I am Cole Turnbull
Let’s start when I was 3. Too young to really understand, but the night the sheriff came knocking on our door to inform my mom that my dad had been killed in a logging accident still sticks in my head. Whether it was actually how it went down, or how I have trained myself to think it did I may never know. My family had grown up logging, making a name and business out of it. My dad, and his twin brother who was killed in an auto accident when he was 19 grew up with axes and chainsaws. That was what they knew. It was instilled in their minds from when they were children, and it was a life changing event for me as well. I was never allowed to even dream of carrying on the family tradition (as Hank Williams belts). My family had seen too many people close to them succumb to the dangerous profession. My father was a great man from the stories I hear on a consistent basis, as well as involved in the community. Right before he passed he donated all of the labor and materials to build a little league field. It was dedicated to him “Turnbull Athletic Field” after he had passed away. Years after, my mom re-married much to the dismay of my brother and I. Part of the dismay was sharing our mother with a new man, and the other part was we could see through him, and he was nowhere close the man that my dad was. My dad would give you the shirt off his back, would be the one to call when you needed a hand no matter what the issue was, he would bend over backwards for those he loved, but wasn’t one that you wanted to betray. He was a lover, and on occasion a fighter, my mom’s ex husband was exactly the opposite. I like to believe that I still carry on that family tradition.
I believe my life story really started when I became an “adult”. By the time I had graduated high school, and enrolled at Arizona State University I had the whole world at my fingertips, or so I thought. With my mom’s ex now out of the picture, she had gone from being retired, to waiting tables at a golf resort, apartment living. I had no financial support. Talk about an eye opener. As a freshman in college I responded to an ad in the school paper that read “are you sports minded?”. Of course I think holy shit, I have to call this number right now. The next day I walk into this office in Tempe thinking that I am going to be working for the Diamondbacks, but instead I would be selling car care packages door to door. Every weekend, 3 evenings during the week I would go out with my “crew” knocking on doors, begging, and pestering people. I worked solely on commission, there was no minimum wage, but I know I would have made more working at Whataburger. Even though I didn’t make jack at that job, it did teach me a life lesson. I would never knock on doors again no matter what I did. Proud to say lesson learned, and I haven’t knocked on a door since. By the time I was a senior in college, believe it or not it only took me 4.5 years to graduate from the biggest party school on earth, I had become an account manager at a Valet Stand in the Biltmore which is an upscale area of Phoenix. I was putting myself through college, living a fun life, and making $20+ an hour making my own schedule. Everything was going great until my Dad’s mom, Grandma Mary Ann, who I always had a special relationship with fell very ill, and on her death bed. In a days notice I had to put school, and work on hold to fly back to Idaho to see my Grandma. I made it before she passed, but was unable to have any sort of conversation with her. I couldn’t stand to see her in the state that she was in. She was the first female real estate agent in Kootenai County, and is the main reason why I chose to get into the business. She was STRONG, put up with no bull shit, and a pioneer. She would have been a great fit for this community.
After my Grandma had passed I stuck around for her Wake, she didn’t want a funeral, she wanted a party. On the day of her wake my other grandma, Renee had taken a turn for the worse in battling lung cancer. Hospice was brought in and she was put on her death bed. Meanwhile, Grandpa Johnny was always battling health issues including diabetes, heart disease, and who knows what else. He was watching the love of his life of 50+ years die and couldn’t take it anymore. He stopped taking his meds, quit eating, and had given up. He kicked the bucket before my Grandma did, but only by 12 hours. A True love story that can’t be made up. So unbelievable that my professors didn’t believe me and wanted to see obituaries. My Grandparents were buried in the same casket, just how it was supposed to be.
Soon after the whirlwind of losing all three of my grandparents in the matter of ten days, my mom began to experience health problems. She was soon diagnosed with Pulmonary Hypertension. This was a disease that had extreme life changing effects that I would have never expected. Constantly in and out of the hospital in CDA and Spokane, she finally decided she needed to move back to Arizona where she could get better health care. In Phoenix, there was a specialist who only worked on patients with this disease. There is no cure for this disease currently, only treatments. September 16th, 2013 I received a phone call from my mom. She was very upset, her doctor appointment didn’t go well. She was to check herself into the hospital the next morning for some tests, and possibly be put on the list for a Lung Transplant. Holy shit, lung transplant had never been brought up to her, or my brother and I. I instantly booked a ticket to Phoenix. At this point I had my real estate license for 6 months, and was about to close on my 3rd and 4th transactions, but also working as a bellman at the Coeur d’Alene Resort to supplement my income. I would have never survived the first year of real estate without working all day in real estate, and all night at the hotel. I arrived in Phoenix on September 18th, and went directly to the hospital. When I got to the hospital I searched for her room, but she wasn’t where I thought she would be. She was in the ICU. A simple oxygen machine wasn’t enough for her to breath, she had an oxygen mask on. After two long days of running tests and watching her numbers, the doctors approached us wanting to put her on the lung transplant list. No fucking way did I ever expect this disease would lead to going on a transplant list. This means that someone that has the same blood type, typically under 40 years of age, non smoker, donor, has to die and still have functional lungs. So we started exploring this route as my mom’s oxygen saturations were in the 70’s with the oxygen mask, a typical normal person should be in the 90’s. September 21st, 2013 my brother flew down, and my mom was put on the list for transplant. There are lots of people on the list, but they go in order of how urgent they need the transplant. My mom was penciled into the 2nd slot. By 4pm that Saturday afternoon they transplant team believed they had a possible match, but only if it didn’t match with the person who was number 1 on the list. Luckily for our family, for whatever reason, the donor lungs didn’t match the first person, and the team was going to pick up the lungs from wherever they were in the state, and would start the transplant that night. We said our goodbyes to my mom as she was in the pre op room, we are all scared shitless. That was the longest night of my life. Every couple of hours someone would come into the waiting room and give my brother and I updates. Around 7am the surgeon came in and sat down and began speaking with us. He said that the surgery went as well as they could have hoped, that her lungs were in such bad shape that he doubted she would have survived through Sunday without the transplant. She was alive, but it would be a long road to recovery. The statistics for lung transplant patients aren’t very good. Something like 90% survival rate in year one, 70% in year two, and 50% by year three. She was in the ICU for weeks post transplant, on breathing machines for the first week. She was eventually moved out of ICU towards the end of October. That is over a month of being in the ICU. It was then a couple of weeks out of the ICU, but doing physical therapy trying to get enough strength back to be able to go home. This entire time my brother and I are trying to juggle our jobs to pay the bills, and still be there to take care of our mom. We alternated trips to the desert for the next 4 months being caregivers. Those 4 months were full of life long lessons.
The strength my mom showed made me realize that she is no quitter, it just isn’t an option. If you quit, you die. This is what I have taken away from this life lesson. I have never been a quitter, and I don’t plan on ever being one. I recently started the next chapter of my life. I got married to my beautiful bride last September, and hope to get my mom her grandkids someday soon. I am a huge Seahawks fan, and outdoors sportsman. My mom’s health has been getting better and better. We moved her back to Idaho in May of 2014, and she goes back and forth to Phoenix every other month for Dr appointments. She has been able to receive many of the treatments she needs here in Coeur d’Alene, but consumes 10+ medications every day, fighting off anti bodies constantly just for life. My mom has made me who I am. As Fletcher says, “slaying dragons every day”. I believe this family resembles exactly what my family has always stood for. After all, Family is all you have!