Thursday would have been the 30th birthday of someone who was taken from us far too early.
This remembrance of Rachel Blaser of Lamar comes from the Oct. 6, 2004, Turner Report:
Her first open heart surgery came on Nov. 15, 1996, two days after her 18th birthday, but she was never in any danger. She was just a spectator watching the surgeons at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Joplin helping sustain the miracle of life.
At that moment, she knew she had found her life's calling. She had already watched the doctors perform an aortic valve replacement. Now she was watching a quintuple bypass procedure. "We watched while they took the artery out of the leg to use in the operation," she said. "They showed us how they tied off all the veins."
She and a fellow high school senior watched each step, including the draining of the blood, the sawing open of the rib cage, and an up-close look at the actual heart.
"I had seen pictures of the heart," she said, "but I never thought I would see one like that. I could have almost reached out and touched it."
She didn't get to see the entire surgery, but she saw enough to know that she wanted to devote her life to medicine and to helping people. "It didn't gross me out at all," she said. "I thought it might. It made me want to go into medicine."
She had already been sure that was the direction in which she was heading. So sure that she gave up playing basketball her senior year so she could take an EMT class. "It was really hard to give up basketball," she said. "I've always enjoyed being a member of the team, but I knew I wasn't going to play college basketball and this is something that would help me with what I wanted to do."
As grown up as her decision-making process was as she went through her high school years, she felt more like a scared little girl when it came time for her to leave her high school and the hometown she loved. "I'm a daddy's girl and I'm scared of leaving to go to college," she said.
As she prepared to begin her college days at Drury College in Springfield, she had a hard time leaving behind the friends she had made while participating in DECA, National Honor Society, Spanish Club, yearbook, Student Council, basketball, and volleyball. It was those sports where the young blonde made a reputation for herself, as a never-say-die competitor who gave her all for her team. "I've always been competitive," she said. "It gives you an edge and helps you to succeed."
A week after she said those words, she crossed the stage and accepted her diploma, turned her tassel and joined the Lamar High School Class of 1997 members as they reached that moment when they turned from students into alumni.
"It's a turning point in my life," she said. "I'm finally growing up."
She eventually earned her bachelor of science degree in nursing and worked at Mt. Carmel Hospital in Pittsburg, Kansas, while she worked toward completing her degree as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.
Rachel Ann Blaser, the daughter of Roger and Ann Blaser, may have been a daddy's girl, but she was the toughest little daddy's girl you'd ever want to see. Her last battle ended when she died at Mount Carmel Medical Center Monday a little more than a month shy of her 26th birthday.
She spoke her own epitaph seven years earlier, when she spoke of her philosophy of life. "You don't have to always win, but you always have to do your best or whatever you do isn't going to mean anything.
"When I have something I really want to accomplish, I try to reach down deep and give it a little extra."
A little extra was an understatement. Rachel was a shooting star, shining briefly...but brilliantly...in our lives.