Molly Atkinson, 1952-2009

Molly Atkinson was a proud member of the Fairfield community for more than 20 years.  Many of you remember that on September 26th, 2008, Molly suffered a debilitating spinal cord injury as a result of a car accident off Glasgow Road.  Thankfully, she survived to return to Fairfield at the beginning of February, where she convalesced at Parkview Care Center.  She was very happy to be so close to her Fairfield family and to be able to visit with her beloved friends.  On Friday, April 17th, Molly passed away at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, from complications relating to pneumonia.  She was 56, and is survived by her children, Evan and Willow Atkinson, both of Los Angeles.  Evan and Willow are grateful to be able to say that she passed away peacefully, free from anxiety and pain, surrounded by intimate friends.  Father Tom Miller administered Holy Unction and Last Rites before Molly passed, as she wished.  The memorial service was Thursday, April 23rd at St. Gabriel’s Liberal Catholic Church in Fairfield.

I wrote this poem on the Day of Lasting achievement which is described as the day when everthing goes into the gap and come out new.   — Ananka Kallmyer

Missing Miss Molly

I had a strong urge to visit Molly a couple weeks ago
At Parkview Nursing Home
The last time we spoke in the Dome, not long before her accident
We connected more than usual
I was unsure of protocol
Should I call or just show up?
I thought, “Maybe better to wait for the waxing moon”
I went to visit a friend instead who is twice Molly’s age
And wishes she were dead

Molly passed on on the waning moon
Which for me was way too soon
My sadness and regret were met with comforting kindness
By Molly’s son Evan
“It doesn’t matter” he said
I listened to sweet remembrances of close friends
All right there until the “end”
Her hero Frank took her dinner and a movie every night

My regret was for myself- an opportunity missed
Mother Nature is kind
She fulfills all desires in due time
I got to know Molly more in stories that poured from tender hearts
Above all Molly loves to dance
How gracefully she embraced this new found chance
Father Tom’s fatherly heart
Reminded us we are never apart

I think of Miss Molly and feel her love
She is here, not above and beyond reach
Molly said “Each moment is surrender”
I missed that precious chance to be with her in body and soul
I surrender now to the whole
I surrender to the dance.

January 26, 2009 update:

From a friend: I asked Molly if she preferred visits, talking on the phone, or cards and emails, and she said all are wonderful. She’s felt hugely supported by everyone’s kind thoughts and attention. She loves hearing from friends and feeling the love, feeling the support. She said she wonders what the purpose of her situation is, and what she did to create it. She said this in a thoughtful way, not a sad way. She said, I want everyone to know what an amazing gift we have just in our bodies, and our lives. We should cherish it and value it and never take it for granted.

Her words from my notes: “I really miss being whole and healthy and yet somehow it will be okay. I know it will all be okay. And also I keep fighting [I assumed she meant to recover as much as possible]. In one way, it’s like life has been greatly simplified for me. I don’t have all the details to deal with any more. My small self is still kicking about it sometimes, because I really loved those details! But it’s okay; if I feel really strong or really vulnerable, something in my higher self will come up and support me—and really, that’s how it always was in my life. I was distracting myself before, and mostly I was distracting myself in good ways, but now I’m face to face with the Holy of Holies. So I’ll get comfortable with it. I know I will.”

I got off the phone feeling so high and really grateful that Molly was in my life.

December 1, 2008 udpate:

Molly was able to resume breathing full-time on her own in early November. This allowed her to move from the Surgical Intensive Care Unit at UIHC to a neurological recovery unit. On December 1st she plans to “graduate” to a rehabilitation facility to begin many weeks of intensive physical therapy. She speaks clearly through her tracheotomy device,and has some use of both arms and limited use of her hands. She is not yet able to move her legs. Molly is deeply appreciative of all the love and support she has received from the community, and for the financial help that has been contributed to Steve Terry’s Medical Assistance Foundation for her benefit. Her recovery is very challenging and will continue that way for some time. The whole experience has been made easier by the love and attention of friends.

