Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Ringing out the old...and in with the new

I've come a long way.  Throughout September, I was asking Roger how he was feeling and what his heart rate was....well, let's just say I was asking him several times a day.  He was a good sport, and constantly reassured me he was feeling good -- in fact, better than August 27th - the day before the heart attack.

My family doctor took Roger on as a patient, and she was very surprised to meet such a healthy looking man who less than two weeks before had suffered a major heart attack.  She referred Roger to a cardiologist but a couple of weeks later, Roger experienced slight chest pains so I rushed him to Nanaimo General Hospital.

I went armed with his discharge papers from Idaho and they took excellent care of him while running a multitude of tests.  Fortunately it was determined he hadn't had another heart attack (the pain was residual pain from the heart attack around the heart's sac), and that the echo cardiogram showed that the heart was working well and another stent was not needed.  The cardiologist reviewed everything then told Roger to go live his life, and see him in a year.  It was like a "Get out of Jail Free" card.  We both started breathing easier.

The two of us made a conscious effort to eat better by loosely following the principles of the Mediterranean diet which focuses on fish, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, using herbs instead of salt, and getting lots of exercise.  Within 3 months Roger is down 30 pounds, and I am down 10.  The best part is it is a lifestyle change not a strict diet with lots of rules that are hard to maintain.  We still periodically splurge on some foods, but we're feeling so good that it is making it easier to stick with what's working.

We had lots of company this fall that came to see how Roger was doing, but I was lax in getting everyone's picture.  We welcomed Laurel and John MacPhail and his parents visiting from PEI; Roger's mom and sister; and Dwayne Majcher from Calgary who spent several weeks renovating a condo he and Annette recently purchased in Victoria.  As well, Roger's brother Jack, and his wife Siu, from San Diego were in Vancouver for a convention so we went over by ferry to spend a few hours with them.

We spent a sunny day in Vancouver with Roger's brother Jack and his wife, Siu.
Left to right:  Roger, Siu, Jack and Heather
Finding ways to get 10,000 steps in is a cinch.  I still pinch myself when I explore the beautiful parks and beaches in the area.

Driftwood on the beach
I've met a wonderful group of ladies who join me for aquasize at our resort's pool.  We try to go 2-3 times a week and we not only exercise, but we never run out of things to say or laugh about.
Left to right:  Victoria, Bernadette, Michelle and me.
Our aquasize group is named "MOA" which stands for Michelle Obama Arms!
Brad, Anette and Magnus flew to Japan for a three week holiday in October.  We picked up Obi on our way through Seattle from Idaho where we went to pick up our trailer from the property and brought it back to the island where we sold it the next day.  We had Obi for around five weeks and she had daily walks down to the beach and a park where she could run and play frisbee.  She is such a great dog and to us it is the perfect way of having a dog --- one that visits!

Tired after playing frisbee, Obi plopped herself into a puddle to cool off
A mom worries about her child no matter the age, so it wasn't surprising when Roger's mom, Madalene and his sister, Rhonda came for the weekend to see how Roger was doing.  We had a great visit and enjoyed going to Chemainus, a beautiful seaside village that is famous for its murals and theatre.  We saw the play, Hilda's Yard and loved it.

Clockwise from bottom left:  Roger's sister Rhonda, their mom, Heather and Roger at Cuckoo's - one of our favourite restaurants in nearby Coombs.

A big question we had was "would Roger be able to get travel insurance so he can continue working"?  Roger decided to find out, so called Pacific Blue Cross who had covered us so well.  We were relieved to find out that they would continue to cover him for 30 days at a time with a rider on the current policy.  It is as simple as calling before each trip, answering a few questions on his medical status, and letting them know what country(s) he would be going to. (We've since found the same coverage through BCAA that allows for longer stretches out of the country and as long as we sign up before we turn 60, no medical questionnaire is required since Roger has been stable for more than 3 months).

