Memory Lane With My Grandsons

9 07 2011

What a morning Jim and I had going through all of our pictures and videos on  our computer.  We haven’t been the best at keeping up with organizing all of our cyber memories.  Thanks to our daughter, Vera, we have all of 2008 and 2009 photos  and videos  neatly organized.  The rest of our memories are not. 

First, we went through all of our pictures of the last year into our present moment in 2011.  As Jim showed them – I made note of the different categories .  This will make it easy now to place our photos in albums. 

Lastly, we reviewed all the albums that Vera had set up for us.  When this video showed up–I knew that I had to share it on today’s blog.  The boys have grown up so much.  No longer do they want me to read stories to them or spend time working with coloring .  Yes, those days are gone forever.  But I’m glad that I have so many wonderful memories of spending time with the boys in their young days. 

This video also makes me miss Vera.  She  spent 16 months with us.( She lives in Pittsburgh, Pa. now)  She was a great help with the boys.  I’m also grateful that she was still living with us when Jim had his second Aortic episode in October of 2008.  This clip was made 5 months before his second trip to Vanderbilt Medical Center.

Now the boys have a precious brother who everyone calls “P”.  P is getting a head start with this social media age.  I doubt that we will have the same experience that I had with his brothers.  P will be 2 in September.

Hope you enjoy the Youtube.  God bless each of you! And, a great big thanks to Jim to making this video a Youtube. 


Nichole’s Slices Of Life,9

29 03 2009

I started out last week by waking up with a stomach virus that put me flat on my back.  Throughout the day–I got stronger.  I was very concerned that I wouldn’t be able to take my husband to the Veteran’s hospital on Tuesday.  Thankfully, I was able to accomplish that goal.

We had arranged to meet my brother who works in Nashville for lunch.  He had a terrible accident of falling down his basement stairs in November.  Brad underwent three surgeries–one of which was the wiring of his jaw.  I couldn’t believe how normal Brad looked.  What a miracle!  He is able to drive, work a normal day and he seems very healthy.  We are so grateful for his health being restored. 

Our actual appointment was at the MeHerry Medical Clinic.  We were very impressed with Jim’s doctor.  He spent an hour and a half going over all of Jim’s medical history.  We had asked Vanderbilt to fax all of Jim’s records.  This doctor was very grave though about Jim’s aortic problems.  He wants Jim to see the VA cardiologist and Vascular surgeon.   The doctor also worked on Jim’s medicines.  Some of them had to be substituted according to the VA list.  Our last stop was at the actual VA hospital for blood work.  They told us that Jim’s medicines would come in the mail.

On Wednesday, I started my first day of an eight day assignment of being the librarian at one of our elementary schools.  Librarians teach classes throughout the day.  Much of my work consisted of using internet programs that are transferred to a big screen.  I then had a writing assignment for the children.  The older children worked on Kentucky worksheets.

When I got home on Wednesday, Jim informed me that his new doctor wanted him to get a CT scan as soon as possible.  We decided that Vera would take Jim back to Nashville on Friday.

I had a break from our grandsons on Friday as their mother took them to the dentist.  I had only been home a short time when the VA doctor called to tell me how awful Jim’s CT scan looked.  He urged me to have Jim go to the emergency room if he has any bad pains.  That phone call kind of took my breath away.  I wasn’t much good for anything the rest of the afternoon.  I gave Jim the news when he got home but tried to be low key about it.  Jim and Vera had decided to enjoy some shopping at second hand bookstores in Nashville–and that delayed their getting home early.  Jim didn’t seemed very concerned about the phone call.  Vera was a little shaken by the news.

By Saturday, I felt better because we were told by the surgeon in 2005 that anyone new looking at Jim would be horrified.  This afternoon I read the reports from Jim’s MRI in mid March.  It stated that nothing was significantly different from his MRI in October of 2008.  We now have a copy of all the Vanderbilit records and I felt so much better.  It is not that Jim will ever get any better.  However, if he controls his blood pressure–he shouldn’t get any worse.

Crisis- is the name of the game this week.  Vera decided that she wanted to visit her old parish in Murfreesboro this weekend.  During Vespers last night the ceiling and wall of the alter was destroyed by a bad storm.  Most everyone had the glass broken on their car windows.  Vera took our Chevy Blazer but told us that our car was undamaged.  She is on her way home  as I write.  She did call to tell us that one window is shattered and about to break.  I’m not happy about that report of damage but I know many have much worse window damage.  So I guess I’ll buckle up and try to be thankful that we have miminal damage. 

