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 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.
Labels: Whining to a Captive Audience