Local author Ann Ross featured at book signing | SteamboatToday.com

Local author Ann Ross featured at book signing

— The room was white — stark white. Local author Ann Ross says she recalls rising above her bed, unafraid, yet unsure what was happening or where she was going.

Suddenly, the vision ended as a door flew open and Ross’ children came into the room and said, "Mother, wake up."

"It was in that moment I realized I was going to live," Ross said.

For three and a half weeks, Ann Ross — who has lived in Steamboat Springs part time for 38 years and full time for 10 — was in a coma, and this vision was the last of three she remembers during the experience.

It was also the third time she had been close to dying, and as a result, she said, her life was turned around and flipped right side up.

"I realized that I don't have a whole lot of time left," she said. "And I don't want the only thing that people remember me by (to be) my gravestone. So, I started writing."

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Hoping both to create a memento for people to remember her by and to instill courage through hard times or trauma, Ross' book, "Double Vision Can Strike Anyone," is a chronicle and testament of her recovery.

Ross will relate her story to local readers at the Wine and Sign Party Time with Ann Ross event, slated for 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Chief Theater. She will also sign copies of her book and read excerpts.

“It’s a story that I would like people to know about so that they, too, can get through serious problems …,” Ross said. “I know now that life doesn’t always go on. So enjoy every single minute. Whether good minutes or bad, enjoy them and wade through them.”

Two years ago, soon after returning from a trip to China, Mongolia and Tibet, Ross was stricken with encephalitis, meningitis and double pneumonia. The illness resulted in her coma, which impaired her hearing and vision — she often sees double — and destroyed her fourth cranial nerve.

"There is no way of telling people about an experience like that," Ross said. "When I look at someone, there is still two, sometimes three faces; it's awfully hard to go through. You have to come to grips with it, and that's not easy. But you can't give up."

“Double Vision Can Strike Anyone” is Ross' first book. She began writing it shortly after awakening from her coma. It started with a Sketchbook she created during an event at Bud Werner Memorial Library, and from start to finish, she said, it took about a year and a half to create.

"Once I could tell my story without crying, I knew I was healing," she said. "Being able to tell your story about a tragedy that has happened and writing about it, then sharing it, is healing. It's just plain healing. I can talk about my tragedy now, and I hope that it can help somebody else."

"I have witnessed her working on this project since its inception with isolated poems," said Jennie Lay, adult programs coordinator at Bud Werner Memorial Library and a friend of Ross.

Throughout her experience, it's been quotes that have kept her positive, she said. Evident within the first few pages, her story is enhanced with her favorite Maxine cartoons and quotes such as, "If you're going through hell, keep going," from Winston Churchill, and "The only disability in life is a bad attitude," by Scott Hamilton.

"She keeps pouring her heart and soul into this community," Lay said. "She tells this amazing story and puts in the time and effort to give the world this story and legacy. She's really a strong woman and a powerful character. I think that comes through, not only in her daily life, but in her book and story, as well."

Ross said she hopes her book will inspire others to write their own stories and to never give up, no matter what challenges or traumas they may face.

"One of the reasons why I love Ann is because she is in her 80s and just has the curiosity and energy of somebody who always wants to see as much out of life as she can," said Sheryl Uhlmann, another of Ross’ friends. "I find that super inspirational."

Despite the effects of the coma, Ross continues to be active in the community as a volunteer for Friends of the Wilderness of the National Forest Service; a volunteer for Sports Med; a member of the Steamboat Springs Arts Council; a Cabaret performer; and a regular attendee of West African Dance & Drum classes.

"My message to people is, ‘Just do it,’" Ross said. "I want people to live every minute of their life before they die. I know my time is running out, and tomorrow may not come. So, live. Don't just exist in life. Live every minute."

Friday’s event is free to attend, and the book will cost $10 at the event, with proceeds going to the Chief Theater. After the event, the books will be available at Off the Beaten Path.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@ExploreSteamboat.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

Excerpt from “Double Vision Can Strike Anyone”

Since the viral attack did not kill me, I am free to:

Live in the present as tomorrow may not come

Not give up, keep moving

Listen, there may be a message

Trash the trash

Find happiness under the pain

(More of the list can be found in the book “Double Vision Can Strike Anyone”)

If You Go…

What: Wine and Sign Party Time with Ann Ross

When: 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 27

Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.

Cost: Free, but donations will be accepted to benefit the Chief Theater