Saturday, November 26, 2011

So Much to be Thankful For

The day after my last post, our family had another near tragedy.

With mom away in the rehab center, dad was left at home all alone. Deb, Kevin and I had been going up a couple of times a week to check on him and calling him several times a day. Still, he hadn't been feeling well and hadn't been eating much and kept getting weaker. Friday morning on my way to work around 7:00 a.m., I called the house and there was no answer. It made me a bit uneasy, but I thought maybe dad was out getting the paper. I waited another five minutes and called again. This time, mom and dad's neighbor, Jose, answered the phone. He sounded frantic and said that he'd found dad in the driveway; he was curled up on his side and wasn't breathing. Jose said that 911 had been called and they were just pulling up. I told him I was on my way. I called Deb immediately and she made a quick dash into school to let them know there was a family emergency and she could not stay; she headed over right away. I called Kevin and he said he'd meet me up at the house.

Of course it would be raining that morning. Of course there would be a ton of traffic. Still, I made it up to the house in about 12 minutes or so. By the time I arrived, they already had dad loaded in the ambulance and they wouldn't let me see him. I knew by the look on everyone's face, it was grim. I began sobbing, got in the car and followed the ambulance to the hospital. I called Kevin and told him to meet me at the hospital instead of the house - I lost control and just sobbed into the phone.

When we arrived at the hospital, I insisted upon seeing dad. The ER doctor did try to stop me, but I marched past him anyway. Dad was laying on a gurney and did not look good. He was completely gray and his chest was sunken in. I leaned over and gave him a quick kiss before they rushed us out to keep working on him. Someone from the hospital - a social worker I think - escorted us to a private conference room. Kevin and I sat in there not knowing what was going to happen. We were both in a panic and crying. The doctor came in and asked what we wanted him to do. He said it did not look good and they didn't know if they'd be able to get dad to hang on. We told him to do whatever he had to do to keep him alive. At this point, Deb was still driving through traffic and hadn't yet arrived at the hospital. The doctor came in once again and told us that they'd inserted a breathing tube and had set up a dopamine IV; both things were keeping him going, but he was still in grave danger.

Deb arrived and we all waited in the conference room for the next update. The doctor came back in and told us that we could go in and see dad in a few minutes. The three of us huddled together and said a prayer. After several moments, we gathered together and went in to see dad. He still looked so pale and fragile just laying there in that gurney. Deb and I each took a hand and began talking to him. He was completely out - they'd also given him a sedative - but I still think that even in that compromised state you can hear what's going on. With that in mind, we just kept talking and talking. We told him how much we loved him, and what a great father he is. We told him he was a good man who'd lived a good life. We said that we didn't want him to leave us yet, but gave him permission to do so if that's what needed to happen. We took turns talking, and then talked at the same time. On and on it went.

Finally they told us that, though he was still in danger and they didn't know what to expect, he'd stabilized enough to be transferred to the Critical Care Unit upstairs. Up we went. As it turns out, he was placed in exactly the same room mom was in just a few weeks before. We affectionately dubbed it "The Maxwell Suite". We kept talking throughout the day and into the early evening. Around 6:30, dad began to try and open his eyes. We called the nurse in and she said that sometimes that just an involuntary reaction. She called his name and said "George, if you can hear me, hold up two fingers." HE DID! For another hour our so, he kept opening his eyes and looking around at Deb, Kevin and myself. He was agitated with the tube in his mouth and, had it not been for hand restraints, would have tried pulling it out. About 7:30, they asked us to leave the room for a while during the nurses' change of shift. When we got back an hour later, they'd sedated him again and said that he'd be out the rest of the night.

We called first thing in the morning before we left to go to the hospital to see if there was an update on his condition. The nurse said that he was awake, alert, responding to commands and seemed to be doing well. UNbelievable! By the time we arrived at the hospital, they'd removed the breathing tube (to which he responded: Well, that's better!) and he was breathing on his own and talking up a storm. He continued to improve over the next several days; his only complaint was that his chest hurt from the CPR the paramedics and docs in the ER had performed.

As it turns out, the reason the fire department would not let me see dad in the ambulance is because he'd crashed and they were certain that he'd passed away. En route to the hospital, they were able to resuscitated him - only to have him crash again while in the Emergency Room. When mom and dad's neighbors heard that he'd pulled through, they were astounded; they had been told that he'd passed away. I called the fire department that Sunday to let them know, too, that dad had pulled through; they couldn't believe it.

It's been a very long and emotional six weeks for our family. Both mom and dad have had some major obstacles to overcome - and are still in the long process of doing just that. However, at this point, they are both on the mend. Mom came home from the rehab center just this past Monday. She's still having difficulties, but is enjoying being back in her own home. Dad is now at the rehab center and will, hopefully, be coming home by the end of the week. It's a long and difficult road ahead. Deb and I were saying just this morning that it sometimes feels like mom is making a baby step in progress, and then a slide to two steps behind. We're still very concerned. Dad is really doing well. He's hoping to 'get his legs under him' and gain some strength so that he can be home soon.

Thank you for all of your kind wishes, words, thoughts and prayers. God is so good! Prayers do work, and miracles happen.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Mom Update

First, let me say thank you all so much (!) for all of your kind emails with prayers and good thoughts for my mom. My family and I really appreciate it - it just means the world to us.

Mom is still in the rehab facility, but is progressing. Her wounds are healing nicely and most of the stitches in her forehead were removed this week. We've had a very difficult time with the facility with regards to getting appropriate care and communication, but we had a meeting with them the other day and things seem to be looking up. She's now getting physical therapy twice a day, which is making her stronger, and she's been able to eat more which is helping to build up her strength as well.