October 21, 2008 update:

Thank you again to everyone who has jumped in to help us with Mom. I’d like to give you a brief update on her condition. It is good, and improving daily, though as we all know, she has a ways to go. But that said, we are all confident she will eventually get there and be back with us at 100%!

After two weeks on the breathing tube, it was necessary that Mom get a trachaeotomy; a procedure that makes a hole in her throat that is temporary, where the ventilator will be attached. This makes it much easier to take her on and off ventilator support, and is known to be able to help “jumpstart” her breathing muscles which become very deconditioned after being on the breathing tube for a two-week period. When taken off the ventilator, she is able to speak in a whisper, using a valve that covers the hole. Mom was very thankful for this procedure. So were we! She couldn’t wait to get the breathing tube out of her throat as it was causing her considerable discomfort. At least now she can whisper, mouth words, and in general, look more like herself.

Her biggest challenge now is learning to breathe on her own again. Now that they’ve done the “trach”, they’ll leave her off ventilator support for hours at a time to breathe and check her blood pressure and oxygen levels. Her support staff has been fabulous and very attentive. Yesterday, she spent nearly 14 hours OFF the ventilator, breathing on her own. Excellent!! Breathing on her own does tire her out considerably, but she’s getting those muscles (which for all of us are constantly going, so we never notice it) back and whipping them into shape.

I would like to post a message from Art and Sue, who visited Mom just recently in the hospital:

“Sue & I visited Sunday Oct 19th with Molly for about 2 hours. She is alert, and speaks in full sentences thru the speaker-tube that is a part of her tracheotomy apparatus. This requires substantial effort on her part. She was 3 hours into 5 hours of breathing on her own (no ventilator) and was keeping her blood oxygen levels up very well. This was the 2nd day of 5 hours’ practice breathing on her own. All her energies are focused on learning to breathe again without the ventilator.

In spite of the great effort required for this work, she is able to smile, enjoy jokes, and express her thanks and appreciation for all the offers of help and support coming in from everyone.”

Thank you again to all of you who’ve shown great support and love to Mom, Willow and I during this time. Yes, it has been emotionally taxing, but at the end of the day, Willow and I are in great spirits that Mom will eventually heal and recover completely. In the meantime, we’re just going with the flow and taking one day at a time.

Please continue to send prayers and love her way. She needs them.




Here is the October 9, 2008 update posted by Evan & Willow:

Mom has some sensation from her stomach down to her knees. This is wonderful news, and very encouraging to hear, though we don’t know what it means long-term. We’ve learned not to look too far ahead, but to go day-by-day.

This said, to quote her doctor: ‘I nearly had a heart attack when she said she could feel her knee.’ The doctor triple-checked to make sure the reflex was real, then realized that Mom can slightly flex her quad muscle…!! Again, though we don’t know what it means long-term, this is great news, and very encouraging.

Keep saying prayers for Mom. Every one of them helps her and pushes her further along to being 100% healed. Her breathing tube should be coming out today as well, so we can’t wait to hear her voice again.

From Oct. 7:

Mom continues to grow stronger every day. Right now, we are waiting to have her blood pressure stabilize (it tends to be on the lower side naturally, which is good) and get above a certain level so the doctors will take her back off her breathing tube (the tube came out last Friday, but had to go back in to help her breathe again). She can’t wait to get it out. Hopefully, that will happen in the next day or so, and then it will stay out.

Now is the “hurry up and wait” time. Every day, the range of motion in her arms increases a little bit, and physical therapists are working with her to make sure her leg muscles are getting good circulation.

If updates come less frequently, it is because there is nothing new to report. Thank you all for being there and for supporting her. She still needs all the prayers and good energy, and will increasingly rely on you, her friends, as Willow and I will spend some of our time in California, and sometime here with Mom.