Tomorrow I start another week as librarian.  There will be testing in the library all week.  I have to travel to each classroom.  The teachers are supposed to mark my websites onto their favorite’s list.  I will be using their “smart boards” to show my internet programs.  I will need a cubby hole to hang out in during my planning and lunch time.  I’m never comfortable with that kind of arrangement.  I guess I will survive. 

What an eventual week it has been with sickness, new experiences with the Veteran’s medical system  and being a librarian.  Lastly, dealing with a storm that took a hit at our car.  The Bible teaches us to be thankful in all things.  If I were getting a grade this week–I would assign myself only a C for thankfulness.  I have much to learn in that area.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week and I will check in again next Sunday evening.

God bless each of you!

An Aorta Adventure, Part 5

4 11 2008

I remember October the 10th as a beautiful sunny day.  Off the 5th floor waiting area is a court yard full of benches and lovely pots of plants.  Different family members took turns going out there to use their  cell phone. Everyone had their own list of people to call. We actually didn’t do much talking with each other throughout the morning because of our cell phone usage. However, Maria, in her usual way made friends with a couple of pastors who also had a loved one in surgery.  This is very typical of Maria who makes friends very easily. 

Around noon we received a call that Jim was out of surgery and that the heart surgeon would soon be up to talk with us.  I knew that this didn’t sound correct.  Jim’s surgery was to be very complicated.  Something must have gone wrong.  The surgeon was prompt in getting up to the 5th floor.  He and his whole team of surgeons like to draw pictures of what is happening in the body.  I had a notebook for him to draw his picture of what had happened to Jim. 

They had taken two veins out of one of Jim’s leg for the bypass part of the surgery.  However, when they opened Jim up–there was no place to hook up the heart and lung machine. Three years ago he had a part of his Aorta above the aortic roots replaced with a synthetic material.  This had shrunk from 3 cm to 1 cm.  That is where they were going to hook the heart and lung machine.  Moreover, he had way to much scar material.  This scarring was not evident on all of his tests.  Thus, the surgeon told us that he would have killed Jim–if he had attempted to do the complicated surgery.  So what was the solution?

The surgeon very carefully wrapped up Jim’s two aortic root aneurysms in a dacron cage.  He compared the aneurysms in a cage to wild horses in a pen.  The wild horses are not dangerous when they are properly penned up.  Likewise, Jim’s aneurysms would not be harmful penned up in a cage.  However, the bypass was not able to be done.  Nor was anything done to prepare for a future surgery of treating the descending aortic aneurysm.  Jim’s entire aorta was very thin due to the Type B dissection.  Therefore, the rest of his life–he would have to keep his blood pressure way down.  The surgeon also said that Jim could never have open heart surgery ever again.  He reiterated that there was simply no place to hook up the heart and lung machine.  Well, we were all very stunned.

We decided to walk to the food court and get a good lunch.  It was hard for me to cencentrate on anything once again.  I just couldn’t fathom what was happening to my husband.  It seemed so surreal.  What would be in Jim’s future?  Would he ever be able to go back to work?  What if my cancer returned?  Would we just be two sick people fumbling about to make it in the world?  I could see where those thoughts would lead and so I snapped back to the present moment.  God’s grace and mercy had been with us for almost 35 years of marriage.  I knew God would not turn His back on us now.  On the other hand–that didn’t mean the path would be easy.  I knew that I was going to have to be upbeat in all of my thinking.  I couldn’t let my family down by becoming a complainer.  I was just going to have to face our future one day at a time.  Really–that is all anyone can do. 

During our lunch break–the cell phone scenario continued.  Each of us not only received incoming calls but we also checked in with those on our list.  Still, the change of scenery did us good.  The walk to and from the food court was refreshing with the sunlight pouring it rays on our tired bodies. Sandy and Rob ventued out on their own for a long walk.  The rest of us went back to the waiting room.  Jim was back in the ICU but we were not allowed to see him as the ICU was in isolation due to an emergency medical treatment on someone in the ICU unit. 

