Sunday, January 4, 2015

A New Year--New Beginnings!!

I am a little late in posting for New Years. I have been pretty sick AND had to keep working, so I didn't have much energy for anything else. Flu season has hit fast, early and HARD! We have been seeing in the 120s most days! INSANE. We are ALL getting VERY burned out!

Today was the first day since Christmas that I actually felt HUMAN again. It was mild out so I went for a walk, which was nice. My cough only bothered me a little while walking, so hopefully I will be able to REALLY start exercising again soon. The thick green stuff I've been coughing up is slowing down. I work tomorrow but will be off Tuesday and Wednesday, so here's hoping I can start doing my DVDs again! That is REAL exercise!

I know this isn't a pivotal event, but I guess every New Year is a pivotal point. My resolutions this year involve the usual--losing weight, improving my finances, exercising more, getting organized at home. I have also added finding a charity to donate to AND volunteer with. I'm considering both Animal Friends and The Wounded Warrior Project. Those are two things near and dear to my heart--animals and veterans. My father had PTSD before it was a recognized diagnosis and he committed suicide because of it. If I can prevent another veteran from doing that, I would feel like I truly made a difference.

Well, it is late and I have to work tomorrow again, so good night. I will try to be more regular with my posts!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Contemplating My Future--Upcoming Pivotal Events!

Lately I have been thinking a lot about my future. That seems odd for a 50-something year old mother to say, but it is true. What comes after the kids are all grown and gone? That isn't too far away now! What do I want to do when I "retire" from medicine? WHEN will I retire? What do I want my life to be like in retirement, and how much money do I need to put away to allow me that life?

For the past year or so I had planned to cut down to part time work after I turn 65 but continue to work at MedExpress until about 72 (financially that is the age I should be able to retire and live off my investments). I had considered working as a doctor for a cruise line between 65 and 72. That gig is usually 3 months on and 3 months off and I would be able to travel! The drawbacks are that, if you are on a small ship, you are the ONLY doc and work 24/7 so I would not be able to visit ports. On a bigger cruise ship I could, but I don't know if you can specify this--I'm sure nobody wants to be the sole doc! I bet everyone has to do a combination. Also, at 65+ it might be hard for me to be on call 24 hours a day! It is still a consideration, but I am looking into other options.

I have a good friend who does TeleMedicine. I am going to talk to him further about it over the Holidays. I'm not sure it is for me, but I am intrigued enough to find out more. This would be something I could even start doing NOW on a limited basis to increase those retirement coffers! This same friend is also a travel agent and this excites me even more! After I don't need to work full time to keep medical insurance, it would be awesome to combine my love of travel and my love of writing and start a travel blog! Being able to travel at a reduced rate AND write it off as a business expense would totally ROCK!

So there you have it. If any of you have any ideas I might be interested in, let me know! Travel, writing and medicine are all things I love and am good at. I would love to be able to do all three well into my senior years!

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Slow and Painful Good-bye

Back in 2010 Mom went into a nursing home because Tim could no longer care for her at home and she refused Home Health. At the time she went into the nursing home we were told she probably only had about 6 months to live. She stayed at Harmon House in Mount Pleasant until February 8, 2014! I remember the date because it was Seth's birthday.

I was at work on that day and got a call from Harmon House. Something had happened to Mom's leg when they tried to move her. They sent her to Frick (the nearby hospital) and they diagnosed a fractured left femur. They were not equipped to handle that there so they transferred her to UPMC Presbyterian. I immediately worried about a pathological fracture due to cancer.

Mom had bladder cancer years ago but never had a recurrence. Before she went into the nursing home she was diagnosed with a lung tumor. It was not in an area that could be biopsied without surgery and we knew she would have a difficult time having surgery. Also, she insisted she would NOT have radiation or chemotherapy. So we decided to let it go. That is why the doctors thought she would only live 6 months. She fooled us all!

I expressed my concern to the doctors at Presby about this being a pathological fracture. It did look that way on CAT scan. She had surgery to pin the femur and they took a biopsy. The tissue was rather difficult to pin down (very undifferentiated) but it DID turn out to be from the lung. A staging work up showed metastases in the liver and lymph nodes, but not the brain. Again, Mom declined any treatment. I wanted to put her on hospice at this time, but neither she nor my brother were ready.

