It's our Panda's first birthday. And what should be a joyous day of celebration is being overshadowed by all of the negatives that are hovering in the air.
Hubs and I spent last weekend in Arkansas with some of the family. Daddy should be well on the road to recovery. Yet we almost lost him several times in the past week. He's now laying there in a semi-induced coma. Sleeping and healing. I wish they would put his chest back together, I feel like I would be calmer if that happened.
A week ago, I was debating about the trip. The snow was falling heavy and I just didn't know if making the trip would be of value. There were some very heated emotions and pain and distance were not making it better. The larger part of my heart wanted to simply stay home, wrapped in a warm blanket in front of a warm fire. I longed to be near my Daddy, but knew that our family couldn't take any more stress and worried about the hurt that was happening erupting into something worse.
Ironically, the one I was protecting was the one that convinced me to come down. Momma is one strong woman, and in our protectiveness we sometimes forget that. She might be shaken, but that woman of faith has more strength than any of us. She keeps saying that she knows he will be okay. Somehow I'm sure she does. When she prays, things happen.
First his sternum broke... not laying blame, but struggling with the fact that he was sent to a nursing home that has "rehab" capabilities, yet they didn't know how to deal with a heart patient, much less one that had suffered a terrible stroke years before. Got that message while on a Google hangout with my boss.
No sooner catching my breath, starting to calm, when I get the next call on my way to work the next day.
He's bleeding out...
Do I need to come?
Of course there were no answers then. They didn't exist. No one knew or understood what was happening. Just that a nurse was standing there and all the sudden there was blood. LOTS of BLOOD.
Shaking and rushing to my car, I'd just stopped to pick up breakfast for me and one of the B's, I felt fear, trauma and pain. Trying to sort through it, not knowing what I needed to do. Six hours away. Even if I left from where I was standing, without a change of clothes or anything, I was still six hours away.
I didn't know that in Arkansas, my Momma was praying. Maybe it's all her brushes with death, but I firmly believe in the power of her prayers. I believe God hears all who speak, but I think she's resonates a bit louder. She was praying for God to guide the surgeons hands. To help him heal Daddy.
I decided to wait out the surgery being busy. I couldn't change anything and if he didn't make it, I didn't want to be driving wildly down highway 67 when I got the news. My poor B probably needed the weekend to recover from my nervous energy. We got a lot accomplished and moved some serious mountains. All the while anxiously watching for a text or listening for the phone to ring.
Around lunchtime I got the news. They'd found it. Patched it. And felt sure he was going to be okay.
I'm pretty sure that is when I was warned about the wound vac and the fact that his chest was still open, that could have come later. It's all starting to blur together. I mean two weeks ago I was chatting with him on Facebook messenger video.
They think the broken rib/wire punctured his heart, a small clot prevented them from seeing it that first night. When it gave, the flood dams opened. Luckily the entire surgery team was onsite doing rounds, the timing for such a catastrophe was miraculous.
They were going to keep him highly medicated so he would rest. He'd stay on the vent. And they would start the search for a hospital bed for him, at a hospital with a plastic surgeon that could put our humpty dumpty back together again.
I didn't leave on Friday.
It was far too emotional and I was far to exhausted to make the drive.
Saturday we made the decision to go. In a soft voice Momma said "if you need to come, come, it doesn't matter what Daddy needs or knows, it's what your heart needs". Done deal.
A few hours later in a blanket of swirling snow, numb with fear and pain, Hubs and I loaded the boys and headed south.
Knowing the window's of visitation we opted out of too many stops, although the boys did need to be walked. We'd planned to pick Mom up and take her with us, but by the time we'd arrived and checked into the hotel there was only 15 minutes of visiting time remaining.
Once again Momma knew and understood. Telling us to go straight to the hospital.
Entering CVICU, dread in my heart, I was surprised to see him back in the same room this whole journey had happened in, where someone had written "welcome back ..." on the white board.
Only this time is was different.
The first time I'd walked into that room, also at the 5 pm visit, he'd been sitting up in the chair watching the news and finishing off his spaghetti dinner. Smiling up at me and asking if I'd watched the State of the Union. Knowing that I would discuss it with him. It was the night before this journey in hell began.
Now he was lying there, still as death, a machine aiding or controlling his breathing, tubes everywhere, so many IV's, and various containers. One containing blood, another urine, another feces and yet another with stomach bile. And silently in the middle of that medical chaos my Daddy lay still, swathed in white and sleeping.
Everything about him was cool. I'm used to my Daddy being hot blooded, with warm skin. Standing beside the bed Hubs and I were struggling. It didn't help that the nurse was trying to be compassionate, but was standing beside us with tears in her eyes. Trying to find positive uplifting words where none existed.
We stayed the full time left, and then a few minutes more. The nurses kindly let us have a few extra minutes. Walking away I felt my knees buckling and my heart being squeezed in pain. Was this going to be the last time I saw my Daddy? Was he going to survive? Did he have the strength required for this battle?
