When you have a child, you think about all the little things that will change. You try and mentally prepare yourself for different situations. Think about how you might handle them. But there are so many to prepare for. You can’t possibly think of them all. And you only realize it when you find yourself faced with one.
We lost a family member yesterday. My step-father. He fought a battle that not many could have endured. But somehow, he did. His desire to keep going was always because of his grandchildren. He had big plans for them. He was going to take them places, or plant a garden, or start an orchard. Something. But thats, without a doubt, why he persevered the way that he did. For as long as he did. He didn’t want to miss an opportunity with any of them. And maybe it’s just me, but he seemed to have a special bond with my son. His pal.
I think that’s why his death is so hard. You never want your loved ones to suffer. You never want them to live a life less than. And as his health declined rapidly over the last few weeks, those around him started the grieving process. But, for me, it was different this time.
Not only am I grieving for myself. For the man I had known all my life. A man who was kind, generous, and a constant dreamer. But I grieving for my son.
Nikola loved his Pa. He loved him so so much. I have never known a baby to sit so contently for hours on someone’s lap, but he did. He loved it. Nikola would sit an listen to his Pa talk about all the adventures they were going to go on since he was born. He would look up at him, eyes wide, and just take it all in. Never wiggling, never crying. Just sitting and watching.
I think that what’s making this so hard. Knowing how much Nikola loved him. And while he is just a baby.- Only 14 months, I know that he knows something is different. We were at my mom’s on Sunday, Barry was already in hospice, and Nikola looked at her and said “Papa.” And he said it again this morning when he was playing with a toy Barry had gotten him. He’s a smart little boy.
And so, this is one of the things. One of the things that is different now. I didn’t see it coming, I didn’t think about it. But, here we are. Barry didn’t want people to be sad. He said many times in the last couple weeks that he had lived an incredible life and did all the things he wanted to do. And I think we can find comfort in that.
Nikola has always been an affectionate baby but lately he seems to have an agenda when dolling out kisses. He has learned that if he gives you a kiss and then asks or points to something, he’s more apt to get it. Whether it be a set of keys you’re fairly certain he’ll lose or if he wants you to play Baby Shark for the umteenth time. With his chubby little hands, knuckle dimples and all, he’ll grab either side of your face and pull you towards his. His mouth open as wide as a largemouth bass. And then, there it is. The kiss that makes you melt, over and over again.
He knows exactly how to manipulate your heart strings. He is smart and perfectly mischievous in the most adorable way. And it’s one of the things I love most about him.
The most masterful linguist, the most articulate wordsmith, wouldn’t be able to scratch the surface of the feeling that is loving your child. It is indescribable in every way. What it means. How it feels. It’s depth, It’s reach. It’s pull. All of it. It is entirely different from every other kind of love that exists. And I understand how incredibly lucky I am to feel it all day, every day.
“You don’t know what unconditional love is. You may say you do, but if you don’t have a child, you don’t know what that is. But when you experience it, it is the most fulfilling ever. ” – Regina King
While it may not have been a particularly lofty goal, it has been one that has long eluded me. The process was slow but boys oh boys, doesn’t it feel good.
I have never been a person who sets personal goals. I have never strived for anything in particular. Any sort of feat or accomplishment. And it is truly one of my only regrets in life. I wish I had tried harder to be good at something. I wish I had made more of an effort in school, or hobbies, or sports. I wish so badly that I hadn’t given up on so so many things that didn’t come natural to me. But, c’est la vie.
So, this is it. This is what I want to be good at. Writing. Story Telling, Blogging. Creating relevant material that people enjoy. I don’t know where it will lead or what it will become. And that’s ok.
To be very clear, this is not your traditional “how-to” post. I am looking for an answer, not providing one. This is a question that I am sending out into the void hoping for some insight. This concept is something I’m having a hard time getting my head around. I’m not trying to be a martyr. I’m not trying to convince myself or others of what a selfless mother I am. I simply can not figure out what it means and how to do it.
Is getting a haircut self-care? I think it might be. I haven’t one in almost a year. And I DESPERATELY need one. And when I go over the excuses in my head as to why, it really boils down to time. And perhaps a smidge of laziness.
