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  • Mesothelioma the Scourge of Asbestos Continued

    Over the past months we’ve focused more on the effects of Asbestos. We’ve invited a first person experience with the devastating disease that is spawned by asbestos. Let me introduce you to Katherine Keys.

    Katherine Keys has been fighting Mesothelioma for 9+years. When she was first diagnosed, doctors told her she had less than 2 years. Katherine refused to believe her time was limited and instead decided to fight the cancer. Katherine is convinced that it was her positive attitude and determination to win that has allowed her to survive against the odds.

    At first Katherine thought she had the flu. She was prescribed medication and painkillers but the pain persisted. When the pain was too much to take, Katherine went to the ER, it was there that she discovered she had cancer. Katherine was 49 years old when she was diagnosed with Stage 1 pleural Mesothelioma.

    For treatment, Katherine had her right lung and the lining of the lung removed, a major surgical procedure called extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP). After several months of recovery, Katherine began radiation treatments at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She had treatments five times per week for several months. Although she had been scheduled for chemotherapy treatments, she was relieved to learn that she didn’t have to have them.

    Upon completing her treatments, Katherine attended her regularly scheduled follow-up appointments. At first, they were monthly, then every two months, three months, six months…and now annually. Her follow-up appointments typically consistent of blood tests, a PET scan, x-rays and other tests to confirm that she is still cancer-free.

    She was also helped greatly by the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma Lawyer Center. They helped her obtain legal and guidance information which helped with her treatments and quality of life.

    Today, Katherine feels blessed to be able to spend time with her family and share her story with other people living with mesothelioma. While she has been through a lot and is still challenged by physical pain and limitations after having a lung removed.

    Katherine continues to be an advocate and survivor offering hope for those suffering or will suffer from the burden of this disease.

    We genuinely want to thank Katherine for sharing her story. We would also like to again acknowledge the input of Kyle Walsh for his expertise in prior articles including our Blog “Exposed to Asbestos? Now What?" Kyle can be reached at this kwalsh@asbestos.com . Kyle, is from Public Outreach Department for the Mesothelioma Center whom you can also reach at 844-859-9315.

    Here at safetyinstruction.com we support “Veterans” If you are a Veteran, and believe you have been exposed to asbestos or have experienced any of the symptoms described, Please do not hesitate to contact either one of these organizations, or contact us here by e-mail info@safetyinstruction.com or call 866-598-2128 and we can help you find a source.

    For all of the information and training available this is still a very active OSHA complaint and reason for citations, which can in of itself be very expensive. If asbestos awareness is a part of your training, take it serious! We do offer a comprehensive OSHA Compliant “On Line” asbestos awareness course. Please again do not hesitate to call us here with your questions 866-598-2128 or visit us on line.

  • Exposed to asbestos? Now what?

    Last month we discussed The importance of Protective gear when working with asbestos. The information came from “Public Outreach Department for the Mesothelioma Center” Kyle Walsh. Kyle offered to expand on this and we were excited to accept his offer. These folks have a wealth of knowledge in this area, and its an ongoing safety issue which needs to be dealt with.

    What to Do if Exposed to Asbestos

    There is no reason to panic if you have been exposed to asbestos, the toxic mineral that can cause a number of serious health issues.

    But there is good reason to stay vigilant.

    Although no amount of asbestos exposure is considered safe, the odds are still great for developing an asbestos-related disease. Asbestos exposure can lead to a variety of respiratory illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma cancer. But it’s far from automatic. Millions of Americans each year experience some type of asbestos exposure, but only a small percentage is diagnosed with a serious disease.

    The majority of those being diagnosed today are those who experienced prolonged, occupational exposure many years before. And even then, there is no certainty.

    An estimated 3,000 people in the U.S. are still diagnosed annually with mesothelioma. By comparison, an estimated 220,000 will be diagnosed with lung cancer.

