the story of the weekend, epilogue

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it might not seem like a big deal, but for those two days that my dad was in ICU, i didn’t pick up my camera.  instead i turned to my faith and to the sky for comfort.

today at focusing on life, i’m reflecting on my photography and letting myself off the hook.

happy tuesday friends!


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the story of the weekend, part ii

saturday morning, i woke before the alarm.  i slept relatively well, which given the circumstances was a huge blessing.  i got up and drank my coffee.  at one point i had all three pets sitting on or near me in my chair.

i washed my face and brushed my teeth.  dug around in the dryer for my yoga pants that i had washed and dried before going to bed.  a new day, a new ponytail.  and by 7:30 a.m. i was out the door.

my mom and i got to the hospital around the same time.  we were pleased to see that the oxygen level on the respirator had been lowered again overnight.  our new day nurse, josh, gave us the update from the night before….no problems, no changes.  and he also related a message from chris….she looked after him as promised.

after an hour or so, the hospitalist came to visit and to share the results of my dad’s most recent blood work….his blood gas levels had returned to normals ranges and they were hoping to remove the ventilator tube by that afternoon.

also that morning, they had started bringing my dad’s sedation level down…just one of the many things that needed to happen before they could take him off of the ventilator.  they needed to feel confident that he would not fight the tube.  they needed to be able to communicate with my dad and have him follow some simple instructions.  and so finally, around  8:30 that morning, my dad came out of sedation for the first time and he opened his eyes!  my mom and i cried tears of joy!

josh and the respiratory tech, james, stood on either side of the bed.  my dad was able to nod his head.  he raised his left arm and wiggled his right toes on command.  he had passed first hurdle towards getting off the ventilator.

for the next couple of hours, my dad gained more and more awareness…as he came to, he was, understandably, confused and disoriented.  my mom and i tried to explain to him what happened, but as soon he would drift back off to ‘sleep’ he would forget what we told him.  we repeated the story several times that morning.

it seems like so much of that day was spent waiting…waiting on tests, waiting on orders, waiting on doctors.  but finally around 10:00, james came in to start the next step…breathing tests.  the first test was to make sure my dad could breath on his own, and so for one hour they turned off the ‘breathing’ part of the respirator and monitored his respiration.

during this test, my dad was mostly coherent.. to the degree that they let us remove the mits on his hands.  and my dad seemed to understand (at least to some degree) what was going on.  and then came the questions.  in his own brand of sign language – letters written in the air – he asked, what happened?  what day was it?  why was he on the ventilator?  when would they take it out?

that was the question of the day….was the tube coming out and if so, when.

after that hour passed, the next step in the process was to check his lung function.  james performed a series of tests…asking my dad to inhale, exhale, ‘blow, blow, blow’.  all of which my dad passed.  the final test was a ‘leak test’ to check the state of his throat and upper airways.  it was horrendous to witness them forcing him to cough and gag.  unfortunately, during that test they found that his throat was somewhat inflamed and swollen.  another shot of steroids was prescribed.  then more waiting.

it was a only minor setback, but my heart felt a little deflated.  i wanted that tube out.  i wanted my dad back.  my mom was the voice of reason though…she had made peace with letting the tube stay in as long at needed to.  and to offset my restlessness, she prescribed some tough love of her own on me and sent me outside for some fresh air.

once outside the hospital, i walked to the park nearby.  i sat on a bench. i cried a few tears.  i let the sun shine on my face.  i let the blue sky calm my nerves.

