Tuesday, September 15, 2009

September 14 - The Big Hill

Monday September 14

This is the morning, Fran leaves to back to her regular life in Newfoundland. She has mixed feelings about leaving – but she has a family that she needs to mother. She leaves early in the morning at 5AM. I wake up as she closes the front door quietly.
This the first morning since that horrific Monday (Aug 30 – waiting for the call saying that your brain is gone) that the three of us have been alone. I feel like a fledgling bird trying to stretch it’s wings to see if they are strong enough to carry me ... no, not me … us.

Seven weeks ago, Chris took the children to a friend’s farm. Kevin has free range chickens, turkeys and geese as well as a few pigs and blueberry fields. It’s a project that he has been working on over the last few years – slowly developing his property and customer base. The animals have a great life at his farm… and the food they produce is very good and nourishing.

I have always had mixed feelings about eating meat and animal based foods. I have seen how some animals live only to die and be part of the food chain. For many years, Chris and I were vegetarian (but not very nutritional knowledgeable vegetarians – we just didn’t eat meat). When children came along, I became concerned that our haphazard approach to vegetarianism would be unhealthy for our growing children – so slowly we started to eat meat again – trying to get our meat from sources that I knew where the animals were raised as naturally and humanely as possible. Kevin’s animals qualified for food for our table and bodies.

When I got home after work that night, there, in the kitchen was a small styrofoam egg incubator and 23 eggs. Brown eggs and blue eggs. Heather, Kevin’s partner, has carefully instructed the children how to care to eggs as a mother hen would, keeping them warm at the right temperature and humidity and gently turning them twice a day. Tara and Quinn put an X on one side of the eggs and an O on the other. Every morning we would gently roll the eggs so the O would face up (= a hug in the morning) and every bedtime we would put the X face up (= a kiss good night).

We carefully counted out the days until they would hatch – 23 days. Tara marked the count down on the calendar. We all rolled the eggs and watched the temperature. The kitchen was the perfect place to have them – it’s the busiest room in the house and as soon as you walked in the quiet hum of the fan and heater in the incubator would draw your attention to the eggs. We were all very good mother hens.

August 23 was to be the hatch day. Chris is always the first one up. He comes back into the bedroom and says “I hear chirping and there is a small hole in one of the shells!”. For the next 2 days we have 17 beautiful chicks hatch out of the 23 eggs. We waited a few more days – the remaining 6 eggs didn’t hatch. I examined them. 1 died as it tried to hatch out, 2 died a about the same time (sort of like being stillborn) and 2 were unfertilized and 1 hadn’t made very far along before dying. The book said that 50 to 66 % was a good hatch percentage. We got 17/23 … about 75% - we were good mother hens.

We kept the 17 chicks for about 2 weeks in our bathroom. Keeping them warm (even on the hot humid days of August) was vital to their survival. They thrived. Tara and Quinn made friends with them and started naming them. Penguin Face, Ginger, Brownie and Sunshine were their favorites. Unlike most mother hens - we didn’t know whether we have hens or roosters yet. That remains to be seen.

After the 2 weeks in the bathroom, Kevin came and took 13 chicks back to the farm. We kept the four favorites. I build a small – cat proof - enclosure in our garage for the chicks to continue to grow. It’s been fun watching them learn about their chicken life – eating bugs and flying and perching on the branches we put in their pen. They are thriving – after 1 month – they must be about ½ a pound each. Imagine – these amazing little creatures were eggs you would have eaten only 7 weeks ago! A miracle that happens every day.

If an egg can be a miniature chicken in 7 short weeks … what can an injured brain do in
that amount of time?

Tara, Quinn and I had a group hug when they got out of bed. They seem fairly upbeat and ready to go to school. I guess I’ve kept some of my anxiety out of their world. On the way to school they practice the string games Fran and I taught them yesterday. Quinn can even skip along the sidewalk while doing a string trick … young bodies and brains can do anything.

I stop in at the animal hospital on the way to the QE2 hospital. I am greeted with surprise and support. I update everyone on how things are going and get some much needed love and …canned cat food. Our poor cats – You would always them every morning with a serving of warmed up can food – they haven’t had any for almost 2 weeks.

