The Thankful Project: Day 4 – An Experience

It sounds awful to say this, but I’m thankful for my sister’s AVM and stroke.  I know it sounds awful to say that, but it’s true.

I’m not thankful that she had to have such a traumatic experience for an otherwise routine procedure.  I am not thankful or happy that she had to endure so much pain and had to work so hard to regain her strength.  I am thankful though however for what that experience did to our relationship.

Growing up, my sister and I were not close.  We fought more often than not!  When you would ask my mom what she wanted for her Birthday, Christmas or Mother’s Day, she would reply – “For you two to get along!”.   We were polar opposites.  If I said the sky was blue, Jessica would say it was pink – just to be different.  I was neat and always organized…and she…was a hot mess!

We tolerated each other more the older that we got, but the experience that changed it all was her hospitalization. It was during this time that we realized we’re more alike than we could ever imagine and that we truly are the best of friends.

Early on in her hospital stay, she was intubated and couldn’t speak.  For parts of the day, she would be alert.  It was during those times, that she tried to communicate with us.  She would motion that she wanted something to write and then she would scribble away.  She’s a lefty, so her handwriting is often hard to read on a good day, but due to her hands being restrained (so she wouldn’t pull the breathing tube out) and the high-powered medications she was on, her writing was often illegible.  She would scribble and adamantly point at what she had written.   At first, no one could figure out what she was saying.  Her frustration grew.  We never got full thoughts, but rather words and short phrases.  I was in the room one day as she motioned to write.  Here is what I saw:

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Feel like I’m choking…Cough

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When can tube come out. I bit my tongue…something to put on it. The anesthesiologist said that when…

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Can I roll over. I’m thirsty. I feel like I have something stuck in my throat.

I began guessing what she was trying to say.  She was so excited and kept giving thumbs up that someone finally understood.  That was the start of it all. She continued to communicate – that she had bills that were due and was worried about them not being paid.  Through chicken-scratch and a game that was similar to charades, I was able to obtain her log-on’s to all of her websites and to pay her bills.  I wanted her to have one less thing to worry about and she was so worried that it would affect her credit.

Eventually, the breathing tube came out, she was able to talk, and she was able to voice her concerns.  I don’t know if she felt a sense of security in me because I worked at the hospital she was treated at, but our relationship blossomed.  I was her advocate and she trusted me.  She asked me things she didn’t understand and what the next steps would be.

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Kenzie visiting to make her feel better

As she transitioned to rehab, I would stop by her room each morning to find out her rehab schedule.  I would pop down and be there for each of her PT sessions and saw the progression – from learning to stand, to walking a few steps, to walking and running on a treadmill.  I was there with her each step of the way and each day, our relationship grew stronger.

I don’t know what we wasted all of these years fighting, because we’re more alike than we’ve ever realized.  Since the stroke and AVM, our relationship has continued to grow.  She is truly an inspiration to me and I am so lucky to have her as my sister.

She asked me a few weeks ago to be her maid of honor.  The wedding date isn’t set and I know I still have time, but I can’t help but think about the type of toast I will give.  I know one thing…I won’t be able to get through it without tears.

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I’m linking up with Kenzie over at Chasing Happy for the month of November.
Be sure to stop by and check it out!


The Thankful Project: Day 2 – A Role You’ve Played

thankful project title

I’m linking up with Kenzie over at Chasing Happy for the month of November.
Be sure to stop by and check it out!

As I’ve mentioned in my very first posting ever on this blog, my 25 year-old sister suffered a stroke when undergoing surgery for an AVM located on her brain.

We have a large family, as well as an abundance of extended family and friends that all wanted and needed to be kept informed of changes with Jessica and her condition.

Not long after I received the horrible news, I realized that we were going to need a way to share information.  There was no way my Mom and Dad could handle those phone calls, retelling the same story and the same information again and again.

