Sunday May 5th, 2013.
I just finished my second half-marathon and I feel on top of the world. I'm elated that I was able to finish since in 2012 I had my shin injury and couldn't run. I pick up a snack from the finish line, wrap myself up in those shiny foil blankets they pass out so I look like a walking Chipotle burrito, and head to the family meet-up station. I beat my mom there so I waited a few minutes for her but I'll never forget the smile she gave me when we locked eyes. I can clearly recall it now as I type this and the memory brings a smile to my face. She is beyond proud and holds her arms out to me, practically wiggling with anticipation to give me a congratulatory hug. I have no idea what either of us said. All I can remember is the look on her face, the warmth of her hug, and her pride beaming in all directions. That's all I need to remember, though, because that in itself speaks for the type of mother my mom is.
Tuesday May 7th, 2013.
My mom stays home from work today. She woke up with the worst migraine of her life and she thinks that she slept on her neck funny. A couple years back, she slipped at work and hit her neck which messed it up pretty badly. It's an old injury that has flared up every so often so she thinks it's something harmless. She stays in bed all day completely miserable and there's nothing I can do to help her. Advil doesn't take away the pain, food makes her nauseous, and she can hardly move without being in extreme pain. Still, neither of us suspects it's anything more than her neck and she tries to sleep it off.
Wednesday May 8th, 2013.
It's 3am and I'm taking my nightly bathroom break. As I leave the bathroom I hear a small voice ask, "Sweetheart, if you can find it in your heart, could you please get me some crackers?". She sounds so pitiful that there's no way I could refuse. Looking back, it breaks my heart because I realize just how much pain she was in. It's not that I didn't think she was in pain before, it's just she has an extremely low tolerance for pain and I figured she wasn't able to handle it as well as I could. I ask her how she's feeling and she says she's worse and that the medicine doesn't help at all. I go back to bed still completely unaware of what's about to unfold.
I'm dressed to go for my morning run. I check in her room to see how she is and she tells me that she wants to go to the hospital. I ask her if she wants to go now but she tells me that she's not ready and can't move yet because of the pain. She tells me to go for my run and see how she feels when she gets back. She's not in any better shape once I'm back so we decide to go.
The next part I can remember so clearly. The nurse assessed my mom and sends her for a CT scan so she can look at her neck. My mom lays on the bed in agony until the PA returns with the results. My mom is expecting cortisone shots for her neck and to be sent home. I can remember sitting there thinking about what I wanted for lunch once we got home, and the groceries we needed for the week. My life was so completely ordinary and routine before the PA spoke. This is the part where my memory fails because the first part I had no idea what the medical terms meant and then my mind went blank in shock. I remember the PA first saying something about a subarachnoid hemorrhage and my mind starts reeling. I think: "subarachnoid, isn't that an area of the brain? and hemorrhage sounds like something to do with blood...". I'm utterly confused for a few seconds and then I hear the doozy word that sends my stomach plummeting to the ground. I never thought that one single word could inspire such fear as it did for me that day. The PA says quite clearly: "caused by an aneurysm". Aneurysm?? But that wasn't possible. My mom was only 48 and she was completely fine before all of this. I sat there in denial as my mom looked over at me, in total shock. Then, I saw the fear sink behind her eyes as the reality hit her. She is a nurse so she understood instantly what was going on. I couldn't have given you the proper medical definition of an aneurysm at that time but I knew enough that this was a deadly situation and that my mom was in danger of losing her life.
I'm going to summarize the next part otherwise this post would be about 20 pages long. My mom was transferred to Presbyterian Hospital and miraculously survived her surgery and defied all the odds against her. A few weeks after her surgery we had to take her off the ventilator because we didn't expect her to recover and we were told she would not survive since she couldn't breathe on her own. The next morning after we took her off the ventilator, she was breathing on her own and pushed through. I couldn't believe it but here we are a year later and she's come so far. It's been the toughest year of my life and I can't even imagine what it's been like for my mom and sister. They have been the ones in the thick of it while she's been recovering these past few months. I'm so proud of both of them and they have impressed me time and time again. My sister has been so strong, encouraging and persevered in the face of all the challenges that have gone along with taking care of my mom. She's seen my mom through all her struggles and ups and downs since the first day. She has handled herself with such grace and maturity that I never would have expected. We were both forced to grow up in this situation because my mom needed us.
