Friday, September 7, 2012

Life is full of surprises...

Where to begin…life is always full of surprises…my dad had a massive heart attack on July 25th.  My mom called me at 8:00 a.m. to tell me that my dad was in the hospital and they had just confirmed he was having a heart attack.  We weren’t quite sure what to do.  We waited for about an hour until we found out more information and then we knew that we needed to get to St. George immediately because they didn’t know if he was going to live.  They said he was going to be rushed in for open-heart surgery immediately.  I must say that was a very long 5 hour drive.  We didn’t know what to expect when we got there.

By the time we arrived my dad had already been in surgery for 4 hours.  About an hour later the doctor came out and told us my dad had survived the surgery.  We were informed that one side of his heart was 95% blocked and the other side 100%.  They did a five by-pass procedure on him.  The doctor was pleasantly surprised that my dad had survived the surgery.  They typically like to wait 48 to 72 hours before they operate on someone who has had a heart attack…they had to operate immediately because they had placed a Intraaortic Balloon Pump (The pump at your bedside inflates the balloon in your aorta when the heart is relaxed, allowing the heart to receive more oxygen rich blood without working so hard. Then, just before your heart gets ready to pump this oxygenated blood, the pump deflates the balloon. This creates a drop in pressure within your aorta, assisting your heart in pumping the blood more easily throughout your body).  Basically, his heart was not able to function on its own.  

We stayed to be with my mom for a week and then had to head home.  Thank goodness my sister and her husband live there and have been able to help out!

My dad was in ICU for three days and then transferred to intermediate care.  He stayed there for four days and then was transferred to an acute rehabilitation center for two weeks.  All and all he did quite well.  It has been a harder recovery because of his Parkinson’s disease.  He was very happy when he finally got home.  

On August 25th, my dad had only been home a little over a week, we got a call from my sister.  She said my mom was headed to the hospital in an ambulance because she was unable to breath even though she was using her oxygen, her sats were only in the 50’s.  My sister said they knew there was a problem when they were unable to keep her awake and she was not very coherent. My sister had tried to convince my mom to go to the hospital earlier in the day because she was acting strange and she thought her lips looked a little blue.  In addition her heart was racing.  My mom just dismissed it because she had seen both her pulmonologist and cardiologist earlier in the week.  They told her she was fine except that she was having anxiety and panic attacks.  So my mom told my sister she was not going, she was just probably having another panic attack.  I even tried to talk my mom in to going….but to no avail…I guess I should mention, my mom had pulmonary fibrosis.  She had been on constant oxygen for approximately 20 months. 

Upon arrival at the hospital, they tried to get her oxygen levels to a satisfactory level.  They were giving her 15 L of oxygen which is as high as you can go…that was not working so they put her on a bi-pap machine (forces air in and out of the lungs)…she started to stabilize (sats in the high 80’s to low 90’s).  Her heart was in atrial fibrillation, so they had to give her meds to try and regulate her heart.  The meds did not work, so they had to use the paddles and shock her heart.  They attempted that three times.  At first that did not work, but finally her heart started to slow down and get back into a normal rhythm.  Her heart was struggling due to the lack of oxygen she had been having.  

They determined she had pneumonia and immediately started her on antibiotics.  They put her in the ICU and let the bi-pap machine do its thing.  By Sunday morning, after getting regular updates from my sister all night, my siblings and I were all exhausted.  Of course, none of us were as tired as my sister staying with mom.  I am so grateful she was there with her.  My dad does not have the health to do it…and we all live 4-5 hours away.  

We went to church and then decided we had better head down to St. George.  The doctors told my sister that they did not know if it was necessary for us to come yet, but I felt like it was something that we should do.  I knew it could go either way, but quite honestly I felt like she would probably pull through, because after-all, my dad had survived his major ordeal.

We got to the hospital that evening and spent a couple hours with my mom.  It was hard to watch her struggling to breathe, even with the bi-pap machine.  The problem with the bi-pap machine was that it was very noisy and my mom could not talk to us with it on.  She would try, but it was very difficult to understand her.  We would try and read her lips the best we could.  Finally, I asked Paul to see if we could get some paper and pen so maybe my mom could write to us.  My mom could write a little...she was very shaky.  At least we could figure out more about what she was trying to say.   

