Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dad Update- FINAL (we hope!)

So...just got a call from mom, and dad is HOME!  They released him from the hospital a little while ago....YAY!

He'll now go back to the hospital three times a week for therapy, and will , hopefully, by late spring or early summer be almost back to "normal" (or as normal as dad can get...HA!). 

This certainly could have gone the other way, so your prayers/well wishes/good vibes have done their job, and have been REALLY, REALLY appreciated!

I'll update as needed, but hopefully they'll be few and far between...if even that!

I wish for you the all the best in the coming year. God bless, and happy new year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dad Update XVI

So...we made it through the snow and rain, and general ICKINESS of today, and are now safely tucked in at mom and dad's as the roads freeze, and the snowfall amounts increase, and the news stations recommending that no one travel...THANK YOU SOUTH ST. PAUL for letting me take an "emergency" personal day to get out before it got bad.

Dad continues to improve!  We saw him today, and he was coherent (mostly!), and could carry on a conversation, and looked really good!  He's still a little raspy from the tracheotomy (which has been removed, and is healing), and he still can't walk very far without getting tired, and has MRSA (an antibiotic resistant infection that he'll have a strain of, in his system, for the rest of his life, but of which the hospital staff doesn't seem too concerned), but, the MAIN POINT is that he's better, and he continues to improve, and the hospital staff  seems to think that he'll be able to come home mid-week next week.

He's lost about 40 pounds, but it's mostly muscle, so he looks thin, and a little older, and kind of frail.  He's dealing with "tremors", especially when he sleeps, and is having hallucinations (due to medication to stop the tremors), but, went back to Des Moines on Monday, via ambulance, to see a neurologist, who expects the tremors to decrease over the next year (the hallucinations are already mostly gone...).  The prognosis is that he should not have the tremors at all within 1 to 2 years. 

The neurologist was actually surprised to see dad again.  He didn't think he'd survive the earlier stuff, so your prayers and good wishes have helped TREMENDOUSLY.  Thank you!!!!

We will spend the next couple of days going between mom and dad's house and the hospital (the new one, into which they just moved this past Sunday!), but it's only 15 miles away, instead of 90, so will be a MUCH better commute!!!

Happy holidays!  Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!  Joyous Kwanzaa!  Whatever celebration you are participating in, enjoy!  Blessing to you all!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Woodbury Christmas Show!!

This past weekend was the Christmas show that I did with the Woodbury Community Theater in...(where else??!!)...Woodbury!!

It was a fun little show, in conjunction with the East Metro Symphony Orchestra, and one of the dance companies in Woodbury, and was held at the GORGEOUS East Metro High School Loft Stage.

Our group was small...6 men and 8 women, but we had a GREAT time, and, I think, sounded GREAT as well.

I was in a cool trio version of "Do You Hear What I Hear?", and had the solo "poem" part on "'Twas the Night Before Christmas".  I WISH I could say my stuff went off without a hitch, but, that would not be true.  Even though I went OVER AND OVER AND OVER the poem before the show each day, I STILL managed to "go up" in the middle of it TWICE during the second performance.

I learned that you really can't FAKE it through "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"...because
1.  everyone knows it, and
 2. you have to rhyme...

and it's VERY difficult to rhyme off the top of your head...even with an end phrase as easy as "and giving a nod up the chimney he rose" (nose...toes...joes...suppose...).  I think, in my brilliance, I said something PROFOUND like..."uh...he sighed, and nodded his head, and then rose up the chimney"...STELLAR...

Anyhoo...great group of people to do a show with!  I had worked with the director and a couple of the actors on "The Best of Gilbert & Sullivan" this fall, and met a bunch of new, fun people as well.

Now I think I'm taking a break for a few months...this was my FOURTH show since LAST Christmas, and I'm ready to "just" come home each night, instead of coming home for an hour or two, then heading out into the night to rehearse until WAY past my bedtime!

Here are a couple of photos from the show...

Happy holidays!!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dad Update XV

Good news!

We are FINISHED with Mercy Hospital!  ESPECIALLY good news, since the transitional vent unit experience was somewhat LESS than ideal.  SERIOUSLY...why do these people still have jobs?  Bad nurses (not all of them...we liked Laura and Treva), miscommunication, neglect...SERIOUSLY how INEPT can "medical professionals" BE???!!! 

Apparently there were TWO patients who needed to be transferred to Mt. Ayr today, and they got the first one (not my dad) out, then didn't realize that there was a SECOND transfer, so didn't get him out until this evening (he was supposed to go around noon).  ARE YOU KIDDING ME???!!!!  MORONS...'s in the past, because, AS I TYPE THIS, dad is in an ambulance, on his way to the "transitional care" unit at the Mt. Ayr hospital (15 minutes from home, instead of 90!).

They took the tracheotomy apparatus off Friday, removed the feeding tube this weekend, took out the catheter, and dad is now going to spend 4-6 weeks in Mt. Ayr, and will then, hopefully, be HOME!

He's still "foggy", can't walk, is experiencing frequent "tremors" (which, we've been told, will dimish over time), and has a really long road ahead, but at least he'll be closer to home, and the "journey" for mom to sit with him will be MUCH better!

Keep praying/thinking good thoughts/offering good vibes!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

SNOW DAY??!!!!!

Wow!  For only the THIRD time in TEN YEARS of teaching, our district called off school today because of the blizzard that is blowing past the window as I type this!

I used to be so jealous of my "teacher friends" when I was working at the public library.  As each snow day was called, I thought..."great (not really)...good for them (sarcasm), but I still have to get to work".  They'd tell me about how they were going to spend their day "catching up" (on sleep, on laundry, on wrapping presents), and all I could think was "will I make it to work without sliding into a ditch?".

Well...PAYBACK BABY!!  I get to stay home today and catch up on sleep, and laundry and wrapping presents...whoo hoo!!!!!!

