Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tuesday, September 9th

Today is starting out grey - the first grey day since this story began. The weather affects my outlook on life - perhaps more then I should let it - I like being outside - Sunny days are a big reason why. Sun brings light and warmth to the world - The sun makes things grow - The sun is nourishing to my soul. Ironically, the past week - has had beautiful weather. This fact has certainly made the last days a little easier.

Tara shares with the three dreams she had - two about school and the last one about you - it made her feel good. She is full of energy and talking a mile a minute - excited and animated. Quinn is quiet.

I walk the children to school. As we leave to house I glance in the mailbox. There is the newspaper with your story on the front page. " TRURO MAN IS RUNNING AGAINST THE ODDS" and beside is a copy of your picture as you are crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon. Beside the article inside the paper is a picture of you, Tara and Quinn snuggled together in a chair in the hotel room right after the race. You look tired but pleased and Tara and Quinn look proud. I quickly scan the article while walking to school - Quinn's talking to me - I didn't hear what he said - except "you're not listening!". I kick myself for forgetting to put the children needs first.

Both Tara and Quinn want to take the paper to school to show their class. I negotiate a deal between them so there is no fighting. - Neeson, who is feeling better, is going to hang out with Annie and Erik is going to help Bill (my brother visiting from Montreal), paint Mum's house at Shortt's Lake to get it ready to rent. Fran and I are off to see you.

As we load into the car I put my cup with hot cocoa on the roof of the Honda and a memory flashes back - to that horrible Monday morning - in the early hours when we were waiting for the phone call. I couldn't sleep - I wandered the house - room to room with Annie following me than going back to check on the children and than back to me.

Everywhere I look - there is a memory of you - It's too early in the grief for the memories to be healing - instead - the memories rub the wounds raw.

Finally, just before 6 am - when the first light comes across the sky I decide that maybe I can find a moment of tranquillity outside in the garden. I go outside - I love watching things grow - It makes me believe in miracles. The garden is growing - and there is a moment of tranquility and than my eyes rest on your car.

Chris' car, a Honda Fit, we brought 2 years ago - Chris looked after all the details - he consulted me along the way - but this was his purchase - It is his car. We got the basic model - no frills. It's bright red (my favorite car colour). I have never driven it. I don't think Chris felt very comfortable with the thought of me driving his car. (My automotive track record is . well let's just say - I have an automotive track record). Chris likes to drive when the family is together - and frankly - that's OK because - it's far too stressful for me to have Chris in the passenger seat.

It's a standard stick shift - which Chris drives very smoothly. I taught him to drive a standard when we bought our first car together - a white Mercury Lynx. He has been driving a standard ever since - I think driving a standard makes you feel like you are more of a teammate with the car - not the master. You have to coordinate your reflexes with the car. Chris is a team player by nature - he makes a good team with the car.

That morning, my eyes find a small circle on the roof of your car where the dew collected in a different pattern from the rest of the surface. The morning light makes the little circle stand out. I realize that is where you put your last cup of coffee - probably the morning before the race. I started to cry, then sob, then keel over in grief.

This morning, I put my cup of hot cocoa on the roof of your car, we load things in and drive away. As we drive away - I hear a clunk - a few moments later I realize that it was my cup of cocoa - we turn back. Just as we turn back to retrieve the cup - my cell rings - my heart freezes - could it be the hospital?

Turns out it is the hospital - not your hospital, it's the local hospital . where I was told there was No Hope for you. It's Juanita! "I just came in for my routine prenatal check and my blood pressure is way up - the doctors won't let me leave." Juanita is due to produce a sibling for 21 month Maddie on Sept 23.The pregnancy has gone very well . until now.

Fran and I circled back to pick up cup of hot cocoa which on the side of the road with the cover still on! Then go to the hospital - we get there with 5 minutes. Juanita is relieved to se us. She has been told to stay at the hospital and relax and get bored. I think having nothing to do would be stressful - not relaxing. Fran and I rework the daily plan and I drive down to Halifax on my own. Fran will relieve Bill of Maddie and he will take Erik to the lake to paint. I said good by and reassured her that everything is good and she is where she need to be now. The doctor said that they may induce labour if the BP isn't down. Chris, you could be an uncle again within the next few days.

My visit with you is quiet. When I finally got to the ICU - I couldn't see you because they were doing a 'procedure' on you. The tracheotomy, I'll bet - good . the nurses said that would be more comfortable for you. I relax.

I label the bottle of bubblegum mouth rinse that I got for you today. (Chris has always detested anything mint - maybe the dislike is from distant childhood memory that is trapped in his mind) Hey, maybe the mint hating part of your brain is in the damaged part! But just be safe, I thought we should try to find a non-mint product to clean your teeth. Until now they were using the standard hospital oral hygiene stuff - super charged mint.

A teacher at the school said "Get a children's mouth rinse". So I found a purple bubblegum flavor rinse with plaque revealing properties. - That should make your mouth an interesting colour - Whatever colour it makes you teeth - it will be better then being trapped between consciousness and unconsciousness with a taste in your mouth that you hate.

I wait and wait - how much longer? - The ICU doctor said tracheotomy placement is a fairly quick procedure. I hurried here so now I can wait? I call the desk again - see if they forgot about me - No - they are still working on him - now I worry . again. Finally, Linsey (yes that is how her name is spelt) comes through the door to get me and starts to update me on your condition. The tracheotomy tube is on place - it took a while and they did xrays after to ensure all was well. It was.

