Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I have a "what would you do" question for anyone that would like to share.

Tiny bit of background:  I am a Christian.  I believe in helping others, especially when it is clear they are struggling.

The story:  After I came home from dropping Ethan off at school, I realized we forgot to send his library book back which was due today, so I turned right back around to take it to him.
Afterwards, I decided I'd go through the McDonald's drive-thru for a super healthy breakfast for me and the girl.  As we were approaching the window, a woman started walking towards my car.  Her clothes were kind of rough looking, she had a hood on, and the first thing I noticed about her was she seemed "off".  Maybe drugs?  Drinking?  Not sure, but that was my first impression.  Anyhow, she approaches my window and states that she just got out of the hospital (she showed me her bracelet) and got jumped last night by someone who "wanted to poke out her eyeballs" (I can't make this stuff up, folks!) and now she was out of gas and needed money to get home.  I asked her if she called the police.  She said yes, they caught the attempted eye ball snatcher.  But now she was stranded in a McDonald's parking lot.  She gestured over to her van, where an equally rough looking woman was in the drivers seat.

I literally had $7 cash in my wallet, which I intended to use on my super healthy breakfast with my daughter.  I lied, apologized, and told her I didn't have any cash, then I wished her well, told her to take care, and drove away.

Then I felt uber guilty.  I had other means of giving her money.  Would $10 really have hurt?  I feel like I missed a good opportunity to give.  Who knows if her story was true or not (her eyeballs were perfectly intact, with no signs of attempted removal) but she didn't look like she had a very easy life.

Would you have given her money?  If not, why? 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I love to read blogs.  My list of blogs I check daily is quite long, and I'd love to share them with you (but I am way too tired tonight after working all day).  This particular blog, though, I have to share.  Her most recent post is amazing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

September 20, 2010:

Getting a phone call from my dad at about 2:30 PM, telling me my sister collapsed at school, CPR had to be done, and she was now on life support

Stopping my car in the middle of the street to repeat the words, "What?  What happened?  WHO did this happen to?  Wait, WHAT?" over and over again, followed by the worst sobbing I have ever done in my life

Panicking, rushing to get my kids to my mother-in-law, then enduring the longest ride ever to Brownstown Emergency Room

Waiting, for what felt like hours but was only minutes, to be allowed to see her

Seeing her for the first time, ventilator down her throat, NG tube and thermometer probe down her nose, several IVs, and restraints on her wrists.  I kept telling them, "Please keep her sedated right now so she doesn't wake up and get scared."  I should have known by their lack of assurance that her "waking up and being scared" was something that wasn't going to happen right now, whether she was sedated or not

Driving to Henry Ford Main to sit in a "special" waiting room for the doctor to come talk to us and prepare us for what we were about to see

Seeing her in bed, still on the ventilator, totally nonresponsive, and having seizures practically back to back that were so strong, her entire bed would shake

Being told not to touch her, which I obeyed for about 20 minutes, then the urge to rush to her and touch her overtook me

Having to leave her that night, not knowing if it would be the last time

Sobbing to my mom, saying, "I can't lose her!  I need her!"

The cold, cold ICU room

Listening to the whooshing of the ventilator as it pushed air into my sisters lungs

Being told to step out while they cleaned her up in the wee hours of the night, and realizing I had absolutely nowhere to go

Wiping her chin and braiding her hair...the only areas that I could touch without disrupting anything

Having her slowly wake up, but being unable to talk due to the severe confusion and swelling of her brain

Having the ventilator removed, but those very scary moments soon after where they thought her airway was closing up and having doctors and respiratory therapists rush in to check

Driving home from the hospital after being there the entire night and thinking "Now I can understand how people fall asleep at the wheel" because I was experiencing pure exhaustion, both physically and emotionally

Hearing the doctors say to us "You should just be happy she is alive...her chances of survival were less than 10%"  when we'd ask questions about what the next step was

The constant desire to just dial her number to talk.  To drive to her house to visit.  Anything.  Something to know that she was okay

 This is the infamous pack of gum Leslie bought that I mentioned in my previous post.  It's hard to see, but note there are only two pieces missing.  One for her, one for me.  That was it.  I know it's stupid, and I know it probably seems very insignificant, but for me, it is proof that that amazing day happened.  Proof that we were together.  I will never get rid of it.

This is the slip of paper the ICU nurse gave me that first night.  The top is the phone number to her unit.  The middle number is her room.  And the code is the code I would have to give in order to get information.  Only George and I had the code, and it was our job to relay any information.

