This was not planned. This post and the content of it.
What I planned to write about was my mom’s radiation. How it is ALL done. How she is ALL done with cancer. I was going to whoop it up big time. Talk about the journey of breast cancer and how it impacted my family. How through it all, we’re here today to say thanks to God.
After that, I was going to hop over to The Hockey Writers and write about the Wild and their ways. Their interesting moves and their slim shady chances of signing Zach Parise.
Then. I was going to talk about an exciting, but incredibly short trip to Chicago for a friend’s wedding. I flew down and caught up on magazine reading and people watching (love airports!). I was going to talk about the people I met from Chicago and Canada. The hockey talk we talked. About the Kings vs. Devils. About Canadian NHL teams. About the Blackhawks. I planned to write about the cute towns I visited. The Chicago-style pizza I ate. The Dunkin Donuts I wolfed down. The laughs and smiles.
Returning on Saturday night, I chatted away with my parents – my airport ride. I enjoyed serious and silly conversations. Worked through life’s problems and leaned on my parents like I always do.
On Sunday, I was off. To explore the state. I told my mom goodbye as she headed off for an afternoon event. I told my dad goodbye as he checked off weekend chores in the garage.
And I left. At 4:00p on the dot.
Country music kept me company as I pointed my car north. Rain showers popped up all around me and threatened to wipe me off the road, but I kept on keeping on. And then ten minutes before my destination, my mom called. I answered and we talked. She needed to take another call and said she’d call me back. She did less than a minute later.
That’s when the plan went amiss. Very, very amiss.
Telling me she was almost home, pulling into the neighborhood, she suddenly stopped talking. Through short-breaths and uneven words, I heard her say, “Oh no. Oh no. There’s emergency vehicles in the yard. Oh.”
With one hand on the steering wheel, one hand gripping my phone, and rain continuing to pour, I called out my questions, “What? In our yard? What happened?”
I heard her open the car door, knew she’d pulled up and parked, and could hear voices in the background as my mom exited the car. She frantically told me she’d call me back.
Country music was no longer filling my car with guitars and southern sounds.
I drove. I waited. I prayed.
Then. The phone rang with my mom’s ring tone – Martina McBride’s “I’m Gonna Love You Through It.” Fitting for her.
Again her quick, rapid words came through the phone and she told me, “They’re taking your dad to the hospital. They think he had a stroke. Turn around and come home.”
Two minutes from my destination, I stopped. Informed the people of what happened and jumped back in the car and headed south. Back down through the storms and rainy weather.
No more than usual, I sped through towns and construction zones. Gripping my steering wheel harder than a vehicle with power steering requires. Praying and praying.
About 15 minutes away from town, my mom told me the exact hospital and where she was. Sitting with neighbors, friends, and my sister who had driven north to be with my mom.
I pulled into the hospital lot. The emergency lot. One that I visited as a 7th grader one winter in what turned out to be a comical tale.
But on Sunday night, I rushed in and asked the front desk man where to go. My mom and friends were in the waiting room and I hugged my mom hard. Harder than normal (our new cancer and chemo hug normal). We sat there – my mom, sister, neighbors and friends, and then stuck ourselves with visitor tags and traveled via elevators to ICU where my dad had been transferred after his CT Scan.
During the first waiting room and elevator room I learned a bit more about the situation.
Sunday pm – I left at 4. My dad was in the garage. He had been out in the heat and sun moving dirt around and re-shaping flower beds – prepping for mulch. He grabbed the wheelbarrow and was wheeling it to the back bed, butting up to our neighbor’s chain-length fence. But he never made it to the fence, never dug in the dirt.
The wheelbarrow tipped over. Because my dad fell over. And not in a comical klutzy moment sort of way.
The neighbor that shares the fence was sitting outside (who doesn’t want to sit in 90 degree weather!?) and noted the tipped wheelbarrow. He looked around a bit from his deck perch and saw my dad on the ground, called out to him in a Wilson-the-neighbor sort of way and when there was no response, he hopped the fence and was at my dad’s side ringing 911.
Neighbors rushed out of their homes. Two squad cars, 1 firetruck, and an ambulance screamed into our neighborhood and that’s the site that greeted my mom. The neighbors said my dad was struggling to stay awake. My dad thought he just needed a hand up. But it was more than that. Paramedics strapped him down. Wrapped his neck with a brace and carted him off.