I got to admit, you are getting your good looks back - the staples are gone and all the face gear is gone and now just a simple tube out from a hole in your neck - it's connected to the ventilator. You are really out of it - a heavy sedative and transient-paralyzing agent were used to place the tracheotomy tube. Your numbers look good - blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, intra-cranial pressure, cranial perfusion pressure, oxygen saturation, ECG and all the respiration stats. They all look good. You are still on many drugs to address the hypertension. The pneumonia is resolving. No new problems!

You are not responsive - you are too gorked to squeeze hands today. So, I sit quietly by your bed and write this journal on the laptop. Eventually, the battery dies. I have to find something else to do - if I'm not doing something - my mind will take me to places I don't wasn't to go right now.

My mind drifts to an email I recently got from a friend, whose husband had a marvelous come back about 18 months ago from a massive brain injury. She wrote words of wisdom - that I know are true and will try to take to heart and she gave me more hope for the future but she also said: "We have some issues, and there are changes, but in the big picture recovery has been remarkable." . We have some issues . what does that mean?

My mind races and forces my eyes onto the book in my bag that was given to me last week by one of the neurosurgery ICU nurses. At the time I was focused on mobility issues, memory and speech - the book has very general information about brain injuries. The first part has a page on damage to each section of the brain. There is no section on basal ganglia. So that doesn't help.

There are other sections on cognitive and behavioral issues - I wasn't ready to read that part yet .then. I pick up the book and start to read. Once I finished the book I realize - I am still not ready for that information. Now, there is nothing to do but worry - It starts to grip me and squeeze out hope. I am struggling.

Before I leave, Linsey, the nurse, takes some blood cultures, just to be sure there is no infection, and does a blood gas - these numbers look good too. Linsey puts you on a T piece to breathe. Your numbers stay good.

I go home - I have mixed feelings - joy because you are off life support (ventilation) and fear because of the reading material that I wasn't ready for. It seems like a very long drive home.

When I got home, the new family are moving in across the street - I met them briefly but I can't remember their names. There two little girls, I think - I met the younger gal - who hadn't lost her baby teeth yet.

I'm really tired. Harold and Bob, neighbors, are working on the hedge - it looks great.

I go into the house - it's quiet except for Annie and Charlie (Juanita's dog) and Neeson is still downstairs in your room. I check for phone messages and call Assieh (who has the children) - I'm feeling pretty low and need to talk - Assieh seems to know and asks me how I am feeling - I can't hold it back. I tell her about the book that I read and realized - that this is not the time to read material like that - when my energy is getting low - she reminds me of the HUGE progress you have made in 8 days.

She said to celebrate the small stuff - and the big picture will reveal itself evidentially. There is no point guessing now - because it will be what it will be. She said that, in the brief time she has gotten to know me, she sees that I want to control the outcome as much as possible - Of course she is right on all those points. I know I have to focus on today and accept what will be. I have always found that knowing what will be - has always given me time to find acceptance. But this is different because there is no telling what will be at this stage.

I make a few more phone calls about the children and their various activities, gymnastics for Quinn and ukulele for Tara. While I was doing this Assieh brings the children back. And brings me a chocolate cheese cake muffin. She gives me a hug and says "sometimes, a little comfort food like chocolate helps."

Shortly after, Juanita and the rest of the gang arrive. Juanita has been sprung for the hospital. Her BP dropped while she was there for the day so they said she can go home but must come back on Thurs to check it again. She has Maddie in tow. As soon as I saw her - my anxiety melted away. Assieh was right - a little comfort food, a few wise words and thinking about the miracle of life has restored my strength - I will continue to think of the days. Gardens don't grow over night and marathon are not run in a moment.

A good night's sleep will do me some good. Quinn has been wishing on stars every night for you.


  1. Gwen,

    We've been thinking about you since we heard the news about your husband. I just read your last blog post and wanted to tell you that even though there is sometimes truth in all those horrible handouts, I have seen people beat the odds (even in one short year of practice), and get back to life after huge head trauma. I have given the bleak talk, sighting slim chances of survival, and was happily proven wrong....It sounds like Chris has every reason to beat the odds (it sounds like he already has in some respects). We'll keep you and in our thoughts, keep taking things one day at a time.
    Jan, Ryan and Callie Sommers

  2. Gwen
    You are the most amazing women. I believe in your strength & courage. I see the sun shining in you. You'll never be in the dark if you remember that.
    Love & Prayers are with you always....

  3. My family's thoughts and prayers are with you and all of Chris's family. What a beautiful blog, thankyou for sharing this. You are an amazing woman and I too believe in your strength and courage. I have never met Chris but your love for him is so palpable in your writing. What a beautiful gift for him once he recovers.

  4. Gwen,
    Control is all an illusion! Our profession trains us to attempt to control so many things, but it IS all an illusion. Accepting that fact and letting it go can be difficult for people like us, for anyone really, but ultimately, it is very liberating and brings you a great sense of peace. Acceptance and adaptation are the key. A new mantra, "It's all good" because there IS good in all things, you just have to look to see.

  5. BUT....... to clarify -
    Acceptance does not mean giving up. Always push the envelope and test new boundaries. Chris is a determined man who has pushed himself to his physical limits time and time again. He will make great headway - he already has! He WILL be STRONG because there simply is no other choice, he's already shown that he IS strong! You are strong too, when you feel there is no more left and the well run dry, take a deep breath and let go for a moment... it will come. It's all good. It's all good. It's all good.

  6. Gwen and Chris,

    We were in shock when we heard the news, and we have said many prayers for you both since.

    Tonight we sit in tears as we read this most beautiful journal of the journey!

    The words, feelings, reflections and stories in the journal, will likely be the most precious words ever written for you both.

    Life never throws us more than we can handle. Stay strong and positive! Miracles do happen....we see them everyday....and Chris, you are proving that minute by minute!

    Big Hugs,
    Dianne, John & Skipper Kelderman