High/Low

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday, which began with 8 AM Mass. I knew that daughter E would be cantoring, but found out on arrival that her spouse L was singing with her and that the handbell choir was ringing for the last time before their summer break. It was heartwarming and joyful to hear E and L sing together in public in the weeks before their first child arrives. Our friend music director Nancy said that she could feel L’s breath supporting E, although I think that even into her ninth month of pregnancy, E’s breath control is better than mine.

Unfortunately, the rest of the day was more subdued. We wound up needing to take Nana to the walk-in medical clinic and then to the emergency room for some tests. She had made some gains and started outpatient physical therapy instead of having in-home therapy, but, in the last week, she has gotten weaker and more fatigued. This morning, we have a follow-up appointment with her primary care physician.

Sometimes, it is two steps forward, one – or more – back.

Binghamton Poetry Project – Spring 2017

March was very hectic, but I did manage to attend four of five sessions for the Binghamton Poetry Project. Our reading took place on April first, but I missed it as it was the same afternoon as our University Chorus concert.

I haven’t had a chance to collect my anthology yet, but these three poems are my contribution. The first two were written from prompts during our sessions and the last one I wrote in response to the tongue-in-cheek suggestion of one of the Grapevine Group poets that we each write a snow poem after our big storm.

Enjoy! (And comment if you are so moved…)

Pneumonia

Her breaths are fast and shallow
between coughs.
I untie her sneakers,
work them off,
pull of her socks,
help her out of her shirt and pants,
slip her nightgown on.

She sits on the edge
of the bed,
pivots to lie down,
but needs me to lift
her feet.
I pull up the covers,
close the door,
and wait for the X-ray results.

*****

Two Hearts

Her cardiac rehab is Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

He rides with her in the retirement home van,
helps her navigate into the lift with her walker,
sits with her in the waiting room
until she is called into therapy
where he is not allowed to follow.

He waits.

Her exercises accomplished,
they board the van for the ride
back home to their apartment
where lunch awaits.

After sixty-two years of marriage,
he does not want her to go
alone.

*****

Nor’easter Numbers

The forecast was for an inch overnight
with Five to Eight to follow;
then, One to Three
with Six to Nine.

I rose before the daylight-saving
delayed dawn to find
a foot of snow already down,
consequence of a more westerly
track
plus
a stall.

My strategy,
born of long-ago New England winters,
to clear the overnight
accumulation from the driveway,
then shovel
every few inches,
add in the front walk
and path to the mailbox
as strength allows.

A good plan,
but overly ambitious
for a Five foot One-and-a-half inch
Fifty-six-year-old
alone
with a shovel
contending with the wake
of snowplows
and snow falling at Two
or Three
or Four
inches
an hour,
Twenty-seven inches
by Five o’clock
and still snowing.

Seven bouts of shoveling,
Twelve thousand, ninety-one Fitbit steps,
and Two blessed assists
from the neighbors’ snowblower
yield a driveway cleared to a road
under a county-wide travel ban,
a path to a mailbox that may
be filled with today’s mail
tomorrow,

weather permitting.

Nana on her way home!

Many thanks to all those who have been keeping my mom, known here as Nana, in their thoughts and prayers as she has been in New York City for an aortic valve replacement.

I am happy to report that she is on her way home! As often happens with heart procedures, while the TAVR procedure went well, one thing led to another. First, there needed to be a temporary pacemaker, which then needed to be replaced with a permanent one. She developed a bit of a-fib, which required some new meds and a re-jiggering of blood pressure meds. The next things we knew, what we had thought might be a three day hospital stay turned into eight.

We are happy that she is doing well and looking forward to having her back in town. She will need to rest and has a program to start exercising to get her back to her usual activity schedule, but she is doing so, so, so much better than when she was having congestive heart failure symptoms.

We are very grateful to the medical team that made it possible. I am also very grateful to my sisters and their husbands who have been on hand down in NYC to help both Nana and Paco at this stressful time.

Here’s to hearts that are healing!

