Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm in PA now with FavoriteBoy. It's nice to be able to hug him. All that has happened in the past two weeks makes it feel almost as though it's been a year since we saw each other last.

He bought me "just because I love you" presents: a super deluxe wooden rotating Scrabble game, and a Scrabble Players Dictionary. It's so perfect.

While I was in CA, I had a good time hanging out with my brother Christopher. He is such an intelligent, kind, thoughtful guy. He must have missed the memo about teens being rebellious and belligerent! One funny memory:

Christopher picked up my folding hairbrush that fits into my purse and flipped it open. "Whoah. Cool! This is like a multi-tool for girls!"

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Usually right now Mom would be in the kitchen, basting the turkey and peeling potatoes. Since I usually can't fly all the way home for Thanksgiving, Mom calls me wherever I am to wish me a happy day, and we talk. So I miss her a lot today.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Yes Dad, It's Working

I'm going to see FavoriteBoy for Thanksgiving. I feel alternately ecstatic and concerned about this: ecstatic because he is my FavoriteBoy and I miss him very much and want to hug him, and concerned because I feel guilt (false or legitimate? I'm not sure) about leaving my Dad and my brother during this difficult time. I bought a one-way ticket to Pennsylvania, and I'm planning to drive back to Massachusetts with Nathan so he'll have company on the long drive. Originally I planned to fly from Boston back here to California, but then I started thinking that perhaps I ought to stay in Massachusetts for a few weeks at least; I should resume my teaching and try not to lose my students and my jobs and my life back there. I could come back in just two or three weeks, in plenty of time for Christmas and to help Dad and Christopher again. However, I see my Mom lying in the hospital bed and I know my Dad feels set adrift without her, and I feel guilty about leaving. Of course, my other siblings returned to their lives a week ago, and perhaps I ought to do the same.

I can't really do anything to help my Mom in the hospital, but I cook and clean and do laundry as much as I can here at the house, and I drive Christopher around to his classes and activities. I visit my grandparents and make sure they are doing okay, and I stop and see Mom a few times a day. I try to make sure Christopher stays on top of his school work.

People keep telling me that Mom was so proud of all I was doing as a musician and a teacher and that I ought to go on with things. They tell me she'd want me to go ahead with the wedding, too. But really, I don't know what Mom wants, and I can't ask her yet.

FavoriteBoy and I are thinking about tying the knot right here in California -- a small ceremony in my house, or even in the hospital if Mom is still there after Christmas. Then, we could turn the planned ceremony in Nathan's church into a blessing of the marriage instead of a regular wedding, and still have the reception as a party for our friends and his family's friends. But I don't know how I'd feel about having that ceremony and reception without my parents there.

The following conversation took place earlier this evening:

I told Dad, "I feel a bit guilty about thinking about going back to Massachusetts for a few weeks. I can't figure out if it's my conscience telling me to stay and be with you and Christopher, or if it's my strange and distorted psychological self giving me a false guilt-trip."

I paused, then grinned. "Or maybe it's my strange and distorted Dad giving me a real live guilt trip!"

Dad laughed. "Ahh, so it's working!"

Saturday, November 18, 2006

What Can I Say?

Okay, that last post was emotional.

I am trying not to be so emotional.

But my Mom is not doing so well...

and this is really hard.

I keep praying and praying, but I can't think of eloquent things.


"Please God, let Mom get better." "Please God, heal my Mom." "Please God, we all need Mom. Let her get well."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Waiting and Wishing

I'm still processing all that has happened in the last week. Back in Massachusetts, my apartment is frozen in time, displaying my life as it was barely over a week ago: wedding invitations lying in stacks on the living room table, envelopes and address books next to those, and a pile of stamps for the RSVP cards that I had purchased just the night before my mother's aneurysm occurred. My blog shows how suddenly my life turned upside-down, too: posts about the wedding and about teaching my music students, and suddenly... my Mom in a life-or-death situation.

My Dad and my siblings and I can't imagine Mom not bouncing back to her old self quickly. Call it faith, or call it denial; I'm still not sure which one it is. But of all the people I've known, my Mom always seemed the most invincible.

Right now, there's a lot of waiting. I'm waiting to see how Mom is doing each day, each hour. I'm waiting to know a more definite prognosis on her projected recovery. I'm waiting for her to be able to communicate with us more effectively about what she wants us all to do to help her. I'm waiting to see if I'll be able to see FavoriteBoy over Thanksgiving. I'm waiting to know if we'll still get married in January.

I don't like all this waiting.

I wonder if God thought I needed one last crash course in Selflessness before I get married. If so, I wish it could have been accomplished without my Mom being in critical condition. I wish it could have been accomplished without me being on the opposite coast of the country from FavoriteBoy.

I wish I could say that the difficulty of our family situation drew my siblings and me closer together instead of putting us all on edge with one another for a few days.

I wish I still had friends here in my hometown.

