Did I Tell You The One Where Christmas Break Would Not End?

1476175_10202797128275919_1196886460_nTeachers everywhere were rejoicing. Of that I have no doubt. It started all extra-nice. (See above photo for evidence.)  It was snowy outside, warm and cozy inside, and the boys loved each other. I was having visions of piling up on the soda, toasty warm, watching our favorite movies, reading our favorite books. Cocoa would be in hand, complete with marshmallows. Zach in his footed pj’s, Evan in his flannel sleep pants, me in sweats.  The world shut out, and the ones I love shut in against the cold. There was no school for me, and only my 3 scheduled days of work per week. It was going to be great.

Then this happened:1480549_10202798469749455_592936327_nIt snowed. I love our street in the snow. The houses look so cute and cozy, the neighborhood becomes a Thomas Kinkade painting. We put up the Christmas tree together. This year, Zachy was really able to  participate, which was adorable. I kicked the OCD into low gear as he put the ornaments too close together, and somehow resisted the urge to tweak them ever-so-slightly the entire time that tree was up.

This year, I even managed to somehow get all of the Christmas presents for the boys wrapped before anyone knew what they were getting. This was about as successful a Christmas as I could’ve asked for, considering some of our previous misadventures. The whole next day, the boys broke  played with their new things. Then Evan remembered how fun toys can be when you are only 3, and Santa brings you things like racetracks for toy cars or little train sets. And it dawned on Zachy just how cool big-kid stuff can be.

Magic: Over. Bubble: Burst.

Next thing we knew, there were fights. “Mommy, Evan did________.”, squealed Zach. “Mom! Zach has my _______.”, whined Evan. And so it went all the way up through the end of their Christmas break. It seemed like the longest one in the history of winter breaks. I seriously thought I was going to die. To make matters worse, I was fresh out of school. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t have that distraction. With me home more, John felt he deserved a break, and left most parenting matters to me. I’m certain the grey hairs on my head have multiplied as a result.

The eve of their first day back to school, I was working the ICU. It really is a good thing my patient was in a medically-induced coma and couldn’t hear me or tell on me. The tv in his room was turned to the news, where I saw the update where the boys’ first day back was called off due to weather.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

I’m sure my wail reverberated off of the walls of the ICU, into the adjacent waiting area and throughout the rest of the hospital. Nurses from outside the room rushed in to see what had happened, as I’m not generally an alarmist at work.

That day. That day I had been dreaming of, hoping for, wishing on….My hopes were crushed. My spirit broken.

The fighting a home got worse as cabin fever started in. Snow kept dumping on us. Just when it would start to clear up, more would come. And then it didn’t. The boys were finally going to go back to school. I was relieved, and by that time, I think they were as sick of us as we were of them causing chaos.

And then that “Polar Vortex” bullshit happened. Anyone remember the “I can’t put my arms down” scene in A Christmas Story? Well, we will never have a modern-day version of that. They cancelled school because it was too cold. For not one day, but days-yep, plural. When we were kids, our parents would just bundle us up. We waited a little closer to last minute to go to our bus stops. But our bus stops weren’t at our driveway, either. Generally, we had to walk. If it was dangerously cold–as in losing digits to frost bite despite gloves or mittens—my mom would crank the heat in the car to warm it up while I was getting ready and then drive me to the bus stop, where I would sit in the car until the bus was in sight. The lowest it got here was 2 degrees, and I am sure that I remember it getting a lot colder. As a matter of fact, I just googled that and discovered we had temps as low as -25 in 1985 in Cincinnati. But they closed school. There was no snow or ice on the ground, no slick roads, no frozen pipes at the school. It was just cold.

It seemed like winter break was never going to end. John and I were never going to have a single moment of peace. Armageddon was going to strike, Hell was freezing over, and we would have to home-school the children from now on. I was on the verge, man.

Finally, on January 10th, the boogers got on the bus and headed back. They were out of school for 29 days in total. I sincerely hope they tack the extra unplanned missed days onto the end of the school year. I am now on a mission to treasure every moment of silence until June, and promise to never take a peaceful moment for granted for as long as I live.

Finally,

Dear Interviewer

Dear Interviewer,

I don’t know your name or even very much about your business. I take my heating and air-conditioning for granted, though my husband has spent a couple of nights a week studying these systems so he could learn a trade, any trade, to make him employable. You’ll meet him tomorrow. You are one of the first to even give him a second glance, and that is my fault. He is a good man, a smart man. He has abilities and skills that are very different from mine. 