We owe a lot of our success to our family because we were able to lean on them in these difficult times. My aunt and grandma met me immediately at Presby Hospital and stayed there with me until around 11pm. They stayed by my side for 11 hours without even a thought and that's not even the end of it (they're also on my dad's side so they're not even related to my mom). Both of them came every day to the hospital with us, helped us figure out my mom's insurance stuff, comforted us when we were scared, and stood by us even when we thought that we hit our breaking points. My aunt and grandma are both such strong women and I respect them immensely. They helped my sister and I get through everything with my mom and I have no idea where I would be right now without their help. Their support and love kept me sane and I owe so much to them.
The point of this post is to celebrate my mom's recovery and the simple fact that she is alive. I remember so clearly the night when it hit my sister and I that my mom may not make it. I was sitting on my bed and Amanda came into my room and sat down with me. We held each other and cried saying that we didn't want it to just be the two of us, we weren't ready yet. My mom had this morbid saying that she wasn't going to make it to 50 because she had this bad feeling that something would happen. That's between her and God because I don't know what He laid on her heart, but obviously she felt something was coming and just didn't know what. We had always thought she was being dramatic when she said she wouldn't make it but in this moment, when we were holding each other, it was a mixture of desperate fear of losing her and frustration that she was always right.
I felt as though my world had come crashing down around me and I clutched at anything and everything that connected her to my life. She had left me a voicemail about a month before when she was driving down to visit my sister in Tennessee. Each night before bed I would listen to it because I just needed to hear her voice. I needed to hear her calling me sweetheart, saying she was calling to check on me, to have a good day at class, but most importantly that she loved me. Her last goodbye echoed in my mind on a daily basis. Before she was taken away by the EMTs to get transferred for her surgery, she had them stop so she could talk to me. Without saying anything she took my hand and whispered through tears "I love you, Sweetheart". I couldn't contain myself at that point and the tears flowed. I didn't want to lose my cool and cry in front of all those people but I couldn't help myself. From that point on, no matter what happened I knew that I would treasure those last words from her. Thanks be to God that didn't have to be the last time I ever saw her alive and well. She is truly a living walking miracle and a testimony of answered prayers. People can think what they want and argue with me but they didn't see my mom go through this whole process. I have never been so sure of my faith in my entire life after going through this experience. There comes a point in situations like this where you yourself fail and then from there it's all riding on faith. I hit my breaking point and after that I was leaning entirely on God because my human strength failed me.
To wrap this up I just want to say that life is so, so precious. I know I sound like an old lady lecturing someone much younger but really and truly each day is a gift and we have a horrible habit of overlooking that fact. This whole experience has taught me to slow down and appreciate the little things and let the minor matters roll off my back because I could be off a lot worse. I have learned how to count my blessings and love the little things. Trust me, those little things add up to a lot. I'm not saying I'm perfect at it or that I still don't take stuff for granted, it's just I've learned to slow down sometimes. You know that old saying "stop and smell the roses"? Well it's something we should all take the time to do! I'm so thankful for my mom's recovery and love taking the time to just enjoy life with her. It's so delicate and you never know what's around the bend. My life had been completely normal up until Wednesday morning when we found out what was truly going to happen. I know that people might always think "it can't happen to me" but honestly you never know what can or can't happen. Each new day I have with my mom and sister is a blessing and I thank God for all He has given us.
This was taken today! Doesn't my momma look wonderful?!
If I had to picture my favorite, though, it'd have to be this one! This pretty much sums up my life pretty accurately. It's a candid shot and none of us are ready for it not to mention the fact that my aunt is covering the lens to block out my sister because she knows it would annoy her! This is my life in a nutshell and I wouldn't trade it for the world :)