One-Liner Wednesday: Thanks

Sending thanks to all those who have been keeping my mother Elinor in their thoughts and prayers; she is due home from NYC tomorrow with her new heart valve and a bonus pacemaker.
*****
This sequel to last week’s One-Liner Wednesday is brought to you by Joanne, with additional thanks to Linda. Join us for One-Liner Wednesday! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2016/10/19/one-liner-wednesday-presidential-poop/

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heart update

I just got word from my sisters in NYC that Nana’s aortic valve replacement is complete and successful. They also had to install a pacemaker, which is common in these kinds of situations.

Hers was the second procedure of the day for her surgical team. The first ran long, so her procedure was delayed, making the day  – and the waiting – longer than anticipated.

It’s so amazing that doctors can replace a damaged aortic valve with a functioning bovine one without having to go through the chest at all. Instead, they use a technique similar to heart catheterization. It is called TAVR and you can read a bit more about it on the Columbia Structural Heart & Valve Center website.

We are so grateful to everyone at the Center and Nana’s whole medical care team for making this possible. We are also grateful to everyone who has been supporting us, in person or at a distance, with prayers, cards, well-wishes, calls, emails, etc. Thank you all so very much!

 

waiting

As many of you know, my mom, known as Nana here at Top of JC’s Mind, is having an aortic valve replacement procedure today. I am in the unaccustomed position of waiting at home instead of in the hospital.

My two sisters and my dad are waiting at Columbia (New York-Presbyterian), so she has plenty of support and on-site vigilance. I am holding down the fort here, getting ready to spread news to all the local folks and more far-flung family and friends after the procedure is complete.

And waiting…

Some people expressed surprise that I was not going down to New York City, too. As the local daughter, I have been the go-to person for all the prior medical goings-on with Nana and Paco, as well as with my mother-in-law, now deceased, my spouse, and my daughters.  And I haven’t regretted a moment of it.

Still, I admit that it is less stressful to be here in my den at my computer desk typing away than being in a waiting room a couple of hundred miles from here.

It’s cutting down on the recycled waiting-anxiety.

The most difficult solo waiting room experience I ever had was the day that my dad was in for hernia surgery and my mom had a heart attack and was simultaneously having a heart catheterization and stent placement.

Being with someone doesn’t necessarily make it easier, though. I think both B and I struggle with waiting in hospitals right now because six months ago we shared a heartbreaking wait in the CICU while the staff tried unsuccessfully to revive his mom, known here as Grandma.

I am finding that being here at home, though, with the company of daughter T, is making it easier to wait and to keep realistic. The procedure the doctors are using, called TAVR, is not much different than a heart catheterization. Sitting here at home, I don’t know when the procedure will begin or how long it is anticipated to take. I do know from past experience that you always need to allow a lot of extra time beyond what they tell you, as they usually quote the actual procedure time, not the hours of preparation and recovery that need to be factored in before word gets out to the waiting family members.

It is a lot easier to sit here and think that, with a 10 AM report time, I won’t likely hear that she is done with the procedure until the middle of the afternoon.

I know that many of you have Nana in your thoughts and prayers. You are on my list of contacts when there is news.

Thank you for your support.

Peace,
Joanne

 

Progress

Yesterday, Nana had her evaluation at Columbia’s Structural Heart & Valve Center.

We had arrived in NYC the day before, expecting a three to four hour evaluation beginning at 9:00 AM. What happened was a marathon of testing and consultation that stretched from our arrival at 7:15 AM to 6:00 PM when we finally finished.

All the effort to go to New York City was definitely worth it. The advanced testing they were able to do determined that only the aortic valve needs to be replaced at this time, which can be done using a heart catheter technique, called Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR). They were able to schedule the procedure for mid-October.

We were so impressed with all the medical professional and support staff. They were caring and compassionate, as well as being knowledgeable and experienced. Because we came from a distance, they did not only the diagnostic testing they needed to do but also the pre-admission testing so that there will only have to be two trips down to New York.

Tomorrow, I leave for a long-planned reunion residency of the Boiler House Poets at MASS MoCA. I feel much better going knowing that we have a positive plan in place for my mom. As I did for the original residency last November, I hope to blog every day from North Adams, so stay tuned.