You see, years ago, he recognized that I had some talents and abilities that were going to waste. He was in school at the time, and he went to talk to his dean about getting me into classes despite the fact that I was in default on a federal student loan after having dropped out of college when my mom died. And that I was being held back simply because I didn’t have enough money to resolve the issue. And that dean called me in and we came up with a plan to get me out of default, and I learned that I can still shine. I didn’t look back. And my generous, kind, loyal husband put his goals on the back burner so I could continue to shine. 

And then we moved when I found a good job far away, causing him to abandon those goals he had set for himself. And I made a decent living. But when expensive childcare became an issue, he listened to me when I said, “It would be so much easier on us, financially and physically, if you would just stay home with the kid.” And he did. He put away his old-fashioned ideals of the manly-man supporting his family, and he became about the car-riders’ line at the local elementary school, Cub Scouts, karate lessons, and any other thing that comes with having a young child. When people would have the knee-jerk action of turning to the dad first to ask what he did, he would say he was a stay-at-home dad. But even I could notice that his shoulders always slumped just a little when he said this.

And then we moved again, where I had an even better job and higher education opportunities. And he enrolled in a school for this or that, taking a class at a time. I think he just needed something for himself. Anything. But still he kept that role of homemaker so I could do well, better, best. First, it was so I could pursue my dream of going to medical school, then there was another baby. His days were no longer only filled with carpools and extracurriculars, but again with diapers, keeping me in clean breast pump parts, teething. Still, he kept on.

Then it was, “John, I think I want to go to business school instead.” And his reply, that he would support me in whatever I wanted to do. And there was a BBA. When I decided I wanted an MBA, he was there cheering me on. He told me I could do it, that I was awesome. He stayed with the kids, washing my scrubs in preparation for my weekend shifts at the hospital while I sat in accounting/ finance/ marketing/ whatever classes. And he picked me up. On test days, he’d always have a motivational song on cue for when I would get into the car.

And all of this time, it was one class at a time for him. Scheduled around my work and class schedule, of course, because he always put me first. And then he was finished, but somehow even that was dwarfed by my completion of grad school one week later. And he never complained.

So tomorrow, you will meet him. He really wants this job, and I want him to have it. You are going to see his resume and application and ask about the 7-year gap in employment. Like most others, you will probably ask why a man didn’t work to support his family. It seems that, despite how progressive we think we have become as a society, we are still very much old-fashioned. And John, well, he just isn’t good at singing his own praises. This is what I would want him to tell you:

He worked. He worked harder than he ever has in his life. He honed time-management skills. He learned cleaning. He learned to keep others happy, multitasking. He perfected the art of motivational speaking, of problem-solving, of making sacrifices for the improvement of the team. And he was successful in all of those roles. After all, with him backing me, I did everything I set out to do.

So, Interviewer, tomorrow, I hope for a couple of things. I ask that you look at him as the man he is: the man who was brave enough to serve his country, put in his 40 at a job he hated in order to pay the bills, and the man selfless enough to give up what he wanted for his wife and kid(s). I ask that you not be like all of the others and you give this loyal, hard-working, awesome man a chance instead of simply seeing a long period of unemployment.

If you could see him like I do, you would know that you would not be sorry.

Sincerely,

John’s Wife

Lucky 13

The rest of the world was preparing for Christmas. I woke on the sofa in our living room after a night spent binge-watching Netflix the night before. On one side of the sofa was the twinkling of the lights of our Christmas tree, and on the other side was John, also asleep on the loveseat for the same reason as I was.

John.

Our thirteenth anniversary.

And I just stared at him for a while without his knowledge. I never took note of how his hair has started to thin at his hairline just a bit. I could see that the way his eyes have started to crinkle in the periphery when he smiles completely go away when he sleeps. He has Evan’s and Zach’s dark lashes, that curling, dark fringe women buy high-end mascara to achieve.

