Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Family

If there's one good thing that comes from tragedy, it's family that pulls together & stays banded through tough times & good. I know not all families are like this & that adversity sometimes tears families apart but that has not been the case in our family.

Last month, when my dad first got sick, he & my bonus mom Marie were on their way back from visiting my bonus sisters up in the panhandle (north FL for those not familiar) so when he was hospitalized they were 2 hours from home & about that, maybe a little more from my bonus sisters' place. It was about 2 hours from my sister's & 3 hours from us. Everyone did what they had to though & was there. We got hotel rooms, took turns watching all the kids & spent what time we could with my dad & with Marie, my bonus mom. If someone had to return home, we made sure someone else was still going to be there. 

Traveling with kids is challenging enough, our boys are old pros bit every age comes with a new set of needs & a new challenge. Hotels are even more difficult primarily due to the lack of space to move around in & the boys NEED to move around, lol... The mall playground was our saving grace & the Gainesville Mall has hands down the best mall playground we've been to!

Well this last time my dad collapsed was a little different as far as location & even though some of us were even further away everyone did what they could to be there! I packed us up & had us on the road in 1.5 hours, not bad for a family of 5 plus 3 pets, 1 of which didn't end up making the trip. Anyways, one by one we all arrived, unloading pets at Dad & Marie's house & making our way to the hospital. When it was all said & done, there were 8 adults & 6 kids sleeping in my parents a 3 bedroom/2 bath house. 2 of my aunts stayed at a hotel & my sister & her family traveled back & forth from Jax & spent a couple nights in a hotel too. We were able to take the kids to see my dad this time (I'm still not sure how or why kids were allowed in this ICU) & we all felt it was important for them to see their grandpa one last time. The boys still whisper "Grandpa's sleeping" which is what we told the boys he was doing in the hospital trying to get well.

It's not often that all 4 of us girls are together at once or even more importantly all 8 grandchildren, so I wanted to get pictures done of the kids (the adults were all too puffy eyed from crying & my youngest bonus sister was still in India) So that Friday after lunch we rounded everyone up without Marie knowing & went for pictures. I wish we would have had time to line up my friend Kareen to do them, she did the boys 2 years photos & will do their 3 year too but time was of the essence so we went to a same day, no appointment necessary photo lab.


I love it, the kids were so busy & posing all 8 was hysterical! But I think we got a great picture for Grandma to cherish forever!

Even though we were all suffering & grieving in our own ways that week, we stuck together & took care of each other. FAMILY, even though most of us not through blood. I can't speak for everyone but I know I was quite impressed by us :) We made sure no one was alone & no one carries any burden alone, be it medical decisions for my dad or meals. We somehow even managed to find ways to laugh & enjoy our time together. I love that the boys got to spend an entire week with 3 of their cousins! I love watching the interactions & dynamics between them all. And even after a few fights over toys & maybe even rubbing each other the wrong way a time a two, the kids all hugged & kissed at the end of the week, until they see each other again...

This last week my bonus mom called, she needed a break & wanted to get together. She & my youngest bonus sister drove up to Jacksonville & the boys & I drove down & we all met up with my sister at the zoo. 4 adults, 6 boys ages 2-5 & baby Nadia. We had a good day seeing the animals & spending some time together outdoors.

Kellan ready for the zoo!!!

Tucker & Clark, Nadia, Caden & Kellan, Chandler & Garren

Garren talking sweetly to the goat

Clark brushing the goat


Chandler brushing a goat


Little Miss Nadia just hanging out

I love that we all still made the time & the trip to be together, even if just for a few hours. I also love that we not had any of the drama or adversity that I know some families go through.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Flash Back Friday

I love these photos of Donna & my dad from his birthday in 2008!



My sister had a bad habit of leaving her bras laying around & Donna has a thing for wearing other people's underwear over her clothes, lol... My dad was always up for a good laugh.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sorting It Out & Trying To Remember The Details...

This is sort a recap of what happened with my dad starting 2.5 years ago. Remembering the details, sorting it all out in my head & writing it down helps me to not forget & is part of my grieving process.
Please don't feel obligated to read this entire post or any of it at all. I've been having dreams about the final week of my dads life for the past few nights repeatedly & I hope writing it all down will help with the dreams & let my mind rest.

