Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Deep Breaths and New Beginnings

I have been holding all of this in for the past 7 months.  I am still so very uncomfortable with the thought and I have stewed all day about whether to hit "Publish Post" or not...but I think it's time to pour my heart out.

Here's the Cliff's Notes version...

"She got the call today, One out of the gray.  And when the smoke cleared, it took her breath away.  She said she didn't believe, it could happen to me, I guess we're all one phone call from our knees..."  --Mat Kearney

The Call
September 15, 2010, approximately 8:30 am...I dropped K off at school and, for the first time, she cried when I was leaving.  It was hard.  I had a "female doctor" appointment and was heading home to shower and get ready for that lovely experience when my cell phone rang.  It was my mom--from her cell phone.  I was confused but so upset about the experience with K I didn't freak out or anything.  We made small talk for a few minutes before she told me my dad was in the hospital.  He had a heart attack the night before and they were awaiting results to know if surgery was needed or if some stints would do the job.  Buzz, of course, was in Norway.  I took a deep breath and pushed through my day.  I told my mom I would call her after my doctor appointment.  (Deep breath)  I called her from the parking lot and heard the news--he needed bypass surgery.  (Deep breath) I told her I was on my way home.  Luckily, I was able to get Buzz on the phone.

The Drive Home
Thank goodness for my amazing friends!  One took me to the airport to get Buzz's car (which is much easier to travel in with K and the dogs) and another friend picked K up from school.  I haphazardly packed and we loaded up for the four hour trip.  (Deep breath) Thankfully, we were not too far away.  But it was enough time to reflect on how all of our lives changed that day.  If you follow my awkwardness, you know that I have issues with emotions.  I HAVE them, but EXPRESSING them appropriately is not my forte.  I reflected on my love for my dad even though we don't often exchange heartfelt words.  I reflected on the strength it must have taken for my mom to drive him to the hospital, listen to the news, and call me.  (Deep breath)  I shared the news with K.  She was worried and concerned...she has my heart and soul.  (Deep breath)

The Visit
Seeing my dad in the hospital before his surgery was hard.  He is not one to be bed-ridden or slow down for long periods of time.  He never had any major medical problems before.  And he had to wait a week for surgery--they gave him blood-thinners at the hospital because he was not "showing" the severity of the blockage in his heart so they thought they would just put stints in.  Not the case.  (Deep breath)  They had to wait for all of that medicine to get out of his system before (deep breath) performing open heart surgery.  In true-my-dad-fashion, he was actually able to go home for the weekend between the admission to the hospital and the surgery.  I think this was good for everyone.

The Surgery
(Deep breath) The day arrived.  Luckily, Buzz was able to get home from Norway.  I estimate he arrived at my parents' house at approximately the same time my dad was going in to surgery.  When I woke up that morning I kept repeating to myself "Deep breath.  New beginnings.  Have faith in others.  Repeat."  This was all I could do to calm my mind knowing (deep breath) that my dad's heart had stopped and a machine was breathing for him while they performed (deep breath) what would turn out to be quintuple bypass surgery.  (Deep breath)  The surgery took between 4 and 5 hours.

The Walk
My mom and my aunt sat at the hospital during the entire surgery.  My mom, bless her heart, had stayed every night with him at the hospital.  And my dear, dear aunt was there for her from the time they took my dad to pre-op until the afternoon after the walk.  I made it for about the last hour or so of the surgery.  I was having a very hard time thinking of the whole stopping of the heart thing.  We made small-talk--my mom held it together very well.  My mom was facing the walkway and she stopped mid-sentence and her whole face changed.  I turned around and it was the heart surgeon, standing at the other end of the room.  He was probably about 30 feet away but as he slowly walked across the room with no expression on his face, it felt like the walk took 10 minutes.  Then, he stood there, still expressionless in front of us--and finally told us things went well, and he bypassed 5 arteries.  (Deep breaths)  The tears started to flow from my mom.  I have never wanted to cry so bad in my whole life and been able to keep it in.  (Deep breath)  My mom was soon able to go see him in recovery.  (I couldn't go because I had a sinus infection...but I did see him the day after--it was tough.)  (Deep breath)  A new life had begun...and there was a long journey ahead.

Deep Breaths
I had to remember to breathe.  To keep myself together and calm.  I still do.

New Beginnings
My dad gets a second chance.  I get a second chance.  My mom gets a second chance.  It is an ongoing process, but so far, so good.  My dad's health is amazing.  He is healthier than he has been in years.  He looks stellar.  I am never, ever going to take any part of any second with a loved one for granted.  Less than 2 months after my dad's heart attack, my best friend's dad had a heart attack--and did not make it.  My mother-in-law and father-in-law died young of heart disease, 58 and 64, respectively.  We are the lucky ones.  The pain was bad for my dad.  I know it had to be tough.  He was strong but I can't begin to imagine the physical pain.  I remember telling my mom a line I heard on Grey's Anatomy (I know, but I love that show)--This was healing pain.  This means we won.  They have had many hurdles to overcome and have faced each of them with strength and have overcome every obstacle in their path.  They both are amazing.  Did I mention, this means we won?

Have Faith in Others
This is hard for me.  As a control-freak, I don't like to rely on others to get anything done.  But in this case, it was not about me.  I had to have faith that other human beings would come through--that the surgeon's hands would work magic; that my dad would move forward and make the healthy choices he needed to make.  They did.  We won.

Moving Forward
My mom was scheduled for a double knee replacement 2 weeks after my dad's heart attack.  Obviously, that got postponed.  Next week, she will have the surgery.  I'm scared of surgery--all surgery.  But I am working to turn my perception--this life-changing event spilled past my dad.  My mom is healthier--she eats heart-healthy now, too, which is good for the whole body.  Her perspective on life has changed, too, I believe.  I'm ready for another new beginning for her.  She has struggled her whole life just to walk.  I am working now to (deep breath) look past the physical and emotional toll this will take on her.  I am looking to another new beginning--where my mom can walk with my dad (he walks most every day now--he's so amazing) and where she can go to the zoo with K and me.  Where she can park her car and make it to the store, work, wherever pain-free.  But (deep breath) I must also have faith in others, again.  I do have faith that she will do what she needs to do and push through the pain until that goes away and the pain-free future, her next new beginning, takes hold.  I am working to have faith that the surgeon will perform his best surgery yet.  I must put the past emotional toll of my dad's ordeal behind me.  We won.  I am working to be optimistic.  I am scared of the pain my mom will endure but I am hopeful for all that she can do once she has working knees.  (Deep breath)  I must breathe through until the next win is on the books.  (Deep breath)


  1. So glad that your father is doing well. Having a loved one in surgery, especially something like bypass surgery, can be so scary. I wish your mother the best of luck in her surgery - hang in there!!!

  2. You've been through a lot. Sending prayers.

  3. As a former cardiac surgery RN, I think this is a really great and interesting read. It's good to hear the "other" side of the story that we aren't aware of. Keep taking those deep breaths! You will get through it all because if you could manage that emotional roller coaster, I am sure you can manage anything!

  4. Wow! This post took my breath away. I am so glad that your father made it through that and is doing so well now. Your parents must be very strong, as are you. I will be thinking about your mother and her surgery.

  5. You've been through a lot these past few months! I hope things continue to get better and that your mom's surgery goes perfectly!