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finally, around 4:00 that afternoon, james came in to check my dad’s lungs one more time.  another round of breathing and blowing and gagging and coughing.  the awful gurgling sounds were music to our ears…the leak test was a success.  the pulmonologist on call checked my dad’s lungs one more time and gave the OK to remove ventilator.

josh and james once again set up on either side my dad’s bed.  my mom was sitting down – her friend paula held one hand and i held the other.  and within a few seconds, the ventilator tube was out.  we held our breath as my dad caught his.  josh placed my dad on supplemental oxygen. james packed up the ventilator and all the tunes.  as he left he gave my dad strict instructions to not speak for one hour.  then my mom rushed to his side and grabbed his hand.

thank you, Lord.

for all of the anxiety and anticipation leading up to this moment, it happened so fast and with so little fanfare.  which i’m not complaining!….don’t get me wrong….because it was a huge relief…to all of us.  and over the course of the next hour or so, we shared the good news with our friends and family. my brother, who had driven 1200 miles to get home, made it to the hospital around 6:00 that evening.

i came home around 8:00 that night to a clean kitchen and hideaway pizza.  tripp, as usual, was my knight in shining armor – holding down the fort, taking care of things at home at all day.  we watched a little tv then i took a long, hot shower…letting the events of the previous two days wash down the drain.

so fast forward to tonight – monday night – it’s been a long road that, at times, has felt a bit like suspended animation.  but my dad continues to improve.  they moved him out of ICU this afternoon and he is off the supplemental oxygen.  he was resting comfortably when i checked in with my tonight.  a few more days in the hospital most likely.  but definitely on the road to recovery.

so, so thankful.

as i wrap up the story of this weekend, i want to tell you that i really debated about sharing this story in so much detail.  most of my reasons revolve around my dad and my respect for his privacy.  but this is my story too…..and there was this part of me that felt strongly about being authentic and honest.  to tell the hard stories…something that i have not been very successful with in the past.

it has been cathartic to be able to put this experience into words.

finally i would like to thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers.  they were  a source of comfort and strength for my mom and my entire family, and we are profoundly and eternally grateful.

love, kelly

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the story the weekend, part 1

i think it’s safe to say that, anytime the phone rings unexpectedly at 6:15 a.m., it’s probably not going to be good news. which was the case this past friday morning.

tripp picked up the home phone from the charger on his side of the bed and handed it over to me.  i turned on my bed-side lamp…the caller ID was from hillcrest medical center.   i answered the phone and on the other end of the line, a doctor was calling to let me know that my dad had been transported to the ICU and had been intubated and put on a ventilator.  he told me my dad was in critical condition.

i immediately went on the search for my cleanest pair of sweatpants while trying to dial my parent’s phone number.  my mom groggily answered the phone and i relayed the information the doctor had given me.  about that time, the nurse on my dad’s floor at the hospital was calling my mom, so she switched over and i finished getting dressed.  my called me back confirming what the doctor had told me…as i was fumbling to find some socks, mom said to me, “the nurse said that i needed someone to drive me to the hospital.”

by this time, tripp was up and heading to the shower.  i kissed him goodby and went downstairs to the kitchen.  i filled up my travel coffee mug, pulled my pink ball cap on over my ponytail, and locked the backdoor behind me.  i backed my car out of the driveway and made my way to the highway for the 20 minutes drive to my parent’s house.

as i drove, i replayed the events of the day before over and over in my mind.  mom had called me thursday morning to tell me that she was bringing daddy to the ER…he had been battling a chest cold all week, but it finally got to the point where he was having trouble breathing…he was experiencing what he calls “the elephant on my chest”.  the ER confirmed that he had developed pneumonia in both lungs and the doctor informed them that he needed some extra support to help him get his breathing and blood oxygen stats back on track.  thursday afternoon my dad was admitted to the hospital.

it was around 7:30 or so thursday evening when i left the hospital.  my dad had just finished eating his dinner – a turkey burger with a side of couscous/quinoa salad…my dad was not so not impressed, but considering he hadn’t eaten all day, he wasn’t going to complain.  too much.  my mom left the hospital not long after me and texted me when she got home.  said daddy was resting comfortably and was watching tv when she left.

he was doing ok when we left…what in the world happened??”  that’s the question i kept asking in my mind on the drive to pick up my mom.

by this time it was a little before 7:00 a.m.  the sun was coming up and all the way to mom’s i watched as the first rays of light leaked into the indigo sky.  as the sun broke up over the horizon, there was,at first, a slight blush on the clouds.  but as it continued to rise up, the entire eastern sky was soon ablaze in gold and crimson.

