By Steve Guntli
After suffering a serious injury, Amy Sand learned what kind of community Blaine really is.
In November 2014, Sand fell in her garage trying to install a cabinet. Her leg was crushed in a folding painter’s stool, causing severe damage to her kneecap. She was taken to PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, and then transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle to see a specialist. The doctors told her that her tibial plateau had been shattered and her kneecap dislocated. She required several surgeries and was facing a potential four-week stay in Seattle.
“That’s when I really started freaking out,” she said. “I’ve never been away from my kids for that long. And then I started thinking about my job and how we were going to pay the bills if I wasn’t able to work.”
Sand’s stay at Harborview wasn’t as long as predicted. Doctors were able to perform all of her surgeries at once, and she was sent home after eight days. Unfortunately, her injury left her unable to support her weight, and doctors told her she wouldn’t be fully mobile again for at least a year. Sand was confined to a wheelchair, and was feeling terrible.
“I felt like a loser,” she said. “I hate feeling vulnerable, and this injury has left me completely vulnerable.”
Sand and her husband, Rob, have four kids at home, ranging from age 2 to 17. The two work at Paso del Norte Restaurant, and split their time between working and watching the kids. Kayley, their 17-year-old daughter, was willing to help, but she could only do so much, and with Rob having to spend more time at home to take care of the family, the Sands’ financial situation was looking dire.
At the insistence of the Sands’ friend Annie Magner, Amy posted about her dilemma on Facebook.
“That was not easy for me,” she said. “I’m very independent, and I have a hard time asking people for help. I don’t want to be a burden on anyone.”
Magner helped the family set up a GoFundMe.com account to help them pay their bills while Sand was recuperating.“Annie has been so wonderful,” Sand said. “I owe her everything.”
Almost immediately, the community rallied. Neighbors, friends and total strangers were bringing by groceries, offering to run errands and babysitting the kids. People made Thanksgiving dinner for the family, brought them a Christmas tree and made sure the kids had plenty of gifts to go under it. Skyler Anderson, a high school friend of Rob’s, offered to build the family a wheelchair ramp to their house, and Pacific Building Center donated the materials.
“I remember going to pay my overdue gas bill, and they told me it had already been taken care of,” Sand said. “I still don’t know who paid that.”
Kayley Sand remembers feeling overwhelmed.
“For the first month, it felt like packages were showing up on our doorstep every hour,” she said. “We’d leave the house and come back with gifts and groceries piled up on our porch.”
The Sands also benefited from the generosity of total strangers. Tracie Notar, an employee at Northwest Podiatric Laboratory in Blaine, didn’t know the Sands but heard of their story through a mutual friend’s Facebook link. She shared their story with her co-workers, the office organized a fundraiser, and was able to raise $436 for the Sands.
Steve Miller, a teacher for the Blaine school district, organized the Save The Sand Castle event at the Sands’ workplace, Paso del Norte, on February 7. Through donations and live auctions, they were able to raise more than $800 for the family. During a raffle, one attendee won a jackpot of nearly $200, and immediately donated his winnings to the family.
Sand still gets emotional thinking about the support.
“Without the support group we’ve had, we might be homeless right now,” Sand said. “I’ve never felt so loved in my life.”
Sand has been undergoing physical therapy. She can support her own weight now for short periods, and is looking forward to the day she walk again. She has an associates of science degree from Whatcom Community College and hopes to enter its nursing program by the end of the year.
She still has a long road to recovery, but the generosity of friends and neighbors have made it a little easier.
“To have all these every day people come out of nowhere to help my family, it’s truly restored my faith in humanity.”