I wish people would stop acting awkward around me, as though because my Mom's in a hospital I've become a different person.

I wish people would stop telling me that I must be growing through this, or that God is working in my life. I hate cliches.

I wish people would stop getting emotional and telling me that this must be the hardest, most horrible thing imaginable.

I wish I could rewind life to eight days ago and have my Mom be okay again.

On a more shallow note, I wish I had known when I packed my tiny suitcase that I should plan on staying longer. I wish I had warm pajamas with me. I wish I had brought my cozy bathrobe. I wish I had brought another pair of pants, and another sweater or sweatshirt. I wish the security guards hadn't taken away my toothpaste, shampoo, and lotion.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sandy's Recovery

I've started a separate blog for updates about my Mom's recovery. You can read it at This will let Mom's family and friends stay up-to-date with her progress without having to wade through, you know, me talking about my feelings and things like that. Please do visit Mom's blog and leave a comment, thought, or prayer for her. I'll be printing any comments and taking them to the hospital for her.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Update on Mom

Saturday was the first day the doctors began to let Mom awaken from her induced coma. They reduced the level of the medication that was keeping her asleep (propofol), and watched her vital signs to see how her body responded. Her blood pressure rose too high at that time, so the doctors waited until Sunday to try again. By the time we got to the hospital on Sunday morning, Mom was completely off the propofol, and was beginning to be responsive! By last night, she was opening her eyes slightly (she can open her right eye wider than her left right now), and moving her limbs a little! She moved her toes, and even slowly scooted her foot over to cross her legs at the ankle. We have been so relieved to see that she seems capable of motion on both sides of her body, and seems to hear us, too. The aneurysm occurred in or near the part of her brain that controls hearing, vision, and motor control... so we're understandably thrilled to see her opening her eyes, hearing, and moving! Last night, Mom was able to lift fingers when asked to by a doctor, and open her eyes on command as well. Mom seemed to respond best to Dad; when he talked to her she would turn slightly toward him, and try especially hard to open her eyes. One of the neatest things to see happened as we were getting ready to go home for the night. Dad told her it was time for us to go home and get some sleep. As he let go of her hand, Mom distinctly lifted her hand off the bed toward his. Of course, after seeing that, we stayed longer. :)

This morning, I asked Mom if she could lift her right index finger for me. I had been holding her hand, and I rubbed that finger a little. She lifted the finger on command! I wondered if I had imagined it, but when Dad and Jonathan came in to see her too, I asked her again and she repeated it. It's evening now, and Mom's already made a lot of improvement today. She's opening her eyes wider than before, and seems to be shaking her head "no" to yes or no questions. The doctor started this with her, by asking questions and seeing if she could respond. She really does seem to be communicating this way for now. While Emily, Christopher and I were in the room with Mom, I got concerned that maybe we were bothering her or keeping her from resting. I held her hand and asked if she'd like us to leave for a while and let her get some rest. She turned her head all the way to one side, and then all the way back to the other side. We were pretty happy that she wanted us to stay. She's been stretching her legs out, moving her arms a bit, and lifting her hands.

Mom is still on a respirator, which is obviously bothering her a lot. She's actually been initiating most of her own breaths since Friday or Saturday, and by Sunday she was initiating all her breaths. The respirator just helps her finish those breaths deeply enough. Today they tried to remove the tube from her throat, but they found that her trachea had become so swollen it was very difficult for her to breathe. Unfortunately, they had to re-insert the tube, which I know is really uncomfortable for Mom. They have restrained her hands so she can't reach up and grab it out of her mouth -- but she still keeps trying! She also resorts to trying to push it out of her mouth with her tongue. We sure hope the swelling will go down soon so they can get that painful tube out of her very soon. She has a bit of bronchitis right now, so we're praying for that to heal quickly too.

Emily (my sister), Jonathan (my nephew), and Aunt Susan (Mom's sister) are heading back down to Southern California tomorrow. Emily has an appointment with her midwife that she can't miss. Jonathan leaves to return to school in Texas on Wednesday. I'm sticking around to help in any way I can for as long as I'm needed. I'm glad my music students have been so flexible and understanding about my sudden departure and leave of absence. I'm hoping that I can keep teaching all my students whenever I return to Massachusetts, but I know it's possible that some of them will move on to other teachers. I'm going to try to arrange substitutes in the next week or so for students that want that. Right now, all of us in the family are kind of taking things a day at a time. We're glad to see her waking up slowly, and anxious for her to continue in her recovery. We sure miss having our wonderful Mom in her full and usual capacity - full of energy, loving us and talking to us, and living life to the fullest.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


On Tuesday, November 7, shortly after noon, my Mom suffered a burst brain aneurysm. The bleeding in her brain caused her to have a stroke. She temporarily lost most of her ability to speak, and began to lose use of her limbs. She was taken to the hospital, where she was shortly flown by helicoptor to a hospital in Roseville (about an hour and fifteen minutes from our home in Northern California). She has been in the Trauma Neuro Intensive Care Unit since Tuesday evening. She has undergone two surgeries - one to insert a temporary drain for the blood and fluid beneath her skull putting pressure on her brain, and another more extensive procedure to find and repair the burst vessel. She has been in a coma since Tuesday night. Today she is finally beginning to wake up, but it's a slow process.

