Heidi's Story

On March 22nd 2013 Heidi Greenwood unexpectedly finished her work on earth and returned to her Heavenly Father.  We were the lucky family to have her with us for 18 wonderful years. She brought so much joy and laughter into our home. She had such a sweet and innocent personality.  

Heidi had just turned 18 on March 2, 2013 and had a great birthday full of snowboarding with her family, favorite dinner with friends, and cake and ice cream while acting silly with her teenage buddies.  We wish we could have known that everything was about to change tragically just 3 short weeks later. 

Heidi had been struggling with some breathing issues.  She was a runner for her High School Track and Cross Country teams.  She was offered to red-shirt on the BYU-Hawaii cross-country team in the fall of 2013.  She was so excited about it.  However, she had been struggling with some breathing trouble.  In Fall of 2012 she started out her senior year on the cross country team all pumped up and excited as her team looked great at their first meet.  Three weeks later she performed very poorly and it continued downward from there.  We took her into the doctor to get her checked and it was thought she had “over training syndrome” and that she was having some mental issues with her running.  In those 3 weeks from the great race to the poor one she had spoken with the BYU-Hawaii coach and he had expressed an interest in her running for them and said he wanted her to keep him informed of her times.  Well, we thought that must have stressed her out because the doctor couldn’t find anything physically wrong with her other than fatigue from possible over training. 

Heidi finished the season terrible.  It was a big disappointment.  We had tried working with her on her mental game and working with the fatigue and nothing seemed to be working.  I still remember, with tears in my eyes today, my husband, some close family friends and myself crying as we watched her valiantly pushing her self to finish her last high school race as captain and senior of her team.  She had gone from #1 on the team to somewhere in the #10 range in two months time.  Again, we still thought it was fatigue and mental training issues.  I wish so often I could go back and take that struggle away from her.  Her Dad and I still cry about her valiant effort to run when it hurt so badly and she was so embarrassed by her performance.  She felt like she had failed her coach, her team, and us.  In hindsight, we now know she did anything but fail all of us.  She pushed herself harder than anyone could have imagined under the situation. 

We all sadly assumed the coach at BYU Hawaii would no longer be interested in her.  She called the coach and explained what had happened with her season and we got the impression from what he said that he was no longer interested.  However, a couple weeks later he emailed her asking why she hadn’t filed for NCAA clearance.  She told him that she didn’t think he wanted her any longer and he said that isn’t what he had meant and that he did still want her.  He thought he would have her red-shirt a year to see what was going on with her and believed in her still.  How excited we all were with that great news!  She was on cloud nine.  She couldn’t believe her dream of running at college and attending BYU in Hawaii was coming true! 

In the meantime Heidi had the winter semester to take a break from running and try to recoup from the over training.  Strangely she was having terrible chest pains and back to the Dr. we went.  After x-rays and nothing being detected her symptoms appeared to be pleurisy.  We, to this day, wonder if that was not really pleurisy but a warning of what was to come. 

Heidi got her wisdom teeth on February 12th and had to lye low for a week or so not running.  When she returned to running her breathing wasn’t good.  Back to the Dr. we went.  She had always had seasonal allergies and we thought that was starting up but wanted to check.  Sure enough it appeared to be allergies but the Dr. was thinking it was looking more like asthma.  He had Heidi come to his office immediately following a run and do a breathing analysis of some sort.  It appeared like she might be having asthma.  Her lungs seemed to be struggling to get enough air.  Heidi kept complaining that it felt like she was breathing from a straw.  Again we were baffled.  The Dr. gave her new meds to try for allergies, and asthma inhalers on March 8th and we were to return the week she passed away for a follow-up. 

As I type this, it is interesting to me how clear some things are after you get more information down the road and look back.  I felt and still do today that through every Dr. appointment that she was getting the best care and he was being attentive and good to her.  I agreed with every decision and it all made sense with the information we had at the time.  Things are always clearer as you reflect back with more information.  We loved our Dr. and we still do. He is one of the most caring and helpful Dr. we have had over the years. 

On Tuesday March 18th we had a football meeting to attend.  When we returned Heidi was massaging her legs.  That wasn’t uncommon.  I helped massage them and talk to her.  She kept complaining of a spot at the top of her left leg that was hurting.  I rolled it over and over with the rolling pin.  Here is one of those moments I wish I would have listened better but I felt nothing amiss at the time.  Heidi was standing in the bathroom and said, “My left thigh is bigger than my right.”  I started laughing because at this point the girl was starting to seem a little hypochondriac. 

