Kind gestures during emotional times mean everything.

This week there is a trip down memory lane headed to eastern Washington when the "I Love The '90s" Tour hits the Tri-Cities on Sunday.

As a Class of '94 high school graduate, I have always loved the artists who'll be coming to town. But since everyone else I work with loves the '90s and planned on going I didn't expect there to be many tickets left over for miscellaneous staff after all the winners were taken care of. I never asked for tickets.

Then my sister asked me, so I said I would check to see if there were any left over. There were not.

This week, my sister drove over to Seattle to Harborview, where some of the premiere neurologists and surgeons in the country work.

They saved her life a few years ago when out of the blue, my otherwise healthy little sister had a stroke at the age of 28.

When she was diagnosed at Kadlec's emergency room, they immediately flew her by helicopter to Harborview. I made it to Seattle after flying across the state in my car and saw her before she went into surgery.

We had no idea what the future was going to look like. Was my sister going to live? What kind of life would she have? Was she going to be the same person? Was she going to be paralyzed?

My parents lived in Texas, my other sister in Missouri. Amanda only lived here because back in 2010 my ex-wife was undergoing major back surgery. In fact, Amanda came here just for the surgery, so I could be there in Seattle for two weeks by my (now ex) wife's side. I talked her into going by WorkSource, because you get a job within days of a visit by using their resources. She listened and soon lived here full time, helping me with my five daughters, and never went back to Texas.

This event was not only going to change my sister Amanda's life forever, but the entire world shifted for our family. My parents put their lives on hold and spent the next few weeks staying in a cabin in North Bend as my sister was in rehab learning to walk and talk again.

Amanda sits outside Harborview, where she stayed to rehab for several weeks. I took her dogs so they could see mommy.

My mother, who works for AARP, had someone from the organization let them stay at their weekend cabin. It was on the Snohomish River, which fork I do not remember. It was beautiful and quiet.


I like to think it gave my parents refuge when they needed it most.


What we learned over the next few weeks shook the foundations of my family to its core. We are a military family and one of the proudest things about my father is his military service for the United States Air Force.

We love our country and felt the privilege and obligation a family undertakes representing our country abroad. My father had his duty as a crew chief on the flightline at Kadena Air Force Base. As a family, my parents stressed we had our duty to be a good representation of Americans in a foreign country. We got involved with the military community and local community.

There isn't much of the island of Okinawa that I haven't personally explored either through the jungle or on the beach or on the reef or in the cities that made up so much of the southern part of the island.

My father Ray, mom Carmel, my sister Sondra, Amanda and me drinking a soda.
My father Ray, mom Carmel, my sister Sondra, Amanda and me drinking a soda.

I have always been proud of my father and our military. Specifically with respect to our bases on Okinawa and how we truly protect not only United States' interests, but we protect the Okinawans and Japanese from not so friendly neighbors.

But now, like many young kids who grew up on Okinawa military bases, my sister suffers from a rare disorder.

Getting ready to run around the island of Okinawa with the Hash House Harriers.
Amanda getting ready to run around the island of Okinawa with the Hash House Harriers.

My sister's disease is so rare, less than 20 people in the United States are currently diagnosed with it. Moyamoya disease is a rare, progressive cerebrovascular disorder caused by blocked arteries at the base of the brain in an area called the basal ganglia. The name “moyamoya” means “puff of smoke” in Japanese and describes the look of the tangle of tiny vessels formed to compensate for the blockage.

Like many former military and family members who have health problems as a result of living on their bases, if it weren't for the Affordable Care Act, my sister would have had a different outcome. I certainly wouldn't have my awesome nephew Kai running around and filling our lives with love and laughter. My sister's medical journey probably would have ended a lot sooner and a lot sadder. My sister would probably be dead.

That's the perspective from which we look back at our time on Okinawa now.

Since then my sister has recovered, become a really good single mom, and gone back to school, majoring in business. She is taking her finals and getting ready to get her associate's degree in the next few weeks.

Hendo's family

This week my sister also learned that she has to undergo the same brain surgery to repair the opposite side of her brain. Like soon -- or risk another stroke on a different part of the brain. On Monday, she will undergo one of the first presurgical scans that her neurosurgeon will perform himself to build his surgical plan. The delicacy of certain brain surgical procedures usually require weeks of planning. Her surgery is set for the beginning of May.

This is a progressive disease. There is no cure.

So this week when my sister got back from Seattle and asked if I could ask again about tickets to see Vanilla Ice and the '90s tour, I went to Kelly West. Kelly told me that we absolutely had none left, all the winners had picked them up.

Y'all, she gave up her tickets that SHE was going to use so I could take my sister.

When Kelly West learned about my sister, she felt better about her decision I think, but she burst into tears.

But it's little moments like this silly concert that you remember in moments like these.

I am reminded of a concert I got to go to with one of my friends before he passed away. Joel Baker, before he passed, got to see The Cowboy Rides Away one last time on George Strait's farewell tour. My sister Amanda and I had a blast with JB and his awesome wife Kelly Grove-Baker.

Amanda, Kelly, JB, and me

Thanks, Kelly West, for letting my sister have a much-needed break from taking finals as she gets set to graduate with her associate's in business and oh yeah, have a little brain surgery when she gets done.

Hug your kids, love your family and friends. And thank them for being awesome when it counts.

And then, pay it forward. When you get a chance to step up and do something kind, even and especially if it is a stranger, just do it. You may never know just how much it can mean.

Kelly West had no idea why I asked for tickets, but she fought to make it happen once she learned why. That's stepping up as a friend and I hope I am as good a person as Kelly when I get the next chance.

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