Spring Fling in Chicago last May. She always warned me that she was my official stalker, because she was one of the very first followers of Our Little Acre and became a very loyal one. After having met her and spending some time with her, I told her I was honored to have her "stalk" me.
Social media is confusing to some. "What's Twitter all about?" I've been asked, and I find myself struggling to truly explain it. It's a chat room, yet more. It's a way to share information about things that interest you. You can meet others that you may have things in common with. But these definitions somehow seem inadequate - lacking in some way.
Today, perhaps one of the best things about Twitter was demonstrated through the community of those who tweet, in their unification by a fellow Tweeter's health crisis. Katie, a.k.a. @gardenpunk, is fighting for her life in a California hospital. What she first assumed was the flu turned out to be bacterial meningitis.
Katie's situation is personal to me for a couple of reasons. It was in January 1999 that I fought and won my own battle back from the brink of death from this very same disease. I was not expected to live, yet I did, and I credit the thousands of prayers that were said, along with some very good doctors doing their thing. I tell you this to give hope that Katie can do it, too.
Sometimes you just click with people. Sometimes you just don't. There was no question with Katie. We clicked. It didn't matter that she was the same age as my older daughter; we were more like contemporaries.
After Spring Fling, we began chatting on Twitter as I became more involved with it. I'll admit that I wasn't all that impressed with it when I first signed up, but in time, as I used it more and more, I found some great gardeners and others with whom to connect. It soon became part of my daily routine.
Earlier this week, Katie and I had a lengthy conversation (privately) about the turn her life had taken in recent months and she said she was as happy as she'd been in a long time. She had taken charge of her life and was living it the way she was meant to. I could feel her enthusiasm in the words she chose when she spoke.
But just two days later, on Thursday, I got a late night tweet from Carri, who happens to live near Katie and is a good friend of hers. Katie had been taken to the ER and was in critical condition. It wasn't known at first what was making her so sick, but as Carri relayed available information to me, I told her it sounded eerily familiar to my experience with meningitis. In the end, Katie was diagnosed with just that and it had progressed to septicemia, which I'd also experienced with my own meningitis.
Knowing how deadly the disease can be, I knew that Katie was going to need all the prayers she could get. Carri knew it too, and we talked about how we had each experienced the power of prayer in our own lives during our own past health crises.
In the past months, Katie has become a vibrant voice on Twitter, both in the gardening community as well as to others. When word spread about her illness and fight for life, the Twitter community came together to pass on information about her condition and to express its concern for her. Good thoughts and prayers began to flow in amazing numbers.
Tonight, Katie is still fighting and we're still praying. Though there's little any of us can do, through the power of the internet and Twitter, we can comfort each other and provide hope and encouragement to her family and friends. Her family is reading those messages to her and they're certain she can hear them.
Most of us have never met Katie in person, but that doesn't make her any less of a concern for us, as we feel we know her through her online voice, thanks to her willingness to share her life with us on Twitter and on her blog, gardenpunk.
Katie, we miss you and we love you. We'll continue to pray for you and think positive thoughts. We'll all be glad when you're back with us again. It's not the same without you.
You can leave your own message for Katie and her family at her Caring Bridge page.