Wednesday, February 26, 2014

#RootsTech – Stephanie Nielson’s Saturday Keynote

Stephanie Nielson addresses RootsTech 2014So, I haven’t had the best attitude about the non-genealogist keynote speakers at RootsTech. I had a small change of heart when someone explained to me that having speakers like Ree Drummond brought in people who would never otherwise attend RootsTech. They would pay money just to see her. And once they were in the door, some would look more into this thing called genealogy.

But all that attitude changed with Stephanie Nielson’s keynote Saturday morning. I am forever changed. Her’s was a story of such horrific magnitude, it compels me to be a better person. More patient. More humble. More courageous. More optimistic. More devoted to my family.

“All I wanted to be was a mother,” Nielson began her talk. She appeared to have it all, a happy family, a loving husband. All of that changed in an instant in 2008 when she was in a devastating plane crash. She was burned over 80% of her body.

The pain was unbearable. She was kept in a medically-induced coma for three and a half months. She went through months of grueling, skin ripping physical therapy, sometimes passing out because of the pain.

The depression mounted. “My dream of being that mother that I always wanted to be my entire life was disappearing,” she related. She seriously doubted her children would ever want to see her again.

The missing skin, sores, and scars were gruesome. She was skinny and frail. “I felt like a monster,” she said. Five and a half months after the accident she saw her kids again for the first time. That first meeting was horrible. As much as they had been prepared, they couldn’t be prepared for what they saw. Her daughter was so frightened, she refused to look at her again for three months.

But that meeting galvanized her. “I knew that I wanted to be a mother again, that I needed to work at it,” she said. “I was going to own this trial. I wanted my family back.”

I can’t do it justice. You need to hear Stephanie tell the story in her own words. Go to on the RootsTech website and fast forward to 35:40 to get to her place in the program.

It is a story of perseverance, hope, and redemption for a woman who wanted nothing more than to be a mother.


  1. Unable to find Stephies speech. Last speech on that clip is the Pioneer woman

  2. Others with me at the conference wondered about Dee being a speaker. In case you forgot she did start out with the family book of her husband's tree and how it kicked off her blogging career using all the latest technology! I thought she was great.I work in a library so I was familiar with her cookbooks etc though I haven't used them. She certainly provided human interest- I can identify with living in a small town. I was very inspired by all the skill she showed in her photos and her ability to grow a business out of blogging. Kudos to her and all her accomplishments that can certainly be tied to our own wish to pass on all the genealogy info we spend years digging up. I hope you did not react favorably to Stephie just because she went through a terrible time successfully. Get over yourself and enjoy something that maybe you were not expecting !
    Fran Caparrelli


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