Since moving to Ohio in 2009, I've worried about being so far away from Virginia - what would I do if something happened to my parents. I am an only child and have felt the weight of that heavily since moving away.
Well, it happened Thursday.
The phone rang with the call I had been dreading since moving to Ohio.
I was on my way out of the house - late for a hair appointment and couldn't get the phone. I got in the car, drove out of the driveway, and listened to her voicemail as I went.
It was my mother calling to tell me that my father was having a heart attack. It was a horrible call. Full of gut-wrenching pain.
I don't even remember where I turned the car around to head back home. I know it was only a few driveways past ours but have no recollection from the moment I listened to the message to the time I parked the car at the house.
I ran inside and flew around packing a suitcase, work computer, work information, knitting projects, personal computer, bathroom items, two large mugs of coffee, work and personal phones, charger, etc. I packed for an unknown stay. I watered plants and lured the cats back in the garage so I could close them inside. I called Andy and the boys to break the news.
In about an hour, I was on the road. Thank goodness, I had filled the gas tank the night before.
Under normal circumstances, the drive from Ohio to Virginia takes about eight to eight and a half hours. I made it in six hours and forty minutes with one stop for gas. I don't think my foot touched the brake except for when I stopped in Beckley, WV to fuel up.
By the time I arrived at the hospital, our boys were already with my mother. Daddy was in the Intensive Care Unit where visiting hours are limited. Since I had just arrived, they let me go back to see him.
The sight is what no one wants to see - a loved one hooked up to tubes and monitors. I remember it all too well just a little over three years ago after Mom's open heart surgery. It's like a punch in the stomach. Being a nurse, I'm well acquainted with the hospital paraphernalia but it takes on a different quality when attached to your loved one.
Daddy was responsive but sedated due mainly to the intubation tube. He was able to nod and squeeze our hands in response to questions which was good.
By noon on Friday, he was extubated and talking and eating / drinking a little. They mentioned moving him to a regular room on Saturday. He's very very sore but otherwise is doing well.
The timing of the big event is nothing short of extraordinary. Daddy wasn't feeling well Wednesday night so went to his doctor Thursday morning. They told him he needed to go to the Emergency Room where they could run some tests - they didn't have the equipment in the office. He drove home, picked up Mom, and drove to the hospital.
Daddy walked into the ER talking with everyone. They led him to a room and were checking him in and the very second his head hit the pillow on the table, he gasped for air. A code blue was called and the rest is the miracle that you hope for. A code is never easy to watch and it pains me to know that Mom was standing in the corner of the room experiencing all of it.
After some ruling out, a heart catheterization was done and a major vessel in the heart was found to be blocked. A stent was put in and left to do its job.
There is no feeling in the world like the fear when a loved one's life is threatened. It is almost palpable. I've known it twice now and this time was by far the worst of the two. The feeling is not the same when it's about yourself. I've been there once and it is definitely not the same. Doesn't even compare.
The fear for your loved one is gripping. It has teeth and bites down so hard on your heart that you can barely breathe.
But breathe, you do. Strength comes when you most need it.
Daddy is early on his road to recovery. Today though, that road is a brighter one than it was on Thursday. The timing was impeccable.
Mom and I want to thank everyone who has murmured a well wish, prayed a prayer, crossed their fingers in Daddy's direction, called to inquire how he is, offered to do "anything to help", posted a comment, sent a text message, etc. I want to thank Barry, my parents' minister who stayed with Mom and called me periodically while I was enroute with updates. Also, Barbara, who stayed with Mom for most of the afternoon and also called with updates. I want to thank the ICU nurse who updated me over the phone when he probably could have refused to do so because of HIPAA. I want to thank my sons who got in the car together and drove to be with their grandmother. The drive from Ohio to Virginia was excruciating but knowing these people were with my mother and father gave me comfort.
But, most of all -- most of all -- I want to thank the staff in the Emergency Room. They simply did their job. They did it well. Their quick and decisive actions saved my father's life and, for that, my mother and I are forever grateful.