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.

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Raising a Man

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I’ve been having a hard time with this. I’ve sort of been wanting to post, but on the other hand, I wanted to save my kid the embarrassment in the event that the internet is a smaller world than even I realize.

My kid is growing up.

No, I mean, really growing up.

I don’t know when it happened. He was visiting his grandparents over the summer. He came back two inches taller, 20 pounds heavier, with peach fuzz on his upper lip. His voice is deeper. I took hi shopping for some school clothes. American Eagle and Gap replaced The Children’s Place and Gap Kids on our list of places to stop. He can wear the largest size in children’s jeans, or a 28/30 in men’s jeans. The American Eagle tees I bought him in size extra small are snug around biceps that are emerging. He outgrew children’s shoes at the beginning of summer.  He’s turning into a man before my eyes.

And the little girls are circling like animals.

I should probably explain that last remark before I unravel the cautionary tale for parents of tweens. You may recall the post where I did what I said I would never do and bought my child an iPhone. We had it shipped to his grandparents’ house over the summer after ordering from 4 hours away. So when we finally went to pick him up, I asked to see his phone. I’ve held iPhones and looked at them, but when John and I bought our new phones, we were waffling between the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy line. We’re Android people, so you can guess how we chose. But I wanted to play around with Evan’s phone to ensure I made the right choice. He handed it over to me, not even thinking twice about it. He had no idea there was anything he should be concerned about hiding from me.

So I have the phone in my hand, riding in the car, with John driving. I use the little touch-slide screen lock thingy to bring the phone to life and immediately, his home screen pops up. And the background is a girl in her bra and panties. And this is not a grown woman, the photo being something he got off of the internet. This was a girl. About his age. And clearly taken at home. I shrieked, “OMG WHO IS THIS?!?!?!?” His response: “Oh, that’s just XXXX.”

That’s just…Really? Really. A kid from his class at school texted him a photo of herself in her little training bra and panties. And so I started the hunt. Through text messages and browsing histories. I found more. The images, long since deleted from his phone, are still seared onto my retinae. Little girls, all pouty lips and pushed-out butts in flowered Hanes cotton panties, back turned to the camera with a fake-coy expression. I looked and looked through his phone, his emails, hoping to find something where he solicited the pics. He wasn’t hip to the idea that he had any reason to delete his histories, so if he asked the little girls to send these, the evidence would have most likely still been on his phone. Nope. The raciest thing I found of Evan’s was a photo of him in his swim trunks, sans shirt, at the lake.  And before you think my kid is all pervy, let me remind you that he is going to be 12 on Sunday, and these girls are the same age. And I would have known this went on sooner, but he was at Grandpa’s, who apparently didn’t understand that he was supposed to watch Evan with the phone.

I spent three hours researching, trying to find the parents of these girls, assuming they would be as grossed out as I was. All I found was one girl’s mom’s name, but no listed number. I thought about calling the school, but they were still on summer break and I doubted they would give me any information. I did the best I could. Each one of the girls got the same exact text message sent from Evan’s phone:

This is not Evan. This is Evan’s mother. I am just discovering this because Evan has not been home, but I can assure you that he is home now and I will be closely watching. I do this because Evan is a child and I pay the bill for this phone. You are also children. If I see any more nude or near-nude picture of children come across this phone again, you can be sure I will find your parents and I will show them the photos. I will also alert the school you attend. This will not occur under my watch.”

He didn’t get a response. I held his phone for a week, ensuring that he got no more texts from these little girls. But it has not left my mind. I cannot speak for the homes in which they are being raised, but in this house, we do not permit r-rated movies, unsupervised internet browsing. Evan hasn’t gotten this from home. But something out there is churning out children who are over-sexed. It is disgusting. My son still plays with Legos, for crying out loud.