Is going to the doctor considered self-care? Perhaps. If so, I have indulged in that twice this week. I put it off last week and my illness got worse. Why didn’t I go when I first started feeling under the weather? Nikola had been sick and it was inevitable that I was going to get it. As a mom, I think it may just be commonplace that your primary focus is “I’ll be fine. Let’s get baby healthy.” And now, here I am. sick with a virus that has wreaked havoc on my respiratory and digestive system the likes of which I have never seen or experienced. And due to the contagiousness of the virus my mother had to come and pick up Nikola and take him to her house for a couple of days. This is the first time I haven’t been with him overnight and it has been hard. Is having a “night off” from your baby in order to recuperate self-care?
A few months ago, I posted about some terrible migraines I was having. I received messages from friends with helpful tips and one in particular from an accomplished Yoga Therapist with an offer to come in for an appointment. It was so kind and generous of her to reach out. And I wanted to go. I wanted to make an appointment so badly. But I just couldn’t figure out how to move that appointment to the top of my priority list. For whatever reason.
Time management as a mother has got to be one of trickiest parts of the title. Am I willing to sacrifice time with my son on Saturday to go get a haircut, or to go get a massage, maybe go to the movies? There has been this meme floating around that says something like “Society expects women to mother like they don’t work and work like they’re not a mother.” I have a full-time job that I love. By the time I pick up Nikola at daycare and get home its 5:30pm. Nikola has imposed on himself a strict bedtime of 7:00pm. He just passes out, every night, at that time. So Monday through Friday, I get one and half hours with him. That ain’t a lot. I miss him all day long, and then I miss him when he goes to bed. So, when Saturday and Sunday come along, I just don’t want to NOT be with him. There have been so so many weeks where I’ve said “I’m going to go to the movies this weekend. Have some alone time.” but when the weekend rolls around, those plans have gone out the window. I no longer want to go.
Today, there is such an emphasis on self-care. The importance of it, and I believe it is important. This blog is my main source of it. And even then, I can’t find the time or energy to write a post. While I have 23 posts saved to my “draft” folder. The time and energy it takes to complete, edit and post seems daunting. Even impossible. So, how do you all do it? How do you make time for yourself? What kind of priority do you put on your own self-care? I’m looking forward to reading your comments.
Get out your wellies boys and girls. This one is gonna get a little deep.
I believe that most everything happens for a reason. I think that we are all heading towards a sort of incredibly vague predetermined destiny. Some people may find that comforting, others perhaps not. I’m indifferent. But it does play into this theory of mine quite nicely.
Most people have experienced Deja Vu at some point in their lives. It’s a fairly common phenomenon. But I seem to have it regularly. Maybe once or twice every couple of weeks. Only, I’m not certain that’s what I’d consider it really. When this experience occurs I dont have the feeling that I have been in that exact space before. It’s not about space for me. It is about the lighting, the smells, the sounds, the people, the entire experience in that split second. It’s not something happening “again”. Instead it’s something I had, at some point, dreamt of happening. A premonition.
When these moments happen, I relish them. I close my eyes and will it to last longer. This sudden and fleeting sense is what I like to think of as a “checkpoint”. It’s a little blip in time that confirms I’ve made the right choices. I’m on the right path. That all my stars are aligning just so. And I find that astoundingly comforting.
I had a “checkpoint” moment yesterday. I had just gotten home from work. My baby was in his walker and we were in the kitchen. He and I have been in those exact spots countless times. But yesterday was different. The familiar and exciting feeling came over me like a wave. I closed my eyes for a moment. Then looked at my son and smiled. Believing that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be is one the most gratifying sensations there is.
Do you believe in signs? That things happen for a reason? And do you believe that every once in a while, the stars can align in such a way that the thought of it all just being a mere coincidence is more preposterous than believing that it was fate? I do.
I’ve been writing posts for this blog for over two years. How time flies. I started this blog soon after a terrible accident my brother was in. One that could’ve had a much different outcome if those stars hadn’t aligned in just such a way.
