Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The good and the bad

I'm so sorry I've been quiet again. You see...I just didn't know how to write this post. I've decided to just write it all out - the good and the bad. I keep spinning around in circles, wondering if I should lead with the good, then tell the bad, or perhaps I should get the bad things out first and end on a high note. For lack of a concrete decision, I guess I'm going to ramble a bit, and perhaps just share the events as they unfolded.

Back around June 29 last year, I started to write a post entitled "Bad things happen in threes." I do not know how many people have heard this saying, but it always seems to ring true. When I started the post, Farah Fawcett, Michael Jackson and Ed McMahon had just died. Shortly thereafter, Billy Mays died, and I was wondering what "bad" things were coming next. I do not remember what the remaining 2 things were...and I guess I just did not feel the need to talk about Farah, Michael, Ed or Billy.

But, back to the present. Last Saturday, we went to a first birthday party for Micah's friend Owen. We met them in our breastfeeding support group - hard to imagine that a year has already passed and our boys are growing up. We had a great time playing and eating pizza. Micah showed off his walking skills, too. The following day, we had another birthday party at a Gymboree. Micah was so funny, trying to walk around and play with the "big" kids. He had fun on the slide, he loved the singing and the parachute, and he was all over the place. He even sat at the table in a "real" chair (okay, a child-sized chair) and ate off a plate (well, he occasionally tried to dump the food on the floor). I intended to come home and blog about our fun party experiences, but I got a bit distracted by "Bad Things."

Bad Thing #1: I guess the "bad things" started when I learned that my online friend, Eve, lost one of her precious twins - her son, Will - at 25 weeks pregnant. Like everyone else hearing this news, I was stunned. How could such an awful thing happen? And to "one of us"? Isn't infertility enough to endure without such tragedies? I have been stunned that something so awful can happen. I do not even know how I could possibly comfort her during this time...but my heart aches for her. I have been thinking of Eve and her other precious twin Abby, and hoping that she remains strong and continues to grow and thrive.

Even worse than how awful I feel for Eve - the selfish panic has a way of hitting home with me right now - at only 18 weeks pregnant. Yes, I said it - hearing of such a tragic loss became a selfish moment for me, too. I feel awful even saying that, but it has been sitting right there in the back of my head since I learned of this tragedy. I guess hearing that something so awful has happened to someone I care very much about is terrifying - it really made me think about how it could hit that close to home for me, too.

Bad Thing #2: Haiti. Need I say more? I just sit here, appalled every day that there is such devastation in Haiti. My husband works in emergency response, and he has spent much of his time since the earthquake planning logistics and getting equipment and supplies down to Haiti. I have to say, I do not understand why it is taking so long to truly provide the relief they need. I am angry that so many have died during the earthquake, but I'm even angrier that perhaps tens of thousands are dying because they are buried beneath rubble and rescue teams have not gotten to them in time. What a terrible way to die - alive, trapped under rubble, waiting to die of starvation or dehydration. I'm shocked that survivors are starving to death because there is no food or water for them. I'm disgusted that doctors are choosing to amputate limbs to avoid infection because there are not enough antibiotics or sufficiently equipped ORs to provide better alternatives. I heard that at ONE facility alone, they are performing more than 70 amputations a day. I hurt knowing that despite all of the will in this world to help, send supplies, send rescue teams - we do not seem capable of fixing this with sufficient speed to save everyone.

A GOOD INTERLUDE...I've been fixating on the bad things, but somewhere in this week, I wanted to post about how much Micah has been growing and changing. He is truly walking now - he is on his feet more than he is crawling. His language skills are growing - he makes a sign for phone, he claps, he understands when I tell him to bring me something or throw me a ball, and he has started saying the word "ball." I have some amazing video of him toddling all over the house! I'll have to post some more video in a few days when I can focus on all of the good things.

