To celebrate the end of 2018 (and because there’s a break in hockey during the holidays) Bruce and Finn went on a snow camping trip. I’m hoping Bruce will fill in the details at some point, but for now I can say that they were in Carson Pass, California and Lake Winnemucca, Nevada. It looks gorgeous and extremely cold.
After last year’s birthday that Bruce spent in the hospital, I was keenly aware of how lucky were are to celebrate this year. We celebrated early and late and I thought it was a pretty good day! First, breakfast cake and presents.
In the evening we went out for a fancy-ish dinner at Los Altos Grill. I don’t know about Bruce, but I had a super nice time. The boys were great — funny, personable, well behaved. We must be hitting that sweet spot between little kid and sullen teenager where they’re just a joy to be around. I took a few pictures but they’re all terrible because the light was so low. I’ll share one blurry one because it’s the birthday boy blowing out his second candle of the day.
Great day! Happy 49th to Bruce!
On February 10th and 11th, Bruce and three of his friends from work went on a snow camping trip to Carson Pass and Winnemucca Lake. First, let me just express how happy I am that he has people to do this with so that I don’t have to go! I mean, seriously, how cold does this look?
Beautiful, yes. But brrrrr.
Here are some photos of their trekking and ice fishing. It really does look beautiful.
The rest of the guys took lots of pictures and you can see them all in this Google Photos album.
On September 9th, a Saturday, I headed out for a mid-day jog. A little four-mile loop. An old habit. A mile or so in I started to feel light-headed. I’d been feeling this way on runs for several months–years, actually, although it would go away for long periods. This year it had become more frequent and severe. I slowed to a walk to wait for it to lift, which it usually did.
The next thing I recall a police officer was accosting me: “Hey! I need you to sit down!” I remember thinking “what’s your problem?” and “fine, fine, … ” as I sat on a curb. “What’s your name?” he asked, and I thought “That’s weird, I don’t know my name.” He kept asking questions and things started to come back. An ambulance came and took me to the ER.
It turns out I had had a small heart-attack–a ventricular fibrillation, they think–passed out, fell and hit my head. A passer-by had waved down the officer who was politely but forcibly getting my attention. I’ve had an undiagnosed heart condition for twenty years. It’s resulted in several heart attacks, but I’d never lost consciousness.
The next part is a bit of a jumble. I don’t remember when I noticed my tongue hurting, but I had bit it badly. In the ER they decided to stitch it closed. They debated how many stitches to put in. Four. That hurt. Then a hematoma formed and my tongue swelled up like a balloon. They decided to intubate me before my tongue shut off my breathing. I’m sure I didn’t appreciate the significance of the intubation at the time.
Being intubated and partially sedated was awful. I would wake and it felt like I was suffocating. Christy and the nurse kept assuring me I was safe. They’d tell me they could read my blood oxygen level and it was fine. But it felt like I couldn’t breathe, which was frightening. I’d eventually talk myself into being ok, but I’d come in and out of consciousness and every time I rewoke I’d go through it again. I really, really, wanted to get out. Throughout this time I communicated by writing on a clipboard. I’d write, to Christy, “How much longer?” and “How many more hours?” I don’t remember how she answered but she knew it was days. At some point they tied my hands down so I wouldn’t tear out the tubes but I don’t remember it.
I’ve since read that intubation can be a terrifying experience for some people. Months after I was released I had a bad sore throat and congestion, and I kept waking dreaming I was suffocating. I knew, rationally, that I could breathe, but my constricted throat brought back memories from the hospital. I had to fight panicking. Until now, I hadn’t really understood people who choose not to recall bad experiences. I’d like this memory to fade.
I slowly started to recover. A few days later they decided to extubate me. Extubation was 30 seconds of awful. They had stitched the tube to my nose to keep it from falling out and in one sequence of motions they cut those stitches and pulled the tube out. Starting to breathe again felt like choking. But progress felt great. I’d have been glad to go through much more than that. Taking the feeding tube out was easy. The urinary catheter less so. Anything in the name of progress.
I moved from the cardiac ICU to the cardiac CU, which is adjacent to the ICU. I started to walk slowly around the unit. On every loop we’d pass my cardiac ICU room. It was brightly lit, but my memory of it was as a darkened room. I even asked Christy if it was always so bright. “Yes, always.”
Christy was with me pretty much the entire time, which was unquantifiably comforting. I had a few other visitors as well, but Christy’s presence takes no effort on my part. I declined requests for most visits. I was feeling pretty dejected and not up for the pressure to be positive.
