Terri Blake returns to Baker after illness

Story by Kyle Davis

A sign and orange streamers hanging from above the door to Terri Blake’s office welcomed back the senior associate director of admission for Baker University to her office March 14.

It was a welcoming Blake was hoping would come sooner and one people were unsure would come at all.

Blake became ill with pneumonia and checked into the hospital Oct. 7, having a 103.8-degree fever a day after becoming ill and was then in a month-long coma. Blake’s family was told twice she would not survive, but Blake went home from the hospital Christmas Eve.

“There were lots of prayers and it obviously worked because they had told my family twice that I was going to die and that I flatlined twice, and I truly believe it was the prayers that got me through,” Blake said.

The pneumonia had turned into septic shock, and the doctors thought both Blake’s hands and feet would need to be amputated, as they thought the appendages had gone gangrene. While all 10 of Blake’s toes were amputated, her hands and feet are healing. Blake still visits a wound specialist and a surgeon, as well as continuing with physical therapy about five times a week.

“I think sometimes we use the word miracle very loosely,” University President Pat Long said. “She’s a miracle, just her being back on campus.”

Blake was flooded with phone calls, cards and gifts while in the hospital, and the support continued when she returned to work. One of Blake’s passion is Baker University football, and not only did she receive a football signed by players on the team, but a game during the 2010 season was dedicated to her.

“The support while I was in the hospital was unbelievable,” Blake said. “It reminded me many, many times of why I love this school and the people and the support was just fabulous. I could not have asked for anything better.”

It is up to Blake’s doctor when she can be cleared to work full time, but for now, she works four hours a day, spending two days a week at the Overland Park campus to avoid the drive to Baldwin City.

“We got an injection of enthusiasm and just passion for the institution, and just her ability to connect with students is something that we need during this stretch run,” Kevin Kropf, director of enrollment management, said. “It’s kind of a great addition, which really is a great return, of really a valuable asset to our office.”

Admission Counselor Erin Falter moved to the admission office from the president’s office and has been covering Blake’s job while she has been gone. Now that Blake has returned part-time, the two are partnering to cover Blake’s territory.

“The doctors have stated she has to do that for a while to continue to recover strength and get back where she wants to be,” Mark Bandre, vice president for enrollment management and student development, said. “So, we’re going to work with her any way she possibly can.”

Blake believed she was given a second chance and decided she needed to complete a goal she had wanted to do. Along with working and physical therapy, Blake has picked up playing the classical guitar, which she played as a music major while at Baker, taking lessons and practicing every day.

“Once you go through something like that, you look at life a little bit differently,” Blake said. “What’s really important is family, friends, and I’m talking about the Baker family too.”