Tuesday, January 31, 2012

911.  CPR.  Ventilator.  Sister.  ER.  Come quick.

Those are the key words that stick in my memory when I think back to September 20, 2010.  The panic.  The fear.  The tears.  Oh my God, the tears.  I never knew I could cry that way.  I never knew I could beg and plead with God to PLEASE let this just be a bad dream. 

Seeing my sister in the ER was devastating.  I remember focusing on her hands.  They were so flaccid.  Her wrists had restraints on them to keep her from pulling out the tubes that were coming from every which way.  But her hands were not fighting the restraints.  Her hands were just laying there, completely immobile.  How much I wanted her hands to fight.  SOMETHING to show she was there.  But no.  The only movement we would see for days would be the awful seizures that shook her entire bed.

I remember the day I was approached at work and asked if I wanted to be a part of the American Heart Walk and help raise money for heart research.  Is the sky blue?  Do I need  oxygen to breath?  YES, I will do that!

I jumped right on it.  I got permission to use a small bulletin board in the break room.  I summarized Leslie's story and posted pictures of her both in the hospital and when she came home.  I believe there were 4 pictures total.  Space was limited and I wanted to utilize all of it.  I posted directions on how to join my team and how to make a donation. 

Then I got the word that there were people talking.  The pictures were "disturbing" and people didn't want to "look at that" while eating lunch.  THAT being my sister.  "Heart research is over-rated" and "I'm not giving any more money to these fundraisers."

To say I was hurt would be a complete understatement.  I was CRUSHED.  Really?  REALLY?  As much as those comments devastated me, I would never, in a million years, wish the pain my family felt on that dreadful day on anyone.

That day, when I got home, I was done.  Until I got the mail.  In the mail, I found a check from some very dear friends of my parents.  It was a very generous donation to the American Heart Association.  I cried again, but this time, they were tears of happiness.  Tears of hope.  And from that moment on, I chose the high road and gave fundraising my all.

Last year, thanks to the AMAZING generosity of my friends and family, and even strangers, I raised about $1600 for the American Heart Walk.  That is $1600 that will go towards hopefully preventing what happened to my sister from happening to someone else.  Those lifesaving measures that literally saved my sisters life?  That $1600 will help provide AED's to public places in case someone needs it.  I remember seeing the burn marks on my sisters chest and side from the AED firing to restart her heart.  It worked.   That $1600 will help train people in the correct technique in giving CPR.  The teachers that did CPR on my sister?  It worked.  She started to breath again.

To say I am passionate about the American Heart Association would be an understatement.  Until the day I die, I will forever be an advocate.  My sister is a miracle.  A living miracle.  If you don't believe in miracles, then you don't know my sister. 

The way I think of it is this:  Imagine you are walking down a road.  The path is crystal clear and you can see for miles.  Then, out of nowhere, you are blindfolded, turned around, and set on a completely different path.  You can't see, so you have no idea what lies ahead.  The path isn't anything like what you started out on, so you have to figure it out as you go.  This is how my sister's life was, and how it changed.  Every day is different now, and every day is nothing like what it was before the incident.  Why did this happen?  We will never know.  But by supporting the American Heart Association, hopefully things like this will happen less and less, and eventually, not at all.

Please join me.  Join my team and walk with me.  The walk path is very nice and the enthusiasm is overwhelming among the supporters.  Better yet, donate.  There is no such thing as a donation too small.  Every penny counts. 

Thank you, from the very bottom of my very thankful heart.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

I posted this on facebook and I will elaborate on it more here:

How can anyone think that health insurance/care should be a privilege and not a right?  I know how.  By turning a blind eye and not even considering what goes on with people without health coverage.

My husband and I both work full-time.  Do we want to work full-time?  Heck no!  Do we have a choice?  Heck no!  Do we have health insurance?  Yup.  Do we pay an arm and a leg for it?  Sure do.

Now.  I am a nurse (if you don't know by that, you need to start paying better attention..hehe!).  When I worked in the in-patient setting, patients without insurance was all handled by the social worker so I had very little insight to what went on, I just knew we had A LOT of uninsured patients.

Now that I do out-patient, I am the nurse AND the social worker.  And ALL of my patients either have cancer, or are recovering from cancer.  These are VERY sick women.  Last week, I had a case where a chest x-ray was ordered to check for metastatic disease (these gynecologic cancers spread fast) and an incidental finding of a potential aneurysm was found.  This warranted further testing to see how bad the aneurysm was and if it needed treatment or just surveillance.

I kid you not, I spent DAYS working on this case.  Was I trying to get insurance to approve for some huge, lengthy surgery to open up this woman's chest and analyze it?  No.  Was I trying to get some super expensive drug to help "treat" her?  Nope, not even that.  Wanna know what I needed?  A freaking CAT scan.  That's it.  It didn't even involve contrast.  A 15 minute scan to analyze this aneurysm.

