Leanne, Author of "Just Breathe"
When I first met Leanne, I could see that she was definitely someone I would want in my corner. - Amy, Co-founder of Branding Babes
She is a courageous person with a very strong will. She has a quiet but determined way of getting things done. She is always the first to lend a hand and do what is needed in any given situation. In the summer of 2014, about a year after we met, I wasn't surprised to hear that she had run barefoot down a remote road in Montana to help rescue a van full of people.
Her determination has been the driving force in her life. When Leanne was just 15 years old she met her husband Nathan. She knew right away that she was going to marry him. It wasn't long before they started dating. They went to college together at Bemidji State, got married, and settled in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. They had 3 children; Carson, Ella, and Anders.
Her youngest, Anders, seemed to always be sick. He would have croup, bronchitis, pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses almost constantly. He would be treated with antibiotics, recover for a little while, and then his symptoms would return. They tested him for asthma, allergies, and other chronic respiratory conditions, but the tests would always come back negative. Although she was advised against it, Leanne took matters into her own hands and started doing research online.
Every time she would look up Anders' symptoms, they would point to Cystic Fibrosis (CF). When she asked his doctors if it could be CF, they reasoned that it would have been caught as part of Anders' newborn screening. Summer of 2013, when Anders was 6, they finally tested him for CF. It came back positive. Because CF is genetic, the other kids were tested. Ella was negative but 11 year old Carson also tested positive. The family was devastated and Carson and Anders were intimidated by all they were facing.
Cystic Fibrosis is a progressive, life-shortening, genetic disease that causes a buildup of thick, sticky mucus in the organs. The worst affected are the lungs and digestive tract.
In the lungs, the mucus grows bacteria causing chronic lung infections and subsequent damage to the lungs. In the digestive tract, it causes intestinal blockages and it prevents the pancreas from working properly. The boys would need to follow a rigorous treatment plan which includes taking several medications and doing hours of breathing treatments every day to stay as healthy as possible.
The diagnosis caused a great deal of despair for the family. Wanting to lift the veil of sadness, and help her sons enjoy life again, Leanne contacted organizations,like the Make A Wish Foundation and Hope Kids, that could help them experience things they had only dreamed of. She was determined that her family would live life to the fullest.
To further lift their spirits, in the summer of 2014, Leanne and her family went on vacation to Montana. She and her son, Anders were on a sightseeing tour, when suddenly the van they were in veered off the road. It flipped into a ravine, where it landed partially underwater. Miraculously, Leanne and Anders were uninjured except for some cuts and bruises. They were stranded in a remote area with no cell service and there were people still inside the van that were seriously injured.
True to her nature, Leanne took charge. She told Anders to watch for passing cars, and though it was very hard to do, she left her frightened, young son on the side of the road and started running to find help, barefoot because she lost her shoes in the crash.
After a couple of miles, she came across a ranch and was able to flag someone down. They immediately called for help and brought Leanne back to the site of the accident to reunite with Anders. While the driver did not survive, all of the passengers did thanks in no small part to Leanne's quick and selfless actions. She was later told that the driver had suffered a heart attack.
After the accident, it was hard for Leanne to come to terms with what had happened. The accident was a harsh reminder that no one is promised tomorrow, and that the most important thing in life is to be compassionate and graceful with everyone you meet.
This way of thinking is very present in every interaction we have with her. She is always the first to say thank you, and to make Amy feel special when she photographs her boys as part of her volunteer work for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Leanne is her kids' cheerleader, their caretaker, their motivator, and their example of how to treat others.
Having two children with a chronic illness is difficult to say the least, but Leanne approaches it with a positive attitude and in doing so, inspires others. She lives life with an unwavering faith that helps her through tough times.
She has a blog, titled "Just Breathe; Learning to Breathe When Life Takes Our Breath Away", and she has written a book about her experiences. It is in process of being published and is expected to be released at the end of 2016. Leanne has a powerful voice and a strong will to help other people by candidly sharing her struggles and triumphs. As she says on her blog:
"I love being helpful, encouraging, weird, and most of all, making a difference. I've learned that life is short and not always what we expect. So I play hard, work hard and enjoy every moment I can with the people I care about!" - Leanne Waterworth
Leanne sought out the help of Branding Babes when she was preparing to publish her first novel, "Just Breathe" and needed an author portrait for the back cover, to give her blog of the same name a makeover, and to add add e-commerce capability to her website so she could pre-sell and sell her book.