My brother Brad and his wife Susan joined us in mid afternoon.  We explained to them all about the dacron tent being built around Jim’s aneurysms.  The afternoon became a waiting time again.  I did get a wonderful surprise in getting a phone call on my cell phone from Korea.  Fr. Isaiah and his wife Beth had been assigned to Korea during the summer.  They called to ask about Jim and to offer their comfort and prayers.  How I appreciated their call.  There had been no shortage of pastoral care during our stay at Vanderbilt.  We had comfort from Fr. Peter, Fr. John, Fr. Stephen and Fr. Isaiah.  That went a long way to helping us both  have peace of mind.

Finally, around 4:00 p.m.–we were allowed to see Jim.  Only two at a time could visit with him.  He was hooked up to all kinds of tubes and he had a ventilator in his mouth.  He was in a drug induced coma.  It was not pleasant seeing him that way.  I hoped that this time he would wake up faster than his surgery in 2005.  We talked to him as though he could hear us.  We took turns doing this for a couple of hours.

Around 6:00 p.m. –some of my family decided to go home.  I’m thankful that Sandy and Rob stayed yet another hour.  I was dreading the long night ahead of me.  I would be sleeping in the same room as my unconscious husband.  However, I was extremly exhausted.  I was asleep by 8:00 p.m.  I didn’t awake until around 5:00 a.m. I woke up with a start–when I heard Jim struggling to breathe.  He was no longer unconscience but he was fighting the ventilator.  He was gagging.  It was an aweful scene to watch.  A whole team of medical people were in the room to help him through the crisis.  They asked me to leave while they did some kind of emergency procedure.  When it was over–they explained to me that this often happens when a patient starts to regain consciousness. They also told me that the ventilator would come out in about a couple of hours.  I wondered what the day would hold?  Would JIm be able to talk with me?  How would he react to the news that his surgery was not anything but a bandaid?  I took my shower and got ready for the long day ahead.

An Aortic Adventure, Part 4

30 10 2008

I neglected to write about Fr. John coming back to the ICU on Monday morning on his way to Florida.  He gave Jim Holy Communion.  I visited with his wife and four children in the lounge area.  His Bishop had asked him to fill in at a parish in Florida on October the 12th.  Fr. John and his wfe thought it would be a good time to have a few days of vacation. The life of a parish priest is very demanding.  I was glad that Fr. John and his family would have some time to relax.  Jim requested a time of confession before he took Holy Communion.  Jim told me later that Fr. John told him that his suffering was his confession. 

My friend, Hope, who was with me on Monday was reminding me last night that Jim was able to impart spritual wisdom to her while he was in the ICU.  She was amazed how Jim could relate certain scriptures for her encouragement while he was in such a critical state.  I had never given it much thought  until Hope reminded me of that special time. 

I had related in my last post how Jim was waiting to have a heart cath test done.  He was awakened at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning to take a special antibacterial bath in anticipation of that test.  They had special cloth wipes that he was to wipe his body down with.  I woke up when the nurse came in with this assignment for JIm.  I knew that he was not able to do his bathing very well.  Thus, I got up and bathed him in preparation for his test. 

And because he was to have this test–he was back on a broth and jello again.  We waited all day.  Finally, around 6:00 p.m. –the transport team came and got Jim.  I rode down on the elevator with them.  I had to wait in  a special waiting room.  About an hour and half later the cardioligist came and talked with me.  Jim’s “widow maker” artery was 70% blocked.  The doctor told me that actually that could be treated with medicine but since he was already going to be opened up–they would proceed with the bypass.

Sandy called me while I was in the waiting room to tell me that her church had prepared a large bag of goodies for surgery day.  They also asked Sandy and Rob to stand up  in front of the church for a special time of prayer for our entire family.  I was very encouraged by this tremendous act of love and giving.

Also– late Wednesday evening, the vascular surgeon came and told us that he thought it was possible that he would be able to do some prep work up near Jim’s neck and shoulder for the surgery on the descending aortic aneursym.  He explained that he would be making a little mesh tubing that had something to do with proper blood flow.  If Jim had needed surgery on his descending aorta alone–he would have had to be cut in the chest and in his side.  So while Jim was being opened in his chest–this work would be done.  He said that he knew Jim was not strong enough to have the second part of that surgery done.  That surgery would possibly be done in about six weeks.  He also told us that if it looked like Jim’s life was at risk–then he would not do the prep work at all.