Wanna know what got her case denied?  The fact that she wasn't having any symptoms.  Now, I know I am a nurse so I have a little more experience with different medical conditions, but I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to know that there won't BE symptoms of an aortic aneurysm.  Wanna know what the only tell-tale symptom will be?  DEATH.

I had to jump through hoops, spend HOURS on the phone, send and receive faxes, and FINALLY they let it go.  Do I think they finally approved it because they finally understood how important it was?  No.  I think it was because I was annoying them because I was absolutely relentless.  I wasn't going to let this go without insurance approval.

One more case (this one is much shorter, don't worry).  This patient needs surgery for her cancer.  She is progressing and her legs are starting to swell.  She is elderly, so for her to understand exactly what she needs to do on her half to get some charity care is a little overwhelming, but between myself and a financial advisor at this hospital, we are walking her through it.  The problem?  It's taking for-ev-er to get the process finalized.  By the time it's complete and she gets on the table, they just may open her up and see her cancer has gone rampant.

Why does it have to be so hard?  I just don't get it.  It's sad to know that peoples lives are being lost simply because they have zero means to be treated.  Hospitals will say they won't turn away the uninsured, but I assure you....it happens regardless.  Have you ever seen a hospital stay with surgery involved broken down into payments?  It is astronomical.  Literally, it will take your breath away.

It's so sad.  I wish there was a quick fix, but unfortunately, there is not.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I got the reminder e-mail today, letting me know that the American Heart Walk is coming again this spring and asking if I wanted to do it.

It's hard, because it's not like I can say "My sister is a heart attack survivor" or "My sister is a stroke survivor".  We don't KNOW what kind of survivor she is.  Just that she is one.

In fact, when it comes to her incident, we really know very, very little.  We know her heart stopped.  We know she was pulseless and not breathing.  We know it caused an anoxic brain injury and severe seizures due to the lack of oxygen.  That's. it.

The main thing, though, is the sudden cardiac arrest.  And THAT is why I am passionate about raising money for the American Heart Association.  Not only does to help fund the medical needs to help prevent things like this from happening, such as AED's in schools (which played a role in my sister's survival) to free classes on maintaining heart health. 

The money will help prevent what happened to my sister from happening to someone else.

So get ready, friends and family.  As soon as I create the team (Heart Full of Hope), I will post it here if anyone wants to walk with us. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

So, I try to be a giving person.  I try to not judge and have an open mind.  I've said it before and I will say it again: this isn't something that necessarily comes easy to me, so I try to break out of that shell.

Let me share a story.

Saturday I was shopping at Target.  As I was walking out, a gentlemen, who was decently dressed, middle aged, was standing there.  I thought nothing of this.  He approached me and said, "Ma'am?  Do you have 40 cents to spare?  I just need 40 cents so I have enough for the bus fare to get home."

I didn't even hesitate.  I first made it clear, that I did not have any cash, only change.  He said that was fine, as he only needed change.  I ended up giving him $1.50 in quarters.  He thanked me so much, and told me that when he asked a different person, the person yelled at him. 

When I left this man, I felt like a million bucks.  I felt so good helping him.  It was such a small gesture, but he seemed so appreciative.

Fast forward to Sunday.

I'm out shopping at an entirely different shopping center with my mom.  As we are walking out, THERE HE IS.  Again, same story, and asking for 40 cents.

What. The. Heck.

Part of me wants to say, eh, he clearly needs money, I didn't give him much, and thank God I don't have to stand outside of stores and beg for change.


Back in my shell I go!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

There is this girl.  We went to high school together, but we didn't really talk much.  She then became a waitress at a restaurant Jay and I would frequent.  While I was pregnant with Ethan, she became pregnant with her son, so we bonded over pregnancies and newborns whenever we would run into each other.

Then we lost touch again.  And like most reconnections, we found each other on Facebook and she inquired about what church I went to.  From there, she started attending the church, too, and we see each other weekly.

Just this past week, someone VERY near and dear to her passed away.  To say she is devastated is an understatement.  I bought a sympathy card for her, but I am at a total loss as far as what to write in it.

It's a nearly a year and a half since my sister's incident, and I still feel as though it were yesterday.  Sure the emotions aren't quite as raw and fresh, but not a day goes by that I don't think about that day in one way or another.  I anticipate this will be a lifelong thing.

Everyone grieves differently, and there is no right way to do it.  There is also no way to control how you grieve.  It's however your heart wants you to feel, and you have little to no control over it.  It is what it is.

