Sunday, October 14, 2007

What's Going On

OK. It's time to talk of many things: Of shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings and why Diana is in such a distracted state and whether pigs have wings....

It's been a hell of a less-than-two-months, my dearest darlings. Some of you know some of this. Some of you know most of this but not all of it, as the last bit we just found out, so there's something for everyone. I needed time to see how things would sort out and get my head around all the life changing ramifications of What's Going On. Oh, and just to continue my cryptic, woman-of-mystery patina, some of the WGO will be just alluded to as this is not the place for it and it is not my tale to tell. Basically, this is all about me and how it affects me and all other self-centered bits and bobs.

Why did I take so long to clue you in? Because this little personal refuge of a blog is where I come for a break from what irritates and annoys, a place for the funny and bizarre that I encounter. It's rarely the place for the cold harsh face of reality.

That's not to say that I've not discussed things that made my heart rend, like this and this and let's not forget this. But mostly I like to keep this a sunny, cheery, cynical place where you can come in and put your feet on the furniture and have a glass of wine or a cookie (or both).

Sometimes, though, my need to make things all shiny and happy is outstripped by the need for some good-old-fashioned support from my friends and this is one of those times. Plus, sometimes you just need to get everything out and look at it outside of your head.

So, here goes:

About a week after we'd all finally crawled from our respective germ-coated couches and decided that we just might inflict ourselves on the world again, we headed off to run our Saturday morning errands, coming home at lunchtime to a slew of frantic messages on the machine. To sum up, my mother-in-law, Lilian, had fallen the day before and had severe back pain. Charles headed off to take her to the emergency room. The upshot was that she'd had a heart attack the day before, which caused the dizziness which led to the fall and the pain in the back that finally had her calling for help. It wasn't the first fall. It wasn't even the 41st fall, apparently, but she's one who loves to blame every thing on her medication and refused to tell her doctor about all these falls. (sheesh.)

So she's been living with us full-time while she slowly recovers from the fall and the fall-out of the fall. We've added walkers and bath benches and hand-held showers and many, many pills and appointments to our days. Home health nurses and physical therapists make visits. I can now give an enema and empty commodes with the best of them. Or at least on par with a first-year nursing student. Word to the wise: never underestimate the bowels in the grand scheme of things. Never.

In the course of events, the three of us traipsed up to Madison last Thursday so she could undergo a coronary angiogram with the hope that she'd be a candidate for coronary artery stenting and all would be well.

(Excuse me while I laugh at the beautiful naivete': Hah! HAHAHAHAHA!)

The bottom line is that every major vessel that supplies blood to her heart (left main, RCA, LAD, circumflex and diagonal) all have stenoses (blockages) of 95-99%. If it weren't so horrible it'd be miraculous. She's sustained minimal damage to her heart but the blood supply to the whole damn thing is hanging by the diameter of a hair. And everything is markedly calcified. Not just the coronary vessels but the aorta.

So. Multi-vessel bypass surgery it is. But wait, grasshopper. There's more. Remember the calcified vessels? The ones with the thick inner ceramic coating? Bypass surgery involves bypassing the blood supply to and from the heart so the body can keep on living while you halt the beating heart for a while so you can sew in all these new vessels to bypass the narrowed vessels. (Seems the term "bypass" is apt, yes?) To do this, you must clamp the aorta (main blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood from the heart) before it branches off to the rest of the body, like, oh, the BRAIN. The clamping will crush some of the calcium and make bits break off and go floating thither and yon.

Get the picture?

These bits will lodge in distal vessels and halt blood flow. Some of these bits are enough to kill significant tissue. Stroke is a huge risk. This is on top of the memory problems that often result from just being on bypass.

Right now, aside from the blood supply hanging by a literal hair, she's in great shape. Her brain works as well as it did when I met her 25 years ago. Probably the same as it did when she, herself, was 25. She's in absolutely no pain (aside from her still sore back). But if we do nothing, she's got 100% chance of dying in the not too distant future, either quickly from a massive heart attack or more slowly and miserably by congestive heart failure.

So between a dead cert and a small chance, she's taking the small chance of more good quality life. She's not ready to die, yet.

That's enough about non-me.

How does this affect me? You mean aside from losing the mother of my husband? The "Gram" of my children? Someone who's always been there for us (sometimes more than I'd like, but that's just me being poopy)? Well, to start with, she's been the one to care for Colin and Sara when we are at work. If a miracle happens and she sustains absolutely no devastating neurological or physical complications, the soonest I'd guess she'd be able to be there as primary non-parental caregiver, getting the kids on the bus and shepherding them after school, would be early January. That means that I've got to get them into daycare. I'm not worried about Colin. He'll adjust with minimal grief.

