Saturday, April 23, 2011

I can do it!

Last night, my son, who works with handicapped adults was asked if he would do a second shift at the hospital with one of his clients who has been in the hospital for the past couple of days. This would mean that he would be working a double shift. He would not have time to get dinner. So my daughter & I offered to bring it to him. I packed him snacks, a sandwich etc. to bring up to him at the hospital. While we were enroute to drop his dinner off to him he called to tell us where he was in the hospital. I stopped dead in my tracks when my daughter relayed the message. "Mom, he is on 18S, icu, room 132!" I immediately asked her to tell him could he just come down & get the stuff from us? She relayed that message to him & he replied, that he could not leave his client. I began to see, This was the same hospital & now the very same floor/unit that my son was on when he was critically injured almost 10 months ago. I'm not sure I can go up on that floor yet. I had not really thought about it till just then. But, once I heard the floor, all those memories just started flooding back to me. BY this point we were now pulling up in front of the hospital, Stony Brook Hospital & Medical Center, LEVEL 1 Trauma Center. We were now driving past the ER entrance, trying to find a place where my daughter could just let me out so we did not have to go into the paid parking garage. My daugther looks over at me & I have now begun to cry. I was in complete panic mode. My heart was racing, I could actually see us going through all the things we went through the night of the accident, where we parked, what emotions we were going through. The sense of hopelessness I had felt that night, the panic I felt knowing that my son was so badly injured, knowing his injuries were critical b/c I was at the scene with him. I tried to regain my composure, I tried to explain quickly to my daughter why I was crying, she looked at me like I was an alien. She really could NOT understand what was wrong with me. I quickly ran from the car while she explained to the valet guy what I was doing. I ran into the building, heading straight for the elevator. Even though it has been 10 months since his accident, it has been 9 months since he has been a patient in this hospital. It is amazing how quickly & easily I slipped right back into the knowing mode. I knew exactly where to go. I quickly pushed the elevator button & waited. The elevator arrived & it felt like I had never left. I quickly pushed the button for the 18th floor & waited to ride up all those floors. The ride felt like it did all those other times. That same feeling of awfulness that had engulfed me each & every time I rode that elevator returned. I could actually feel myself holding my breath like I did back then. I could feel myself looking at the faces of the other riders in the elevator. You could tell by the hollow looks on their faces whether their loved ones were very sick like my son or if they were here to welcome a new loved one into the world. I could feel myself counting down the floors like I did each time I did before. In the past I would go through the usual questions. How was he while we were gone? Did something happen in the 15 minutes we left? Did anyone come to see him while we were gone? Do you think he moved anything or opened his eyes? You see the whole time my son was in this hospital(3.5 weeks) my husband & I never left him. We kept a 24 hr vigil with him. The only place we went was to go downstairs & get our food to bring upstairs to eat either in his room or in the icu waiting room. The whole time he was on the respirator & in the coma my husband & I just could not leave him. We were just too scared to leave! When I exited the elevator the first place you see is the ICU waiting room. Gosh, it has not changed since we left. The faces that inhabit the room changed but the looks on their faces did not. You can see the same anquish on their faces, the same anquish I know that was on mine for those weeks that we were there. My husband & I sometimes referred to that as the ICU shuffle. The faces in the waiting room shuffled. Sometimes patients got moved to different rooms, out of ICU, that was a good thing, sometimes, you just never saw a patients family again, that was so not a good thing.You would sit in the waiting room, day after day, sharing your stories with the families. Sometimes the routine went like this, my son, yes, in a coma, example of how many days they were in a coma, how it happened, etc. You helped the newer families with how things worked, helped them navigate the system, tell them where to find food, pillows, etc. as I exited the elevator all of this flashed back as the families glanced up at me & the elevator doors to see who was coming off of them, who was getting a visitor, etc. I smiled & offered my best, I know, I've been there smile & kept walking. I knew where I was going, I knew where room 132 was, it was the room right next to where my son's old room was. I opened those big doors, trying to keep myself calm, trying not to start crying before I even reach room 132. I walk past room 138, 136, 134, as I go, I see two of the nurses that took care of my son. They recognize me, they stop me. Mrs. Pettit, what are you doing here???? Please tell me your son is not back here??? I smile & give them hugs. I tell them, no, no, he is fine. He is here, but he is here b/c he is working. He works for FREE, and one of his clients is a patient here & he is sitting with him tonight, so I am bringing him dinner. Of course they are so happy to hear that & so delighted to hear that he is doing so well that he is working. Then they say they will make a point of trying to get to his clients room to say hi. I explain that Kyle does not remember any of his stay here, just to forwarn them that he won't remember them, so they won't be insulted. They said, that is fine with them, they are so glad that he does not remember them, but are just so glad to hear he is here & well. I quickly keep going, deliver the dinner to my son & explain that I saw some of his nurses. He is surprised they remember me. With that I begin to cry. I have now shocked my son. I try to pull myself together, trying to explain to him why I am so upset. It is just beyond his comprehension. I understand that! I give him a hug. I scoot out of there b/c I am so ready to get out of there. I scoot out. Wave good-bye to the nurses, race to the elevator, trying not to glance at the families that I know are suffering in the waiting room. I know how much they are hurting, I wish I could help. I wish I could say something that could help take away their pain, I know their pain, I know & yet, I don't know what to say except, I know. Since I don't know their specific circumstances, I don't want to say it will all be ok, b/c I don't know that & saying that would be cruel. I remember someone who was doing the ICU waiting room shuffle before me who told me that my son would wake up the next day & when he didn't, gosh I remember how upset I was. That person did not mean any harm, they were just trying to be helpful. Everyone deals with their tragedy in different ways. I don't want to say something that would upset them more. I get back to the car where my daughter is waiting, looking to see if I have survived. I jump in the car & say, go, just drive please as I burst into my second round of alien tears. This time though she looks over at me & very quietly says to me, "mom, remember, he is ok and he will continue to be ok!" My daughter is right. I have spent this whole day going back through pictures from the past 10 months, pictures from when he first awoke from the coma, pictures from he went to the rehab hospital, pictures from when he managed to walk across the stage at his graduation, pictures from his Fire Department installation dinner etc. You know what, slowly, very slowly there have been changes & improvements & even though the last few weeks there were some great difficulties & backsteps, he has come a LONG way! So yes, yes it was hard to go back & think about where he was 10 months ago, but look at where he is NOW! Thank god for that hospital, those nurses, doctors & wonderful staff. Thank god I was able to make that visit last night for a very different reason. NOW what I need to do is muster up the courage to go back again & find the words, the right words for those sitting in the ICU waiting room b/c god knows, I had people who did it for me! I can do it & I will do it!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Laughter really is the best medicine!