John joked, “Damn, Evan’s got game. All I ever got were little folded-up notes from girls when I was his age.” I saw no humor in it. I will not be a grandmother when, as of right now, I am still buying toys and reminding thee kid to put on deodorant. So I am placed in the position of being hyper-vigilant, of watching out for the actions of my son and of his classmates. And it is coming from everywhere. Girls knock on the door, call the house, text Evan. And as Evan has started middle school, I am learning the hard way that I cannot be everywhere.

This all has had other effects on me. Not only am I concerned for my kid, but I am concerned for these girls. I wonder what type of home life they have, if their parents know that they need to be watching out for them still. If there is a female role model in their lives to teach them they they don’t have to use sexuality to get what they want, that they certainly don’t need to grow up so quickly. I worry. They’re just babies.

We can blame whomever we want. TV? Popular music? Of course the now-infamous Miley Cyrus performance comes to mind. Or maybe it’s the fact that you can get zebra-print string bikinis in just one size beyond toddler sizes? I’ve heard that there are even thongs out there for the parents who prefer that panty style for their little darlings. In stark contrast, I recently bought Evan a pair of boxers that had skateboards all over them. Or perhaps we can blame technology that makes it possible for little kids to have the potential to do this stuff without parents having a clue? When I was a kid, we had a phone that was mounted to the wall in the kitchen, living room, and my parents’ bedroom, and I had to talk to my little friends in front of my whole family.

Whatever the reason, these kids are growing up way before their time. I think every generation has said this about the next one, but it seriously is getting earlier and earlier.

And the mom in me is scared for them.

I don’t want the world of STDs, pregnancy scares, complicated relationships for these kids. I want good grades, making friends, having fun, learning new skills. I want Evan to find out what gifts he has, learn how to be a good person, practice the drums he insisted on learning to play for the school band. I want him to get into a good college, be a good big brother and even better student.

I don’t want him to be an adult before it is time for him to be an adult.

This Could’ve Been My Kid: Toddler Boy Called A Faggot At WalMart For Wearing Pink Headband

http://www.mommyish.com/2013/07/31/toddler-boy-called-a-faggot-at-walmart-for-wearing-pink-headband/

Anyone remember Evan and his affinity for all things pink and sparkly? I didn’t really care, but I was worried for him simply because of people like the man in this article. Because people are ridiculous. And dumb. And virtually intolerant of anyone or thing different from themselves.

I remember those days. I remember having to tell my son that, while there was nothing wrong with him wearing or choosing whatever he liked, that there were people in the world who didn’t understand that and would be mean and cruel to him as a result of his different tastes. That didn’t make it okay, but as his mother, I felt it was my duty to protect him from any potential threat. I would rather he learned that lesson gently from me at home as opposed to the way this innocent little boy learned. So he expressed himself in the house, but not out in public.

Right or wrong, it was such a story as the one above that motivated me.

If I reflect back on that time in his childhood, I feel guilty. His personal preferences have always reflected his quirky, spunky nature. He is not the same as everyone else. He knows it, we know it, everyone knows it. He may have outgrown the pink, sparkly phase, but he has shown other differences. That’s fine with us. His unabashed exhibition of who he is for all who care to get to know him reflect a comfort in his own skin that many of us only hope to have at some point in our lives. I hope that time all those years ago didn’t quelch any part of that within him.

If it did, I am no better than the oaf in this story.

We all have our heads crammed full of what we should be/ think/say/do…
You’re a girl. You can’t throw a ball.
You live in the city, so you have no values.
You’re rich, so you must not know what it means to work.
You’re a man. You aren’t worth shit if you don’t solely support your family.
What do you mean, you can’t cook? Aren’t you a real woman?
You’re poor so you must be lazy.
You’re straight, so you hate homosexuality. You’re gay, so you’re a deviant.

We are who we are. That’s the world I want for my kids, in a nutshell. A toddler in the midst of discovering he is separate from his parents can wear a damned headband-pink, green, sequined, lacy-if it makes him happy. Evan can be obsessed with history instead of XBox. We can choose for my husband to stay home if it works for us. And, yes I suck at cooking anything aside from 3 specialty dishes, but I can rock out some corporate finance while keeping you alive, so that’s okay, right?