I told her how just that day while having a picnic lunch in the gazebo with Rachel I was reading Reader's Digest while Rachel prepared the meal in the kitchen and it said that one side of your body could actually weigh as much as 6 pounds more than the other side.  Everyone has lopsided body parts, such as, one eye, foot, hand, ear, breast, etc bigger than the other.

I couldn't see a difference in her thigh so I said never mind I am sure your just being overly aware.  We were all laughing and having fun about it.  Then all the kids kissed and said there good-nights with us as we said our family prayer and everyone headed to bed.  That was my last contact with her alert.  What I wouldn't do to go back in time to talk longer, to hold her longer, to take her to the hospital had I known what was happening in her body.

The kids get up at 5:00 AM to get ready for school and be to church by 6:20 for Seminary.  The next morning I heard Heidi's voice talking to her dad while I lingered mostly asleep in bed.  He left for work and I got up at 5:50 and headed down stairs.  Erin was down in the kitchen and I asked where Heidi was and she said that Heidi had thrown up around 1:00 in the morning and gone back to bed but had talked to dad and he told her to sleep in and not go to school since she had thrown up. Heidi was willing to get ready and go because that was just the way she was.  Always pushing through and doing what she was supposed to do.

The last thing that Heidi did on this earth was to wake up at 5:00 and get her sister up, arrange a ride for her to seminary, complete with a happy thank you to Steven and then go back to bed.  Heidi was always looking out for others and especially Erin.  She took a lot of gruffness waking the beast, Erin, every morning.  Erin hates waking up and has a hard time getting out of bed and most days Heidi took charge of it and wasn't always happy with the way Erin responded.  However, she kept looking out for her.

Since Erin said Heidi was asleep and Erin was leaving soon to seminary with Steven I helped get Erin out the door and then quickly changed and headed to the gym to work out.  It was a rainy overcast day and so that pushed me into the gym instead of outside.  I stayed extra long at the gym.

I called home to the kids on my Bluetooth and told them to be getting ready for school and I would be home in a few minutes.  At around 7:10ish I walked in the door.  I went in the kitchen from the garage and put my keys and stuff on the island.  Normally I would have started making lunches, checking email, etc but because I was running late I went to the stairs to go up and check on Rachel and Heidi too.  

It was then I saw Heidi lying on her side on the floor in the living room right next to the couch.  I walked up saying “Heidi, awhh honey, are you feeling sick still?  Did you throw up again?”  I reached her hip area and touched her.  I could tell she was wet.  I said “Oh Heidi, did you wet your pants when you threw up?”  I then rolled her on her back.  Heidi’s face was gray and her eyes were rolled back in her head with them being open.  Her mouth was hanging open.  I screamed.  I yelled at her.  I can’t remember what I actually said but is was something to the effect of “Heidi, oh no, Heidi, what is wrong, oh no….” I yelled to the kids to go get help at the neighbors.  They didn’t understand what I was yelling for them to do.  They were upstairs and confused by the screaming.  I ran to the island and got my phone.  I then ran out the front door to the VanWagenens home to get help.  I pounded on the door and opened it and yelled “Help Help, I think Heidi is dead, come help now”. In the meantime I was dialing 911 and gave the operator our address and told them to hurry because I thought my daughter was dead.  I then put the phone down, yelled to Brian Van Wagenen to give Heidi a priesthood blessing, I told the kids to find my phone and get a hold of their Dad.  They were running around trying to find my phone but I wasn't thinking because Brian VanWagenen’s mother was on it talking to 911.  Brian’s dad gave Heidi a blessing while I gave CPR and Brian V. held her head back to keep the airway open. 

I kept frantically talking to her as I gave chest compression and then breaths.  I spent about about 10 minutes as I heard the sirens approaching.  As I gave the CPR her color was beginning to return.  The paramedics came in and took over immediately.  They cut her top of and went to it.  I left the room because I was hysterical.  I went outside.  I bawled on the sidewalk in the rain water.  I screamed and wept.  I grabbed my phone and kept trying to call Sheila.  I couldn’t get the darn phone off of emergency mode and I wasn’t reading it close enough to see how to do it.  It took multiple attempts.  I finally calmed down enough and was able to call Sheila.  She didn’t answer, I tried again and she didn’t answer, I tried her home and she picked up.  I frantically told her that Heidi might be dead and I needed her to stop Brian from flying to Vegas from Beale AFB and I needed her to come down to my house.  I didn’t know I had gotten her out of the shower still with conditioner in her hair. 

