Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Celebration of Heart Day

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.
- John 14:1

Today will forever be know as Heart Day at our house.  Today is the day that my 44 year old husband received a quadruple bypass.  Today is the day that his life began again.  This is the day that the Lord has made.

When I got up this morning I didn't know what kind of day this would be.  The potential for tragedy was at an all time high.  I woke in the hospital after a spotty night of sleep, helped Rob prepare for his surgery and waited with him for the nurses to come take him to pre-op.  I worked to be cheerful and upbeat for Rob, my parents, his sister and myself.  The doctors and the nurses were so assured and encouraging.  Even with their support, kissing Rob good-bye was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

After watching Rob being wheeled away to the operating room, we went to have breakfast.  Dr. Streicher told us not to expect to hear from him until noon.  We had three and a half hours to wait through.  As the minutes of the morning ticked by I could feel myself becoming wound even more tightly.  By 11:15a.m. I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin.  11:30 found my unable to remain on the first floor of the hospital.  Even after moving to the open heart family waiting room my mind was unable to settle.  My prayers were constant but jumbled.  By 12:07, when my cell phone buzzed in my pocket, I was wound so tight that my hands shook.  When I heard the nurse say surgery was over and Rob was in recovery I felt the weight begin to drop from my shoulders.  Dr. Streicher came to talk to us a few minutes later and told us that Rob had done beautifully.  He was a bit disappointed that he had only been able to make two of the bypasses with the mammary veins.  The other two bypasses had to be done with the vein from Rob's leg.  Dr. Streicher said that everything he'd done needed to be done twice because he kept coming up shorter than he'd expected.  That made me chuckle because I'd heard Rob express similar sentiments about jobs he'd done at home and on the farm.

We got to go back and see Rob briefly after he was moved to recovery.  I had prepared myself for the worst; ventilator tubes, machines, a husband that looked like death warmed over.  What I saw was the most handsome man in the word, slightly pale and sleeping.  Yes, he had a ventilator tube but all I could see was his gorgeous face.  I snuck my hand under the edge of his blanket and over the i.v. tubes to touch his arm.  Feeling that skin, warm and mine, was the most precious thing.  At that moment, I truly knew what the expression "a weight lifted from my shoulders" meant.

The rest of the day was a celebration. We went for Graeter's ice cream with Sarah, Kaleb, Annabeth,, Maggie and Lily.  Mom, Dad, Sandy (Rob's sister) and I went to the Ohio State Fair.  We looked at cows, sheep, a chocolate farm, Lego city, endless varieties of fair food, quilts and lots of people.  While we were at the fair, Rob's nurse, Leslie, called.  She told me that Rob was doing well, just six hours after surgery he was off the ventilator and ready to talk to me.  I was stunned.  I'd been told the ventilator might be removed before bed Tuesday night but I hadn't imagined that it would be removed so early. His voice was scratchy but he was in great spirits, joking and teasing.  It was the most beautiful sound.

After the fair, we drove back toward our hotels looking for a place to have dinner.  Sandy requested a place that had forks.  Mom took it up a notch by requesting that the place have metal forks.  We found the perfect spot to celebrate God's goodness at an Italian restaurant called Bravo!  Bravo! indeed.  Bravo! to Rob and even more Bravo! to God.  Happy Heart Day to all of us!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Guarding Our Hearts

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard you hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.   
 Phil 4:7

We received word a few minutes ago that Rob's surgery is confirmed for 8:30a.m.  Today has been a full day of preparation and education.  I know so much more about the heart and how it works now than I did twelve hours ago.  If education  is power, I am much more powerful than I was twelve hours ago. 

Beyond a doubt, God's creation, the human body, is fearfully and wonderfully made.  Even when it isn't working quite as it should.  I am so thankful that there are people with more education, knowledge and power than I possess.  I am so thankful that there are people that understand the heart and body on a level that I will never acquire.

