Thursday, November 22, 2007

My Hands Are Full, But So Is My Heart

This is a phrase that has been marketed to, and by, mothers of multiples. There are T-shirts, bumper stickers and various other high visibility items on which it has been printed. While it certainly holds true, I've always thought it a bit cheesy, kind of a multiples cliche. I have never (until now) used it to describe myself. But I cannot think of a more accurate description of what I am feeling at this moment. The weeks leading up to this Thanksgiving Day have been a challenge beyond our "normal" day to day with three (almost) 4 year old boys. I'm not even sure where to begin. My purpose for this post is to focus on gratefulness. The So Is My Heart part. But it needs a frame of reference so here is my attempt at what may become a very long ramble...


Kelly has a stressful job. He is acutely aware that he is the provider for this family and he does not take that lightly. He works harder than anyone I know. Without a doubt we remain his priority and he lives this every day. He makes every effort to be home with us for dinner, or at least for the bedtime routine, even if that means more work for him late into the night. He is fully present when he is here (something I can rarely manage and I am her all the time!). The boys know he is completely theirs when they are with him. Yet the demands of his job are always here as well. Thanks to modern technology, we've become accessible at any time of any day and in his profession there are no boundaries. Work beckons at all hours, on weekends, on vacation. He manages these demands, of work and family with competence and skill. There are times when it becomes too much and he must let his body rest but for the most part he is in constant motion and appears to have figured out how to handle the pressure. Two weeks ago Friday as he was preparing to leave for a major presentation he'd worked on for the better part of a month (days, nights, weekends...), he told me that he was feeling some pressure in his chest. He didn't want me to worry but it was unusual enough for him to feel he should let me know it was there. He assumed it was anxiety about the day ahead, kissed me goodbye and went on with his day. I was concerned - he has a family history of heart disease and we had just lost a friend to an undiagnosed heart abnormality. We spoke on the phone after his presentation and he said he was feeling better. The presentation had gone well and he was looking forward to the weekend at home. Fast forward to Sunday night. We were both upstairs with the boys and they were fired up. Kelly had been playing with them while I folded some of their laundry. I'd just said that it was time to brush teeth and get in beds when Kelly sat down and said he was not feeling well. He said his chest was hurting again, but different this time. And he looked terrible. I asked him a few questions in an effort to determine if this was an emergency (I recognize the stupidity of this statement now but at the time we had three little boys almost in bed and I was trying to decide if I needed to load everyon into the car and go to the ER or if I could get them to bed first and then make a decision about what to do for Kelly). He thought it might be heartburn and went to lay down. I got the boys in bed as quickly as I could and went to check on Kelly. He was lying in our bed, visibly uncomfortable and short of breath if he moved at all. I began my campaign for going to the hospital while reviewing my long expired CPR training in my head. I am not being funny here...I was very scared. Kelly wanted no part of hospital talk and kept negotiating for 30 more minutes "to see if this goes away". He wanted to sleep in his own bed with the promise that he'd see his own doctor Monday morning. When he was still unable to move without pain or speak without shortness of breath 4 hours after he initially said he felt bad, I more or less demanded he get in the car and we headed to the ER. (Much gratitude here for my sister, Michele, who stayed with the boys so we did not have to drag them along at midnight.) Skip ahead again to Tuesday (though a lot happened that I am omitting for the sake of getting on with the purpose of this post). Kelly had been in the hospital two days and all tests were normal, inconclusive, or slightly abnormal but with no clear indication why. Considering his family history, the cardiologist felt an angiogram (heart catheterization) was warranted. Ultimately, after 3 days and nights of tests (including the heart cath), it was determined that his heart is fine. That said, he was still experiencing pressure/pain and is now following up with a cardioligist as an outpatient as well as with his own physician to determine that cause and treatment for it. Likely, it is stress.

Here's the thing, before we knew all was fine with his heart, during the heart cath procedure, I was in a family waiting area when another family received news that their relative (mother) had had a serious complication during the catheterization procedure. In fact, they needed to decide immediately whether or not to take her into surgery to repair the damage and the doctors were uncertain whether or not she could even survive surgery. It was heart wrenching to watch this family come to terms with the news they had been given and to try and decide the fate of their mom. I felt so intrusive just being there but I was afraid to leave as I had been instructed that Kelly's physician would be calling me on the waiting area telephone should they find anything needing repair during his procedure. I also began to think about what I would do if I were given the same news about Kelly. It was an exercise I had not allowed myself to go through until that moment as I could not let myself be consumed with worry about things unknown. What I mean is that I am not a worst case scenario kind of person. I am pretty good at addressing things that are known and not getting caught up in the what ifs about most situations. It is, in my opinion, a waste of energy that could be utilized in a way that actually makes a difference for whatever the reality of the situation is. Fear is a demon I have battled since childhood. A constant companion whom I have worked hard at keeping in check...this is vague, I know, but the point is that I have lived with constant fear and I refuse to give it power over my life now. Seeing the pain of the family faced with such loss was an open door for my worst fears as an adult and as a parent to young children. What would we do without Kelly? Would my boys even remember what an incredibly strong and loving man their father was if they were to lose him at such a young age? How could I raise three boys to become men like him if I had to do it on my own? How would I ever feel complete? Have any peace at all without him?

More drama to follow in the next post - gotta run to pick up the wiseguys from school....

4 comments:

Miche said...

Oh Honey! I am so sorry. Glad to know the doctors may have eased some of your fears. I know you are worried. Hang in there. I love you!

JMom said...

What a scary experience. I am so glad he is OK. Have they checked him thoroughly for reflux? It sound so silly, but reflux can seriously present like a heart attack (and is aggravated by stress).

The Straight's said...

So glad to hear that he is OK. I can't imagine my life without CJ in it either. I was in your shoes about a year ago with CJ in the emergency room as well. Turns out stress too after a battery of tests. After seeing my husband weak as a mouse and passed out in the ER, my life changed forever. I hope you guys figure out the causes of the stress and terminate it NOW!

Jeannine said...

Dani I just read about Kelly. I'm so happy to hear that he is doing well.
I will keep him in my prayers.
Love you