    There are a handful of mesothelioma cases stemming from second-hand, or casual, one-time exposure, but they are not typical or common. Although the use of asbestos and asbestos products has dropped significantly in recent decades, the ubiquitous use of asbestos through much of the 20th century remains with us today in commercial and residential structures. There were more than 2,000 different products once made with asbestos. Many are still with us. The danger still exists, so be aware and alert to the warning signs.

    Asbestos diseases start with the inhalation or ingestion of the microscopic asbestos fibers that can become lodged in the thin lining around the thoracic cavity or abdomen.

    Unfortunately, there is no widely accepted screening test, such as a mammogram or colonoscopy, to check for early asbestos-related disease. Asbestos-related disease does present some initial symptoms that can be recognized and lead to early detection, which is critical when it comes to therapy. Although the symptoms often mirror those of less-serious health problems, do not just ignore them if they persist. Symptoms to look for include:

    • Tightness or pain in the chest • Shortness of breath • A dry hacking cough • Unexplained weight loss

    Anyone with a background that includes consistent occupational exposure or anyone from the military where asbestos was so prevalent, should take special note.

    “Don’t just blow off those symptoms. Don’t just sit home and try to be a hero if these symptoms don’t go away in a couple weeks after taking antibiotics,” said mesothelioma specialist and thoracic surgeon Dr. Rodney Landreneau in Pittsburgh. “Don’t let your doctor just dismiss the problem. Ask for an X-ray to start. It could be something serious.”

    Those symptoms could be a sign of pleural plaques, which are fibrous thickenings of the thin lining around the lungs, a chronic inflammatory condition. Those plaques are not cancerous. They are treatable, but could signal an increased risk for mesothelioma in the future. Pleural plaques should be monitored by a cancer specialist.

    They also are a signal to see a specialist who understands asbestos-related diseases. A specialist can put you through a series of diagnostic procedures that can identify potential problems.

    Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, there are curative therapies that work if it diagnosed early enough. Most of the time, it is not diagnosed until it already has metastasized. The latency period between exposure to asbestos and diagnosis can be anywhere from 20-50 years.

    “If we catch it early enough, it’s something we can really help people with,” Landreneau said. “It can make a huge difference. Therapies are much more effective today than they once were. There have been some wonderful advancements in treating this disease in recent years. But you have to catch it early."

    So stay vigilant.

    Again we want to thank Kyle and his team for the information. you can reach Kyle by e-mail kwalsh@asbestos.com . Here at SafetyInstruction.com we do offer several opportunities to comply with OSHA regulations including a 2hr “on Line” Asbestos awareness course http://www.safetyinstruction.com/online-safety-training/asbestos-awareness-training-online.html

    Thanks and Make it a Safe Day

  • Kudos to Union Safety Training and US Labor

    Training is now in session; All Rise! In the last year or so, I was pressed into service by a request by my son. He and his family live in a large 2 story brick period home here in Wisconsin. Does the movie “Money Pit” ring a bell? Well it needs a lot of TLC, and on occasion you need to get a little rough with it. Starting with bathroom updates, walls and plumbing. Next, outside gutters and downspouts, and then tackling broken windows. Fifty years ago my dad taught me how to glaze windows. Little did I know that I was going to draw on that lesson and put it to use.

    My son is in the trades, a Union Steam Fitter. I’ve always been impressed by the thorough training provided to them, including safety. I found out first hand, that they also train members to take it home as well. Work on the bathroom project included housekeeping, hearing, and eye protection.

    Once the weather warmed we moved to outside projects. First up was the gutter Window Fixingreplacement. I watched as he meticulously prepared himself with a fall protection harness and anchorage, as a good share of the work had to be done from the roof, and did I mention that there is a full size cupola on top of this 2 story home? He prepared the ladder with correct height, angle and distance from the base of the building, including a spotter. I was in the middle of a safety training session, and he wasn’t one bit embarrassed to use the skills and lessons he had learned. Once the old gutters and hangers were removed, the house was ready for the contractors to install new ones. Secretly I thanked God for that choice.