Thursday was a day of rest for both of us.  Yes, nurses were still in and out every hour checking on all of his IV’s and his vital signs.  However, Jim requested to be sitting in a chair.  They brought in a recliner for him and Jim enjoyed sitting in it all day.  We were so surprised when Fr. Stephen from Franklin, Tennessee came around 10 a.m that morning.  He visited with us for at least an hour.  He offered so much encouragement to us.  After he left–my friend, Hope, came for another visit.  She took me out for lunch again.  Finally, in the early evening–Jim’s supervisor from his factory came for a visit.  He brought a card with cash from all of JIm’s co-workers.  As the evening ended–Jim and I talked about how blessed we were to have so many visits from priests, family and friends.  My brother and his wife also came to visit for awhile that evening.

All the visits were welcome distractions from thinking about the upcoming surgery.  The heart surgeon also came to talk with us that Thursday evening.  He explained once again all that he hoped to accomplish but he also told us that if Jim’s life was being threatened –some of his goals would be put aside.  What a day it had been for both us.  I was exhausted and slept very well. It is very ironic that I slept better in the hospital than I do at home. All  throughout the entire week nurses were in each hour but I slept through most of it. 

Once again–Jim was awakened at 4:30 a.m. to take another special bath in preparation for surgery.  I got up and bathed him.  Our son Ben and his wife arrived around 6:30 a.m.  Ben had not been able to get back to the hospital and was very anxious to arrive early to have some time with his dad before he was taken to surgery.  I thought back to all the years that Ben was aloof to both us.  Ben always thought we loved the girls more than hIm.  I was grateful for how his inner wounds had healed.  For many years now , Ben has wanted to spend time with Jim.  All during Jim’s week in the ICU–Ben and his wife called daily to get the latest reports. 

Jim didn’t have to much time to vist with Ben and Linda before the transport people came.  We all took the elevator down to surgery together.  We had a few more minutes with Jim before they took him off for final prepping for surgery.  We had some special moments of kissing, hugging and praying.  I honestly didn’t know whether I’d ever see Jim alive again.  

We went to the first floor lobby which is also the surgery waiting place.  In our little nook– we registered in with the person in charge–who just happened to be a fellow parishioner from St. Elizabeth Orthodox Church.  She was such an encouragement to us.  The rest of the family arrived.  I had all of my children and their spouses with me– except Maria’s husband. Maria’s husband had to get back to work –as he is in the trucking business. We took a moment to explore the “goody” bag from Sandy’s church.  Then we decided that it would be better for us to wait in the 5th floor waiting area.  That is what our heart doctor preferred.  Everyone was keyed up.  We knew that we would be receiving a phone call when surgery was beginning.  That phone call did not come until 9:30 a.m.  Finally, we learned the first incision had just been made.  I kept wondering if Jim was strong enough for another long heart surgery.  I wasn’t panicking but I wasn’t able to concentrate very well on anything.  I kept wondering around the waiting area.  I was the first to answer the phone for other families.  It was going to be a long day.

An Aortic Adventure, Part 3

25 10 2008

I was glad that Vera could make the trip with us to Vanderbilt Medical Center on Saturday.  She had stayed behind on Friday to take care of our animals and to send an email out about Jim.  When we arrived at the ICU–Jim was no longer talkative.  No more “happy” medicine was administered through his many IV’S.  It was important for Jim to tell the nurses when he was in pain–especially if he had any tearing sensations in his chest.  Jim wasn’t allowed anything to eat except for broth, clear juices, and geletin.  He wasn’t very happy about that situation at all.  I don’t know what the thinking was about food–except that Jim might have to have emergency surgery.  There was a funny moment when we couldn’t find Jim’s broth.  Vera went down the hall to catch his nurse to inquire about what happened to her dad’s broth.  The nurse came into the room with a flustered look on her face and showed us the cup she had poured the broth into so Jim could drink it –instead of trying to use a spoon. 

I could tell that Jim’s body was swelling because of all of the fuid and medicines being pumped into him.  The doctor was writing orders for blood pressure medicines given by IV– to work on getting Jim’s blood pressure and heart rate down.  Such was the course of his entire  week in the ICU–having his medicines or dosages changed.  The ICU nurse was in at least once each hour.  There was a computer in our room where the nurse on duty  sat and typed in information concerning JIm’s health.