BAD THING #3: Perhaps it was foreshadowing, but we had a terrifying experience last Tuesday night. Micah was sitting on the couch with me, and as he always does, he crawled to the end of the couch by the arm. I was talking on the phone to my mother, and I had my hand resting on his feet. I thought I would feel him if he tried to push off to take a header off the couch, and that I would be able to pull him back or stop him. Yes, you can see where I am going with this. It all happened in an instant - so fast, and yet it was like watching a movie in slow motion. Somehow, without pushing off with his feet, Micah started to fall over the arm of the couch. I started to yell and dove after him, throwing the phone somewhere on the floor. I got to the arm of the couch and felt his legs brush through my hands as I missed grabbing him. I watched my sweet little baby boy land on his face on the floor...and then while his face was still down, I watched the rest of his body flip over, bending his neck almost 180 degrees before he landed flat on his back and his face popped up off the ground. I know I stopped breathing for a second as I stood over his body. From the way his neck bent, for a moment I was certain he was either dead or paralyzed. I was afraid to grab him and move him - terrified that would make the injury worse. For a second, Micah did not move or make a sound. That was the longest moment I have ever endured. I have to say, the relief washed over me when he started screaming and moving - my first thought was that he was alive and not paralyzed. Since he was already moving wildly, I decided to gently pick him up and hold him. I quickly realized he could move all of his limbs and turn his head. He had a bad scrape on his nose and a bit of a red mark on his forehead. We immediately called the doctor to figure out if we should go to the emergency room. Micah quickly showed us that he was able to walk and was behaving normally. When the doctor called back, she assessed the situation and told us that it was unlikely he needed to go to the emergency room and be put through xrays. We kept him up another couple of hours before putting him to bed, and I checked on him throughout the night, terrified something bad would happen to him overnight. The next morning, Wednesday, Micah appeared no worse for the wear. He had a big red triangle on his nose - the kind kids get with a skinned knee. He looked a lot like Raggedy Andy!! But, much to my surprise, he did not even seem sore. I hated letting him out of my sight for a moment, but he insisted on running all over the place.

A few hours later on Wednesday morning, I got another call. Round 2, Bad Thing #1: My grandmother fell and was being rushed to the hospital. My mother told me that the fall did not sound like a big deal, and they were merely sending her to the hospital as a precaution. When my mother got to the hospital, she called again - apparently, they suspected that my grandmother had fractured her skull, and her temporal artery burst. After they stitched it up and took xrays, they confirmed the fractured skull. She then had a CT scan, which identified 3 major bleeds in her brain. They briefly discussed surgery, but my grandmother is 97 years old and she suffers from dementia. Surgery is traumatic - if she survived it at all, it would definitively cause a loss of function. Because of the dementia and her age, she is not a candidate for physical therapy to recover that loss of function. So, any surgery (if she survived) would likely have made things worse. Add to that, my grandmother was taking a medicine called Plavix, which is a blood thinner. Because of the Plavix, she has a difficult time clotting (making surgery dangerous and the bleeds unlikely to stop on their own). Ultimately, the doctor suggested we transfer her to hospice care. They seemed to think she only had a few days to live, at most.

This was devastating news. While my grandmother is 97 and suffers from dementia, and while we've realized she could die at any time, we just never envisioned this scenario. I went out to the hospital to be with my family during all of this. After a number of hours, we got my grandmother's transfer to a nursing home for hospice care approved. When the ambulance arrived, my mother drove ahead so that she would be there waiting for my grandmother when she arrived. As we prepared her for transport, she became increasingly agitated. She managed to pull the bandage off of her head (which was there to try and control some of the bleeding). She started yelling at the EMTs and she was very upset. At the last minute, I decided to ride in the ambulance with her, to help keep her calm. My grandmother often does not recognize me, but yet, she seems to respond to me. Perhaps it is because I call her Grammy so she knows I am family, or perhaps somewhere buried in her mind I am still familiar to her. Either way, I thought she needed me with her, so I hopped in the ambulance.

Unfortunately, I did not think about my terrible morning sickness, or how it is exacerbated by motion. Nor did I think about the fact it was rush hour and we were traveling 10 miles away. It was a VERY long trip - but I only threw up one time. I felt awful for the EMT - you should have seen the look on his face when I calmly asked him if he had a container I could use for vomiting. We arrived at the nursing home, and both my grandmother and I settled down. It was amazing how alert she was, and she appeared not to feel any pain!

The next day, Thursday, was Micah's 13 month birthday! DH was up and out at 4:00 am again to help get a team and supplies out to Haiti, so I was on my own that morning. I should have posted something joyous here to mark the event - but I was finding it hard to celebrate with such sadness surrounding us. Thursday was not a good day for my grandmother. She just slept all day, and barely responded to anything. We were getting mixed signals all day from the hospice providers - one minute they said she was doing well, the next minute they were not sure she was capable of swallowing food and water, the next minute the doctor was telling us she was in a coma and we should pull all food and water. At 9:30 pm, my mother and I made a run out to see my grandmother. We thought it might be the end. We got there ... and my grandmother woke up and chatted with us. We were angry at the doctor for his misinformation, but it was a good visit, and once again, I am so thankful that I had the time to talk with her and tell her that I love her.