September 20, 2011:

Texting my sister to say "Wanna do lunch?" and having her write me back!

Meeting for dinner at Portofino's to honor those that stayed the night with her, night after night, so she would never be alone.  We never had to ask...they just did it.  And it was NOT easy.  Being tired was the least of our issues when we'd stay the was more making sure she stayed in bed, reassuring her constant paranoia, keeping her from removing the heart monitors, catheters, IV lines, etc.

Watching her laugh and socialize with the people she loves

Seeing her update her status on facebook

Having full conversations with her through texts and e-mails, just like we used to do prior to this past year

Her smile.  Her smile is so genuine and so Leslie.  That was gone for so long, because for months, she literally was blank.  Void of all emotion.  It's coming back, slowly but surely

She never did lose her sense of love and kindness towards other people.  Even when she was so confused in the hospital, when someone came in and said "How are you?"  She'd respond with "I'm fine, how are you?"  That is apparently a part of her that will never go away.  She has a heart of pure gold

Thank you.  Thank you to every single one of you.  Whether you stayed the night, visited, brought food, prayed, thought about her, read the blog to stay informed on her progress, sent cards, texts, or emails,  WE APPRECIATE AND LOVE YOU and I promise, we will never, ever forget any of that.  There is absolutely no way we could have gotten through this without all of the love and support. 

This past year was the worst year of our entire lives.  My motto here on out is, "It only gets better from here!"

Keep it up, sister.  You have SO many people rooting for you.

 The beautiful cake, made by Persnickety Sweets.  Purple is Leslie's favorite color and the cake was chocolate, which is also her favorite

 One of the tables.  On the left, from furthest to closest, Allison (my 2 year old daughter), Shawn, and Jim.  On the other side, my husband Jason, my son, Ethan, my cousin Beth, and my cousin Michelle (both of them stayed many nights with my sister at the hospital.

 My dad's very heartfelt, touching speech that he put together all by himself.  It was very, very beautiful.

 The other table.  On the left side, Georges's sister, George's mom, George, and my dad.  On the other side, George's sisters husband (sorry about the lack of names!), my Uncle Terry, my Aunt Bev, Leslie, and my mom

                                                                Leslie and her cake :)

 That is her battlewound.  Okay, more like the scar left behind from her defibrillator being placed.  Nonetheless, I can't help but look at it and know that it just may save my sisters life someday.

                      This was the quote on the cake.  Very fitting, and Leslie loves Maya Angelou.

 This picture speaks volumes for me.  That night I left saying "I can't go on without her!" and here I am, WITH her.  Forever with her.

             The Tuttle Family, EXACTLY how it should be.  Thank you, God, for keeping us together.

Monday, September 19, 2011

September 19, 2010, my best friend of many, many years got married.  My sister and I had the honor of standing up in her wedding as bridesmaids.

It was a beautiful September day.  That morning, Leslie picked me up to head over to Kristen's parents house to have our hair done.  I texted Leslie just as she left her house and asked if she'd stop and pick me up a pop and some gum.  She said she would.

We spent the morning with Kristen and some other friends, having our hair done, snacking on fresh fruit, and making small talk. 

The ceremony was beautiful.  It was at the Henry Ford Estate in the rose garden.  Picture perfect.  After the ceremony, Leslie and I drove home to pick up our husbands, and then we headed to Old Chicago for some drinks and appetizers, just the four of us.  On our way out, we snapped a quick picture, then headed to the reception.

The reception was a lot of fun.   We had a couple of drinks and socialized.  At around 10 PM, I hitched a ride with Leslie and her husband.  He drove and I sat behind the passenger seat, taking bobby pins out of her hair.  As they dropped me off at my house, I remember yelling to her to use lots of conditioner in her hair... and I went home.

Strangely, I left my cell phone in Leslie's purse that night.  In a way, I am so thankful that I did, because it was the reason she e-mailed me the morning of September 20 to let me know she left it between her side door at her house, and to let me know she wasn't feeling too great that day. 

That day was so perfect and those memories will likely always remain fresh on my mind.  I remember when I got the news that Leslie was in critical condition, I called Kristen sobbing, and telling her how thankful I was for being in her wedding with Leslie, because we got to spend the ENTIRE day together. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tuesday is the day.  Do you celebrate it?  Celebrate that although something huge, life-changing and tragic happened, but she survived?  Do you mourn it?  The last few moments before we knew what was going to happen.  Do we act like it's just any other day and not make any big deal out of it?  What DO you do? 

