Prather’s Pick: A powerful memoir by a former Craig resident
“Please Excuse the Mess: A Memoir” was written by Heather Portenier, a former Craig resident. According to a brief synopsis on the back cover of the book, the memoir “is an inspirational story of courage, forgiveness, faith, strength, and the power of love.” It’s all that and more, including the power of stick-to-itiveness.
The book begins with a short prologue, a look back at a heart-wrenching time — Aug. 13, 2007. It was the beginning of tragedies and challenges that the family faced through seven-year span.
The morning of Aug. 13, Heather got a call from Pioneer Hospital in Meeker, informing her that her husband Travis and son Kamron were there. On the way home to Grand Junction from Craig, where father and son were visiting relatives, Travis hit a deer. The car’s air bag deployed, and Travis’ visibility was reduced. He did see a truck, though, and swerved, hitting a soft spot. The car went down an embankment, rolled five or six times and hit a boulder.
Kamron, who was 8 years old, was pinned inside. His leg smashed through a side window.
Heather didn’t know all of the details of the accident at the time — neither does the reader until later on in the book — but she was told that Travis had a head injury and Kamron was unconscious and badly injured. He was going to be flown to the trauma center in Grand Junction.
The prologue ends, “Welcome to my life … please, excuse the mess.”
Then chapters one through three goes backwards in time, and the reader learns more about Heather and Travis, how they met, their move to Grand Junction, their wedding, Kamron’s birth, moving to Maine, Heather’s own business, college and more.
In chapter four, “Fate Pulls the Trigger” and following chapters, the reader learns about Kamron’s recovery. At first, no one knew if he would live. He suffered a depressed skull fracture, severe traumatic brain injury, multiple brain and lung contusions and a broken tibia and fibula. He was on a ventilator and was in a drug-induced coma to aid in the brain injury recovery.
Kamron had a tracheostremy tube, a shunt in his brain, and his injury caused him to “posture” resembling seizures. Unbelievable.
Heather and Travis had to learn how to care for him, which included using the feeding bags, changing diapers, suctioning the trach tube and bathing.
Eventually, Kamron was transferred to Children’s Hospital in Denver, where he made baby steps toward recovery. Heather and Travis blogged about his recovery on a webpage. Some of the blogs are included in the book.
Kamron recovered. He was able to walk and talk. However, in the seventh grade he had to have surgery on his leg again and part of his right vocal cord had to be removed. At the end of the book, Heather wrote that Kamron will need support for the rest of his life.
But there were other family tragedies and challenges, too. Heather was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Her father had a stroke. Heather’s mother, who suffered from depression, died. Then Travis’ father died. Their home was burglarized. It was enough to test anyone’s marriage — just as it did with Heather and Travis — but Heather summed things up at the end of the book: “It’s our mess of a life, but we’re in it together.”
“Please Excuse the Mess” (I love the title) is in softcover. The cover was designed by Heather and Michael Green. There are photos in the book, plus a sneak peek into Heather’s novel that will be out next spring.
The memoir is self-published. To find out more about the book, contact Downtown Books in Craig. Heather will be at Downtown Books from 2 to 4 p.m. Nov. 7 for a book signing.
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