My first thought to write in the card was, "Know your loved one is free of pain and illness now" ...or something along those lines.  I mean, isn't that pretty much what you say when someone passes?  Or even, "Your loved one is in a better place now".  It's just a given.  That is what you write.  That is what you say. 

It's difficult to approach someone who is grieving, because you WANT to say just the right thing.  You want to comfort them.  You want to let them know you love them and are there for them.  Your heart is in the right spot.

The thing is, though, when it comes to words, you have to be so careful.

If I say to her "She is in a better place", while this may be true, in a sense, in HER heart, she is NOT in a better place.  The best place is right here, on this Earth.  To see, feel, and love.  To talk to and share life's burdens with.  THAT is the best place for her.

The whole, "Her body is free of pain and illness now," ...okay, yeah, nice sentiment, but again.  I bet what is going through my friends mind right now isn't that her loved one is free of pain and illness.  Her heart is filled with the question of "Why did this happen in the first place?"

Now I know I didn't lose my sister.  She is alive and (thankfully) very well.  But in a sense, I did lose her.  She is here physically, but she has changed.  Every day she shows signs of improvement, but I could literally feel the fire inside me when people would say what were intended to be words of comfort, but it wasn't what I wanted to hear.  "This happened for a reason."  WHAT reason?  WHAT did my sister do to deserve this?  "God has a plan for her."  Yeah?  Well his plan SUCKS.  She was doing amazing before this nightmare.  "Thank God she lived.  She beat the odds."  I know, I know.  It is a miracle that she lived, and trust me, I thank God every day that she beat the odds.  But the fact of the matter is: the sister I knew before is not the sister I have now, and I will forever grieve that loss.  I feel physical pain when I think of the "old" sister.  I constantly go back to the days prior to her incident and I yearn for those days.  I miss them more than I have ever missed anything in this world.

Bottom line, I suppose, is that when loss occurs, there are no right words.  There is no sympathy card in the world that will sum it up.  There is no action that will be just right, because the only action the person experiencing the loss wants is for their loved one to return.

Life is so hard.  Thank God there are people to lean on, because aside from never being able to find the right words, having the tremendous support system makes all the difference in the world.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


My wooden blinds in my living room are ruined at the bottom, due to two very high strung dogs who attack them whenever they seem something exciting outside (mail lady, squirrel, leaf, you get the idea).

One corner of our fairly new couches has a huge hole in it due to an anxious little dog that chews when he gets bored.  I have re-stuffed it numerous times, but there is no hiding the gaping hole.

Neither of my kids have matching furniture in their bedrooms.  None of the furniture was purchased by us...it was all hand-me-downs.

My kitchen table is the "catch all" for the family.  Walk in the door --- dump everything on the table.  It's the common practice of all of us.

Laundry is done, but NEVER put away.  We don't have enough places to put our clothes away, so 9 times out of 10, we have "Mount Clean Clothes" in the basement that we rummage through each morning.

My linen closet is so unorganized, you practically have to grab what you want and SLAM the door super fast, or else you will be buried in...stuff.

There is almost always gobs of toothpaste in the sink.  My 7 year old has yet to figure out how to rinse the sink.

The computer cord is broke after I tripped over it one day.  It now has to have packing tape to hold it in so that it can keep charging.

About 3 feet from the floor on every wall in my house, you will likely find some form of kid goo.  Won't go into details.  Kid goo sums it up quite nice.


Thank God for the sturdy wooden blinds that have held up many dog attacks, because that means that we are fortunate enough to have a home in which these blinds to hang.  And dogs that are happy, and healthy, and very, very observant.

Thank God that out of all our belongings, our anxiety-prone pup only turns to this one corner.  Thank God this nervous little pup is in our family, because I firmly believe that we saved him from a much worse situation (more on that later).

Thank God that both of my kids have warm beds to sleep in. 

Thank God for a kitchen table to gather around.  To lessen our burdens as we walk in the door.

Thank God we have warm, clean clothes each morning to put on.

Thank God for a linen closet full of medications for colds and allergies, towels and washcloths, and fresh sheets and blankets.  Thank God for "extra" anything!

Thank God that my son takes good care of his teeth after his dentist fiasco last year.  He may be messy, but he tries SO hard.

Thank God for the luxury of a new(er) laptop that both the kids and my husband and I can use.  What a luxury!

And mostly?  Thank God for my sweet children, who keep my house looking the way it does:  lived in.  Thank God for little finger prints,  smudges on the mirrors, and evidence of snacking in the living room as evidenced by the dried cereal and goldfish crackers found in the couch cushions.  Thank God that I have been fortunate enough to not just BE a mother, but to be THEIR mother.

Thank God.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New job update!