I can say with zero doubt in my mind that that day was the worst day of my life.  Ever.  I had very low, rock bottom, depressed days for many weeks after, but the INITIAL finding out what was going on was the WORST.  There's no way I can shrug it off like any other day.

Leslie didn't mind being alone for the first part, but as the day is drawing near, she is changing her mind.  I am off that day, so I'm thinking after we take Ethan to school, we will head out to the Henry Ford Estate where the wedding we were both in the day before she collapsed was held.  We will go there, reminisce, take pictures, and just thank God for what we have.  Then we will likely do lunch somewhere downtown Dearborn.

Love you, Les!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's my weekend to work.  Which means Saturday and Sunday, 12.5 hours each day.  It means lots of patients, call lights, doctors and families.  It means emergencies, teaching, discharging, and admissions.  It means orders, tests, IV starts, and blood sugars.  It means people who are truly there because they need health care, and it means people who are truly there to get a good buzz off the best narcotic.  But nonetheless, I love my job.

I don't ever forget WHY I do what I do, and I always, at least once, call my husband and my mom.  Just to catch up, see how their day is going.  Ask how my kids are and what they are going to do that day.  Just to try to stay in the loop while I am involved in other's "loops".

Today I made an extra call.  I called my sister.  Want to know what we talked about?  Meerkats.  And how cute and squishy their heads are.  And how they stretch real long to look all all around.  We giggled at the randomness of our conversation (that really only lasted maybe 10 minutes total), rehashed the upcoming events of this week, and then said our goodbyes.

I hung up the phone as the call lights sounded behind me, doctors shouted out "WHO IS THE NURSE FOR 603? and the phone kept ringing, likely a transporter wanting to know if 604 bed 1 was ready to go to her chest x-ray, I sat back and smiled. 

I can still talk to her.  I can still laugh with her.  I can still see, touch, and BE with her.

Love you, Les. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

I've had a nagging thought on my mind lately.  It's been discussed before, so it's not a new revelation or anything, but lately it's bothering me more than usual.

A couple months before my sister collapsed, she was complaining of sharp pains when she'd take a deep breath.  She said it was worse when she was laying down and it was painful enough that she didn't want to take deep breaths.

I encouraged her to go to the doctor, because the nurse in me was thinking it could possibly be a pulmonary embolism (clot in her lung).  Of course, how often do normally healthy 29 year olds get a PE?  Probably not often, but my motto is always better safe than sorry.  She made an appointment, and saw the physicians assistant.  After explaining her symptoms, the PA sent her for a chest x-ray.  I think she was assuming broken ribs.  When the x-ray came back normal but Leslie was still having pain, the PA told her to "take Motrin."  I remember Leslie telling me this, and I remember thinking "Huh?"  Wouldn't you want to get to the bottom of why she is having severe pain?

What if it WAS a pulmonary embolism, just sitting there waiting to make it's move.  Literally.  We will never know. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I wish I had something profound to blog about, but I just don't right now!  My brain is pretty empty, and I am okay with that :) 

I was totally dreading Ethan starting school up again, because we had gotten on a really lazy summer schedule, but I have found just one week in to school that I love being back to our routine.  Both kids love it, in fact.  It's going really, really well, and Ethan is loving second grade.

Allison has become my shadow.  Ethan was never really shy, but Allison panics when someone she doesn't know approaches her.  Like take today, for instance.  We were waiting outside the doors Ethan comes out of after class.  There were two other ladies standing around, but apparently Allison didn't feel threatened by them.  But then!  Oh, but then!  A MAN comes!  And my sweet, quiet little angle who has one of her arms wrapped around my leg looks up at me and says, "Oh, WOOK, Mama!  A man!  Carry you, Mama, Carry you!" (Carry you is her way of actually saying carry ME)  Yes, it was loud.  And yes, the poor man probably wondered what the heck he did wrong.  But he scared her!

I taught Ethan how to play REAL hopscotch today and we had a blast.  Did you know hopscotch is a really good form of cardio?  Especially when your son makes the numbers go past 30.  I was huffing and puffing and toppling over and stubbing my toe right and left.  And I also learned how thankful I am to have two legs, because playing hopscotch today made it very clear that one leg should not have to bear the weight of the rest of me.  My knees were trembling!  We had lots of laughs, though.  Daddy even joined in!

