Monday, December 17, 2012

I have neglected my blog terribly despite multiple topics running through my brain!  Unfortunately, our space bar on the laptop is gone, so I have no way of typing.  I have contacted a computer guy who said he could replace the keyboard for an amazing price but he is HORRIBLE about getting back to me, despite multiple attempts to contact him.

If anyone knows someone that could help, let me know!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Today is the 2 year anniversary of my sister's incident.  I'm not going to go through a play by play of that day.   My mind just doesn't feel like going there.  It doesn't mean my mind DIDN'T go there, I just don't feel like typing it all out.  Last night I spent a lot of time going through a grocery bag I keep stashed up in my closet.  Little things I have kept over the past 2 years.  Like for instance:
This is a collection of the cards and notes I have collected.  No, it's not all of them, but it's a good portion.  Notes of support and love, notes that accompanied American Heart Association donations for the heart walk, etc.  I doubt I personally thanked every person that sent a note, but this is proof that regardless of it I did or not, the appreciation was undeniable.

Or this:
...which is a collection of items from when my mom, sister, and I were nominated to be Women of Wyandotte, representing love and family.  That was one of my very favorite post-incident memories.

I even saved this:

...which is the receipt from Kristen's wedding which was the day before.  I remember one night when Leslie was in the ICU.  I stopped at her house to let her dog out.  While I was at her house, I looked in her work bag and saw all these reminders of what we had prior to her collapsing.  Her receipt was there.  Notes she had jotted down for her classroom, a portion of uneaten food from her lunch that day.  That night, right there in my sister's dining room, I had one of the biggest breakdowns of my life.     

I have this saved:

Hi Laura,
Your phone was in my purse this morning!! I don't know if you have a key so I'm going to put it in between the screen door and big door in the backyard... Not front doors.

Amazingly enough, I feel slightly hungover and very bloated today. George said he feels a bit queasy too! How about you??


...which was her facebook message to me the morning of September 20, 2010, as well as my response, which was this:

I was wondering where it was this morning. I will probably just pick it up when I go out to get Ethan from school. If I don't, though, I will come by sometime tonight. I'm in no rush.

I feel totally fine this morning, just tired. I got home, and immediately took a shower. Then I was just sitting around watching TV and playing on the computer when I got super tired, so I was sound asleep by midnight! Slept like a rock all night.

But yeah, definitely no hangover. I hope you guys feel better soon, maybe after some pop?

Talk to you later.

...I didn't read that message for a LONG time.  It was too painful.

I remember I'd drive by her house and it was like I would have to physically refrain myself from turning into her driveway because my mind and heart wanted to so desperately.

I remember running my fingers over the numbers that would dial her phone, but I never actually called it, because I knew she wouldn't answer.

I remember leaving the hospital that first night.  My body was painfully exhausted and desperately wanted some rest, but at the same time, I had no idea if leaving that night would mean I wouldn't see her alive anymore.  She was up to 10 mg of Ativan at that point, and the seizures were relentless.  Shaking her entire bed.  I remember being told, "she responds to pain, but only sometimes."  The logical part of me knew that "only sometimes" was not good, but my heart clung to "she responds to pain."  I remember feeling like I won the lottery the night I spent with her and her eyes would flutter when I would speak to her.

I still have this:

And this:
...which allowed me to call and get details on her, and granted me permission to be there after visiting hours.

I have this:
...which is a sign Ethan made to support the American Heart Association.   He did this all on his own.   He handed these out freely to people.

Leslie's incident changed me in many ways.  Some ways are not so good.  I don't trust as easily.  I constantly wait for the "other shoe to drop", so to speak.  I am always on guard.  It taught me that tomorrow is NOT guaranteed, so never get too comfortable.

On the contrary, because I don't trust tomorrow is guaranteed, I am more proactive.  If something isn't working out, I don't just hope for change...I MAKE it change.  While I still have this burning desire to have other people's approval, I don't dwell on it quite so much.  I know true love from my family.  I know what it means to sacrifice.  I don't waste energy and emotions on people that don't have the same love and respect for me that I have for them.  Life is too short!

I've learned what it means to have faith in a power way higher than myself.  Leslie had angels on earth working for her that day and for many days after.  But there is TOO much that just went so unbelievably RIGHT despite all the things that were going wrong to say that someone out there wasn't watching over her.  I envision my Grandma Price watching over her and saying, "No, it is NOT her time" just as her heart started beating again.  I just know she was there!

Today at work, I had my eyes on the clock when it was about 9 AM, as that is about when those messages were exchanged between Leslie and I.  I had my eyes on the clock at just after 2, when she collapsed, and again around 2:40 when I got the phone call from my dad saying, "Come quick, something terrible happened." I had my eyes on the clock around 3:30 when they allowed us back to see her.  Despite the ventilator and tubes coming from everywhere, I remember how beautiful and peaceful she looked.  I remember around 5, when we all regrouped at home, then headed to Henry Ford Hospital to see her in her ICU bed.

Not a day goes by that I don't think about it.  Maybe not in quite so much detail, but it is always on my mind in one way or another.

Happy 2nd RE-birthday, Leslie.  I love you so, so much!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Two years ago today, I was celebrating my best friends wedding.   It was a gorgeous fall day, bright and crisp.  The dresses were cherry red.  My sister and I were bridesmaids and spent morning until night together, looking like queens.  Laughing, dancing, eating, drinking, and enjoying each other's company. 

Two years ago today is the last memory I have of my sister pre-brain injury.  Do you have any idea how thankful I am that out of all the memories I have in my life, THIS was the memory that is the "last"?  We were surrounded by our favorite people:  Kristen, Colin, Renee, Heather, Linsey, Mr. and Mrs. Mosczynski, as well as our parents and our spouses.  Do memories get much better than that?

I remember when I got the call.  One of the first people I called was Kristen.  I told her what I knew, and then said, "thank you."  Why would saying thank you be appropriate?  Because at that moment, I didn't know what was going on.  I didn't know if my sister would be alive by the time I got to the ER.  If there was any "last memory" I wanted, it was exactly the one I had:  laughing, dancing, eating drinking, and enjoying each other's company on a gorgeous fall day, bright and crisp.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

So it's no surprise that I got a new job.  Totally unexpected, but it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

Normally, I am a person that HATES change.  Working in health care, that doesn't exactly mesh real well together.  Things CONSTANTLY change.  And I constantly hate it.  When I got my first nursing position, I went into it with a very dear friend (hi, Julie!) so it wasn't quite as scary.  When I took on my second position, I went into it with another friend and previous coworker.  This time?  It was all me, all alone.  It's funny, because normally this would cause insane amounts of anxiety and guilt. I think I feel more guilt about not feeling guilty than I do about the changes!  I even TRY to feel unhappy...and I can't!  It literally is like there is sign after sign after sign that this was a really good decision.

Let me tell you the big sign today:

The spiritual director was giving a speech.  It was basically about patient's perception,  nonverbal body language, etc.  She personally knew someone who was in an ICU two separate occasions, but in the same health care system.  The first time, she had just gone through a very long night.  She had a cup of coffee in her hand and the nurse came in and said, "Coffee is NOT allowed in the ICU!  Please get rid of it immediately." Second time, same circumstance, just sans the cup of coffee, as it was "not allowed".  She was standing by her loved ones bed, feeling exhausted.  A nurse came up, but her hand on her shoulder and said, "You must be exhausted.  Can I get you a cup of coffee?"

Oh, yes.  THIS situation is right up my alley.  If you have paid attention to posts from a year or so ago,  I had a similar situation.  This time my sister was the critically ill patient.  Signs posted everywhere about the ICU rules, including family members cannot sleep in patients room.  Okay, understandable.  It was maybe day 2 or 3 of her stay.  She was still intubated and VERY touch and go.  Exhaustion was an understatement.  I held Leslie's hand, and rested my forehead on our clasped hands.  The nurse came in and said, "There is NO sleeping in the ICU."  Another day, I was in with Leslie, in the same  position, but with my head up, and the nurse said, "I need to position your sister..."  This was normally the cue for me to get out of the way and take a long walk.  Instead, the nurse finished her sentence with, " do you mind helping me?  We can wash her hair and braid it, too."

Perception.  Words.  Being observant of what is going on.  Empathy.

The only way I can describe how I feel about this huge change is: complete happiness and peace. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

For several weeks when Leslie was in the ICU, she literally had tubes coming from all over.  Then on top of all the tubes, she had the ventilator, which while it wasn't breathing for her, it was protecting her airway, which obviously is very important.