On October 6th, 2016 my brother, an arborist, was working in a large field with a couple of other crew members. His foreman had left to empty the dump truck and the other guy was operating the skidder just slightly out of eyesight due to a small hill. My brother, returning from a different task saw the chipper was loaded with brush and started it. What he didn’t know was that the winch line hadn’t been wound back up before the brush had been set on top of it. And when he started the machine, the line became untangled from the brush and wrapped around his legs pulling him into the mouth of the chipper.
First Star – My brother was holding onto the emergency reverse lever when he started the machine.
Second Star – The sheer force of the line wrapping around him and pulling him was enough to break both femurs, causing extensive damage to his tissue, arteries, and nerves in both legs, just above the knee. Somehow, not only did he not go unconscious but he managed to untangle the line, climb down from the chipper, and army crawl up the hill to flag down his co-worker on the skidder.
Third Star – He had spent some time in the fire service and had medical training. Even with everything going on, he remained calm. He knew that he needed to get his legs elevated so as to slow blood loss. He gave his co-worker clear direction as to what to do. How and where to put pressure. And he had his co-worker ask the 911 dispatcher for life-flight.
Fourth Star – They were working in a field in the middle of nowhere. When the call came into the the EMS dispatch, the town paramedics were just around the corner. They were returning from an earlier call instead of at the station 15 minutes away.
Fifth Star – The closest hospital was a small one in the town of Bridgeton. The ambulance had planned to meet Life Flight there. But when they arrived, the helicopter was still about 10 minutes out. My brother needed blood badly, so they brought him inside. They knew that his injuries were more extensive than the hospital was equipped for, but something was better than nothing. They wheeled him into a trauma bay and hauled out a special machine. A while back they had received a grant to get it. It was for rapid blood transfusions. My brother was the first person to use it. He received 107 units of blood that day. And just for some perspective, the human body holds between 8-12 units or pints, of blood. We were told that it could very well be a record. Most blood given and survived.
As soon as he was fully conscious, people either came to check on him, or he went to meet the people who saved his life. My brother remembered bits and pieces of what happened but as we met the paramedics, firefighters, the life-flight team, the nurses, and doctors from both hospitals – each one added different pieces to puzzle. A different star, if you will. All of the things that JJ couldn’t remember. And everyone he met looked at him in astonishment. Every single one made it clear that they weren’t sure how it was going to end when they left him. And, inevitably, they all said something along the lines of: “If we hadn’t been around the corner” or “If we hadn’t have gotten that blood machine” and of course, “if you didn’t have your hand on that reverse bar”
Just before the first anniversary of my brother’s accident I had determined that I wanted to shift the focus of my blog. But I was worried. I didn’t really know what I should write about, or if I should continue to write at all. I really enjoyed it. The act of it and how I felt after each post, but I just didn’t know if what I was doing was good enough. I struggle with a lot of self-doubt. But, I had written a post in the very beginning about how I didn’t want this blog to be something I quit. A hobby or project I give up on, like so so many that I had in the past.
I wanted to get better at writing before I threw in the towel. And so, I googled “Best books on learning how to write”, and at the top of every list was “On Writing” by Stephen King. I was hesitant. I had never read one of his books. I don’t care for the horror genre, but I downloaded the audio version and was immediately immersed. It was witty and thoughtful. I found myself sitting in the car for 15 minutes or more after I arrived wherever I was heading just to listen.
The book was coming to end and I had learned a lot. But still was unsure of my blogging future. I hadn’t posted anything in ages. With 28 minutes left of the book, I pulled into my driveway. And as I went to turn off the car I heard something that got my attention. He was talking about an accident he was in. He was walking in Fryeburg, Maine and was hit by a car. He was taken to Bridgeton hospital. The same little hospital the ambulance had taken JJ to meet life-flight. I said “Huh”. Not too weird I guess. But he went on to say he was life-flighted to Central Maine Medical Center. I stared at the radio of my car skeptically. “So had JJ”, I thought. And as he continued my eyes got wider and wider. When he arrived, his doctor was a man by the name of Dr. Brown. That was my brother’s doctor. The first of many to perform surgery on JJ. He’s had 26 in all. And finally, Stephen King described his injuries, the accompanying surgeries and treatments during his recovery. Between the extensive fasciotomies and the external fixator used to put him back together, the same exact procedures done to my brother. It all left me shock.