I truly AM sorry if YOU have to go to work today in bad weather and treacherous conditions.  Be safe, take your time, and watch out for the crazies!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dad Update XIV

So...Duane and I flew down to Des Moines today to see dad.  I hadn't planned on going, but Duane convinced me to go, and I'm glad that we did...if we hadn't, it would have been CHRISTMAS before I was able to get back down there again.

We got there around 11:30, and talked briefly with Robin, who has been there since Thursday.  She's spending large portions of each week down there to be with dad, so that mom doesn't have to keep driving back and forth from Tingley (90 minutes each way, and a trip she's been making almost every day since October 28th...). 

Robin called yesterday to "vent" because dad wasn't getting the care that we thought he should be getting, now that he's in the vent unit.  A couple of things happened last week that "the family" wasn't notified about (including a night where his blood pressure went "whanky", and they couldn't get him stabilized).  Robin had a "come to Jesus" chat with the people at the nurse's station, and was able to talk to doctors, therapists (respiratory, physical, etc.), and we are fairly certain that things are where they should be now, care-wise, and that they will stay that way.

When we got there, dad was sitting up in his chair, and they've now got him on a vent collar, so he can rasp out words (no more miserable attempts at reading lips).  It was good to see him more coherent, and he seemed GREATLY improved from even last weekend when I was there.  I even got a couple of unsolicited winks, and an "I love you" (with some prompting).

His weekend nurse is Laura, a very competent, forceful (but in a nice way), caring person, who we met last weekend.  She's been very reassuring to dad, and has continued to remind him how far he's come (while NOT letting him forget that he needs to work REALLY hard to continue to improve).  She doesn't take his crap, and he knows he can't "smooth talk" his way out of doing what he's supposed to do.

He's still not able to walk, talk much, or do much, and he's doing A LOT of worrying as he's lying there thinking about mom, and insurance, and his job, and fearing that he's going to be an invalid, (and a million other things), but he IS improving.  He's more attentive when being spoken to, and actually DID the exercises that we were instructed to do with him THREE TIMES before we left (thanks to Duane's insistance). 

We DID get a reality check though, as they were struggling to get him from the chair back in to bed.  I realized that we still have a REALLY long road ahead.  At LEAST two more weeks in the transitional vent unit, then a month or more in transitional care at the hospital in Mt. Ayr.

There were also a couple of things that he said, which remind me that he's still not completely back to normal (asking me to open the door to the room...which was already open, and asking how many customers were in the vent unit...even after I asked "do you mean patients?", and still insisting that he meant customers...), but it's a DEFINITE improvement over ANY time during the last 36 days!

One good thing today:  he asked where we ate lunch, and when I said "McDonalds", wrinkled up his nose in a disgusted way...perhaps his diet will take a turn for the BETTER after this is all behind us??!!

Keep praying/sending good thoughts/offering things up to the universe.  It's working!!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

And Now for Something COMPLETELY Different... of the "travel tree"!  This year, due to the situation with dad, I opted to skip all of the stuff I usually do to decorate for the holidays (HUGE tree, garland everywhere, nativity scenes, stockings, figurines, bows, lights, etc.).

Instead, I put up Duanes and my "travel tree"...ornaments I created from all of the trips we've taken (see 10/27/09 entry for details), white lights, gold stars, and, to top it off, a replica of one of the jets we've taken to get to some of the places we were going.  I think it turned out QUITE nicely!

Here's hoping YOUR holiday decorations are full of whimsy and GREAT memories too!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dad Update XIII

So...we've FINALLY moved out of the ICU!  I think it was MOSTLY because they needed the bed (holiday weekends are REALLY busy in the ICU...heart attacks from too much food and accidents...etc.), but we'll take what we can get at this point!

He's now in the "transitional vent unit".  Seven beds, three nurses, and specialized care, as far as tracheotomy/respiratory issues are concerned.  It's definitely not a step up, facilities-wise (as Robin so accurately put it...we've moved from the Hilton to the Motel 6...).  Older part of the hospital, small, dark room, one UNCOMFORTABLE chair, older, grungier...etc. etc. etc.  It's DEFINITELY where he needs to be now, and he's getting EXCELLENT care, but, after 30 days in the big new snazzy remodel, we definitely feel like we're "low rent"...ugh!

His first night there was a little "rocky".  The nurse had to call us because he wanted to go home "RIGHT NOW"!  She got him to stay put by agreeing to call us to let us know that he wasn't happy.  We had to assure her that she'd need to use "tough love" to get him to cooperate.

When we got there this morning, we weren't sure what we were going to find, but he seemed to have mellowed overnight, and we have HIGH HOPES that he will cooperate, and work hard to continue to recover.  Robin kept reminding him that it was a MIRACLE that he was still alive, and that he should do all he could to make sure that all of those prayers were rewarded.  I was somewhat less "eloquent" with my "this last month has been CRAP, and you need to work hard to get OUT of here, so that we don't have to eat any more of that DISGUSTING cafeteria food" comment...

His nurse today said that he could spend up to FIVE weeks in the vent unit.  We were under the impression that he could be out in about a week, and then move to transitional care, but, that seems to be an impossibility at this point.  He's still on the respirator, and they are going to attempt to "wean" him from it over the next couple of weeks, but don't think that he's strong enough to do it all on his own at this point.  Time will tell.

So...things are DEFINITELY better than they have been, but we still have a REALLY long road ahead.  He needs to get off the vent as soon as possible, so that they can start working the "physical therapy" angle.  He's been lying in a bed for WAY too long, and has atrophied in many parts of his body.

We got smiles, and saw eyeballs (which we haven't seen for WEEKS), and attempts at telling us stuff today, which was LOVELY (even though we all SUCK at lip reading...), and poor Robin had to wash his feet TWICE (he's hot, and keeps asking to have them washed...not sure WHAT that's about...!)(I was QUICK to remind her that Jesus washed feet, but that was as far as I went towards helping out...).