On a more serious note, this year has been the worst, and we are nearing the one year anniversary of my sister's incident.  Since that horrible time, more bad things have happened:

  • My Uncle Jim was killed in a car accident
  • I was diagnosed with early congestive heart failure
  • My grandma was hospitalized and has since had to move out of her apartment and into a nursing home
  • My Uncle Archie has bleeding on the brain and is having some cognitive struggles right now
  • As with any family crisis, our marriage has taken a hit as we both deal with stress differently
I'm sure there is more, but it just feels like a really rough year.  I remember back in the early days of my sisters incident realizing when people say they can feel the weight of the stress on them.  I get that.  You literally CAN feel it.  And it hurts, and it's heavy, and it's hard to carry around but you literally have NO choice.

September 20 is going to be a HARD day for me.  But I am also using September 20 as the day I move forward.  Making more changes.  Rejuvenating my marriage, breaking out of this funk, make plans, set goals, cut back so I can give more.  You have choices in life.  Leslie's incident has left me living in fear and anger.  Fear that something could happen again to her or to someone else I love, and anger that it even happened at all.  Anger that our lives were changed without our consent.  I have lived with those emotions now for nearly a year, and while I won't say it's wrong to feel that way, it's not helping me.  I need positive changes.  I need to let go of the fear and just LIVE.  I need to let go of the anger and just ACCEPT.

We will get there.  Just like Leslie, baby steps.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ethan started 2nd grade this week!  It is very bittersweet for me.  I love watching him grow and learn new things (he loves to learn!) but at the same time, it feels like just yesterday he was a tiny baby.  Where does the time go?

He was excited for his first day.  I was able to take him to school, but I had to work and I couldn't pick him up, so I was a little sad about that.  When I called to talk to him after the day was done, he seemed very tired.  His voice was monotone and he was just giving me one word answers to my questions.  This worried me, because I thought he'd have a lot more to say.  When I got home that night, we talked some more and it turns out that his teacher took away his erasers because they were in the shape of a car and it was too "toy-like".  I totally understand this, but it made him sad and I'm sure he was a little embarrassed, considering he was so excited to use his new school supplies. 

Also, as I was reading through the information his teacher sent home, I realized this year was going to be quite different from last year.  He's officially NOT a "baby" anymore, and things are going to be more challenging.  Less play time, more work.  His work will actually be graded now (no more stickers and smiley faces!) and he has to do weekly book reports.  Just reading it made me feel overwhelmed so I can only imagine how he felt hearing all this within a couple hours then being sent home.  That, and the fact that his two best friends are not in his class, he was just feeling stressed.  We talked about it a lot last night, though, and by bedtime, he seemed a lot more at ease.  Jay and I are very involved in his school life, so we will be right there with him throughout everything.  We take school very seriously, and we hope he does, too.

Today was his second day of school.  It was a full day and when I picked him up and asked how his day was, he said "It was great!"  He was happy and had lots to say.  I know this year is going to be great.  He has been blessed with wonderful teachers from preschool until now, so we know we are very, very lucky.

That is his nervous face.  And that is Allison's binky face (and yes, I realize the binky has got. to. go.  That'll be for another day, though!)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

So while at work, I was still having the crazy palpitations, so one of the nurses suggested I go to the telemetry floor and have them run a strip on me.  Sounds like a great idea!  I caught the Ventricular Bigeneny within just a few minutes and I'll take it with me to my next cardiologist appointment which isn't until NOVEMBER!  ACK!  Oh well, though, at least I have an appointment and I am a little more sure that I won't be dying anytime soon from this :)

Ethan's first day of second grade was today but that deserves a post of it's own, so with that said, I'll leave you with pictures of my beautiful, jacked up heart rhythm.  (Altogether now:  Awwwww!)

What the heck, heart.  Get your act together and stop messing around!  You have a big job here, don't mess it up!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Leslie collapsed September 20, 2010.  We never really figured out what happened, we just know she was pulseless and not breathing on the scene.  We know she was found to have blood clots in her left leg and her lungs a few days later, after she had been nonresponsive and on the vent.  We know she had a few bouts of an arrhythmia while she was in the ICU.  But that's pretty much the only facts we KNOW.

In January 2011, I started having a lot of chest palpitations,  It would feel like my heart was skipping beats and I would feel light headed and kind of dizzy.  I saw my primary who referred me to a cardiologist, who just happened to be the same cardiologist who saw Leslie.  He did some testing on me, and came to the conclusion that I have nonischemic cardiomyopathy.  He DOES believe my sisters incident and mine are related.  He believes these cardiac issues are genetic.  Our problems are not the same, but we both have heart issues.

I was prescribed 2 drugs to take to help my heart perform more efficiently.  I started taking them and learned very fast that they knocked me out.  They are usually given for hypertension, and I do not have high blood pressure AT ALL.  They also lower your heart rate, and I am ALWAYS told I am bradycardic.  So basically, I am taking meds that make me want to just go into a coma, yet still function.  It sucks and it's hard!