I remember when Jay's Grandpa was dying of brain cancer.  From diagnosis to death, we're talking months.  I remember we were on out way to a birthday party and I told Jay I felt we should stop by to see him one more time, as he was inevitably close to death.  When we arrived, he had the "death rattle", meaning secretions were building up in his mouth, throat, and lungs and just rattling around in there with each pathetic breath.  His arms were so swollen they were shiny, and when you touched them, it caused an indent that never fully rebounded.

I also remember when Jay's aunt was dying from diabetic kidney failure.  We were all there.  We were in the process of moving her from the recliner to the hospital breaths when she did those awful "fake"breaths....where her chest rose and fell, but there was no air exchange.  Just like that, she was gone.

Last story was my Uncle Frank's funeral.  He was in his coffin and was on day 3 of the viewing.  I touched his arm. Rock hard and cold.  It made me quietly yelp and back away, and also caused me to vow to never touch a deceased loved one again.

Back to Les.  When people were around, I kept the touching to a minimum.  Maybe hold her hand or brush her hair.  I was comfortable enough in the hospital setting to know that each bleep and bloop of the machines did not necessarily mean something bad, but for my parents sanity, I kept the touching to a minimum.  What they DIDN'T know, was that when everyone was gone and I was on night duty, it was a regular ol' Jane Fonda session all up in that ICU hizzouse.  I'll be damned if my sister recovers from sudden cardiac arrest but then has months and months of PT related to foot droop.  Or worse, she recovers, then becomes septic due to bed sores.  Nope!  Not on my watch.

I remember one particular bad night.  She was in full blown paranoia mode, fully believing someone was going to break in to our "apartment".  Not only that, she was having a horrible reaction to a drug and had hives head to toe.  She didn't get the concept of scratching the itchiness, so she just moved.  A lot.  She still had tubes in, this time we were down to heart monitors, a catheter, and a PICC line.  She'd go to grab at the PICC line, and as you gently pealed her fingers away, she was already plotting on attacking the foley straight on.  As you carefully told her that it will HURT if she pulls that out, she has already detached herself from all the heart monitors and is handing them to you so sweetly as if to say, "here, I think you misplaced these!"  It was nonstop, all night long.  I was tired.  Finally?  I said "Screw it!" to my empty bed and climbed into her bed.  I rolled her to her side and got the foley anchored tightly between her legs.  The PICC was covered by her gown now, so it was less distracting, and the heart monitors were on their own, meaning:  she was still plucking them off left and right.  Anyhow, I got her situated and positioned myself behind her bottom, in the crook of her knees and gently blew some cold air on her backside with one hand while using the other hand to gently rub over her entire body to relieve the itching.  It was then that she finally fell asleep.

Her paranoia ceased because I was physically touching her and calming her; as well as distracting her from other things that were bothering her (the itchiness) which she did not have the mental capacity to put the two together.

This is just a specific example of touch.  My hands were on her constantly.  Rubbing her shoulders, scratching her back, stroking her legs and arms.  I couldn't do much, but I could let her know with a gently touch "I AM HERE."

My current nursing role is very hands off.  Sure, I get to talk to my patients and develop relationships with them.  It's been amazing.  But I miss the hands on part.  I miss being able to assess a patients general well being by simply listening to heart and lung sounds, as well as bowel sounds.  To assess the status of a wound by removing a dressing, comparing previous assessments, and then redressing the wound.  Of having a delicate, bony arm around my waist as I shuffle an elderly patient to the bathroom.  Of hugging the wife of the man who just passed away. Of rubbing lotion on the elderly patient with no family to visit, who winks at me as I leave as his way of expressing appreciation.

I miss it.  Literally speaking, I'm not going "home", as it is a new health system with people I do not know.  To ME, though...I am absolutely going back "home".  Home is where your heart is...isn't that what that cliche little plaque says that you can usually find for 25 cents at a garage sale?  It has so much truth, though.  I'm so read to go back.  Back to what I refer to as "home".

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

You don't even have to know me very well to know that I don't have a whole heck of a lot of confidence within myself.  I seek approval from anyone and everyone all the time.

There are a few things in my life, though, that I don't need others to tell me I am good at (note I said good, NOT perfect) because I already know it.  I know it because I pour my heart and soul into the role and I truly feel if you give something your all, you will be successful.

I'm a good mom.  I adore my children and I believe with my whole heart that they are the greatest creation I have ever had a part in.  Sure, they see me fly off the hook sometimes (all the time) or sit around in pajama pants at 2 in the afternoon and announce "chips and dip for lunch today!" probably more than they should, BUT... they know I love them with every ounce of my being.  They are doted on hand and foot and I would lay my life down in a heartbeat if it meant protecting theirs.   The only authentic art work I own is the works of Ethan and Allison, and their masterpieces are decorated all over my cupboards and walls.  I save everything.  My closet looks like it's out of an episode of Hoarders, but if you took the time to REALLY look, you'd see it consists of folders upon folders of little snippets of all parts of their lives.  I never doubt, not for one second, that they don't know just how much I love them.

I'm a good wife.  Luckily, Jay does not log into my blog so he can't do any editing, but on the flip side, he could log in if he wanted, because our lives are shared.  No secrets.  He is the only human being who can drive me crazy both in a good way and a bad way.  He loves football, I love Real Housewives.  He loves (has) to budget, I spend like money grows on trees (technically speaking, though, it does..)  Bottom line is, we share the common bond that family is everything.  We chose each other for a reason, and we don't take our relationship lightly.  There is nothing in this entire world that I keep secret from him (except the Target bill, and only then, it's only secret until it arrives in the mail) and he is the same.  I pride myself on our trust, faithfulness, and loyalty.  And the greatest part?  I could take out the "mom" parts of the above paragraph and replace it with "dad", and it would be completely applicable.

I'm a good nurse.  It's not an act when I take care of a patient.  And to me, they aren't patients, but people.  Both fortunately and unfortunately, I know the role of being a patient and being the family member of a patient, and those memories never fade and I definitely apply them in my practice.  Won't lie, seeing the diagnosis "ETOH addiction" or hearing "go ahead and push the dilaudid works better that way!" makes me roll my eyes and want to run off into the sunset screaming, there are so many amazing moments that trump those.

I'm a good Christian.  It took me 30 years to fully grasp what it meant to be a Christian, and I can say that ever since the near death experience with ,my sister, I have finally learned that God is key.  I hate that it took me so long to "get it", but I am so glad I finally did.  Every single decision I make, I literally do think, "What would God think?" and act based on that.  I'm far from a perfect Christian. FAR from it.  But I can say with confidence that God knows I am trying.  When I hear my daughter sing worship music, clench her hands in the world's tightest fist when she prays or hear that my son did the prayer over the children's offering in Sunday School, my heart bursts with love and amazement.

The past two years have been hell on Earth.  I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy.  Through it, though, I have learned more about MYSELF than ever, and the above are the biggest things.  I've learned I cannot control my surroundings, but I can control how I respond.  I've learned that people may hurt me, but it is not my job to ensure they understand or feel the pain they inflicted.  I've learned that sometimes, the only things important in life are God and family.  The world can crumble all around you. but if the foundation YOU are standing on is strong, you will be just fine.

I will be just fine.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie

 burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being

 strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe

that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that

tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

To Whom It May Concern:

I wanted to share a recent ER experience I had.  I am intentionally leaving out as many identifying details as possible, as my purpose of this letter is not to get anyone in trouble or to receive any form of service recovery.  It is simply to make you aware of how one experience can change a person's perception for forever.

I recently presented to the emergency room with a threatened miscarriage.  My heart was broken, so of course, I was crying.  I went through triage where my vital signs were taken.  I was immediately taken back to a bed, where a gentleman who was a part of the support staff asked me, "What brings you to the ER tonight?"  Through tears, I had to tell this man what I was there for as we walked through the crowded hallway.  I knew his intentions were good, but it just re-opened an already very raw wound.

Once I was put in my bed, a nurse came in to draw blood.  A physician was speaking with me at the time (someone I know personally, this was not the assigned physician to my case) so she gave us privacy and said she would be "right back".  "Right back" turned into several hours.

When the nurse returned, it was someone else, as I assume it was shift change.  She came through the curtain and happily exclaimed, "congratulations!"  Again, good intentions, but not appropriate for a woman in the midst of a miscarriage.  My response was a hesitant, "thank you, I hope," which lead to her asking if this was my first baby.  I said no, it was my third, and that I had an 8 year old and 3 year old at home.  She was visibly surprised by the ages of my other children at home.  When the transportation worker came to get me for my ultrasound, she said, "you should be pleased to know that the medical staff are talking about how you are too young to be here."  It's becoming repetitious, but again, I do not believe it was meant to be insulting, but hearing that and also seeing the surprised look on the nurses face, I knew what was actually being talked about was likely more related to me appearing young, not having my husband at my bedside because he was home with our other two children, and being on my third pregnancy.  Had anyone looked at my chart, they would have seen I am a married woman and of a "socially acceptable" age to be on my third pregnancy.  This was the ONLY discussion that night as far as my previous OB history is concerned.  No one ever asked again about how many times I have been pregnant, if I have miscarried before, or if I had any risk factors for miscarrying.  Simply that I was "too young" to be here.

