Hindsight

It’s a topic for small gatherings. For fun discussion. Something we talk about when we’re bored. It’s a question we all have probably asked, or been asked at some point in our life. “Knowing what you know now, if you could go back and change one thing or do one thing differently, what would it be?” It’s a pretty deep question actually—one that allows us to think about our past, and the decisions we’ve made, good, or bad (usually bad). It’s kind of fun to think about all the things we could have done–what the possible outcomes would have been, how life would be different now. Of course, then reality hits, we all laugh a bit, and then change the subject. Sound familiar?

I used to think this question was ridiculous. Because I can usually link a pretty valuable lesson that I learned from the decision in question. A lesson that shaped who I am today. But then something happened that changed my opinion. Not totally of course. But I found something that I would change if given the chance. I don’t want to call it a regret, but I would definitely do it differently, if I could.

It was the evening of August 4, 2012. It had been a long day–a very long day. Christina was in bed and there were about eight or ten people in the room chatting with her, including me. At one point, she sat up in bed and said, “I want some ice cream.” Everyone jumped up to get it. I think my mother was closest to the door and ultimately got it for her.

When she came back to the bedroom, she had a full bowl of Chrisina’s favorite–Chocolate/Vanilla twirl. Christina held the bowl and let the ice cream soften a bit. At one point our pastor looked at the ice cream and said “Wow, that ice cream looks really good.” Christina looked up at the pastor, squinted her eyes in a feigned glare and said, “You get your own bowl.” The room erupted in laughter and the slightest grin crept onto Christina’s face. In a time when we were all in agony over the prospect of losing her, she was still able to bring joy to everyone, and lighten the mood a little.

We all talked for a bit more, and then I called it a night. Christina was doing her best to remain strong for everyone that was there. But you could tell her strength was waning.

People were slowly starting to leave, and I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open. I knew Christina would soon be back to sleep, so I said “good night” to her, kissed her, and let myself succumb to the sleep that so desperately called to me.

That’s it. That’s the moment that, if given the chance, I would change. See, that was the last time I saw Christina awake. That was the last time I kissed her and got a reaction from her. It was the last time I got to converse with her. It was the last time I heard her sweet voice.

When I woke up the next morning, Christina was asleep. Her breathing pattern had changed. She was taking about 5 or 6 breaths a minute. I knew at this moment that she would never wake up again. And she never did. I laid there with her for the remainder of her life. At about 1:20 pm, while she was surrounded by family, wrapped in my arms, and holding each of our children’s hands, Christina took her last breath on this earth.

I tell people that I have no regrets. Christina and I had a lively marriage. We fought like cats and dogs. We disagreed on a lot of things. We hurt each other, said things we shouldn’t have said. We also had wonderful times. We took trips. We moved across the country. We have two beautiful children. We built a house together. But more than any of that, we loved each other unconditionally. No matter what happened, we both knew that we would be there for each other. Leaving never crossed our minds. We were best friends. I miss her dearly. Every day.

So what is it? What would I have done differently on that night? Well, if I had it to do over again, I would have fixed a pot of coffee, and stayed up all night talking with her. Listening to her. Looking at her. Holding her hand. Rubbing her feet. Whatever. Just being with her.

See, even when we are caring for someone who is on the brink of death, we find ourselves getting into a routine. That routine tends to give us blinders to the cold reality of our situation. I went to bed that night fully expecting to see Christina the next day, fully expecting to fix her breakfast, to help her get cleaned up, to give her a hug and a kiss good morning. I expected to have that next day with her. It was the routine.

I wonder how much our daily routine blinds us to the reality of life. How many of us went to bed tonight expecting to see our loved ones in the morning? How many of us leave for work in the morning expecting to see our loved ones when we get home? How many of us say mean and cruel things, expecting to have the chance to say we’re sorry? How many of us will one day say “I wish I had fixed a pot of coffee so that I could just be with her a little while longer”?