It didn't take long until the phone rang with a consulting job for him.  This time it was Jack, his brother who works for a geotechnical company in the States who asked if Roger could go to Costa Rica to help on a project that was having some challenges.   I was anxious saying goodbye to him, but knew I had to let him go.  It helped knowing Jack's son, Chris, was also working on the project, and that he would keep an eye on him. He's spent a few weeks there are he is scheduled to return in February.

Roger on the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica
While Roger was in Costa Rica, I brought Obi back to Brad, Anette and Magnus who had missed her.  I then flew to Kansas City to visit Roger's brother, Colin and his wife, Karen and their son, Cooper.  Roger had been looking forward to going too, but couldn't get away from the project.

Magnus did a fabulous job of introducing me to his teacher and classmates

Love this little boy to bits

I had a great weekend hanging out with Colin and Karen.  Cooper is attending University of Kansas but was able to spend part of the weekend at home.  He's come a long way from being a two year old who thought it was funny to silently hide behind curtains while I was babysitting him.  I was frantic that I had lost him and spent the longest 20 minutes of my life running through the house looking for him!  I've never let him forget it!
Left to right:  Cooper, Colin, Karen and me

Roger dodged Hurricane Otto and flew out of Costa Rica before it reached land.  While he was home we flew to Calgary for the Kinley Boomer --- a Christmas gathering that has happened for 131 years.

We rented a car through Hertz on points.  We couldn't believe it when the agent gave us the option of paying an additional $20 a day to have winter tires put on the 4X4 we rented.  Roger said, "It's Calgary and it's winter - and you charge for winter tires?"  In addition they charge $13.95 a day to add me as a second driver and then when we wanted to extend by one day, it was going to be $132!  We declined everything and have vowed not to use Hertz again.

It was a whirlwind five days in Calgary, and while we couldn't see everyone we wanted to, we were  glad to be able to have visits with:  Paul and Paula Williams, John and Laurel MacPhail, Colleen and Ed Walsh, Peggy and Bob Campbell, Kathy and Randy Cardon, my brother Russ and his wife Margaret, and two of my Auntie Elaine's best friends who I met for lunch along with Margaret.  

We stayed at Dwayne and Annette Majcher's home and had a blast.  We made plans to have them spend Christmas night with us, and for us to go to Victoria for New Years Eve.  Love having them spending more time on the island.

That weekend, we were reminded what Alberta winters are like when we drove home from the Boomer.  Luckily we left Calgary before the temperatures plummeted to the minus 20C range for two weeks.

The day after I got home from Calgary, winter came to Vancouver Island and it stayed for a couple of weeks which locals swear is unheard of.  It was hard finding a shovel to buy -- it is my third winter on the island and the first time I've needed to buy winter supplies.

The heavy, wet snow broke my beautiful magnolia tree -- I'm hoping it recovers in the spring.
This year I put my first Christmas tree in 9 years.  It was wonderful hanging ornaments that had been my parents, those we've collected on our travels, and ones we've given each other over the years.
Ready for Christmas!

Brad, Anette and Magnus spent Christmas in Calgary with the Wickenheisers, and we welcomed Annette, Dwayne and their daughter Nicole for the night.  We decided to do something very "un-Albertan-like" and take a backpack full of martini fixings down to the beach.  So fun to do and made for a memorable Christmas afternoon walking along the shoreline after having a cocktail looking out to the ocean.  Back at our cottage we had a traditional Christmas feast and then had a riotous evening playing "Mad Gab" which had all five of us in stitches.

Left to right:  Nicole, Heather, Roger, Annette, Dwayne

Toasting each other and so damn glad to be together

A first:  martinis on the beach on Christmas Day with good friends!
The following week we went to Victoria to spend a couple of days at the Majcher's newly renovated condo.  Dwayne did a superb job after gutting the place and truly made his mark on it.  Their location is fantastic --- within walking distance of the harbour, restaurants and shops and we had a great time.

