An Aortic Adventure, Part 1

20 10 2008

I had lived with a sense of dread since the summer.  There had been so much pressure at Jim’s factory about layoffs.  Moreover, Jim just hadn’t felt good for quite some time.  He had been having agonizing pains where he described a sensation that his chest was pulling apart.  He made an appointment with his heart doctor.  A stress test revealed nothing was wrong.  Likewise, a chest x-ray revealed nothing.  The pains subsided–so we just went forward with life.  The main stress we were feeling was whether Jim would get to keep his job.  The big layoff came at the end of August.  Jim made the cut and we were very thankful.

The factory was still having financial problems so the plant was closed the week of September 29 through October the 3rd.  The week before the shut down–the receptionist at Jim’s family doctor called to tell me that the doctor wanted to see Jim about his chest pains and go over the results of the tests done by the heart doctor.  I can’t describe how agitated that made me.  I told the receptionist that there was absolutely no need to go over the reports.  However, I knew that Jim was behind in his cancer screening of his prostrate so I made the appointment for September the 30th. 

Jim left that morning early and didn’t come home until almost 1:00 p.m.  He told me that the doctor ordered a CT scan.  My first thought was just being irritated again because I just didn’t think JIm needed anymore tests.  I suppose I was in denial about Jim’s health.  Yet, I wasn’t in denial about the ominous feelings I had been having.  I felt the compeling urge to stock up on grocercies.  I also felt strongly that I needed to prepare for something but I just didn’t know why I was feeling that way. 

I’m no stranger to ominous feelings.  I had them before our daughter, Vera, fell 40 feet off a mountain in l992.  I had them when Jim lost his job in l979 –a few months after Vera was born.  I had them when the house we were renting in l987 was put on the auction block.  Thankfully, we were able to buy our home but not without experiencing a great deal of stress.  And, those ominous feelings were strong the week and especially the day that Jim was lifeflighted to Vanderbilt Medical Center in 2005.  Finally, I had a sense that my mammogram in 2007 would not be normal.  It was not.  I found out that I had breast cancer. Thus, the dark storm clouds were once again hovering heavy over my head and into my heart in October of 2008.

Jim seemed especially tired during his week off of work. Vera and I also noticed how often Jim seemed to get certain things mixed up.  Jim even admitted to being frustrated by his getting names of people that he had know for a long time mixed up.  But we had plans for the week–one of which was his interest in going with me to get my hearing aids.

On October the first, Jim went with me to get my hearing aids.  Then we ate lunch at a chinese restaurant.  On Thursay, I went to lunch with my daughter Sandy and Jim took Vera out to eat chinese food again.  Our doctor had been trying to get a hold of Jim.  When Sandy got back to work– she called to tell me the doctor’s office had called her to tell us to be in his office at 9:00 a.m. on Friday.  I tried to shake it off.  Why was there such an urgency?  I listened to the phone message from the nurse.  What on earth was going on?  I went to bed that night knowing that we would be at Vanderbilt on Friday.  Yet, I tried desparately to shake that thought off.  We had planned to drive out in the country to visit an apple orchard.  I didn’t like our plans being changed. 

Jim and I just acted like it was another day.  We ate breakfast and took a walk.  We live right in town.  The nurse of our doctor was on her way to work and stopped when she saw us–asking if we had gotten their message.  I told her that we would be in the office by 9:oo a.m.  Jim started swaying and almost fainted.  He held on to a telephone pole to rest.  We didn’t get to finish our walk but cut it short.  As soon as we got to the house–he collapsed in bed. 

Jim’s doctor talked with him about the CT scan.  I tried to understand what he was saying.  It all sounded so terrible.  When he learned that Jim had gotten dizzy on his walk–he insisted that Jim be transported by ambulance to Vanderbilt.  I told the doctor that we had life flight insurance so we might as well use it.  All of the sudden this doctor was on the phone and things began to move.  He had a bunch of paper work in his hands and he told me to pull my car around.  He must have decided that I didn’t need to drive Jim to the emergency room.  So he and his wife drove Jim and I followed behind.  He got Jim in a bed very quickly.  He handed the emergency room doctor’s the disk of the CT Scan and other papers that Vanderbilt would need. 

Jim was being prepped for his flight to Vanderbilt.  I tried to be calm but this was a rerun that I just didn’t like.  I couldn’t get hold of our daughter, Sandy, because she was on a field trip with her four year old– way out of cell phone reach. Rob, Sandy’s husband, who usually doesn’t go on field trips with the children just happened to go out this particular field trip.  So I couldn’t get  a hold of him either.  I did get the rest of my children on the phone.  They were able to make it to the emergency room except for Maria. Maria’s husband, a truck driver, was in town and they were doing some important errands.  Finally, Ben’s wife was able to reach the area that Sandy was in by land phone.  I knew that I was in no shape to make the drive to Vanderbilt. Sandy’s husband, Rob, is the best driver for times of crisis.  He is able to speed and slip through interstate traffic safely such as no one I’ve ever known.

After the ambulance people got Jim ready to be taken to the life flight helicopter–I went home to pack my bag.  The first thing I did was to find Jim’s living will.  I knew just where it was.  I packed a simple bag to last for a few days.  I had Jim’s clothing in a bag.  He had just put on a pair of clean jeans that morning.  I took them out of the bag and hung them on the door.  I placed clean underwear and socks on the jeans.  I found a clean shirt.  I put his shoes right next to his outfit.  I made a mental note to tell Vera that I already had Jim’s clothes ready to bring to the hospital when he was discharged.

It wasn’t long before Rob, Sandy, Ben and I were on our way to Vanderbilt Medical Center.  I had asked Vera to stay behind and take care of our animals and send emails out.  It was a highly charged time of emotion.  Sandy , especially, showed her emotions in tears.  I don’t cry easily anymore.  I guess it is because I wasted so much of my life with crying needless tears. I wasn’t trying to be stoic. Seventy miles even at Rob’s speed seemed a long time.  What would we be facing?  The ominous feelings I had been having were God’s gentle hand to prepare me for this new crisis.  Soon we would learn that Jim was sicker than anyone of us could ever have imagined.

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6 responses

21 10 2008
Shadowlands

My friend, Nicole3,
Your “feeling” truly was God’s preparation. I have had these feelings many times and every time that I ignored them, I was so sorry.
Your husband’s condition is so complicated. I beleive that the angels flew before you, the helicopter and they influenced the doctors in every step.
It is a miracle that your husband is still here…It isn’t his time…

21 10 2008
Roads

That feeling of dread – yes, I know it, too.

Wishing you both all the best that can be wished, from London. Spirits up.

24 10 2008
David Web

Dear Nichole & Jim:

I know only too well about the “gift”, if such it can be called, or “seeing” the dark clouds gather.

It certainly appears the timing was a blessing for Jim’s survival once again. How wonderful for Jim with God’s grace to cheat death once again. My hope is that he is starting to feel better now that he is home.

Little Brother

25 10 2008
nichole3

Dear Little brother,
Sometimes I wonder why I have this sensitivity but as you say–it could be a “gift”. We have no lack of food because I stocked my pantry qute well in anticipation of some kind of crisis. Thanks for your love and concern and prayers.

love,
Sis

25 10 2008
nichole3

My dear friend Shadowlands,
You are so correct that “angels” flew before Jim. I’m glad to know that you, too, have experienced that ominous feeling. It surely must be God’s preparation for crisis.

Your friend,
Nichole

25 10 2008
nichole3

Dear Roads,
Yes, I know that you know about that sense of dread with all that you went throught with your wife’s battle with breast cancer. Thanks so much for your continual encouragement.

Nichole

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