By Ty H. Phillips
Five and a half years ago, I was told I was dying and it changed everything.
Shortly after, a little girl was born into my life that would literally and figuratively become part of my recovery—a recovery that many doctors thought would not happen. Going forward, we would be together every single day.
When I started exercising again, it was just a walk around the block. I would strap her on my chest in a little snuggle carrier and do one lap.
This small step would happen every day. I’d work up the nerve to get out of the house for 5 minutes, walk, come back, panic about my heart and fall asleep holding her.
Eventually that one block turned into two blocks and then three and then a mile. I’d bundle up, rain or shine, put her in the snuggly with her face resting into my chest and I’d walk. As time progressed and I started feeling better and more courageous, the city blocks turned into hikes in the woods at the Metro Parks. By this time, she was front facing and we would walk for a mile. I’d come home, panic about my heart and the distance from the hospital and we’d fall asleep together.
Eventually that mile on a bridle trail turned into two, three and four miles on hiking trails, up and down hills and working up a sweat.
We’d stop and take photos of flowers, snow covered pine bows, bugs, deer or anything that we saw. I’d write stories about our adventures and the worry I felt about being alive to see her first steps turned into first and second birthday parties.
Eventually I made a full recovery and Brynn turned three years old. I decided I was going to start lifting again and just like my first walk for my recovery, Brynn was there for the first attempt back under the bar. She was coloring on the garage floor with chalk and I had my old Gorilla Pit Chuck Taylors on, shoes that had been under a thousand pound squat and were now there for a few reps with just the bar.
I went down and came back up.
I stood there holding the bar and feeling my heart. I did a few more reps and of course, I had a panic attack. I sat in the rack, back against the wall trying to keep it together while she smiled and jumped and said, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy” over and over.
That first squat of just the bar again, became 135, 225, 315, 405, 500, 550 and then 600.
Each time I made big jumps, I would have my scheduled panic attack and worry about my heart, yet each visit to the doctor revealed not only a perfectly healthy heart but the most healthy overall body I have ever had. In May of 2016 I had my five year post NDE check up—Brynn was there.
We sat on the table into the doctor’s office—the same doctor that told me, “Ty, you’re dying.” I remember wondering if I would see her born, see her first steps, hear her first word, see my oldest graduate or the middle child get her license, or see the youngest again, go to her very first day of school.
Today happened to be that day. I dropped Brynn off, bright eyed, red-headed, smiles and giggles for her very first day of Kindergarten. She let go of my hand and ran to her teacher, excited to start a new chapter in her life. I kissed her and hugged her and walked back to my car, turning to see if she was waving or looking and saw instead that she was happily busy making new friends already.
I drove away happy to make another milestone in my recovery and yet fighting tears for the first time we will be apart.
I walked into the garage and saw my weights; I would now be lifting alone. I walked inside, grabbed a load of her dirty clothes and loaded them for the first time, without her there. I made my breakfast for the first time without her asking to help or telling me she was hungry as soon as I sat down to eat.
I put my bacon back on the plate—not hungry just yet. I’m taking a first step again.
Editor: Dana Gornall