Was this a sign? Stars aligning perhaps? I started to blog because of this incredible situation that happened. I needed an outlet; this was my therapy. And when I started doubting my ability and worrying what I was going to write about. When I had come to a possible impasse. I get this book as a last ditch effort to help me find a purpose for this blog and writing in general. And in the final moments of it, Stephen King himself, reiterates the very details surrounding why I started writing in the first place. It felt as if it had come full circle.
Now, I am a fatalist, for better or worse. But I do try to check in with the realist side of myself. To second guess the relevancy of the situation. But in the end, serendipity reigns. And whether this was in fact, stars aligning or if perhaps this turns out to be just a theory of convenience, we’ll never know. And I’m ok with that. So, for now, I’ll keep writing.
This came up in my newsfeed a while back. I read all 312 comments. There were some common themes.
To grandmother – “See mom, this is why I want to take pictures of you”
To spouse – “Honey, please take more photos of me and the kids”
and most poignantly:
“I need to work on this.”
I do need to work on this. And I think I’ve made the first steps. This blog post is, by far, the most personal I’ve ever written. I’ve never shared these photos. Nobody has ever seen the selfie, not even my husband. Up until 2 weeks ago, we didn’t have a single photo of my husband and I with our baby. He will be 8 months old on the 13th of this month.
When my husband proposed, I immediately started planning our wedding. I had worked in the industry and knew the vendors I wanted to use. We had a budget and when we were going over everything, the idea of a photographer was mentioned. I hadn’t planned on having one. This hurt my husband’s feelings so badly. So much so in fact, that he said “why have a wedding?” Seeing how strongly he felt, I actually saw a therapist to help get over the extreme anxiety of having my photo taken.
It did help. We hired a photographer. A friend and colleague of my mothers. Oh yeah, did I mention my mother is a photographer? When I got the photos, I cried. Not because of how beautiful they were – but how terrible I thought I looked. I didn’t post them to social media and didn’t share them with anyone.
I have purposefully and conveniently led a life a living in the moment. Truly only because of how self-conscious I am. I would never suggest taking a photo of a friend or an event, an occasion. Anything. Because that would have inevitably led to someone saying “You get it in it too, Darci” . And then where would I be? Uncomfortable, half-heartedly smiling and looking awkward. And dreading the inevitable moment when, after the picture was taken everyone would go and check to see how it came out. I never needed to look. I always knew the answer.
And now, on top of struggling with my own self-conscious; I’m having a hard time remembering to take photos. Even with a camera at my literal fingertips, I forget to take photos. Don’t get me wrong, I have hundreds of my son. But those special moments, whether be a first milestone, or a photo with a family member. Something out of the ordinary that would be truly special – I drop the ball. Can consciously, consistently not doing something become a habit? Has a lifetime of purposefully not taking photos become a habit? I worry that may be the case.
I promise you, this is not me having a pity party, or looking for compliments. I don’t know what to call it or define it as. I really, truly don’t. But the intensity of the feeling demands to be acknowledged. As I said at the beginning: Moving past these feelings is something that I am going to make a conscious effort at. I can’t put into words how hard this blog post has been to write. It has been in my drafts since August. And today, I will finish it. This is the first step. And as I look at the photo below, I can feel my blood pressure rising. The anxiety creeping in. I hate this last photo of me, but love it of my husband and baby. This is the only photo of the 3 of us. We had our baby baptized a couple of weeks ago.
I need to know: Is this common? Do others feel this way? I can only assume by the number of comments on the Facebook post above it is. Give me your feedback. Tell me your experience. Fill me in on the secret of how to overcome it. Please, I’m all ears, err eyes.
I’m pregnant. After 2 years and 11 months of trying, my husband and I finally got a positive pregnancy test. We spent a lot of money on sticks that I had to pee on, went to doctors, had fertility tests (all came back fine), and even tried in vitro. All with no luck. But, as of 2 days ago, we are 17 weeks pregnant.