After the two days of waiting, we are preparing for surgery.  My parents are here.  Rob's sister is here.  My sister brought the children to visit today.  We have all been able to ask the questions that were pressing on our minds.  S10 wanted to know how the veins and heart felt and what color they were.  M7 wanted to know what Daddy would look like.  My dad wanted to know the location of the blockages.  I wanted to know what to expect after surgery.  The staff at the hospital has been so patient and helpful.  They've answered every question and talked us through the expectations of the surgery and recovery.

I'll be having dinner with my family before they head home.  The children are more comfortable in their own home and seeing Rob after surgery isn't something that they need to do.  Tonight I'll be sleeping at the hospital.  My bed is propped against the wall right now.  I'm sure we'll figure out how to get it set up.

In the morning, they'll start prepping Rob at about 6:30a.m.  I am so thankful to have the company of Rob's sister and my parents as I wait for the surgery to be over.  I am reassured by his doctor, the nursing staff and the health educators.  It's been very comforting to hear those in the know say things like "just" a by-pass.  To me a by-pass is huge.  To them a by-pass is another job that must be done. 

At each turn I have experienced peace which transcends all understanding.  In addition to peace, God has provided people and knowledge  in a positive and upbeat manner to guard our minds.  I know that the prayer that God will guard Rob's heart is being fulfilled.  We'll spend tonight being thankful for this experience and praying for Dr. Streicher.  Today has been full of blessings.  I look forward to seeing what blessings tomorrow brings.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

At the Speed of Life

“Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”.
 - Ferris Bueller

Just three days ago we were traveling from Hagerman, ID where we celebrated Rob's parent's 50th wedding anniversary.  We flew from Boise, ID to Minneapolis, MN and ended our flight in Columbus, OH.  Less than 48 hours later we've made a return trip to Columbus that we never could have anticipated.

One of our projects for this year is raising turkeys.  We are working to develop a farm that focuses on heritage breeds.  (If you are interested in what that means this is a great web site to check out.) As a result, we bought 12 Bourbon Red turkeys.  Five of those twelve are still with us.  Upon our return from Idaho, Rob was turning the open side of our carriage house into a turkey pen.  On Friday, he got the front wall framed and was feeling immensely proud of the job when he began to feel pressure in his chest and pain down his left arm.  Rather than telling me about it, he rested a while and it went away.  Later in the evening, he moved a generator, rather heavy and not really a one man job.  The pressure and pain returned at a level that he felt he needed to confess.  We climbed in the car and headed for the emergency room.

Upon arrival in the emergency room Rob was given a cubicle immediately and tests were begun.  As he explained what brought him to the hospital he gave a text-book description of a heart attach.  The hospital followed procedure that assumed there had been a heart event until it was proven differently.  Test after test showed that everything was fine.  His EKG was normal.  His blood pressure was only a little high but not alarming.  His enzyme levels were barely above the cut off that had been assigned.  Just to be safe, the doctors decided to keep him over night and do a heart catheterization on Saturday morning.

Being the mother of four, I had a full Saturday planned.  K15 had a wedding to attend and needed a strapless bra for the new dress she'd bought.  H13 needed to stock up on library books after a week away from her library.  I planned to go to the farmer's market and make more delicious zucchini recipes.  With Rob's hospital stay, the farmer's market and zucchini went out the window but the bra and library were still priorities.  I finally arrived at the hospital shortly after they'd taken Rob to the Cath Lab for his procedure.

Often in life, I find myself in situations where people assume I know more than I do.  Or maybe they assume I'm smarter than I am.  Either way, talking with the first nurse at the Cath Lab made me feel like that.  It was obvious that the findings of Rob's procedure had surprised her.  She spoke to me as if I already knew all about it even though I'd just arrived.  As she said things like heart surgery and crack his chest, my head felt fuzzy.  After listening in silence and praying while she talked I came to realize that the team of medical professionals had been expecting to find little blockage in Rob's heart.  At the very most they were expecting to put in a stint and call it a day.  The reality of the situation was that Rob had severe blockage in three of the main vessels of his heart.  None of us were expecting that news.  They were as shocked and upset as I was to learn that a seemingly healthy 44 year old man wasn't. 

