Wednesday, September 16, 2009

September 15 - The Rainbow

Tuesday September 15

It’s an early morning start. I go to the city with Marsha. I am a little anxious, it’s been 3 days of your health sliding back – hopefully today we’ll know about the tracheotomy culture results and find out what help you need.

When I get to the hospital, Jane is doing rounds with the night nurse – I try to rouse you – nothing - not even a squeeze or eyelid flicker. Your heart rate is fast. You have always had a slow heart – 35-40 beat a minute … even when you weren’t training. I always thought that this is a good sign of your health and potential longevity.

If I apply the knowledge of what I know about animals, it comforts me. Small creatures have fast heart rates – a mouse heart beats 500 times in a minute, large animals have slower heart rates – an elephant’s heart beats 28 times a minute. Mice have short life spans and elephants live a long time. So, it goes to reason, that slow heart rates means long life. It may be a little simplistic, but it is a source of comfort.

I console myself with the thought that perhaps you are trapped in your body right now and the only sign that you are there is your fast heart because you are struggling to get out. Jane, the nurse, says it’s likely due to your fever… she’s probably right.

As Jane does her morning assessment – I go out to the family visiting room. There is another person there, a man whose wife – rallied after her brain injury but now has been regressing of 3 weeks. This brings depressing thoughts – do I have the strength to continue this for much longer? I’m not as strong as you.

Dr. Frank comes to see you. He must be a resident – he is so-o-o young. He listens to your chest, says there is some noise there. He says that the infectious disease doctors will check out your chart to decide what to do about the infection. The tracheotomy culture came back and it is Staph aureus. Thankfully a different staph from the MRSA but still a possible problem.
This is good news, I think, now, we just have to get him on the right antibiotic and we are going to ‘crest this big hill’ and get on with the marathon. The infectious disease resident comes in and says that he is going to go over your records and discuss it with his boss. They will be back at 1:30pm with an answer about antibiotic treatment.

I’m OK if I have a plan. I have always needed a plan to deal with tough times. I like the idea of knowing how things are going to turn out – whether it’s using faith or using reasoning. A plan and a peek into the crystal ball has gotten me through many tough times. It better now fail me now.

Jane noted that your blood pressure is dropping and thinks we need to cut back on the five hypertension drugs that you are on. A chest xray is ordered. I write in the journal while we wait.

Donna, the other nurse in the room, asks “Am you writing a book?” “oh no” I reply “This is just a journal for me , a diary for Chris and a story for all the people who care about him. My hope that it will help him heal” Donna asks if I’ve ever written anything before. “No, just an advice column for the local newspaper on pet care … I’m not really a writer.”

John H comes into the room. John is an old friend to Chris. They grew up together in Ottawa and are still very close. John described his relationship on the visitor list that we started so Chris would know who was here while he was asleep. “Running Buddy; taught Chris how to win at cribbage and pretty much everything he knows and needs to know … I am like a big brother to him ”

We talk about your condition to date and my hopes and fears. We talk about kids and parenting, and the recent visit John had with his family in NS this summer when you went to see him at Brule Beach. He brought with him a few things from Perry, another friend in Ottawa. A picture with you and Mady asleep on the sofa taken the summer of 2000 with the caption written across it ‘Are you crazy or something?’

The summer of 2000, we vacationed with Perry, his wife, Heather and their children Madison (Mady) and Aidan (3 yrs). Mady was about 6 that year and you took great pleasure at driving her nuts – to which she would say at very regular intervals –‘Are you crazy or something’ – then giggle at the joke. This phrased bounced like a ball, back and forth between you two for the whole vacation. It’s a good memory – You love playing with kids and I love watching you play.

John also brought with him a small wooden trophy you made for the ‘Eggnog Bowl‘s MVP’. Every winter when we traveled to Ottawa, you’d make a great effort to organize a pick up game of winter football (A football game that used a nerf football. Chris and his friends made up and refined over the years) with as many old friends as you could round up. One year, you even convinced a professional football player from NS, a kicker called Terry Baker (?) who played with the Ottawa Rough Riders, to come play. Each year, you would make a special wooden trophy to be given to the MVP of the game. Perry won it most years. One of the trophies, Perry has given back to you because you deserve it. In this game – you are the MVP.

