Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I arrived safely in Florida on Sunday evening unfortunately missing my brother who left Sunday afternoon. We've been spending our days sitting in the ICU knitting, reading, emailing, talking to doctors, waiting. My dad is doing a little better each day. He was on the ventilator overnight last night on the ninth day in the ICU but had breathed on his own for the 24 hours previous. He was pretty wiped out by that point though so they decided to give him time to rest. He was also having such terrible leg cramps yesterday that he could not sleep so that probably contributed to the exhaustion. When they mentioned this morning that they'd started giving him potassium supplementation it dawned on me that they'd said earlier that they had him on a low dose of prednisone. I always get horrible leg cramps when I'm on prednisone so I can just imagine how he felt.

They had hoped he'd be off the ventilator by now but we'll hear what the doctor has to say when he comes in today. He wasn't strong enough yesterday and with having had him on the ventilator again overnight, I don't know if they'll take him off it today. They're talking about sending him to a longer term pulmonary specialty hospital once he's safe enough to leave the ICU. Having been on the respirator for so long, it will take some time to recover. We've sent the information to my brother to have him talk to the case manager. It looks like a pretty good setup and the pulmonary doctors here are in the same practice as the ones that would follow him there. They have been excellent, always taking time to explain things, listening to the nurses, and just generally being very caring and careful.

Since I've got plenty of time to sit around, I might as well fill in the back story. He'd caught a bronchial type of flu before Christmas and had started antibiotics shortly after Christmas. After a few days on that he was still not feeling better and they ended up in the emergency room on New Years Day at 2 am. They sent him home later that day but he was back again two days later, again being sent home after just a day. I don't think it is any stretch to say that that was a mistake. He was back at the ER on Saturday the 8th and he's been here ever since. They had him on a regular floor the first few days because there was no room in the ICU. The flu is epidemic here and the hospitals are full of respiratory patients.

He was not getting much help on the regular floor and went downhill over the next few days. Again, I don't think it's a stretch to say that had Kevin not arrived Monday afternoon, it is not likely that he would have made it. When Kevin arrived he pushed for more aggressive action, better care. When it was clear that the less invasive CPAP machine was making my dad anxious, Kevin pushed to have him intubated. Tuesday they started three antibiotics and took a culture to watch and see which one(s) were working. By that point he was so exhausted and had gone so long without sufficient treatment that by Wednesday they really were not sure he would make it. Kevin told me that you could toss a coin as to whether or not he would pull through. What started as the flu turned into pneumonia and then was compounded by bacterial pneumonia.

I am thankful that God knows the number of our days and was not taken by surprise by any of this. We were! He's been so healthy that this has been quite a shock. He still has a long way to go toward recovery. I'm here in Florida for another week and a half but I doubt I'll see him out of the hospital (this one and/or another) before I leave. He has a lot of catching up to do. We're just so thankful to still have him here with us.

We'd appreciate prayer for continued strengthening of his body, for health and endurance for my mom and I as we keep watch over him, and for patience for all at home trying to fill in without me. The water line in Alaska is frozen for the winter which means extra work for Rodney on top of trying to keep track of teens, one in particular who likes to take advantage of someone not watching. I did take a few pictures of a lovely Florida sunset but I forgot the cord to download to my computer. I'll have to upload those later. My computer is also having trouble again (overheating) and I've talked to Dell once, but need to call them again and confirm that it is the computer, not the battery. Thankfully it is still under warranty but it is so annoying that it needs repair AGAIN! Ah well, it is a minor issue compared to others we have been facing recently. Thanks so much for all the prayers and I'll try to update again as we go along!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Off to Florida

Sorry so long without a post and this one will be pretty quick again. It's been a long month and getting longer. I had the flu and of course my immune system seems to think it needs to over-react to everything so it really hit me hard. While I was here with the throwing up flu, my dad in FL had a bronchial type flu we think. It's still not clear exactly what is going on but it turned into pneumonia which didn't respond to the first round (or second, maybe even third) of antibiotics. He ended up in the hospital on New Years Day the first time but I've lost track of when the second and third trips to the ER occurred. The third time they kept him and he's still there in the ICU battling the illness(es). My brother was able to go down to help out and has been there most of this week. I'll be leaving tomorrow morning to go down for two weeks to help my mom. I'll try to come up with a cohesive story eventually but for now it's just survival.

Our water froze up last night with temperatures at -20 and not much snow on the ground yet so we're now on the backup water system. I'm afraid I won't be around to see how that goes. I'm sure it will take some work to get the system to work smoothly. I should have wi-fi in the hospital so I should be able to keep in touch pretty well. Florida and I don't get along that well so this should be interesting.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Long overdue! NY and Christmas all in one!

