Thursday, January 16, 2014

Grandma is Home

It has been a week since I last posted about Grandma Kristine. Our sweet Grandma has returned home to see her Cowboy, Jack, and to finally be at peace and free of pain.

We were able to bring her home to her old room in our house on Tuesday afternoon.   Kip and his daughter Jaqueline had driven up that morning to see her and I am so glad that why did. It was really wonderful to have them here for her.  Hank was here too and his fun and positive attitude and talk of root beer floats kept us all smiling.  Jenifer Pitcher also come to visit and we had a nice time all hanging out in her room.

John checked on her every 2 hours all night and she seemed to stay the same.

Kip returned home Wed morning but I am sure Kristine knew he had come.  Most of the day Wednesday, her breathing seemed labored and we tried to prop her up and find the mix of meds that would help her relax.  A social worker and a nurse came in the afternoon and stayed for.ev.er.  The social worker suggested we try to make the room as comfortable as possible for her by keeping it quiet and the lights dim.  We laughed and told her that Kristine would prefer the TV on loud, cookies on the nightstand, Chuey zipping around, and maybe a few grandkids jumping on the bed. ;)

The workers finally left, and John and I went out to sit on the red couch downstairs just to get out of the room for a minute.  I had read a really funny story on FB earlier, and I read it to John.  We were both laughing pretty hard which was a welcome moment.  We sat for a minute and John said, "It's pretty quiet in there."  We jumped up, ran into her room, and with another shallow breathe, she was gone.  The kids all were arriving home and they each had a chance to say goodbye before they came to take her.  It was a very tender and peaceful time and I am so glad that our family and Hank could all be there for it.

It is a very special and sacred honor to be with someone when they are stepping out of this life and into the next one.  I think of it a lot like the labor of having a baby.  We are here awaiting the arrival of the baby, but they are leaving behind friends and family to come be with us.  Just like when a baby is born, it is a spiritual time and the spirit world feels close.

I feel really blessed and honored to have had Kristine living so close to our family since Jack passed away over 7 years ago. Our family is so, so much better by having her love and example always near us.  We had to give her lots of service in the last year of our lives and I cannot begin to explain what a blessing it has been to the lives of my family to do that (Sometimes it was really difficult, but I would't trade it for anything).  We will miss her and I know she is finally at rest and free of the body that caused her much pain and frustration.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Grandma Kristine is Going Home

Grandma Kristine had her back surgery back in October and all seemed to go well with it.   We helped her to get walking again and the pain in her leg that had troubled her so much was gone.  The incision in her back healed up for a while... until it opened again at the top.  This was before Thanksgiving.  The doctors were not overly concerned and they had us dress it and watch for any changes in the fluid that came out in case of infection.  Our family went to Utah for 2 days at Thanksgiving and Sunshine Gardens took her to the hospital because they were worried about the wound.  All seemed to be well and we returned and continued to watch it.  It never did heal completely.

Our family went to Guatemala over Christmas.  We were concerned about leaving her for so long, but Hank was here (and is so, so good with taking care of her) and her health seemed the same.  Hank decided to take her to Arizona so she could see Kip's family.  It was a difficult trip for her but we are glad she got to see them. Hank brought her home to Sunshine and said that when he took her to her apartment she was very confused and pretty upset that he had brought her there and told him that was NOT her house!  He showed her pictures and encouraged her to get into bed and she finally relented.

On her return to Sunshine, she became sick and was throwing up for about a week and had a hard time keeping food down,  There was a flu going around and she seemed to get it.  This wasn't good for her back and John took her to her surgeon for a follow up to see if we could somehow get her healed.  At her appointment last Monday (Jan 6), the surgeon realized that she had not healed properly and he was concerned that the fluid coming out was not good.  He scheduled her for another surgery on Wednesday the 8th.  He would go back in, clean up the infection, clean out the void in her back, and stitch her back up.  It was going to be a simple procedure.  Although she would be put under with anesthesia, they only anticipated her having an overnight stay in the hospital and an easy recovery.