    Fast forward about 8 weeks. It was time to take the window repair serious. A two man job for sure. These old windows were large and cumbersome. We had eight broken panes to replace. I don’t know why they don’t spell pane the right way, they’re a PAIN! Now I know why my dad always had a few choice adjectives to explain the work. Frames also needed new glazing as well. The bottom windows went fairly smooth, but the hard part was yet to come.

    It was a very warm and humid weekend in August so yes heat was a factor and hydration was also in play. The hard part was the 2nd story windows. I was aboScaffoldingut to get a lesson in scaffolding, leveling, erecting and safety. I watched my son work slowly with precision and safety right down to the proper rigging to hoist the individual frame. He even showed me how to tie a secure knot (Now we’re even, I had to show him how to tie a tie). Well we finished the windows, and before we called it a day, he took extra care in cleaning up, not just storing the scaffolding and equipment, but making sure that we didn’t miss any broken glass or dropped glazing points. I don’t think I mentioned that he has two dogs and three youngsters, and was concerned for their safety also.

    At the end of the day I was impressed, proud, and tired. Through these projects, and he’s a long way from the finish line, I had witnessed the results of safety training at its best. Housekeeping, PPE, hearing protection, hand tool safety, ladder safety, fall protection, and scaffolding safety. I’m not sure what’s next, but I want to thank all of you who are responsible for taking time to train our nation’s workers!

    Here at safetyinstruction.com we also want to take a moment to congratulate and celebrate our nation’s workers as we approach Labor Day. Enjoy and make it a safe day. Anyone want to buy an old house?

  • The Importance of Protective Gear When Working with Asbestos

    Here at Safetyinstruction.com we are always grateful to include the thoughts and knowledgeable information of all those who specialize in certain areas of expertise. This article came to us from Kyle Walsh, Kyle is a member of the Public Outreach Department for the Mesothelioma Center:

    The Importance of Protective Gear When Working with Asbestos

    Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was once revered for its versatility

    and its high heat resistance. The valuable substance was once added to a variety of products, including construction materials, insulation, roofing tiles, fireproofing spray and so much more. For decades, the mineral was used throughout homes and job sites.

    Decades later, experts linked asbestos exposure to multiple illnesses: Malignant mesothelioma, chronic lung disease, lung cancer and more. Unfortunately, it was too late. The substance had been used in so many places that millions today remain at risk of developing asbestos-related conditions.

    However, you can still protect yourself from contamination by wearing protective gear such as respirators, goggles and coveralls.

    Where to Find Asbestos

    Because of its versatility, asbestos was added to a wide array of products.

    Many people may not realize their daily activities may have exposed them to asbestos. There are three key places to watch for the deadly substance: Your job, your home and public buildings you frequent.

    According to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, over 75 different occupational groups have exposed workers to the deadly mineral. The Asbestostop five occupations notorious for exposure:



    Power plants



    If you work in a different industry, you are not in the clear. It’s important to watch for any possible spills or exposure sites and to report them immediately.

    Asbestos can also be found in homes. Most homes and buildings constructed between the 1930s and the late 1970s contain the toxic substance. When not handled properly, home and building renovations and do-it-yourself projects can take a dangerous turn.

    When undisturbed, the mineral does not pose a major health concern. The real issue arises when it is disturbed because microscopic fibers break off and become airborne. In turn, these tiny fibers can be inhaled or ingested, which can then become lodged in the lining of the lungs or abdomen. The scarring that results from these lodged fibers eventually leads to asbestos-related conditions that then require medical treatment.

    That's why wearing protective gear is so important to your health.

    Preventing Exposure with Protective Gear

    If possible, avoid any asbestos exposure.

    Do not try to handle asbestos on your own. If that is not an option for you, be sure to take all possible precautions by using personal protective equipment. This protective gear can prevent exposure to the toxic mineral, which may limit your risk for mesothelioma and other diseases.

    According to the Minnesota Department of Health, “In addition to using proper removal procedures, using personal protective equipment will significantly reduce your exposure to asbestos fibers.”