Keep praying/sending good thoughts...they are working!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dad Update XII

So...I've been assured by Robin, who, with the Nordhues clan, went back down to Iowa yesterday, that dad is, truly, doing better.  I will reserve judgement until tomorrow, when I go back myself.

We will be spending most of the "holiday" weekend in that DREADED ICU waiting room, but, my aunt Sharon, who usually has the Thanksgiving dinner, and who lives in Des Moines, is again hosting, so we will be able to leave for awhile to celebrate the holiday with family, and NOT have to suffer through "Thanksgiving in the hospital cafeteria".

I'm thankful for all of your love, prayers, and support during this INCREDIBLY difficult last month.  Keep it coming, because we still have a REALLY long road ahead, but, at least at this point, things look like there MIGHT actually be a happy ending...!

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dad Update XI

So...apparently some GOOD NEWS for a change today!  They've been slowly decreasing the amount of sedatives they've been giving my dad over the last week, or so.  Mom said that today dad recognized her.  She said that he puckered up his lips when he saw her, and later, when she was reading a book, pounded on the side of the bed to get her attention.  Not a MAJOR advance, but, at this point, we'll take ANYTHING that isn't bad news!

Dr. Koslo said that this made him "happy"...we would tend to agree.  Dr. Flower said that, barring a heart attack, or more lung issues, or blood clots, things seem to be taking a turn for the's about TIME!!!!

Maybe it won't be such a DREADFUL Thanksgiving after all...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dad Update X

As far as I've heard (as of 10:23 today), there isn't really anything new to post.

We met with the ICU team for the "family consult" on Thursday.  They didn't really tell us anything new...except that dad's "odds of survival" are now waffling between 50/50, and 25/75.  The doctors seem to think that IF he doesn't take any more "hits" to his lungs (more infections, more trauma, more fevers, more etc.), that he COULD survive.  If he DOES take another hit, however, the odds of survival are "very low".

His fever continues to spike and decrease, but to a lesser degree (the last I heard was 102).  He's still ventilated, he's still somewhat sedated, he's still unconscious, and the doctors think he'll be in the ICU for another THREE weeks...if he survives the "lung thing".

Yesterday, mom stayed home (after 23 days of driving 90 minutes back and forth to and from Des Moines it was TIME for a "day off").  Robin, Dave, and I stayed until about 3:00, then headed back to the cities.  They'll go back down Tuesday, and I'll head down on Thursday (happy Thanksgiving...).

Here's what I posted as my "status" today on Facebook...24 days in the ICU...$800,000.00...tanks of gas amongst the four family members driving back and forth to Des Moines...$700.00...crappy food from the hospital cafeteria...$300.00...optimism...PRICELESS! Keep those good thoughts and prayers coming, friends!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dad Update IX

So...not sure what to post at this point...we've heard from the "lead" doctor today.  We've heard from the "vascular" doctor today.  We've heard from the "infectious disease" doctor today.  We've heard from the "neurologist" today...and NONE of it was "new" information.  Some of the stuff they said was "more hopeful", and some was "less hopeful".

His "vascular" doctor was FRUSTRATED that things with dad weren't better (we laughed...HE'S frustrated??!!).  His "infectious disease" doctor REALLY likes to talk, and went ON and ON and ON and ON about what was going on.  He was a LITTLE condescending, and negative, but, at this point, we want to know WHAT'S GOING ON, so were glad to hear what was happening.

They've "revised" his chances of survival from 50/50 to 50/50 or 25/75 (NOT in our favor), and have said that, basically, his brain is swimming in a toxic bath (the "official" name is toxic encypelitic...something or other...but we couldn't write quickly enough to get the official terminology).

His fever has been vascillating between the high 90's to 104 (last night), but the doctors don't think there is any permanent brain damage.  They aren't SURE, but will be doing a CT-scan and brain wave measurement test as soon as he is stable enough to do them.

They think he might now have a SUPERBUG from the stuff that aspirated into his lungs, and stuff that was already in his lungs, and are adjusting his antibiotics to HOPEFULLY knock it out.  They are concerned that it is "antibiotic resistant".

So...another THREE weeks in the ICU (imagine our glee), and, IF he can fight the infections clogging his lungs, we'll go from there.

One of the doctors DID say that, theoretically, a year from now, everything could be MOSTLY back to normal, and this could all just seem like a bad dream.  He said that dad will wake up, and not really remember ANY of the last month (but we'll all be SURE to fill him in on the details), but that the rehabilitation will be LONG and PAINFUL...if he survives, which we REALLY aren't sure of, at this point...

Keep praying!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dad Update VIII was not necessarily a good day in the Mercy ICU.  In fact, the WORST of our 22 in the ICU.

Apparently, dad pulled out his feeding tube sometime during the night, and some of the "feeding solution" made it's way into his lungs.  Robin said that they showed them an x-ray of his lungs, and, at this point, they are 1/4 "okay"...which means that 3/4 of his lungs are congested, infected, and/or collapsed.

When Robin called me at school this morning, his fever was 106.  They were burying him in ice, and had him on a cooling blanket set at 40 degrees.

His legs have also started "mottling", which  is a bad thing.  It could be blood clots.  It could be lack of blood flow.  It could be any number of things....ALL BAD.

A neurologist will be coming in tomorrow to look for signs of stroke or brain damage.  They also need to surgically insert a gastric feeding tube, but he's not stable enough to handle the surgery...

He's not completely "stable" at this point, and we will be staying at a hotel nearby tonight, in case there are any new developments.

Keep praying...thinking happy thoughts...offering whatever to the universe...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dad Update VIII

Actually...not much new.

Dad was off the respirator for most of the day, which is a good thing.  They are going to put him on it again overnight, so that he doesn't have to work so hard to breathe.

They took the staples out of his legs today, so that's a step forward.  It was a little bloody, because some of the staples are still imbedded fairly deeply.