Sara is another story. She'll adjust but it'll be rough for her. She's very much a mommy's girl and in my absence, she's a gramma's girl. She trusts few strangers. She's shy. It's been hard for her adjusting to 4-year-old kindergarten. (It's been good for her, but it's been hard. She comes home in exhausted tears more than half the days. She needs morning class but we didn't win that lottery.) Add in daycare and she's going to have a very rough few months. It's breaking my heart. Had this just happened one year later, she'd be a year older and in full-day 5-year-old kindergarten. Going to daycare for an hour before school and a couple of hours after school wouldn't be that huge a deal.

Daycare will also mean that I have to have a change in my work hours. There's no other way. In some things Charles and I can share the childcare, but as a school principal, he can't adjust his hours. My work will balk but I don't think in the end they will refuse because they need me as much as I need them. Thank goodness, as (all together now) I love my work. It'd devastate me to have to leave it and find something else. I live almost an hour from work and most daycares will let you drop off your child by 7 am but pick-up must be by 6 pm (or earlier). The nature of my work is that I can't guarantee that I will be able to walk out the door by 5, so I'll need to be off by 4. (For instance, the last patient of the day with a complaint of "cough" will invariably turn out to need STAT blood work, an ECG, a chest x-ray, etc. Can't do that in 15 minutes.)

This means that my Wednesday afternoons that are devoted to things like working in the family planning clinic at the Health Department will have to go by the wayside. I should still be able to function as STD clinic director as it doesn't involve clinic hours, just chart review, which I can squeeze in, but I hate to give up the STD clinic, so we'll see what can be worked out on that front.

Charles and I won't be able to drive in to work together anymore, which is sad. That's good time we get just to ourselves to talk and listen to NPR and just be alone together. We'll survive and it wasn't likely that we'd be able to do it next year as it's time for Charles to be making the next career move, but we weren't looking for it to happen now.

And as long as I'm being selfish, those non-Health Department Wednesday afternoons off have been so handy for things like dentist appointments and haircuts and work-out time.

What else is Going On? Well, we've been blessed by visits just after all this happened, initially from my mom and step-dad and, following their departure, my dad (the Ole RFer) has come for a couple of months. His arrival was beyond a blessing, but the reason for it was heart-breaking. That tale is not for here but it has wrought it's own long-term devastation and life on that front will never be the same on many levels.

So that's why I've been in a first-class worry. Life has been horribly eventful but not funny. Even the day spent in the hospital last Thursday was without much in the way of funny.

So, life goes on. It is what it is and we must roll with things as best as we can, but it's all been a bit much all on top of each other. It's as though everything got thrown in a tumbler and shaken around and thrown back out with nothing facing the way it was.

I'm blessed with having a strong marriage and my kids are strong and healthy, but we're in for some boulders over the next few months. Thanks for letting me spew and pretty-please don't take it personally if I'm not regularly around. It's just that sometimes coming up with a post or even turning on the computer seem like more than I can take. Uncertainty is not something I do well with. After the surgery, we'll know more what to plan for but for now, I'm just trying to have as many safety nets in place as possible and cause my kids as little sudden upheaval as possible.



Blogger listie said...

Oh, Diana, I'm so sorry about all you and your family are facing.

Take a break, take some time, take care of yourself and your family.
We'll be here when you can and feel like coming back.


9:39 PM  
Blogger Mojavi said...

:( change... any change not welcomed just sucks! hope things settle down and things start looking up! And everyone gets super uber healthy!!!

12:05 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

Wow. Family issues are always the hardest to deal with, because there are very few places you can go to get away. I'm so sorry Diana. But you are right when you say you've got a great husband (I don't know him, but you seem happy with him!), and you are strong, too.

As Listie said, take a break, we'll come back and check on you. And we'll be here when you're ready.

6:48 AM  
Blogger PixelPi said...

These are the family events in life that just drain us dry. You cannot escape them, you can't fix them, and they're so complicated on so many levels that you sometimes doubt your sanity. You can't plan for them.

The only good thing is that these are equal opportunity times to be overwhelmed. We all get a turn. I've have several so far in life and they all sucked. But knowing that just about everyone else gets their turn at what it feels like at some point in life helps some.

Have some virtual hugs, and help yourself to the wine and chocolate. Control what you can, leave the rest lying around until you figure it out. We'll hang around and check in every so often to see how you're doing and keep you in our thoughts a lot.

Let us know if you run short of wine, cookies, prayers, or clean laundry. You never know what blog buddies can do in a pinch.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Oh Diana, I do hope everything turns out well. From your MIL to your kids to your dad and everyone in between. I hope Sara surprises you and likes daycare even if she is missing you terribly. It should help that Colin is with her.