The next morning, I got to the hospital first.  My sister had left to go home during the shift change to get some sleep.  I knew immediately that there was a problem, my mom’s heart was back in atrial fibrillation.  Her heart rate was 150, 160, 134, etc… I asked the nurse about the x-ray they had taken earlier in the morning.  She said that her lungs were a lot worse.  At this point, a doctor and a social worker came over.  I think they were just waiting for someone to get there.  They showed me her x-rays and CT scans.  It was very obvious that her lungs were completely filled with fluid.  I knew what they were going to tell me…

I started to cry and asked if there was any chance she would survive.  The doctor said they would have to intubate and that she would never come off the lung machine.  I knew at that moment I was going to lose my mom.  I felt devastated.  I started to sob. Then I knew I had phone calls to make.  I called my family and told them to get to the hospital as soon as possible.  One of my sisters and my brother still had to come from up north.  We knew that we would not all be together for at least 5 to 6 hours.  

The doctors told us they would keep her going as long as they could so family could get there to say their goodbyes.  By 5:30 p.m. we were all there.  They asked my mom if she was ready for the bi-pap machine to be removed.  She shook her head yes.  They had given her morphine and started a constant morphine drip so that she would not struggle to breathe.  They put her on a cannula with 6 L of oxygen to try and help a little… we all stayed with my mom until she passed away at 8:10 p.m..  It was a very sad yet spiritual experience.

I am relieved that my moms funeral is over.  It has been a very emotional time.  I made a dvd of her life.  It brought back many memories...many tears...  My sister actually kept the papers she had been writing on in the hospital.  While we were on our way to pick out my mom's casket she pulled it out of her purse.  I saw the message, "take care of Jim"...I totally lost it...I cried and cried.  

 While my mom was still on her bi-pap machine, a couple hours before dying, she was insistent we take it off so she could say something to us.  She said, “Remember I will speak to you through the Holy Ghost”.  We had to put her bi-pap machine back on because her sats started to drop rapidly.  That was very profound to me.  I knew that the veil was thin…she was getting closer to death and she knew it.
Just so you know, I took the opportunity to ask my mom while she was still coherent, that when she got to heaven if she would please talk to Heavenly Father and ask him to allow me to keep my husband here longer…that his cancer won’t return.  She nodded yes, and mouthed to me that would be the first thing she did… I felt selfish for asking.  Why should I be allowed to keep my husband when others have lost theirs?  I think of Holly (talked a bit about her in my last post) and how she recently lost her husband Trent to cancer.   Her heart is breaking.  She is so incredibly sad. Why does it have to be so darn painful?  

The truth of it is, I don’t want to feel that kind of sadness.  I experienced it to a degree when Paul almost died two years ago.  When they came out and told me he was bleeding to death on the operating table and didn’t think he was going to make it, my heart started to break.  I started to wonder how I was going to take care of my children by myself?  How was I going to live without my best friend?  How could I possibly go on without him?  I missed him. The pain was very intense.  For a brief moment, I experienced what it feels like to lose a spouse…I could feel his spirit around me.  I literally told him to go and get back in his body.  Obviously, he did.   He survived, but to this day I still remember the intense sadness at the thought of him being dead.

While my heart is sad and aching for my mom, my dad is suffering a much greater sorrow.  He has lost his best friend and soul mate.  Yes, he has us children, but it just isn’t quite the same. Sadly, my dad blamed himself for her death, because they figure she got the pneumonia from being at the hospital with him.  My sister even blamed herself...wondering if she had got my mom in to the hospital sooner.  It was no ones fault.  It was God's will.  God has a plan.  

My mom said a little while before she died to remember that families are eternal. I am so grateful that we know families are eternal.  But, even knowing that cannot eliminate missing loved ones who have passed on. It is a part of the mortal experience. 

My mom’s statement about speaking to us through the Holy Ghost really got me thinking.  In 2Nephi 32:3 it states that angels speak through the Holy Ghost.  It confirms to me what my mom had said.  My mom is watching out for us on the other side.  I feel that my mom is going to be able to help us more now than she could while she was alive. My mom was such an amazing person, I think she qualified as an angel on earth.

I had a friend attend a class about angels at education week at BYU this year.  She had talked about things she had learned.  I had another friend share this article with me from the class at education week.  I feel like my mom is on the other side working hard to help me and my family… I love this statement from the article… Describing them as "co-workers with mortals" in the work of the Lord, Brother Parry said, "Their goals and objectives are the same as ours: to bring people to Christ, help people repent, save people, love people, minister to people and administer to people."

How beautiful to think that we are co-workers with angels.  We all want the same thing.  We want to be back in God’s presence and to be together again.  I just know I must do what it takes to make that happen someday!  I also know it is important to live each day and treasure the time here on earth with all our loved ones.  Make each day count! 

Paul is probably going to need his esophagus stretched again....things aren't going down as well.  This will make stretch number seven this year.  He still is exhausted a lot and has dumping syndrome problems.  We are just glad to have each moment we have together!!!