Next came the pelvic exam.  I don't think there is such a thing as a pleasant pelvic exam, but I do know there is such a thing as compassion and warmth when giving one.  The physician, who explained to me that she was very busy that evening, did not walk me through any of it.  In fact, she gave zero warning when inserting the speculum, which naturally caused me to tense up.  The only verbal acknowledgement she gave me was, "you need to relax."  The manual exam was equally as painful, as there was no warning as far as what she was about to do.

Once all of the testing was done, the physician came into my room with a smile on her face, which  gave me a glimmer of hope that things might be okay.  Instead she stated, "your pregnancy hormone levels are declining and you are miscarrying.  I'm sorry."  That was it.  No instructions as far as what to expect, nothing.  The nurse did come give me a print-out on miscarrying, but that was all.

I feel compelled to write this letter, because what most of the staff did not know is that I am a nurse.  Not only am I a nurse, I work in a gynecology clinic, so a lot of this is not foreign to me.  No, I did not share this information that evening, because I was not there as a nurse.  I was there as a patient.  A patient going through an extremely traumatic event.

The only thing I want this letter to accomplish is to stress the importance of viewing patients as individuals.  You can be the best doctor in the country as far as your knowledge goes, but if you lack compassion, nothing else matters.  I suffered a huge, huge loss that night.  It is something I will never forget and I will always remember that I have two children on Earth, and one in Heaven.  I do not expect a hospital staff to feel the same emotions I do because that would be completely unrealistic.  I just want them to realize that the way they are towards a patient going through something difficult is also never forgotten.  If I could erase that ER experience from my memory, I would.  Unfortunately, because it is intertwined with my loss of a baby, it will be with me forever as well.

I do not feel anyones actions that night were intentionally cold or disrespectful.  I can assure you with my whole heart that I don't feel that way.  Being in the medical field, I know that there are budgets to work with as well as staff shortages, so people are doing what they can with what they have, and it's hard and exhausting.  I do believe, though, that my experience could have been a completely different experience had people practiced some common sense.  Read my chart and see what I am there for before you congratulate me on a pregnancy that is ending right before my eyes.  If you don't want to make the effort to read my chart, then read the tears on my face before you ask  me why I am there.  Understand that while no woman wants a pelvic exam, I am receiving one because I need to know for sure if my baby is gone or if my baby is still there.  I'm going to be tense.  That is an understatement of how I am going to be.  Use gently words and walk me through it.  I can guarantee it will make your job easier, if anything.  And please.  When you come in to tell me I am losing my third baby, at the very least, don't say it with a smile.  Sure, you may be otherwise having a wonderful night at work, but for me, it is going down as one of the worst days of my life.  Please respect that.

I have no idea what will happen with this letter.  I pray it doesn't get tossed aside.  Again, my intentions are NOT to get someone in trouble.  I want nothing in return except to know that maybe people might be more cognizant of their actions and how they affect others, because while my case might be forgotten about already from the hospitals standpoint, it will live with me for forever.

Name withheld

Thursday, August 9, 2012

As of yesterday, and for the rest of my life, my medical history will always say G3P2.   That's obstetrics lingo for "I've been pregnant three times, but have two living children."  Three times I've seen those two beautiful pink lines on a home pregnancy test, but just two blond hair, blue eyed babies to hold.  And please don't get me wrong.  When I say "just", I am not discounting the blessing having Ethan and Allison is in my life.  I thank God every day for those two.  I will just forever know that there was a glimmer of a chance that there would be three.

I'll start at the beginning-ish.  Jay and I weren't trying.  I always rolled my eyes when people would say they had an "oops!" while on birth control, but now I get it.  It can happen.  It does happen.  It happened to me.  Granted, when it happened, just a short 7 days ago, it took me over by surprise and complete shock.  It took me a day before it finally sunk in that I was pregnant.  As we tried to figure out due dates and bedroom arrangements, the reality REALLY took hold and we allowed ourselves to be excited at this new, unexpected reality our lives were about to endure.

Just as I was finishing up the touches on how I wanted to announce our blessing to the world, I saw what every pregnant woman fears.  Blood.

After a trip to the ER, which was the absolute worse experience of my life and I will do everything in my power to erase it from my memory for forever, it was confirmed via blood work that my pregnancy hormones were declining instead of rising.  A miscarriage was in process.

The first 24 hours were horrible.  Crying like I have never cried before.  Deep, anguishing cries.  Pain, both physically and emotionally.  It's not like a miscarriage is something that happens and it's done.  Each twinge of a cramp, each movement I made was another stab in the heart:  my body was rejecting this tiny bundle of cells that would soon turn into a sweet baby.  I've taken more Motrin and Aleve than recommended, but it is all I can do to attempt to get through this with the smallest amount of pain I could manage.  It's just a mask, though, as regardless of what I feel, I know what is happening and, to put it quite frankly, it sucks.

Last year at the street fair, I bought a silver necklace with two tiny charms.  One has an E, for my Ethan.  One has an A, for my Allison.  I no longer have the business card of the woman who designed it, but I so wish I did as it is one of my very favorite pieces of jewelry.  Regardless, this afternoon, I purchased a tiny, delicate silver heart to add to my necklace.

 It won't mean anything to others, as most already think my "AE" necklace is from American Eagle.  But to me it will represent that third beautiful pregnancy test that never really went much further.  That had the potential to be, but just couldn't, for reasons only God will ever know.

G3P2, but my heart will forever wish it was P3.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Wanna know what I realized yesterday?  When Leslie doesn't have a moment to "think", she can hold a conversation as if nothing was ever wrong with her brain.  It's the times that there are silences in the conversation that she starts to throw out questions about things to keep things straight in her mind.  If the conversation is busy, she is able to contribute in a meaningful way and again, you'd never know anything was different.

Part of her brain injury means that she becomes fixated on things.  A thought will cross her mind, and she almost becomes obsessed with it.  That is one reason why I am careful about things I tell her.  For instance, if it's something that isn't going to happen for a few weeks, there is no sense in telling her, as it will tumble around in her head and she will be consumed with it.  This observation of mine pretty much just proves what we already know.  Her short term memory is obsolete, while her long term memory is still intact.

Yesterday we celebrated my mom's 50-something-th birthday!  It was a very nice time.  We ordered pizza, Jay and I (okay, Jay only) brought a homemade salad, and Leslie and George brought a Bumpy Cake from Saunders.  Yum!  Part of Leslie's gift to my mom was a DVD George had put together with some very old movies (1980-1981) that were found in my parents attic.  They all featured Leslie as the star, and it was amazing seeing videos of her!  I've seen many pictures of her as an infant, but to see her on video was incredible.  She was a gorgeous baby and it's so fun to see how her mannerisms as an infant are pretty consistent with her mannerisms as an adult:  sweet and gentle.

In other news:  some friends of ours got a trampoline.  The immature part of me just HAD to jump on it and I was quickly reminded of what birthing two babies does to your body.  I know you might be thinking TMI TMI TMI! ...but I also know there are women out there that are saying, "Girrrrrrrrrl, I know whatcha mean!"  Kegels, anyone?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Jay said to me yesterday, "You haven't updated your blog in a while.  How come?"

This was such a surprise to me, as I didn't even know he read my blog!  Anyhow, it made me realize I should post an update.

Last week, we went on vacation.  More of a "stay"-cation, really, as we just went up to Jay's parents house near Ludington, and did some day trips here and there.  The first night we got there, we got this awful phone call letting us know that Jay's best friend was in a motorcycle accident and was in critical condition.  He was the passenger on the motorcycle.  The driver died en route to the hospital.

Hearing this news brought back similar emotions from when I got the awful call about Leslie.  I remember with her, my mind would only allow me to think, "I must get to her."  Because I remember feeling this way so clearly, I made sure Jay knew that if he needed to leave to be by his friend's side, it was okay and he could go.  I understood.  He didn't go, but he remained in constant contact with close friends and family for frequent updates.

When we got home, we went to see him.  Amazingly he was already moved to a step-down unit, but he was in rough shape.  His jaw underwent major reconstruction and was wired shut.  Because of this, they had to put a trach in his neck to maintain his airway.  He also had major pelvic reconstruction, and had external and internal pins keeping his pelvis in position.  He didn't have any other major injuries, but he had major "road rash" from head to toe, with some incisions closed with staples. 