Karl, Sheila's husband, was able to call work and they sent a radio message out to Brian’s plane which was just minutes away from starting the engines.  They told him he had to head home that there was an emergency.

After I called Sheila, I cried on the pavement and neighbors started coming around.  Loana Barker, a dear friend, never is running late.  She was that day.  She told her son to watch where the ambulance went and he said our court. She turned around and came to the court in time to see me on the ground.  Brian V and my neighbor Lee were comforting me too.  I felt my back being rubbed and feeling loved.  My Brian called.  I told him that I thought Heidi was dead.  I briefly explained and told him where to meet us.

Sheila arrived and asked Mark to keep Rachel, Jason went to VanWagenens and Loana went to get Erin at the high school.  I asked the neighbors to get word out on the ward email to start praying immediately for Heidi.  If anything was going to save her it would be prayers.  I begged anyone I saw to pray.

I had to change out of my wet clothes and the paramedic followed me because I was in shock and hyperventilating.  I changed, came down and Sheila drove me to the hospital.  On the way Sheila called Jennifer Greenwood so we could get word out to have people praying.  I then called my sister Sharon so she could get word out and asked her to start praying.  I called Amy and Jason had to get on the phone because she was so upset.  I told them I didn’t think Heidi would make it.  To let the other sisters know and start praying. 

By the time we got to the hospital I was panicked.  I was hyperventilating, I was dizzy, I was scared, I was terrified to walk in and have them tell me she was gone.  As I went to get out of the car Brian Zufelt was there.  He helped Sheila to help get me in the doors.  A nurse was waiting and they ushered us to a room.  Brian and I got on our knees, alone in this tiny room and prayed.  I asked him to pray.  He prayed and I grabbed him and looked him the eye and said, “She isn’t going to make it is she?” .  He sadly looked at me and wept as he shook his head and said “No”.  I knew it.  I knew it the minute I had turned her over on the floor.  I did everything in my power to bring her back but I knew she wasn’t coming back.  I wanted so badly to be wrong.  I wanted so much to have it not true.  I pleaded with God to not be so.  Let her come back.  We needed her.  We wanted her back. 

The nurse came and got me and took me into the ER.  Erin had arrived and came it with me.  I asked Erin to go with me.  I told her that Heidi was most likely not going to survive.  She burst out bawling.  I can still her repeating “no, no. no”.  It was devasting news for her.  At first Erin hung with Sheila around the corner behind a curtain.  The hospital was rushing around and still administering CPR.  I would guess it was going on an hour at that point if not longer.  She looked terrible.  She was naked on a table and still unresponsive. 

Brian seemed to take forever to get there.  Once he arrived they escorted him to me.  I was waiting around the curtain with Erin.  I could see what was going on.  They had given me a chair to sit on.  Brother Constantine was there.  I hugged Brian.  He was crying too.  There was a crowd of hospital workers, fire dept, and paramedics gathered around the room watching and I know they were praying.  You could see it in their faces. Brian and Brad gave Heidi a priesthood blessing with oil.  They asked God’s will to be done.  We all felt she wouldn’t be with us much longer.  I wanted so badly to not believe it.  I wanted it to not be true.  It seemed like a terrible nightmare. 

As a side note, her seminary teacher Brad Constantine wrote his experience as well.  I will need to include it.  He said when he was asked in a text “have you heard about Heidi?” He had the spiritual prompting that “She has died”… not knowing anything more than the simple question “have you heard about Heidi”.

The medical staff was able to get her stable.  She always had a good strong heart and it was good and strong still.  She was on a ventilator, medicines and barely hanging on.  They were able to transport her to ICU.

In the meantime they took Brian and I took a conference room to talk to us.  Erin was with Sheila. They gave us a lady, Linda, who was with the chaplain office and she was going to be our guide and resource.  My phone was dying and we needed to talk to the kids.  Linda took us to her office where we could call the kids.  We were standing in the hall waiting to go see Heidi when around the corner came a large group of our friends that all had rushed to the hospital.  I collapsed on the ground crying and my friends all tried to love and hug me.  It all is a blur still. But I remember the love and support I felt from this dear group of some of my very dearest and closest friends that dropped everything in their life to support us and help us in any way.  I just lost it.  They were there to help me carry this burden.