I found myself doing what I always do at any milestone: reflecting back. What our thirteenth year of marriage has brought us. It was just a few short months ago that I stood there with all of my medical knowledge flooding my brain while the cardiologist told us what he had found. When he said those words to me: “He really should have open-heart surgery, but my colleagues and I just do not think he would have survived long enough to get the blood thinners out of his system first.” He used my husband’s name and “survive” in the same sentence. And more than anything, I was afraid of that combination. For the first time in our marriage, John became a mere mortal like the rest of us and the idea that there will come a time when one of us will die entered my mind. That’s been hard to deal with from that day and beyond.

And the day they told us that some weird symptoms Evan was having were signs of a brain tumor. We each dealt with it in our own way—he with blind optimism and me with incessant tears— but we did it together. We seamlessly kicked into action as a team to get Evan the imaging studies, the appointments with specialists, and anything else we needed. And when Evan wasn’t looking, we held onto each other and we got through it to the news that Evan was fine.

He finished school this year. He belittles that in the face of what I accomplished this year. But it is what he wanted and he did it on his terms. He has spent years taking a class here or there, in the background while I was in the foreground doing something of my own. And he has started and stopped his classes with no complaints and no questions asked, based on what I was doing or had planned. Whenever it just wasn’t in the cards for both of us to be in school at the same time, he was always the one to drop out or put his on hold. He never would let me make that sacrifice.

And my MBA. Oh, John, my MBA. His MBA. The man has tirelessly chauffeured me around from this class and that class, this meeting and that meeting. he has rubbed my back when I studied and my shoulders were holding just too much tension. He has awakened from a dead sleep to run to the nearest 24-hour store when the printer ran out of ink for that big paper that was due in the morning. My favorite was, while I was pulling an all-nighter in preparation for my huge finance final at the end and my financial calculator died, he returned with both the replacement and a box of my favorite chocolates. And wasn’t it him, all of those years ago, who made that now-famous (in this family, anyway) statement to his dean? “My wife is too smart. What can I do to help her get back into school?” He saw in me what my mom once saw, what I had stopped seeing in myself. What I had given up on.

Those were some of the big things. In between, there were a million little things. And our marriage isn’t perfect. He pisses me off at times, breaks my heart at others. And at the end of each year, in the mashup of Christmas, our anniversary, New Years, and my birthday, I always wish for us to have an easier year next year. This year was no different. But the fact remains that we have been together long enough that our lives have become this intricately-woven tapestry, and you simply can no longer tell where his thread ends and mine begins. He understands me, and I understand him. We belong together. We will get through the bad, the trying, and will celebrate the good together. I cannot live without him.

Here’s to another year. And all it brings us.

These are the Days

16 Days. Of course I type that while I am supposed to be awake putting together a 45-minute multimedia presentation on integrated marketing practices for class tomorrow. My final project for a marketing elective to round out my requirements for the almighty advanced degree. John, in his awesomeness, brewed the strong coffee for me before turning in for the night. And I can’t quit thinking. I can’t quit thinking, not of integrated marketing as I should be, but of the uncertainty of my life right now. Have you ever been in a place where the things you spend your days doing no longer feel like they are what you should be doing? Where you feel like maybe your real life awaits you, if only you can survive this short little interim? That is this place. These are those days.

My views may possibly be skewed. I realize this. There are people who have devoted their entire lives to do what I have done for the past eight years. They keep doing it, content with their contribution to the world. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It is honorable. I’m not selfless enough. I feel like I have spent the past eight years paying dues to the world, to my being in general. To the spirit of my mother, who died from lung disease. I’ve been a good girl, and I have been good at my job. There are, in all honesty, people who are breathing today because of the work I have done. I have been there to help babies who could not help themselves. I have been there when families have said goodbye to parts of themselves. I have wiped brows of the dying, delivered tough love when necessary, compassion when it was needed. I have put myself and my family last. And now, after all of these years of doing that, I want to do something different, and in my warped mind, I have earned that. Not because I will, in just 16 days, have a piece of paper with my name in beautiful calligraphy saying I have completed some requirement set forth from society, but because I have paid my dues in other ways.

People ask me what it is I want, and I always answer with a “we’ll see” kind of shrug. I love healthcare, am passionate about healthcare. And I want to leave some sort of mark on this industry that is on a higher level than the one I am currently leaving. And I want to do so in a way that allows time for me, time for my family.