On the day of surgery, John and I spent the morning waiting at the hospital with her.  She kept asking what she was doing there.   She thought maybe we were having a procedure done.  She was tired and quiet waiting to go in.  She wanted a milkshake (she hadn't been allowed to eat breakfast) and asked if we could please bring her one when she was done.  I kissed her forehead and told her I loved her as she left and I had a feeling.  Like something was different.  We said goodbye and John and I had lunch together in the cafeteria at the hospital.

She came out of surgery fine and was staying the night in the hospital as anticipated.  On Thursday morning she was tired and confused, but able to talk to us.  They put a pic line into her arm so they could give her antibiotics through it.  They found some Staph in her back and wanted to treat it quickly.   She could still talk after that procedure, but sometime after that, something changed.

She became unresponsive and was unable to communicate with us on Thursday.  The doctors and nurses tried changing around her pain medication and we hoped that the anesthesia would clear out of her system and she would return to us.   She was agitated and kept moving her arms.  She would moan and cry out softly in pain.  It was so hard to see her as she appeared to be suffering a great deal.  You could see she was physically exhausted as she hadn't rested for so long. She could barely move her arms and legs, but seemed to keep trying in an effort to relieve the pain she was in.  It was heart breaking.  I took Jebb and Jackson to see her.  They sat by her bed and held her hands still when she cried and tried to move them.  It was hard to feel so helpless, but I was touched that those boys, as young as they are, just sat patiently and stroked her hair and told her they loved her and wanted her to get well.
John and our dear friend that works at the hospital were able to give her a Priesthood blessing. It was soon after that when she finally stopped wiggling and crying and was able to fall asleep.  This was a blessing that allowed her tired body to rest.  But as anyone that has had surgery knows, it is important to move as soon as possible so the body does not become too stiff.  The original goal had been to get her to walk the morning after surgery, now the staff was just trying to have her sit up so she wouldn't be sore from lying in bed.

John's sister Jackie came over from where she is working in Pagosa on Friday.  Her husband Jim came by earlier when her pain was first really coming on.  It was so nice to see her and see the love she has for Kristine.  She stayed with her for a long time and we are so glad she was there and could let the rest of the family know what was going on as they were all anxious for news.  Jackie is a ray of sunshine.

Other people are starting to call and come by as they have heard the news.  I am so grateful and touched to see the people that love her and are concerned about her.  And I am also grateful for all of those that are far away because I know they are praying for her even if they can't come and give their love in person.

 A lot of what I know is from John relaying it all to me.  He has been there with her.  He helps the nurses move her, he waits and catches each doctor that comes by to check on her.  He talks to her and reassures her that she is not alone.  My heart is tender as I think of the selfless love he continues to give to her and I wonder what people do that don't have children to take care of them when they are old.  It is another testament to the brilliance of families.  I ask him about it and he shrugs and says he is glad to be there- and I know he is.  I am grateful for this strong man with a serving heart.

Saturday and Sunday, Kristine now is sleeping.  We aren't able to wake her or get her to talk to us.  She takes pain pills with apple sauce but they are worried that she might aspirate, so it is a long process. John is able to get her to swallow.  By now we are really wondering what is going on. The doctors don't know and we hope it is something that will clear out and she will wake up and recognize us.  But she sleeps, sometimes calmly, sometimes restlessly.

Sunday we had a busy day. Our whole family was speaking in church and our topic was Faith.  I think it was a tender mercy that the Lord had each one of our family members pondering and studying this topic for a week previous to this.  The news when we went on Saturday...no change.  Sunday...no change.

Monday now Kristine's restful sleep seems to give way to more of the troubled and painful sleep we had seen before.  It is still so hard to see her suffer.  She opened her eyes a few times, but she can't see us.  We talk to her though as if she can hear us.  And I think somehow she does even if it's not the way we understand.  The doctors have asked us if we are willing to put Kristine through some tests to see if we can figure out why she is not responsive.  We agree to the MRI of her head as it will not be painful or invasive.  While we wait for the test, John and I decided to take a drive to Silverton.  We were taking Chuey to be dog-sat by Kristine's dear friend Edith Mary.  I went and pulled Jebb and Jackson out of school at noon so they could come too.  Man, it was sure a beautiful drive up there.  The mountains and the snow on a sunny day were breathtaking.  Truly majestic.  We left Chuey with Edith Mary and she was absolutely wonderful and gracious about sitting him.

