Next whale visit

Beautiful day. We were up in the garden by 8 am. We had no choice really because half the fencing was down and the deer were lined up to jump our makeshift barriers. The bunnies and raccoons were also anticipating a big feed until they realized there was really nothing in the garden yet for them to ravage. They somehow missed the peas but judging by the excitement of the dogs on the scent when we entered, the critters were too focused on the fish pond to eat peas.

Unfortunately the humpback whale, lets call him Bobby until we know his identity for sure, returned at 9:30 am, when we were in the garden. We were hesitant to leave the garden but took the risk, albeit briefly, to watch the whale. By the time we got down to the deck he wasn’t very close in so we went back to the garden pretty quickly. Our deer don’t need much encouragement to take advantage of an opportunity.

We have taken apart the compost bin and emptied all the gold on the garden path to fill planters and make a bed for my new roses. In one year the compost bin has made another ton of gorgeous soil. We are going to move the composting station yet again. This will be the fourth location since we got here. I just hate wasting valuable fenced garden space for something that can easily go anywhere.

As we are not ever going to raise chickens (E can’t be near birds or rabbits post transplant), we have dismantled the chicken run to expand the garden area under the plum tree. This gives me a nice shaded garden area next to the original shed. So far the dogs are pretty happy to have an area to relax out of the sun. If all of the hydrangea cuttings in the greenhouse survive, they will be very happy planted there, once I remove a ton of stones and add some soil.

We had our covid vaccines last week and have had no side effects. Most of our friends should be done by the end of the week. Most of our family are done already, with the rest to be done shortly. We come from a generation who lived through measles and polio and meningitis and welcomed vaccines. Most of us have seen the eradication of small pox and proudly wear a scar on our shoulder from the small pox vaccine. We were happy to include our granddaughter when we got our shot and to explain to her that we were doing it for our neighbours and our community as well as ourselves.

E poured cement for a couple of the posts, which kind of ended our work day around noon up there. We are only contracted to work four hours a day so we returned to the deck to wait for the

next whale visit

like me happy

I mentioned that we went to Vancouver in March for E’s annual testing. But I didn’t mention that he got a clean bill of health. Testing was at the hospital, but interviews with the Dr. and team nurse were by phone. They gave E his test results and spent some time asking about his general health. Both asked questions like how was his mood and what is his energy level and how much exercise, if any, does he get in a week. All in all a very simple process to be handled by phone. I guess made simple because he is healthy. One wonders if this is the way Doctor appointments will continue post pandemic.

Yesterday was the first day since September when we didn’t need to light a fire in the house. Woke up to eighteen degrees in the living room which is just fine for us. Even our granddaughter was warm enough. Last week I barely got anything done outside because of the crazy winds. It was freezing in here, so the fire was going all day. But those days are already forgotten as it is now 20 degrees out on the deck and 23 degrees in the house. Winter is over, done, finished and forgotten.

The swallows came back to their summer homes this week along with the hummingbirds, which is a sure sign that winter is over. Last year a one year old humpback whale, which we fondly referred to as Bobby, arrived during a very warm March and, although they often return to the same waters year after year, and we were hoping he had adopted our waters as his home, we had seen no sign of him.

Turns out that Bobby isn’t a big fan of the cold either because the wind died down, the sun came out and Bobby returned to the waters in front of our house today. Welcome back!

Our summer hours began today. We were up at five and in the garden by eight. I have tons to do in the greenhouse and both flower and vegies gardens, and E wanted to continue replacing the fencing around the perimeter.

When the transplant team nurse asked E if he was getting any exercise he laughed. She asked what he did for exercise. He told her he walks the dog for an hour every morning and she said “Oh that’s very good” and then he described a typical day. Lifting 72 pound propane tanks on and off boats or bucking wood, splitting wood, unloading barges, loading trucks, lifting and working with 60 pound rolls of wire, pouring cement, building a bunkie, building a greenhouse or digging trenches. She was very impressed. I guess not a lot of 66 year old heart transplant patients spend their days working like E does. But I guess none of them have to keep a wife

like me happy

Use more firewood

A lot of my baby plants and cuttings have now been moved into the new greenhouse.

One of my ongoing jobs right now, in between chasing a three year old and the puppies, is to sift through our full compost bins. Last week I came across the January prunings from my Peace rose. One of the branches wrapped in compost had live buds on it, so I popped it into a pot. Then I decided to take cuttings of everything I could. Dogwood, Flowering cherry, Fig, Fuschia, Hydrangea… everything.

I figured that, if the plants lived, it would be fun and, if they didn’t, no loss.

So now I will be taking my clippers with me everywhere I go, snipping branches from my friend’s gardens and plopping them into my experimental pots.

E stained the exterior cedar boards today, so I feel it might be time to give you a peek at the greenhouse progress.

Didn’t I tell you the garden is my church…

Although it is sunny these days, it is friggin’ cold. The wind is coming right at us, all day. We have gone through a lot of firewood this winter, way more than we have ever used.