Lately, I have been thinking a great deal about my path through higher education as a non-traditional student. Evan was about 2 when I put on a  backpack for the first time since my mom died, which was eight years before that. Evan is 12. I will finish this long road about 2 weeks before the ten-year anniversary of that first time back. And I have thought about it. I have allowed myself the luxury of pondering just sucking it up, reaching deep, and going straight into a Ph.D. program or a JD, even. And then I think of them. Of Evan and Zach, of John. And what I want is no longer about a higher degree or prestige. Now, when I think of what I want, it isn’t grandiose at all. It’s simple stuff. Little things that aren’t luxuries to most, but have been to me in these years where I have tried to do it all.

I want to come home and not have to rush off to class, be able to eat dinner with my family at a normal hour around a table with food we prepared at home. I want to watch a movie with John without worrying about homework I should be doing or, better yet, am actually trying to do with said movie playing in the background. I would love to take the boys to a movie or park on a weeknight for no reason at all. Maybe even go on a weekend hiking trip. Maybe John and I could have a real date once in a while. Or I could read a book that has not a damned thing to do with academics at all. I want to blog more. Maybe I could revamp this one a little bit with all I know about social media marketing and content creation these days. I want to join a gym and be able to go–and not some lame attempt a a resolution where I don’t have the follow-through because, hey, thinking I would even have the time for a workout each day was optimistic at best, even closer to being the world’s dumbest idea. No, I want to actually go. And work on myself a little bit, and not just on cramming my brain with as much knowledge as possible.

It’s so strange to me. When I started this, I thought, “MBA: the CEO’s degree. I’m want to be loaded.” It isn’t about that anymore. It’s about enjoying life and having the means to do so comfortably. There is only one material possession I even want, and it is going to sound worse than it is: that new Mercedes CLA 250. Sounds greedy and ridiculous, right? No, because in reality, it is only about 3K more than I paid for our current car and I bought it used. And the current car is too big for me to feel comfortable driving with my vision issues. So sounds crazy, but really isn’t. But anyway, here I am at the end, and the salary isn’t the thing anymore. The job is, the career is, the comfort is, but the money isn’t. And I am saying this about 2 days before I have an interview for a position that would pay more money than I have seen in my life–about 5 times my current salary. And now I suddenly don’t care. Well, I mean, I care in that there is a minimum I can take. I worked hard and paid a lot of money for my MBA. I can’t just give it away. But money isn’t the key determinant.

So here I am. Sixteen days from the big finish. And it feels like everything in my current life is winding down so I can start the new one. So these are the days. The days of excitement, of anticipation. Of anxiety and uncertainty. Of endings and new beginnings. Of wrapping up and starting anew. Of sheer panic mixed with resolution and calm.

These are the days I have to let go and hope it all works out, that it proves to have been worth it.

And if it does work out, these are the days I get to lean back, prop up my feet, and tell myself that after ten years, I earned every damned bit of it.

Still Alive

One day, I’ll return to writing for my own sake.

In the meantime, this is what is going on right now:

Evan is thriving in middle school. The girls are swarming. It’s bad. Last Thursday, after some really strange symptoms that had been going on sporadically, we were told that they thought he had a brain tumor. More about that experience on another day. I just can’t right now. He is seeing a pediatric neurologist in a few days and we’ll hopefully get to the bottom of it. In the meantime, I am trying not to unravel in my worry by focusing my attention on the fact that the head CT was negative. I am instead focusing on other things: that–for the first time ever–this kid has friends; that girls love him and I actually have to worry about what goes on when he is not supervised with a girl, that he is now wearing small men’s clothes, that he has that goofy ‘stache coming in and his dad is going to have to teach him to shave.

Zach is…Zach. He refuses to have anything to do with a toilet. I am tired of having to buy Pull-Ups. Or worse yet, diapers. He still sleeps in a diaper because Pull-Ups leak too much at bedtime. I would let him feel that discomfort with the idea that it would motivate him, but he just sleeps through it, thus we sleep through it, and we wake in the morning to a child with a rash and blue lips from sleeping in soaked pajamas. I cannot deal with neither the grossness factor or the health risk of that. We encourage. His preschool teachers encourage. We have purchased every toilet-learning device known to man, looking for the magic one. Currently, that is this cushie Prince Lionheart insert that seems so comfy that I wish it would accommodate adults.He has no desire whatsoever. But what is he doing? He is speaking plainly, counting, saying his alphabet, (crudely) writing his name, singing songs. (Please do not mix up the order of he verses of “The Wheels on the Bus”!) In May, this was the child who could literally say nothing that a stranger could understand. So I am not sweating the potty stuff. We’ll get there. He always does, doesn’t he? He’s still my little wonder–smart, cute,  funny, sweet.  He’s just Zachy.