A sweet neighbor lady drove my mom to the hospital and waited by her side.
By 7p the CT scan showed no signs of internal bleeding or damage. TPA was administered. Within the 3-4 hour critical window.
When I arrived at 9:30, my dad was in his ICU room. We went up. And walked through the doors. He turned and saw us as we greeted him. Smiling from just one side of his mouth. There were lots of hugs and prayers. But I was reassured that my dad was going to be fine when I heard him talking about current events. Checking on my sister and asking if she took care of this and that.
The nurse said they’d wake him up every 20 minutes to check his pupils, dexterity, and vision. And I watched a few of those checkpoints feeling bad he had to endure any of it. Movement wise, he had it down. Finger to nose with both arms. Pushing his feet. Tug of warish games with the nursing staff to test his strength. And lots of questions.
He did fine. All night long. We left him to rest (with fifteen minute wake up calls) all night.
His sense of humor was perfectly in tact. In fact, he seemed wittier than normal. His fatherly jokes warranting actual laughs.
Phone calls and texts were sent. I saved new numbers in my phone. Trying to remember who was next on the list. Limited info was provided. The details of the accident were not filled in yet.
We left my dad for the night. His condition stable. And returned Monday morning.
Early rising, my mom headed out right away. I stayed back to clean up the rakes, shovels, and my dad’s soaking wet sneakers. And while I was at it, CSI’d the yard. I noted the three stations my dad was working in. The angles of the yard. And pondered how the neighbor saw through trees, bushes, and fences. But then I saw the tipped wheelbarrow and it all made sense.
On its side was the red wheelbarrow. Just south of the basketball court in the backyard. Away from rocks, shovels, and rakes. And when I looked up from the wheelbarrow, I could see the neighbor’s deck. But one foot to the left or right and I’m positive he would not have seen the fallen wheelbarrow. It was a miracle he saw what he saw in the window of time he saw it.
Like a good neighbor, ours was right there.
After my yard chores, putting tools back in places I’m sure are not correct, I gathered hospital stay supplies. Snacks, magazines, etc. and made two business calls for my dad. Taking care of his business.
Then, I headed out with my sister. On the drive over, my mom texted to say that a cardiac echo showed a Patent Foramen Ovale.
My sister had diagnosed a PFO on Sunday night. Putting her Master’s Degree to good use. In his hospital room, my dad was sitting up a bit. Sipping Sprite and talking.
A speech pathologist came in to test him and he carried on a witty conversation with her throughout the tests. She had him cough and clear his throat. Asked him to name animals and the months of the year backwards (pretty sure I’d fail that test). He had to repeat a name and address. Not his own. Or “P. Sherman. 42 Wallaby Way Sydney, Australia.” He got a gold star on his work and was cleared for a soft diet of applesauce and Magic Bulleted foods.
Throughout the day on Monday, he improved. Memories returning. Speech increasing. He slept much. Talked lots. Smiled and insisted no one fuss over him. By evening, his smile was returning. His eyebrows could raise. The neurologist thinks he damaged his left facial nerve when he fell. And we were pleased to see progress and recovery in his face and movements.
At 7:45 he was carted away for an MRI and I sat in his room watching game 6 of the Stanley Cup. When dad returned to the room, he was alert and aware. Asking how New Jersey was doing (at the time, not bad).
Milestones of the night: he sat on the edge of his bed. He stood. Sat upright in a chair. And watched Gladiator on his laptop.
Today, we’re hearing from a cardiologist. Trying to figure out what to do about the PFO. Wondering how to prevent this from occurring again. Determined to find the reason behind this terrible scare.
Aside from birth, my dad has never been admitted to the hospital. There’s been ER visits and pills here and there. But never serious. He’s not accustomed to the attention. Doctors and nurses and zero privacy. It’s my mom and I who spike insurance premiums. Not my dad.
His good spirits and positive attitude will take him far. Just like my mom, he will battle this out. Relying on God to get him through.
In the meantime, we continue to pray. Prioritize. Adjust. Cancer and chemo were beat. A stroke will be defeated.
please continue to keep him in your prayers. Thank you for the support and love. I will try to update my blog and Facebook status, but I am quite fried…so bear with me if I skip a day or miss details.