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if you have read my blog for very long, you might know that i have a thing for sunrises and sunsets.  to me they are a reminder of a good and loving God…a faithful God…merciful and  trustworthy.  and to have this brilliant sunrise in my face on my entire drive felt like God was there with me.  and it was a comfort to feel His presence with me and giving me strength and courage in my hour of need.

once i got to mom’s, i helped her get her stuff together and we turned around and made the trip back to the hospital.  the morning rush hour was in full swing, but we managed to make it to the hospital by 7:45.  i dropped mom my mom off at the front entrance and then parked my car.  i made the short walk up to the entrance and then followed the maze through the hospital and up the elevators and found my way to my dad’s room on the ICU.

i turned the corner, and through the sliding glass door i saw the ICU nurse explaining my dad’s situation to my mom.  once i walked in, i saw my dad.

the tubes, the wires, the machines….it was shocking…..i have never witnessed anyone hooked up to a ventilator. it took my breath away.  and for a moment, i was afraid and i wanted to cry.  but i remembered the sunrise….i took a deep breath, and turned my attention to the kind and caring nurse, nikki, who was checking the wires and lines connected to my dad.  she explained that he was completely sedated so that he would not attempt to remove the ventilator tube.  she showed us the giant mits on his hands….one more level of protection against being able to pull out the tube….and how if those didn’t work, he would have to be restrained.

once my mom and i got settled and up to speed with where we were, i went downstairs to floor below to find donna, my dad’s nurse from the night before.  thankfully, she had not left yet and was able to shed some light on what had happened overnight… to help my mom and me fill in the gaps.

donna explained that she had gone in to check on my dad at 2:30 a.m.  he was receiving a breathing treatment (he was getting them every six hours) and seemed to be doing well.  but around 4:30 a.m. he was having trouble breathing again.  since he was not able to having another breathing treatment, donna called in the doctor who ordered a steroid shot. they waited for a few minutes for the shot to take effect, but my dad continued to struggle to breath.  it was then that the doctor felt it was necessary to take him to the ICU to place him on a bi-pap machine (sort of like those machines that help with snoring/sleep apnea) to get his breathing under control.  during transport however, my dad started vomiting which presented the added risk of aspirating this into his lungs.  so given the state of my dad’s breathing, his decreased oxygen saturation, and the current status of his blood tests, the doctor made the call to intubate my dad and place him on the ventilator.

okay…so this is how we got here.

as the morning went on – i swear time seems to evaporate in the hospital…one minute it is 8:00 and the next minute it’s 10:45 – a myriad of doctors, nurses, and techs cycled through my dad’s room.  nikki continued to monitor the machines and my dad’s pulmonologist was brought in to access his condition (my dad has asthma which was a huge factor in his chest cold escalating into pneumonia).

one of nikki’s priorities friday morning, was to find the ‘sweet spot’ in my dad’s sedation.  she wanted to keep him comfortable and prevent him from trying to remove his ventilator tube, but she wanted to be able to wake him and have him follow some simple commands. this turned out to be a challenge on friday.  so he stayed completely sedated.

my mom spent the morning updating friends and family on my dad’s condition.  she kept in close contact with my brother who was driving a load back to oklahoma from cheyenne, wyoming…driving as fast as legally possible and for as long as his log book would allow.

later that morning, my mom’s friend paula came to visit.  i went and got us all some food although none of us really felt like eating.  we sat out in the waiting area while they ran some tests on my dad.  while we waiting and talked, my mom decided that she would let paula take her home – she had rushed out of the house so fast and wanted to get a few things so that she could spend the night at the hospital.  plus this way she could get her car and bring it up to the hospital as well.  so after mom left, i went back and sat in my dad’s room with him.

