As we chugged up the mountain range and I white-knuckled the steering wheel, the words of Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel” echoed through my head. Literally.
Warning signs proclaiming, “Gusty Winds,” gave me knots in my stomach. Visions of our camper going over the mountain cliff flashed before my eyes. Exhausted, we pulled into truck stops, waysides, and—in the middle of nowhere—the side of the road. Then we crawled into our home on wheels to get some rest.
When you look at these pictures and videos from the past year, you’d think we were on vacation—and there times we pretended we were. We lived simply, visited new territories, and witnessed the good Lord’s creation with our own eyes. Picking up and leaving anytime we chose was magical. We witnessed sunsets that postcards are made of and landscapes that talented artists cannot even capture. We met authentic, salt-of-the-earth people (and some strange and peculiar ones) along the way.
The truth is that sometimes we felt isolated, so homesick for our old life that it was almost impossible to get out of bed. The grim reality of what we were facing covered us a like dark cloud.
For the past five years, I have faced just about every fear I have. It culminated with driving a large camper across the country, through the mountains for two brain surgeries. This trip was not for pleasure, but chasing after a medical miracle.
This was not on my bucket list.
It felt more like some crazy writer’s attempt to write a bad movie script.
Yet this was our real life.
Now, I’m standing on the country road where we once raised our children and watching our home on wheels drive away with a new pioneer behind the wheel. Tears pour down my face.
A stranger named Tim, who never owned a truck or even drove a trailer before, was white knuckling the steering wheel as he pulled away in his home on wheels. His family is taking a grand adventure and living on the road this next year.
After I watched him drive away with our long—long—camper, I wiped my tears because Tim wasn’t a stranger anymore. Instead, he was a friend, a pioneer just like us. He did what most would have never done. He jumped at a chance to do what most never have the courage to do.
Tim took a leap of faith.
For those who have followed our unusually painful struggle that has been filled with bizarre adventures, twists and turns and miracles around every corner, even though our long long trailer is sold, I promise you that our adventure isn’t over, it’s only beginning.
We are no strangers to adventures. 22 years ago, with not a dime to our name we began our life as one. Years of rolled-up sleeves, tears, and sweat, blessed us with our own small success and an adventurous life.
Then everything changed.
Not only were we desperately fighting to find answers for Derek’s illness, our business was drastically losing money, and, well, if things could get worse, they did.
We watched this rare condition flush almost everything down the toilet. I was embarrassed and felt like a failure because I couldn’t even get a bank loan. Talk about a massive humbling. All I could do, day after day, was pray.
Our lives had completely face-planted in the dirt of life.
Maybe you know that feeling.
Have you ever considered . . . What if that’s exactly where God wants you?
Sometimes, that’s when the seeds of change are planted. All you can do is give it time and wait for the seeds to sprout.
That’s exactly what happened to us.
On the exact same day Derek was diagnosed and we faced the biggest medical decision of his life we also were given an opportunity to make our biggest career change. Just like the camper, these were two more opportunities to white knuckle the steering wheel, and say, “Jesus Take the Wheel.”
One year later, I’m thrilled to update you all on our pioneering life.
Derek has improved tremendously. He has about a 50 percent gain in his quality of life, and we are grateful for that. It’s a massive win in our book. How he lived with these horrific symptoms for years is beyond me.
Derek will be starting vestibular therapy again to help him recover his balance. He has learned that if he pushes too hard, he loses his progress. The horrible pressure in his head is stubborn and hasn’t released. This is life altering at times. We continue to investigate why, for over five years, he can’t equalize pressure in his head.
On those tough days, sometimes our anger surfaces because, on Dec. 14, 2012, he underwent one simple surgery that he should never have had, it went so horribly wrong. On those days, we lean in on faith. That faith has taught us to take certain words out of our vocabulary and look at life differently.
We now know that Derek and I were chosen for a completely different path in life than we had planned. God got our attention with the misdiagnosis and the subsequent damage. Before that, we had been too busy.
When we face-planted, we finally stopped to listen.
His fight for recovery has taught us that time and patience is essential—and we are continually researching innovative ways to help him get to the next level of healing. Each loss is a win, though. It’s one more thing to check off the list on the way to recovery.
For those of you who pray, please continue to pray for him. He feels your prayers. We all do.Keeping his mind positive and finding joy through disability has become his new adventure. Derek Hein does not like to sit around. Though he is a quiet, humble man, he now understands—first-hand—the debilitating symptoms from his disease, and has a mental toughness I cannot even describe.
Now, it’s time to step out—once again—from our comfort zone.
It would be easier to stay quiet, not share this story, and allow self-pity to swallow him up. But that’s not my Derek.
He plans to courageously step out into the light, though it’s completely uncomfortable for him to do so, and video journal his continued journey. He plans to bring awareness, light, and hope. He will share frustrations, solutions, humor, and adventure. All to help anyone who may be suffering. All to prevent what happened to him from happening to someone else.
He wants no one else to ever go through what he did.
Get ready to follow the #SSCDwarrior on his upcoming adventures. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram (derek.hein.72) as he shares the real story of what he goes through. He inspires me everyday. Now it’s time to inspire the world.
This is why we also chose to take a leap of faith and help pioneer the first-ever mental wellness company. Derek’s journey has inspired us to serve and help others.
For us it’s about making a difference. It’s not about money for us, because money doesn’t buy our happiness. We have lived of life of great gain and also tremendous loss and, through it all, we found ultimate success. Faith, family, friends, and LOVE is our definition of success.
What are the odds that our new company’s name is Amare, which means “to love”?
There are no coincidences in life. Our story is one example that shows how God, in His own infinite wisdom and time, can bless you far beyond your wildest expectations. Our lives have truly been rewritten—and we give all glory to God because, in our eyes, there is no other explanation.
In less than a year, we have been able to purchase a small house, which—after living in a camper—feels like a castle. I travel around the country with #flatDerek and share his story, offering hope, love and holistic solutions to help anyone who needs encouragement.
The lives that are being touched, the hope that is being restored, and lifelong friendships being created—all through sharing love—is the greatest success to us. By focusing on loving and serving others, we have served more people in the past six months in our new business than in the past 20 years.
Now, #realDerek is ready to slingshot forward—and so am I.
This journey isn’t over.
It’s just beginning.
Change is inevitable and we will continue to pioneer new trails to give hope to anyone who needs a bit of light in life.
Sometimes life will take a face-plant.
Sometimes humility does the body good.
That’s when your faith roots grow deep.
Sarah Hein the Pioneer