We found out the morning of October 11th. The day we left for our trip to Macedonia. I was about 5 days late at that point. I’m a superstitious person and after not just months, but literally years of getting excited every 28 days, and taking a test early only to be disappointed, I resolved to wait. Wait until I was really late, like reeeaallly late. I didn’t want to jinx it. My husband Kruno was getting more and more excited as those late days passed by. When I did take the test, I didn’t tell him what I was doing. It came back positive almost immediately. I called for him to come to the bathroom. Drudgingly, he came. He thought I needed him in to kill a bug. I showed him the test and excitement ensued.
The last 17 weeks have been enlightening. I learn something new every day. About my body, my abilities or lack thereof, and places I can, all of sudden, no longer comfortably reach because of my growing size.
And with every minute of research I’ve done since that positive test, I’ve become more and more aware that I know nothing about pregnancy, labor, and perhaps even babies. And I’d like to share with you all some of the more interesting revelations I’ve had.
WHATS HAPPENING TO ME???
This question came early and often. Google became my most used app. How could I have been so clueless? In movies and TV, pregnant women are portrayed in a certain way. Emotional. Vomiting, Bitchy. I thought I was mentally prepared for all of it, but the other symptoms and the pure intensity hit me like a wrecking ball
I get so emotional, baby…
The first to rear its ugly head was the elevated hormones. I’m an emotional person to begin with. But I naively thought “How much worse could this get?” Well… Let me tell ya.
Every emotion I feel, I feel it times a hundred, maybe even a thousand. If I’m sad, it borders on devastation. If I’m angry, watch out. But the most notable change is that I am loving harder. I love people HARD. Wicked hard. Over this past holiday, I looked at my young nephews, I just wanted to grab them and not let go. I wanted to look them square in the eyes and say sternly ” I love you, dammit!” (Picture Rhett Butler saying that to Scarlet O’Hara in “Gone with the wind”. But, I thought better of it. The boys are young and I didn’t want to scare the shit out of them.) And when I left my grandmothers house to come back home, I cried for a long time. She lives just a few hours away. I can go see her any weekend. And as I’m typing this, thinking about how much I love these people and how much I miss them, I’m crying. I’m a mess.
And my crying has changed. The act of it itself. These crying spells last forever. My tears have even gotten bigger. The amount of fluid that is falling from my eyeballs is astounding. My tears are the size of nickles, I kid you not. Isn’t that weird? Has anyone else experienced that while pregnant? And because of all these things. The dehydration from the size and quantity of tears, and the ease at which I cry, I have had to completely change how and when I view things. For example, I’m spending far less time on Facebook these days. I used to love watching the heart-warming videos. that would populate my newsfeed. But no more. I can’t risk it. I also haven’t been able to watch several episodes of “This is us”. I watched a few at the beginning of the season, but when I saw the previews of the one where Kate has a miscarriage, all bets were off. Now the second part of the season is supposed to start and I’m in a pickle. Do I devote an entire day to catching up on the season? Let’s do that math: 4 episodes I missed = 4 hours of viewing. + 2 hours of crying time (conservatively) + 1 hour of recuperation to let the puffiness in my face dissipate. That’s a big commitment.
My body is a wonderland
No, no it isn’t. While it is mystifying me these days, I don’t think that’s what John Mayer meant. You can read Pinterest posts, join the community group chats in your pregnancy apps and read “What to expect when you’re expecting” all you want, but I guarantee you, something is going to happen that will throw you for a loop. From my albeit brief experience, I’ve come to realize that it’s important to use the mentioned resources as merely a guideline. Most of my symptoms have occurred earlier than normal.
One of the most notable and noticeable changes were that things errrr… grew a bit quicker than I would’ve expected. Below is a screenshot of a conversation I had with a group of friends about my husband noticing a change.
My clothes got tighter right off the bat. And I thought “Ok, no big deal. This was expected I’ll go buy some new clothes.” But it isn’t that easy. Nothing fits right. Nothing. I’m not big enough for maternity clothes, but my stomach is too big for regular clothes. Everything I own at this point is frumpy. And because of the heightened emotions, the ill-fitting clothing sends me into a spiral of self-consciousness and frustration. There are days that I can’t even look in the mirror before I leave for work. Those days are the “Fuck it” days. And they are happening more frequently as the pregnancy progresses.
