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Tina Garrett and Kathy Hofmann The Spirit Of...
Tina Garrett and Kathy Hofmann The Spirit Of Life A Collaborative Exhibition
July 21, 2012
Painting By Tina Garrett
By Wendy Hayworth
Intern Reporter for the Tribune
“I started writing after my first daughter died,” Councilwoman Kathy Hofmann began.
Kathy Hofmann is well known throughout Lee’s Summit, not only as an advocate to the preservation of our city, but as a truly selfless person. However, to those who know her story, Kathy serves as an inspiration.
Kathy will be presenting her life’s story through her poems and the oil paintings of Tina Garrett Friday, July 27th at the Stanley Historic Event Space at 25 Southeast Third Street from 6 to 9pm.
The funds earned form the auction of “The Spirit of Life” painting and booklets outlining Kathy’s life will go to the “Gift of Life Endowment Fund”, through The Truman Heartland Foundation. The Gift of Life aims to educate people of all ages about the importance of organ donations. In addition, they help transplant patients cope with the knowledge that they live because someone died.
To truly understand the emotion, strength and pain expressed through both the written word and the oil stained brush, one must know the struggles and tragedies Kathy has faced throughout her lifetime.
Chapter 1 – The Gossamer Touch
Each of Kathy’s four children faced health problems at a young age. Her first daughter, Melissa has had her kidney operated on three times. Angela, her second daughter, was prone to seizures as early as age two. That was only the beginning.
“When the twins were born they told us, ‘Put them in a home and forget you had them,’” Kathy remembered.
Both Amy and Amber were born with Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome. They weren’t expected to live past six weeks. Kathy was determined to take them home.
While Amber was able to come home after five weeks in the hospital, Amy spent the first three months of her life without the comfort of her mother’s embrace. Kathy never wavered. She had the nurses teach her how to care for her child so that Amy could come home.
“It was just like she was in hospital care,” Kathy said.
Amy held on for four years.
“She was too tired to fight anymore,” Kathy said.
Even though she was the smaller of the two, Amy was certainly the dominant one. Kathy remembers how she always glowed. When Amy passed many expected Amber to follow. Just the opposite happened.
“She was pulling the life that Amy always had,” Kathy said, “She had everyone wrapped around her finger.”
Amber soon learned to walk and began to learn basic sign language.
“She was not the fighter that Amy was. I always knew that Amber would just one day be gone,” Kathy said.
Amber would live five whole years longer than her sister. Like her sister, Amber passed quietly in her sleep. That morning Kathy woke up with tears flowing down her face. She knew they were for Amber.
Kathy remembered an event that occurred only a few weeks before, “she took my face, I call it a gossamer touch, and pulled me towards her and she looked into me. I said, ‘You’re going to leave me aren’t you?’ I just felt it.”
Amber was buried in the same grave as her sister.
“You’re never prepared,” Kathy said.
Chapter 2 – Persistence
Kathy was beginning to notice that she was having certain problems. Having been informally diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few years before Kathy didn’t think much of it when her vision would occasionally double.
Eventually Kathy was sent to a neurologist. She was told that it was either MS or a brain tumor. An MRI test would confirm one or the other.
“I came into the doctor’s office on Friday that week, which was my mom’s birthday. I was by myself, I hadn’t told anybody that I had an MRI,” Kathy said.
It was that day, August 19th, 1988 that Kathy was told she had a brain tumor.
“I got as far as the lobby and I sat down and cried,” Kathy remembered.
With her two daughters in mind, Kathy returned to work that day.
Kathy was told the tumor was inoperable as it was skull based and wrapped around her optic nerve, auditory nerve, carotid artery, pituitary gland and was pushing on her brainstem.
The doctor said he would remove half of the tumor.
After the operation she was told that she had maybe two years. Taking from the lessons learned from many doctor visits with her daughters, Kathy demanded to see the post-op MRI.
The doctor threw his hands into the air and said that she didn’t need to see it. After much persistence, Kathy and her parents are taken into a hallway by a nurse who then holds the image up to the hallway light.
Kathy asked why they were using the hallway light instead of the one in the doctor’s office.
“The light is brighter,” the nurse replied.