Wow! I almost set a new record for LACK of posting! Not so sure that is a good thing! Things have been even crazier than normal if you can imagine that. I did go to NY and had a great trip, but after that things sort of went haywire. I'm going to start with a backlog of pictures and we'll see how much I can remember. I'll probably have to go back and fill in some updates later on. Before we left for NY, I was able to spend a little time with the camera and the visiting swans. They are such stunning creatures! I was amazed at how close they would allow me to come!

We feed the birds right off the front porch which makes for awesome bird watching, but we do get a lot of them that fly right into the window. We try to get them to safety so they can get their bearings before the dogs get to them.

No caption needed!

"If I sit still, no one will notice me..." Silly rabbit! You're NOT brown any more!

Mrs. Beaver was NOT happy when we pulled the pontoon boat out of the lake! She liked to hang out undetected (or so she thought) under there.

Momma Moose came calling with her twins. This one looks like future moose burger to me with those little nubs starting on his head! We had just a little snow before we left and the lake had not yet frozen over.

I'd been getting sicker and sicker in the months before we left for NY and I really expected to spend much of the time in NY in doctor visits. I'd had a number of bad allergic reactions the week before I left, but days before our trip I finally pinpointed the problem as the inhaler I was using. We went ahead with some of the medical tests and doctor visits, but since I was feeling MUCH better by that point, we didn't really dig that deep. Instead, we just enjoyed the time with my parents. Rodney was not able to travel with us as expected, but we thought he'd come later once some other things got wrapped up.

Days after we arrived in NY my parents had to go to Ohio for a few days to help my aunt and uncle while my uncle had surgery to remove a tumor in his lung. He'd had a needle biopsy that was inconclusive so they weren't sure exactly what they were getting into. That went much better than anticipated on the one hand with the tuberculosis he'd been exposed to in his youth completely encapsulating the slow growing tumor. He needs minor surgery Jan 9 for an unrelated issue, but that is supposed to be a much easier, less invasive surgery. We'd sure appreciate prayers for him! He's still not feeling well after the last one and has lost a brother (next paragraph) and brother in law in the last few months on top of all the health issues. No camel racing for him any time in the near future! He really needs to write a book of life stories while he's recovering!

While in NY another uncle in Canada ended up in the hospital. He eventually left the hospital just as we were returning home. Unfortunately, he didn't leave because he had recovered. He left because he had had enough of medical treatment and wanted to be left in peace. He passed away about the time we arrived home. An aunt in the Rochester area also ended up in the hospital while we were in NY and she died a few weeks after I returned to AK. Neither of these were surprises as they'd both been ill for quite some time. My aunt had battled cancer for over 10 years. Surprises or not, it's been a tough time for my parents so I was glad to be able to be there through some of it. It was still a much more pleasant time with them than my last visit in Florida with my dad in the ICU for so long! My dad doesn't even remember that visit so this trip was a great time to reconnect!

Couldn't argue with the weather in NY. It was unseasonably mild so we took some time to enjoy it. The fact that my dad can actually WALK for any length of time is a miracle in itself! And his sense of humor is QUITE intact! So thankful to still have him busting my chops! :)

And we got to spend a little time with some of our NY besties (best friends for the oldies like me):

I didn't think to get a picture of it until it was too late, but something that struck me on our first trip from my parents house to where we used to live is how FLAT it was! I don't think that had ever occurred to me when we lived there, probably because all my life in NY I lived on hills. That day was one of the first that we were in NY and we drove and drove and drove and it was flat, flat, flat and the road was straight, straight, straight! It felt very strange! We also got to see a few horse and buggy rigs which you don't see in Alaska either, and managed to catch the tail end of the fall colors in NY. The picture below captures at least the last two if not the flatness.

Another typical fall scene in NY is flying geese.

And cows! A lot of Alaskans hear "New York" and think "city." Our NY is NOT city! Maybe factory farms, but definitely not city! This is one of a dozen or more dairies within a 10 mile radius of where my parents live. You KNOW you're not in a city when the honey wagons are out spreading!

The best part of the trip was just hanging out with family! Our niece Shannon had a baby just weeks before we got to NY so we got to meet brand new itty bitty Ella. She was born prematurely at 3 lbs 9 oz and was still pretty tiny when we first met her. By the time we left she had already gotten visibly bigger! Here great grandma Mays meets Ella for the first time.

Grandpa Mays, Shy and Oksana all take a moment to dote on Ella.