But now lately, the palpitations are back with a vengence.  They are making me feel like I am going to pass out.  I'm scared.  I'm taking my meds just as they are prescribed (and I have for a couple weeks now when it started) ...but did I mention I was scared?  Every time I feel my heart go into this crazy rhythm, I want to take myself to the ER, but they won't be able to do anything.  I don't know.  I am calling the cardiologist tomorrow and hopefully I can get an appointment very, very soon (I was due to see him in September anyways,)

Friday, September 2, 2011

To elaborate more on what I said yesterday, once my sister came home from rehab, the care for her was pretty intense.  She would be dropped off at my house before the sun came up and she'd hang out with me until dinner time.  It was then that I realized, truly realized, that this was the "new" Leslie, and that's when I stopped accepting it.  When she was in the hospital, I had the hope that she was improving.  At home, it felt like it was God's way of saying, "Okay, she's home now, this is it!" ...and I didn't like it.  She couldn't remember anything.  She needed to even be reminded to shower.  I had to do everything for her.  It wa so strange, and so not what I wanted.  Sure, I would walk to the ends of the Earth for her if it meant she stayed on this Earth longer, but it was hard to accept.  It was like a light switched and I got a new, different sister.  She was like a stranger to me.

As the weeks and months went on, my method of coping with my "new" sister, was to simply avoid being around her.  That way in my head, I could remember her as best as possible how she used to be.  But of course there were times I would see her, and those times I would get so angry.  I wanted to say "Just stop it!  You remember this!  Why are you asking this again?  Why aren't you trying?"  I hated it.  I hated the constant reminders of what I was being forced to accept.

Of course, this method of coping doesn't work well AT ALL.  By pushing my sister away, it wasn't bringing me any closer to what she once was, because that Leslie was gone.  This knowledge pushed me into a very very deep depression.  The worst depressive episode I have ever had.  Where just getting out of bed was a huge task.  It put strains on ALL of my relationships.  I was either crying or bitterly angry.  The bottom line was, there was NOTHING I could do, think, or say that would make things go back to how they used to be, and I hated not having that control.  I hated having that ripped away from us with no warning. 

Lately, the Leslie I know is coming back.  Her real smile is there and she says things she used to say.  Sure, she repeats herself, but she also remembers A LOT.  When I think of how far she has come this past year, it's just unreal.

Today, since my husband and kids are out of town, we went to lunch at the Oak.  Later in the day, we met for dinner at Angelina's (SOOO GOOD!) and then went back to my house.  We turned my kitchen, living room, and bedroom into Leslie's personal spa and we pampered her :)  It was so much fun.  Lots of laughing and giggling ensued.  We ended it with an ice cream at Twist and Shout.  Part of me leaves a night like that thinking, "Man, that was fun!" and part of my mind flashes back to the night of September 20, 2010, as I walked out of Henry Ford Main, sobbing to my mom saying "She CAN'T die!  She just CAN'T!  I need her!"

....I'm so happy I HAVE her.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Yesterday was my daughter's second birthday!  I can't believe she is already 2.  Where does the time go?  Following tradition, we had our parents and my sister and her husband over for pizza and cake to celebrate her birth.  It was a wonderful evening.

Now it is no secret that I handled (and am handling) my sister's condition very, very poorly.  We are 3 weeks shy of it being a year since the initial incident happened, and I think I can finally say that I am turning a corner with coping.  I noticed this as my parents, sister, and I sat in my backyard yesterday and just chatted.

My mom made the comment of how she wishes we had video tape of how Leslie was when she first came home and how she is now to compare.  I told them that my mind holds very vivid memories of all the different "phases of Leslie" and I can tell them that the Leslie today and the Leslie 11 months ago is a HUGE difference.  Huge.  For instance, we were talking about what my kids would be for Halloween this year.  None of us could remember what Allison was, but LESLIE did!  And last Halloween she wasn't even home yet...she was still a patient in the rehab facility.

Her memories are coming back and her personality is coming back.  She still repeats things, but she is more like the sister I had before the nightmare happened, and it just fills my heart with SO much happiness.

I can imagine September 20 is going to be a very difficult day, rethinking about the events as they occurred, and I do intend to allow myself to be sad during that particular day.  But there on out, September 21 and for the rest of our lives, I will celebrate the fact that SHE DID IT.  She is a survivor. 

I love you so much, Leslie.