At this point, he'll probably be in the ICU for another three or four days, then either transferred to a "regular" room, or maybe the respiratory ICU.

Dr. Koslo said the legs are healing well, and dad was moving around A LOT today.  He still has a bit of a fever, and must be he keeps kicking off the blankets that the nurses keep trying to cover him with.  This would be GREAT...if he wasn't wearing a hospital gown...he tends to keep FLASHING the room...

They've taken him off the sedatives, but the doctor said that it could take as long as he was ON them, to RECOVER from them, which, in this case, would be about two weeks.

At this point, he's lost about 20 pounds...NOT the diet I would recommend for "quick weight loss" this rate, he's going to weigh less than I do by next Tuesday.  I'd better get to work on that diet!!!

We found out that insurance WOULD cover 90 days in a "transitional" care facility (rehabilitation, therapy, etc.), and we met with a lawyer today to figure out the power of attorney/guardianship stuff.

So...things are moving foward, and after being told this morning that dad would be "booted out" to a nursing home after 28 days in the ICU (by some MORON infectious disease doctor), and that people generally didn't recover after that point anyway (again...MORON), we have a little more positive news to end the day.

We'll see what tomorrow brings...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dad Update VII

So...we're kind of in a "holding pattern" now.  Dad had the tracheostomy yesterday.  He now has a two inch tube connected to an incision in his throat connected to a bag on the outside of his body to assist in breathing.

He currently has a feeding tube up his nose, as the tracheostomy makes it impossible to "eat".

The liver doctor has been called back in, because of elevated levels of something (can't remember at this point) are causing concern.

So...he'll probably be in the ICU for another 4 or 5 days (bringing the total up to 21), and will then possibly be transferred to the respiratory ICU, in which he could be for several months.

At this point in time, mom is facing the DAUNTING task of taking care of some legal stuff...signing up for medicare, looking into VA assistance, insurance issues, etc.  Laws are very tricky when something like this occurs...designed to protect the hospitalized from letting people take their money, institutionalize, and generally SCREW with them.  Unfortunately, they also prevent spouses, children, etc. from getting things worked out.

So...send your good wishes and prayers mom's way, as she tries to navigate this potential minefield of taking care of bills, insurance, and legal crap...

Since nothing new is really happening at this point, and we're still in that dreaded "holding pattern", updates will only come as needed.  Keep checking back...the way things have been going so far, it's SURE to be an interesting journey...

THANK YOU for your concern, prayers, good thoughts, and love...keep it coming!!!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dad Update VI

So...they did the TEE this morning (the electro-cardiogram), and determined that it WASN'T a heart valve infection.  They were able to see enough of the heart and lungs that they didn't have to do the scope to test the pressure.

Dr. Flower said that he's still critical, and could still die (a reality check that mom did NOT need to hear...she's really getting more fragile every day).  His heart and lungs are going to continue to get weaker and weaker the longer he lays in the ICU (as well as his leg muscles).

He's still being sedated, and they are going to try to do the tracheostomy tomorrow.  Dr. Flower said that they would then probably move him to the respiratory wing of the hospital where he could be for the next couple of weeks, or several months...

It's going to be a LOOOOOONNNGGGG winter...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Dad Update V

So...we're still in "critical but stable" mode today.  I actually saw THREE doctors in the space of an hour in dad's room...which is more than I've seen ANY doctor at ALL during all of the time that I've been there (Dr. Koslo actually asked who I was, and when I said "the son", said that he hadn't seen me here before (even though he had), and then he backtracked, stating that he was only there for a few minutes each day, and that he was SURE I had been there, and didn't mean to imply that I hadn't been around...apparently, some people get a little TOUCHY about it being assumed that they haven't been there...whatever...). still has a fever.  His heart rate was slightly elevated, but his "numbers", respiratorily speaking, are "better", but they still aren't sure if/when they are going to take out the intibation tube and do a tracheostomy...they are hoping to determine this on Monday.

They took out the neck line and another line that Dr. Koslo determined "excessive", and are content to just have the "pic" line in (pick? pik? I have no idea...), so he's hooked up to a few less bags right now.

They are going to do a TEE on Monday (some form of echo cardiogram) to look at the back of his heart.  One theory is that he has a heart valve infection, and a blood clot broke loose last Tuesday and blocked his already clogged aorta.

If that's the case, they'll increase his antiobiotics, and hope that that brings the fever down a bit, so they can move forward.

They are still VERY concerned about his lungs.  He should be breathing easier by this point, but isn't.  They keep asking if he's a smoker, and we're wondering if his past smoking has permanently damaged his lungs.

His kidney doctor "signed off" today, so they are no longer concerned with them, and dialysis isn't, apparently, in his future.

Dr. Koslo said that this is the first time in his career that the kidneys have been fine, but there's been a problem with the lungs.  Usually, in this type of situation, the kidneys are damaged, but the lungs are fine.  I said that if ANYONE could "buck the trend", it would be dad.

So...Dr. Koslo said that if they can take care of the lung issues (which are still critical), there's only a 5-10% chance of a bad outcome (as far as walking, and being "normal" again), which means, if we can get past the lung issues, that he has a 90-95% chance of being completely healed.

They are reducing the amount of sedatives in his IV drip, and he's been moving around a little more today.  I DID actually see ONE of his eyes open for a few seconds this afternoon (I haven't seen his eyes open AT ALL since I got here on Thursday).  He's also been shifting around in bed, and bending his legs periodically.

Not sure what happens from here, but it APPEARS that we MIGHT be moving forward.  The lungs/breathing are still a HUGE hurdle, but we're hoping that all of the "sedated rest" he's been getting has helped him to be stronger, and that things are getting better.