The greenhouse really does have a lot more sun than this picture indicates, it was taken at the end of the day. But it could have more. In the summer we have plenty of sun but there is a tree or two which could be taken down to improve the hours the greenhouse receives in the spring. Fortunately, we can always

use more firewood

much to ask

Four nights in the most beautiful city in the world and we spent most of it in our Vancouver hotel room. No fancy restaurants with friends or dinners out with our family. Just room service delivered to our door in cardboard boxes.

Covid protocols were strict at the four star hotel across from the hospital where E had to have his annual testing. Only two people allowed on an elevator at one time. Masks worn at all times everywhere in the hotel but our room. Cleaning staff never came into our room. We would bundle up garbage or linen as necessary and leave it in the hall outside our door. A call to room service and it was picked up immediately. Things have changed out there in the world and it has been easy to forget, living on this island.

Normally, I would go into the hospital and wait with E during his annual testing. Not this year. I waited in our hotel room and, when he needed company to walk back safely, I was given a fresh mask at the door to the hospital before I entered. St. Paul’s is notorious for their slow, over crowded elevators. Not this week, the halls and the elevators in the hospital were empty.

The foyer of the hotel was empty. In fact the hotel itself was mostly empty. Most of the lights were out in the common areas and the escalators at a stand-still to save energy. It was spooky. Four in the afternoon and it was like walking through a hotel at four in the morning.

I realize everyone else living in the world for the last year has been going through this, and now it is common, but living on this island our life has pretty much continued as normal. Sure, we haven’t had any guests or visited with friends as we normally would do, but we have been able to live our days relatively unaffected.

We did have lots of time to drive around the city and visit our old haunts. Alberni Street where we first lived together, Stanley Park seawall where we walked on Sunday mornings. Spanish Banks West where I misspent the summers of my youth drinking on the beach. Locarno beach where E did the same. Spanish Banks to remember my Mom. UBC to see our daughter-in-law’s gorgeous banners, which are currently hanging down Main Mall.

Dunbar to see the neighbourhood where E grew up, although his house is long gone. Kerrisdale and Maple Grove Park where I grew up. My house is also gone. Drove down the secret lane that no one remembers. It was a gorgeous sunny day.

We quite enjoyed ourselves and, bonus, when your normal time to get up in the morning is the crack of dawn, you get Stanley Park all to yourselves. We had long walks around downtown and I was reminded of the countless lunches I ate on the courthouse steps, in my days working for the Big Blue company at the centre of town. After work I would meet my friend at the Old Bailiff at Robson Square for stuffed mushroom caps. mmmmmmm

So back to the island last week and we brought our granddaughter with us. Her parents were able to assure that it would be safe to have her visit. We have her for two weeks and we consider ourselves so fortunate that she loves it here so much. She is no trouble at all. The usual work isn’t accomplished with her here but that is quite fine by us as time spent reading books to her or walking down the lane holding her hand is way more fun.

When E isn’t reading children’s stories he is still working on the greenhouse. I have moved most of my seed starts and cuttings inside the greenhouse and although it isn’t as warm as it will be when we are finished, they seem happy. Our granddaughter has helped me pot up the tomato seedlings and we are currently sitting at eighty four tomatoes. Whether they all thrive or not, I won’t know for a bit, but they are looking good.

The weather has not been the best. Frankly, I am sick of the wind. It can be sunny outside but if the wind is blowing right at us, it is friggin’ cold and, honestly, I am done with it. I want endless days of 20 degrees, and no wind, so that I can enjoy my garden. Is that so

much to ask?

my biggest hero

We have, in the past twenty one years, celebrated the anniversary of E’s heart transplant in a variety of ways. Two of the years we were with a large group of our nearest and dearest in Mexico. One year, many of the same plus a few more joined us in Las Vegas. It has been an occasion jointly celebrated with our friends because they lived through it too. They were there to take our kids to hockey games and birthday parties when we were otherwise occupied. They were there when our kids needed to be amused during E’s surgery. Our friends and family are really the best.

It was so long ago. The journal I kept at the time can help with the details if I ever need them, but I thought I would share some of the flashes, forever in my memory, which I have of the time.

  • When Sue from BC transplant sat me down the first weekend and explained the ordeal of a heart transplant and then followed up asking if I had any questions. My response.. “how much time should I tell his boss he will need off from work.” She still laughs at that one. Suffice to say E was never able to work again.
  • E’s dad thinking I had lost my mind when I phoned to tell him that E needed a transplant and then sending his Dr. brother to the hospital to see what the hell was going on.
  • When someone said to E that he was “lucky” ’cause he was now on disability.
  • A father from the hockey team told me not to worry cause “you will marry again”.
  • E’s father living with us and taking care of the house and kids while we were at the hospital. I would come home at 10pm and he and I would sit in the living room, children all asleep and we would talk honestly about what the Doctors were telling me. Papa never took over or micro managed or questioned my decisions. He was my hero.
  • E trusting me to make all of the decisions. Half of those decisions I made without telling him. I just wanted E to focus on himself. The details and the worrying were left to me and his Doctors.
  • E’s Doctor sitting me down to tell me that E was circling the drain, but he had a plan. He was my hero.
  • My friends driving me to and from the hospital every day.
  • Janice R. arriving at my door with a gunny sack of freshly harvested potatoes from her farm. I have never tasted anything so good.
  • Kerry arriving at my door with a pewter TinMan figurine which began a TinMan collection that continues to this day.
  • My friend looking at E’s license plate, “I don’t get it. Why a Tin Man, there is nothing wrong with his brain?”
  • E walking through the doors of the hospital for the operation with no more hesitation or worry than if he was walking into the grocery store.
  • Lisa and Becci sleeping with E and I in the hospital room waiting for the surgery to start
  • The sound of the gurney as it came down the hall to take him to the OR.
  • Saying goodbye to him as they handed me his wedding ring.
  • Deanne reading to me in the waiting room so I could fall asleep.
  • Gary and Linda donating to BC transplant in E’s name on his anniversary.
  • Andy C. coming out of the operating room in his scrubs to hug me and tell me that E was going to be fine.