John is making me proud everyday, He has lost over 50 pounds since the fateful day over the summer when a doctor I respect came to me to tell me that he could have died at any second from the blockages in his heart. His BP is down. He is down to only one medication for diabetes, and that dosage even had to be cut in half. His cardiologist cleared him to run at home after he outgrew the mild exercises at cardiac rehab. His cholesterol was actually low at his last check, so his medication for that was cut in half. The beta-blacker was stopped after he exhibited no need for it. He was wearing a size 40 waist in the summer. He is down to a 34, and those are falling off, but we’re holding off on shopping for more, since he’s built up to 2-mile runs daily–any little bit of weight he has left will melt off as his endurance gets back up there. His doctor says he only needs to lose 9 more pounds to be ideal body weight. If he loses 18 more, he will be back down to his post-boot camp weight from his Marine Corps days.

And me? I’m hanging in there. I have–wait, let me count–8 more weeks left of school. I start my capstone next Saturday. My paperwork for graduation is submitted. I am off of work. Blame some little boys who cannot seem to get their dirty laundry in a hamper. I tripped on some dirty clothes and fell down the entire flight of basement stairs on my left leg, with it ricocheting off of each step on the way down. They thought stuff was torn. Instead, I found out that every piece of cartilage in there is inflamed from the trauma. So it has been injections, PT, crutches (for about 5 weeks). I am finally to the walking stage, but only for very short trips and in transit. I cannot stand or walk for long periods at all. (Read: I can limp to my class and sit in a chair, I can walk to the car and get in it, but I can’t do shopping trips, etc.) I’m just hanging in. Also, I remember lamenting on here how I hated undergrad corporate finance. It has nothing on the 600 level.

That’s all.

I’ll be a blogger again one day, I swear,

Obsessing Over…

To give just a glimpse into my ridiculously easy days right now, this is what I’m obsessing over at the moment:

The Naked Bee Orange Blossom Honey Hand & Body Lotion
The Naked BeeI would love to give you a link to this, well, because it is the bee’s knees, but it appears to only be sold by retailers and is not available or purchase directly from the company. I have eczema on my hand. Call it an occupational hazard that comes from years of harsh sanitizers, surgical scrubs for the NICU, and washing one’s hands a gazillion times a day. I have seen my family doctor and a dermatologist. I’ve tried prescriptions and over-the-counter lotions, creams, and cleansers. Some of these have been really expensive, too. Some have improved it a little, but none have really worked. So one day, having taken my lotion home from work (I usually buy a bottle to keep in my locker) to try on Zach, who also has bad eczema, I was kinda stuck. I had found this stuff the week before because a coworker was using it and it smelled so nice, prompting me to buy my own bottle in the hospital gift shop for $15.99 for an 8-ounce pump bottle.  So I tried it on my hand that one lotion-less night. Holy Cow! It worked. I’ve been using it ever since. All that is left of my eczema on my hand is a scar on my middle knuckle. If I don’t use this for a night of work, it comes back, So tonight, I couldn’t find Zach’s lotion (dye-free, unscented). If we do not slather him with lotion before putting his pajamas on, his whole body is red and itchy in the morning. So I took a chance and tried this on him. A couple of hours later, his skin is already looking better.

I googled the stuff and discovered they make a whole line of skincare products. Soaps, lotions, creams, hand sanitizers. Mind you, the stuff isn’t inexpensive, but if it works? Pshhh. So now I am going to desperately search for the body bar and hand sanitizer. I’m curious to see how it works.

Chipotle’s Adventurrito.
993926_10151685938204253_1600249411_nYep. I know, it’s cheesy. Well, here lately, with only enough cheese to taste. Ha! This is some clever marketing. I love Chipotle. And if I use a little restraint, John and I can eat here without feeling like we’ve wrecked our lives or clogged John’s newly-stented arteries. The beauty is that they give you enough food in one serving for 2 whole meals, so I either split my buttito bowl with Zach or save half for another meal. My bowl consists of chicken, fresh tomato salsa, corn salsa, romaine, brown rice, and just a teensy bit of cheese. If I’m feeling extra naughty, I’ll get a tortilla on the side and roll my own tiny burritos with it, as it is one huge tortilla. John, after the heart incident, gets a meatless bowl with 2 types of beans, brown rice, romaine, and all three of their salsas. No tortilla for him. So this meal, other than a veggie sub with no dressing at Subway, is the only quick-service meal he can eat.