We started off visiting Craigdarroch Castle built in 1890's for coal magnate Robert Dunsmuir.  The architecture is incredible and there are 32 of the original 47 stained glass windows in place.  It was well worth the visit.
Photo of Craigdarroch Castle
Courtesy: Craigdarroch Castle website

The castle was beautifully decorated for Christmas 
After a feast of oysters back at the condo, we headed down to the Harbour for the New Years Eve celebration.  There were lots of people but it was a great vibe and the lights were spectacular.  It makes us look forward to bringing our boat back to the Harbour when the weather warms up.
Victoria Harbour with the parliament buildings lit up in the background

Good friends Annette and Dwayne Majcher

We found a great outdoor patio with heaters, blankets and Spanish Coffees --- plus a ring side seat to the fireworks
To coordinate with the Canada-wide fireworks, Victoria's NYE fireworks were scheduled to go off at 9 p.m.  We were grateful we weren't in Halifax as they had to wait until 1 a.m.!

Back at the condo, we had more seafood and "warmed up" by the fire.  It was a great end to our holiday season with friends who are like family to us.

We are excited to head to Bothell on January 11th to celebrate Christmas again with Brad, Anette and Magnus.  A few days later we are flying out of Seattle to Belize to reconnect with friends, soak up some sunshine and do some snorkeling.  Hopefully Roger will get a good break before returning to work in Costa Rica.

While there was definitely a few rough patches and stresses in 2016, we are so very lucky to be well and happy as we usher in 2017.  The friends and family that shared the tough times with us are also there to share the good, and we count our lucky stars for that.

We're a bit older, a whole lot stronger and ready.  Bring it on.

"Life is like a camera.  Focus on what's important.  Capture the good times.  Develop from the negative, and if things don't turn out right - take another shot." 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Life happens

I look back on the last six weeks and in many ways, wish I could have a "do over".  But life isn't like that, and this blog is a chronicle of our lives, so I will forge ahead.

In late July our friends, Kathy and Randy Cardon, visited us with their son, his girlfriend and their two dogs.  Kathy and Randy got hooked on the boating bug like we did 20 years ago and have bought increasingly larger boats.  They loved their Bayliner 3055 which is the same model as ours, and had moored it at Dover, near Sandpoint for the past two summers.  Randy wanted to practice cruising on Lake Pend O'Reille and install new electronics before taking it out to the coast, and had successfully cruised home in the dark from our place just two weeks before.

With all accidents, there are usually many factors that if you took away just one - the accident may never have happened.  That is true here as well, but this time, an accident did happen.

The group left around 9 p.m.  The water was like glass and the stars were shining.  Less than 15 minutes later, Kathy texted that they had hit a channel marker but everyone was o.k. and they were continuing to Dover.  We urged them to turn around and come to our dock.  They were on their way back to us, and sent another text saying they were now taking on water.  Roger advised them to go directly to the Priest River boat ramp and we would meet them there.

As they pulled into the dock, we were horrified at the gaping hole in the bow with the spotlight eerily dangling down and lighting the pitch dark night.  Everyone was shaken but o.k. and we all set out to empty the boat while Roger drove Randy to Dover to pick up his truck and trailer so they could haul the boat out.  It was a long night but they were able to sleep a bit in our clubhouse.  

Proof that boating isn't all fun in the sun
We are grateful they hit the channel marker because if they hadn't,
chances are they would have hit land which would have had a far more devastating effect
No charges were laid, and Randy and Kathy are taking some time to consider whether they continue boating or not.  Sadly, their beautiful boat was written off but the main thing is everyone was safe.

In July, Roger and I both came to the decision it was time to sell our share of the Idaho property.  It's been our anchor for so many years and a place where we reconnected with family and friends while we were gallivanting around the world.  Two years ago I couldn't have envisioned not having Idaho - but now we have our place on beautiful Vancouver Island, with a boat we rarely use in Sidney, and our feeling of wanderlust has returned so we'd like to explore more of the country.

