Oct 19, 2019 Latest post:
Nov 25, 2019
Welcome to our Caring Bridge website. Although this Caring Bridge website was created after Linda's passing, we would appreciate her life to be remembered, honored and her vision to be carried on. This, is her story:
"What would you like to eat?"
Sitting in her hospital bed, Linda looked down at her hands. She knew this might be her last meal. Her wrists had IV lines inserted into veins on the back, which hurt a little. Her head hurt more. The lines they'd inserted through her skull to help reduce the pressure on her brain were painful and had made it hard to sleep. She felt tired. She wanted sushi, but looked up at the eyes of her family members around the room, smiled warmly, and said "pizza". Sushi wasn't a family favorite, but everyone could enjoy pizza together.
It was a brief moment, but Linda's life had been filled with moments like this. Moments where she didn't think twice before setting aside her own wishes, comfort, and even safety, so she could do something generous for others.
Linda Riddle was born in 1953, and has spent most of her life in Southern Minnesota. She spent her early years working on her family's farm, and never lost the hard-working industriousness that upbringing instilled in her.
As a young mother, Linda fled domestic abuse. Her life's work started at Houston County Women's Resources (HCWR): the only shelter in Houston County dedicated to helping victims of domestic abuse escape and build new lives. She spent more than 20 years serving as an executive director, first for HCWR, then at The Domestic Abuse Intervention Program (DAIP) in Duluth: a career fighting tirelessly at both the regional and state levels to make a difference for victims of domestic abuse. She has also traveled around the world, building connections with community leaders in countries as far away as Singapore, Columbia, and Kurdistan, Cuba and Russia to advocate for the health, safety, and well-being of women and children.
Not content to help people in an administrative capacity, Linda has welcomed those who need help into her life, sharing her time, energy, and friendship at every opportunity. Countless times, she has fearlessly stood between the people who reached out to her for help and those who would do them harm. Countless times, she has fought for resources to lend a hand to those who had nowhere else to turn. Countless times, she has battled to help just one more person rebuild her life and create a safe future for her family.
In 2015, Linda retired from her work running nonprofits; but not content to relax, she accepted a different career path as a Member Services Manager at the La Crosse People's Food Co-op, advocating for healthy living and organic produce in her community. In her spare time, Linda loved spending time with her grandchildren, gardening, making jewelry, and occasionally traveling around the world as an ambassador for human rights.
Throughout her life, Linda has used her brave, industrious, caring hands to help thousands and thousands of people throughout not just Minnesota, but across the world to advocate for justice.
On the last weekend in June, Linda's family noticed she was forgetting things… the sorts of things she'd never normally forget, like the fact that her relatives were coming from out of town for a big family reunion. When her daughter, Celeste, spoke with Linda, she became very concerned. Her mother was usually sharp and on top of things, but today she wasn't making any sense. Something was wrong.
On Monday, Celeste brought Linda to their local hospital. After hearing about Linda's symptoms, the medical team rushed her in for an MRI, where they discovered what was causing Linda's confusion. A giant aneurysm was embedded behind her eye. It was the size of a golf ball and pressing against her brain, constricting it tightly within the solid boundaries of her skull.
Aneurysms rarely get so large without rupturing. In 40 percent of cases, even a smaller aneurysm that bursts will kill the person who has it. 66 percent of the people who survive a ruptured aneurysm will end up with a neurological impairment or disability. An unruptured aneurysm is a serious medical emergency… a race to prevent disaster. In Linda's case, the location of the aneurysm was also a problem. The area behind our eyes contains many important nerves, including nerves that allow us to see, hear, move our faces, swallow, and breathe. It is also an especially difficult place for even experienced neurosurgeons to reach.
Linda, believing her forgetfulness was probably due to being tired, was disoriented when the hospital staff explained what was happening and quickly packed her into an ambulance. She was going to need more specialized care than the small town hospital could provide. It was a one hour and fifteen minute drive to the Mayo Clinic, and every second might count.
Starting off with a conservative approach, the specialists at the Mayo Clinic decided to use an endoscope to try and insert a stent in her artery and small titanium coils in her aneurysm. If it worked, the stent would allow blood to continue to flow to her brain and block additional blood from expanding her aneurysm. The titanium coils would cause any remaining blood in the aneurysm to clot and eventually dissipate. Because an endoscopic approach involves feeding a small tube through the arteries, they don't require major surgery, so recovery is often far faster than more invasive procedures.
Everyone in the family waited anxiously for the surgeon's post-procedure update: hoping the endoscopic approach would work, hoping her aneurysm wouldn't rupture before or during the procedure, and hoping Linda would be back to her old self in no time.
Sadly, the surgeon's update crushed their hopes. The aneurysm was too large, and it's size and location prevented the stent from staying in place. The aneurysm was still there, and the endoscopic approach wouldn't work. They were going to have to pull together a team and perform a craniotomy, which would take a few more harrowing days. In the meantime, they had inserted a drain to reduce the amount of fluid that surrounds and protects the brain. Reducing this cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) would reduce the pressure on her brain while they prepared for the surgery, hopefully allowing her to think more clearly.
While waiting, Linda's family came to see her in the Mayo Clinic Intensive Care Unit. They gathered in the room, carefully avoiding the medical equipment around her bed, but watching it anxiously, unable to decipher the lines or numbers, but scanning the screens and Linda's face for any changes. Linda's CSF drain had worked, and she chatted amiably with everyone in the room about everyday things. Family members cracked jokes and made encouraging comments, uncertain whether her aneurysm would hold until the craniotomy. No one had to share their fears, because fear filled the room like oxygen and love.
Finally, it was time.
As they rolled Linda out of the room, each family member took a moment to say a few words. There are no right words for this moment besides "I love you", and even that can't really encompass the scope and weight of the feelings they express.
Eight hours later, Linda's surgeon met with the family. He explained that her craniotomy was especially difficult. He'd never repaired one so large: it required six of the largest clips to seal, and they'd had to shut off blood flow to her carotid artery "several times" to do so. Each carotid artery provides oxygen to nearly half the brain. He said there would be no way to know what impact the loss of oxygen might have until she awoke from surgery. The drugs they gave her during the procedure to reduce the damage from the clipping and loss of blood flow meant it might be a few days before she'd wake up.