My dad fell off a ladder 2.5 years ago. No major injuries but the hospital performed scans of his entire body to rule out any internal injuries. In their scans they discovered a strange looking mass in my dads lung & referred him to an oncologist to rule out cancer. It didn't look like cancer usually does, my dad was never a smoker & even the oncologist didn't think it was cancer but of course followed the protocol to be sure. Well it turned out to be the tidiest cancer mass the oncologist had ever seen. From what they said cancer is usually jagged & messy bit my dads mass was smooth & very clean. My dad was scheduled for surgery to remove the mass & the lower third of his right lung. Surgery went off without a hitch & dad didn't need chemo or radiation. His recovery was hard, my dad is a big guy & he also developed the typical pneumonia after lung surgery but he recovered & eventually returned to work.

Over the past couple of years my dad has had bouts of bronchitis. He has bad allergies though so I thought that coupled with the lung surgery made him more susceptible. That was until this past January. My dad thought his was just his allergies acting up at Christmas but a week later he was coughing so hard his chest was sore. He went to the doctor & was prescribed an antibiotic for bronchitis. I was concerned, I even asked my sister if she though he should possibly still be seeing a respiratory therapist? He didn't get better after the first round of antibiotics & went back to his doctor who gave him another prescription of antibiotics.

Well come February my dad got a call from his oncologist saying that his routine CT scan, which he goes for every 6 months, showed a couple of nodules. His oncologist wanted him to go for a PET scan  to determine if it was cancer again. His PET scan was scheduled for the following Monday, Feb 10th.

On Feb 9th my dad & bonus mom were traveling back from my bonus sister's place where he hadn't been feeling well but refused to go to the hospital. Well on the drive he started breathing fast & looked like he was nodding off so my bonus mom took him to the nearest hospital where he had to be intubated. That was a small hospital & they couldn't care for my dad so they transported him to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, FL which was the closest hospital that could care for him. Need less to say he didn't make it to his PET scan the next day back in Orlando. He did however improve quickly & by the following weekend he was discharged & went home.

He did return home still on oxygen & it was thought that he may need oxygen indefinitely. When I talked to my dad he sounded good & said he felt better. He had been to see his regular doctor who referred him to a pulmonary doctor. The pulmonologist  was concerned about the nodules also & had the PET scan that had been rescheduled for March 12th moved up to March 4th. 

My dad finally made it to his PET scan appointment. I tried to call him that afternoon but he didn't answer so I called my bonus mom. She said he wasn't feeling good & had started coughing again. She was calling his doctor to see what he suggested. I was worried. We were suppose to be going down the next day but the boys had runny noses that I was sure were just allergies but didn't want to take any chances since my dad was having such a hard time staying healthy.

The next morning my bonus mom scheduled an appointment for my dad with his doctor that afternoon. Before my dad got in the shower they checked his oxygen level like they always do when he gets ready to take it off & it was at 93 which is good, not perfect but good.

When my dad got out of the shower he collapsed. My bonus mom's sister was in town on vacation & she dialed 911. They rushed him to the nearest hospital where he had to be put on a ventilator again. The EMS staff had to use 8 epi pins to get my dads heart going again, I'm told only 2-3 epi pens are what's normal. My bonus mom called & told me my dad had collapsed & was on his way to the hospital but no one knew the extent of what was happening at that moment.

I called Donna & quickly packed a few bags. Donna left work right away & we loaded up & headed down as soon as she got home. My sister got down there ahead of us & told me that our dad was having seizures & they didn't know if he had any brain activity. The hospital again was too small & only had a 4 bed ICU so they had to transport my dad to another hospital. 

We arrived shortly after my dad was moved & given the very grim prognoses they had. My dad did not have any directives, he was already on a ventilator but they needed us to make a decision regarding his heart. He was in cardiac arrest when the EMS arrived & they needed to know if we wanted them to intervene if it were to happen again? It was explained that the amount of epinephrine used to save him the first time is also damaging to the heart. Because his lung function was so poor his heart was working overtime to compensate & was weakening. We agreed as a family to sign the DNR for his heart. We were also faced with weather to keep him on the ventilator which was what was keeping him alive. The doctor was pretty straight forward with his thought of my dad being brain dead. It was really hard to hear "dead" in any form associated with my dad. It was too early for an EEG but we wanted more proof & certainty that there was no chance of him waking up or recovering from this. We understood the symptoms & lack or responsiveness that lead the doctors to believe he was brain dead we just needed more.

