Hailey and Barney

Assistant managing editor Hailey Phillips walks her cat, Barney, in a stroller. Hailey and her husband, Aaron, take Barney regularly on walks in the stroller because it works out better than walking him with a harness on, she said.

Sometimes, life takes you places you never thought you’d go. It introduces you to experiences you never thought you’d go through.

As a University of Kansas graduate and lifelong Jayhawk fan, I never thought I’d find myself in Manhattan, home of Kansas State University. But, that’s where I spent the first two years of my professional career after college.

As with many others, I also didn’t think I would experience a global pandemic, let alone report on it.

Life is funny like that. You never know what’s going to happen; it’s fleeting and changes fast.

Growing up, I lived in many Kansas towns. I was born in Las Vegas and lived there as an infant. In Las Vegas, my mom worked as the assistant to the hotel operator at the Mirage hotel while my dad, a musician, played his guitar for crowds at casinos in the 1990s.

I was born two months premature, weighing only 2 pounds and 3 ounces. I spent my first few months in an incubator at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas. By all accounts, my birth and subsequent growth were miraculous, especially in 1996. There were other babies in the newborn intensive care unit in a similar situation as me but who did not survive unfortunately.

After my parents divorced, my mom and I lived in McPherson for a little while. She received a bachelor’s degree in education from McPherson College.

Following her graduation, we packed our bags and relocated to Valley Center for my mom’s first teaching job. We also lived in other towns, including Wichita, Park City and Courtland before moving to Southeast Kansas.

My sophomore year of high school, my mom, stepdad and I moved to Humboldt for my mother’s new job. Humboldt is where I got my first taste of journalism by working for the high school newspaper, The Cub Tracks. I graduated from Humboldt High School six years ago.

I’ll be honest. By the time I was a teenager, I was a little tired of moving, but that's a fact of life. Moving to Humboldt was one of my biggest blessings as Southeast Kansas is where I met my husband, a Chanute native, eight years ago.

In 2015, I chose to move again, this time out-of-state. I packed my bags to head out west to Laramie, Wyoming, where I attended the University of Wyoming. I loved the town, scenery and wanted to be in the mountains. It was a spectacular move for me as I grew a lot in that year away from the Sunflower State. In fact, I met two of my best friends in Laramie. At UW, I studied criminal justice before I realized I wanted to go into journalism.

That’s when I decided to return to Kansas to study journalism and sociology at the University of Kansas. Lawrence will always hold a special place in my heart.

While at KU, I became ill with a horrible, contagious disease called clostridium difficile. For two years, I felt like I had a stomach virus each day. I couldn’t leave my apartment to go to class or work. I was laughed at by peers and felt like no one really understood what I was going through.

At times, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to graduate because I was so ill. I spent hundreds of dollars on medicine and treatments that did not work. I heard horror stories of other C. diff patients who lost their colon or, worse, died from it.

It wasn’t until I received a fecal microbiota transplant in 2018 from the University of Kansas Medical Center that I successfully recovered from the disease. Yes, you read that right. A fecal microbiota transplant is literally the transplant of someone’s poop into another body. Basically, it resets the digestive system, repopulating it with good bacteria to rid the C. diff. That transplant quite literally saved my life.

Luckily, with support from my husband, friends, family, cats and professors, I graduated. It was a culmination of finishing my studies and overcoming C. diff as well. As I said, the disease derailed my life for a couple of years. I truly did not think I would be able to have a normal life again.

Following college graduation, my husband, Aaron, and I moved to the Little Apple. I worked as the city reporter and covered coronavirus news for the Manhattan Mercury. It was a wonderful time being in Manhattan for those two years. I learned a lot and grew a ton as a young journalist, especially with reporting on the pandemic.

Moving often throughout my life and going through C. diff, among other things, definitely toughened me up. At the same time, I wouldn’t be the same person if I hadn’t gone through those life experiences.

And that brings me to my most recent move to Parsons. I never thought I would move back to Southeast Kansas, but, as I said, sometimes life takes you places you never thought you’d go. It’s been the most amazing move for my husband and I. We love to meet new people, and you may find us walking our cat, Barney, around town in a bright pink stroller. We love Parsons, and we enjoy the slower pace of life rural Kansas has to offer. People in Parsons have been so kind and friendly to us. With my new life established here, I look forward to sharing the news of my community and meeting residents.

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