehow I think there might be two ARCs in your package. For two of my favorite people. One old (as in how long known, not age) and one new.

And I was SOOOO glad you gave me the feedback you did. I would hate to have someone like Abby tell me I didn't know what I was talking about.

And Abby, if you are reading this, I'd love to personalize an ARC to you, I am not a morning person either (don't those docters know we heal much better with a good night's sleep?), and I think the screws are cool as heck.

I recently told Shadow Mountain I'd like to include Phoenix and Mesa on my 10 city tour, so here's hoping I get to meet you.


At 5/03/2008 1:13 PM, Blogger Anne Bradshaw said...

This all made me choke up. Beautiful writing, as usual, Kerry.

Abby is such a wise young person. Coming to terms with the weirdness of life at such an early age is a blessing to Abby and everyone around her. Way to go, Abby!

And way to go, everyone out there who is battling against opposition big or small.

At 5/03/2008 3:01 PM, Blogger Thomas said...

I met Abby about two years ago when I had a chance to visit Arizona. During that week I spent some very quality time with her and met a very amazing young lady. She inspired me during that time and even though I have moved to Argentina I am blessed with these memories. The continued relationship that I have with Wendy, her mother, via email provides me with continued updates as to how Abby is doing. I was not at all surprised when I read her addition to this blog as she touches everyone's life.

At 5/04/2008 7:23 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

Amen to all the sentiments above.

Kerry and Abby, you rock!

At 5/05/2008 1:37 PM, Blogger Danyelle Ferguson said...

Kerry & Abby

I truly enjoyed both of your posts. My oldest son has autism, and now that he's a part of Special Olympics, I get to interact and coach all of these totally awesome kids. Even though their lives have a variety of challenges, they find so much joy and passion in life. They are just absolutely incredible.

Thanks again for your posts!

At 5/07/2008 4:08 AM, Blogger Margaret Turley said...

I applaud Abby for calling the shots as she feels them. I'm not a radiology tech, but a nurse. I've had more than one person spew on me. I couldn't ever be upset though - I was always thankful I didn't have to deal with their problems.
Kerry you totally amaze me! Bravo and thanks for sharing such inspriational stories.


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