A Minnesota Marine fell severely ill while serving her country half a world away, and a metro mother's struggle to get to her daughter turned into a tale of generosity and compassion.
Marines don't leave anyone behind and they don't let one of their own go without support, and that's why the Marine Corps League's North Star Detachment knew they had to do whatever it took to reunite Kaia Hanks with her mother when she contracted a rare and serious disease.
"Kaia is a very strong, independent spirit," Lynnea Forseth told FOX 9 News.
Ever since she was 12, Hanks wanted to be a Marine. She joined at 17 and is now a motor operator who drives large vehicles to the front lines.
"It's her passion," Forseth said.
Forseth said she had "let the worrying thing go," until she got a call from her daughter while she was serving in Okinawa.
"She was throwing up quite a lot and having chest pain," Forseth recalled.
The 19-year-old was admitted to the ICU and diagnosed with a severe lung infection after breathing toxic fumes during her 8 months in Japan. From 7,000 miles away, Forseth -- a nurse at HCMC -- felt helpless.
"That was very hard because I take care of people every day at Hennepin County Medical Center, and I can't take care of my own kid," Forseth admitted.
Without the financial means to travel overseas, the single mother with two other children at home didn't know what to do. Soon, she learned she wasn't alone.
"When there is a Marine in need, it's wonderful to help in a small way," said Bill Crawford, of the Marine Corps League's North Star Detachment. "Here's a young marine in serious condition and her mom's trying to get to her."
Last Thursday, Crawford sent an e-mail to Delta CEO Richard Anderson. The next day, Anderson's assistant e-mailed back to say the company would be happy to help Forseth.
"It's just wonderful when you reach out to an organization and they respond that way," Crawford told FOX 9.
On Monday morning, Forseth got a call from Delta.
"She said, 'We would actually like to take care of your trip to Tokyo,'" Forseth recalled, "and then she said, 'We would like to help you, with your children, to go out." That's when I burst into tears."
The surprises didn't stop there. On Monday afternoon, Crawford came to Forseth's home to give her a handful of checks from Marines to help the family with their travel expenses.
"I couldn't have done it without them," Forseth said. "I couldn't have."
The story doesn't end there either. Forseth's coworkers at HCMC also spent the past few days slipping $20 bills into her scrubs. All told, the generosity of the nurses, the Marine Corps League's North Star Detachment and a pasta fundraiser has given the family $1,500 for when they leave on Friday.
"My kids and I will be together at a crisis point, a healing point and that's huge," Forseth said. "That's huge."
Hank is out of the hospital, but is still recovering. Forseth is grateful she and her other daughters will be able to rally around Kaia during that time.