there was, as always, a frenzy of activity around the nurses station.  and in my dad’s room there were the rhythmic sounds of all the various equipment at work….the gentle drone of the ventilator, the regular hum of the blood pressure cuff, and the alternating fill and release of the circulation cuffs around my dad’s calves.  but even still, it was peaceful.  and so i took a few quiet moments to text my friends…to share with them what happened and to ask for their prayers.

my mom got back to the hospital around 3:30 friday afternoon.  during the course of the afternoon they were able to lower the amount of oxygen my dad was receiving.  he got his regular doses of antibiotics and steroids.  nikki came in to check on him periodically.  she assured us that things were going well….”baby steps”….that’s what she said.  in the ICU it’s baby steps.  and daddy was moving in the right direction.

i left the hospital around 4:30 and came home to a big hug from tripp.  he asked about my dad and i filled him in on the day’s events.  i called kelsey and updated her as well.  then later tripp and i went to dinner.  we sat at the bar so that we could get in and out quickly….the drunk couple sitting next to me was especially annoying given the circumstances.   about halfway through our meal, we placed an order to go to bring back to my mom at the hospital.

as we made our way to ICU, i showed tripp all of my landmarks for finding my way around – south elevators to the sixth floor, go straight at the restrooms by the sign with the big, green leaf.  past the wall of certificates, right at the big painting.

by this time, it was shift change and we met our night nurse, chris. my dad was down to 40% on the respirator which was another baby step in the right direction.  and given his overall lung improvement, they felt confident that they would be able to remove the ventilator tube on saturday…we all breathed a huge sigh of relief.

around 9:30 that evening, chris came in to check on my dad.  and then she directed her attention to my mom…she was prescribing some very sincere, but tough love.  chris urged my mom to go home to get some rest, and after a few convincing arguments, my mom realized that it was for the best.  chris promised to call if anything changed and she promised “i’ll take care of him like he’s my dad.”

i reached over the hospital bed and gingerly hugged my dad, and then i watched as my mom kissed his forehead and squeezed his hand.  i put my arm around her as we walked out towards the elevators.  then tripp and i walked her to her car.  we said, “i love you” and promised each other that we would try to rest as much as possible.

to be continued…


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scenes from a saturday

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it’s one of my favorite things about living in oklahoma.  and especially this year thanks to señor niño….a mild weekend in january is always such a treat.

this past saturday was an ordinary weekend day at home.  there isn’t really much gardening to do, but we cleaned up a bit around the yard.  we trimmed back our perennial grasses.  tripp cut back the crape myrtles.  i deadheaded the pansies in the front yard.

i am going to try to remember this enthusiasm for basic yard maintenance later on this year.

it didn’t really matter what we did though.  we just wanted to be outside as much possible. soaking up some much needed sunshine.

but i know that winter isn’t done with us quite yet…that’s ok…because whenever spring finally does show up, we’ll be ready for it.

hope you got to enjoy a little sunshine this weekend.  happy monday friends!

love, kelly

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around here

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around here i am in utter disbelief that we are at the end of january.

dear 2016…we talked about this…

around here we enjoyed a mostly sunny week.  which means that if you were looking for me between the hours of 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., you would have found me outside with my camera facing west.

around here, i am grateful for the longer days.  grateful for golden, evening light.

around here, i’m not the only one who is on the lookout for sunny spots in the house.

around here, i have relished time spent with friends this week.

around here i am grateful for the mood-boosting, head-clearwing, perspective-giving wonder drug that is running.

around here i am thankful for bright, sunny mornings and robins, cardinals, and bluejays (oh my!)

around here i feel like i’m back in the groove.  finding my rhythm.  staying afloat.  striving less, enjoying more.

around here i am thankful this tiny corner of the interwebs where i can come to sort things out.  and as always….so, so thankful for letting me share it with you.

happy friday friends!!

love, kelly


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