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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It Was a Dark and Sunny Morning

Yeah that doesn't make any sense. But last Saturday I had just risen from bed...I was yawning and stretching and trying to come alive (à la Dolly 9-5). It was a gorgeous bright morning and I had just updated my Facebook status to say I wondered what the boys and I would do for the day. That's the moment I got a call from Chris's Grandpa (Papa). He sounded very winded and mentioned something about his blood sugar and asked me to get him an ambulance. I told him I'd take care of it right away. I managed to keep my head on straight, though in hindsight, I'd have kept him on the phone and called 911 on my cell.

While I was calling 911 I used my tense mommy voice and told the boys we had an emergency and to get their boots on. They did. I sure wish I could have heard my own voice so I could replicate that tone to get them to listen to me sometimes. Things seemed to be in slow motion as I contacted 911. It took me three tries to get ahold of Chris at work too. Then we left and arrived at Papa's house at the same time as the ambulance did; the police were already there. I told the boys to stand aside on the deck outside and that I was going in the house. Papa looked pretty rough but was able to speak.

Chris arrived somewhere in these moments too. I think he took the boys to the hospital so I could run ahead with the ambulance and get Papa checked in. There was a great resident in the ER who responded well and communicated effectively to determine Papa's medical status. He was a bit confused about the timing of his first ill feelings, but he just thought that he was feeling side effects from a medication he had started three days earlier. The meds were only to last another day or so, so up until this point he was just hanging in there despite lack of sleep, vomiting and diarrhea. I guess it finally got to be too much by the time he called me.

Papa gave me his house keys to go get his glasses, teeth(!) among other items so he'd be able to eat lunch. I packed an overnight bag with everything I could find, gave his teeth a good scrub and went back to the hospital. After a bunch of tests, they determined he was having a heart attack. A doozy, which took a few days to peak. He also had pneumonia and congestive heart failure. His kidneys were not functioning either. Things were pretty scary, though he was in good spirits in spite of his breathlessness and pain. He was able to communicate the whole time. His condition wasn't improving as the day wore on and the ER doctor was trying to get him flown out for treatment elsewhere since they were unable to treat him further. This was a long process but the doctor found him a spot in Thunder Bay with a doctor who agreed to treat him there. There were apparently treatments and equipment they had that of course surpassed whatever he could have done for him here.

Around lunchtime I got the idea to call Kelly to see if she could watch Cooper. He didn't want to go near Papa though he did at least say hi. Carter was right up there with me holding Papa's hand. Kelly fortunately had no plans and agreed wholeheartedly to watch the boys for us so Chris went there to drop them off. (Carter didn't want to miss out on the fun.) The afternoon was pretty rough for Papa. It was getting to the point where his breathing was so laboured that they were going to need to put in a breathing tube. He was able to make the conscious decision to have it (He was lucid and talking all day and told the doctor to just give him the tube and he'd put it in himself!)

The rest of the wait was for the Ornge (not a typo) team to arrive to fly him out. What an amazing team, paired with our local paramedics and the doctors and nurses that prepared him. Once they needed to sedate him and intubate him, we were out of the room for awhile and after that he wasn't able to talk to us anymore but that didn't stop me from trying to tell him what was going on and that we would meet him in Thunder Bay.

After ten hours at the hospital and many calls and texts to relatives, Papa was on his way. The doctor was very sternly and earnestly telling us she thought he was dying, (Quote: "I think he's dying.") but never faltered in her or anyone's attempts to help him. She was quite certain he might not survive the trip. We left the hospital and ran home to pack our things. We picked up the boys and headed for Thunder Bay. Mom and Dad tried to convince us to leave the boys with them but we were already going through the motions to leave town. We arrived around midnight and met up with Chris's brother Jason and his girlfriend Claire. We got to go in and see Papa and he had changed so much.

He'd had a cardiac arrest upon arrival and they had to shock him to revive him. He had swollen up like a medicine ball since all the fluids they were giving him weren't leaving his system due to his failing kidneys. We were terrified. We stayed a few hours losing another hour to daylight savings in addition to the time zone change during the trip. Chris's cousin Samantha drove in with her family too and there was more family on the way from as far as Calgary (Chris's Auntie Wendy) We stayed with Jason & Claire which was a Godsend. Up until this point we were unable to reach Chris's Dad who was out of town at the time to tell him his father-in-law was so ill and had to be flown out. We caught up with him Sunday morning. Chris's Auntie Bev in Hamilton was beside herself that she was unable to be there. She'd have hopped on the first plane she could have but she's on oxygen and it's a big ordeal to (1) fly and (2) make special arrangements with the oxygen equipment. I sure wish we could have seen her. In the event that things take a downward turn she'll likely have to travel by train. I'm surprised she didn't hail a taxi!

