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By LeAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — Cara Dempski is a walking, talking miracle.
As many readers of the Colfax Messenger and the Glenwood City Tribune Press Reporter will remember, Cara worked for both newspapers as a staff reporter, covering news, meetings, sports and writing features.
In March of 2018, Cara accepted a job in the southern part of the state working for the Cambridge News / Deerfield Independent and as regional sports editor for the Lake Mills Leader.
On December 21, 2018, Cara was covering an accident scene for the newspaper when she suffered a massive stroke.
Deputy Scott Bondurant with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department was at the accident scene. The deputy recognized something was very wrong and that Cara required emergency medical care.
Deputy Bondurant got Cara to the hospital in Fort Atkinson where hospital staff were able to stabilize her condition. She was transferred to a hospital in Madison where surgery was performed to stop the brain bleed and relieve the pressure on her brain.
Since then, Cara has been making slow – but absolutely miraculous – progress on therapy.
She moved back to Elk Mound to the home of her parents, Linda and Bob Dempski, in March, where she has continued with therapy sessions and the long road to recovery.
One of Cara’s goals for therapy for the remainder of the year is to become stronger.
“I would like to be able to walk, unassisted by a cane, or my dad’s arm,” she wrote in an e-mail message to the Colfax Messenger.
In addition Cara says she would like to reach the point where she would use her wheelchair “only in situations where I would have to be on my feet for an extended period of time.”
Cara’s left side was most impacted by the stroke, so she also would like to get her left arm and hand working again.
“I miss knitting,” she said.
Cara’s long-term therapy goals are to recover as much of her physical abilities and functions as possible, to become more independent, and “perhaps even practice driving again.”
As for Cara’s goals when she has finished therapy, “I want to become a contributing member of society again. At this point, I’m not sure what that would look like, what career I would be able to pursue. Everything hinges on my ability to use my left side more easily, and get my ‘voice’ back,” she said.
By “voice,” Cara means her “writing voice.”
All of us have a certain way of expressing our thoughts in writing that is unique to us.
People who like to read will understand this as being able to recognize a passage written by their favorite author just by the way the words are put together or the way language is used.
On a recent visit to the Messenger office, Cara explained she has some difficulty “hearing herself” when she tries to express her thoughts in writing.
Cara’s progress to this point has been nothing short of inspirational.
Then again, people who know Cara know she is tenacious and that the words “I give up” are not in her vocabulary.
At the time of the stroke, doctors told Linda and Bob Dempski that if surgery was not performed immediately, Cara would not survive another 24 hours.
“I am able to walk, but for limited distances. I am able to shower and dress myself. I’m able to read, although I do need to concentrate on going all the way to the left of the page,” Cara said.
“As a result of my stroke, I have what is called left-side neglect in both eyes. So I have to retrain my brain to tell me to always look as far to the left as possible,” she explained.
It goes without saying, perhaps, that for someone who is the daughter of an English teacher, who is a writer, who made her living at writing and who loves to read — being able to read is huge.
When asked what she would like to say to people who plan to attend the benefit on September 13, here was Cara’s response: “My mom, dad and I can’t thank everyone enough for all of the prayers, support, and compassion. Mom calls everyone ‘Cara’s army.’ And it is humbling to receive all the help and support. Wee steps forward. We believe.”
Anyone who followed Cara’s progress on the Caring Bridge website will recognize the reference.
“We were told, from the very beginning, that because of the severity of Cara’s stroke, it would take a year or more for the new ‘normal’ to surface. That’s why we always ended the Caring Bridge posts with ‘Wee steps forward. We believe,’” Linda Dempski said.
The Pasta With a Purpose! benefit dinner for Cara Dempski will begin at 5 p.m. Friday, September 13, in the Elk Mound High School Commons before the Parents’ Night football game against Boyceville.
Cara is a 1996 graduate of Elk Mound High School where she was involved in everything from music to drama, forensics and track.
The cost for the dinner of spaghetti, salad, bread and dessert will be $8 for adults and $4 for children ages 4 to 10. Children 3 and under are free.
The benefit will include a raffle, and although the list of raffle items was not yet complete at press time, the raffle will include a movie basket, sports basket, gift card basket, Scheels gift card, Kwik Trip gift cards, quilts, Springbrook Meats gift certificate, a Norwex basket, quilted handbags, a Vino Cappuccino basket, and a red and white Adirondack chair in the shape of Wisconsin.
Members of the Cara Dempski Benefit Committee include Deb Lorasch, Tony Zimmer, Stacey Stangel, LaVerne Ausman, Mary Eide, Holly Sweeney, Lori Jenson, Barb Vadnais, Kris Jenson, Evie Silvernail and John Silvernail.
“The Elk Mound schools have been wonderful to work with. Especially the kitchen staff, who helped a great deal with the meal. Many members of Shepherd of the Hill Lutheran gave of their time and talents, too, to pull off this event,” said Sweeney, who is chairing the committee.