Hang in there. We will be thinking about you and sending you any good vibes we can.

9:17 AM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

Anytime you need to spill, we're always here. And if you can't stop by, we won't hold a grudge. The nice thing about the bloggy universe is that there is lots and lots of love from people we might not have met otherwise and also the benefit of bloggy mojo and thoughts and prayers for you and your family.

I feel weird saying this but I love you and your family so I'm wishing you all the best. You are the big sister I never had (you know, the one that's like five minutes older than me) or at least the one that I got to know better than the four half ones I do have.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

Oh dear. What a lot to deal with. I hope that blogging about it helped on some level.

All I can think of to offer is dumb platitudes like "take it one day at a time," but I guess in a way that might be the best approach.

I hope the surgery goes well. Positive thoughts and energy out to you and everyone in your family!

2:13 PM  
Blogger Cagey said...

Oh, Diana... I was just thinking about you this weekend and how I had not "seen" you around, so I was going to email you. then, I saw you pop up in my feed reader and I was relieved. Initially, of course.

Hang in there and I will be thinking of ALL of you.

Don't worry about us - hunker down and take care of your family. We'll still be here. Do keep us posted when you can.


4:06 PM  
Blogger Colleen said...

UGH! My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I'm sure you will weather the storm, just sorry you have to!

4:08 PM  
Blogger Voyager said...

Oh my Diana, it's too much. And too unfair. Rant to us whenever you want. But take care of yourself.

10:51 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I don't know what else to say except that I freakin' hate when life pulls the rug out from underneath you like that.

Oh yeah, I can say that I'll be thinking about all of you and sending some happy, positive healing mojo in your general direction. Make sure to take good care of you too, Dr. Fabulous.

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Kate W. said...

Oh my goodness- that all just plain sucks! So sorry! Things will take a turn for the BETTER! Wine, you need wine!

9:08 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Everyone- Big, smoochy hugs and kisses to you all. You truly are the best of the best bloggy friends anyone could have.

Listie- {{{hugs}}} right back. You aren't having the easiest time, yourself with AgedAunt and all.

Mojavi- I think if I just knew what was going to happen instead of imagining and planning for every horrible contingency, I'd sleep better.

Jen- Charles is great. He's Canadian. ;) Seriously, he keeps me as sane as possible. Last night he talked me down from the edge and I actually slept the night through for the first time in a week. Sleep deprivation always makes my baseline crazy mushroom.

PixelPi- Let me apologize for not saying a large, delighted "Hello" last post to you. Uncommonly rude of me. I trotted over and read your blog and hadn't the oomph to come up with any sort of comment so I just skulked away. Thanks. Wine and chocolate help as does the support of my friends. Sadly, while I try to give off an air of relaxed come-as-it-may-ness, I am at heart a stressed micromanager of fate. Which, as we know, never works and only leads to more angst.

Lauren- Thanks, honey. We'll see what the scoop is at daycare. Another worry is that they partner with the school to have their own 4-K program. I hope they'd let her stay with the class she's already with.

Dana- Or am I the big sister you never wanted? I don't know either of my sisters much at all, either. I don't think they'd know me if we passed on the street today. It does seem to be a time of upheaval for many of us right now, doesn't it?

Rozanne- Yes, blogging did help. It always helps. Funny, but platitudes usually make me want to throw things but I find myself saying such things to myself on an hourly basis, so I guess there's a time and a place for such things. (But if you tell me to just 'let go and let God', I'll have to send you something particularly smelly in the mail, and you know I have access to such nastiness :} )

Cagey- (sniff) Thanks, sweetie. This, too, will pass, the question is, as always, what will it pass to?

Colleen- We'll take each and every one of those thoughts and prayers.

Voyager- It'll be better after we talk to the surgeon on Thursday. At least by then we should know a day for the procedure.

Melissa- Thanks, Nurse Fabulous. You and I both know the good that some good strong mojo can do. (I've been reading you, too, and your trials with family illness. We do have the life, don't we?)

9:27 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Kate- Yes. Yes, I do. But as it's currently only 8:30 am, I'll have to settle for coffee. For now. ;)

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Ariella said...

Well, I have already expressed my feelings about this to you, but wanted to reiterate that Erik and I are always happy to come over and help you out in any way we can. And if you want to take a drive into Madison, we could go shopping or eating or something... whatever you like!

Big hugs to your kiddies and your dad for me. :)

12:06 PM  
Blogger The Rotten Correspondent said...

Oh, Diana, I'm so sorry this is all happening to you. I'm even sorrier that it's all happening at once.

