::pack:: of fixations

life after tragedy. living while grieving. love and triplets.


2nd annual Iheartcolum 5k!

My eyes and my heart have been pried wide open.  

Post tragedy, I know what it's like.  I know how it feels.  I know what it feels like to be trapped in a hospital bed and wishing to die because the pain is too much.  I know how hard it is now and I can't ignore the fact that it's happening to other people right this second.  I've looked into the eyes of sick kids at Primary Children's Hospital.  I've experienced what it feels like to be a helpless parent with no hope.  

Last year during Colum's Birthday we were in the center of our grief and in the deepest depths of despair we could've ever imagined.  Honestly, when I thought of planning the 5k the thought of it deeply overwhelmed me.  I knew walking would eventually get easier and crying would become less.  I dreaded the thought of celebrating his birthdays without him.  But I knew we had to do it.  We have had so much outpouring of love and support from people and I can't begin to explain how much relief we were given.  A lot of stress, a big one was lifted off of our shoulders.  No one could bring him back but they found ways to help us any way they could.  I was so shocked.  I didn't expect any of it.  All of you, every little thing you did was what got us back on our feet.  It helped us to not give up.  It was beautiful.  You've taught me so much.  And I am so excited to share the love.  

Colum, we are gonna make such a big difference in so many lives!  Your birthday is going to be something we look forward to, just like we should.  We now empathize with what other people are struggling with and we are going to help a new family every year in your honor...for your birthday baby!  We are planning your birthday party.

This year we've chosen to give all the proceeds to the Gunnell family.  Shauna sent me an email that I wrote about in this post.  Here is the email:

I have been wanting to reach out to you for some time now, to share my story about where I was on Christmas Day when you had to say goodbye to your sweet boy.

My sweet Norah was born July 27 of last year. Here we are almost a year later, and we are still in the PICU at Primary Children's. With the exception of a few intermittent stays at other hospitals, the PICU has been our home, and the staff is an extension of our family.

On Christmas Day, I was returning from the breastpumping room in the PICU to take my milk to the freezer. I had stopped to chat with the clerk and the charge nurse about Norah. The charge nurse was asked to pick up a call on hold. I didn't know it at the time, but it was someone calling from U of U Hospital to discuss arrangements for your sweet Colum to be with you. I only caught bits and pieces of the conversation - they were deciding if you would go to them, or if he would come to you. I remember the charge nurse's exact words, "We would love to have them here". Whatever needed to happen, they would make it work. The clerk began to cry, knowing exactly what the discussion was about. I didn't want to be nosy or risk a HIPAA violation, so I went back to Norah's room.

I remember being deeply affected by what you were going through. I had so many thoughts running through my head about families that were happy and oblivious to what my own family was going through. Then I thought of your family, and the enormous tragedy that you were feeling and enduring.

That evening, we moved to a different room in the unit. They eventually dubbed it "Norah's Corner", where I decorated it lovingly to look less like a hospital room and more like a baby's room. Shortly after we moved, something went wrong. Norah turned blue, and our nurse struggled to get resuscitation going so she called the code. Before I knew it, the room was filled with ten or fifteen staff members, including those that I later saw you thanked personally from your blog. But in the moments it took them to respond, I was able to help our nurse manage Norah's desat, and get her to come back to us.

But something later stuck in my head; something I felt with intensity. I am not at all religious, but I couldn't help but wonder if little Colum was there passing through that Christmas evening, helping Norah through the scary moments and close call. I will always remember the unit being filled with tears that day, and I now know why. But it wasn't just the visitors that were grieving. The entire staff was moved by what was going on.

Our situations are so different, but I think of you often. I thought of you today, as I walked through the PICU, which has been very quiet lately. Though I have not met you guys, sometimes I think I can feel Colum and the other angel babies there in the unit with us, watching over us while we endeavor to get Norah strong enough, big enough, and well enough to someday come home. And when that finally happens, I'll think of you on that day, too.