Our preferences don’t make us better or worse people. We are not less simply because we have our own strengths and weaknesses that are distinct from the person sitting next to us.

Someone needs to teach that man a lesson.

Bitchypants

I’m Having a Heart Attack or I May Just Be Bat-Sh*t Crazy

Okay, so given John’s recent fiasco where my perfectly fine husband’s heart ended up being most definitely not fine, we are pretty sensitive to anything in our house that could indicate impending death. Call us oversensitive.

10 days ago, I started having this chest pressure. It kind of comes and goes with no logical pattern at all, really. So I hemmed and hawed and mulled it over before finally just going to the ER, since it was a Sunday.

Normal EKG. Negative troponin. Negative d-dimer. Normal chest x-ray. It was deemed muscular in nature, and I was freed with a script for muscle relaxers.

Except for one problem: I am incaple on any form of consciousness on those damned things. So I have taken 2 of them in 10 days. And still, the pressure/pain comes and goes. It isn’t severe, but instead just there. Occasionally it will get bad enough that I have to stop and focus on my breathing.

So today I go to my family doctor, simply because it got bad enough that I couldn’t catch my breath and it felt bad enough that I couldn’t even focus on anything. Honestly, it reminded me of the massive squeezing done about 40 times a minute by my dysfunctional uterus just a few years back. Only not really, because it didn’t stop. And it was in my chest, just left of center.

But my tests were normal, so I have to be fine. Maybe it’s just stress. But it won’t go away. But I am under a lot of stress. But then again, I live in stress and have for my entire adult life.

But, but, but….

So the doctor asked me how I would like to proceed. And I don’t know, because the logical side of me who spent years studying all things cardiopulmonary knows it isn’t likely to be my heart. But then there is the part of me that doesn’t know what the hell it is and wants to be sure. So I told her I didn’t know, to jyst do what she feels is best.

I ended up on a proton pump inhibitor to ensure it isn’t something GI-related, a steroid to ensure it isn’t inflammation, and a stress echocardiogram just to be sure.

I’ve never had anxiety issues unless it involves John behind the wheel of the car. Now, I am questioning my sanity.

Bitchypants

The Post I Have To Write That Will Most Likely Result In Hate Mail

Or My Reaction to the Zimmerman Verdict.

First of all, a kid is dead. There are people who loved him. He was a part of a community. He had a beautiful smile, from the photos I’ve seen. He was barely 5 years older than my son. He wasn’t armed and was in a place where he was supposed to be when he was shot in the heart by a grown man. That grown man was acquitted, and a nation is out for blood.

With that being said…

I fancy myself someone with integrity. I will be honest with you about my thoughts while disclaiming away. They do not represent those of my school, my kids, my husband, my employer. they’re min . Only mine. Blah, blah, blah.

I’ve been watching this trial all week. I’ve read articles online and then researched the evidence. I found myself waffling back and forth. No, Zimmerman should not have gotten out of his car that night . It wasn’t illegal to get out of his car. It was just a dumb move. It also is not illegal to follow someone or to ask them what they’re doing. It is not illegal to be be completely stupid. If his were true, our whole prison overcrowding thing would be taken to a whole ‘nutha level. It is illegal to cause physical harm to someone out of aggression. I was not there the night Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin. You weren’t either. In fact, there were only two people present and one of them, tragically,  is no longer with us. With that in mind , have I been a member of the jury, I would have had a hard time sending Zimmerman to prison for the rest of his life if there was even a chance that he really was defending himself against Trayvon Martin. I saw the photo of the bloody nose. I saw the lacerations on the back of  Zimmerman’s scalp, the bumps and bruises where his head struck concrete. I heard the testimony where the gunshot evidence was consistent what someone being on top of Zimmerman. Could that have been caused another way? Quite possibly, but there was no other way that was consistent with the other evidence. For that reason I couldn’t rule out that Zimmerman wasn’t telling the truth. Others argued that, since Zimmerman followed, he started it, and thus was the aggressor. I disagree. If you come up to me, initiating a verbal confrontation, and I get upset and strike you, I am the aggressor, not you. I am the one who could not control myself in that situation

