The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

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May 8, 2019

Betty Williamson

Brittany Kanmore, front, surrounded by family members, from left: sister, Ashley Park; mom, Konnie Kanmore; niece, Declynn Park; dad, John Kanmore; nephew, Braxton Park.

You probably know the African proverb about how it takes a village to raise a child.

The Kanmore family of Portales might argue that it takes a community to save one.

They're in a position to know. They returned home on April 25 after a three-month long journey none of them ever expected to take - one that has left them with nothing but gratitude for the people who supported them along the way.

• • •

Late on the afternoon of Jan. 31, Brittany Kanmore was heading home from classes at Clovis Community College - driving into the glare of the setting sun - when she was involved in a life-threatening collision with a one-ton truck at the intersection where US Highway 60/84 meets New Mexico 267 west of Clovis.

John Kanmore, Brittany's father, vividly remembers the moment when a Roosevelt County sheriff's deputy pulled into his yard to deliver news that his 20-year-old daughter had been in "a horrible accident," and that she was being flown to Lubbock with severe head trauma.

John said other events of that evening are a blur, but after a frantic flurry of calls confirmed that Brittany was being airlifted to University Medical Center, he and his wife Konnie were soon on their way to Lubbock.

It was the last evening either would be home for weeks.

• • •

John Kanmore is the director of the physical plant at Eastern New Mexico University and Konnie Kanmore runs Absolutely You, a Clovis agency that provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities.

But that last day of January, the center of the Kanmore universe moved to a hospital room in Lubbock. From the beginning, Konnie said they were surrounded with support from friends, family, church members, co-workers ... even people they'd never met.

"In Lubbock, the waiting room was full of people," Konnie said.

Thanks to social media, word spread quickly. Brittany's sister, Ashley Park, set up a Facebook page called "Pray for Brittany," that soon had nearly 1,000 members.

Over the weeks that followed, "people came to visit that we didn't even know," Konnie said. "I got texts from numbers that I didn't know. They'd say, 'We are praying for you and we love you,' and I'd text back, 'I love you, too.'"

"It was odd," John said, "because so many people kept saying what an inspiration we were - but if we didn't serve a good God and know our faith, I don't know where we would have been."

• • •

Within days of the jarring wreck, Brittany was diagnosed with a brain injury called a diffuse axonal injury or DAI.

"They just told us it was DAI," John said, "but they didn't really tell us what that was. We went to Google ... it was so grim. We didn't know what to expect at all."

• • •

While Brittany has no memory of the accident or many of the weeks that followed, there are dates that her family won't soon forget:

• Jan. 31, when it all began

• Feb. 20, when she was moved from University Medical Center to Covenant Specialty Hospital in Lubbock

• March 21, when she was accompanied by her mother in an air ambulance to Craig Hospital in Denver.

• And April 25. That was the day she got to come home to Portales.

"It was so good to be home," John said. "Just to see the smile on her face when we got home ... to know that she was home and back to some normalcy. It was the best feeling ... and that smile."

That smile got a little assistance a few days after the Kanmores were back in town - local dentist Peter Thompson fixed a front tooth that was chipped in either the wreck or the intubation that followed.

Konnie said it was one more act of "the love and compassion we were shown by our amazing family, friends, and community."

• • •

Brittany was showing off that restored smile the day I met with her and her family on the bleachers at Rotary Park in Portales, where they'd gathered to enjoy one of the ordinary activities they'd all been missing, watching Ashley's 6-year-old son Braxton swing at baseballs with his team, the Bandits.

"I don't remember UMC or Covenant," Brittany said. "I know a lot of people came and visited. I've been to the area of the wreck. I've seen the pictures of the wreck. I've seen pictures of myself in the hospital. It is what it is. I feel like I'm the same Brittany, but I have a whole new appreciation ... a whole new perspective."

