Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Forgive me . . .

this lengthy post. It's something that has been churning inside me for too long.

Imagine the day. It's the week before Thanksgiving (irony?), and I'm at school, sitting in the computer lab. See, my room was taken by another teacher during my conference and planning period, and I hung in the lab while waiting for my next class. I called Bill at home . . . he was supposed to be hunting, but had hit a deer with his truck on the way to "the hunt" and was home waiting for the bodyshop to call. We hung up the phone, and about 10 minutes later . . .

The OTP came into the computer lab. "Kay, we've been looking for you. There was an emergency call from Sanford El. You need to call them right away. And if you need a sub, let me know." Can you imagine the fear in my heart? Here were my thoughts. My brother and other sister were taking my dad to a major medical facility, Ann Arbor, for a second opinion on a health issue. (And that is a whole separate post, my friend.) Something MUST have happened with dad. And they called Beth (my sister, the teacher at Sanford Elementary) and she is calling me to tell me something is wrong.

I dialed the phone, calling Beth, to find out what was wrong. Imagine my surprise when it is the OTP at Sanford Elementary. She informed me that Beth had been taken to the hospital, that she had collapsed at school. I didn't even know what to say. I'm sure I blathered on for a bit, casting around in my shocked mind, what do I even ask? Finally it came to me. "Was Beth conscious when she was taken to ER?" Answer . . . no. "So it's really bad?" Answer . . . yes. I almost collapsed myself. Problem was, to leave school I needed to leave lesson plans for the last two hours of the day. And call the rest of the family who was on their way home from a medical appointment which I knew was stressful enough.

Then the clincher. I called the office to say yes, I needed to leave, and I needed a sub. When I was about to hang up, the OTP stopped me and said, you have another call. From your nephew. Now this is Beth's only child. Who is a deputy two hours away from our town. I can't even describe the depth of the relationship between Beth and her son. Words don't quite cover it. He was driving, much too fast I might add, back home to be with his mom. Some resourceful staff member at Beth's school called his police department, and convinced them to give personal information (phone number) so he could be informed of the emergency. Now I love this nephew. He is like my son. So the impact? No words for it.

And get myself out of my building without totally falling apart. Yeah, right. I was basically hyperventilating. Not pretty. Panic? Yep. Pulled a plan out of my ass, and Bill was home (remember, he hit a deer with his truck that same morning) and met me outside to drive me to the ER. It was a blur. I remember seeing Deb, Beth's best friend from school. And Charlie . . . her principal. Why was he looking so pale? And my nephew's dad. Beth's ex-husband. And his wife. Surreal? You betcha. "So what is going on?" I remember asking. No one was saying much at all.

They sent in the chaplain to speak with us. Never a good sign. Not good, he said. They needed to shock her 7 times to get her heart beating. And she was still unable to stabilize, not breathe on her own. Was her family all here? "No, I answered. The rest of our family is on the way from Ann Arbor. Her son is driving (like a maniac) and should be here in an hour. Her husband is on the road in somewhere in the south." Immediately he said, "you need to get them all here ASAP." OMG. He visited about three more times. Meanwhile we are in contact with her husband, my family, and Emily. We called her at college to explain what had happened. Poor Bill. He was given most of those tasks, and he was a wreck.

Because she couldn't breathe on her own, someone was manually bagging her the entire time in the ER. The rest of my family arrived, and one Dr. came in. What he said was a blur . . . "30% function left in her heart . . . quality of life . . . she's in a coma." Those were the lowpoints. And have I mentioned my sister? She is 12 years older than me. The other teacher in the family. My other mother. Can I just say DEVASTATED? Words fail me yet again.