So Chipotle is giving away free burritos? Hell, yes, I’m down with that. The grand prize is 20 years’ worth of free burritos (one per week, I am assuming). Other winners can win free burritos for one year. You are entered when you play the online game, whether you win or lose. To win the grand prize, you have to get all 20 of the puzzles correct. I think there might be a drawing or something for those people. These puzzles are little riddles posted online at 20:20. The 4 they have had so far have been kind of challenging. For example, the above picture is of their basket liner they are using for their anniversary, The answers to one of the riddles involved all of the integers on the liner. They didn’t tell you that, though. Instead, in the clue, they mentioned one should ponder it over a burrito or taco. Of course it was in the middle of the night and Chipotle was closed, but I happened to remember that they posted the above pic on their Facebook page, and Score! I got the puzzle correct. So now I am all geeked out over this little contest because, hey, Fatty loves her burritos!

Bailey’s Mudslide coffee creamer
0004410010766_500X500Because I realized the calorie content of my venti Mocha at the ‘Bucks. And I cannot give up on coffee. I tried the nonfat versions. I tried the soy. I tried every-damned-thing, including black coffee. I decided I am not grown up enough for black coffee. And so a splash of this. I can handle that. So long as I remember to log the calories in my little calorie counter app, I’m good. Thanks for keeping me sane, Bailey’s Creamer.

Barefoot Moscato

barefootmuscatosparklingI’m not even gonna talk about a bouquet or that other crap. I know nothing about wine, but I wanted to start learning. I’m sure that, at the whopping $13.00 I paid for the bottle of this wine, it is most definitely not high-brow. Yeah, whatevs. I mentioned to some of my wine-drinking coworkers that I wanted to learn to appreciate wine, and this was what was recommended to start with. Because though I am all women-power/ fight the patriarchy, I enjoy some good frou-frou sweet booze. And I was told this would fit the bill. And they were correct. The plan is to start here and get a little more sophisticated over time. With different wine types and vineyards.  I would like to be able to have conversations about it eventually. Because I have been elected to the board of directors for the association of women MBA’s at my university, and our introductory meeting is at a wine tasting in a few weeks. I’ve also been told that I would probably like Beringer and rieslings.  If this is your area of expertise, please leave any suggestions you may have for me.

Laughing Cow Smooth Sensations Cream Cheese Spread
Smooth_Sensations_Cream_Cheese_Spread_Classic_Cream_One_Third_Less_Fat

Ummmmm. I love this stuff. I love that there are only 45 calories in a wedge and a whole english muffin (whole wheat, thanks) only takes me about half a wedge. The same can be said for a whole wheat frozen waffle, toasted with this and a little organic strawberry preserves–tastes delicious and only 100 calories total. I love that it travels well, so I can easily pack it for lunches or snacks at work or for trips to the park with my offspring. I love that it comes in a gazillion flavors, though I haven’t tried them yet. Hey Laughing Cow people, if you would like more free marketing, feel free to send me some free stuff and I will be glad to offer up my opinion of your fabulous products. Wink, wink. Because I am a struggling grad student and I am currently slathering this stuff on everything.

“Whodunnit” on ABC

Whodunnit_ABCI cannot look away when this show is on. Part Survivor, part Big Brother, part Clue (yeah, the Milton Bradley board game–the old version, not the new-fangled stupid stuff). Because in my mind, I am playing along, trying to guess, getting aggravated when the contestants can’t get it right.

If you haven’t watched the show, it is like a murder mystery. They get clues. Each week, another guest gets the ax, and the remaining guests have to use clues to determine how it happened. The “killer” is among them. The more wrong/ less correct they are, the more at risk they are to be the next “victim”. Some of them have resorted to tears in fear, leaving me to wonder if they are really that dumb and think ABC is going to have them murdered on set on national network television. But still, it’s entertaining, and I am all about that these days when I have no class to worry about. Even soon-to-be MBA’s don’t want to think about marketing or finance or accounting all of the time.