We're always here for the rants and even the rages. We may not be able to pick you out of a line-up, but we worry about you and care for you and, above all, send positive thoughts and hugs your way.

Keep us posted. I'm pointing any good mojo I have your way.


12:50 PM  
Blogger Dumdad said...


Carry on ranting: it's all part of blogging; the rough with the smooth. We can't always be funny because life ain't like that.

Hope there's more smooth than rough soon.

Take care.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I totally lost my comment as after I wrote it last night, blogger said it was not available but...I am so sorry you're juggling and struggling with so much now. I hope surgery and everything related goes as well as it can. Your MIL is amazing to have come this far without more serious events so maybe she's strong enough to take on the huge things.
You're right though that your strong marriage will help work all this out. I really hope your kids and your schedules can be manipulated as needed to facilitate anything that comes up.

Thinking of you lots and I know you'll keep us posted...literally!

10:54 PM  
Blogger Stepping Over the Junk said...

Wow, that is really tough. My mom is a major part in my girls' lives and I dont know what I will do when that time is gone. I am sorry this is happening. A big life change for all of you.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Diana said...

Ariella- Your visit was just the thing this weekend. I think it will be easier after Thursday, when we will hopefully have a surgery date and then after the surgery, itself, when we will finally know more of what we will all have to deal with. (And I will be taking you up on that food and shopping idea as soon as I get the lay of the land!!!)

Julie- You could pick me out of a line-up right now. I'm the one with the psychotic look in my eye, standing there, muttering about daycare and office hours. The hugs and mojo definitely help.

Dumdad- Thanks, pal. It all makes me more aware of what a blessed life I have if this is what sends me into a tailspin. I am fortunate, indeed.

Ruth- Damn blogger. Things are actually a bit better. I've had time to adjust and make plans and contingency plans and contingencies for the contingencies. I work best that way. Plus, Charles and I have had several long talks, which help better than a bottle of wine and a fist full of valium as far as bringing me back to sanity.

Stepping- I hope that day doesn't come for many, many, MANY long years. I can deal with a lot but if the shit affects my kids, that's when I come unglued. I'm betting you are the same way.

9:13 PM  
Blogger Sanjay said...

My heart goes out to you and your loved ones. I pray for things to work out well for all of you. Stay strong and don't worry about us, we will still be here.

8:03 AM  
Blogger moegirl said...

Oh Diana, I'm so sorry. Lillian is such a sweet lady, and I'm sure she is the ultimate Grandma. Thoughts and prayers to you and Charles and the kiddos.

Virtual hugs- wish I was there to give you real ones!

7:31 PM  
Anonymous christie said...

Thoughts, prayers, and hugs to you. Super-grandmas can sometimes pull off the most amazing miracles!

Good luck, we'll keep everything we can possibly cross crossed for you and yours!

10:05 PM  
Blogger riseoutofme said...

Life sucks sometimes.

Stay strong and take it slowly.

Thinking of you.

4:05 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Sanjay- Thanks. I appreciate this more than you can know.

Stace- As hard as something happening to her would be for us, it will be much, much harder for the kids, and that's the thing that's hardest to prepare for.

Christie- She's certainly made of stern stuff, that's for sure. If anyone has a chance for a miracle, it's her.

Rise- It does but having wonderful, supportive friends helps tremendously.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Wanderlust Scarlett said...


That's kind of a lot. A whole lot.

I kind of feel like I should say all the right things; we'll keep you in our prayers, we hope everything comes out well or at least ok in the end... wish you all the best...

But, it doesn't seem quite right.

Don't apologize for coming here to vent. Upheaval tears us apart. Come here and let it all out as much as you need to. Rant, hollar, scream, cry, rage... whatever you need to do.

Just take it day by day. Find solace when and where you can; here if it works. We are a captive audience. There may be some good suggestions offered from the least expected places.

We are listening, we are here.

HUGE tight hugs

5:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I have refrained from Piffling until now, but I do need to reassure you all that Dad is on the scene and will stay as long as necessary. Thanks for all you kind words and thoughts for my first-born. She really is as special as she seems. She and her sister are my 2 best friends.

Love to you all,

The Ole RF-er

11:12 PM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

Ah, Diana. Oh, Diana. Crap, Diana.

I feel for you and your family. It's all agitating and cruddy.

And I'm really sad, in the midst of the whole thing, that you could lose your NPR-listening time with Charles. Go figure that such a little detail would lodge hard with me.

Take it an hour at a time. Blogging is about leisure and time. You don't have much of either right now. Do what you can, eh? And know we're all out here, thinking of you.

12:53 AM  

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