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A Colorado single mom was already struggling — then she was hit by lightning

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Time now for StoryCorps. In 2014, Donna Salemink was solo parenting her two teenagers in Colorado and often struggling to make ends meet. Donna came to StoryCorps with her daughter, Melissa, to remember the moment that changed their lives forever. Donna says it began when a thunderstorm rolled in.

DONNA SALEMINK: I ran out to smoke really quickly. I took a drag and then just boom.

MELISSA SALEMINK: I remember that. You barreled into my room screaming I think I was hit by lightning.

D SALEMINK: The smoke detectors were going off, and the dogs were freaked out.

M SALEMINK: You were so off that you didn't know what to do.

D SALEMINK: I remember asking you can you just look at my body? My dress wasn't burnt, but I had all these little, tiny burns. I couldn't cope or talk to people, and I was just extremely spacey after that.

M SALEMINK: Yeah. You stuttered a lot, and you were having a hard time collecting yourself and putting it into words.

D SALEMINK: Yeah. I remember curling up and crying in your lap a lot that summer, and I feel grateful that you're in my life, especially during that time, because I was a terrible mom. I was monetarily broke. I didn't know what to do. Now I'm hit by lightning, and I'm even less capable. I just got to a place in my life where I was tired of carrying the weight.

M SALEMINK: Yeah. I feel like you needed a lot of space to rebuild yourself, and it was tricky. I feel like you were very neglectful. And I moved out before I graduated high school. And my brother, he needed a parent, and he didn't have that. And I filled in that role, and I was just too young.

D SALEMINK: I'm glad that you can talk to me openly about it. I'm sorry.

M SALEMINK: You, these past few years, have really been making this massive effort to be a parent again, and I appreciate that.

D SALEMINK: I knew I needed to commit and be present for you guys. I just went, whatever it takes.

M SALEMINK: I was going to school, and you were helping with finances. I moved back in here for a little bit, you know, after not spending more than a few days together in the past years, now it's a lot of these very normal things like, hey, I just want to take you out for a bite to eat. And it's like, yeah, that's what a mom does.

D SALEMINK: I love doing those things for you.

M SALEMINK: Yeah.

D SALEMINK: I'm still not whole. I'm just walking around doing the best I can, like everyone is. And the best I can do is let you know that you are a top priority in my life. And the only way that I can show you that is to keep showing you it.

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MARTÍNEZ: That was Donna and Melissa Salemink in Loveland, Colo. Their StoryCorps interview is archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Stefan Weiner
Jo Corona