Devou Park Backcountry Trails- Covington, KY

devouAbout a 2-song drive from my house (it’s that close that I have no idea how many miles or minutes–I can listen to two normal-length songs!). Pack a little cooler bag of water. Some yoga pants and good shoes. All-terrain stroller in the back of the SUV. Off we go. The way the trail is designed, we can hike/ speed-walk as much or as little as we want. It’s peaceful. It’s cleansing. You can pass anyone from the elderly out getting their exercise, to young families, to serious athletes out for a trail run or bike. When it is raining, or has recently rained, the trails are closed for their own preservation, but at the same park, there is a lovely paved trail as well. We’ve walked in a light rain before, on the paved trail, only turning back when it turned into a thunderstorm. We have had days where it was too hot and we had to stop halfway find a spot to relax in the shade. We also park next to one of the playgrounds so Zach can get some playtime in before we head home. I have pulled a muscle somehow and this have been resting this week, and so I miss this. We had been going everyday, walking briskly enough to work up a sweat. Love it.

So that’s my life right now. Or a little bit of it, anyway. Until next time.

His Heart

I have been wanting to write this one, but yet find myself procrastinating. It’s sort of a difficult story to tell, one that has changed our lives.

John’s heart.

John’s heart holds within it memories of his grandparents, now all gone. Memories of his younger years, of Marine Corps boot camp and Camp Lejeune. The day we met, the day we said “I do”.The day Evan was born, his first steps, first words and everything since. Zachary. Me. Our hearts, our lives, are completely intertwined. I live in that heart as much as he lives within mine. Of course, we’re speaking of the metaphysical heart, not the one made of muscle and sinew. And after all of my years working in all things cardiopulmonary, one would think I could separate the two. I’ve had years of cardiopulmonary anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology. I hold certifications that say I know what to do if your heart were to stop beating. My coworkers and I function in this capacity daily.

But on June 7th, all of that experience, all of that education halfway went away while at the same time breaking my heart.

It started a couple of weeks before that. I noticed John breathing a certain way after carrying a small load of clean laundry into the living room to be folded. I asked him what was wrong, and at first he told me nothing was, completely forgetting that I am a respiratory therapist who makes a living recognizing and treating disordered breathing. He finally told me he was just out of shape. This exchange happened a couple more times throughout the course of the next couple of days. Then I caught him rubbing is chest along with the breathing. Again, I asked what was wrong. “Oh, nothing, Andrea. I’m just out of shape. My chest hurts just a little after climbing those stairs.”

Chest pain and dyspnea on exertion. Classic. I tried to get him to go to the ER. He wouldn’t citing the recent medical bills we had for Evan’s testing, which was astronomically expensive. But nothing I would say to him would convince him to go. I had to concede and just settle for an appointment with our family doctor. We went the next day. A stress test was scheduled for 2 days later, as well as some labs. The day after the test, the Saturday before Memorial Day, the third-year resident called me back to tell me his labs looked much improved. His A1C was done, is triglycerides were down. The stress test showed some minor changes that could just be anginal, so John was placed on nitrates. All seemed to be okay.

Four hours later, evening by this point, the same resident called back. She told me that something was just nagging her about the situation, that John has a personal history of diabetes and hypertension, and a strong family history of cardiac disease, that she would just feel better if a cardiologist saw John, just to be extra safe. It was a holiday weekend, so I had to wait until Tuesday to make the appointment, but when I called, the caller right before me had cancelled an appointment on the following day. John got in to see the cardiologist the next day, Wednesday. The cardiologist, for the same reasons, decided to do an angiogram, and asked permission right then to do stents if he found anything while he was in there. We were told it would be scheduled and they would call us that it would be the following week, since it was non-emergent.

They called later that day to ask if we could have John there on Friday morning, just 2 days from the appointment. Someone had rescheduled, leaving a hole in the schedule for John to take.

He had his heart catheterization on June 7th. His mom and sister had come into town to help me with Zach because John was going to be given some sedation and, if they found anything else while in there, they would need me to give consent as his next-of-kin.