We have an appointment with the neuro-surgeon on Monday. Hopefully he'll give us a good report on how her neck is healing.

The closest estimate we have at the moment is that she may be released from the rehab facility in a week to a week and a half. The (GP) doctor phoned this afternoon and said that, based on her chest x-ray, they were putting her back on IV antibiotics as a precaution. The last thing she needs at this point is pneumonia!

Please keep mom in your prayers. God is good.

Little Green Men

Kev's school had a Halloween costume contest on Friday. Hands down the most clever and creative costume of the bunch belonged to the trio of girls who were dressed up as the Green Army Men from the movie Toy Story.

Kevin said they walked around with something that looked like a skateboard, but when asked to 'strike a pose' the girls would drop the things and stand on them - their platforms! - and hold their pose.

Take a look (click on the photo to make it larger for a better view):
Too funny!

Ahoy Mateys!

So ... remember the ship? Well take a look at the final product:
Isnt' it the coolest?!

Sunday morning we were going to breakfast with my mom-in-law, Vicky, and her brother, Bob who was visiting from El Paso. I asked Kev to drive us by the 'ship house' so we could see the progress. As you can see, they added a TON of stuff since the last set of pictures! First of all, they stained the natural wood to a darker finish. But the biggest additions are INside the ship. We parked the car and got out to take a closer look and, when we did, we happened to see the homeowners outside getting ready to begin work on their project for the day. We struck up a conversation about the ship and asked a lot of questions. For instance, there is a door in the side of the ship...
and I asked the homeowner if that's where the Trick-or-Treaters would come in to walk up to the door. She said that it actually led to the 'Treasure Chest'. She invited us in to take a look. DARN IT! I didn't have the camera with me - of course! But it was SO COOL! They had it all set up ala Pirates of the Caribbean. with lots of glistening treasures and skeletons of the unlucky souls who tried to hoist the sunken treasure. It was so much fun! We were all so impressed with the Treasure Chest that she invited us over to the other side of the ship's interior where the 'Voodoo Hut' was located. Amazing! It contained all sorts of bones and bats and shrunken heads - and a stone fireplace that looked pretty darn close to the real thing. We asked what it was made of and she said styrofoam! They have a styrofoam cutter that sort of melts the edges of the styrofoam to make whatever you're creating look more like 'the real thing'. Here's an example of the cut styrofoam (the ship's railing, not the skull):
After our tour, I asked her about how many Trick-or-Treaters they were expecting. She said that they've been doing this for 23 years and they're now up to about 1,000 Trick-or-Treaters! They have goodie bags for the smaller children, mardi gras beads for the teenagers, and candy for everyone. They will have family and friends dressed up as pirates on the ship handing out the loot. How fun is that?

You just gotta love the kids that never grow up ;o)

Knott Knott's .... who is there?

For the boys' 8th grade promotion in June, mom and dad bought them tickets to Knott's Berry Farm. Well actually, they bought all of us tickets to Knott's Berry Farm! Somehow the summer escaped and we never quite made it there, but we still had through November 1st to use the tickets. Even though things have gotten a bit crazy lately, we didn't want to miss out on the generous gift from mom and dad, so we decided to meet at the Farm this past Saturday for a little bit of fun and relaxation.

We had such a great time! The boys have never been to Knott's Berry Farm and the rest of us hadn't been there in ... well, years - literally! It's changed a lot since the last time I was there - they've added quite a few roller coasters and thrill rides. On the one hand, Pat is a thrill-seeker who absolutely loves roller coasters. Drew, on the other hand, uh ... not so much. But it all worked out. We went on some rides together, and split up in various groups for other rides. Overall, everyone got to go on the rides they were interested in, and we had a great time together.

One of the best parts of the day was dining at Mrs. Knott's Restaurant. They have the best fried chicken dinners - YUM! We haven't been there in years either, so it was a fun treat. Saturday was Deb's birthday, too. I'd made her a birthday badge to wear for the day, and a cut-out that said 'Birthday Girl'. At the restaurant, I snuck a cupcake candle into her celebratory boysenberry sherbet, and we all sang Happy Birthday.

Thanks mom and dad, for treating us all to a fun family day!

Old Blue Eyes

Several months back, we found a great deal on a 3-show pack of tickets to the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. Last Friday night we went to the first show: Come Fly Away. We didn't know too much about the show - other than it's a concept piece by Twyla Tharp, and it's based on the music of Frank Sinatra - so we weren't quite sure what to expect.

WOW. It was amazing!

The show is completely free of spoken word. It consists of a small jazz band on a riser on the stage, a nightclub-type set that stays the same throughout the entire show, and a troupe of dancers that are phenomenal. Though there's no spoken word, you know exactly what the story is just by listening to the choice of Sinatra song, and how the dancers move. I know, it sounds a bit out there, but trust me, it was phenomenal. The show was 80 minutes long with no intermission and it felt like we'd only been there about 30 minutes; it flew by quickly because we were so entranced. The band was fantastic! All of the Sinatra songs were mastered to contain only his voice; the band played the music to each song perfectly. The dancers were incredible - they made it look so easy ... but of course, it's not. As Kevin said, it didn't ever look as if they were even breathing hard.

Next up: Riverdance in mid-November, followed by Wicked in early December. We've seen Wicked before and can't wait to see it again. We haven't seen Riverdance, so I'm sure it will be fun. Or as Kevin says "First we see the full dance (Come Fly Away), then we see the waist-down dance (Riverdance), then we see the play (Wicked)." He has a way with words, doesn't he? ;o)