We won't know anything FOR SURE until they do the TEE on Monday, but consider "holding his own" and not backsliding a GOOD thing!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dad Update IV

No new news today.  Dad still has a fever, and they are monitoring his oxygen levels.  They are thinking they might do the traceoscopy on Monday...depending on how he reacts to the tube that is down his throat in the next couple of days. 

He'll be in the ICU for AT LEAST another three or four days, and we hope that he gets to be in the "regular hospital" later this week.  He's still sedated, and his doctors are trying to decide whether he needs to remain sedated to catch up on some needed rest, or whether they should start reducing his sedatives to see how his breathing is progressing.

Ran into an old friend in the cafeteria at lunch....Beth Samuelson Bice.  She works at Mercy Hospital, and her mom was in the hospital for observation of some heart concerns (she was released today, and is fine).  It was QUITE a surprise, and really good to see her.  I also got to see Don (her father)...GREAT guy!

The weekend approaches, and they don't do much of ANYTHING on Saturday and Sunday, so now we'll wait and see what happens...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dad Update III has a temperature again, and they think he might have pneumonia.  While I was sitting in the room, he did a "convulse-y" thing, and I was assured that he was just coughing.

We're a little more optimistic...his doctor thinks he looks pretty good, and is catching up on some needed rest.

I shall remain "cautiously optimistic"...and we'll ASSUME that since things didn't necessarily get WORSE today, that he's holding his own...

Untitled's now midnight, and I've tried to go to bed FOUR times.  Each time, my mind starts going to places that, so far, I've been able to keep it from going.  I can't stop crying, and I KNOW that there's still a chance that this is all going to have a happy ending, but, I can't keep that nagging idea from popping back into my dad might die.

I'm trying REALLY hard to continue to push the thoughts out of my mind, but it's not working.  There's still so much I still want to do with him, and so many things I still want to say to him, and I worry about mom being alone in that big house, and I mourn for my nieces who know him, but might not have the opportunity to REALLY get to know him as they grow up and mature, and form that relationship that adults have with their grandparents. 

I mourn for the holidays that could now be emptier.  I mourn for their trips to the cities to spend the weekend with all of us, and I mourn for the guidance that he's been so AMAZING at giving me in my life, and the possibility that there might not be any more from him coming my way.

I want to talk to my coherent father, and assure him that everything is going to be okay, and to have him assure ME that everything is going to be okay. 

I want to go to Tingley, and get in the back of his pickup, and have him drive down all of those winding, overgrown gravel and dirt roads outside town...and have him stop whenever I yell "that's a great photo op"!

I want him to barbecue pork chops, and hamburgers, and hot dogs...even in January (because he never says matter what time of year it is).


I should have called more.  I should have visited more.  I should have said "I love you" more.  I REALLY want the opportunity to do those things now.

I just want my dad back...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NOT Better News... is often the case in these situtations (from what I hear, anyway...I've never BEEN in this situation before...), the good news of yesterday was but a BLIP in the big picture.

Robin called this morning to say that dad's heart rate was up during the night, and the doctors are now concerned about his heart, in addition to everything they were concerned about before yesterday's surgery.

Apparently, his lung has collapsed a bit more, the tube down his throat is STILL not allowing enough oxygen into his system, he's agitated, and it looks bad again.

One of the doctors, whether he's just SOCIALLY INEPT, or was trying to be funny, told Robin "well...he isn't going to die today or tomorrow" (to which I wondered "WHAT ABOUT SATURDAY??!!"), so my "cautious optimism" of yesterday is back to being "guardedly terrified".

Robin was at the END of her rope when she called, so I cleared my schedule, and am headed back to Des Moines tomorrow morning.

This SUCKS...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Better News!

For the first time in a week, there's actually GOOD news to report!

I just got off the phone with Robin and dad is more coherent than he's been in days.  They have him strapped down, so he won't mess up the tube down his throat, but, if a family member is in the room, he can have the straps taken off.  He's been writing notes on a pad of paper today, and seems to be doing better...

Dr Koslo, the vascular surgeon, is happy.
Dr, Chuktai, the heart specialist, is happy.
The kidney doctor is happy.
The infectious disease doctor is happy (he has a urinary tract infection).

Now we wait a couple of days to see how things progress.

It's still a LONG road ahead, but at least there's some GOOD news, for a change.  Keep those prayers and happy thoughts coming!

Monday, November 2, 2009


Today, the doctors went in to sew up the incisions on dad's calves.  Robin called around 3:00 to say that he was back in his room, but that they weren't allowed to go in and see him yet.  They won't know for several months about muscle or nerve damage, but are concerned that it's going to be awhile before they can start physical therapy to get him up and moving around.

They put THREE stents in his aorta, which increased the blood flow from 10% to 80%, so the BIG surgery may no longer be needed.

There's still no prognosis on how his kidneys are doing, and they are still concerned about his pancreas, which has been acting up in the last couple of days.

They did the intibation during the surgery, so he now has a tube down his throat to help him breathe.  They are hoping that there are improvements by Friday.  If not, they'll have to do a tracheostomy, where they'll cut an incision through the front of his neck to help him breathe better.  We're hoping it doesn't come to that!

He will continue to stay in the ICU, at least through Friday.

Keep those prayers/good thoughts/happy vibes coming, and direct a few at mom and Robin, who are currently sitting in the waiting room with four aunts, an uncle, a cousin, a longtime family friend, and two friends from Mt Ayr.  I'm SURE it's quite the "gathering"...

Pray also for the doctors to get it under control...when Robin and mom went into the ICU ward to see how things were going, they got to witness "surgeon pride" in the form of the vascular doctor and the "lead" doctor yelling at each other in the hallway.  GET A GRIP guys...

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Things continue to NOT go as planned...

- his kidneys continue to be a problem.  They've called in a kidney specialist, and they are trying some sort of medication to see if it might take care of the problem, but the prognosis isn't exactly what we were hoping for.

- he's not getting enough oxygen, so they may be doing the "full blown" tube down the throat thing today.