We also got to spend a little time with niece Megan's kiddos, Shy (above), Mara (a princess for Halloween of course!) and Lala the little lion. We also got zillions of pictures of Oksana and I making faces for Shy with the camera! :p Poor Mara recently got burned by hot water from the microwave and is still in the hospital after a skin graft on her shoulder. We'd appreciate prayers that she stay quiet while that heals and that Shy doesn't bump her either in his enthusiasm to love on her!

We also got to spend a fair amount of time with my brother and his wife and their little monkeys. They had a good time helping Oksana celebrate her 18th birthday! Where has the time gone?!

One of Oksana's friends had sent some money with me to buy flowers from her for Oksana while we were away. It was a fun surprise!

One advantage to the NY flatness is the sunsets! You get quite a view of them in the flat land!

On the day we were supposed to fly home, some huge thunderstorms came through and hit the plane we were supposed to take as it was coming in for a landing. My parents had already gotten home so my brother came and picked us up to stay at his house for the night. The delay may have been a pain for some, but it was a delight for Oksana and I to get to spend some extended time with my brother and his family! I can never get too much of all the nieces and nephews and assorted next generation kiddos!

The next morning we even got to eat special brother-made waffles (The blurry photo is to keep his identity secret, not because of camera operator error - yeah, right!! Along with losing a PILE of photos which I just found back yesterday, my camera operating abilities are suspect these days)!

And BONUS, we got to watch monkey boy at his gymnastics class the next morning before we flew out. It was sooooooooooo cute!!!! He loves it so much and has a BLAST so we had a blast watching!!! Perfect activity for a monkey boy! The way I understand it, that little busy one is just a bit like I was at that age, both in looks AND in behavior. I feel soooooo sorry for his poor parents!!!

And I just HAD to do this! Temperature when we left NY (which in AK's defense, was unseasonably warm).

And below is the temperature the day after we arrived home. The lake was plowed a day or two after we arrived home, but we weren't able to drive in that night, so on top of coming from 50-60 degree weather, we also had to snow machine home in the cold! It only took a couple of days to readjust to the temperatures and we actually ended up with milder temperatures than normal for the last few months but that difference was definitely a bit of a shock! We're into a nice cold spell now with some of the coldest temperatures we've seen since we moved here but that's not all bad because it means the snow has stopped for the time being! We've already got more snow this winter than we had all of last winter! The coldest temperatures of course had to hit on the day there was a wedding held here at camp and the wedding party was outside taking pictures in about -25 degree temperatures! Yikes!

Cold, but gorgeous! :) I did miss "my" mountains!

Unfortunately when I got back, the allergies started back up again. I ended up in the ER three times over the Thanksgiving week and we're still not certain exactly what caused it. I'm on a very restricted diet and am staying in camp while we try to sort through all the contributing factors. The first round of allergy tests showed absolutely nothing so I've made an appointment with an allergist on Jan 16 to try again. I need to be off all the antihistamines going into that appointment so I'd appreciate prayer both for the week leading up to that without antihistamines (I take a LOT of antihistamines) and for some answers as to why I keep having reactions. The food issue is particularly frustrating. I'm avoiding dairy, eggs, nuts, peanuts and most fruits in addition to moose and seafood which have definitely been problems in the past. For someone who isn't much of a meat eater, it gets tough to get enough calories in my system. I have figured out some work-arounds at this point, but it would be really nice to be able to add back in some of those items! I'm not certain either that I want to hear back about whether or not the dogs are part of the problem. Speaking of the little monkeys, I'll pop in a picture of Dufus Eider. He loves that Boobah, but Ellie normally commandeers it. She considers it her "baby" even thought we got it for Eider. Crazy beasts!

Jared and Kacie Werkema moved up to Alaska just in time for Christmas so we've enjoyed spending some time with them and their kids. You can read about them on their blog:

Like any good Dutchmen (and women, and my Dutchicised Russians), they enjoy a good competitive card game!
And of course some good sledding:

Andrei, Oksana and I went to a friend's house and made some Christmas stockings. Not only was it fun, but they even turned out very pretty! Same pattern, but we each did something completely different!

Yes, we had a white Christmas! A VERY white and gorgeous Christmas! :) As someone said the other day, it looks like Narnia! It really does look like a winter wonderland, so peaceful and magical! It's MUCH more fun when you don't have to drive somewhere in it! The Glacierview Wolverines went to the State Volleyball Championships again this year in early December in Anchorage. They kept on winning so we had to keep on driving in to watch them play!! :) They ended up as the State's Mixed 6 Volleyball Champions!!! Way to go, Wolverines! I don't really have any good pictures of the volleyball, but I do have some more scenic pictures to finish off the post. Enjoy!

I'll try not to take so long before the next update!!!

Morning commute

Morning commute