Sandy and Vera stayed until about 4:00 p.m. that afternoon.  When they left me–I certainly felt a void.  I was glad that I had a bag full of books to read.  I have the kind of personality that enjoys being still and reading for hours.  At home–I rarely get such opportunities.  Thus, if I was going to be confined mainly to the ICU–I would use the time to read.  I especially enjoyed reading a  biography about  Daniel Boone.  Being a Kentuckian–I wanted to learn what was folklore versus what was the truth about Boone’s life.  I also had some Russian novels and a book by C.S. Lewis.  Lastly, I had my Orthodox Study Bible. 

I had made the decision not to stay with my brother who lives in Nashville this time.  I enjoyed their hospitality three years ago, but now I knew that I didn’t want to miss anything that might be happening to Jim.  I wanted to know every detail.  The doctors often didn’t come until later in the evening or early in the morning.  I missed most of those times when Jim was at Vanderbilt in 2005.  My decision was the right one because on Saturday evening the surgeon’s assistant came to talk with us.  He drew another picture for us about what was going on in JIm’s aorta.  He explained that the surgeon would be taking the bovine valve out and replacing it with a “piggy” kit that included new aorta roots and a valve.  He also told us that the vascular surgeons were looking at the aneurysm on the descending aorta.  Those doctors had some decisions to make.  It probably wasn’t possible to fix the descending aorta during the open heart surgery.  Also, a heart cath was scheduled to check Jim’s arteries. The picture of what Jim’s surgery would be like was getting giganic.  I didn’t have a good feeling about any of it.

Meanwhile, Maria was the only one of our children who hadn’t seen Jim.  At last, she was able to visit with us on Sunday.  Vera had decided to drive again to Vanderbilt and picked up Maria.  Jim didn’t feel well at all.  He had been having nausia which resulted in dry heeves.  The graveness of the situation was telling on us all.

Monday, I had a break when a girlfriend of mine came and took me out to lunch.  When we got back to the ICU–Jim was having an ultra sound done. And earlier that morning, a heart CT scan was done. I wondered what all the tests would reveal.  A couple of hours later the surgeon’s assistant came and told me that Jim’s “widow maker” artery was blocked.  So along with everything else –Jim would have to have bypass surgery done, too.  It was just too much for me to absorb.  I had been having shooting pains in my left side– especially down my left arm.  I told the nurse about the pains and he insisted that I have them checked out in the ER.  So they put me in a wheelchair and off I went to the ER.

My brother Brad and his wife had gone to visit Jim and found him asleep.  They called me on my cell phone and I told them that I was in the ER.  They came down and stayed with me for a few hours.  I had an EKG, a chest x-ray and some blood work done.  By 7:00 p.m. they had told me that I was staying the night in the ER to be monitored.  I had another EKG done before midnight.  I felt so silly because all I expected was just a routine checkup and that I would be back up to the 5th floor to be with JIm.  It seemed a bit much to me but I obeyed their orders.  They monitored me all night and I had another EKG and more blood work done early in the morning.  By mid morning, I had a Heart CT scan and the cardiologist told me that I was in great shape.  Finally, by noon I was back with Jim.

I was glad that all three of my girls were visiting that day.  They came down to the ER to be with me until I was released.  It was getting tiresome wondering when surgery would be.  It was also getting tiresome wondering when the heart cath would be done.  They told us that it couldn’t be done the regular way through the leg.  Instead, the cardiologist would go in through the arm.  Jim would have to fast before the test was done.  They had started giving him regular meals so I knew that the heart cath was ruled out for Tuesday. 

I decided to settle down and read my Boone biography.  It was going to be touch and go for a couple of more days.  I needed to relax and get my mind off of thinking about the upcoming, long 11 or 12 hour surgery.  I didn’t see how Jim could survive such a surgery.  He had already been through one such surgery and didn’t fully wake up from that ordeal for several days.  How could his body stand another long surgery?  How could I stand seeing him hooked up on all kinds of tubes again –laying in bed unconscious with a ventilator in his mouth?  As I read about Daniel Boone–I tried to put those horrible thoughts out of my mind.