This was not racially motivated. It had nothing to do with the color of Trayvon’s skin, the clothes he was wearing, or any other factor. it was just the facts as they were presented. For more , Trayvon was not well known in the area , and the neighborhood had suffered multiple break-ins in weeks leading up to the incident. it was raining and dark and Trayvon was casually walking and reported to be looking in the windows. I could certainly understand why Zimmerman became suspicious. I don’t consider myself racist at all, but I cannot say that I would not have have the same suspicions. I also would have had them if he was green, blue, white, purple. The only difference is I hate guns and do not own one.

Not everyone who agrees with this verdict is racist. Not all of us are far right lunatics . Some of us consider the law in the evidence and made our own minds up. The media have done nothing to help America. Between Nancy Grace shouting and jumping on the cause of the day for ratings’ sake and discussion panels of everyone doing all but shouting  kill whitey, it was hard for anyone to get the story without influence. I have been amazed at the number of people who have spoken out about their disagreement with the jury’s verdict. When an intelligent conversation is initiated, it is discovered that they never watched the trial or did any research, but instead relied upon what they were hearing from others .

I hate going where I am about to go, but I have to. A kid is dead. But it was dark and rainy. This kid was 6’2″. He had a hood up. While he was thin, it would have been hard to discern this with the fit and style if his clothing. None if this makes his death okay, but the media portrayed him as little more than a cherubic toddler. He was not. He was close to adulthood. With THC in his system, a lighter found on his person, pictures of guns and marijuana plants on his phone. When Zimmerman called the police, if you listen to the unedited call that wasn’t spliced together for the sake of better ratings for news programs, he says it appears something was wrong with the young man, that he appeared to be on drugs. Still just a kid, allowed to make mistakes. But hindsight is 20/20. We know he was unarmed that night. But it wasn’t known at the time.

The other thing I’m going to say is this: it was insinuated that the gun was drawn before the altercation took place.that this was why Martin was screaming, if it really was him screaming. If someone is holding a gun on me, I’m going to be so terrified that I don’t make a peep. I can assume that a 17-year-old kid fighting a grown man would probably be less brave if he knows that grown man was armed. Would he have fought back? Run like hell? Keep quiet so as not to get shot? Or roll around on the ground fighting the armed man? Or was it not known that the man was armed?

So I am glad they reached the verdict they did. They listened to reason. I am sorry for the loss of a beautiful teen. I could not imagine that loss as a mother. I am sorry that Zimmerman and his wife will never have their lives back to normal. I feel this way because I am human. A mom, a wife. It has nothing to do with my race or with hatred of that of another.

Bitchypants

Fit? Healthy? Moi?

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Smoking cessation: Day 7
Diet New Healthy Nutrition: Day 24
Exercise Program: Week 2

Somehow, 16 pounds are gone. Where they went is beyond me. I can tell a little difference, but when you need to lose over a hundred pounds, 16 seems so…paltry.