This was when the thoughts of Leslie REALLY came flooding back.  With Les, she was so unstable, and had wires everywhere.  If I was with her, I was touching her.  I would rub her arms, scratch her back, wipe her face with a cold washcloth, or just hold her hand.  When I saw Bryan, I just wanted to touch him to let him know it was okay.  Of course, I didn't really feel it was appropriate, so I resisted, but the urge was so strong.

When someone is in critical condition, the feeling of helplessness is so overpowering.  You want to do SOMETHING.  With Leslie, it was braiding her hair, and attempting to maintain range of motion in her extremities.  With Bryan, it was making sure his syringe was full, as he was allowed to have small squirts of water in his mouth.  You just feel so, so helpless and desperate.

I can say with such joy that he is recovering amazingly well.  The trach is now plugged off so he is able to talk (as best as one can talk with their jaw wired shut), and despite the pins, physical therapy has been getting him up and out of bed.  It's unbelievable.

I have genuine happiness that he not only survived, but that the injuries he sustained are healing incredibly fast and he could quite possibly be back to his normal self sooner than anyone anticipated.  I'd be lying, though, if I didn't admit that a part of me thinks, "How come Leslie's injuries couldn't have taken the same route?"  Here we are, nearly 2 years later, and she still suffers the effects of the brain injury.  She wasn't riding a motorcycle, she was putting her Master's degree to work and teaching students Spanish.  Why can't she catch a break, too?

Aside from that, all is well in the K household.  The kids are happily enjoying summer.  Jay has been traveling a lot for work, which makes for a little extra chaos at home, as I am still working full-time.  Work is good.  Leslie is good.  My parents are good.  I really can't complain!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

This was Ethan when he was 5, showing us how he felt about shopping:

This is Ethan, at the age of 7, expressing to us his feelings about going to the SAME stores:

How's that saying go?  "Some things will never change?"  Ha!
It was so refreshing to be with my mom and sister again, enjoying each others company.  Our days were filled with sunshine, swimming, and super energetic, chatty children.  Our nights were quieter, mostly in hopes of getting said super energetic, chatty children to sleep, but also to discuss how our dynamics have changed, and how we are coping.

My mom and I had picked up within each other that each of us were still grieving, just in a different way.  That is okay, of course, but the bad part about it was it was slowly pulling us apart.  THAT cannot happen.  No way, no how.  My mom has been my rock my entire life.  I know I have helped her through some rough times as well.  And just as I anticipated, a short conversation in front of the glow of some strange car TV show (up-northians, what on EARTH do you guys watch? ) and things were quickly resolved.

I bet at least one person reads the word "GRIEF" and thinks "WOAH!  OVERBOARD MUCH?"  because Leslie. didn't.  die.  She lived, she beat all the odds, hallelujah amen, the end!   Now don't get me wrong.  We are thankful.  We are SO thankful.  Our hearts are practically bursting with thankful-ness (did I get my point across there?)

But that doesn't mean we (and her!) did not experience great, great loss.  My mom's way of dealing with the changes is she pours her heart and soul into making sure my sister is okay.  All her needs are met.  Belly fed, laundry done, bills paid.  She's tired, though.  She has always done so much.  So, so much, for everyone, and does so little for herself.  That's why I adore and admire her so much as a mother.  Not gonna lie.  She raised some pretty amazing women.  We are gentle, yet firm.  We are loving and loyal.  We are hard working, and have morals.  We respect those that deserve respect, and turn away from those that are set out to bring us down.  Bottom line:  My mom is GOOD.

So as any amazing mother would do, when one of your children (even adult ones!) falls into crisis;  when one of your children (even adult ones!) escapes death miraculously... you naturally will fall back into that mother/child role, just as she has done.

Wanna know my way of dealing with it?  Wait for it.  Wait for it.  Okay, I stay away!  SUPER SISTER!  I stay away.  I think about her constantly.  I rehash those first dreadful days often.  I thank God for my sisters husband, who has stuck by her entirely and is doing such an amazing job with this new life.  But if I stay away, I can remember her the way I choose to.  I remember what she was, because seeing how she is is too painful.  I don't seek reality.  I don't WANT reality.  I'll just stay in this fantasy world inside my head and pretend nothing ever happened.  I'll admit, though.  It sure is a lonely way to live.  To say I don't love my sister because this is my coping mechanism sounds so cold.  Truth is, I love her so much more POST-incident.  I saw her fight.  I saw her scared.  I heard her raspy, hoarse voice say "sister" as one of the first words she said, and let me tell you, my heart grew 3 sizes bigger.  Yes, Les.  Sister.  Sister then, Sister now, and Sister for always.  If you ask me who my hero is, I will say, without a single bit of hesitation:  Leslie. 

Neither of these mechanisms are healthy, and I am so thankful we recognize this.  We will figure it out. 

And heck!  (Re-) Starting our annual girls trip was the PERFECT way to start!

Thank you, mom and Les.  I love you guys SO much and there is NO ONE ELSE I would want to share those memories with than you.

And before I wrap this up, remember those pictures of Ethan?  Well thank GOD for this little petunia, who will forever be my diva-licious shop-a-holic:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I still remember the day quite vividly.  My mom and I were sitting in their living room in these God awful sea-foam green chairs they had.  Jay and I were still only dating.  I was in my first semester of college and Jay was away at college.  It was tough being apart and our relationship was a bit rocky.  On a whim, my mom and I decided to head off to Chicago for a long weekend.

That was what started a long tradition.  Every summer, my mom, sister, and I would whisk away to the Windy City and spend until our bank accounts were bone dry, eat at all our favorite restaurants, and giggle as we would try to hold our breath in the back of the stinky taxi cabs.  We had a blast. We were the perfect balance:  I was the crazy shop-a-holic that could not possibly find enough hours in the day to shop to my hearts content; my sister HATED shopping, but preferred doing more educational nonsense, like browse book stores, travel stores, or the Apple store; and mom was in the middle, just going along for the ride and enjoying every second.

We continued this tradition for YEARS.  When I finally got married and was quite pregnant with Ethan, we STILL made our way to Chicago, and I bought myself my first maternity swim suit (hot pink, mind you!)  Once I had an infant at home, we slowed things down a notch.  We still did our annual girls trip, but we kept it more simple such as Frankenmuth or Saugatuck, and more often than not, we had a crazy toddler in tow.

Our last girls trip (plus Ethan!) was to my parents camper.  My mom, Ethan, and I drove in one car, and my sister drove up with her husband a day or so later.  We still had a great time.  We made smores, took turns with Ethan in the pool, and just all around enjoyed each others company.

Last year was the first year we DIDN'T go.  Last year we were too busy adjusting to our new lives post-incident.  It might seem selfish and petty, but when Leslie was SO critical, the thought of never doing our girl trips again was a thought I couldn't even fathom.  It physically hurt my heart to even think of it.

Tomorrow, we restart our tradition.  No, we aren't heading back to the Windy City (although I would love to go again someday!)  We are keeping it simple and going camping.  I'll be bringing my two kids along as well, because you simply can't go camping WITHOUT them!

This weekend we will be reminded of the changes we never asked for, but this weekend will also reaffirm to each of us that nothing, not even sudden cardiac arrest and anoxic brain injuries can stop us from having an amazing time.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Probably one of the biggest struggles I have faced when dealing with depression, particularly after my sister's incident, is the motivation to get out and do things.

I go to work just fine, but making plans?  Forget it.   I can come up with every reason imaginable to cancel.  Not because I don't WANT to do things, but more because the idea of following through is exhausting to me, for whatever reason.

It is very easy to retreat into my shell.  Stay in my protective bubble otherwise known as my house.  But lately, I have made the effort to break through the anxiety it causes, and really DO something.  Sure, it's a challenge, but I am finding the rewards are great.

For instance, Jay and I started playing on our church softball team.  First off, I don't play softball.  I don't play ANYTHING (and no, this is not depression related.  I am not an athlete AT ALL) so signing up to do this was WAYYYYYY out of my safety net.  You know what, though?  We have a blast!  Our team, to put it nicely, sucks, but I bet we have more fun out there than any other team.  The people on the team are so encouraging, and we laugh SO much.  I've also met some new friends through this adventure as well.  Sure, every practice and every game, I have to literally FORCE myself to get ready and go.  But once I am there, all my worries go away.  It's wonderful.

Another great example is we have met some friends from church.  They have kids that are older than our kids, but we have such a good time with them.  They are very laid back, like we are, and between the four of us, we have stories galore.  Their teen daughter dotes on Allison, and Allison equally adores her.  Normally Allison won't go with anyone other than her parents, or her grandparents.  When she sees Amanda, though?  "Where's 'Manda?  Can I go with 'Manda?"  We never leave Amanda without her first french braiding Allison's hair.  It is so cute, and really warms my heart.