She and her family continue to marvel at the many ways they've received support from their hometown friends and prayer warriors around the world. Almost a dozen fundraisers - a brisket dinner, ice cream sales, raffles, silent auctions, to name a few - were held in her benefit.

"People opened their hearts and their wallets to us," Konnie said. "We got so many gift cards ... so many well wishes. Hardly ever did someone visit without giving us something ... pressing money into our hands."

A nurse friend brought a tub filled with all manner of thoughtful items, including lotion, lip balm, quarters for vending machines, even bubbles for Brittany's young niece and nephew.

"We will definitely keep that one in mind and pay it forward," Konnie said. "The little things ... they did make a big difference."

Other friends kept the Kanmores supplied with home-cooked meals delivered in such generous portions that they could share with other families spending time with hospitalized loved ones.

• • •

Each member of this family can reel off a list of people who really made a difference on this trek. Longtime family friend Jolie Foster was mentioned by all.

"Jolie kept up with every detail of our journey," Konnie said, "spent hours researching DAI and Craig Hospital, made countless trips, and seemed to be at the forefront of many of the fundraisers."

"Jolie has been like a second mom to Brittany," Ashley Park said. "She was one of the first people who went to see her and one of her more frequent visitors. She was a big help to my parents and always offered to help wherever needed."

Brittany concurred. "Jolie Foster has done so much, from loving me to reading up on what's good to help brain injuries. She is one of the greatest humans I've ever met or even encountered, and everything she's done for me is absolutely appreciated."

• • •

Brittany's path to recovery is still unfolding. She'll continue to receive occupational, speech, and physical therapy several times each week in Lubbock, and says she is "glad to do anything" to completely recover from the injuries that came so close to taking her life.

She jokes about her "babysitters" and calls her dad "the warden," as she's been cautioned to never be alone for the first year of recovery. Her brain injury can leave her vulnerable to seizures.

At the time of the accident, Brittany was working two jobs - assisting at her mom's agency and whipping up coffee drinks as a barista at Sweetwater's at Landall's in Portales - plus taking classes at CCC to become an esthetician.

Nearly three months later, "getting back to a normal life is my number one goal," she said. She hopes that includes a return to school either in the fall or next spring.

"I would still love to be an esthetician," she said, "but my heart really goes out to people now who had to go through or are going through what I've been through. I would love to do maybe some volunteer work to help them even if it's just sitting and visiting with them for a while ... to remind them all that it does get better and all the pain will be worth it."

• • •

It's hard to not use the word "miracle" when telling this story.

This is, after all, a young woman who only seven weeks ago entered her third hospital, riding on a gurney, sporting a neck brace, a tracheotomy, and a feeding tube, and taking 23 medications.

Five weeks later, she walked out with no assistance and proudly noted, "Now I only take one multi-vitamin. I'm close to back to where I was."

• • •

Ashley Park, who calls her younger sister her best friend, said this experience changed their family.

"We had our entire world turned upside down in seconds with no idea of what the next moments would hold," she said. "It made us appreciate every small thing and just bonded us closer as a family. I think we will also remember what an amazing and supportive community we live in."

Konnie has a message for everyone who reached out to the Kanmore clan.

"To each and every person who supported us in any way, you have forever changed our lives," she said. "I hope that we are able to return that love and support to others."

She said being on the receiving end of so much comfort has also changed how she will respond to similar situations in the future.

"Some people are afraid to reach out, in fear that they are interfering or don't know what to say," she said. "Trust me. No words are needed. A smile, a prayer, a hug go further than you know."

• • •

Now that she's finally back in Portales, Brittany said she feels like "this all happened for a reason," and she has "a life to get back to living."

"I told the doctors that the best therapy for me would be to be back home," she said. "I'm so thankful to all the people who have done so much for me, even with their kindness and positive thoughts. That means the world to me. Not to mention, I have the absolute sweetest family in the world. I'm just forever thankful."

Betty Williamson believes in the healing power of community. Reach her at:

[email protected]

 
 

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