The bottom line is that we will all make mistakes. We will all do crazy things. And we’ll all have those times when we wish we could have done something different. It’s life. The question is, “What can I learn from those times to help make my life better”? Maybe that’s the question we should be asking in small gatherings. For fun discussion, or when we’re bored–or when we really want to know. Maybe?

A Scary Moment & A Thank You

Everyone who knows me, knows my motto. Living life “one moment at a time”. I mean, that’s all we really have to live anyway, right? This moment? The one we’re in right now? So let’s focus one the moment. Whether good, bad, so so. Or, in this particular case…..scary.

 So, yesterday I had a pretty scary moment. Now, scary means different things to different people. But I think it’s safe to say that most anyone would have found this situation, scary. It started with a text message from Alexys at 12:20 in the afternoon.
“Can I talk to you? Something is wrong”.
Now, usually when I get these sort of text messages I role my eyes and wonder “what’s she having an issue with now”. She does tend to over exaggerate on occasion. So I replied back to her saying “sure”. After about a minute, I decided to call her instead. She answered, but I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say. I thought we had a bad connection. But I’m not totally sure anymore. The call disconnected, and I sent her a text asking if it was something that could be texted. I did not get the reply I was anticipating.
“This is the nurse. She is having what I believe to be an anxiety attack”.
At this point, I started wondering why it was the nurse texting back, and not Alexys. So asked for a phone number, which she provided. I called, and the nurse began filling me in on the situation. Alexys came to her “not feeling well”. But it wasn’t the normal “not feeling well” that Alexys has. The nurse informed me that Alexys was having some blurred vision, a tingly feeling in her arms, she was having a hard time forming a thought, and when she smiled, one side of face didn’t. It was actually a little “droopy”. It was at this time that she told me she wanted to call EMS.
Well, I’m not sure what you’re thinking right now. But I immediately kicked into “First Responder” gear. My mind went back to all of the medical training I had ever received. But things just weren’t computing. I mean, all the signs and symptoms were saying that Alexys was having a stroke. But my logical mind started saying things like “really Steve? Who has a stroke at 13 years old”. It just wasn’t adding up. But I wasn’t taking any chances either. So I told the nurse to go ahead and contact EMS, and I would be on my way.
Now, I don’t know about anyone else. But when an emergency strikes, things go into slow motion. I mean, not like time slows down. But like, I hit EVERY red light. And the only people on the road all of a sudden thought it was Sunday, and started driving accordingly. I won’t lie, I started praying. It went something to the tune of “Lord, please clear the roadways of idiots, slow drivers, and Law Enforcement”. I must have had the same trouble formulating thoughts that Alexys was having, because I’m confident that God heard the complete opposite of what I was praying. And answered accordingly.
I was just around the corner from the school when the nurse called back. She advised that EMS was at the school, and that Alexys had calmed down and her symptoms were starting to go away. EMS was giving a choice of transporting her to the Emergency Room, or allowing me to take her to our Primary Care Physician. I told her that I was almost there, and that I would take Alexys to see her Primary Care Physician.
Once I got to the school, I located Alexys in the school nurses office. She was playing with her fingers like they had fallen asleep and she was trying to wake them up. The nurse let me know that she was doing better, but that she still needed to see her doctor. I asked Alexys how she was feeling, and she tried to tell me, but was still having a hard time formulating her thoughts into sentences. I remember feeling extremely frustrated. I was trying to figure out if this was one of her usual “I don’t feel well” moments, or if there was really something more going on. I remember in that moment, my demeanor was more direct and to the point. Versus concerned, nurturing, and consoling. I wonder now what the nurse must have been thinking about me.
I took Alexys home, and called to schedule an appointment with her pediatrician. I was able to get an appt for 4pm. While I was changing and getting ready to take Alexys to the doctor, she started complaining that she was feeling nauseous, and had a headache. And it continued throughout the entire 40 minute drive to the pediatrician. Once we got to the pediatrician, it got the best of her and she threw up 3 times in the bushes outside the pediatricians office. It was at this time that I was finally able to transition into what I’ve affectionately dubbed “Mom Mode”. I helped her get cleaned up, put my arm around her, told her it would be okay, and then walked her into the pediatricians office.
