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Weathering the storm: McKeivier family goes through roller-coaster three months

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Ashley, Hunter and 1-year-old Cannon McKeivier showed their strength as a family when Ashley was recently hospitalized for nearly 3 months with a number of medical issues. Hunter was by her side at Ochsner Health Center in Baton Rouge as often as he could, even if it meant missing Adams County Christian School football practices or games, for whom he is an assistant coach. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Weekday afternoons in the fall would usually have Hunter McKeivier helping coach the Adams County Christian School football team.

McKeivier, who was interim head football coach in 2011 and is head coach of ACCS’s baseball team, is used to serving as an assistant football coach for the Rebels. He even found himself patrolling the sidelines in ACCS’s opener against Cathedral High School this season.

But while he enjoys helping develop young athletes, McKeivier’s heart was miles away from the gridiron this season. It was with his wife, Ashley, who had a roller coaster of health issues that kept her in Baton Rouge and Jackson for one day shy of three months.

“It’s very difficult when you’re used to having her next to you, and she’s not there,” Hunter said.

On July 29, Ashley’s gall bladder ruptured, and emergency surgery was performed at Ochsner Health Center in Baton Rouge. After the surgery, they put her on a ventilator, and it was discovered she had develop disseminated intravascular coagulation, which leads to small blood clots forming inside the body’s blood vessels.

This put Ashley on a ventilator for two weeks, and when she came off it, she developed pneumonia, forcing her to go back on a ventilator for 18 more days until she came back off it the Sunday before Labor Day.

Ashley said she didn’t realize at first what was going on when she went to the emergency room at Natchez Community Hospital right before she had surgery.

“I didn’t feel good, but I thought it was arthritis,” Ashley said.

But the 104-degree temperature, the nausea and vomiting indicated it was something more serious. She was rushed to Ochsner for the surgery, and she said she doesn’t remember much else after that.

“I don’t remember being at Community at all,” Ashley said. “I don’t remember the ambulance arriving at Ochsner’s. It’s all a big blur. They say people came and saw me and talked to me, and I don’t remember that. I guess it was a good thing that I didn’t remember some of the stuff.”

Everything began to take a toll on Hunter, too, especially since the couple has a 1-year-old son, Cannon.

“Hunter had to be a single daddy for a little while, and he did a good job,” Ashley said.

Though Hunter said his wife was sleep induced for 90 percent of her time at Oschner’s he said said he stayed by her side as much as he could. He missed one football game for ACCS and all the practices while she was in Baton Rouge, but he said it was absolutely necessary.

“The most important job I had during that time was being a father and a husband,” Hunter said. “It was tough because of the emotion of what I was going through and (Cannon) wearing me out.”

But Ashley said the nurses at Oschner’s were impressed with Hunter’s dedication to her.

“They all bragged on him because he was there the whole time,” Ashley said.

The process also took an emotional toll on Ashley, and she admitted there where many days of depression, especially in ICU at Oschner’s.

“I got really depressed because I couldn’t walk and do the things I used to do,” she said. “Knowing I did almost die, it’s very scary.”

There was also the fear that being unable to interact with Cannon for so long would cause the 1-year-old to forget who his mother was.

“I cried numerous days (thinking about it),” Ashley said. “Hearing him say, ‘Mama,’ for the first time after I woke up, it was music to my ears.”

When Ashley finally recovered enough from the pneumonia, she was sent to Regency Hospital of Jackson to begin the long rehab process. She stayed at Regency for two weeks, then went to Mississippi Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson. Ashley finally returned home Oct. 24.

“I went from not being able to hardly lift my hands to walking on a walker,” Ashley said. “They work miracles.”

Hunter was able to carry on a more normal routine while his wife was rehabbing, but watching over Cannon gave him a new appreciation for single parents, he said. Between getting Cannon to school, working, picking him up between 4:30 and 5 p.m., taking care of him throughout the evening, Hunter said being a single parent is a full-time job in itself.

“You’re lucky if you may have 30 minutes between his bedtime and yours,” Hunter said. “I knew it would be different until I got her back by my side. Having her back now has been a godsend.”

Even though he was eventually able to help coach the football team again in practice after Ashley’s rehab began, Hunter said he wasn’t able to give coaching his full attention.

“They knew where my heart was,” he said. “I would text Coach (Christopher) McGraw and ask how the kids were. I’d also text other coaching friends of mine. It was kind of the less stressful moment for me during the whole process, like a place of solace I could go to, to put myself at ease.”

Despite missing so much time, Hunter said he wouldn’t do anything differently if he had to do it over again.

“My biggest concern in my life are these two,” Hunter said of his wife and son. “I did what was best for all of us. What was best for them is what’s best for me.”

As she looks back, Ashley said she hated not being with her family, but she was glad she missed much of what she went through while at Ochsner’s.

“I never knew how sick I got until I had come to,” she said. “I was almost better by the time I realized how bad I’d gotten.”

Ashley currently walks with the aid of a walker but is expected to eventually walk unassisted again.