Our new friends have a son who is quite severely autistic.  He is the sweetest child, and full of happiness.  This is one of the first times my kids have really been around someone with a developmental challenge, so it does confuse them sometimes, but they listen so well when we explain things to him, and I truly believe they don't see him as being different or strange.  They see him as the boy who loves to play in the water and dance around (especially if the dancing involves spinning in circles).  They ask me questions, but they are GREAT questions, and it really opens up the door for talk about loving everyone, regardless.

Overcoming depression is like trying to tear down a brick wall with no tools.  But the satisfaction that comes with it when you DO make the steps to regain control are so worth it,

I promise.

Friday, May 25, 2012

When I was 20, Jay and I were engaged.  He purchased his first home in that summer, and we still live here today.

When I was 21, I got married to my first and only love.  We were SO YOUNG!  But so sure.

When I was 22, I gave birth to the most precious baby boy in the world.  Ethan Michael graced us with his presence at 35 weeks, weighing a whopping 5 pounds.  He's now 60 pounds, and I just can't believe how fast time goes by!

When I was 23, I decided to change my career path.  I stopped going to college to be a teacher, and went back to college to be a nurse.  I have never once regretted that decision.

When I was 24, I received my acceptance letter into the nursing program.  I remember calling everyone I could think of, reading them the letter.

When I was 25, I was in the depths of the nursing program, stressed beyond all belief, but also very proud that I followed my heart.

When I was 26 I graduated from nursing school and it was one of the most exciting days of my life.  I also accepted my first "real job" at Henry Ford Hospital on the 6th floor.

When I was 27 I gave birth to my princess, Allison Jaye.  She has been the most amazing blessing and I still can't believe I have a daughter. 

When I was 28 my sister collapsed of sudden cardiac arrest and I learned the true meaning of tragedy and sadness.  I also realized how precious life is and tomorrow is not promised.

When I was 29 I left my position as a floor nurse and accepted a position in a gynecologic oncology clinic.  I realized the true strength of women who battle female cancers. 

Tomorrow I turn 30.  I spent most of my 20's creating my life.  I have never felt such a sense of gratitude, appreciation, and peace.  Bring it, 30's!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

To be literal, we started out as one.  One baby girl, born 50-something years ago, when her siblings were already in their late teens.  She was the princess to my Grandma and Grandpa, who doted on her as their unexpected blessing.

Twenty-something years later, we became two, when my sister graced the world with her presence.  Leslie Nicole.  Named after my Grandpa, who was also named Leslie.

At 6 months old, my parents had their first dose of uncertainty, when they learned Leslie had Cerebral Palsy.  They had no idea what her limitations would be, and it must have been so hard just waiting to see what she could do.  Much to their amazement, it hindered her very little.

In 1982, their second and final daughter was!  And then there were three.

I have such fond memories of my childhood.  We would camp every Memorial Day, in our orange pop-up camper, catching caterpillars in empty butter tubs;  Leslie and I would watch Gilligan's Island every morning before walking to school together, and in the summers, we would stay up until 2 AM watching Love Connection and Studs. 

One of my favorite memories that sticks with me is when my mom would pick Leslie and I up from our Grandma and Grandpa's house after school, and we would stop to get Happy Meals before heading out shopping.  It was the little things that mattered.  We didn't need extravagance.  We just needed each other.

My mom was, and still is, fiercely protective of her girls.  She set firm boundaries with us, but we never questioned how much she loved us.  I remember when I was about 18 years old.  Leslie was heading to Chicago with some friends.  My mom and I were sitting in the living room, talking about things that were stressing us out, and on a whim, my mom decided we should go to Chicago, too.  We planned the trip in 5 days, and had an amazing time.  That started a tradition, and for the next several years, right up until I was VERY pregnant with Ethan, my mom, sister, and I would head to Chicago every summer for a long weekend.  It would take DAYS to list all of those memories, but the ones that stick out the most would likely be Sea Dog, the stinky cab driver, and "the dark side."

I got married in 2003.  Leslie got married in 2009.  She was my maid of honor, and I was her matron of honor.  One thing my mom always stressed to us was that friends come and go, but we would forever be sisters.  Making the decision about standing up in each others weddings was incredibly easy.

Late 2009, I gave birth to my daughter, Allison.  I knew it would likely be my last pregnancy, and Leslie never planned on having children.  She was on my left side as Allison was born, experiencing the entire thing right there with me.  I don't think there is an Aunt in the entire world that was more proud than my sister.  "Sessee" is what both my kids call her.  Ethan is almost 8, and still calls her "Sessee".

2010 is the year things changed.  A little after 2 PM on September 20, we were, in fact, only 2 for several minutes.  Several crucial, intense minutes.  Leslie's heart stopped.  Her breathing stopped.  She was essentially gone.

Something, somewhere said, "No, it is not her time"...and she came back.  Those first few days after September 20, my mom and I both knew that although we were three again, the reality that we might only be two was very, very real.  My mom couldn't imagine life without her daughter.  I couldn't imagine life without my sister.  And WE didn't WANT to be TWO.  We worked as three.  We wanted to be three.  Please, God, let us still be three.

Amazingly, she started to wake up.  She began to regain some function.  Emotionally, it has been a hurricane.  A crazy, torrential ride that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

But guess what?  This year, we spent Mother's Day as three.  The three of us, sitting at the Melting Pot, laughing hard as we shared memories.  Going to the Melting Pot on Mother's Day is another tradition for the three of us.  Last year we didn't go.  Leslie was still quite weak, so we kept it low key.  This year, though, things have changed.  We had a beautiful, amazing day together.  No one actually said the word, but I know we all thought it some way or some how.  "We were meant to be three."

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Last year we raised $1600.00 for the American Heart Association.

This year, we raised almost $1000.00 more, bringing in a total of $2500.00.

Last year I did the fundraising myself.

This year she shared the donation link on her facebook page every so often, and even hosted a 31 gifts party, passing on the hostess gifts and putting it towards the Heart Walk.

Last year we pushed her in a wheel chair through the Walk.  She was weak, and could hardly make it through a grocery store, let alone a walk over a mile long.

This year, she walked the whole thing, at a great pace, and never complained once.

Last year I added her name to the survivors board as she sat in the stands, probably wishing she were laying on the couch instead.

This year, SHE put her name on the survivors board, went down on the field when the survivors were honored, and sported her survivor baseball cap throughout the entire walk.

Last year, she didn't talk much.  There was no such thing as holding a conversation with her.

This year, she chatted away endlessly:  with my mom and I, with my friends, with other walkers, and with my children.

The Heart Walk is over for the year, but can't you see why this is so near and dear to us?  To her?  She is amazing.  She is my hero.  I am so ridiculously proud of her and her achievements.  I love you SO MUCH, Leslie.  I know you struggle with finding what the plan is for your life, now that it has changed, but I am starting to see a sparkle in your eyes that wasn't there before.  I see things happening.  I see you making big changes.  Look how much money was raised BECAUSE OF YOU! 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It is so amazing how life works.  This week has been really hard on my emotions.  Like, REALLY hard.   Like as in, eyes burning from crying and a pounding headache that no amount of Tylenol will help.

But then, something wonderful happens.  Your 7 year old son approaches you with a card he made at school.  On the back of the card, he wrote:

You love me.  You take care of me.  You are very, very funny.  You help me lots, too.  You are very fun.  You teach me things I don't know yet.  You taught me things like God when I was 4 or 5 years old.  You play with me and you read the Bible to me.

I know I fail.  I fail every day.  I am an imperfect person in an imperfect world, just trying to do the best I can with what I've got.  This, though.  This shows me that I have done one thing very, very right.

I love you, Ethan.  Thank you for being the candlelight that shines, pushing out all of the darkness.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I remember one of the thoughts that crossed my mind on September 11, 2001 was how scary the world can be, and whether or not I wanted to raise my children when things seemed so bad.  This was 3 years before I even became a mother, but the thought of evil and how it would impact my future children was already starting.

As an adult, you see hatred and bullying all over the place.  People have zero tolerance for anything it seems.  People not only lack manners, but they lack any sort of social skills at all!   It's pathetic, sad, and again, for the future of my children, it terrifies me.

My children come from a home full of love.  They are doted on as though there were nothing in the world more fabulous than them.  Our home is a safe haven.  They are accepted, appreciated, respected, and guided in a way that will make them turn into the same type of adult.

It's the rest of the world that is out of my control.  It's the inability to control what my children face.  What type of people they encounter.  What types of situations they are put in.

I can't control that, and it drives me insane.

What I can control, though, is teaching them how to react.  How to show acceptance in a world where every little difference is criticized.  To appreciate, even when others make them feel unappreciated.  To  respect others, even when there is not much going on in return.  But most importantly, to know, that no matter how cruel the world can be, that they are still the most amazing, wonderful, incredible human beings, and no amount of negativity will ever change that.