Barry, a vet from New Glasgow who works as a locum (fills in for vets on vacation or maternity leave etc), is there filling in the staffing deficiencies made by my absence. Thank God, I work with such an amazing team – who, when left hanging by me – are able to pull it together and keep things going as if we hadn’t missed a beat. I am blessed with my coworkers. Julia, another vet in the practice, has stepped up to a leadership role and organized schedules to free me up so I can be where I need to be … by your side.

I find out from Cecelia (who works at the front desk) that Richard (a client and a running friend of yours) came in to get one of the special shirts that the staff made the day of the Run for Hope event. He plans to take it to a race this weekend to get fellow runners to sign it.

The other day, I got an email from Bill and Laura, more running friends, with pictures of Rami (the fastest marathoner in Nova Scotia). Chris has met him at various running events and at Boston last spring where Rami came in at 6th place for his age group. In the picture Rami is holding a sign saying ‘Running for Chris Cashen’. A second picture shows Nancy, from Run Nova Scotia, holding a sign that says ‘Running for Chris Cashen’. Lastly, not to be out done, there was third picture of three pretty young girls, the Berwick Gala Princesses, holding signs saying ... You guessed it ‘Running for Chris Cashen’.

Your streak continues.

Your strength and courage has inspired people to be very creative at showing their support for you… it is beautiful and will be very healing for you ... once you are able to know about it.

On my way to you in the car, I compose a letter, in my mind, to Rod Carew. Jennifer emailed me his address, I was touched but, at the time, I didn’t have the energy to act on it. Now that my days consist of rushing to the QE2 to wait to your few moments of conscious thought – I have to do something constructive with my time. I will write a letter to Rod – nothing ventured – nothing gained – that’s always been my motto – the worst that will happen … is nothing - compared to the benefit a short note from your life long hero give you during the certain dark days ahead.

Since Aug 30th, I haven’t looked at a newspaper or TV – I have no idea what’s going on in the world – I figure if there is something serious in the works – someone will tell me. Yesterday, I picked up a newspaper and turned to the sports page – this is a lifetime first for me – You always read the sports page first – we are very compatible newspaper readers – I would take the front section and you would want the sports page.

Yesterday, I read the sports page. I had to find out how the Angels were doing. They are leading their division by 5 games – Is that good? – I wonder. You would know exactly how many games were left in the season, how many more games counted and how many were interdivisional or interleague games. And at what point will the Angels have a place in the playoffs. I don’t know this. I must look into it. Wouldn’t be great if the Angels won the World Series?

Chris loves baseball. He didn’t get to play it as a very small kid but he did play it as an older child. He continued to play ball into adulthood and after his shoulder rebelled and he had shoulder surgery he played slow pitch. When the children were younger, he coached T ball. He loves the game.

Today you are very tired. No energy to hold hands, let alone write. The cough seems a little more productive and the fever comes and goes. The lab called with a skin culture result that suggests that you carry MRSA. Thankfully, this culture was only from the skin but we don’t have a lab result for the tracheotomy tube sputum sample yet ... maybe tomorrow.

To hold your hand or visit I must wear a gown, gloves and mask. I wonder if you notice that my skin feels odd. I hold your hand for a few hours and fall sleep with the bed rail making a dent in my head. I wake up and stretch my legs. The gentleman across the room from you is 85 years old and blind. He is from Truro – Parkland Estates. We get talking and share stories. He and his wife have been married for 53 years, lived in Cape Breton and have worn out five RV’s while travelling North America. He liked Alaska the best. His wife would drive the 32 foot RV until last year when they sold it all and settled in Parkland Estates. “Best facility I know.” He says. I tell him about Donald (one of Chris’ best friends who is 89 years old and lives next door to Parkland Estates.) Gerald promises to visit him.

Wayne and Juanita came to see you with Maddie and Farley, but there is too much risk for Farley. Wayne visits you for a little while.

We go home – I’m losing momentum …this hill doesn’t seem to end.

1 comment:

  1. Keep going, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other. Don't look too far ahead, focus on the here and now. Strength WILL come through persistence. Courage comes from deep within. When your momentum slows... catch your breath and shuffle along - you will get your second wind, and your third and your fourth. All hills can be climbed - one step at a time.