The doctor and three of the nurses reassured me that Rob was in the best possible position to deal with the news. The all had stories of loved ones that were fine after heart surgery.  They all wanted him to be fine and they wanted me to be certain that he would be fine.  Because he hadn't had a heart attack his heart suffered no damage.  He was strong, healthy and able to cope with the surgery.  What we had been framing as our wake-up call snapped us to attention and required that we make decisions fairly quickly.  Where to have the surgery?  Who to call? What help did we need?  What about the children? 

In less than an hour, Rob was on the way to Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, OH and I was on my way home to take care of the children and pack.  Initially Rob wanted to be transferred to a hospital closer to home.  He wanted it all to be convenient for me.  I was determined that for such a crucial choice we would choose based on expertise not convenience.  The hospital was further but the peace of mind I experienced was worth the drive.  Open heart surgery involving a triple by-pass as a result of heart disease and hardened arteries requires all the peace of mind that can be scraped together.  Rob wants me to be very clear that his heart problems are genetic in nature and are not a result of smoking.  We are both very clear that he is, from yesterday on, a non-smoker.

The children were quickly sorted out.  Friends from church were anxious to spend the day with them.  My sister had started driving the eight hours from her house to mine shortly after she heard the results of Rob's test.  Each and every person that I told offered themselves to me in any way I needed.

As I drove to Columbus, I reflected on the blessings.  We returned safely from Idaho before any difficulty began.  We went to the emergency room without incident.  Rob didn't leave the hospital when he got fed up with monitors and waiting.  The doctors followed through without any real indication that there was a problem.  There was no damage to Rob's heart.  Rob vowed to stop smoking.  A multitude of friends and family were praying.  So, so many people offered to provide whatever I needed.

Life does move fast and as we are given a few days to wait for Rob's surgery I intend to stop, look around and thank God for each and every gift that we've been given.  I thank God even for this time and pray that I am able to adequately express to others the grace that God has given Rob and me and our family.  I don't intend to miss any of it.  Above all I know that God is in control of this situation and is raining down blessings.  As I told H13, "You can worry or you can pray but you can't do both at the same time.  Only one brings results.  Which do you think is the better choice?"

When S10 asked me if there was any chance that Rob could die, I asked him if he wanted me to talk to him about the truth or if he just wanted me to make him feel better.  He told me he wanted the truth so I gave him the kid's version of any surgery comes with risk and as I spoke with the children I prayed that God would give me the words and God did.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose. 
-Romans 8:28

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Recent Sewing Projects

Draw string back pack for my sister.

Pot holders for my sister-in-laws.

Pot holders for my mother-in-law.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Seeing More Clearly

After three days without electricity, I am seeing things a bit more clearly and it's not just due to my restored ability to flip on a light.

A storm on Friday evening ripped through our area knocking over trees, separating roofs and siding from houses and snapping the electric lines.  On Friday night the storm affected us by cancelling a birthday party and keeping Rob at work.  Watching the storm kept us busy in the early part of the evening.  Looking for candles and flashlights kept us occupied for a bit.  We found enough candles to light our way and discovered that none of our flashlights worked.  The rest of the evening was spent verbally  processing the storm and our experience to date and reading by candle light.  We all fully expected to wake with electricity.

When Saturday morning dawned with no electricity I realized that some plans would need to be re-evaluated and other plans would need to be made.  Rob came home from work with the news that the effects of the storm had been far reaching.  Some authorities were predicting 5-7 days without full electric power being restored.  He was concerned about not having a full tank of gas for his truck.  Discovering the impact of the storm, I became concerned about having the food and supplies we'd need at home for surviving without electricity.  He'd been awake for more than 24 hours so sleep topped his list of requirements.  While he went to bed I left the house looking for gas and supplies.