After discussions with my brother and my aunt, we decided to move Mom to a nursing home closer to the kids and I so we could spend more time with her. We moved her to one in Greentree. I wanted to bring her to the one here in Moon which is right down the street from me, but they didn't have a bed. From February to June she was in and out of the hospital with fevers and UTIs and she eventually developed a UTI that was resistant to all antibiotics. She became septic. I spent as much time with her during that last week as I could and we finally put her on hospice. She went back to the nursing home one last time. I had just pulled into the parking lot to visit her when I got the call that she had died. I was just a few minutes too late.

I thought I was prepared for losing my Mom, but I wasn't ready. I can't believe or accept the fact that she is gone. Logically I know she is gone, but my heart doesn't want to believe it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Separating A Family

One of the more recent pivotal events in my life was the decision to end my second marriage. Things had not been going well for quite some time. I admit a lot of that was my resentment over being the only one supporting our family. That resentment became toxic and we grew worlds apart (that wasn't the only reason of course, and I won't run through a list of what went wrong, but that is much of it). It was very sad and painful to see that once great relationship die a slow death.

The writing was on the wall by the Fall of 2008. So much so that I actually borrowed $5000 to give him to move out and find a place of his own. He also finally started working to save up money to move. He didn't actually move out until April 2009 but things were quite cold between us during that time. There were a few good times (like some Pens and Steelers games), but we were definitely not living as married people.

The hardest part of him leaving (for me) was that Kendyl went with him. They were extremely close and she opted to live with him. She stayed with him for about 3 years, but eventually moved back with me. I missed her terribly during those years, though she did visit often. Thankfully, we are now closer than ever!

Moving from our house that we had built into an apartment was also hard. But I was a victim of the whole mortgage crisis thing. The loan I got was WAY to high in interest, and when the market values crashed, I was upside down. My earnings at the job I was at were not enough to keep paying all of the expenses and the mortgage. I lost the house. That is a big regret in my life. Because I worked so much, the house was in horrific condition. I didn't have the time or the money to fix things. It was one of the worst times of my life--losing the love of my life slowly over the years and the home we had built. I did not handle it well. At times I felt the kids would be better off with my insurance money than with me. I felt like a complete failure in every aspect of my life.

Most of my adult life I have taken antidepressants. Having a father who committed suicide and a mom who was chronically depressed, I felt I needed these. During that difficult time I started a second one to augment the first. I think it did its job too well and actually made me a little manic. I recognized this and quit the second one. After life had settled down I quit the first one too. I have been free of any of these meds for about 3 years now and feel fine without them. I am sad at times because I am lonely as the  kids get older and have lives of their own, but I hope I never get back to those dark days of 2009/2010.

That time was a huge collection of pivotal events--ending my marriage, my daughter moving with her dad, losing my house, considering suicide. Very sad and scary times. But I got through them, and I am stronger for my struggles.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Life Can End At Any Time!

By far the scariest pivotal event in my life was my cardiac arrest. I had been having some chest and back discomfort so I underwent a stress test. During the stress test I became suddenly very breathless and had major chest pain. They took me straight to the cath lab. There they found I was having vasospasm but did not have a blockage. They put me on cardizem and we all thought that would be that.

I didn't have any more chest pain after that, but I continued to have pain in my back between my shoulder blades. I thought it was my disc in my neck. It was weird though because it only happened in the mornings as I was getting ready for work. I had to lay down completely still for it to go away.

So one morning in August 2005 (the 17th I believe) I was driving to the hospital to make rounds and I kept having chest pains. It got worse and worse and I walked into the hospital, went straight to the Medical Staff Office, and asked them to call the ER. I then dropped dead. Right there. I did have the foresight to lay down on the floor to make it easier for them to code me (I know that sounds odd, but I have coded people and getting the dead weight from sitting to laying is very hard and wastes precious time).