We asked our partners if they were interested, and they agreed to buy us out.  Their daughter and her family love spending time there and we're glad the Moes will enjoy it for years to come.  We still plan on visiting the area around Festival time in early August and revisit all of our favourite places and people.

It wouldn't be summer in Idaho without going to the Festival at Sandpoint, or having a visit from Annette and Dwayne Majcher.  Put those two things together, add Paddy and Dave Carlson --- and well, you have a fabulous evening.  This year we listened to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band -- still going strong after 50 years.
Kinleys, Carlsons and Majchers
Before deciding to sell our share of the property, we had a garage pad poured.  Roger was still game to build the garage, so set out single handedly erecting it.  Using pulleys, brackets and sheer manpower, he hoisted 13 trusses himself and kept telling me as I worried about him: "It's fun -- it's just like a building a giant Lego set!"

Brad, Anette and Magnus came for a few days, and as always we had a ball.

Our favourite family 
Magnus loves being on anything that floats

Magnus and I making a quick getaway with an ice cream cone after dinner at Willow Bay
My yearly knee boarding venture -- heaps of fun but Advil was needed to smooth out the aches
Roger's dad and his wife came for the weekend and enjoyed spending time with the family --- especially Magnus.
Magnus taking Papa John for a walk on the dock
Four generations - pretty special picture
John and Zunny gamely braved the choppy water on the way to Willow Bay for dinner.
A game of football with Papa John although Obi was hoping someone would throw her frisbee!
One of our few regrets about selling the property is not being able to hang out with the good friends we've made in the area but we will make a point of keeping in touch.  

On August 28th our friends Jim and Kerri Martin invited us to a wonderful afternoon get together  hosted by Jim and Margie Stevens, who live on a beautiful piece of land up a mountain near Priest River.  They are wine and food connoisseurs and are gracious hosts.  The party included a wine tasting and homemade pizzas made in a wood burning stove imported from Portugal.  We spent the afternoon meeting interesting people, drinking great wine, and eating delicious pizza. 

Jim Martin helped man the pizza oven
Roger enjoying the pizza and view
And now I'm going to do what I do when reading a very scary book.  I go to the last chapter to see who survived the boogey man.

Roger is o.k.  

Now to the beginning.

Shortly after we got home from the party around 9 p.m., he started having terrible indigestion.  I feel awful, but admit to asking him to keep his belching down as I googled home remedies.  When I went into the bedroom, I could see the pain wasn't from eating too much pizza.

I got Roger into the car and we decided to head to the closest hospital in Newport, Washington which was six miles away.  Roger was in excruciating pain so when I saw a police car when flashing lights in our town's grocery store parking lot, I pulled in and jumped out and asked the officer to help.  We've called it divine intervention.

The officer, who I've since found out is Dan Burkey, called the ambulance who were there in minutes.  He kept Roger calm, and his actions were pivotal to Roger's survival.  All the First Responders were skilled and amazing --- but seeing Officer Burkey in the parking lot really was a miracle.

After what seemed like an eternity a paramedic jumped out and said they were calling Life Flight so we all headed to the small Priest River airport.  My heart sank as I called Brad, and I felt like the nightmare was never going to end.