- the medication he's on has made him loopy, and groggy, and a little paranoid.  At this point he's CONVINCED that the hospital is slowly trying to kill him with medication, and he won't let mom leave the room.  Her health insn't the greatest, so it's taking a big toll on her too.

- Surgery has been postponed for TWO OR THREE WEEKS, because the doctors are concerned that he's not "stable" enough to undergo surgery at this time.  At this point, his calves are still split open (they were going to close them up as part of the surgery), the aorta is still mostly blocked (during the emergency surgery on Wednesday morning, they put in a temporary stent), and he still has very limited mobility in his legs.

The doctors told mom that this is the most challenging/difficult/intense surgery that they perform at Mercy Hospital, which doesn't fill any of us with much comfort.

Robin is driving down today to spend a few days with mom.  Duane and I are flying down today as well (Robin and I came back on Friday night to regroup, repack, reassess, etc.).

Keep us all in your prayers...things still don't look good, and the time frame for ever getting back to even PARTIALLY "normal" keeps getting pushed further and further away.

Hug your loved ones, and nag them to get their cholesterol checked if there's even the REMOTEST possibility of it causing problems.  I have purchased my fish oil pills, bought a bag of oat bran to sprinkle on EVERYTHING, and am scheduling the blood test that I've been putting off for a couple of YEARS for later this week!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


So...interesting how life throws "curve balls" at you.

I received a call from my brother-in-law on Tuesday night informing me that my dad was in an ambulance, on his way to the Mt. Ayr hospital.  Apparently, he was outside, filling birdfeeders, and his legs went numb.  He couldn't make it into the house, and mom couldn't get him inside, so they called the ambulance and rushed him to the emergency room.

At 5:00 Wednesday morning, mom called to say that he had been taken by ambulance to Mercy Hospital in Des Moines.  They were going to air lift him there, but the cloud cover was too low, and they had to do it by land.  They did emergency surgery to try to clear plaque, cholesterol, and blood clots from his aorta.

Turns out his legs had gone without any blood flowing through his veins for about 10 hours.  Not sure how that's possible, as I would THINK one would be able to tell that something was wrong, but apparently not.  Permanent muscle and nerve damage occurs after 6 hours, so, at this point, the doctors are not sure if he'll ever walk again.

The part of his aorta that separates around his belly button was 100% blocked for about 6 inches.  Because of this, his kidneys may have also suffered damage.  It's possible that he will need dialysis for the rest of his life.

At this point, it'll be about 6 months before we'll be able to tell what the extent of his injuries are.  At the hospital, they cut slits from his knees to his ankles, and had to leave them open, to make sure that the muscles didn't swell so much that they were destroyed.  So...he's in intensive care, loopy as ALL GET OUT because of the morphine (at one point, he asked where his purse was, and at another wondered what we thought of the motel room we were in...), and has a FOUR hour surgery on Monday at 12:30 to do a bypass around the blocked part of the aorta.

It's been a REALLY long couple of days in the waiting room and ICU, and I'm SO not good at the "sitting around doing nothing" thing.  I've read about 20 magazines, paced incessantly, crabbed, griped, and done the SNARKY thing, and we still have LOTS of hospital time to go...

I'm worried, and concerned that things will NEVER be the same again, and am trying to come to grips with the fact that my AMAZING father may forever more be wheel-chair bound, and in need of dialysis on a weekly/monthly basis.

If you pray, please do so...if you offer concerns to the universe, please do so...if you just want to think happy thoughts...I'm good with that too!

Here's hoping YOU are happy and healthy!  Enjoy walking, and being with loved ones, and don't take a SECOND of your life for granted.  It can change in an instant...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Travel Tree

I've been working for the last couple of months on ornaments for a tree that I'm putting together to go on the table on the landing outside Duane's and my doors.  I put up the silver tree with multi-colored glass balls last year, and it was nice, but I've wanted to find a way to remember all of our AMAZING trips, without having to drag out the albums.

So...being the DECOUPAGE KING that I am, decided that I'd ModPodge an ornament for each of the trips we've been on in the last 10 years.  Turns out we've been A LOT of places!  I'm FINALLY finished, and I have 46 ornaments!

I decided to limit it to ONLY trips that we've taken by airplane.  As luck would have it (for me!), I was able to keep the Northwest airplane model that I dropped a few months back (while trying to find something in Duane's kitchen).  The plane part snapped off the base, and is now going to be the "star" on the top of the tree!

I also found some tiny glittery stars to "sparkle up" the tree, and will string white lights as well.  I think it's going to be cool!

Here are a couple of shots of the ornaments...

I'll post a picture of the finished tree as the holidays get closer!

Here's hoping YOU have found a way to cherish all of YOUR favorite photos too!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Out With the Old (II)...

...and in with the new (II)...

So...getting the new sofa (which I LOVE!) created a bit of a problem...the OLD chair that I had sitting next to it looked like CHILDREN'S furniture next to the new piece...SO...Duane and I had to go out and look for a new chair (I THINK it's a conspiracy in the furniture industry to make things BIGGER and BIGGER so that the OLD stuff doesn't work with the NEW stuff, and you just keep BUYING things)!'s the OLD:

...and here's the NEW:

I THINK I like it (a lot), but need a little while to get used to's CERTAINLY "loud"...!!!!

Here's hoping YOU have a living room full of COOL furniture, and that it's all the SAME SIZE!!!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Whirlwind Weekend in Kansas City!!

MEA (Minnesota Educator's Weekend) is HISTORICALLY a four day weekend on which teacher's attend conferences for two "work days", then have the weekend to attend additional conferences, or stay home.  In recent years, MEA has become a four day weekend on which everyone travels.