Thank goodness for technology! Over the next month, I updated Jessica’s Caring Bridge site daily for our loved ones.  Some days they were full of information and other days, it reported the status quo.  Some days there were significant changes and others, there were set-backs.

The one thing I am thankful for during this time was the ability to play the role of Blogger/Informant.  It kept our family updated and helped to alleviate some of the “How is she doing?” calls.   Those calls still came, but not in the abundance that they would have if everyone was kept in the dark about her condition.

I’m also thankful that it provided me an outlet.  I was able to hold it together at the hospital, but the Caring Bridge site provided me an outlet to vent -to give the updates, to type, to let it go, to get it off of my chest.

I’m thankful that it provided us with a journal and history of her progress.  It’s amazing to look back and see how far she has come.  How even in the midst of the days were there wasn’t much progress, that there were still small miracles.   On her one year anniversary this past August, I had a book created for her from all of the updates and everyone’s posts and warm wishes.    Although it’s not something that she’ll read every day, she now has a printed version to remind her of how far she has come.

I’m thankful for the site because it provided not only Jessica, but our entire family, the encouragement, support, and strength we needed during such a difficult time!  The words that were written on those pages are also written on our hearts forever.

Most of all, I’m thankful that we’ve got such a positive story to tell – one that includes a recently passed drivers test and the ability for her to have her freedom again!  A story that includes a new engagement and wedding planning!  One that makes me so proud and so happy to have played a role in such an amazing story.


A Weekend to Remember

I love weekends!  They are a chance to unwind, reset, accomplish tasks, to have fun and spend time with the ones you love. Some weekends are epic and this would be one of them!

We started off the weekend by sleeping in!  Kenzie slept until 9, which was glorious.  Brian and I both had a chance to get up and run, shower and be ready for McKenzie long before she made her first peep.  We enjoyed breakfast and then spent the rest of the morning setting up McKenzie’s new toddler bed!  She was so excited and insisted on being in the mix to help!  We kept telling her that this was her Big Girl Bed and she would giggle each time we said it.

By the time we finished putting it all together, it was nap time.  I honestly thought we would have a fight on our hands, but she pointed to her bed, I put her in it and kissed her forehead and off to sleep she went.  For all of the anxiety I had leading up to it, she did great!

So excited for her Big Girl Bed!

So excited for her Big Girl Bed!

After a nap, we went to the local circus.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I guess I expected a few juggling acts and clowns and a short performance.  I was blown away! The show lasted an hour and a half and included acrobats, jugglers, clowns, dogs and camels!  It was done really well and kept McKenzie’s attention the entire time!

I am emotional on a good day, but it literally brought tears to my eyes to see how excited she was and how happy this made her.  It’s moments like these that make all of the tough Mom moments worthwhile.

After the show, we went grocery shopping for the week and McKenzie was an angel!  We stopped home, unpacked the groceries and then headed over to a friend’s for dinner.  It was a great night for the adults and fun for the kids as well.  There are three kids total ranging from 18 months to 15 months.  Everyone had a blast!

Sunday morning was a lazy morning.  Brian and I slept in until 8 and McKenzie slept in until 10!  I couldn’t even believe it!  Brian and I cleaned and organized the house before McKenzie woke up.  We went to brunch and had a great morning together.

During afternoon nap time, I had a chance to reorganize my upcoming blog posts, organize pictures and upload the new logos!  I love the new look that the logos give the site!  Now to just keep writing!

This evening, my sister, Kyle and my Mom stopped by so that we could celebrate my sister and Kyle’s recent engagement!  We had dinner together and celebrated with champagne and dessert from a local bakery!    My sister is so excited!  It’s nice to see her so happy.  I wish her and Kyle all the best as they choose to start their lives together.

It was quite a weekend to say the least with much to celebrate!  Great family, big milestones, fun times with friends, memorable moments and exciting news to celebrate!

Here’s hoping that having such an amazing weekend sets me up for an even more focused and incredible week!