back to sleep

E takes fourteen pills a day. Eight in the morning and six at night. These aren’t drugs which treat symptoms like arthritic stiffness or iron poor blood. If he doesn’t take these pills as prescribed, his body will reject his new heart. Toss it out like the town drunk at last call. In addition to the normal risk of rejection for transplant patients, the disease which killed his first heart has a 25% chance of sneaking in and getting this one. It can’t be given even the smallest window of opportunity. 

There are items E can’t consume like grapefruit juice and pomegranates because they conflict with the medications. Years ago when he returned to rec hockey after his transplant, he began drinking Five Alive juice post game in the locker room instead of beer. We noticed his stamina started to weaken and his health worsened. We figured out that one of the juices in the Five of Five Alive, was grapefruit. He went back to beer.

These pills don’t go through our extended health plan they come directly from the pharmacy at the hospital every three months. We keep them in a plastic case which could be transported easily if there is a earthquake or zombie apocalypse. If we had to bug out, I wouldn’t care so much about passports or papers, we would be grabbing that case of drugs.

Probably four or five times a week, I ask E if he has taken his pills. It’s a force of habit. He usually assures me that he has. On occasion we have broken our routine, maybe gone to town early or stayed out late with friends and he has forgotten to take his pills. We keep a three day supply in the car just in case.  

 We have three down quilts of varying quality and in graduating weights. The heaviest and best is on the bed now. Even  half price at a black Friday sale we paid a couple of hundred dollars for it. This morning we can see the first snow on the mountains across from our window. The winds are howling and the rain is falling. The wood fire is out and the house is cold. But we are warm and snug in our bed under this amazing quilt.

We were out late last night and I didn’t see E take his 9 PM pills. At five am when I woke up, my first thought was to ask him if he took his pills. Behind the pillows and under the flannel sheets and giant down comforter I heard his muffled response ” hmph, I don’t remember” and he rolled over back to sleep.

 I thought that was a fairly casual attitude towards the regimen which keeps him alive.  After a couple of minutes reality had kicked in and I heard him get up to go and check. He returned with a “Yes, I took them”. We both snuggled deeper under the heavenly quilt and went

back to sleep

science, who knew?

Yet another gorgeous sunny day today. Not sure how much longer they will continue but I’m not complaining. My body is unable to accept daylight savings so I am up very early..

I am reminded of all those years struggling to get to work for my 7 am shifts. Admittedly a lot of those nights we had been up with a sick kid or any of the myriad of other reasons we never slept when the kids were young. But still.. it’s ironic. We have all the time in the world to stay in bed til noon but haven’t slept past 7 AM in twenty years.. I can barely sleep til day break…

Up early, our coffee finished we were off in the truck to go fetch some more wood. E runs the chain saw. I throw the rounds into the back of the pick up truck and back out again to a pile on our driveway. We didn’t buck trees for too long.. Again, just a little bit every day to protect E’s back. 

One of the trips earned our truck a flat tire and no matter what E did the bolts would not come off the useless thing… . So the truck is not going any where, anytime soon. Fortunately we found ourselves with a second truck this summer and are rewarded for the decision to keep both.

There were more leaves to rake and an excuse for another burn pile. I imagine I will be raking again tomorrow. The trees are slow to give up their loot and just when I think I have cleaned the driveway, the wind forces them to drop. I haven’t even started on the upper driveway.

So with my shoulder replacement two years ago I am now able to help E with a little bit of the harder physical work. Wouldn’t know that I couldn’t brush my teeth with my right hand for years.

Come to think of it to see how E spends his days on this island you wouldn’t think, well there is a guy who had a heart transplant. Huh, medical science… who knew?

Here this weekend

First day of school for our five year old boy. It was 1991. We had registered him for all the requisite after school activities. Soccer, swimming and Beavers (pre Cubs). Three year old and new born were at home.. their turn would come.

Saturday morning at swimming lessons. A pool of five year old boys trying to float, bums in the air, with their parents sitting in the lounge watching. One of the other boys in the class was in the same French immersion class at school as our son. We meet the parents. chat, chat, chat. They introduce us to their cousin and his wife, they also have a boy of the same age in the swim class although their boy goes to a different local school. The three couples are surrounded by our combined nine children in various stages of undress for lessons. Two waiting for dad and tot classes. Two were still being nursed. I remember the cousin always had a big Tupperware filled with grilled cheese sandwiches for everyone.

Sunday, soccer on the field behind our school. Our sons team included several of the boys from his class. They raced happily around in the rain and mud. Arms waving in the air like windmills. Parents surround the field yelling encouragement as we drank E’s spiked hot chocolate in the cold.