My brother in law, Aaron & his 2 boys arrived late wednesday evening! My bonus sister was in India & was not aware of the situation just yet. My dads sister, Marilyn arrived late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning from Michigan. His other sister, Onalee arrived Thursday from South FL & my bonus sister, Mindy & her husband & daughter arrived late Thursday evening.
(We had lunch with Marie & Marilyn at the hospital after taking turns seeing my dad Thursday. The boys were overtired & kind of crazy. After lunch we took them for a drive hoeing they would nap a little in the van & be ok to go back to the hospital but we had no luck with that & eventually just headed back to the house for an early dinner & bedtime. I went back to the hospital once the boys were down & spent the evening & some time alone with my dad)

We all still had questions as to why he was having such trouble with his lungs & the PET scan results were weighing heavy on all our minds. Friday morning the critical care doctor that was taking care of my dad received the report/results from the PET scan. He's not an oncologist & stated so before reading us the report. It was mostly medical terminology that was hard to decipher but in the end it stated that it was most likely cancer & less likely an inflammatory disease. The doctor told us this didn't pertain to his brain injury or his current condition but what he didn't understand was that for us, it did. This was the answer to the question we all had been asking, why was he struggling to breath? Why couldn't he get rid of the bronchitis & pneumonia? Why was his lung function so poor? I told the doctor this had been a journey for us as his family. This was not a one time incident that was catastrophic. This also helped us looking forward, if my dad did wake up, if he did somehow recover from his brain injury, what was going to be his next obstacle? The critical care doctor decided to call my dads oncologist & get the real scoop for us & it was also very grim. Dads cancer had returned & had metastasized very quickly. It was in both lungs & was aggressive. Should my dad pull out of his current condition, which was unlikely, he would have months of radiation & chemotherapy ahead of him. Would he even be healthy enough to handle it? Was it even likely that he could beat it? The answers were most likely not. Maybe this is Gods way of saving him from the pain & suffering of lung cancer? 

On a side note, not to sound like a weirdo but with everybody in town to be with my dad & bonus mom, all 8 grand kids were there together for the first time since Nadia was born. I asked everyone if we could run into one of those cheapy photo places & get a photo of the kids for Marie. The last time everyone was together or at least all us girls & the grand kids was 2.5 years ago for my dads lung surgery & we had photos done then. I felt like it was something nice to do for Marie.

Friday evening after dinner Marie asked everyone their thoughts on my Dads situation. We all agreed that with the PET scan results & still no response to any kind of stimuli that it was probably time to let my Dad be at peace.  It was so hard to make that decision & even harder to day it out loud. We all agreed that the next day, while everyone was there together, we would let him go.

Saturday morning Marie & her sister & my bonus sister went to the hospital early. They let the doctors know our decision & we waited for my sister & brother in law to get back from Jacksonville. At 3pm with Donna & Myself, Marie, 3 of my aunts, 2 of my sisters, & my 3 brother in laws present the ventilator was removed & we waited & watched & sobbed as my dad took his last breath.

That evening we drove out to Donnas mom & dads, she needed to see them & hug them & tell them they better hang around for many more years.

Sunday we let the boys play with their cousin Aliyah most of the day. My bonus sister & aunt & I shopped for funeral clothes (we didn't know/think that this visit would end this way) & we ordered food for a luncheon before the service.

Monday, I went with my bonus mom, sister & aunt to help make the arrangements for my dads viewing & service. I have to say that Marie was super kind to involve me & ask my opinion on things. My dad had a burial plot in Michigan where his parents & younger sister are buried but I've never even been to Michigan & I never liked the idea of him being so far away. He lived, married, worked & raised us girls in FL. I felt like that's where he belonged, with us. Marie wasn't keen on the idea of him being in Michigan either & decided to have him cremated. We picked out his urn together & other things like flowers & the book & cards for his service. Marie ordered a thumbprint pendant as a keepsake & we asked if they could make 8 of his thumbprints on paper for us so that we could make something for each of the grandchildren. They agreed to it. We also collected photos for a slideshow during the service. It was an emotional process but I think we handled it well. We decided we had o have been the easiest family that had to work with, we laughed, we cried & we pretty much agreed on everything.