Now, everything started to move at warp speed. We saw the pediatrician, explained the situation to her, and the symptoms that were displayed. She did a complete work up on Alexys and everything came back normal. However, some of the symptoms that Alexys had displayed earlier were really concerning the pediatrician. She made some phone calls and consulted with a few other physicians, and then ultimately came to the conclusion that Alexys needed to be taken to the Emergency Room. She recommended Arnold Palmer Childrens Hospital, and then called ahead for us so that they would be ready for us when we got there.
As we were on our way to Arnold Palmer, Alexys started asking questions. She wanted to know what had everyone so concerned. I debated briefly as to whether or not I should tell her what I was thinking, but decided that if I didn’t, she wouldn’t stop asking. So I figured I’d be up front and honest. I told her that her symptoms were telling everyone that she may have had a stroke. I explained to her what that meant, and the possible implications. And while she was obviously concerned, and voiced as much. I feel like she processed the information well. Didn’t really freak out. Obviously concerned. But ready to face it head on to see what was going on.
While the fears were real, and concerns were not without merit. It wasn’t the case at all. When we arrived at the hospital, the staff jumped into action. I was extremely impressed with not only their professionalism, but also their level of care and concern for Alexys, and me. It was not something I had ever experienced at a hospital before. Now, I’m not saying hospitals don’t care, but Arnold Palmer took it to a different level. They quickly got her back into the ER and immediately started running the necessary tests to figure out what was wrong. In an effort to make sure the story was accurate, Alexys was asked repeatedly, by different nurses and doctors, to recount the incident and symptoms. I know I heard her repeat it at least 8 times between the Pediatrician and Emergency room. Each time, it was exactly the same. It actually became a joke for us. Each time she was asked to recount it, we looked at each other, smiled, and then I would say “8,972,3,4”. And then everyone would laugh.
The Dr’s and Nurses were Fabulous. The took great care of Alexys, and made sure that she was comfortable with each procedure. And if she got nervous, they took the time to comfort her and answer all of her questions. In the end, all of the tests came back normal. It was determined that Alexys had not suffered a Stroke, but an Ocular Migraine. She was discharged from the hospital in the morning. And we were given instructions to follow up with a Neurologist soon to determine how to prevent/treat future occurrences. We came home, and Alexys promptly went to bed and slept from 2pm till 6:30am the next day. I did pretty much the same, just not as long as Alexys.
It’s often been said, that in our greatest time of need, we will find out who our true friends really are. Well, if that’s truly the case, then this adventure demonstrated that not only do I have a lot of people that truly care for me. But I’m also incredibly blessed. Dozens of “FaceBook Friends” commented and acknowledged posts updating on the situation. My phone was blowing up from all of the texts messages asking about how we were doing. Several people asked if I needed help with Andrew. Fortunately, I had AWESOME family looking after him. One of my new friends text me to say that she was in the area and could stop by to pray with us. And when she didn’t get a response, just came anyway and waited till we were done with the doctor to come in and sit with us. She prayed with us before Alexys went back for her MRI. And then waited with our stuff till we got back from it. Other friends stopped by to bring Alexys a “get well” poster. And then sat with her while I went to get some food for her and I. Our Pastor came by in the morning and prayed with us. And then my dive instructor brought me coffee and breakfast in the morning. Every need was met. And was done by friends/family who just stepped up. They went into action as if it had been practiced. And I can’t even begin to tell you just how comforting it was. I am truly blessed.
So, to end this post, I want to express my most sincere appreciation to all of you that reached out to help me in my time of need. Whether you called, text, emailed, came to the hospital, took care of my son, or just acknowledged my post to let me know you heard me and were thinking of me. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is because of people like you, that I am able to continue this difficult journey and still maintain my sanity. Thank you.