An Aortic Adventure, Part 2

22 10 2008

As soon as we arrived at Vanderbilt–we walked into the main lobby which is also a surgery waiting room and asked where Jim was.  I should have known anyway that he would be on the 5th floor.  When we got off the elevator on the 5th floor –I was flooded with memories of three years ago. At that time–also in October, Jim had slumped into his chair while sitting at the computer.  He was life flighted to Vanderbilt.  We arrived around 10:30 p.m. that evening and went straight to the 5th floor.  The surgeon was waiting to talk with us.  I remember he drew a picture of what was going on with Jim –telling  me that JIm only had a 40% chance of living.  That surgery took 11 hours.  During the surgery we waited in the main first floor waiting area all night.  Everyone else could take a break and  walk around but I had injured my hip while getting out of Sandy’s SUV.  I was in terrible pain.  So all those thoughts were replayed when we arrived on the fifth floor once again.

There is a large waiting area full of recliners and other comfortable chairs.  There were folks there who looked very tired from their own particular journeys.  We walked throught the lounge area back to where the Cardiac ICU was.  Jim was already hooked up to all kinds of IV’s.  They had given him something to relax his emotions so he was very talkative.  He joked how he got to view the scenery from the helicopter this time.  It didn’t seem possible that Jim was sick at all.  He just seemed too happy and comfortable to be so ill.

Soon Fr. John from Murfreesboro arrived to be with us.  Our parish in Clarksville, Tennessee does not have a full time priest and Fr. John wanted to pray for Jim and our family.  He had some special prayers of healing for Jim. Then he showed us a large icon of St. Herman of Alaska that his parish had commissioned to write.  Although it looks like a picture– an icon is not considered art work.  He told Jim that he could have use of this icon as long as he needed it.  St. Herman is Jim’s patron saint.  Soon Jim was whisked away for a three demensional CT scan.  Fr. John said he would like to wait and learn the results before he left our company.

Before long, the surgeon who operated on Jim three years ago came to talk with us about the results of the new CT scan.  I was impressed with how much he remembered about Jim’s case and how he remembered exact conversations that he had with me.  He drew us a picture of what was going on in Jim’s aorta.  Three years ago a section of Jim’s aorta had dissected up near his neck.  That section was replaced with mesh and a bovine aortic valve was placed in Jim’s body.  This time the Aortic roots which are just above the valve had balooned into aneurysms. The roots are only supposed to be 3 centimeters.  Now because of the aneuryms –they were now 8 centimeters.  The expanding of the blood vessels to form aneuryms had caused the awful pain that Jim had experienced back in the summer.  Moreover, there was another aneurysm on the discending aorta which would involve vascular surgeons.  This surgeon told us that he was going to be leaving the country and wouldn’t be able to do Jim’s surgery this time.  Instead, the surgeon who is the head of the department would be operating on Jim.  We kept asking when this surgery would be performed.  He couldn’t give us a time as Jim needed several more tests to determine if there were other kinds of heart or artery damage.  The surgeon explained that three years ago–Jim was no near death that no other kind of explortory tests could be done on him.

During the long afternoon, Fr. John was gracious to answer questions from my family.  None of my family is Orthodox except our daughter Vera.  Ben, our son, had quite a few questions for Fr. John.  It was a time for my family to learn more about our faith.  Yet, Fr. John would never have imposed on any one of my family–matters concerning our faith.  He only talked about the Orthodox faith when he was asked a question. 

Around 5:00 p.m. Fr. John left.  We stayed until about 6:00 p.m. Orginally, I had packed a bag of books and a small bag of clothes.  Thankfully, Sandy decided that she wanted to return to Vanderbilt on Saturday so I made the decision to go home for one night so I could explain more to Vera how to run our household and take care of financial matters.

I stayed up late that Friday night explaining to Vera the particulars of running the household.  I showed her our finance book that Jim had kept very neat and orderly.  He had made a 3 ring binder with a calender for each month showing when each bill was due and also a page to check off when the bills were paid.  We had some bills that were paid on line –so she had to learn where Jim kept his passwords.  I signed about twenty checks for her to pay bills with.  I also got a chance to so some laundry and pack a week’s worth of clothes. I knew my brother who lived in Nashville would be glad to help me with laundry.  I packed my vitamins and herbs and a few more books.  I made note that I needed to get my cancer medicine refilled before we left for Vanderbilt on Saturday. All in all I was very thankful for the opportunity to have a chance to be more thorough in preparing for what I knew would be another long stay at the hospital.  I was blessed to be able to sleep soundly that infamous Friday evening.  It was to be the last time I would be in my own bed for almost two whole weeks.

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.