...and if they have trouble grasping that concept, I can't force it on them, but I can guarantee that they will forever have that safe haven at home, where there is nothing in the world more fabulous than them.

Friday, May 4, 2012

When my sister's incident happened, Allison was about 18 months old.  Ethan was 6.  When it initially happened, we didn't tell Ethan about it, because we were not sure what the prognosis was going to be, and how do you tell a 6 year old he might never see his Aunt Sessee again?  I just couldn't go there.

I remember the day that I finally did tell him.  Normally, he is quite sensitive to stressful situations, so I was so nervous.  He handled it as though I told him she had a common cold. 

I also remember the day I first took my kids to see her.  She was off the ventilator, but VERY confused and disoriented.  She hardly knew who we were, and I didn't know how Ethan would feel if she had no idea who he was.  I prepared him for this as best as I could, and he handled it, again, like a trooper.

Allison has zero recollection of the Leslie pre-accident.  The Leslie she knows now is the only Leslie she has ever known.  Ethan, though.  Ethan knows.  And even though he is very young, he remembers very detailed memories.

For instance, this past week was take your child to work day.  Jay and I do not have jobs that allow children to go to, but my sister, as a teacher, took Ethan the year prior to her incident.  He absolutely LOVED it.  She loved taking him.  Ethan's teacher sent me an e-mail stating that Ethan told her that he used to be able to do take your child to work day "before Sessee got sick."

My heart broke when I heard this, and I am surprised at the tears that filled my eyes, as I very rarely cry about her incident anymore.  It's just the mere fact that he remembers. 

I carry a picture of my sister when her condition was critical and she was on the vent.  I keep it in the visor in my car, occasionally putting it in my purse or work bag, depending on how I am feeling.  Why I do that, I am not completely sure, but I do.

Anyhow, I was driving the other day with both Ethan and Allison in the back seat.  Ethan asked if he could see the picture.  I handed it to him, and literally at the exact same time, both of my kids looked at the picture and said "ohhhhh" with a strong hint of sadness in their voices.  The picture is not new to them.  They have seen it before.  It was just like they both simultaneously needed that gently reminder.

There is no doubt you learn to adapt when life changes on you without your consent.  You have no choice.  But it is nice, in a strange sense, to have little reminders such as these two circumstances, that you never completely forget.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dear Leslie,

All of our lives, I have always admired you.  You are so smart.  You never had an enemy.  You worked so hard for everything you wanted.

Do you remember the night before you left to go to Spain?  You and I went to Red Robin late at night and shared some appetizers.  I remember I didn't really want to talk about why we were there, because the thought of you leaving for 3 months made me cry.  I would miss you, and I was scared for you.

Watching my two kids interact, I am constantly going back to how things were when you and I were growing up.  We got along really well.  We looked out for each other.  Remember how mom always used to tell us, "your friends will come and go, but your sister will always be there."  I never forgot that then, and I still remind myself that now.

I remember when Ethan was born in 2004.  You were the proudest Aunt in the world!  You loved holding him, and you were constantly helping him learn by showing him educational websites and buying him books to help him see beyond his sheltered little life.  My favorite two books you bought him were Ruby Bridges and Life Doesn't Frighten Me At All.  Books I never even knew about until you bought them for him.  I give you a lot of credit for how smart Ethan is today.

Remember Allison's birth?  I loved having you there.  It is a moment that is so precious to me.  I think the process of giving birth is so miraculous and beautiful, I am so thankful you could be there for me.  And Allison!  I love the way you love my kids.

The night we left the hospital on September 20, 2010, the thought of living the rest of my life without my sister instilled a fear in me I had never felt before.  It was like getting punched in the stomach.  All of the air was out of me and I felt like I was in a heavy, heavy fog. 

You don't go through life anticipating something is going to happen like it did to you. So when it DOES happen, the event alone is shocking.  But for me, it was the thought of not having you to talk to.  Not having you be able to broaden my children's horizons by exposing them to so many different ways of life.  Not having you there for when our parents are older and we need to make decisions together for them.  I needed you.  I needed you more than I ever knew.

Looking back on that day, I never would have imagined that you would make such a miraculous recovery.  Sure, there are some pieces that are not completely back yet, but the parts that make you YOU are there, and I am so thankful for that.

I can't do life without you.  You are my hero.  My big sister.  I admired you then, and I admire you even more now.

Nothing can separate us.  We will forever be sisters.  We will go through this life together.  Nothing could ever change that.

I love you so much.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Becoming a mom is the one thing in my life that I had absolutely NO doubt about doing.  I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a mother, and my two children fulfill my life in a way that nothing else can.

About two months ago, Allison became sick.  Pretty typical symptoms: fever, vomiting, the usual.  It was her lethargy that concerned me, though, and at the time, we were in the process of finding a new pediatrician, so I didn't have anywhere to take her.  We took her to an Urgent Care and they checked her for everything.  Everything except a urinary tract infection. 

She was prescribed the usual medication, the pink stuff (aka Amoxicillan) and we were on our way.  Within 24 hours, her symptoms improved and we thought it was all behind us. 

A week later, she got sick again.  This time she had very classic urinary tract infection symptoms.  RAGING urinary tract infection symptoms.  Back to urgent care.  She was put on a different antibiotic, and at this point, we found a WONDERFUL pediatrician who was now taking control of her care.

After a week of antibiotic number 2, we sent a urine culture, and this time it came back even worse than the first:  it was growing two different bacteria in very high counts.  On to antibiotic number 3!

As we were trying to treat this, her pediatrician alerted us to the fact that she was showing 2 distinct signs of possibly having kidney reflux, where urine flows back up into the kidney instead of out.  The fact that she had a definite diagnosis of a UTI, and the fact that she developed it at a very young age.

Antibiotic number 3 decreased the bacteria counts, but it took a fourth one to wipe it out completely. 

Last Thursday we met with a pediatric nephrologist.  This week she had to undergo an ultrasound of her kidneys and bladder, as well as a VCUG (basically they put a catheter in, fill her bladder with contrast, then take x-ray images to see which direction the contrast flows).  We were told that structurally, she is completely normal.  There were zero signs of reflux or any other abnormality.

I don't think I realized how nervous I was until the doctor confirmed she was just fine.  A weight has been lifted off me.

Allison is such an amazing child.  She was so extremely cooperative during the tests, even the doctor was amazed.  I am so proud of my girl.  And I am so thankful to be her mom.
I vividly remember a day many years ago.  I was quite pregnant with Ethan, and my mom, Aunt Bev, and I were doing a fundraising walk.  I just didn't feel well that day... headache, nauseous, just very blah.  My mom finally said, "Why don't you take some Tylenol?"  I did, and I felt better.  It honestly never occurred to me to take something, because I never took ANY medications.

Fast forward to 2010.  My sister gets sick.  Sleep is minimal, stress is through the roof.  I started having headaches.  Likely tension headaches.  I took Excedrin.  It worked.  Then a few months later, reality set in of our new life with Leslie, and depression hit hard and furious.  I saw my physician.  Now I had antidepressants added.  Due to my anxiety that I had since I was very young, I was having a lot of trouble sleeping, and I felt super stressed all day long.  My doctor added an anti-anxiety medication, as well as a medication for insomnia.

I went from taking NOTHING, to taking 5 pills at night for mood and sleep, and then most days I will take half of an anti-anxiety medication, as well as something for a headache, because I get them more days than not.

What. the. heck.  What happened to me?  Why I have I become so reliant on a medication to make me who I am? 

I have no clue how to get out of this routine, but I am SO determined.

It's time for ME to be back in control.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Today I took my BLS refresher class.  I always hate taking it.  It's 4 miserably long hours, giving "rescue" breaths into these dummy's that don't work, and I am reminded my lack of upper body strength as I try to compress in the 30:2 ratio.  Whew!

This time was a little different, in that as I practiced, I practiced with the image in my head that someone was doing this to my sister.  Someone that was not in the medical field.  Pounding on her chest, just willing her to breath.  I've done CPR on a real person before.  I don't know how I would handle doing it to my sister, though.

This time around, the BLS class wasn't a nuisance.  4 hours?  That information could have easily been done over a couple of days so people would really grasp the concepts and feel comfortable with the AED's and that whole process.  The BLS book?  I read it for the first time ever.  That book should be right next to everyone's Bible.  And for my non-believing readers?  Let it BE your Bible.

I didn't realize how important it was until it hit me close to home.  I didn't realize that moments where you utilize this knowledge can happen at any time and any where.  My mind did drift off at one point... but it drifted off to where I could pinpoint where AED's were in various locations that I frequent.  Want to know my answer?  I HAVE NO IDEA!  I don't know where one is at Meijer.  Where the nearest one is at Bishop park.  Emergency phones?  Where are those? 