When I heard my Dad's voice on my voicemail telling me briefly: "Mom's in the hospital, and she's going in for surgery," I could tell from his voice that it was very serious. I attempted to call him back immediately, but he wasn't picking up his cell phone. I tried calling my sister, but she wasn't home. Finally I reached my brother Jonathan, who was able to tell me the basic situation. Still unable to reach my Dad, I cried on the floor of my apartment. I was very worried, and not really knowing what was going on made it even harder. I looked up some information about brain aneurysms online, and I knew that my Mom's chances were less than 50%. Nathan, my fiance, came over quickly to be with me, which really helped. My friend Melissa came over too, and brought me a big teddy bear. They both stayed with me, praying lots and distracting me from the worry and the grim statistics, into the wee hours of the morning. I was waiting for Dad to give me permission to get on a plane and come home, as he had initially asked me to wait -- he was very shaken up, of course, and having a hard time making all the decisions he needed to make. When he called me at about 2:00 am EST, he asked me to come home. I packed my smallest suitcase and bought a one-way plane ticket online. Nathan sat with me while I slept for an hour or two, and then drove me to the airport to catch my flight to California. While I waited in the terminal, I made some phone calls to cancel the piano lessons and violin lessons I was supposed to teach in the next few days, as well as the babysitting jobs I had lined up. I spent six and a half hours on the first leg of my flight, unable to hear any new information by phone while I was in the air. After a layover in San Francisco, I arrived in Sacramento around 2:30. Melinda, a family friend, picked up Jonathan and me there and brought us to the hospital to see Mom. Dad was really glad to see us walk in. We got to see Mom right away. She's in the best hospital she could possibly be in, and her doctors and nurses are wonderful about letting us spend time with her, and answering all our questions. If we sanitize our hands and wear gloves, we can hold her hands and touch her to let her know we're with her.

Emily and her son Jonathan drove up from Southern California with my Aunt Susan, my Mom's sister. So, we're all here as a family, spending each day in the hospital lobby and taking turns seeing Mom.

Now, for the better news. Mom is doing really well, all things considered. A number of things contribute to her current condition being what it is, and we're really grateful for how God takes care of His children even when things are hard. First of all, my Dad had just returned from a business trip to Florida. We can't imagine much harder this would have been if Dad hadn't been here when this happened. As it was, Dad was able to be with Mom really soon after it happened, and sit with her in the hospital, which I'm sure provided her with a lot of comfort, as she was still conscious at that point. Secondly, Mom was already in town when the vessel burst. She was having lunch with a wonderful friend, who did all the right things. She got Mom to the car while she could still move, and drove her straight to the hospital. If Mom had been at our home with Christopher when this happened, it could have taken three to four times longer for her to get help -- we live quite a ways out of town, and Christopher doesn't drive yet. Then, while Mom was waiting for a bed to open up at one of the three hospitals that can deal with this kind of neuro trauma, the first hospital with an open bed was, we subsequently learned, the BEST place for Mom to be right now. Finally, Mom is a great candidate to make a full recovery from something like this. She is otherwise healthy and fit, very determined, and basically a tough nut to crack. We're all still in shock, because honestly, we kind of thought Mom was invincible.

Our family has been absolutely surrounded with the love and prayers of friends. It's been really amazing to see how much my Mom was loved. I always knew she was the best ever, but I didn't know that everyone else loved her, too! Our pastor and his wife have come to see us at the hospital, Lou and Melinda have been here, and Matt and Amber, along with Emma and Gregory, came up and spent a day here at the hospital with us. My Dad's general manager at his work happens to be an M.D., and he's been an invaluable resource to us for both information and encouragement. My Mom has given so much to so many in our community - particularly to the home schooling families in our county. All of these families are showing us such an outpouring of love and help. The phone calls, the offers to help, the meals... it's incredible. Most of all, we're grateful for the prayers.

Believe it or not, people have even offered us a HOUSE (and cleaned, furnished, and stocked it for us!), just about ten minutes away from the hospital. Using this house would let us be really near Mom while she needs us. The doctors are predicting a recovery that could take three to four more weeks in the hospital. Right now, we have to do a lot of waiting, which is really hard. We need to make decisions about our family, but it's hard to do that until we know more about Mom's projected recovery. Right now, it's looking like I will be staying in California indefinitely to help out with my Mom, my Dad, and my youngest brother. Mom is doing well, but recovery from this can take a long time.

That's all I can write right now, but I'll be checking in again with updates whenever I can. I'll be writing more soon. I may also start a separate blog to update her family and friends on her condition.

Prayers are appreciated, friends. Thank you.