Linda took us into her office.  She was acting as a protector and shield to us.  She was trying to isolate us so we could think and not get so upset.  The bishop came and gave us blessings and food and water.  We called the kids and I could hear Dana and Lisa bawling in the background.  The kids were distraught.  We told them that we would call them back but they needed to come to Heidi.  It was hard to talk to the kids.  We were trying to figure a way to get them on a flight.  We called J and Shawn, both friends that work for southwest to figure out how to get the kids here.  In the meantime unknown to us, my friend Robyn Alexander was working on getting our kids here.  I guess they had a vacation to Southern Cal planned for the next week which was spring break.  She called Southwest and asked them to take all their miles and take them off their tickets and put them on flights for our kids.  I heard they said “oh, I don’t think we can do that” and she said “oh, I won’t hang up until you do”.  How sweet and wonderful of her.  They were able to book the kids all on flights arriving from Utah and Arizona within 15 minutes of each other.  What an incredible act of service from Robyn.  I can never repay her or other friends that have loved us and given so much to us.  They are engraved in my heart and soul.  

We were finally allowed to go into see Heidi once they got her to ICU.  She didn’t look well.  It was hard to be in her room.  It was very painful to see.  I felt like she wasn’t there at that point.  If felt like she had already left her body.  I had to leave and go to our conference room and lay on the floor and cry.  So that is what Brian and I did.  While curled up on a conference room floor Brian and I hugged and cried and tried to make sense of what was going on and how to proceed.  At this point there was a knock and Katie Hughes, a friend, came in to check and noticed our need for pillows and blankets and she set to work to make us more comfortable and offer what she could.  

Around this time my friend Caryn Brustman texted me the following at 12:44 PM
 “Large group of what I believe are Mormons from Rocklin down here in the cafeteria at sutter roseveille… something happen with your people?? Lots of HS age kids….

I replied with “My daughter is in ICU and may not survive. They are here for us”

Her response: “Ohhhhh my god, where are you?  Looking in all ICU’s”

My response: “Conference room 4 hiding out… come see me.”

She then came down to see us.  She was a big support.  She had access to everyone and everything we could need.  She brought us more blankets, and checked on Heidi when we weren’t allowed to see here.  She felt badly later about sending that text and I told her that I was grateful she did and I think that God inspired her to send it.  I know he was looking out for us by having her by our side.

Around 2:30 they called Brian and I in and the Doctor talked to us about the outcome and what was going on with Heidi.  They were baffled.  They had no idea what caused her to collapse.  They were trying desperately to figure it out.  Heidi wasn't stable enough to transport to get a CAT scan.  She was filling with blood.  They had tried this freezing process that help to preserve them and it wasn't working for her and as she thawed she was pooling in various areas, her neck, lungs, stomach with blood. He didn't give us much hope at that time.  He said they were doing all they could but it wasn't working well and without knowing what caused it they were even more lost as to hope to help her.  

I called my Mom and Dad and cried to them that I didn't think Heidi was going to make it.

We shifted our prayers somewhat at that point.  We were still praying for a miracle.  We however started praying that her sisters and two brother-in-laws would make it to see her before she passed away.  They were landing at 5:30 and 5:45 with Keri Hodgson going to be waiting at the curb to drive them.  Our friends also got Southwest to let them off the flights first so they could hurry.  We felt it was going to be close to getting them to the hospital on time.  

I still remember vividly what I saw when they arrived at the hospital.  There were friends everywhere down a long corridor.  It was estimated that by later in the night that first night there were close to 200 friends, coaches, and teachers lining the halls and cafeteria praying and lending their support.  The scene was inspiring and unbelievable to us.  As our children Amy full term pregnant, her husband Jason, Lisa and her husband Tolson and Dana walked towards us from the other end of the long corridor the sea of people parted like the red sea and they rushed down the middle to Brian, Erin, Jason, Rachel and I waiting to embrace them.  It was an incredible sight.  It was what we wanted more than anything, to have all of our children in our arms and together during this time.  We rushed into the waiting lounge and closed the door.  It was finally just our family minus Heidi all together to embrace and be together.  We cried, and hugged and cried and hugged.  We knelt in prayer.  We updated.  We pulled tightly together to lift, support and have faith in unity. 

We then walked together to ICU to see Heidi.  We expected that it would be our last time together as a family here on this earth.  We surrounded her bed.  We talked to her.  We loved her.  We rubbed her and kissed her.  We held hands and prayed together as a family.  It was a special time alone for us.