The attending cardiologist recommended a pacemaker. Actually, although I’d call it a pacemaker, it’s an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD. It does more than just re-pace you: it’s a little defibrillator with leads dangling into the chambers of your heart, watching and waiting to shock you. My regular cardiologist had brought up this possibility a few years back and at the time it was startling. I didn’t imagine I’d ever be as ill as someone who needed a pacemaker. Now they were pretty matter of fact about it. You need one. You can’t pass out. It’s dangerous. (I know I keep imagining that the worst part was passing out, and not having a heart attack, but I’m indulging some level of denial.)
I got in the queue for an ICD (I’d still yet to leave the hospital). I had to wait a few days. My roommate, a big, boisterous, overweight guy in his 60s went in ahead of me. He had traveled some way to have the procedure here, which seemed a good sign. “No big deal!” he proclaimed. I finally rolled in to have mine installed. “Hey! Welcome back!” said the nurse. I’d been there a few days earlier for a cardiac catheterization, but didn’t remember any of it. They told me I’d been funny, which I was glad to hear. It was like hearing your stand-in had represented you well.
A day or so later I finally left the hospital. Twelve days. It seemed longer. I’m still adjusting to both the severity of the event and what, if any, changes I need to make going forward. A week after being released I had an appointment with my cardiologist. They were tweaking my medication. “What about drinking alcohol? Is that ok?” I asked. “Oh, I think you could use a drink.” I’ve taken his advice.
The blog has been stuck at this spot for a while, and the title of this post might be a clue as to why it’s January and I’m finally writing about a September event. It’s hard to write about the bad days. But, here goes.
On September 9th, Bruce went out for a jog about at around 3:00 pm. That was not unusual, but the call I received from the Palo Alto Police officer around 4:00 was. (It had been determined that he had lost consciousness and fallen, biting his tongue in the process. We later learned that someone had seen him stumbling around and flagged down a police officer who was driving by.) The officer said he’d found him injured and was sending him to the hospital by ambulance. My first thought was, “He’s going to be so mad. He hates going to the hospital!” Figuring this was going to be his “usual” two-day hospital stay, I grabbed some supplies for him (a book, a phone charger, and some clothes) and headed to the ER. He was a little banged up and dirty from his fall, but he didn’t look too bad. Except for his tongue which was completely mangled and very painful.
We waited for hours as they took his medical history, did tests to make sure the incident was caused by his heart and not something else, and stitched up his tongue (not something they usually do but the cut was so bad they decided to). Once he was settled into a regular room on the cardiac ward upstairs, I went home to be with the boys.
The next day I went back to the hospital in the mid-morning and he was still in a lot of pain and his tongue was very swollen. We still had no indication of what was to come when I left after a few hour visit. Some time around 5:00 I got a text from him that his tongue had continued to increase in size and they were worried it was going to block his airway, so they were going to intubate him. I was shocked and terrified. When I got to the hospital Sunday evening, they had just finished the procedure and transferred him to the cardiac ICU (the CCU). He was sedated and hooked up to what seemed like a million tubes and his hands were in restraints so that he wouldn’t pull out the intubation tube. He would occasionally wake up and be scared because he felt like he couldn’t breathe. His nurse kept reassuring him that the machine was breathing for him and all of his numbers looked good, but it was of little comfort.
Over the next several days, he was on heavy painkillers and partially sedated. Thanks to four very helpful visitors (Cari, Laura & Eric, and Janice) I was able to be at the hospital every day for long hours. Bruce had two day-nurses over the five days he was in the CCU, and they were incredibly talented and watchful. Bruce often seemed lucid and would write down questions or try to have a conversation by way of pen and paper, always making jokes. He had the nurses and doctors laughing on more than one occasion. When one group noticed from the whiteboard that it had been his birthday, he wrote down “This is my mid-life crisis” on his piece of paper and laughter erupted.
I took a picture of his whiteboard on Monday because what most occurred to me when I saw it that morning was “worst birthday ever.”
On Tuesday, when I was about to crack from the stress of seeing the strongest person I know in such a state, his nurse, Jake, asked if he wanted to sit up in bed and dangle his feet over the edge. Of course, Bruce never says no to a challenge, so he did that and then they decided he could also try standing up. Accompanied by “Eye of the Tiger” he stood up, leaned on the walker, and bobbed his head to the beat a little bit. It was a much-needed bit of levity and a sign that he was going to be OK.