Living in a farming community has its privileges.  A service station with a generator that was still able to function was one of them.  A community that is able to trust and serve each other is another.  The line at the service station that stretched on for over a quarter of a mile encouraged me to check the local stores to meet our other needs before I parked the truck to wait for gas. 

The local IGA was open on Saturday morning until noon.  They had someone stationed at the door to slide open the   doors for customers and people with flashlights to help customers find things they needed.  Payment was cash and check only.  In an uncharacteristic move, I had both in my purse.  God is good.  At IGA I was able to get buckets, candles, batteries, propane, bottled water and easy-to-fix, no-refrigeration-required food staples. As I returned to our house, the tiny bit of gas in the truck let me know that making it home was more important than waiting for gas and running out of fuel before the line moved far enough forward. 

Upon my return home the children helped me unload my supplies.  We then began to move through the house and farm checking everything and finding out what needs needed to be met.  We gathered all the candle stick holders and flashlights, replacing candles and batteries were needed.  We ended up with two working flashlights and eight or so candles.

Our next mission was meeting our water needs.  At the farm, we have a cistern that catches our spring water.  The storm the previous night had ensured that we had a full cistern.  We managed to push back the heavy, concrete cover.  Then we tied one of new buckets to a rope fastened to the cistern.  By doing so we were able to lift buckets of water to be taken into the house.  We filled two buckets for use in two of the bathrooms.  By using the buckets to fill the back of toilets with water we could make them flush even though our electric water pump wasn't operating.   After setting up our indoor toilets, we filled pitchers and buckets for use in the kitchen.

As Saturday passed we continued to hope that the predictions about the electricity had been exaggerated.  On Sunday we were able to join our church family in worship.  While we were all without power, we were all safe and it was good to be together.  Some had generators, some had water, help was offered on several fronts.  One family gave us access to a hot shower.  Another family offered a generator to keep our freezer from thawing.  One friend even offered to bring me hot coffee.   By Sunday evening we were all clean and the concern of losing all our beef and chicken had been relieved. 

Monday morning brought a breakfast of steak and eggs.  S10 was scheduled to go to 4-H camp this morning so his day brought disappointment.  Camp was cancelled due to lack of power.  The plans for the day included several unsavory jobs, including emptying the refrigerator and freezer and discarding the things that may have gone bad without adequate refrigeration.  In addition to cleaning out the refrigerator, we  heated water on the grill to wash the dirty dishes that had accumulated over the weekend.  While we were heating water and washing dishes we cooked a chicken on the grill.  We were able to enjoy a lunch of chicken and watermelon before we went to the community pool for a few hours of refreshing coolness.  We came home from the pool to spend some time with Rob before he returned to work for the night.  When he left we went to the library for an internet connection and some cook air before bedtime. 

We returned from the library hungry.  K15 fixed hamburger helper on the grill while I took care of the animals.  Before dinner was cooked, we saw the electric company crew pull into our driveway.  Within the hour, our electric had been restored and we ate dinner in the air conditioning, ceiling fans blowing and lights on. 

Spending several days without electricity was eye opening.  First of all, it made me realize how much I take for granted.  I'm not ready to become a survivalist but I do know that being prepared for some basic emergency situations is a wise idea.  I am more prepared now than I was four days ago.  I plan to be better prepared still.  Secondly, it made me realize that character building is something I need to work on, for myself and my children.  For the most part, everyone was able to pitch in and do what needed to be done. Overall,  my family dealt well with a difficult situation. Unfortunately, the issues that concern me in the best of times, lack of gratitude, selfishness, laziness, disrespect, stubbornness, arguing, were magnified when the lights went out.  I'm not sure how I'll deal with these concern but I do know that I must try. My first step in addressing these issues will be prayer.

It's good to see clearly this morning.  I enjoyed a hot cup of coffee. I savored time sitting on the deck doing my Bible study but I was especially thankful for the opportunity to walk back into an air conditioned house when the morning grew a bit warmer.  God has given me so much.  I pray that I may always give thanks for each of God's good gifts.