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?