It’s been challenging. Eating out is almost impossible. And I have to admit that we have been reliant on quick service restaurants. When you work all night, wake up to study, then head to campus to study more, sit in class for hours, getting home at 9 pm….This has been easier since I’m on break from classes, but I need to be sure to research ways to stay ahead of the healthy eating when my final semester starts up in the fall.
Our “treat” is Chipotle. I get a chicken burrito bowl with brown rice, lettuce, and both mild and corn salsa, then split it in half with Zach. John gets his completely meatless with 2 kinds of beans, the salsas, brown rice, lettuce, with no cheese or sour cream. We’ve been doing that once a week. Other than that, whole grains, fresh veggies, only the leanest meats…
What is interesting to me is that, as we do this more, I am accidentally learning new tricks. The other day, I was craving waffles. We had low-fat wheat waffles in the freezer, but I had no sugar-free syrup, completely forgetting it at the grocery store. Instead, I toasted the 2 waffles (140 cal) and spread them with low-fat Laughing Cow cream cheese spread (45 cal) and a tablespoon of low-cal organic strawberry preserves (45 cal). This is now my new favorite breakfast, tastes more like dessert, and is only 230 calories. This adds room, for mornings when I am starving, to add something else without wrecking the calorie/ nutrition count.

I have also learned that I have no endurance left, which was a big surprise. I spent years of my life swimming. I walk all over a big hospital for 13 hours a night. I guess I just always thought it was still in there somewhere. Nope. Years and years of not taking care of myself has resulted in that loss. So on Day One of the whole exercise thing, I got myself ready, laced up my cute new running shoes (see above, but ignore the cankles), and headed out the door. Within about 1 minute, I was sweating and winded.

Have I ever mentioned I hate being sweaty? I mean, this really is why swimming is my thing. If you’re doing it right, you can literally feel the heat coming off of your muscles. But cool water washes the sweat away so you don’t feel it. There is nothing like a good, hard, cleansing swim. Problem is, if I tried to swim a puny 50 right now, I would likely drown. So I am using that as a goal. We are joining our local YMCA, which has both indoor and outdoor pools. When I build enough endurance. I’m digging out the old Speedo and splurging on some new pro goggles and off I go. But in the meantime, I am stuck sweating and doing the hard work. I must admit I’m not a big fan.

Smoking. Ahhhhh. I have been smoke-free for 7 days. One whole week. I just took a deep breath, and it felt really good. John says he is proud of me. I am proud of me. Other than pregnancy-induced quitting, I have never gotten this far. I keep catching myself saying ” I’m trying to quit”. No, I have quit. I am a non-smoker. Saying that makes me cry. I have wanted to be able to do this for such a long, long time. I’ve had my moments this week. There was the one day where all I wanted in life was a damned cigarette and pizza. John and I spent hours on the internet looking for options that would allow us to do this. Wheat crust? Light sauce? Veggies with no meat? Half the cheese? Hell, we even tried no cheese, which John said would be a cracker with veggies on it, and the saturated fat was still too high. I went to bed that night seriously pissed at the world. We did find one place that makes healthy pies, but a large pizza is over $40. If it were that healthy, maybe. Or maybe for date night or something. But not for a random Wednesday. Not when I would have to buy a second pizza because the kiddos wouldn’t eat from ours. And Zach would die if we got pizza without breadsticks. By the time we were finished, a hundred dollars would be gone. On pizza. On that random Wednesday. Call me a cheapskatebut, ummmm, no.

There are 2 more major problem areas for me. Mochas and water.

I really don’t like water. I’ve added everything and anything to it, which makes it good. That’s all great. But I prefer my Diet Mt. Dew. I haven’t cut it out completely yet. The fast food, the junk food, the smoking…all of that gone. I just cannot part with my DMD yet. I am limiting though. 1 soft drink a day. Water the rest of the time. Before, we would go through a 12-pack a day, so even this is a major change. But I don’t know if I can cut it completely off. And mochas. Oh, holy bejeezus. Have you looked at the nutrition content? I didn’t. It’s a drink, for crying out loud. Even the nonfat variety isn’t great. I could deal with that as a sub. But damn. I can’t have either, and I have a $15 a day coffee habit when school is in session. Really. And the coffee shop in the College of Biz smells so fucking good. Liquid crack. So I have to train myself to like black coffee. Gradually.

So I have a lot of work to do. I keep telling myself that, while it is sad, it is completely true that nobody takes fat women seriously. So for John’s heart, but also for my future….

Wish me luck.

Bitchypants

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.