Tuesday was the service. Marie hosted a luncheon at the house for family beforehand. I entertained the boys before hand while Donna went to work for a bit & then shopped for something to wear. At 4pm we headed to the funeral home where we were greeted by my mom & bonus dad who had come down to watch the boys during the service. The funeral home was great about closing off a room for all the kids to hang out in while we paid our respects to my dad & visited with everyone who loved him.
So many people came to the service from near & far. A lot of my dads co-workers, Marie's co-workers, family & friends.
My dad loved everyone & everyone loved my dad!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

10/52 & 11/52

I forgot to post a weekly photo last week so here one from then...

Project 52; Juice Break in the CICU

The moons didn't align or maybe I just couldn't keep up so this week is 3 separate photos...

Garren putting make-up on Aliyah (cousins)

Caden giving Grandpa Tilyou some lovin'

Kellan keeping up his daily hat routine.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Flash Back Friday

Steven, Autumn, Marie, Dad, Myself & Donna,
Celebrating my Dad's 55th birthday, July 4th, 2008
in St Augustine

Monday, March 10, 2014

Trying to find the words...

This is not something I thought I would be writing at this time in my life. Not something I'm prepared for at all, I'm not even sure I have the words?

Last Wednesday my dad passed out, lost consciousness, quit breathing & went into cardiac arrest. The EMS staff was able to get his heart going again & continued CPR until they got to the hospital where he was intubated again. 

The hospital didn't have space in their ICU so my dad was air lifted to another hospital. 

When Donna & I arrived at the hospital we were updated on his condition which was not good. He hadn't regained consciousness & he was having seizures. These were signs that he had a brain injury. The ventilator was breathing for him 100% & his heart was weak.

How did we get here?!? 

This has been the big question we have all had since my dad started his struggle with bronchitis & pneumonia back at Christmas. We've also been anxious for his PET scan results since his last CT scan (previous lung cancer check-up) had questionable results.

Tuesday, the day before he collapsed, my dad did finally get in for his PET scan.

Friday the critical care doctor that was caring for my dad received the PET scan report/results. The spots that had showed up on the CT scan were cancer & at this point it had metastasized. The cancer was in both lungs & was aggressive. 

The doctor told us when my dad first arrived at the hospital that he had a brain injury & that they didn't think there was enough brain activity to sustain life. We weren't ready to just give up on him at that point & needed more proof, some tests or scans or something more concrete than just the doctor's words.

With no improvement & nothing showing up on the scans along with the PET scan results, we decided as a family that it was time to let him be at peace. 

Saturday with Donna & myself, my bonus mom, 2 sisters, 3 brother in laws & 3 aunts present, the ventilator was turned off & we said goodbye to my dad.

This is by far the hardest thing I've ever been through!

http://baldwin.tributes.com/obituary/show/Gary-Lee-Whittenburg-100863486

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

It's Easy...When They're Ready!

Very wise words from a fellow blogger with 4 boys (& a girl) of her own!

When they're ready, potty training is easy.

Kellan woke up Monday morning & decided he did not want to wear a diaper, he wanted to 'pee pee on potty' & that is exactly what he has been doing! 

Garren wanted to run around in the buff while potty training & it worked out well for him so that is what I'm doing with Kellan also. Kellan is more interested in underwear though & wanted to wear a pair yesterday. We gave it a try in the morning but he couldn't get them off fast enough & had an accident (his only one) standing next to the potty chair. He was so upset about it even though I reassured him it was ok. He went without undies the rest of the day but when he's ready to try wearing them again I'll have him go shirtless so it's easier for him to pull his underwear down. 

He's been very independent & hasn't needed any reminders from me. He also tries to go when I ask him to before nap time, bed time or if we are going out. 

While Garren decided on his own & was pretty easy to potty train also, he's had his quirks. I'm kind of in disbelief how easy it has been so far with our usually quirky Kellan! :)

A couple weeks ago Kellan decided he had to have a hat on when we went out, no matter what the weather was & it's been in the upper 70's & 80's recently. Here are a few pics of his 'hat of the day' 
If you're on Instagram you can see more by finding me, springtrips or #kellanshatoftheday 

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