Which brings up another item of interest..

Our kids were in French immersion. Very small class sizes. Our middle son was ten at the time, so grade five? There were maybe twenty kids in the class and maybe nine of them boys?

One of the boy’s father was a Profusionist. (runs the heart lung machine to keep the patient alive when the heart comes out). He was called in to work during E’s surgery but when they said who the patient was he said he shouldn’t do it and called in another on the team. But he still came and supervised. He is the Andy that came out and told me E was going to be fine.

Then it turned out that one of the fathers of another classmate was the medic who transported the new heart to St. Paul’s in the helicopter.

There was no celebration like the party on his first anniversary. Anyone and everyone who helped and supported us were there. It lasted long into the night. I think E woke up two days later. I hired a belly dancer and everyone from my young sons, to my 80 year old mother, danced with her. There were friends and neighbours, young and old. There was beer pong in the garage and limbo in the kitchen.

All and all it was a crazy time and I can’t finish up without of course mentioning our gratitude to the generous family of the donor who saved E’s life. E works very hard at honouring the gift and living a deserving life.

It is probably pretty obvious, he is

my biggest hero

.

won’t kill him

Well, it’s the first day of spring and, as long time readers know, it is the time of year when we talk about organ donation and the Gift of Life.. If you are tired of listening to me talk about this subject, off you go. We will get back to gardens, greenhouses and septic systems in a few days.

Solid organ transplant patients have been in the news quite a bit lately regarding their position in the vaccination roll out. Without an immune system to fight Covid, transplant patients stand vulnerable. There are many others out there worried about Covid who are otherwise immune compromised but we are talking today about solid organ transplant patients.

In 1999, E was trim, fit and physically active. He was a healthy 43 year old man who played recreational hockey year round and ran the stairs in his office high rise instead of using elevators. No amount of kale or kombucha would have prevented what happened to him. In a matter of days he went from pouring cement and building the stairway at the family house here on the island to laying in a CCU at VGH needing a heart transplant.

What saved him was science. Science and the Canadian medical system. Doctors at three hospitals who, decision after decision, followed the correct path to the discovery of just what it was that was attacking his heart and how to save him. From ordering a heart biopsy, which revealed the rare disease, to the experimental medications prescribed to delay the transplant as long as possible. We walked through those hospital doors and put our faith and his life in their hands. A myriad of tests and experimental treatments and forty two nights in the hospital culminating with a heart transplant and none of it cost us a cent. To this day we are amazed at how lucky we were. At the time there were only 63 known cases of Giant Cell Myocarditis in the world and most were discovered in autopsy. It was a disease which really did just present like the flu.

E was able to hold on to his native heart for nine more months until the time came when he had just days left. On March 22, 2000, he received the gift which has allowed him to live the last twenty-one years without one more night in the hospital. Sure he has been on steroids the whole time, makes sure he doesn’t get over tired and used a lot of hand sanitizer before it was in fashion, but until the pandemic hit, his life had no limits. He has really been able to do anything he wanted to do.

Eleven years ago, to simplify his life, we sold our big family home with the large yard and moved to a townhouse. In no time we were bored beyond belief so asked his cardiologist if it would be okay to move to an off grid cabin, on a gulf island, with no ferry. He encouraged us to go. “What are you going to do?” he said “sit in a rocking chair and wait to die? Go for it.” Nine years later we are still here and E is not only healthier than ever, he is thriving.

Which brings us to what it has been like for a solid organ transplant recipient during the last year. It has been exactly like what it has been for everyone else, but we are just that much more careful. We are fortunate that we have been able to isolate here on the island with minimal interaction. Our island has actually been the safest place we could have been. Our friends and family have been very supportive. Sure we hear well intentioned advice from people, who don’t know what they are talking about, suggesting that instead of a vaccine we should just boost his immune system. Just eat some kale and take some Vitamin D. He takes fourteen pills a day to eliminate his immune system!

He will be in the next phase for vaccination, hopefully, in the next couple of weeks. We will be so relieved because once again we put our faith in the Canadian medical system, science and his doctors. Once vaccinated he may still get the virus, we hope he doesn’t, but if he does, we know it

won’t kill him