In Minnesota, it's the BUSIEST travel weekend, next to Christmas.  Consequently, people who fly "standby", and who INTEND to get to London or Paris or California end up closer to home, visiting places not many people want to go...which is why we ended up in Kansas City.  I'm TOTALLY not trashing K.C., because I actually find it to be a DELIGHTFUL place, with lots of cool stuff to do (even though, this trip, it was cloudy and dreary, and cold the entire time we were there...).

We were planning on London up until Wednesday morning, and I spent several HOURS trying to find accommodations near Victoria Station (and found an AWESOME B & B, for a very good price!), when Duane informed me that SIX additional, "real" (non-"standby") people had just booked, and there was no way we'd get back (I'm STILL mystified WHY we can GET to these cool places, but can't get MINNESOTA...WHO would come here??!!).

Anyway, we then tried to get to St. Louis, but that flight filled up DAY OF travel, so Kansas City was about the ONLY place in the WORLD that we could actually get to, AND get back.

AGAIN...not to "bad mouth" Kansas City, because we had a GREAT time (as we always do when we travel).  It's just that it's a TOTAL mind warp to be thinking "what do I need to pack for London??!!", and then ending up on a one hour flight to Missouri...

Standby travel BITCHING aside, we had a LOVELY time!  We got to town on Thursday, in the early afternoon, and headed to Country Club Plaza to have "burnt ends" (bbq) at Jack Stack BBQ. After getting our fill of ribs and baked beans (and coleslaw and corn pudding), we headed downtown to look around City Market  (SO not busy on a Thursday afternoon, and not much was actually OPEN!!!), and to explore the four story antique mall that we found on our LAST MEA weekend trip to K.C., two years ago.

I've been looking for a Fisher Price barn and silo for awhile, and found one, complete with white plastic fence, cow, sheep, pig, chicken, tractor, and a couple of Fisher Price farmers, for $25.00.  It even fit in my suitcase!

After the antique mall, we looked at a restaurant supply store we found last time, then hit a seed and spice store that we ALSO found last time. 

We then headed to our hotel (the Holiday Inn Express), and walked to a shopping center nearby to explore their Half-Price book store.  They were playing an AWFUL Hillbilly girl country/western singer (I have no idea who she was, but, when they finally switched CD's, Duane and I clapped, causing several people to laugh...out loud...!), but we managed to survive the experience...

When we were finished at the bookstore, we headed to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  I LOVE the Nelson-Atkins.  The architecture alone is worth the visit, and they have some GORGEOUS European and early American paintings, as well as sculpture, stained glass, and fine china.

We looked around for a couple of hours, then headed to a grocery store nearby to pick up a few things for "snacking" (I got Chicken in a Biscuit crackers, cheddar bacon "spray cheese" and CLASSY am I??!!).  We went back to the hotel, watched a little bit of Wanda Sykes (how FUNNY is she??!!) on HBO, then went to bed.

Friday, we got up, and got directions to the nearest Waffle House (in Overland Park, Kansas).  I LOVE WAFFLE HOUSE!  We had a DELIGHTFUL breakfast (the bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich with "scattered and smothered" hash browns, and a sweet tea), then went to a mall in Overland Park.

The mall was...a mall...nothing special, and the only things I bought were a clarinet Christmas ornament (for Abigail), and a saxophone ornament (for Duane's and my tree).  After the mall, we went to Loose Park to see the fall leaves (since we aren't going to have any color this year, due to snow and freezing temperatures), walk through the wilting rose garden, and get some exercise.

We then headed to the World War I monument.  What a COOL place!!  The monument is a tall concrete tower that can be seen from most parts of the city, and, at the base, is a REALLY well constructed museum, chronicling the war, and all that it was.  Interactive, big, really well done.

the monument from the parking lot

Kansas City, as seen from the monument

part of the "frieze" on the wall in front of the memorial

After touring the various other buildings at the memorial, we headed down the hill to the train station (now a museum, restaurant, exhibition space, and post office).  We spent a little time looking around, hit the gift shop, debated going to the chocolate exhibit (at which the lady behind the ticket counter talked us out of doing...NOT the best "tour guide representative" K.C. has to offer), TRIED to find the Warhol exhibit (not very hard though...neither of us are big Warhol fans...) then we headed to "Pot Pie", a cool little neighborhood restaurant near the hotel.  We were TEMPTED to actually GET the pot pie, but ended up having the pan seared chicken and mashed potatoes...very good, and the restaurant was VERY fun!

We headed to the Kemper Museum of Modern Art after dinner to look around.  I have to admit that I DO NOT like modern art.  I don't get it!  A brown square on a black background is just a brown square on a black matter WHAT artsy title someone gives it!  Ditto paint splatters and blobby sculpture...ick!  LUCKILY, they had a special exhibit of paintings by the Wyeth men (M.C., Andrew, and James).  Otherwise, it would have been COMPLETELY awful!!!

We found a World Market after leaving the museum, so were able to stock up on stuff we are no longer able to get in the twin cities, since they CLOSED all of our stores...then went back to the hotel to find a parking place (the hotel shares a parking lot with a VERY popular burger joint, and it's not unusual to drive around for a half an hour before getting a spot).

The "vehicle" for the Westport Flea Market and Bar and Grill

It was a LONG night, as there were LOTS of noisy people in the rooms around and above us, and a bar SOMEWHERE in the vicinity had LOUD music piped OUTSIDE until about 2:00 in the morning...ugh!

Because of last night, and our HORRIBLE stay at the Holiday Inn in Des Moines a few weeks ago (maybe it's just Holiday Inn's that are bad??!!), I've come up with "Jeff's THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND When You Stay at a Hotel"...

1.  NEVER talk in any common it HALLWAY, outside the ELEVATORS, by the ICE MACHINE, or anywhere else people MIGHT be...because THEY ARE, and they DO NOT care what you have to say...ESPECIALLY when it's 2:00 in the FREAKING morning.  From the time you enter the hotel, to the time you QUIETLY close the door to your room...SHUT THE HELL UP!!!