The week is now a blur of IVs, medical personnel, and procedures. Here’s his IV pole which gives you an idea of the chaos.
Here he is after they extubated him on Thursday. He still had the feeding tube in, much to his annoyance.
And by Friday he was looking pretty good!
They finally kicked him out of the CCU and transferred him over to the regular cardiac ward to await his ICD. Unfortunately, there were some scheduling delays but he finally got his device and was released the following Wednesday, September 20th. He has made great progress since then, adjusting to the new normal and getting back to all of his regular activities.
I am so grateful for the out-of-town angels who swooped in to take care of my boys and keep some semblance of normalcy during the long hospital stay. I also had help from several local mom friends, and Bruce’s friends at work brought bags and bags of groceries, and even a little piñata for his birthday.
As I mentioned in my last post, Finn chose to go on a snowboarding trip for his birthday instead of having a party. He didn’t have to twist Bruce’s arm too much since he wanted to get back on the slopes again too. So, the weekend after Finn’s birthday they went to Bear Valley. They stayed at the Bear Valley Lodge. There was tons of snow.
They did some snowshoeing.
Made a giant snowball.
And had a snowboarding/skiing day.
Over the weekend of Ezra’s 12th birthday, he and Bruce went on a snow camping trip with Bruce’s colleague, Andrei, and his son, Edward. They went to Carson Pass and had a fun but chilly time. As with the Christmas break trip, I’m hoping Bruce will fill in the details on this post at some point! For now, here are some photos.
More photos here.
December 3rd gave us not only Finn’s piano recital but also a Vintage Christmas Party put on by a couple of our favorite Fairmeadow moms. These are our hostesses, Karen and Christina, and as you can tell from their outfits and the decorations behind them, they went all out.
Bruce and I got dressed up vintage style as well, although I just couldn’t manage the 50s-60s hair. But I did get a petticoat and I pulled out my mother’s pearls which were definitely from that era.
Bruce decided to go with 50s NASA engineer. I tried to get him to shave off his facial hair (which I’m pretty sure was a no-no among that ilk at the time) but he wouldn’t do it. We did manage to make a pretty accurate recreation of the pocket contents and a NASA badge. He also had his calculator on his belt like a holster.
Here are some more pictures from the evening. Super fun!
October was marred by the surprise Loon resignation of our friend Baris. While we weren’t happy about the news, we’ve settled into acceptance and, in usual Bruce fashion, he provided an excellent send-off. The group asked him to make a balloon “card” so out came the papier-mâché once again. Unfortunately I fell down on the picture-taking job, but here’s the one photo I have after the group had signed the balloon.
What you can’t see is the underside where there’s a cutout with plexiglass showing that the balloon is filled with the colorful origami cranes from the original Loon piñata Bruce made. It really turned out to be quite nice.
The presentation on Baris’s last day, however, was appropriately dark …
Here’s a closeup showing the dead roses, baked in our oven to perfect crispness.
No sense hiding one’s feelings.
It feels like we’re just running from one stressor to the next these days, so I’m having a hard time remembering what we did that day. I know we celebrated in the morning … because it’s the only picture I have from that day.
The boys had their skating class that afternoon and then a birthday party. Ah, and I do remember, Bruce and I went to dinner by ourselves to celebrate. Low key, but nice (and rare) to get out.
This post is quite chronologically-challenged, but all the way back at the beginning of May, while Ezra and I were on a field trip to NASA, Finn and Bruce participated in Bring Your Child to X Day.
In addition to Bruce’s duties as a dad that day, he also had an important role as an employee — he devised a fun way to demonstrate how the laser communication system on the balloons works. He wired a switch to a laser pointer and fastened it to a helmet, taped on a small motor to cause vibration, and attached a giant balloon to it. Then he had the kids try to point the laser pointer at a fixed spot across the room, while the balloon swayed above their heads and the motor vibrated the helmet. All this simulated what the laser comm system has to deal with in trying to point to another balloon in order for successful communication. It’s really quite difficult to keep the laser pointer straight on target with all this going on, but the kids (and adults!) had a super fun time trying. Here are a few pictures taken by his colleague, Paul.
Here’s Baris giving it a try. I love this picture. Everyone’s faces are expressive, and I especially love Finn peaking out between Bruce and Baris.
The demonstration proved to be so successful that the project is planning to use it for other Xers and visitors. What a great outcome for one of Bruce’s crazy contraptions!