Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Five Years and a Scary Start

A couple months after Jeff's surgery in 2007
About five and half years ago, on February 5, 2007, Jeff had his 29th birthday. We had just met, he had just proposed a couple days prior, and on this day... his birthday... he had gone in for total spinal fusion surgery. His third major surgery in about a year (he had just had each of his hips re-done, six months between each surgery). And guess what? I kept a journal at the time, that I just re-found.

I was living in Phoenix at the time, while Jeff lived in Salt Lake City. His surgery was at the University of Utah hospital (where Norah was later born). That day was really difficult. I thought I'd be able to handle it while living a state away. I had no idea what we were in for. I received updates from his sister Emily, who I loved immediately upon meeting a couple months prior. Emily, this is what I wrote about you back then, when we hardly knew each other: "Today Emily and I cried on the phone together. She said that her mom was so strong, but that she's a big baby. I told her that we'd be big babies together."

The surgery took pretty much all day, and she was great about giving me updates. I wrote in the journal to Jeff on his birthday, "I had a rough time today. It was so hard not being there for you, and I wish that I had planned ahead." It was too difficult to be away from him. He was taken to the ICU post-op, and was there for a few days. He called me, but his voice was so scratchy from being intubated. It was too much to bear, so I booked a flight for February 8th. It was a good thing too, because in the wee hours of that morning, after he had been moved to the floor, he coded from a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot dislodged in his lungs). After being stabilized, he was returned to the ICU. While on the longest flight of my life, I wrote, "When you didn't answer this morning, I had a feeling that something was wrong. You just have to wait a little while longer, and I'll be there by your side to help you feel better... please don't leave me."

Jeff has a big family of ten. I should have been nervous to meet most of them, but things were so crazy that I wasn't nervous at all; I didn't have the capacity for it. I will always remember meeting his mom, Carol, for the first time. I stepped into Jeff's ICU room, where her deft hands were busying themselves with a crochet project. She looked up, and without a single word passing between us, we hugged. It wasn't a regular sort of hug, either. It was a clinging-to-hope-and-each-other sort of hug. It was perfect. We cried while holding one another, which woke my sleeping prince. On that day, a miracle happened, and Jeff smiled at me through his huge hockey mask. I remember being so grateful to the machines keeping him alive.

I went on throughout the journal, writing to him about why he needed to live. We had our life ahead in Seattle. We still needed to have our perfect wedding on the beach. We were going to have babies together. A doctor told us that we were lucky. They saw about a 50% mortality rate from pulmonary embolisms, and there was no obvious factor that showed who lived and who died.

My/our boss let me work out of the SLC office for a week. I would go to work, stay the night in a horrid green recliner at the hospital, then repeat. I was given gracious offers to stay with various people, but I didn't travel all that way to be with them. I was there to be with my sweetheart.

Jeff was in the hospital for a month. It was a long month. We were all surprised that he had to be there so long. Little did we know how much time we would spend just next door, at Primary Children's PICU. And little did I know how intimate I would become with medical equipment, similar to that wich kept Jeff alive. Equipment just like that which keeps Norah alive.

We are so thankful for everything we have. Jeff and Norah are the strongest people I know. I always say, that Jeff has more reason to complain than anyone, yet he never does. We can now add Norah to that statement, too. I love our sweet family. I wouldn't have wanted to have babies with anyone but Jeff. Our fifth anniversary is right around the corner, and as uniquely difficult as our life may be, it is filled with such love and joy that I never could have imagined.

September 22, 2007: Our perfect day at the beach.

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