I know I say it a gazillion times but:   THIS IS WHY I WALK!  This is lifesaving stuff, and NO ONE is immune to it!  Why don't more people know about it?  That's where my heart is.  My passion.  My mission.

Last time I'll post it:  Please donate to the American Heart Association.  My site is  Please.  If my facebook statuses and blog posts aren't convincing, set aside 10 minutes.... just 10....and explore the American Heart Association website.  There are SO MANY facts, tools, and resources to start spreading the word.  Ways YOU can help.

Please.  Lives are lost when they don't have to be.  Don't wait until tragedy, heaven forbid, hits your personal life like I did.  Do it now.  Be PRO-active.

My most sincere thank you to all those who have donated so far. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Today I had a patient say to me, "Since my diagnosis, I have started doing a mass e-mail to my friends and family to keep them updated on what was going on."

Woah!  Deja vu!  Took me back to September 21, 2010.  No, I didn't mean the 20th, I meant the 21st.  I remember that day vividly.  It was another bright, sunny September day.  I remember standing at my front door, looking outside, and telling someone on the phone what happened.  My phone was ringing off the hook, so this was one of many times I would be updating someone.  Now the previous night, the night of the 20th, I did my first blog post about Leslie.  But I never did it with the intention of sharing it.  It wasn't until phone call number 1,001 that it occurred to me:  I'm going to be blogging throughout this nightmare, why not share the link so people can stay informed, too?  And from that moment on, it spread like wildfire.

I recommended to this patient that she should consider blogging.  She is very overwhelmed with her diagnosis, so I have spent a lot of time talking to her and reassuring her.  I told her that it is a great mechanism for "brain dumping" for herself, as well as keeping others updated.  And then she would always have something to look back on to see how far she had come.  She really liked this idea, but what surprised me was how, amongst all of her personal health concerns, she picked up on me saying, "when my sister got sick" as I told her about blogging.

Her response to that was SO touching.  "So wait, you are so patient with me and all of my questions, because you have been there before?"  Bingo!  I've been there.  No, not as the patient.  No, it wasn't cancer.  But it was tragic, scary, and completely changed me.  I was the patient's sister who encountered so many medical professionals, and the ones that gave me the best impression were the one's that actually LISTENED.  The one resident who came in the middle of the night as I sat by Leslie's side, listening to the ventilator whoosh air in and out of her lungs?  He pulled up a chair and asked what was on my mind.  I remember him.  The nurse who saw me dislike when they'd ask me to step out so they could reposition her, and instead asked me to stay and help.... I remember her.  They make a HUGE impact on me.

When this patient asked me if I am the way I am because of my sister, I was caught off guard.  I told her that when I became a nurse in 2008, I'm really not sure HOW I was.  I know I tried to be the best nurse I could possibly be, but I responded to her question with, "Yes, I suppose you are right.  I have changed since then."

I still consider myself a "baby nurse", meaning freshly graduated and still learning.  But I have found that all the knowledge in the world will not make a difference to your patient and their families if you aren't able to look beyond their diagnosis and see them as actual people. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

He lied, and I am so disappointed in him.

Ethan is a smart little boy.  Truly, he is.  He has creativity that I have never seen in a child his age.  He has been a passionate child since he was a baby.  For him, it's all or nothing.  And that applies everywhere.  He's either happy, or REALLY mad.  He's active, or SUPER lazy.  He is stubborn as a mule and will put up resistance any time he feels like he's being forced to do something.

But he is a GOOD kid!  He's kind and so loving.  So what on earth made him decide to lie?

If you are on my Facebook, you likely know what I am talking about.  The spelling bee.

I don't know the exact way it all happened, but from what I understand, each second grade class had a spelling bee.  The top 6 out of the three 2nd grades went on to another spelling bee, which was done as an assembly in front of the school.  Ethan made it to the top 6 in his class.

The day of the assembly, Ethan informed us that he got first place.  We were SO excited from him!  Jay took him out for a celebratory Happy Meal.  We both boasted loud and proud on our Facebook statuses.  He told him we were proud.

And then the story started to fall apart.  He didn't get first.  Or second.  Or third.  He got fifth.  Does this matter to me?  Not at all!  I just like knowing that when he does something, he gives it his best effort.  You'd think maybe he was deprived of praise, but this is not true at all! 

We have caught him in small fibs here and there, and haven't done much about it.  This was his "biggest" lie, and now I know that it needs to be addressed, I'm just not totally sure how to go about it.

Anyone have suggestions? 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Last year, the decision to be captain of a heart walk team was something that took very little thinking on my part.  Everything that happened with my sister was so fresh and raw.  It just felt right to do something pro-active.

I ended up raising WAY more than I ever anticipated.  I believe it was around $1600.00.  It felt amazing to know what could be done with that money.

This year, though?  This year is different.  The fire is still within me to fund raise and be able to donate MORE than $1600.  But I want more.  I want to do more.  Giving money is awesome and it allows for things to be put into place.  But now I want to be the person that is out there advocating for it.  How do I get started on that, I haven't a clue.  But that is my next step.

Guys, this is my PASSION.  I can never ever express how fulfilling it is to know that I might be able to prevent a family from the nightmare my family went through on September 20, 2010.  You can talk about the risk factors of heart attacks and strokes, but what about those without any of those risk factors?  There needs to be MORE!  We need to reach EVERYONE.

Thank you, to the STUDENTS who knew to respond immediately that day, as EVERY SECOND counted when she was down.

Thank you, to the teachers and principal, who lowered her to the floor and IMMEDIATELY called 911.  Thank you to the teacher who shuffled her students out of the class so protect them from the awful scene.

Thank you, to the AED and the person trained to use it, as it made her heart start beating again after two attempts.

Thank you, to the EMS workers and teachers, who put the breath of life into my sister, as well as gave her heart some extra nudging to keep the oxygen going through her veins as best as they could.

This stuff doesn't just happen.  It happens because people MAKE it happen.  It happens because people have kind, generous hearts that will donate to help fund this.  It happens because the tools are available, such as AED's and people are trained on how to use them. 

When it happened to HER, I swear, all the stars must have been aligned and I am certain that my Grandma and Grandpa's were watching over her, and whispered, "It's not her time," just as her heart started thump-thump-thumping away.  When it happened to HER, God knew that through this tragedy, amazing things would happen.  And amazing things ARE happening.  Wanna go along for the ride?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Wanna know what I wish someone had told me just before 10:44 AM on July 20, 2004?  "Savor these moments.  The years will go by faster than you could ever imagine."  Can't say I would have believed it at the time, but let me tell you, here we are, almost 8 years later, and I believe that with every ounce of my being.

My sweet Ethan Michael graced us with his presence 5 weeks early, weighing a whopping 5 pounds, 12 ounces.  He was SO tiny.  Ethan was very much a planned baby.  For one, I wanted to be a mother my entire life.  No, really.  Two, Jay and I were destined to be together (all together now:  "Awww!") and by the time we finally got married at the ripe YOUNG age of 21, we had already been together for about 6 years.  The decision that it was finally time to try to conceive was within months of our wedding.

The excitement of seeing those two beautiful lines on the pregnancy test could never be relived.  I was so excited, my hands were trembling.  Seeing him on the ultrasound was just as incredible.  Proof, that my body was sustaining a tiny little life.  A tiny life that I helped create, and that would only be mine for many months.  Movements that only I would feel.  Hiccups that would remind me that he was there. 

When he was born, I felt like superwoman.  Not only did my body carry this baby, but my body delivered him, and he was so perfect and healthy. 

No one tells you these things.  And if someone DOES tell you these things, you don't actually GET it until you experience it.  And the experience was amazing.

Not only does no one tell you how amazing it is, no one will tell you what a challenge you are facing.  Can you picture that?  "Hey!  You are expecting.  Congratulations and, uh, good luck, cause those babies will change your life in more ways than one...hope you can handle it!"  Yeah, that wouldn't fly real well. 

When we brought Ethan home, all of a sudden, it hit me.  This baby was MINE.  No one was going to come pick him up, because I wasn't babysitting!  Who IS this little boy?  Why is he crying?  DOESN'T HE KNOW I LIKE TO SLEEP?  And GOD please tell me why he cries EVERY SINGLE NIGHT from 5 PM-10 PM??!  He was a stranger to me.  I didn't know WHAT the heck to do with him.

The guilt.  OH, the guilt.  I wanted this baby so bad, and now I felt so overwhelmed by his mere presence.  He changed my life, and I wasn't sure I really wanted my life to change.  Whatever happened to showering when I wanted to shower?  Or grocery shopping without having a ginormous car seat taking up all of the room where the groceries went?  What. the. heck.

