Klumper book shares tragedy, faith
WORTHINGTON — Day after day, the Klumper family sat in the intensive care waiting room of a Sioux Falls hospital, praying and worrying and waiting for the opportunity to go in and see their husband and dad, Wayne Klumper, who was being treated for devastating injuries caused by a motorcycle accident.
To help pass the time and to keep family and friends updated on what was happening, son Dan Klumper started a page on CaringBridge — a website devoted to helping people who are going through a health crisis journey stay connected.
Now, more than three months after Wayne’s accident and just weeks after his triumphant return home, the postings made on that CaringBridge site have become the basis for a book, “HEALS: A Story of Tragedy, Miracles, and Love.”
“CaringBridge was super important to us,” recalled Dan. “We were sitting there up in the waiting room while Dad was getting situated in the ICU, and the doctors were giving us updates. My aunt Sandy, dad’s sister, suggested CaringBridge. I’d heard about it, and had followed it (for a cancer patient) … but I never thought I’d do one for my own family.”
Through the ups and downs and uncertainties of Wayne’s initial recovery, the CaringBridge journal became more than a means of sharing information for Dan and his siblings, Tresse and Joe, who also contributed to the site.
“We would go into his room and see him lying there in a coma, not knowing if he was going to live or die, not knowing if he could hear us,” Dan explained. “So it was about keeping everybody informed, but parts of it are also us talking to our dad. When I was standing by his bed, talking to him, you never knew if he was able to hear what you were saying. I felt way more connected to him when I was writing. We just really hoped and prayed that he’d be able to read what we wrote someday.”
Wayne and wife Dea — who stayed by his side at the hospital throughout the recovery process — are now back home at their rural Worthington acreage. Wayne is doing speech therapy to overcome the effects of traumatic brain injury and is slowly getting back to normal life.
“Every day is a little better, and every day he’s a little bit closer to his old self,” Dan reported. “He’s getting back to joking around and really liking to visit. … He is still undeterred.”
The crisis passed, the Klumper siblings began to consider how to share their CaringBridge journal with their dad. That’s how the idea of a book came about.
“It was something we wanted to do for Mom and Dad, something that we felt would be a little more special than just printing it off,” Dan said. “Although a lot of people have read (the CaringBridge entries), one person hasn’t, and that’s my dad. We wanted him to have it to read when he felt like he was ready.”
Dan, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Brandon Valley Middle School, Brandon, S.D., had previously self-published two books that were part of his curriculum.
“One is called ‘Johnny Rawten,’ and it’s about a sixth-grader who is a rotten kid, but he discovers that he has the ability to time travel, and he travels back to the ancient worlds that I teach my kids about,” he said. “The sequel is ‘Ancient Quest.’ In this one, Johnny’s a little older, and he has to go back and try to complete a task in each of the eight ancient worlds in order to make it back home and also try to save this tiger that he had to kill in the Colosseum when he was a sixth-grader.”
For those two works, Dan used the self-publishing site lulu.com, and was impressed by the quality of the product. But before he could submit the “HEALS” manuscript to the site, Dan had to flesh out his family’s story.
“It’s mainly the journals, but I added a prologue that sets the stage leading up to the accident,” he said.
A timeline Dan devised starts out with Wayne’s birth in January 1950 and includes other important events, such as Wayne and Dea’s meeting in Mitchell, S.D. in 1973; King Turkey Day 1993, when Wayne suffered heatstroke during the 10K race and almost died; and his purchase of a motorcycle in 2007.
“Then it’s fast-forward to Father’s Day weekend 2013. We were all in Okoboji that weekend, and Dad had to go back and forth twice a day to do his chores, and he would take his motorcycle each time,” Dan shared. “One time, he called to let us know he was just leaving Worthington and we should expect him around 7ish. Well, 7 came and went, and no Dad. It’s 7:30, 7:45, getting close to 8, and he’s still not showing up. So we started calling his cellphone, getting worried. Finally, he comes through the door, and he’s just fine. After he hung up, somebody showed up at the door and he visited with them. We had no idea what we were worried about was going to happen for real a little over a week later.”
The “HEALS” book also includes an epilogue, a letter that Wayne wrote to his kids and 45 pictures with captions.
While intended as a keepsake of sorts for Wayne and Dea, the Klumpers decided to also offer it to the public to express appreciation to everyone who was on the crisis journey with them.
“We decided we might as well include anyone who wanted one,” Dan said. “It’s not a moneymaker. Our big thing is feeling like we’re never going to be able to thank everybody enough, so one page in it is a thank-you page. …We’re just really thankful for the support that they offered, the prayers, helping out at the farm — the list is lengthy — bringing things to the hospital, texting and calling,” Dan said. “We are super thankful, and I know my dad is so thankful. It overwhelms him to the point where he gets emotional thinking about all the things people did for him.
“We knew people would be with us the first week, the first two weeks, but the fact that they stayed with us every day up until we went home is just amazing,” Dan added. “Worthington definitely showed some awesome colors.”
“HEALS” can be ordered through the lulu.com website. The Klumpers have also ordered a number of copies that are available for purchase beginning today at American Lutheran Church and the Worthington Area YMCA.