Norah is now at a hospital called South Davis and is still fighting to go home someday.  I've emailed and texted Shauna here and there and I've felt an instant connection with her.  I can be myself because she understands.  Since Norah has lived in hospitals her entire life Shauna has seen a lot of sadness.  In Norah's first year of life she would stop breathing and turn blue up to 10x's a day.  10x's a day!  It's stressful when your baby is born with the cord wrapped around their neck, but to have your precious baby struggle to breathe I honestly can't even imagine.  I truly cannot even come close to imagining all the scares and close calls they've had to go through.  Norah is technically on life support.  A machine was surgically placed on her neck and a tube goes down her throat so she can breathe.  A feeding tube is where she gets most of her calories.  

Ryan and I were lucky enough to visit Norah after she had a surgery at Primary Children's and we got to meet Shauna and her husband Jeff in person and visit Norah while she was sleeping off the drugs from a major surgery.  Norah truly is the most beautiful creature I've ever layed eyes on.  She's endured more than most people ever have at a mere 18 mos old.  Her trach was attached to her neck, the machine that helps her breathe.  A child next door began to cry and she woke up for just a moment.  She looked at her Mom and tears quietly fell from her eyes.  It was obvious she had some discomforts from her major surgery, you could see the pain behind those big beautiful brown eyes.  But what I hadn't learned until that day was that when she cries no sound comes out.  Her trach effects her vocal cords.  Her beautiful eyes did all the talking.  She is beautifully animated.  Her parents have never heard her voice.  It was the saddest thing I've ever seen.  

In my last post I wrote about peoples different reactions to not making it to Vegas on American Idol.  Well Shauna is one of those people that react positively and stay happy.  She is so strong and so is whole family.  They struggle between a life in a hospital and juggling things at home.  Their 4 year old son, Harper is healthy and is such a good big brother.  I pray for the day Norah can come home.

I want this 2nd 5k to be huge!  Registration is up and running.  If you live out of state we will mail you a shirt.  We are so excited to help out this family.  I know every bit of help will go a long way.  They have a long road ahead of them but hopefully we can help make it a little bit smoother.

Click here to register and thank you so much to all of you that already have!

Below are pictures from last year.  Due to the helium shortage I don't know if we will be able to do balloons.  Maybe we will have to do graham crackers. :)


  1. You are an amazing person. Thank you for thinking of a way to help little Norah and her family. I will plan on participating in the race. You are an inspiration to many of us.

  2. LOVE the beautiful picture at the top of this post. LOVE that you have something that you have initiated that makes you excited and happy about your little Angel's Birthday. I am also so excited to be a part of his Birthday Party, and to do my own little part to help Norah The Brave. You guys are amazing! :)

  3. I'm so excited to help Colum celebrate his birthday in the most beautiful way possible! I can't think of a better way to keep his light and HEART alive. You guys are so so amazing.
    Norah is so beautiful and I'm grateful she has the Pack family behind her! For we all know, the Packs are strong, fierce, resilient, loving, compassionate, giving and most of all FIGHTERS. The force behind your family is nothing short of amazing, with Colum at the forefront; it's no surprise good things are happening & beautiful families are benefiting.
    The work that's being done will only give wind to your family's wings and help carry you through your grief.

    I love you all from the depths of my soul!
    IHEARTColum forever!!!

  4. Kelly that is so thoughtful of your family. I know Shauna and Jeff will be soooo excited :)

  5. bless your family for reaching out to help another family in your grief. xoxo

  6. I love when people make something beautiful from a tragedy. It reminds me of the song "Beautiful Heartbrache". This post moved me to tears. I love Norah's story of hope and the fact that you have chosen their family. Colum has an amazing family and birthday to look forward to for years and years to come. How amazing.

  7. this is just random and sort of an fyi...i know because of the helium shortage they limit the number of balloons they will sell per day, but at campus floral on BYU campus they don't limit the amount of balloons they sell! because they are part of a university they can get more helium so there is no limit. TOTALLY random but just so you know, i love the balloon idea last time and this way you could do it again!

    sending prayers your way

    1. Thank you! Hurray! Balloons are going to make their appearance again this year.

  8. This is so amazing for your family! I can't not wait to support you in this and the beautiful Norah. This story breaks my heart. We truly all take for granted the good health of our children. My heart aches for their sadness.