All of a sudden, I felt terribly incompetent.  The thought that women have babies all the time and do just fine was something I couldn't even fathom.  The thought that not only did women have babies all the time, but that they would have MORE than one!  Crazy women!  CRAZY! 

It was all just so overwhelming!

Now here I am, my sweet 5 pound boy will turn 8 this summer.  I look at him and I don't see an ounce of "little boy" anymore.  Now I see "kid".  Sure, in my heart he's a little boy.  Heck, in my heart he's a baby, but he has definitely changed so much, just within these past few months.

There was a time he lived on chocolate milk and air.  Now he can polish off a full can of spaghetti-o's and THEN ask, "What's for dinner?"  When I go to kiss him goodbye at school, I don't get those precious little lips, I get a cheek or a forehead, and if I am .0002 seconds too slow, I don't even get that.  He reads chapter books and can maintain a conversation.  He asks questions that I can't answer (or don't want to answer....)  I go to scoop him into my arms, and I realize:  he's not a 20 pound toddler anymore.  I have no idea how much he weighs, but trust me, there is no "scooping" going on.

If I could say one thing.  Just ONE thing, to a mother as she enters those first moments of motherhood, it would be to savor it.  Savor it ALL.  Sleepless nights, "witching hour" evenings, spit up, diapers, runny noses.  All of it.  Because I promise.  It goes by way too fast.  And I promise.  You will look back and yearn for those moments.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

One night, just a day or so after September 20, 2010, I stopped by my sister's house to let her dog out.  As the dog was outside taking care of business, I glanced at my sister's table.  Her work bag was there.  The bag she grabbed on the morning of September 20 before heading off to work, not having a single clue as to what the day was going to hold.  I looked in her bag.  Excedrin.  Makes sense.  She works with 13-14 year olds... I bet all the teachers had some Excedrin!   An apple she never ate.  There was also a spoon.  She must have taken a yogurt.  You could tell she had used the spoon and wiped it off.  I started at it with intensity, reminding myself that "she was here, she was okay".  After digging through her work bag some more, I found a notebook where she jotted down lesson plan ideas.  Her writing.  Always so pretty.  I turned the page.  She doodled in the margins my name and my kids names.  At this point, I became frantic.  The tears came hard and fast.  I was crying with my whole body as I started rummaging through EVERYTHING on her table.  EVERYTHING that meant she was once okay.  Her receipt from the wedding we were in just the day before.   I held it against me and just sobbed until I could no longer stand.  My sister.  I need my sister. PLEASE GOD DON'T TAKE HER FROM ME.

I know it has been a year and a half.  I know her outcome was good.  But it doesn't stop the memories that come out of nowhere.  Those memories are forever ingrained in my mind.

Please remember.  Remember every single day.  Life is precious.  There are no guarantees.  Follow your heart and your mind...but mostly your heart.  Smile a lot and love even more.  You CANNOT face tragedy without the support of family and friends.  Take my word on this.  When things happen, and people step up to help, remember that.  Thank God for them.  And, heaven forbid, their world crumble like ours did, give back the favors they gave you, without thinking twice.  Say "I love you."  Turn "bad" into "good", because I promise, there is good in almost ANY situation.  Wear your heart on your sleeve.  Don't be scared to cry.  Give hugs.  Even if you don't feel comfortable hugging, the power of touch is greater than you will ever know.  Take chances, even if you are scared.  Everyone needs friends, but find that one special friend that will always be there for you, thick and thin.  The one that sees you at your absolute worst and loves you all the same.

When Leslie was in the hospital, clinging to life, I remember I called her "my sister" more than I did "Leslie."  There was more power in "my sister" for me at that time.  It was like I was telling all the people who encountered her... "To you, she is Leslie Bishop.  Your patient."  But to me?  She is my sister.  My only sister.  "She is more than a name.  Please remember that with every decision you make with her care."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I am pretty hard on myself at my new (can I still call it new, 4 months into it?) job.  Learning all of the different procedures and how to set up for them, along with all the different (but so similar) cancers our patients are battling  has been way harder than I ever anticipated.  I find that I sometimes become so task oriented, I put blinders on to everything else.

Just a little bit ago, I had a flashback to my sisters incident.  She encountered A LOT of medical professionals.  When she was in the ICU, I was constantly critiquing and analyzing the people who cared for her.  Want to know the one person I remember the most?  It wasn't the nurse who had been working in the ICU for 20 years and was extremely comfortably and knowledgeable in her role.  It wasn't the cardiologist who ended up being the one to put the defibrillator in my sister.  It was the nurse who was fresh out of nursing school.  The only person that instead of saying, "Can you step out for about an hour?  I am going to do my assessment and then we are going to reposition her."  Instead she said to me, "How about we wash your sister's hair will help, right?"  She is the one who NEVER made me leave.  As I gently braided my sister's hair, she was on the other side, wiping her face with a warm cloth.  We talked a lot.  She listened.  She turned a blind eye to all of the things people were bringing us (snacks, magazines, etc.) because technically, they weren't allowed.  I will never forget her and how she made me feel. 

Remembering those moments helps me to lighten up on myself.  I will never know all the in's and out's of gynecologic cancers and treatments.  While I would love to understand all of it, it's not entirely possible.  I need to remember there is so much more than just knowing how to enter a CT scan into the ordering program and setting up a tray for a colposcopy.  It's more than listening, it's actually HEARING.   It's more than just having's seeing them as people.  Mother's, daughter's, sister's.  It's about making them feel as if they are the only patient at that exact moment, when in reality, the clinic is swarming with people.  It's about sitting down when they talk.  It's about being genuine.  Letting them know you care about them.

Thank you, Leslie, for helping me be a better nurse.  You are my inspiration and you keep me going when things are difficult.

Monday, March 19, 2012

As I walked into clinic last week, I waved hello to the physician who was busy preparing for his day full of patients.  He stopped me and said, "What's wrong?"  I smiled and replied nothing.  He's no fool, though, and told me to have a seat.  So I did.  He repeated his question.  "What's wrong?"  So I told him.  "How do you deal with the sadness?  Where is the happy?"

His advice:  This is a clinic that specializes in oncology.  Hearing the word "cancer" makes ANYONE cringe, let alone the person who has to claim ownership of it.  If you dwell on the word, it will overcome you.  Both as a patient and has a health care provider.  Therefore, we don't focus on that part.  We focus on the  treatment.  We work diligently at making sure that the treatment we give is the absolute best treatment for each patient, and in the meantime, making sure we exhaust all options as far as managing their symptoms.  Sometimes the outcome isn't what we want.  But if you look back and know you gave it your all and made their lives the absolute best you can, then you have to see it as a positive.

I struggle with this, but I love the advice.  I also asked him, "As a doctor, do you get sad?"  His answer was immediately "YES."  Sounds weird to say, but I liked hearing this.  It's pretty common for me to see a physician and not recognize that they are more than just doctors.  They are fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, the list goes on.  They wouldn't do what they did if they didn't have the heart for it.

Here is an example of perspective.  I posted on my facebook page about fundraising for the American Heart Walk, and asked if anyone would like me to send them my fundraising letter that I am using this year that tells my sisters story.  My sister responded to that saying that she wanted a copy, because she wanted to know if the ending of her story was tragic or happy.

Now I could say tragic.  After all, her life was turned inside out and upside down after September 20.  She no longer teaches or drives a car.  Her short term memory is not up to par.  She struggles now with depression and a lack of motivation.  That's tragic, no?  Taking a life that seems so ideal, and stripping it all away over some unknown, unexplained medical crisis.

Or you could say her "ending" is amazing.  Inspiring.  Miraculous.  Because, well, it is!  My sister survived odds that were VERY against her.  She not only survived, but she survived with deficits that don't hinder her all that much.  Sure, she can't work.  Right now.  Will she work again someday?  I believe with my whole heart that she will.  She can't drive.  But she will.  I know this.  She can't remember.  Heck, neither can I.  Post-it notes are my BFF.

So let me throw out my plug:  The American Heart Walk is in about a month and a half.  My sister would NOT have a beautiful ending had she not received the prompt and CORRECT treatment of people who weren't even medical professionals.  These were teachers who saved her life.  Had they not initiated CPR as quickly as they did, we would NOT have her today.  Please, please, please help me raise money.  I opted out of receiving any prizes for raising money, and chose to have whatever prize I may earn instead go towards the heart walk.  I have ZERO incentive to raise money, other than the fact that I want others to get the same chances my sister did.  Every penny counts.  And if you do donate a penny, you can know that you are helping those who currently have heart disease, or those, like my sister, who had no heart disease, but still fell victim to it.

(Stay tuned:  I'm also becoming an advocate for Ovarian Cancer, but I won't bug anyone about that for a few more months)