I think I finally pinpointed how I have been feeling towards my new job.  Hourly, it sounds wonderful:  no weekends, no holidays, off at 4:30.  But realistically, I have been kinda missing the days off during the week when I'd do story time at the library with Allison, or I'd surprise Ethan at school and have lunch with him or volunteer in his classroom.  I live for those moments.

But then when I really think about it.  I mean really think about it, I find that I am allowing myself to love this job.  Yes, I miss those times.  Yes, I feel guilty. Yes, I do wish I could still do it.  But by forcing myself to yearn for those times that are not available to me, I was not allowing myself to fully enjoy what my new reality was.  And now that I have let go of that guilt, I am finding that I am very, very happy at this position.  I still stand in awe of these 4 amazing physicians.  When you work inpatient, the doctors are in and out before you can even blink your eyes.  When you work in a clinic, you are with them the whole day, so you really get to know them and see them as more than just doctors.  They are so genuine, intelligent, and compassionate.  I love watching them work, and when I get to sit in on their meetings where they discuss patients on a case by case basis, I am just blown away. 

My mom always said she thought I'd be the daughter that was the stay-at-home mom, house-wife kind of girl.  It's funny, because so did I!  But I love my dual life as a mom and full-time nurse.  I love it, love it. 

I'm allowing myself to love it, love it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

It's been about a year since I had my ER visit for heart palpitations, which lead me to getting some cardiac testing by my cardiologist, which lead to them finding out my heart doesn't have the strength that it should, which lead to me seeing a cardiologist who put me through MORE testing, and two medications that knock me off my feet with exhaustion.

I was a good little patient for a few months, but the fatigue the pills caused was just too much so I (gasp!) quit taking them.

Yesterday was my yearly physical with my primary physician, but she wasn't there so I saw her father who has been a doctor for a very long time.  To give my history in one quick visit is impossible, but he wanted to know why I was on the heart medications (or supposed to be....) which lead to him reading my stress test and MRI results.

Bottom line:  I am 29 years old and I have mild congestive heart failure.  Did I know this?  Yes.  Did I accept this?  Nope.  Twenty-nine year olds don't get CHF!  That is an OLD person condition! I'm not old!  I'm at my prime!  So, I more-or-less did the whole plug my ears and say LA LA LA! ..whenever the talk of my heart issue was discussed.

I'm pretty certain that now is the time to own it and deal with it.  But it's freaking HARD!  I don't want more cardiac testing (which I have to do).  I don't want more paperwork in the mail reminding me that I have CHF and the warning signs I need to look for (which I do receive!). 

I had a major pity party today.  Just a real down in the dumps kind of mood.  Acceptance sucks.  But the alternative is way worse, and if I keep pretending like nothing is wrong, I am only setting myself up for even WORSE consequences.  It's not going to go away. I can only pray it doesn't get worse, but I have no control over it if it does.  I DO have control over whether or not I do the necessary testing and medication taking, so I am finally ready to just buckle down and freaking DO it.

Like is hard.  It's unfair.  It lets you think you are two steps ahead and then it shoves you back down again.  But it's a choice on whether or not you want to live in a constant state of resentment and anger, or just deal with what it throws at you and make the best of it.

I'm not feeling all "YAY ME!  I AM SO PRO-ACTIVE ABOUT MY LIFE!"  Nope, not even a tiny bit.  I'm dragging my feet and I have my best pouty face on.

But I'll still do it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I drew blood from her tiny, fragile veins on Monday, to check her coags to see how fast her blood was clotting because she needed a stat paracentesis to get rid of some fluid on her belly.

She died 2 days later.

Another lady, I accessed her mediport to draw some labs and we chatted about her house on the Gulf of Mexico that she spends 6 months out of the year with her husband.  We laughed at her husbands tan, wrinkled face with her saying, "He tans so well, he could tan in a closet!"

Today she came in with severe pain and vomiting.  Not good.  We had to admit her.  She looked pale, weak, and totally not herself.

Four weeks.  It took four weeks for the cycle to start.

The cycle of seeing a patient one way, then watching them decline.

Every single time, no matter who it is, a piece of my heart just aches and aches and aches.

When people learn that I used to work on a floor that took care of hospice patients, the most common response was "Oh, I could never do that!  How do you do something that is SO sad?"

It always makes me feel like I am being portrayed as heartless, but it actually is the EXACT opposite.  I don't know if this is a comfort to people, but I can promise you.... when I am the nurse of your mom, dad, sister, brother, grandma, grandpa, etc.  They become my family, too.  I will stop at nothing to help them.  And when things take a turn for the worse, I cry, too.  I remember them, I think of them, and I pray for them.

Four weeks.  Four weeks is way too fast.  I can see how this is going to be, and it makes me a little bit scared.