On the drive back down the mountain, we got the call from the hospital with the test results from the MRI.  There is blood in her brain.  This is difficult to hear because it is obviously not good.  I wait while John talks to several doctors, including our friend that did the MRI.  John hangs up and answers my questions.  I ask-what does this mean then?  John answers, 'Mom's dying.'  He says some more stuff but I am not sure what.  I managed to really hold it together until John told me what I think we already knew.  I bawled as we drove back into town.  We had started a movie in the car and gave Jebb and Jackson headphones so they stayed blissfully unaware.   We went back to the hospital for a while before I had to go pick up Elise from basketball.  John stayed with his Mom.

I talked with J&J as we waited for Elise to come out of the school.  I asked them if they remembered Papa Jack (he passed 7 years ago). Although they don't remember him, it is easy for them to realize that Grandma hasn't been able to see him or talk to him for a long time.  I talked to them about Kristine's siblings and parents that miss her too. Elise gets out of practice and I drove everyone home.  We went into the front room of the house and knelt to have a prayer together.  I explained that Grandma would be leaving us- which is a really hard thing to tell her Grandbabies.  There were lots of tears, but lots of understanding too.  We talked more about forever families and how there a people waiting anxiously to see Grandma again.

I left J&J with our awesome neighbors and took Elise to the hospital. She has a really special relationship with Kristine and was always there helping her especially when she lived with us.  Elise is John's daughter and her serving heart was always there for Grandma.  She was really bawling and when we went into Grandma's room understanding what we now did, her heart was broken and she hugged her and cried on Grandma's sleeping chest.

I texted the big boys to come to the hospital after practice.  Seth got to our floor first.  I told him what was happening and it was hard for this mom to hug that tall boy while he sobbed.  Gabe came up the elevator a minute later, and he knew what was happening.  I told him what we knew about Grandma's condition and he nodded, got a little misty, then went in to see her.

How thankful I am for the Plan of Salvation.  Where would we be without this knowledge that death is not the end, but just another part of the plan?  It would be too much to say goodbye instead of 'Until we meet again.'

It has been a wonderful gift to have Grandma close by for all of these years.  There is nothing left unsaid, there are not regrets that we didn't spend more time with her.  It is truly a gift.  The kids all went in and stroked her hair and said they loved her.  It was OK that we weren't sure that she knew we were there.  It was OK, because we were already sure that she KNEW that we loved her.

After we visited for a while, John, the kids and I went to a nearby restaurant.  We had a wonderful and peaceful meal together.  Hank arrived at the hospital just as we were leaving and I thought to myself once again how grateful I am for him.  Hank seems to always be there for Kristine especially when we aren't or can't.  He is a loyal and loving son to her.  Even though she always told us that he never came by to see her at Sunshine Gardens, we would laughingly tell her that he had just been there.  He made time to go and see her even with his demanding work and school schedule.  It was always touching to look at the journal we kept in Kristine's room at Sunshine.  There were so many people that regularly took time to go by and visit with her, or take her to lunch or the movies.  And Kristine rarely remembered to tell us about it, but when we would read back who had come by, she would smile and say, 'Oh! That's right! I need to send them a present to say Thank You!'

So today... we are hoping that the hospital will let her come home to pass in her old room in our house. They will let her leave if she is responsive.  She likely has only a short time left here with us, possibly a day or a week.  She hasn't had food but has had a fluid IV which will be removed.  We will give her morphine and keep her as comfortable as possible while she goes.  John has been waiting all morning with her in hopes that she will be strong enough for the trip here.

Thank you to all that have prayed and continue to do so.  We are so grateful when we see people come by to remind Kristine of the love they have for her.  John said the only time it is hard for him to hold it together is when another friend comes by and he realizes how many people lovingly serve his Mom.  So thank you, thank you! We will take care of her until she is ready to go home.