One other thing that I started noticing recently was my walk has changed. I used to have a confident stride. I don’t know why considering how clumsy I am, but I did. I used to be able to comfortably wear heels up to a certain height. But that’s all gone now. As the day goes on, and I get to feeling less and less comfortable, my walk transforms. Slowly, subtly, into a waddle. At work by 4 pm, as I go to and from the printer I notice my body shifting from side to side, with a brief but significant settle in each step. I will immediately correct it, but I know deep down that it’s going to come to a point when I’m no longer am able to. It is inevitable. The waddle is coming.
Don’t you, forget about me
“Of all the things I have lost, I miss my mind the most”. Mark Twain must have stolen this from his wife when she was pregnant. People talk about pregnancy brain often. But nothing prepares you for it. I am not just forgetting things, but I’m thinking I do things or say things that I don’t. “Didn’t I tell you that?” has become my most used sentence recently. A few weeks ago I had mentioned to my boss that I had forgotten to text some family members back recently. She was understandably concerned whereas my job is mostly following up with clients and remembering things. I assured her that I only let it affect my home life. And that is the truth. I noticed that this was starting to happen, so the moment I leave work, I totally shut off my brain. So far, it seems to be working. While this doesn’t thrill my husband, it’s a sacrifice we’ll have to make until I figure something else out. I haven’t written a post in a really long time. Not because I didn’t have anything to write, or I was too busy. I have been conserving all of my brain cells for work. This post, in fact, has taken an exceptionally long time. I’ve been storing up for weeks to finish it. Now, I’m no neurologist but I think there might be some logic to it.
While this is only a short list of the symptoms I’ve experienced, these are what has struck me as funny. I think it’s important to keep levity at the forefront. Because what awaits us at the end is going to be the most momentous experience of our lives. We are so excited to be parents and I am excited to share our little stories throughout the process. S
I have been working on this post for weeks. Today, I decided to start over. My post was long, and unnecessarily so. It didn’t accomplish what I had wanted it to. It’s tone and the overall message was lost with every paragraph. So here we are. At the beginning.
One year ago, my brother was in an accident. It has been a long three hundred and sixty-five days. I don’t want or need to rehash every sad, upsetting detail. But, I do want to share with you all some of the more poignant moments and some observations that have stuck with me over the last year.
I remember when I got the call from JJ’s foreman, Ian. But more so, I remember the phone call I got from dad shortly after. I asked Ian if JJ was alive. When he answered “yes”, there was no denying the uncertainty voice. I knew what he was saying without saying it. I knew what the tone of that “yes” meant. JJ WAS alive when I left him, but I don’t know if he still is. My dad asked me the same question just minutes after. I wanted to be strong and say sternly, confidently “Yes!” but the words had, unintentionally, come out the exact same way Ian had said it. Unconvincingly.
After I arrived at the hospital, I talked with the nurses and then found the ICU waiting room. I opened the door and was immediately taken aback. The people in the room were talking loudly, laughing, eating. All these things, I couldn’t fathom happening in a place like that. This was supposed to be a place of tragedy, a place for reflection, prayer, and quiet whispered voices. I hated the waiting room with every ounce of my being. I couldn’t stay in there. I honestly, truly couldn’t. Luckily, there was a private waiting room we were told we could use. And by god we did. It was supposed to be for doctors to have consultations with the family of patients. I thought about the tough questions asked and some even tougher answers given in that room. I prayed that that wouldn’t be us. We stayed in that room for three days. And just when we had gotten a little less sad, enough to where we could tolerate talking, and smiling we gave up the room to someone who needed it more. It didn’t last long, we were back in there by day 5. The day JJ’s artery gave out.