The next few days were spent with family taking turns to go in and spend time with Papa who was not conscious the whole time. Two of his daughters and all of his grandchildren and a few of his great-grandchildren were there to see him. He had a few improvements though while we were there. By Wednesday we decided to head home. It was hard on the boys to have to sit in the ICU waiting room the whole time we spent at the hospital. Kids under twelve aren't allowed in the ICU. We did take them for a few fun activities during our stay though including a wild rumpus at Wiggles and Giggles (Kind of like a big McDonald's Play Place, which we also went to while we were there.)

We got back home in time to drop off Chris to shower and change, drop off Chris's Dad (who had taken the bus the day before), pick up milk, bring the boys to Mom and Dad's, race back to the bank and home to pick up Chris for our surprise date I'd planned a couple months earlier. I really didn't expect we'd still be able to go. We met up with Kelly and two of her sisters and brother-in-law at the restaurant. We waited quite awhile for our food but managed to eat and run to make it to see Stuart McLean and the Vinyl Café. I had gone with Kelly and her crew a couple years ago when she gave me her hubby's ticket when he couldn't attend, otherwise I wouldn't have been familiar with the show. I thought Chris might enjoy it. It was a nice way to unwind after the stressful trip.

Since we got back we've been getting updates from Chris brother. I'm thankful Papa was sent there so he has someone with him since most of the family left. Auntie Donna is still there too, which is a blessing. Papa was so swollen when we left that his skin was starting to split and ooze fluid. Eventually they stopped sedating him but he wasn't waking. Once they started dialysis, he regained consciousness and started opening his eyes and moving around a little but he still had the breathing tube. They will be taking it out and replacing it with a tracheotomy (or -ostomy, I don't know the correct word.) Either way it will be good to get that tube out of his throat. He can communicate with head nods now and we so wish we could still just pop in and check on him all the time now that he's had such great progress. Looks like he still has a long road ahead but we're still praying he comes through this. I'm so glad he called me that morning. Why is it that men are so stubborn about getting help when they're sick.

Another case in point is Dad's uncle in California, who apparently has just been diagnosed with lung cancer. He's in his eighties too, and Dad's arranging to head there for a visit next week once he has his ten-day chemo break. I wish Mom was going too but hey, men are stubborn, right?

This past weekend was Chris's annual fishing cabin trip. The weather was amazing while we were in Thunder Bay. St. Patrick's Day was a record breaker for Thunder Bay, shattering the high temperature record from 1968! The weekend weather was considerably cooler. I'm glad for the timing of the fishing trip; Chris has been an emotional bundle of nerves and needed to unwind.

I keep praying for things to improve and feel blessed with all the prayers people have been sending our way; I really believe it's made a difference.

Speaking of blessings, during our stay there, I managed to check email eventually and had an email from Angie saying Beth needed our prayers and was to have surgery (in the very same hospital we were practically living at!) to repair her liver that had been damaged from the insertion of a feeding tube in her tummy. Beth has undergone chemo for a tumor in her throat and in preparation of the addition of radiation therapy they inserted the feeding tube in her belly in anticipation that with all the treatments she may have a hard time swallowing. Turns out her liver (supposedly) wasn't damaged but she did have major problems and pain and was going to have to have the tube removed and redone. The next day I asked at the patient directory people if I could find her and they just wrote her room number on a paper and handed it to me. I thought I'd have to be family or something. Turns out we'd been walking past her ward the whole time we were there to get to the ICU. (Also turns out that the ICU waiting room is directly across from the ward Dad was in in September so it was very easy for me to navigate around to find things.)

I stopped at the nursing station in Beth's ward to ask if I could visit her. No questions asked I walked down the hall to her room to find all her beautiful posse of girls there. Beth saw me and though the nurse was tending to her, she wanted me to stay. Her daughter Jenni came right over to me and gave me the biggest, squeeziest hug! I needed to get back to Papa's room since there was going to be a meeting with the doctor, so I promised I'd be back. I got to have three lovely visits with Beth in the next day or so. I look forward to her getting all better and having Angie come up for a visit...

Here are a couple snapshots of our trip:

McDonald's Play Place...a huge hit :)

Four Groves Men

Wiggles & Giggles...note the SHEER JOY in their little faces!

Goofing around at Uncle J's place.

Cooper practically glued himself to his Uncle/Godfather :)

Stuart McLean Concert with the lovely trio, ''The Good Lovelies''


Blogger 20Birds said...

spending the morning catching up on blogs emails etc and reading this got me all choked up. I knew from our visits that it was serious with Chris' Papa... but reading it here makes so much more vivid. I am still praying Melany.
Thank you for the visits, and getting to see the boys, I told everyone how Cooper liked the photo of Babe, big blue ox from Paul Bunyan park in MN.
Your visits stand out for me as moments of an angel gracing my life. Man o man o..we got to get Angie et all to experience NW Ontario maybe a visit to IGnace :)

Thursday, March 25, 2010 9:21:00 a.m.  
Blogger Angie said...

Beth forwarded me her comment, and your email.

I'm telling you both -- here & now -- when I finally DO get to Thunder Bay / Ignace / Dryden -- wherever, we are going to have a blast!

Love you---A

Friday, March 26, 2010 11:30:00 a.m.  

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