    Respirators are an important form of protective gear when working with any form of toxic mineral. By purifying the air you are breathing, respirators can limit the inhalation of the deadly fibers. It’s important to get a respirator that fits properly; if it does not fit, they provide little to no protection.

    If possible, request a fit test before purchasing a respirator. Given the nature of respirators, it is important to talk to your doctor before using one as it can cause your lungs to work harder.


    Coveralls are essential for keeping debris off of your clothes. There are numerous reports of asbestos exposure causing mesothelioma from washing someone’s clothes. By making sure you wear coveralls over your clothes, leaving them at the job site and showering before coming home, you can limit the number of fibers taken home with you.

    Disposal coveralls are also a good solution to prevent recontamination because all asbestos will be tossed in the trash with the used coveralls. The downside is that many disposable coveralls are hot and uncomfortable, but a little discomfort is certainly better than possible asbestos exposure.


    Not only is protective eyewear important for protecting you from any flying debris, but it will also limit the amount of loose asbestos fibers that can pierce the delicate parts of your eyes. They are especially useful when removing floor tiles that may contain asbestos.

    Asbestos is a toxic mineral with deadly consequences. By limiting your exposure and wearing protective gear, you can limit your risk of developing a variety of debilitating diseases.

    Again we want to thank Kyle and the Public Outreach Department for the Mesothelioma Center! You can reach Kyle by E-mail at kwalsh@asbestos.com

    If you are interested in posting your thoughts on a safety topic please give us a call here or send us an E-mail at info@safetyinstruction.com and let’s talk about it.

  • Gun Control and Behavioral Based Safety

    In the last few years it seems like we’ve discussed everything safety that can be discussed. The challenge is always relevance or the topic du jour. We discussed bike safety, cold, hot, electrical, first dates, crossing guards, and ladder safety in the woods. We discussed drugs and alcohol in the workplace and its overall effect on not just the work environment but the dangers it presents behind the wheel, and at home. Not to mention the precedent setting laws created to appease a minority. Whoops I almost got political. I’ve tried to avoid political topics even though it can be a safety issue.

    In the last years we’ve seen a rise in “Gun Violence”. The issue has polarized the Second Amendmentcountry and challenged us to act to a point where as a safety company we are developing an “Active Shooter Awareness” training. What a sad day. The second amendment, “The right to Keep, and Bear Arms” doesn’t mean wearing a short sleeved or a sleeveless shirt or blouse. I don’t mean to diminish the issue because it truly has touched a lot of lives. It seems everyone has an opinion and to try to make everybody happy would create turmoil, in a system that was meant to be simple, by creating “what ifs” and “exceptions”. That’s a lawyer’s pay day.

    Yes “Everybody’s Life Matters.” So as safety advocates what can we do short of metal detectors at the gate? We’ve said it before. We must create a culture of safety. Employ “Behavior” based programs using “on line training”, classroom and production floors or wherever it is appropriate. Where everyone is not just responsible for his or her own safety but for recognizing the safety of those they work with, and treating them with respect. Employers need to be involved. It starts at the top. They must challenge their HR and Safety departments, and supervisors, to be vigilant, and proactive in their training and making good choices, while exercising fairness.

    I don’t mean to oversimplify the problem. This is a problem that is not going to go away anytime soon, because it is as complex as is our society is in general, with instant access to…(you fill in the blank here). We do need to break the problem down into its simplest terms, and remember it’s not a competition; “We VS. Them” so you can read the results in the sports news tomorrow. It’s a matter of taking care of each other, while recognizing individual needs. Its Basic Living 101, and respecting the rights of all. This isn’t a new concept it’s been around since the dawn of man. Need one more example? Read the story of the “Good Samaritan” You can search it on line or you can find it in the Bible Luke 10:25-37. We need to restart somewhere and soon. Please consider being a part of the solution. It starts at home.