On Friday, my mom went to visit my grandmother in the morning, and she was quite alert and responsive. My mother insisted they do a swallow test to determine what she was capable of eating, and she passed. I went out to visit later in the day. We insisted that they give her food and drink to keep her comfortable for as long as she can take it. Saturday, my grandmother seemed to be holding steady. Sunday was another good day, although I was unable to visit her.

We had a very busy day on Sunday. Micah had a bad night and ended up sleeping until almost 10:00. As a result, he missed his morning nap, and was like the energizer bunny! I decided that it was not appropriate to take him to the nursing home - he is too restless and wants to get into everything, and I just did not think it was a good idea to have him fussing or crawling on the floor while I was trying to sit with my grandmother. In the afternoon, my mom came over for a few hours to spend time with Micah. DH and I took advantage of the time and went house hunting. I've mentioned before that we only have 2 bedrooms in our current house - so we have a space issue when Twoey arrives. We are torn between putting on an addition and moving, and we just cannot make a decision. I'll save that discussion for another post. Anyway, we looked at houses for a few hours and realized that we still do not know what to do. We got home around 4:00, just in time for DH's brother and niece to arrive. She is a college student, and headed off to South Africa for a semester abroad! She was leaving from the airport here, so they drove down for the flight out on Monday afternoon. It was a nice, but brief, visit.

(NOTE - Round 2, Bad Thing #2 - Another earthquake hits Guatemala and El Salvador). On Monday, much to everyone's shock, my grandmother was stabilizing. The doctors kept telling us that they could not believe she was breathing and not in a coma with the extent of her brain bleed. And yet...there she was, chatting. She was definitely sleepy and her dementia was still an issue, but she was quite responsive to us - more chatty than she has been in a while. They got her up and bathed her, and they even put her in a wheelchair for a bit. We had a long discussion on Monday about finances - insurance coverage, Medicare, hospice services, etc. Unfortunately, because the doctors were certain she would not survive more than a few days, we did not keep her in the hospital for 3 days, so she is not eligible for some of the Medicare benefits (which makes a few things a bit sticky for us). We are trying to work around this glitch, but we hope to be able to keep my grandmother where she is for as long as she is with us.

After I got home from visiting my grandmother, we took my niece to the airport. We got her to the airport in plenty of time (despite the fact we were pulled over on the way out for an expired tag - long story, but the tag is actually NOT expired, but we cannot get the new sticker to put on my license plate). Ironically, we ran into our friend, Bill, at the airport. DH & I actually met at Bill's Superbowl Party in 2005. We offered Bill a ride home. DH's brother left as soon as we got back home. Micah was being cranky and refused to nap - it was a LONG day.

Today, however, was not as good a day for my grandmother. She is back to being very sleepy. She responds to my mother (I was not able to go visit today), but she has not been responding to any of the nurses or caretakers. She has been choking more during meals, which is dangerous for her, so we have had to pull back on what she is eating. It remains to be seen if she is just exhausted because she overdid it yesterday, or if this is the beginning of the decline we have been expecting. I am planning to go see her again tomorrow.

Another selfish moment ... I have a huge conference for work next week. All week - Monday through Saturday. This is the most important event for me all year, and if I miss it, I would lose my job. I'm terrified that something will change (or, to be blunt, that my grandmother will die) while I am away at my conference. How am I supposed to choose between being there to support my mother during a terrible time and my job? I hope I do not have to find out.

So...that is the good and the bad. Once again, I'm left asking - what is Bad Thing #3? I wish there did not have to be anything else to complete this chain. I hate that bad things seem to come in threes. And I hate that there is so much sadness tainting all the good right now.


Prather Family said...

Wow, that was a lot to take in. I'm sorry to hear about Micah's fall and the issues with your grandmother. I really hope that your grandmother can make it through your conference and you won't be forced to chose between family and work.

Take care,

Sam and Kerry said...

I'm sorry this stuff is happening. I will pray that there isn't a bad thing #3 for you guys.