2.  Leash and vocally restrain your children.  They are LOUD (!), and they WILL "make a break for it"...given the opportunity!!!

3. Keep the television (and sexcapades!) down when you get to your room.  The walls are THINNER than you think, and we DO NOT CARE TO HEAR WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!!!

4.  Don't wear clogs, or cowboy boots, or military boots, or skis (or WHATEVER the hell it is you are wearing) in the room above other people when you are walking around!  SERIOUSLY, did you bring your pet elephant on the trip with you?  CRIMINY!!!!

5.  STAY HOME!  You certainly aren't making OUR stay a restful one!!!!

Okay...done with the snarky...for now...

Today, we got up, checked out of the hotel, maneuvered our way around the Kansas City Marathon, ate at ANOTHER Waffle House (near the airport), and actually made it in time to get on an earlier flight (we even got FIRST CLASS seats!), and are now back in the cities, where we have the rest of today and tomorrow to BE LAZY, and get ready for the coming work week.

It should be an interesting week...I have a sore throat AND a headache...we'll see where THAT goes...

Hope YOUR weekend is progressing nicely, by this point, and that YOU are/were able to do something interesting!!!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009



...on October 10th??!!!!!!

The reminaing plants on my deck are SO not going to make it through this!!!

Hope it's warm and sunny where YOU are!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Out With the Old...

...and in with the new...

I bought a new sofa!  It's gorgeous, but I'm mourning the old one a little bit.  It was the first piece of furniture I bought after getting the children's librarian job in Fairfield, after spending NINE MONTHS living with mom and dad, after moving back from Japan.

First pieces of furniture are...APPARENTLY...a little like old friends.  You grow to love them, and you grow comfortable with them, and you APPARENTLY have a difficult time parting with them. 

I remember picking it out TWENTY YEARS AGO.  I remember dad and I trying to lug that HEAVY, HEAVY sofa up to my upstairs apartment (oh how I WISH we'd thought to take the mattress out before doing so!).  I remember how AWESOME it looked in that old, bare, white room...shiny, clean, BEAUTIFUL.

I also, however, remember how FREAKING uncomfortable the "bed" part of the thing was.  You had to sleep "kitty corner" from upper right to lower left, or you PAID with a sore back for DAYS.  I also remember how Duane HATED how narrow and low it sat (which was a BIG part of why I bought a new one).

It served me well, and I really did think it was one of the most comfortable pieces of furniture EVER.  It's currently wheeling down interstate 35 in the back of mom and dad's pickup...bound for the auction house in Ringgold County.  Hopefully, it'll find a new home, and will live out it's days with nice, calm, careful people!

I know...get over it...IT'S JUST A SOFA!!!!'s a picture of the "old"...

and here's a picture of the "new"...

UNFORTUNATELY, the arm chair's days are now numbered.  APPARENTLY, like everything else these days, the sofa is SUPERSIZED, and the chair now looks like children's furniture.  Luckily, I'm not as emotionally attached to it...I bought it at Wal-Mart for eighty bucks to have something to sit on in the bedroom of that same apartment.  It's shiny, and blue, and looks a little TOO early 90's...'s hoping YOU have a nice, comfortable sofa...whether it be new OR old, and that all of YOUR furniture is the same size!!!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

"Wicked" Weekend!

What a weekend!  I FINALLY got to see the musical "Wicked" in Des Moines!  I've wanted to see it for a couple of YEARS now, but either the timing wasn't right, or the finances weren't, so it never happened (even tough I think it's been in the Twin Cities THREE times since it started touring!).

What can I say...except WOW!  What an amazing show!  The cast was STELLAR (except for the guy who played Fiero, who tended to go sharp whenever he sang his high notes...NOT pleasant).  We had the understudy (or "stand by" as the program listed her) for Elphaba, but she was REALLY, REALLY good!  The actress portraying Guh-linda was HYSTERICAL, and even channeled a little bit of Mary Catherine Gallagher during "Popular"...she was AWESOME!

The set was amazing, the costumes were FABULOUS, and it was truly a WONDERFUL show.  I sat next to Tena, and we were BOTH mouthing the lyrics to SEVERAL of the songs (I hid behind my program to do so...especially sicne the only songs I knew were Guh-linda's and Elphaba's)!!!

I REALLY liked how the musical wove the "classic" movie version into this story!  Origins of the tin woodman, the scarecrow, the cowardly lion...even the flying monkeys were cleverly touched upon, as were the departure of the wizard from Oz, Dorothy's ruby slippers, the Emerald City, and the whole "I'm melting" bit...VERY clever.  Not a seamless fit, but charming and clever enough to make it work!

The weekend was a blast all the way around...from staying at the Holiday Inn...where a drag queen pageant was taking place in the ballroom on the top floor (!!), to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory with good friends from Fairfield, to walking amongst hot air balloons being "fired up" for a leukemia walk, to brunch with Kim and Ashley on Sunday, fun, fun!!!

The only NOT FUN part was the HORRIBLE night at the hotel...the elevator was located right outside our door (and people JUST DON'T GET IT that there are guests BEHIND all of the doors in that long hallway trying to sleep, and, when getting off the elevator at 1:30 in the morning should NOT TALK AT ALL UNTIL THEY GET INSIDE THEIR OWN FREAKING ROOMS!!!).  It didn't really matter, I guess, because across the room from the door, outside our window, interstate 235 was continually rumbling by... Noisy...ALL NIGHT LONG, and not a very good night's sleep.

Oh well...all things was a TRULY magical weekend!  GREAT SHOW, GREAT FRIENDS, and some GREAT Des Moines...who knew??!!

Here are some pictures...

Kim and me

Kim, Ashley, and me

Ashley and Duane

Duane and Kim

Tena and me outside the Civic Center

Duane and me

Andrew and Tena

Heather, Andrew, Duane, and Tena

Hope YOUR weekend contained some WICKED fun as well!!!!