  • End of the Year Harassment Reminders

    What a difference a year makes. The last two years and even our latest blog we discussed snow blower safety and snow shoveling. So far this year the only winter equipment we needed are “water wings” and pumps. For you ladies out there I don’t mean high heeled party shoes. If the weather decides to get back to normal I’ll be able to skate to the office. If we do get snow, remember a cubic foot of wet snow can weigh 15 – 50 lbs. Snow on the end of a shovel is magnified exponentially as you and your shovel struggle to get it off of your sidewalk or driveway. Be patient, practice safe lifting procedures, don’t become a statistic, but waiting for spring however, might not be an option.christmas party

    This time of the year also ushers in the “company party season” and takes center stage, so can “harassment.” Here are a few reminders:

    *Be aware of your surroundings

    *Dress appropriately

    *Limit yourself, drink as if you are the designated driver. Alcohol can complicate your life, and those you love.

    *Keep your hands and wayward thoughts to yourself

    Any number of these issues can land you in front of HR on Monday Morning. If you are the boss, and abuse your position, you could also have issues as labor laws do protect whistle blowers, and take them seriously.

    As long as we are discussing these easier to spot conditions, here are a few that are a bit more nebulous in terms of harassment. It has been a challenging year in terms of religious freedoms, rights in general, separation, and political correctness or lack thereof. These are also topics best left in the HR office and not at the company party, and can be a basis for a charge of harassment. Harassment can ruin relationships and destroy company atmosphere and morale. These parties and get togethers are offered to improve morale, and to say thank you. Enjoy the time you have together and enjoy this time of the year!

    Here at Safetyinstruction.com we are pro family and want to wish all of you the very merriest of Christmases and Blessings for the New Year!

  • Death By Snow Shovel

    I know it’s a little early, but here in Wisconsin we’ve already seen some of the white stuff and we just put away the Halloween decorations and masks. Ok, I’ll give you that, it is pretty and can be romantic and fun to play in, making snow angels and sledding, skiing, and snow ball fights. But did you know that over 100 people a year die of cardiac arrest after shoveling snow? So can we consider this “White Hazardous Waste Removal?” Just a thought.

    So what is snow shoveling? It’s a form of isometric exercise. So if you’re startingsnow shoveling out on an exercise program, you should always consider your present state of health and talk to your doctor about it. In my past life I had a bit of a “wake up” call. When I was 52 I had some symptoms which did concern me, and I actually was exercising which was a trigger. I did casually mention it to my wife (after about six months) who immediately stopped my life in motion and made all the right calls to get me in to see a doctor. In less than two days I was given nitro glycerin to make sure I could make it to the next day and scheduled for a heart catheterization. The cardiologist doing the procedure wouldn’t let me go home without first doing a 5 by-pass open heart surgery. I always prayed so I could be patient I never meant to be one. So now getting back to snow shoveling and the environment surrounding it. Here’s what to consider:

    1. Your age and current health status.

    2. Tell somebody you’re going out to shovel snow, invite them to come with you.

    3. Proper clothing: shoveling at night? Consider “hi vis” winter wear, dress in layers covering your head and neck. Cover your mouth as breathing cold air can trigger angina or breathing problems. Cold temperatures stress your cardiac system and cause the arteries to contract so blood supply decreases, this can lead to cardiac arrest.

    4. Besides cold temps this type of exercise will strain your muscles. Muscles you probably haven’t used in a while. This will raise your heartbeat and if you’ve got narrowing arteries this is going to be a problem especially in colder temps.

    5. Stretch your muscles before you start, and stay hydrated. Take frequent breaks.

    6. If you’ve had a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, or have elevated cholesterol levels, or are an out of shape couch potato, you should consider getting help with that snow shoveling chore. Perhaps your church or community has a list of volunteers who are happy to help you. Don’t have a snowblower? You might consider one.

    7. Know the signs of heart attack, and keep your cell phone handy to call 911 if necessary.

    Winter snow falls are great times to get out and see the neighbors, just not in the funeral home. So take care of yourself, be prudent, and pray for spring.