Twenty five minutes later Roger was flying off, Brad was tearing down the highway from Seattle, and I was driving to Coeur d'Alene about an hour away.  Midway there, the Life Flight paramedic called me to say Roger was already in the Cath Lab which made the night drive easier.
One of the first things Roger asked me was, "Did you get a picture of the chopper for the blog?"  Well no, I didn't.  I wasn't sure if you were going to be alive when you reached the hospital and thought it was too macabre to photograph.
This is from the Life Flight website.
The cardiologist explained to us he had a major blockage called "the widow maker" and had suffered a massive heart attack.  He put two stents in and they are thankfully, working well.  There is another blockage that will have to be stented as well, but we were told it wasn't critical to do it now.  Roger looked and felt so much better after the procedure and it was a relief to see him, hold his hand and give him a kiss.
Cardiac ICU
Catching a quick nap.  Kind of a pathetic picture but it captured the lack of sleep and stress that enveloped me.
The hospital had hotel aspects such as phoning for Room Service, and a Guest Services department.  
A relief to have a photo with the 3 of us
Roger's brother, Colin, flew in from Kansas for a visit.  He brought a gift for Roger:  
A bottle of Baileys, a jar of peanut butter, and some jumper cables.  Brothers.......
The following few days were a roller coaster with complications:  another trip to the Cath Lab, more tests and a call for the Rapid Response Team (along with a crash cart and minister).

Roger was discharged on Friday, Sept 2nd and we stayed at a condo near the hospital for the weekend.  Brad was a huge support -- he stayed until Wednesday and then returned on the weekend to help me pack up things at our property (our partner, Don Moe was down to pull the boat and jet skis out of the water so he came down to Coeur d'Alene to hang out with Roger).

On Sunday, September 4th, I drove Roger to Brad and Anette's home in Bothell (near Seattle) with Brad driving close behind us.  An hour later, Anette drove me to the airport because in the morning we got word my Godmother, Auntie Elaine, was very ill and failing quickly.  My Auntie Elaine and Uncle John (who passed away in 2001) were there the night I was born and were given the role of my Godparents.  I adored both of them.

I had 2-1/2 hours with her on Monday morning, and while it broke my heart, we held hands and said how much we loved each other.  We laughed at some of the things we did together:  drinking Irish coffees at 10 a.m. while we traveled through Ireland...singing songs in Irish pubs...and eating a gourmet picnic I brought to the day surgery suite last year while she spent the day having biopsies taken.  I told her it was o.k. to let go --- that no one would think she had given up.  I begged her not to be stoic and to accept all the good drugs the hospital offered.  
Our trip to Ireland in 2008 was filled with laughter and made memories that will last my lifetime
We made a party of hanging out in the clinic waiting for her biopsies to be taken
Magnus said he would look after RaRa while I was gone, and he did by taking him for little walks and playing really well.  He knew he couldn't jump on him like he usually does, and it was sweet seeing them together.  I flew back Monday afternoon as Blue Cross had given us until Tuesday to get out of the States.  
Our sweet Magnus knew RaRa wasn't up to snuff, and was gentle and caring.
I'm always happy to return to Canada - but never more so than this trip.
Our good friend, Jodi Ikert, prepared dinner for our first night home and strung a "Welcome Home" banner for us.
It was so good to be back home.  My family doctor took Roger on as a patient, and when they met on Friday she was surprised to see him looking so fit.  Dr. Tram put in an urgent request for a cardiologist, and we are hoping to see one in the next week or so.  We are both at our "wedding weight" from 38 years ago, and are committed to eating better.  Reading labels, choosing less processed foods, and wearing Fitbits to track our activity and heart rates are all becoming part of our "new normal".  

We have been so touched by the many phone calls, texts and emails we've received over the past two weeks.  The 3 wavy dots signifying someone was sending a text to me was like a life line and I didn't feel so alone -- even when I was.  We are so very grateful to our friends and the first responders....medical staff at Kootenai Medical Center...and to Blue Cross for the excellent service they gave us.

The man I fell in love with 41 years ago is strong and I know he will get better so we can grow old together.  

I received word early this morning that my Auntie Elaine passed away at 5:30 a.m. MST, just 19 days after turning 96.  She loved and was loved.  What an amazing force she was with a memory that put mine to shame.

Over the years she had always taken me by the hand.  But on Monday, I held hers.

Rest in peace, Auntie Elaine.  Rest in Peace.

"Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise."
Les Miserables