The Samantha Years

The Courage Diary

I wake up and look at the clock….8:00 Friday morning; t-minus 24 until I have to be at the start in Leadville.

Not a problem….I’ve trained. I can pack in a day, get the family ready. Food and cold beer have already been purchased. We are good to go.

Oh wait, one small detail….we still happen to be on the 8th floor at Children’s Hospital.

I start to formulate back-up plans. Can I ride in morning and drive down to Children’s in the afternoon? How many days can my husband stay in the hospital without going batty?

I was smokin’ crack, thinking that I could pull this off, thinking that I could make this ride happen.


Our fabulous pediatrician, Dr. E. comes into the room.

“What are your plans?” She asks

“I don’t know….what are our plans?”

“Will she be on oxygen the whole time?”

“We will never take her off of it.”

“You have all of her meds?” She asks

“Of course.”

“Here is my cell phone number. Call me if you have any problems. Otherwise, I think we can get you out of here today and you can go up.”

My eyes fill with tears. “Thank you.” I say

She hugs me “Go, ride, be careful, take good care of her and for God’s sake, don’t get hurt.”

It’s 5:30 in the evening. Samantha and I are packed up, out the door of Children’s and hopelessly stuck in rush hour traffic. We decide to leave tomorrow morning….but we are still leaving….pending Samantha’s night.

5:30 am, Saturday morning, we are on the road. Samantha is snoozing in the back. I am wondering how much coffee it will take to get me over Vail Pass. Six weeks in the hospital, God I’m tired.

We have made it.

It’s 8:30 am, Samantha is crying in the back. My husband is putting my bike together and I am trying to organize the meds and formula he will need for the day. I feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins, anxiety from the last month of hospitalizations and realize that perhaps the only thing that will calm me down is a 157 mile bike ride.

Good thing were here.

I see my team. I love my team. I kiss them all and feel a lump rising in the back of my throat. My step-dad pins a sign stating “My ride is dedicated to Samantha”, on my back. We are off.

I ride. I ride up Tennessee Pass, to Camp Hale, breathe in the pine and fresh air. I laugh, eat oranges and hold my team mates hand. As we enter the magnificent Pando valley, I am reminded of how very small I am and that maybe that’s okay. I get tired of trying to be so big. Through the valley I see members of Team Courage, riding tandem or solo. I cheer them on….so very grateful that they give me hope…hope that maybe someday Samantha can see Pando Valley from the back of a bicycle.

We stop for lunch. My team mate looks for her husband so she can breast-feed her baby. Have I mentioned how much I love my team?

And those are our three days…..we ride, curse Vail Pass, eat, sleep, wake up and ride again. Samantha is a trooper; no fevers, no pain and she sleeps off the last five weeks in the hospital. My husband and my mom watch over her like hawks, fielding calls from doctors and making sure she’s okay. This has become quite a production.

Monday is our last day. As we pack up, another team-mate pumps my tires and lubes my chain. I have become so dependent on other people this weekend. People to watch my daughter, fix my bike, look over us….have I mentioned how much I love my team?

This is the day when it all settles in for me. As I ride up Freemont Pass, I pass another member of Team Courage in a hand cycle; using her arm strength to carry her 45 miles and 2,000 feet of vertical. I look at my beefy, tired thighs. I couldn’t imagine my arms doing the climb I expect from my legs.

“Whoo Hoo! Go Team Courage!” I say.

“Thank you.” The girl replies in a breathy voice.

I get big tears in my eyes and my nose starts to run. Heather! Pull yourself together! You have to climb up Freemont Pass! There is no crying in biking! I wipe my snotty nose on the back of my glove and try to catch my breath. This is tough….because we are at 11,000 feet.
I pull myself together and manage to remain so around Turquoise Lake. As we turn onto 3rd Street, I realize that I did it….that we all did it….my team…because they love my daughter and they love me.

I try to hold back the tears as I turn into the Lake County High School. I hear the cow bells and a distant cheer of ‘Go Heather’! I see my husband taking pictures.

I ride up the hill sobbing… of those ugly cries…you know where you no longer have control of your facial expressions? Full body crying….pretty…..I can’t even thank the lovely girl in the wheel chair handing me my medal….no…..sorry little girl…I’m so overwhelmed, you’re so inspiring, and part of the reason why I’m crying.

I see some unknown person take a picture of me….yeah, that’s right, take a photo of the lady doing the ugly cry….nice

My team surrounds me in big, comforting bear hugs. We did it. Six weeks in the hospital, three courses of I.V. antibiotics, sleepless nights, a sick little girl, and 157 miles around the mountains. I am eternally grateful; to my husband, my parents, my friends, our doctors and our nurses….maybe it does take a metropolis…and maybe that’s okay.

11 thoughts on “The Courage Diary”

  1. Oh my dear, sweet, wonderful Heather. I have been waiting anxiously for your post from the classic and when I saw it was ready I poured myself a glass of red and am now toasting you; you for being such a wonderful Mom and for having the gift of sharing this story so beautifully. You have become my touchstone in a world where it's easy to forget to be grateful! I'm so proud of you in so many ways…Oh yeah… and I'm ugly-crying too. Drinks, lunch, dinner, coffee SOON my dear….Alissa


  2. I cannot wait to read your blogs as they bring tears to my eyes. They allow my humanity to come out in a way I never thought possible . As the Father of a three year old I empathize with you everyday You have such a beautiful daughter and a wonderful network. I think and pray for you and your family every day . I pray that I am as strong as you Gil Coronado


  3. Dear Samantha, You were such a trooper over the weekend. You didn't feel your best (who could blame you after surgery and so much time in the hospital.) But you were a great sport and supporter of your mom–your daddy, too. It was inspiring to see so many people working so hard to raise money to find answers for you and all the other kids that are cared for at Children's Hospital. Holding back the tears just wasn't possible. And what can you say about that mother of yours–what an incredible role model she is for you and so many others. She's the master of making lemonade from lemons. We're so proud of all the Schichtels!Love, Pops & Nonnie


  4. What a summer it has been. I love you, you inspire me to keep chugging along. Here's to Sammer & Ava joining the Team Courage someday…and to us getting in shape enough to pull them behind.


  5. Heather–We are all so very proud of your incredible accomplishment in completing the Courage Classic. I know how difficult both the physical and emotional logistics of this event were.Samantha did her part–after all she hates to miss a party. She usually comes thru–just with a bit of drama.And–after 3 day of watching Sam and hanging out together, Bart and I are still buddies. LOL!!! Now on to a bigger and even more amazing team next year.I love you all more than words can ever express. You guys are my heros!!!Love,Mom


  6. OMG, Heather you are amazing, I cried and laughed reading this post. Congrats on the bike ride and WOW! Yes you are amazing!Give Sam big hugs and kisses from Paige and I!Tami


  7. Heather, Bart and Samantha,How awesome! Once again, you have shown us the drive and determination you all possess.Our love and prayers are with all of you!!Your Illinois Cousins…Jayne and Steve


  8. Congratulations, Heather, on a great ride. Let's find a time in the fall to go bicycling in Larimer County. Love, Judith


  9. I could not be more honored to share your Courage Classic experience with you. I will stash memories of our first Courage ride away alongside of our college, drinking days and post-college days of climbing mountains and biking in Crested Butte – among many other things. Thank you Heather, Bart, and Samantha – and the rest of the team – for giving me such a beautiful experience. Hopefully I won't be stopping at the bottom and top of Vail Pass to feed my 2 year old next year (he will be cut off by then!) 🙂 Ging


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