I did not see a bright light or dead loved ones. Maybe I wasn't dead long enough since I was in a hospital and had almost immediate help. Everything just went dark and I did not remember anything until I woke up in ICU. I do remember being extubated, and I remember feeling like I had to pee but everyone kept telling me I had a catheter in. Tom was there, and lots of nurses and other medical personnel.

The decision was made to send me to AGH where they could  implant a defibrillator. Washington now does this but they didn't back then. I spent almost a week there and got my defibrillator after I healed up from the arrest and biting my tongue. I was right by the heliport and didn't get much sleep due to helicopters coming in and out.

It is still hard to believe how close I came to really dying that day! I tend to minimize it to stay sane, but I know it happened. I don't like to dwell on it--it is way too scary! But it was definitely a defining moment in my life and a major pivotal event!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Meeting My Sisters For the First Time!

I always knew I had 2 sisters somewhere. Well, not always, but at a very early age. They were my father's daughters from a previous marriage. I had never met them, and since he died when I was only 4, I didn't even know their names. All I knew was that there mother's name was Jane and that she ended up marrying an Akron city policeman whose last name was Gray. I found these things out from my Nana and my mom over the years.

With the advent of the Internet, I had a way to reach out and research. Back in the early 90's there was Prodigy, AOL and Compuserve. I used Prodigy and belonged to several genealogy groups. People there helped me search for all of the Jane Gray's in Ohio. We came up with 5. Of those, 1 was in Akron and 1 was in Cleveland. These seemed the best ones to start with. I also found the address for the Police Department in Akron. I sent off letters then waited. This was in 1995 right around the time I was getting ready to move back to Pennsylvania.

After Tom and I moved back to Pennsylvania I got two responses! One was from the Akron Police Department and they said they knew who I was talking about and had forwarded my letter to him. The other was from Jane--my dad's ex-wife and the mother of my sisters!! She said Mary Kay and Janice had been looking for us too but didn't know we had left Ohio! Very shortly we were talking on the phone and making plans to meet!

Mary Kay and Janice drove out to Washington, PA to meet my brother and I that fall. It was awesome! We've gotten together many times since and they were the two people Tom and I had as witnesses at our wedding (Seth and Brogan were there too but they weren't old enough to be witnesses). They are awesome and I love them dearly! I just wish we could have found each other earlier!

Meeting my sisters for the first time was definitely a highlight of my life and a big pivotal event! I'm so glad they are now in my life!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Expanding Our Family

Two months after Tom and I got married, we were pregnant! I knew even before I missed my period because I woke up at 6 am one morning and was CRAVING chili! That was not normal at all for me so I was convinced I was pregnant. I also was pretty sure it was a girl since I had never had any cravings with the boys. A quick test confirmed my suspicions and I couldn't have been happier!

During my pregnancy with Kendyl I craved chili and mashed potatoes with cheese. Strange but true. At least I didn't crave junk or sweets! At about 14 weeks (not sure exactly) I had CVS to make sure there were no genetic abnormalities since I was over 35. This confirmed that I was pregnant with a girl! I was so excited since my previous two babies were boys!

I worked throughout my pregnancy, as I had with both of my previous ones. Kendyl was due May 15 but about a week before that, an ultrasound showed that I was losing amniotic fluid, so I was scheduled for induction on May 7. I worked the day before and saw a rainbow on my way home, which I took to be a sign of good luck.

Induction is a whole lot more painful than natural labor! And Kendyl was stubborn--she wasn't ready to be born. After about 12 hours of pitocin she finally was born and was absolutely beautiful! Seth and Brogan--who earlier in my pregnancy were worried there would not be enough love left for them--fell in love with her too! I enjoyed finally having a baby girl!!

I got pregnant again almost immediately, but had a miscarriage. After that I never had another period. People kept telling me it could take awhile but after several months I went to my OB only to find out I was pregnant again!! Our little CJ was born the following July. That time I had planned to take 2 weeks off before he was due (8/5) but after only 2 days off I went into labor and delivered CJ 20 minutes after getting to the hospital (long story--rush hour + road work + denial on my part). That made our family complete--FIVE great kids between us--Seth, Brogan, Haley, Kendyl and CJ! I love them ALL with all of my heart!