  • Completing the Cycle

    It seems that there continues to be a lot of discussion about Safety everywhere, about the cost of safety and training, the providing of it, and government oversight. I am concerned that there is a lot of cheerleading, but not much play on the field. Does this remind you of the current state of our political system?

    You have to question yourself as safety coordinators and managers: Is this an exercise just to satisfy OSHA Government Regulations for compliance or for the betterment of humankind? If you are conducting training classes and doing all the paperwork, your work isn’t quite done. The T’s need to be crossed and the I’s dotted. If you’re conducting Lock Out, Tag Out and not visiting an application in the plant, is the cycle complete? If conducting Slips Trips, and Falls or Machine Guarding and not auditing and correcting deficiencies, is the cycle complete? Or is the cycle ever complete?

    Eventually the numbers will catch up to you. All you need to do is take a look at the citations issued for non-compliance. You’ll find them listed by district under OSHA News releases . A quick look reveals the results of incomplete or broken cycles. It’s almost overwhelming.

    As managers and Safety Advocates we must constantly evaluate the effectiveness of not just the program but of ourselves, are you in a rut? Remember the difference between a rut and a grave is about 3 feet. If we find that we are being crushed by the weight of the program, or the lack of one, then we need to find a way to involve more interactivity among the management, “safety starts at the top,” and employees. We all need to be held responsible for the safety of all at least within the confines of the space we work. safety committeeHow? Establish a safety committee. Train managers in safety auditing procedures. Ask for suggestions, or corrective actions for problem areas from employees, and please tell them not to worry about “Whistle Blowing” the law has them covered. We did discuss that in a previous blog. Lastly one very large part of all of this is to create incentive for individuals to maintain this safety environment.

    Like a computer we all need to re-boot occasionally, just make sure you’re wearing your safety footwear. Ok, so I might be the only one who sees the humor in that joke. Seriously take care of yourself as well. It’s important for not just your health but for the health of those who rely on you for their safety. It’s not just about compliance.

    If you have any questions about establishing a safety committee or safety auditing procedures, feel free to contact our safety experts at www.safetyinstruction.com

  • Child Safety: Things Change

    This morning on my walk into the office I was joined by blurry eyed kids heading for their first day of school. This hasn’t changed, it happens every year about this time, just like Santa Claus at Christmas and the Easter Bunny at Easter. We expect it. For the second year in a row however, I’ve had a youngster stop me and ask where the school is. She was new to the area and in the 3rd or 4th grade, so I walked with her till she could get her bearings. This year a young man riding alone on his bike, was making his way to day #1 of the first grade. He was wearing a ball hat, and a brand new pair of tennis shoes, he politely asked if I knew where his school was. I’ll be honest with you, I was a little surprised and looked around to see if he was alone or there was some hidden camera somewhere. He was confident that I could help him, but there was concern in his eyes, so I tried my best to give him the directions. I soon gave up on it and just walked with him for a few blocks where I could introduce him to Linda the same crossing guard I mentioned in a previous blog. He would be able to recognize her by the HiVis Yellow vest and stop sign. She gave him a warm welcome andcrossing guard with child assured him things were going to be ok and would see him every day on this same corner. He breathed a sigh of relief.

    This is the first day of school, we get messages from safety advocates everywhere to “slow down in school zones,”make sure that when crossing streets you “look both ways and stay in the cross walks, walk together with friends, don’t accept rides from strangers.” There is even a greater presence of law enforcement ensuring the safety of our children. Is it just me? Or are some parents leaving the safety of their children up to others? Are they just too busy? Have things changed while I wasn’t looking? Normally parents and children are excited about the 1st day with new back packs, shoes and maybe a new jacket, or lunch bucket. Moms and dads made sure they get there in one piece so to speak, and safe in their new classroom. And now of course there is the whole issue of bullying and sexual predators.

