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!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Taking a Second Stab at Marriage

In August 1995 we moved back to Pennsylvania--myself, Tom, Seth and Brogan. We initially lived in a rental house right next to Washington Hospital. It was small but cozy. My house in Virginia didn't sell until March 1996 so money was tight, but my school loans got paid off so that helped!

Once my home in Virginia sold, we started looking for a house to buy. We decided to build a home in a lovely neighborhood on a dead end street in a GREAT school district. Once we made that decision, we also decided to get married--I was going to take the plunge again!

We chose our wedding date based on when we could get a condo in Aruba--our chosen honeymoon destination. We got married at the Washington County Courthouse (it has a beautiful rotunda) with the boys and my two half-sisters in attendance. Later we lunched at a local Mexican food restaurant (Hungry Jose's if I remember correctly). That was a Wednesday I think. The next day we drove the boys to Winchester and met their dad since he was going to have them for the month of July. That weekend we headed to Aruba!

I fell in LOVE with Aruba and promised myself I would go back every 5 years or so. Unfortunately I haven't been back since but I do hope to sometime! We had a great 2 bedroom condo with a full kitchen and made friends with a great bartender named Andre! We met a couple of brothers we hung out with, as well as a mom and her daughter. Tom played guitar on the beach and we even went to areas tourists don't go! It was a great week, even though we BOTH got sunburned (I think the ONLY time he has ever been sunburned). It was definitely a good decision to spend our money on a honeymoon instead of a wedding!

Two months after we got married I got pregnant with Kendyl (I could see some of my relatives counting to make sure we were not pregnant when we got married). During that pregnancy we moved into our new home--it was the weekend between Christmas and New Years! But those are posts for another day!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Moving Back Home

After my divorce from my first husband, I dated a few guys but eventually met the love of my life. Tom and I started dating in January of 1994 (our first date was to watch football on Championship Monday). We hit it off and by February of 1995 he suggested we move back to Pennsylvania. My mom was diagnosed with cancer at the end of 1994 and I had been spending a lot of time driving back and forth to see her. On our Valentine's Day date, he suggested moving back. I had not really considered it, and the idea excited me.

It took a while to find a job--I interviewed in Indiana, PA, Mt. Pleasant/Norwin, Uniontown and Burgettstown. I decided I didn't want to live TOO close to home, so I nixed the Mt. Pleasant job. Tom wanted to go back to college to finish his degree so we wanted to be near Pitt. Thus, I took the Burgettstown job. This also allowed me to have the remainder of my school loans paid off! That was a huge benefit!

The odd part about moving back to Pennsylvania is that I actually did not get to spend enough time with my mom, even though that is the reason I moved back! When I lived in Va I would come up here for days at a time, often a week. Living closer to her, I saw her more frequently, but only for a few hours at a time. That was a weird irony with our move. Add two more kids into the mix and we didn't travel to see her nearly as much as I wish we had!

Moving back to Pennsylvania changed my life as well as the lives of Tom, Seth and Brogan. I will never know how life would have progressed if I had stayed in Richmond, but I'm happy with how things have turned out here. There are good things and bad things, but I'm overall happy with my life now. This was another one of my major pivotal events!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Becoming a Parent--Life's Most Momentous Decision

The years of medical school flew by. I got married between my third and fourth years (I only had a week off and was late for my own rehearsal due to my surgery orals). I went on to do a residency in Richmond since my husband was a year behind me. He joined me at Chesterfield Family Practice the following year.

We knew we wanted to start a family while in residency. All of my friends already had a kid or two (or three) and I was afraid to wait too long. Fortunately the trail had been blazed for me in my residency program--one previous resident had a baby during residency my first year. So I planned my schedule such that I got most of my difficult/busy rotations done early in my third year so that I could relax a little later in the year.

I remember finding out I was pregnant. We had been "trying" for a few months (as much as we could considering he was an intern and spending every third night and third weekend at the hospital), and I was moonlighting in the ER at Johnston-Willis Hospital. I mentioned to my coworkers that I was planning to go to Kings Dominion that weekend (an amusement part with lots of roller coasters) and they insisted I take a pregnancy test since I was a day or two late (not unusual at that stage of my life). I didn't have any symptoms of being pregnant (I never have, with any of my pregnancies), but I did it to humor them. Low and behold, it was positive! That was June of 1988. Seth joined our family on February 8, 1989 and my life was forever changed.

Someone once said that having a child is like letting your heart walk around outside of your body. That is so very true! I was forever changed when I held my child for the very first time! And I can tell you, it never gets old. I was in just as much awe when CJ (my youngest) was born. And the two in between (Brogan and Kendyl)! With everything I have accomplished in my life, my children are by far the most important and the most cherished of all!

I have not been a perfect mother, I don't think anyone is perfect. But I have done my best. I have made mistakes, but I think my four children are pretty great people with good heads on their shoulders. That makes me happier than anything else I have ever accomplished!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Back to Those Pivotal Events

When I started this blog, I wanted to share the many "pivotal events" that have shaped my life. I discussed my father's death by suicide, moving to a different state at age 11, and finding out my first husband was gay. These are but a few of the events that have shaped my life. I want to return to this goal and share more of my life with everyone.

Getting into medical school was without a doubt one of the most momentous events in my life. Throughout high school and college I was a very good student, so I assumed it would be easy to get into med school. I was very wrong. Since I thought it would be easy, I only applied to 5 schools. Of those, I only got interviews with 3--Johns Hopkins, Penn State at Hershey, and MCV. I didn't get invited to interview at UVa or Pitt.

My first interview was at Johns Hopkins. In retrospect, I should have scheduled that one later. It was VERY high pressured. They questioned my choice of college, stating that with my grades I could have gone to an ivy league school. I tried to explain that expense was a factor, as was my desire to participate in competitive horseback riding. I did NOT enjoy that interview at all. Despite Johns Hopkins being a world-renowned hospital, it is in a very bad section of Baltimore that made me nervous. I was not accepted there, but was put on a waiting list.

My second interview was at Penn State's medical school at Hershey. I remember it was on a Monday--the night before I stayed at a hotel and I watched the Super Bowl on TV. San Francisco won, though I don't remember who they were playing. Strange the things one remembers. The actual interview, I don't remember much of for some reason. It was not nearly as stressful, but it must not have stood out in any way, I suppose. I was also put on a waiting list for this school.

My final interview was at MCV. It was a very snowy day and I had to drive over Afton Mountain to get there. After a harrowing two plus hour drive, I got to MCV. One of the people who was to interview me didn't make it in that day due to the weather (and I drove all the way from Bridgewater), but the ones who did interview me were wonderful! They even had a student interview me which was AWESOME since she was able to answer many of my questions that I didn't feel right asking professors. It was a great experience and I especially loved the different way of teaching--by organ system rather than individual subjects (anatomy, biochemistry, etc.).

Then came the waiting.....and waiting.....and waiting. By the end of February I had not heard anything. I was leaving for a 3-week trip to Europe for my interterm and I had not heard anything. I left instructions with my boyfriend at the time to check my mail daily and I would call when I could to find out. This was before the days of email and cellphones. After visits to Iceland, Luxembourg, France and Switzerland, I finally had the opportunity to call him from Cologne, Germany. I had been accepted to MCV!!! The rest of my European trip was so much less stressful after finding this out!

So that is how I ended up attending MCV for medical school. I feel it was the best choice for me, even if the choice was not entirely left up to me. I had a wonderful experience at MCV, both academically and socially. It was the right fit and one that helped forge my future!