Something was obviously not right. That’s when Kathy realized that nothing looked different. The doctor had only performed a biopsy. He had not removed half of the tumor like he had told her.
“If I had not questioned him, I would not be here,” Kathy said.
After a second doctor refused to operate, Kathy’s mom began to call around. They found a doctor in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.
“He took one look at my MRIs and said, ‘I can get it,’” Kathy said.
Kathy returned home to make her decision. She could die from this the tumor, she could die from the surgery, or she could live.
“I had no choice,” Kathy said.
The operation lasted 13 hours. It was a success.
However, the doctor warned her that if he left even one cell it could come back.
Chapter 3 – Saying Hi
Shortly after marrying her second husband, Lee, they found out that he had major heart problems. Within the next month he was on the heart transplant list at St. Lukes.
“You sometimes feel that you’re put in people’s lives for a reason. I felt my reason was to prepare him for his journey,” Kathy said.
Lee was on the transplant list for nine months before his operation. Everything seemed to be working perfectly fine.
Nine months later, Lee began to falter. One of the blood transfusions given to him had Hepatitis C.
“It was just destroying his body. He began the battle of just surviving,” Kathy said.
It was while watching her husband fight that Kathy wrote her poem “The Spirit of Life.” This is the poem that would inspire an award given to nurses at St. Luke's, and the name of the upcoming art show.
“The body is the handicap. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sick body or a healthy body, your body is a handicap. It’s the spirit inside that you are,” Kathy said.
Her husband passed away on January 24, 1997. One week before, he had been diagnosed with melanoma.
Lee wished to die at home with his friends and family instead of in a hospital bed.
Melissa was pregnant with her first baby at that time. Lee was mad that he wouldn’t get to see his first grandchild.
“I said, ‘I think you’ll see this one before I do. Just promise me one thing.’ He looked at me and said, ‘What?’ I said, ‘Promise me that it’s a cute one,’” Kathy said, “’You’re going to see Amy and Amber too, so tell them I said hi.’”
Lee came home from the hospital on a Thursday. He died the next morning at four am.
Melissa named her daughter, Kay Lee, in honor of him and her mother’s family.
Kathy would later have three grandchildren named Abigail, Anna, and Alyssa; they are her world.
Chapter 4 – Oh What the Heck
Running for council was something that had never crossed Kathy’s mind.
Kathy spent nine months rezoning her neighborhood in an attempt to save the historic houses from being destroyed for commercial purposes.
“I met with neighbors but most of them were seniors and I knew they couldn’t do it so I took it upon myself to go door to door to get homeowner signatures,” Kathy said.
Shortly after she had finished rezoning, a seat opened up in the city council. Kathy began to receive calls from friends, neighbors and the historic society. They wanted her to run.
“I thought, ‘Oh what the heck’ so I ran,” Kathy said.
Kathy hadn’t been on the council for six months when enough signatures were gathered for a recall.
“What we found out when they turned in the petition was that they had forged signatures,” Kathy said.
Kathy was voted back into her chair with 75% of the vote.
“I thought I still had a purpose,” Kathy said.
Throughout her life, Kathy has found comfort in poetry. By placing her pen on the paper she was able to cope with life’s challenges. As the words flowed from her heart to the ink, she was able to heal.
These poems were given to local artist, Tina Garrett, for her to use as inspiration. Tina selected poems and expressed their message and feeling through the vivid colors of oil paint.
Kathy’s story is for all to learn and take from.
“I feel my life has been good. I have nothing to complain about,” Kathy said.
Please join us on Friday, July 27th at the Stanley Historic Event Space at 25 Southeast Third Street from 6 to 9 p.m. to experience her tale for yourself.
Gift of Life is a local nonprofit that builds awareness of the critical need for organ and tissue donation, and provides services to those waiting for a transplant, new recipients, living donors and their families. There are two ways they serve our community: The Life Savers classroom program for high school students is offered in 80 area high schools and reaches 25,000 individuals each year; The Life Mentors program gives encouragement and support to transplant families as they wait for a second chance at life. Like many local nonprofits, they benefit by the services offered through the Truman Heartland Community Foundation and local supporters
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