    Yes maybe things have changed. We must learn to support each other. This reminds me, the crossing guard I referred to in a past blog, and now this one, has cancer, a topic we discussed in a previous blog. So I’m asking you to keep her in your thoughts and prayers, as well as all who are dealing with not just this dreadful disease but all who we rely on to help educate and keep our children safe. We must remember however that we are our children’s first teachers and safety advocates. Yes we need help but our children look to us first. This hasn’t changed. If we don’t teach them, then how will they know to teach their own?

  • Distracted Driving: A Broken Rock

    “What could really happen if I text or make a call while driving? It’s just a quick call or text I can do both and drive safely. I’m a good driver.” That is what most drivers think till something happens: Distracted Driving. I would like to introduce you to Shelley Forney. She’s a Mother with a story she’s willing to share.

    “My name is Shelley and I am sharing with you just what happened to my daughter Erica due to one of those quick cell phone calls. Our lives changed forever in 2008, when our 9 year old Erica was struck and killed just 15 pedals on her bike from our front door. The driver was distracted by a phone call. Erica died on Thanksgiving Day from severe brain damage. This crash was 100% preventable, if only the driver knew what she was doing was dangerous even more, deadly. I wanted to share with you a piece I wrote called A Perfectly Broken Rock. It is one of many I have written, expressing how our hearts can be so broken after a loss and it’s ok to be broken. Writing how you feel throughout a life change can be healing while coping with the change a loss can bring.”

    Heart Shaped Rock Broken rock in the shape of a heart found by Shelley.

    The Perfectly Broken Rock

    The memory trees were barren. The bows that I had been hanging for years had blown some time ago and I didn’t have any to replace them. A friend recently found some bows that I had made in her basement. Since she had helped me switch out the bows with holiday ones, they had gotten misplaced. Now returning them to me to hang up on our memory trees. The area by these trees is where my daughter landed, after being struck by a distracted driver on a cell phone, just around the corner from our home in 2008. Today I walked with my youngest daughter Valerie of 9 to hang them up. I was careful while wrapping ribbon up and down and around the flowery bows with sunflowers tucked inside. Erica had loved sunflowers and owls, so of course that is what I added to them. My little one returned to the house, while I walked slowly back to my home. Along the way, I had noticed a rock that seemed to come from nowhere. As we had walked down the side walk, I didn’t recall it, but there it was now. I had past it and then turned around to see if what I saw laying in the grass was what I thought I saw. I leaned down to pick up a perfectly broken rock. Why was this broken rock worth turning around for? I will explain this odd story to you. Since the death of my sweet adoring Erica in 2008, I have been finding heart shaped items all over. While on vacation with my family, I found 9 heart shaped rocks. All colors, shapes… I felt that this was a sign and a gift from her. It was a reminder that she will always be with us. Just a few hours ago, I had given a talk about distracted driving to employees for the city I live in. It is difficult to do this, as every time I give these talks, I also share our story of loss. As my heart was reminded again that she is no longer with us. Erica proved to me that she isn’t gone she is with us. She gave me a gift today it was a “perfectly broken rock in the shape of a heart.” It wasn’t a perfect shape, but there were parts that were smooth and polished and the other areas that were jagged and broken. I saw the rock with a shape I could relate too. I sat on my porch feeling all the edges with my hand. This is how I see my heart; sometimes polished and smooth, yet very broken and jagged. I am grateful I found this perfectly broken rock. It’s just like me.

    Erica’s mom is now an Independent Safety Speaker sharing her story and more on the topic of distracted driving. Did you know that one out of every 4 car crashes that will happen today will be due to a driver on a cell phone call or texting while driving?

    If you would like to talk to Shelley about a possible presentation for your company/group, she can be reached at (970) 691-5997 or by email at shelleyfor@msn.com. She also can be found on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pub/shelley-forney/4b/62b/229kedIn

    We share in Shelley’s loss, and want to encourage all who are reading this to pass it along. It can happen to you or to someone you love, there are no “do overs.” If you’ve ever had to say good bye to a loved one, especially a child, you can understand the pain it causes and the memories that will recur forever.

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