As we reached the car I called my sister and Momma. We were meeting for dinner. I'd chosen the last place Daddy had insisting on us going for dinner when I was there around Christmas. It felt close to him. The food wasn't as good this time, or maybe it was the mood being so different. I'm not sure I tasted it.
Momma went back to the hospital with us, she doesn't like to drive at night, but we all wanted a bit more time with him. He wasn't as drugged and had his eyes open. What a joyous sight! They kept insisting he didn't know we were there, but his eyes followed Momma and he was trying to use my fingers to free himself from his "art line", which was bothering him greatly. At one point while I was holding his left hand and telling him that I knew he was strong enough to beat this he started squeezing my fingers. To the point they turned a bluish purple. I am going to hold on to that being his way of telling me that he is strong and he will survive it!
Just before we left Momma had her fingers lying softly on his hand and was whispering sweet words to him when he wrapped his fingers around hers. It was the most beautiful sight I've seen in a long time.
Sunday was pretty calm and we took turns visiting. It looked to be a good sign that the wound vac was not bring out any blood. And things seemed better. He was heavily sedated, but Hubs and I had decided to stay until middle of the day Monday - to help the family out and give us a chance to sleep good Sunday night.
It was a random thing. We'd made no plans for the next day and hadn't brought enough clothes for another day. But we stayed anyway.
At 3:10 am on Monday, I got the call that is still haunting my sleep. My sweet niece - the youngest of them all, saying Aunt B.... Papa's dying.
Even typing it is hard and brings tears rushing to my eyes.
Before my sleep addled brain could process it my sister was on the line, he was bleeding out again. Blood everywhere, what do we tell them. What do we agree to. Without a second thought, I asked what did Momma want. Because truthfully, he's our Daddy, he's her heart. Her decision was the one that mattered.
By 3:28 am we were in the parking lot of the hospital, they'd just gotten Daddy back into surgery and Momma, sister, niece and brother-in-law were pulling up as we walked to the door.
Hubs and I helped Momma inside, as they told us the decision had been made that if he needed to go back on the bi-pass machine again we would let him go. As much as it hurt to hear, I agreed. My mind was swirling with questions... were we doing this for us? For him? Was he suffering? Too many things to process.
Hours moved slowly passed. I was sure the clock was going in reverse.
I am not even sure when we got the first update from surgery. Time was a blur. The nurses and aides kept coming out to check on us, offer coffee or water, bring tissues and pray with us. They'd come to care deeply about the old grouch. They were struggling as much as we were.
We got the call that the doc had found the problem, was putting him on bi-pass. He was positive he could fix it.
What? That wasn't the agreement....
The calls weren't as regular this time, the waiting was brutal. Each of us hiding in our own corners, silently licking our wounds. Staring brainlessly at phones or walls depending on the time.
Finally we got the call we were waiting on. They were done. Doc would be out to talk to us soon. The first one out was one of the surgery team, telling us Dad was back in his room and Doc update us. The look in his eyes said we would want to hear from him.
When Doc finally came I don't know if we were ready, but we were desperate to hear just the same.
Doc said that he'd opted to leave the retractor on Dad's chest. He said he knew what the agreement was, but when he discovered the problem, he knew that he could fix it. So he did. He just couldn't bring himself to give up. He warned us that they had a larger wound vac on him and that they were now going to keep him completely under, a sort of medically induced coma. But that he'd carefully gone over every inch of Dad's heart and felt confident that he was finally on the mend.
He'd told us to go home, rest and shower. We took turns, each of us afraid in our own way of leaving him without a "watch dog". During our time to shower we walked our boys and marveled at the beauty that could be found in the smallest things. And bought a change of clothes at the local WalMart.
We've had several scares over the next two days, as his blood pressured plummeted, due to low blood and fluids. Terrifying does not begin to explain it. It was rapidly discovered that plasma, blood and some fluid that my nursy sisters know, but I don't would quickly correct that problem.
When we headed out on Tuesday after spending the early shift with Daddy, it was the hardest thing I'd done in almost 10 years. Once before I'd had to leave without knowing what the future held, or if it was even a good choice. That time it was Momma. My heart was heavy. But I had to be back in St. Louis and literally all I was doing was watching him sleep.
It's been a week and a day since the first bleed out. The retractor was taken off on Thursday. Sleeping Beauty is still asleep. But he's healing. My Momma and sisters are working hard to get him moved to another hospital to put him back together. Eventually they will wake him and he will start making strides to get back home.
All of this extreme stress has blanketed a sick Hubs, incredible work stress, and worry about kids and family.
I'm worn out. My heart and brain don't feel capable of working. My body is in extreme pain, the kind that I know medication won't help. I'm hoping some of it will go with finally writing about all of this.
Three hundred miles may as well be a million when you can't get to someone quick enough. And yet the world has seemed so small with all the prayers and well wishes. The candles that are being lit and the love that is being shared.
I haven't even had time to go buy a birthday present for my Panda. Hubs is napping, the room keeps swirling on him from the medication they've given him. And I have hours worth of work to do both personally and professionally.
I am definitely worn out.
I need to find my joy for my sweet baby Panda.