Congratulations to Nicole Evans Gyimah for Winning the November 2023 Barefoot Writing Challenge! (Your $100 prize is on its way!)

The challenge was to write an essay that answered this prompt:

Often silver linings stem from our greatest tragedies. What’s something you’re grateful for that came about because you went through a hard time?

Nicole shared the inspiring story of how she and her family not only overcame adversity but made the best of it. Enjoy her winning submission:

On Your Mark, Reset, Go…
By Nicole Evans Gyimah

Nicole Evans Gyimah

It was bedtime. I thought he was asleep. I heard crying… a disturbing cough… and saw him visibly uncomfortable like I’d never seen before. I screamed to my husband — we needed to get Isaiah (our son), 16 months old at the time, to the emergency room.

Moving at the speed of light, I got him into the car, and on the scariest car ride in my life, I drove through dark, curvy autumn-colored roads and literal red lights to get our baby boy to the hospital, where they immediately transferred him to the pediatric intensive care unit.


The head of the pediatric ICU, a sincere, kind, intelligent doctor, advised us that Isaiah was having a severe asthma attack. He said it was critical; Isaiah had to be intubated. We weren’t expecting this. I couldn’t hear anymore — crumbling into my husband’s arms, devastated. Afraid. Lacking understanding. Why us, why our baby? Why asthma?

My husband and I held each other tightly. We moved to a family waiting room where we prayed and sobbed, asking God to heal our son.

Miracles are real. It was a 10-day hospital stay, but Isaiah survived and doesn’t remember it. He is our loving, energetic, funny, clever, 12-year-old, video-game-playing, anime-obsessed son in seventh grade. He’s also one of the fastest runners and most skillful players on his soccer team. I promise I’m not saying that just because he’s our son!

In hindsight, I’m so grateful for the adversity and what followed. Isaiah had more asthma attacks. By the fourth hospital admission, I had the revelation that not only Isaiah but we (his family) had asthma; asthma didn’t have us. It was time to reset and do something! I found ways to help families manage asthma and additional household concerns. I started working with asthma advocacy groups, sharing our narrative and championing ourselves and others.

So much excellence has emerged from our asthmatic journey. The trauma of it all was overwhelming, yet it was instructive, beckoning us to reset. The resilience and coping mechanisms for living healthy awaited us with warm, welcoming arms.

My “Why us, why our baby, why asthma?” became “Why not us? Would I choose another child or family to endure this? No way!” Once I decided asthma didn’t have us, my mindset pivoted.

My perspective became “Challenges will come. How will I show up? Curled up and speechless and dazed, or thinking out of the box — revamping and looking for the good through the distress?”

If you’re not sure how to begin, start where you are with the stress, pain, trauma, or difficulties at your door. Spend quiet time listening. Get out of your way to encounter wonder through and in the hardship.

“It’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.” —Michelle Obama

Are you ready? Get on your mark. Reset. Go! Run your race, live unafraid — learn something new, especially when it’s the most challenging thing to do.