They moved her up to ICU . . . tried to convince us all to see her in the ER while being bagged . . . we wanted her on a ventilator. ASAP. Weird shuffle to move cars, move to a different place in the hospital. Once we made it into the waiting room her son arrived. Think agonizing pain. Multiply it by 1000. That's how I felt. Then the chaplain comes in again. We'd like you to move to another room to speak with the Dr.s. You'll be more comfortable there. Well, I know what THAT room is all about. We sat in that room when it was decided whether Bill's mom was taken off life support. So begins the long walk down that same hall. The one we traveled when Janet (Bill's mom) died.

Luckily we had an IC nurse who came in and took charge. She talked to the whole (devastated) family. Emily showed up, having grabbed a last-minute ride from a friend. The nurse looked around the room as she spoke, engaging with all of us. When she was done, we all sat in shock. We could visit her a few at a time. I wandered out into the hallway, trying to keep myself together. She approached me and asked, "who is the older gentleman with you?" "My father," I answered. She said, "get him out of here. Now. Or your family is going to have another thing to worry about." Wise woman. My dad and Beth are connected. It's hard to describe the level of connectedness. You just can't. And my dad was health impaired. And my dad lost his mother when she was very young. BAD NEWS for my dad. Add his frail health you have a recipe for disaster.

Beth wasn't responding to pain. Not a good sign. Person by person we went in to see her. Family came, family left. Every Dr. said the same thing. Get her husband here ASAP. And he was calling us, his mother, and the ER non-stop. I can't even imagine what that drive was like! Sat in the waiting room all night. Family, friends, coworkers, Beth's former students, nonstop. All night long. And the story unfolded . . .

She was at school, in between classes. She called her DH on her cellphone. Pressed send, and collapsed. Meanwhile, her principal was walking out of the office when a parent stopped in. Her student had forgotten their gym shoes. Charlie, the principal, volunteered to take them to Beth's classroom. When he arrived, she was collapsed on the floor. He performed CPR. 30+ years in education, CPR training, first time he ever used it. Add to that the head custodian in the building, volunteer fire/rescue was available, and responded right away. Plus the head mechanic for the school district was in the bus garage. He was the lead CPR instructor for the fire dept. He responded right away. And the small town where Beth works has only one EMT/Ambulance. Which just happened to be ready to respond, less than five minutes away.

And in the ICU, Beth started to wake up. Early prognosis? No speech, no motor skills left, no memory, NOT GOOD. What did she do? She woke up, and told us about a dream about a family relative, and described the setting perfectly. There goes THAT diagnosis. Every minute of every hour of every day, slowly she improved. She proved every single thing that we heard would happen to someone in her state WRONG. Visitors of family, friends, students were CONSTANT. In three days she was moved to CCU, then to a neighboring hospital for a pacemaker/defibrilator within a week.

Off to physical therapy, and she was able to return to teaching to finish out her last year in education, which had been planned well before this incident. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? I can't. Still to this day, I am thankful. Less than a year later, and there is not a day that goes by that I don't thank God for our miracle. Our Beth.

And if you made it this far, you deserve a medal. And Beth? If you read this? I hope it's not too upsetting. I Now go see the next post.


Peggy said...

OMG I have chills after reading that. I'm so glad she made it and is doing well. I'm sure you hold her tight and hug her.

God bless your family. And I'm keeping your dad in my prayers.

Adrienne said...

OMG!!!! I am so glad she is ok!!!!

Sherri said...

Wow! I have teary eyes. An amazing story with a happy ending, thankfully. Your sister is beautiful!
You are blessed with great journaling abilities!!!! Thanks for sharing the story with us.

~Donna~ said...

Thanks for sharing that story, Kay. As a critical care nurse, I am always hoping for that miracle and rarely see it.
I'm glad that things went so well with your sister.

Tonia said...

Wow, wow , wow. Thank goodness for miracles. What a scary story with an amazing ending.

Cindy Lee said...

Praise the Lord that your sister is okay! God's plan for her is not over, that's for sure! Thanks so much for sharing this - I cried and Praised the Lord for your family!

Vicki Chrisman said...

You have quite a way with words, my friend! Amazing!