That first night, we had been told, that it was going to be a long one. The first time we got to talk to a doctor was around 8 or 9 that night. JJ had been in surgery since one o’clock. Dr. Brown told us that he was the orthopedic surgeon that had been working on JJ. He was impressed with the double femur break JJ had suffered. He said that if you had to have a broken femur (or 2) this is the way to do it. It was a clean break. Flat across. He told us that the bones would be able to fuse with little to no problem, he believed. He said that if all this injury was, was a couple of broken femurs, JJ would be out of here in a few days. But that, as we would come to know, wasn’t the case.
A few hour later we got to talk to the second surgeon. He told us what he had seen and maybe more importantly, what he hadn’t. JJ had lost a lot of tissue, muscle, nerves, and lots of blood. He went through 107 units that day. But most distressing were his arteries. They were completely shredded. I asked the doctor if there was anything I could do. If there was anything that he could take from me to give to J. I told him that he could have whatever he wanted. The doctor smirked and shook his head a little. I could tell he had thought of it. I have no doubt. Maybe not my arteries specifically, but someones. His face said it all. That very thought had come to him. I didn’t delve any deeper. But my father and I both let him know in no uncertain terms that whatever JJ needed, we were happy to give.
At 2 am we were told that they were wrapping up the surgery and they’d be bringing JJ up soon. From the room we were in we could see JJ’s. We stood on chairs, we craned our necks. Did whatever we had to do so we could catch a glimpse of him. And at 3:30, they told us we could go in to see him. He didn’t look like himself. He was so swollen. But I have never been so happy to see someone in my entire life. We asked the prognosis. Torn between the desire to know and the dread that may come with the answer. JJ was, without a doubt, still in critical condition. When the doctor talked about the prognosis, he wasn’t referring to if he would lose a leg or both, it was if JJ would survive. I will never forget that moment.
After a few days JJ had started to come to. Never for long, only a few minutes and then he’d be back to sleep. But when he was awake, he wanted to communicate. It was a tall order with the breathing tube in. Someone got him a small dry erase board. He would try and write something, sometimes falling asleep in the middle of writing, and we would be left with the task of deciphering it. We may as well have been decoding ancient hieroglyphics. And when we couldn’t figure it out, we would start guessing like we were playing a game of charades. Is that an I? No? Ok, is it an L? No? Shit, is it a J? Nope. Then after a minute or two, when all of the energy he had, had drained out of him, he would let his hands drop from equal parts exhaustion and frustration and his eyes would fill with tears and he would shake his head as if to say “I give up”. That was, without a doubt, one of the hardest parts for me. There he was helpless, relying on us to help him, and I couldn’t. I was not a good guesser.
One of the first things that we were able to read was the word “boots”. Mom said, “your boots are right here, J. On the shelf”. She showed them to him. The sense of confusion on his face was unmistakable. My mom and I looked at each other. She knew right away why he was confused. Call it mothers intuition. She said “J, your boots are fine. Your feet didn’t go into the chipper.” His eyebrows became unfurrowed, almost like at that very second, everything came back to him. In fact, one night after the boots incident, mom asked him if he remembered the accident. He nodded as best as he could, and then wrote: “They didn’t believe me.” Later he would explain what he had meant. When his co-worker had been on the phone with 911, JJ told him to tell the dispatcher to get life flight started. He knew that they carried blood on the helicopter and that he was going to need it. But what he either didn’t know or didn’t think about at the time, is that patients can’t request life flight, it has to come from the paramedic.
The hardest day was undoubtedly the day JJ’s right leg artery gave out. It was the first Monday after the accident. The nurses would come in every few hours and pull out this black box that had a stethoscope in the shape of a pen connected it to it. They would put it on the top of JJ’s feet, one by one, and move it around until they heard a swishy sound. That sound was his pulse. That day, they had checked it before he went down to surgery. A process we had already come to know well. And when he would come back. One nurse tried, then another. No swishy sound. They called for the doctor. The room was silent.
The doctor confirmed what we all had suspected. At the very beginning, we had been told that the repair to his arteries was a kind of one and done deal. They weren’t sure if the gore-tex that had put in would hold. Each leg had a 50/50 shot they told us. But it didn’t matter. We wanted a second opinion. We asked that his file be sent to mass Gen to see what they said. JJ had woken up, and I think it was dad who explained the situation to him. He took it well. You could tell he understood and agreed.