Last night my best friend & I went to country night at a restaurant/bar that was hosted by our local Country Music station. My friend & I share this LOVE of country music as well as the love of country line dancing, although the later we really don't know how to do, we just wish we knew how to do. We were so excited about this night, we talked about what we were going to wear, we even went shopping a few days ahead of time to get our very own cowgirl hats! I would even say we were giddy with anticipation...The hype did not disappoint. We arrived, laughing all the while in the car discussing if we would be the oldest people in the place. We were in luck! We were most certainly NOT the oldest people in the place. The place was crowded with people of all age groups. Who knew that country music was alive & thriving on Long Island. Much to our delight, they were already teaching newbies, such as us how to line dance, boy, we were in the right place. My girlfriend & I laughed, danced, laughed some more, sweated, laughed so much more. We laughed at how we could not catch on to the dances, we laughed at how we would turn the wrong way & be facing in different directions than everyone else, we would laugh when we finished WITH everyone & we laughed because we were just having a great time! WHO KNEW that country line dancing could make you laugh so much! People were so helpful & would just stop on the dance floor & show you some moves. It was a wonderful night, one we will be sure to repeat again in the future!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

We are on Spring Break. I love being home with my kids. It is so different being home with my kids now as opposed to when they were little. They don't want to go, go, go like they used to. They want to go of course, but they want to go, without me. This makes me sad. When they were little, all you wanted was some time for yourself. NOW, now that I have this time, it is not all that it is cracked up to be! I miss when they were little and we went for trips to the park, trips to the toy store, trips to the musuem. I so cherish those memories. I just wish they were still little just a little bit longer! On Friday my daughter asked if we could do something together, oh yes, another memory for us together.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Life has been so crazy & hectic that I have not been able to take the time to sit & write on my blog. You know what I noticed about not writing each day or at least once a week for the Tuesday slice? I grew a little weaker as a writer! I know, sounds silly, but it is true. I went to write an email today to a teacher, it was a "delicate" email to write. However, I feel it became even more difficult to write because my writing muscles were not as strong as they could be due to lack of use. I had difficulty finding just the write words. I found myself at a loss for exactly what I wanted to say. I often sat there looking at a blank screen unsure of exactly what I wanted to say. This reminded me of why our students NEED to write everyday. We tell them they need to grow their reading & writing muscles. However, did we really believe what we were telling them. I know I believed it, but do some of you REaLLY BELIEVE IT??? Did I SELL it to kids with that enthusiasm and conviction that gets kids on board and buy into what I am doing? I can't wait to share this little piece of discovery with some of my teachers who, like me, really "believe" in the writing we are doing. I hope they share in my excitement about my discovery & perhaps we can start our own writing group or I can get them to join this slicing adventure on Tuesdays.