Anytime we left that little conference room of ours it magically changed.  We had secret elves that made us a giant bed of sleeping pads, pillows, blankets, and more food and water than we could have eaten in a week.  It was incredible.  It was so helpful to have a comfortable private place to cope with what was happening.  I will forever love those friends and the hospital staff for giving us that blessing. 

At some point in all this Jodie and Wade decided that they were coming with Rachel and Aubrey the next morning from Baltimore area.  Rachel and Aubrey are like sisters to our kids.  Rachel and Heidi have been best friends since 1st grade in Cabot, Arkansas then again in San Antonio Texas and again in Rocklin.  Being military families we kept purposely ending up near each other.  We were family to each other since we had no blood family living near us.  Rachel needed to be near Heidi.  Whether Heidi made it or not she needed the love and support of her family and dearest friend Rachel.  

Buxtons were set to arrive Thursday evening.  That meant new prayers were happening. A miracle happened already that she hung on for her family to arrive and now we needed her to make it until Rachel and her family arrived.

Wednesday night is a blurr to me.  Linda told me I wouldn't remember much of what was said and done and I don't .  I know I took a valium.  I know I got a little sleep.  I know that through the night my children, son-in-laws and friends took turns being with Heidi around the clock.  Tolson and Jason E. were incredible.  They played music for her, sang with her, rubbed and massaged her legs and arms and kept her company.  I love them.  I couldn't ask for better son-in-laws.  They loved and supported their grieving wives with such strength and compassion. They were forever attentive to Erin, Jason G, and Rachel too as they struggled.

Heidi's room transformed.  Little children that loved her drew her pictures and cards and we hung them.  We wanted senior pictures that Katie Hughes took and we love hung in the room to remind us and show the hospital staff of her outer beauty and how vibrant and full of life she was normally.  Friends made a poster expressing their love to her.  My friend Heidi VanWoerkom, whom Heidi was named after, hung pictures of Heidi as a baby and the two of them together when Heidi VW had come to visit us in Germany to meet our baby Heidi.  They were special pictures to have in the room.

The spirit that was felt in Heidi's room was incredible.  We decided other close friends of Heidi's needed to be allowed in to see her and hug her and tell her how much they loved her.  We felt it would be good for Heidi and good for her friends too.  Ask any of those that were allowed in her room and they will tell you it was holy ground.  Angels were in attendance.  Heidi's spirit was in that room.  It was a feeling I will never forget and can't really put into words.  I love all of her friends that wanted to see her and rub her and tell her what she meant to them.  I know Heidi saw them and heard them.

Lisa decided that Heidi's hair was not acceptable.  I must tell you that Heidi loved hair if you didn't know that about her.  When she was a baby, she would reach up while I was nursing her and she would rub my hair.  It soothed her.  I would carry her around in a backpack while I got things done because she just wanted to be held and she would mess my hair up terribly.  As a teen, she loved her hair.  She took great care for her hair.  It was like a horses tail when in a pony tail.  It was thick and beautiful so of course we felt Heidi couldn't be seeing all these people with bad hair.  Heidi's hair was caked with blood and other fluids that had dried.  It was a mess.  Lisa brushed and combed it as best as she could.  Lisa put a darling braid in Heidi's front of her hair like she liked to wear.  Lisa had to reach around hospital machines and stand on a step stool to be able to do it.  It helped Heidi to look more beautiful and presentable.  What a great sister Lisa was to do that for Heidi. Lisa is such a loving and thoughtful older sister.

More to come.  I decided to start putting her story up a bit at a time as I write it... check back for the rest... 


  1. Hello, I am also a cross country runner, trying to make it onto the BYU Hawaii team next fall. I came across Heidi's story, and it is so inspiring. From the time I started reading I couldn't leave it until I was done. What a strong young women and AMAZING family. I think of Heidi often when Im running, and even though I don't know her, I feel as if she is cheering me on! Thank you for sharing her story and I can't wait to hear the rest.

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  4. Reading this again, the thing that strikes me is that through all the health problems Heidi went through, she remained her same happy , loving self that we all loved.

  5. I miss her so much reading this makes me so sad

    I cant even imagine how you guys felt.

    God bless you.

    I want you guys to know Heidi is still in my heart and lives on at my school

    when I have kids the first person they are going to hear about is Heidi.

    She helped me in math and helped me overcome obstacles

    I aim to be just like her.

    God Bless