A couple of hours later a report came back from Boston. There was nothing that could be done. The right leg would have to be amputated. We cried. A lot. I went to the chapel for a while. Eventually, we all reconvened in JJ’s room. J woke up and motioned for his dry erase board. He wrote, what I made out to be “ambulance or helicopter.” He wanted to know how he was getting to Boston. I read it aloud so he could confirm my guess. He did. This was, for me, the hardest moment of JJ’s hospital stay. I looked at him and said “J, you’re not going to Mass Gen. I’m so sorry. They said that there was nothing they could do.” He stared at the ceiling for a minute, cried only a couple of tears, and fell back asleep.
Not long after, the doctor came back in to explain the procedure for the amputation. We were all listening intently when I looked over and noticed JJ had woken up and was listening too. The doctor started over from the beginning to make sure J heard everything he had said. Nurses came in to start the pre-op prep like they had done earlier. They gave J and an extra dose of whatever powerful concoction he was already on. He fell asleep immediately. One of them asked dad to sign a piece of paper allowing them to amputate. And that, I have no doubt, was dad’s toughest moment. He said he didn’t want JJ to hate him for making that decision. For signing that piece of paper. More tears came.
Now, looking back, the days that follow sort of melt together in a way. But certain moments stick out. The bigger ones, certainly more at the beginning and then start to taper. Like when he got his breathing tube out. There was a nurse on duty that J had taken a liking to. He said to her, “Can I ask you a personal question? Why do I get the feeling that you like me?” Listen, I’ve seen my brother interact with women, and I must say, this was, surprisingly, one of his more charismatic moments.
One of the only times I have seen JJ cry was one of his first nights in his regular room. Everyone was concerned about his mental state. Probably because we were all such a mess we assumed he must be too. It was just him and I and I can’t remember the exact wording I used but I asked him what and how he was feeling. He told me that the hardest part was that he would never be a firefighter again. He cried real hard, and so did I. I told him that if there was something he wanted to do, then he would figure out a way to do it. I had. and still have, no doubt of that. I found a video of a firefighter in Ohio who had an amputation almost exactly like JJ’s. He had been outfitted with a special prosthetic that worked perfectly. He wasn’t on light duty, the guy was fighting fires. I watched J watch the video and then we cried some more.
On Sundays, we would have football parties in his room. We’d bring a cooler and whatever JJ wanted to eat. He had lost so much weight. He was already thin and didn’t have much to lose. When he was able to eat, which was about once or twice every other day, he didn’t eat much. He wanted a special soup. We always called it green soup. Our nanny would make it for us. Kruno went and bought every box Hannaford had. That’s what he’s eating is this picture. He was so happy to have that green soup.
Next came his time at Spaulding. They do some truly amazing work there. And JJ was the incredibly lucky to be the recipient of some of that amazing work. He has said several times that he doesn’t believe he’d be this far along if he hadn’t have gone there. It was hard, him being so far away, but it was for the best. We all knew it. I got this photo one day while I was at work.
I was so proud. JJ has made us all very proud throughout this experience. His resolve has been something to be admired. He would be a great role model for someone who’s gone through a similar experience.
He has worked very hard to get to where he is. I got to go with him to a physical therapy appointment a few months ago. To the naked eye, the unknowing person, it may have looked like he wasn’t doing much. Lifting a leg up and down, moving side to side. But to us, to know where he had been such a short time ago. The condition he was in. How hard he worked. It was nothing short of a miracle. We almost lost him…a few times. But here he is.
So many moments and memories stick out. Things that I want to share. But this post has again, turned out to be very long. They will have to be told at a later time. Maybe on his two year anniversary. The weird thing is, and I think I can speak for most of my family. We are now running on a different calendar. To me, and I’d bet to JJ too, tonight at midnight, marks a new year. With I’m sure, more milestones to conquer and mountains to move. He will continue to progress and heal, hopefully sharing his progress along the way. This past year JJ has been the recipient of more prayers and blessings then could ever be counted. And for that, our family is so incredibly grateful.