I was so terrified. Heart caths are very routine. They do them all of the time. As an RT, I have been in on them many times. But the problem is that the ones I am called to are because the patient has coded. The worst case scenarios are literally all I have witnessed. So for my 38-year-old husband to be the patient, for me to know exactly what they are going to be doing to him and how they were going to be doing it…I was scared. Not of what they would find, but of the procedure itself. And then there was the whole weirdness factor. On the trackboard they have in the waiting area for family, it lists part of the last name and the age of the patient so you can tell where your loved one is in the process. John, 38. Everyone else? 68, 80, 72, 67. And back to John: 38. People in the waiting room were asking Zach if he was there to see his grandpa. A parent young enough to have a 3-year-old should not be going through that. Coworkers, seeing me in denim capris and fleece, were asking me what the hell I was doing there.

My husband. My heart.

John was back there, asleep on that table for over two and a half hours. At some point, his nurse came out to tell me that he was getting a stent, but she didn’t know where or how many.

I was at his side as soon as he came out. The cardiologist came out to explain to me. I wasn’t trying to be dramatic, but my knees almost buckled when I heard.

John’s right coronary artery was 95% blocked. His left anterior descending artery was blocked over 80%. There were 3 more blockages of smaller arteries on the posterior side of his heart that they estimated had been there for some time and they could do nothing about. The cardiologist said he had consulted another physician while Jon was on the table. Immediately upon him saying the name of the doctor, I started to cry. John, his mom, and his sister didn’t understand, but I did. The name belonged to one of our top cardiothoracic surgeons. He and the cardiologist were in agreement that open-heart surgery would be in John’s best interest, but they has started blood thinners 2 days prior to the cath as a prophylactic measure. Open-heart surgery would mean too much blood loss, disordered clotting. Normally, in these situations, they would put the patient in the hospital to be monitored while they stop the thinner and wait a few days for it to be out of the system before doing surgery. I just had a patient go through this this past weekend. The problem was, with the location and severity of two of the 5 blockages in John’s heart, taking him off of blood thinners and sitting on him until the following Monday could have resulted in his death. He would have coded while in the hospital. They had no choice: John got 2 stents while the two doctors hoped for the best and I nervously sat in a waiting room, wondering what was taking so long and completely oblivious.

I heard the doctor talking, and all I could hear was the What-If’s.

What if that third-year resident hadn’t acted on her hunch? If the cardiologist hadn’t had a cancellation? If the cath lab made him wait until the following week to schedule? Those 2 major vessels could have completely blocked at any moment, depriving his myocardium of oxygenated blood. And the location of the blockages would have basically cut off almost all of his heart. He would have died. I could have done CPR. But I don’t think I could have kept him from death. I doubt that, had he coded in the hospital with the entire team present with our equipment, he could have been kept alive. It was that bad.

John's right coronary artery was blocked 95% and his left anterior descending artery (a branch of the left coronary artery) was blocked over 80%.

John’s right coronary artery was blocked 95% and his left anterior descending artery (a branch of the left coronary artery) was blocked over 80%.

What if I wasn’t with him? If he were out driving the kids somewhere?

What if I lost my husband?

We are in our thirties. We are too young. And I realized a lot. First of all, I can do none of this without him. And I wouldn’t want to, even if I could. After all of these years, he is where I belong. The degrees, the plans I have made, the life I have tried to build–without John, there is no point. And the boys. What would become of these two little boys without their daddy?

All of this, everything I have just said, is what went through my mind in the blink it took the cardiologist to explain. And with that, it was all over. He was being admitted. I could not allow myself to leave his side. The next day, we were sent home. We weren’t really told how to live with this information. We weren’t told how to process the concept that the only thing keeping my husband alive is two very tiny (albeit expensive and high-tech) pieces of metal mesh.

stents

 

We weren’t told how to live life, how to get the most out of life. Yeah, plenty of couples go through this, but not at this age. They don’t have this much left of their lives together to live.  So we are doing all we can. Low-fat diets, with no saturated fat, no trans-fat, and very little unsaturated fat. Whole grains, fresh veggies and fruits, low sodium. Exercise. John is going through cardiac rehabilitation 3 days per week. To minimize the risk of re-stenosis of those vessels, John will likely be on blood thinners for a long, long time. Plus a beta-blocker, a statin, and a full-size aspirin daily. I remember the cardiologist telling us that John will eventually need open-heart surgery, but I can’t remember any more. His follow-up is tomorrow, so I will get more information then.

We are doing the best we can with what we have. Instead of gradual lifestyle changes, we’ve had to make massive ones because John’s life literally depends on it.

We have to protect his heart. Within his heart is all that I hold dear in this life.