At lunch I asked John to educate me about the potential of the Angels to make it to playoffs. It looks good so far. I knew they were 5 games up but I didn’t know what that meant in the big picture. Later that day John emailed me back and said
“Angels are 6 games ahead in their division. They play Boston the next 3 days and it looks like they would likely play Boston in the 1st round of the playoffs.
The elimination number for the 2nd place team behind the Angels is 14; meaning any combination of wins for the Angels and losses for Texas that total 14.
So the Angels are in pretty good shape to win their division.
The things you need to know....

John said good bye to you and said – “See you in the blog” to me.

It’s 2:45 – I have to leave soon to get a ride back to Truro. Still no infectious disease Drs. I ask Jane about it. She made a call and the Drs. appeared. I guess, nurses do have a little pull in a teaching hospital. I am impressed. Two doctors come to your bed and introduce themselves, Schleck (faculty) and Grandy (resident), I think.

Dr Schleck leads the conversation. He says that they have reviewed your chart and the most recent results and have determined that it is too risky to put you on antibiotics because of the MRSA. At this time the MRSA is not affecting your health directly and the culture that was obtained from the tracheotomy tube, they think, is due to colonization, not infection. The chest xrays are ‘pristine’. Antibiotics now, could open the door to a bigger nastier infection with the MRSA later. As things stand presently, you are very prone to infection because of the tracheotomy tube, urinary catheter and possible skin sores. They don’t want to rock the boat.

“To be, or Not to Be” … Antibiotics or No Antibiotics …”That is the question.”

Dr. Schleck ends the conversation with the thought that the intermittent fevers and the reduced mental awareness were due to neurological causes and that the rally you did last week was just a ‘honeymoon period after surgery’. “I am sorry, and we are thinking of him.” Were his parting words.

Oh God – what does this mean? I lose it – and cry – Jane and Marsha try to help me disgust this information.

On the ride home, Marsha helps me make a plan to get more information from the neurosurgery team. I feel better; I have a plan. I need a plan because I am an advocate for Chris – that has got to be my focus – it’s my job.

I called the night nurse and said that I wanted to see someone from neurosurgery, preferably Dr. Mendez so I could ‘pick his brain’.

When I get home, I go straight to the pool to pick up Tara and Quinn. They are swimming like fish – enjoying the lack of gravity that swimming gives you. As we were leaving, I see Bill (he sent us the pictures of runners with the ‘Running for Chris Cashen signs’). I shared a little of my worries with him. He tries to console me.

When we left the pool, Quinn noticed the best looking rainbow that I seen of a long time.
He wanted us to drive to the end of it and see what’s there. My practical mind spoke. “There is no end to the rainbow – it’s just an illusion.” Not to be dissuaded, Quinn continued “maybe there is something to help Daddy at the end of the rainbows because rainbows are magical”. Now my emotional mind spoke. “You are right Quinn, rainbows are magical – perhaps if we make a wish – that would help.”

We all made a wish … the same wish – I expect. Does a wish on a rainbow work? I guess we will see.


  1. Don't be discouraged Gwen, you are a real rock and we are in total admiration of you. There are always setbacks in recovery, especially with the brain I understand. His body is fighting the infection as well as trying to recover so it must be difficult to respond too. You are in our prayers.
    Archie and Janet

  2. The Fiddlers Run committee in Sydney want you to know Gwen that you and Chris are in our thoughts and prayers. We will especially be thinking of Chris this Sunday at the Fiddlers.
    Fiddlers Run organizing committee

  3. Gwen
    Not only are the MacIsaacs thinking of you guys every day, but so are the people on my 'new' street.Jenny and Lindsay did a weekend long lemonade/ice tea/koolaid stand at the corner of the street, so all the neighbours have been asking about Chris and thinking good thoughts. Kids have emptied their piggybanks, and even the city bus driver stopped and contributed!When we get it all counted,we'll send it on to help out in any way.....although I have been told that some of the money has to go for a trip to Freak Lunchbox ( THE candy store in Halifax!)


  4. Gwen, your recent entry causes me to pause and pray ... surrendering the past, present and future to the Lord Jesus Christ for you and the children. My spirit is moved to seek Jesus as your Hope. He is "the way, the truth and the life." He is ALL hope! The scripture that comes to mind and I pray that you find comfort in it is ... "I know well the plans I have for you ... a future full of hope, not for woe!" And, I believe the rainbow that Quinn saw is a reminder for you of God's promise of love and His covenant to care for you and He asks us to trust in that covenant so that we may rest and find peace in His unconditional, everlasting, faithful love. Trusting with you,