Monday night, Beavers. Twenty men and their sons arrive in the gym at the local school. E stands beside his swimming buddies. We are new to the town and don’t know anyone else. The district commissioner welcomes them. “So pleased you all appreciate the value of the scouting program for your sons.. ” she says “small problem, we have no leaders for this Beaver group. So if some of you would like to step up, we will train you and your sons will have a great scouting experience. ” E and his two swimming buddies didn’t so much step up as sixteen other men stepped back.

The following Monday a meeting was planned by E and his new Beaver leader buddies at the local McDonalds to discuss what the hell just happened and finalize plans for their new Beaver pack. Were they aware that E had had a vasectomy that day and was sitting with a bag of frozen peas in his pants? I doubt it.

These two couples, long time residents, and their families were integral to the years of happiness and support we had living in that town.

The first visitor E had in the CCU the morning he got sick was the cousin. The other family occupied our eldest during E’s heart transplant. Dear dear friends and we are only too excited to be hosting them

here this weekend

Circle of life

Alice and John had three children. Each of the three had four of their own. From those twelve grandchildren came nineteen great grandchildren. Now it gets hard… The nineteen-great grandchildren have now had thirteen great great grandchildren.. whew .. don’t worry there won’t be a test.. but I do have a point..

Sunday, we went to the celebration of life for the last of Alice’s children. He was ninety-six. Defying all odds, he outlived his brother (E’s Dad) and sister through sheer stubbornness. His life achievements filled a full page (single spaced). He was a father, a psychiatrist, a MLA, the Chancellor of SFU, Chairman of the board of the Maritime museum, a musician, an ardent defender of social justice and an instigating force to bring Medicare to British Columbia in the sixties. The celebration was an excellent testament to his life’s work.

When E first became ill in July of 1999, our children were on the island for their usual summer vacation with E’s Dad, their Papa. I phoned him to explain that E had suddenly become gravely ill and that he might need a heart transplant. As you can imagine Papa thought I had lost my mind and had his doubts to my news.

I was sitting outside the ICU at VGH when I made the call to Papa. It wasn’t an hour later, sitting beside E’s bed when his uncle came storming in the room demanding to see the chart. He was a psychiatrist not a cardiologist but that didn’t stop him. He sat with us the rest of the evening, comforting me, assuring me that we would get through this. That the family would get us through this… I imagine he phoned Papa when he left and explained I wasn’t nuts….. not as far as E’s diagnosis went at least. I did in fact need a lot of anti depressants to get through the next years.. but I wasn’t nuts…

Saturday, the day before the Celebration of life, we went to the first birthday party of our granddaughter. She is the thirteenth and newest great great grandchild of Alice and John. We brought her back to the island with us while her parents are so busy, just as Papa would bring our kids here to help us…

When Alice, the Matriarch of this family was in the hospital months before her death at age 92, we brought our first child to her room and placed the six pound boy in front of her. She stared for several minutes. Rarely found speechless she smiled and spoke gently to him

“And so it should be” she said “the

circle of life”

our lucky number

Pick a number between one and ten. You probably always pick the same number. Your lucky number, if you will. The number you always picked for your team jersey. We all know Gretsky’s and Lindens. E wore eight on his hockey jersey. IMG_0034

Mine was 22. The number on my cloakroom hook all the way through elementary school. Alphabetically, I was the 22nd in my class. Probably academically too, but we don’t need to dwell on that, let’s move on…

The weather continues to “force” us to read, nap and take these days off from chore duty. I have read two books this week which I feel I can recommend. They are very different from my normal fare. One was recommended to me by Alison next door. Written by Gail Honeyman “Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine”. It reminded me slightly of “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion which I also thoroughly enjoyed.

I began “Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine” at 10 am last week and finished it at 5:30 pm the same day. One of those great days in the shade, expectantly turning every page of a book, enjoying myself thoroughly.  I accomplished virtually nothing else all day. A good read.

Today, I finished a book from my sister-in-laws book club on the North Shore. They have the best reading list!. It was by Kate Morton, “The Secret Keeper”. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed it. She is an Australian author, not normally in my radar as her book jackets suggest to me she would be all romancey and shit but… to my liking there was a murder in the first chapter and I was hooked. I will give her other books a shot and try to be a bit more open-minded.. Not judging books by their flowery covers and all…

As much as E and I enjoy these lazy days together, living our best lives, enjoying the moment, not putting off til tomorrow and all the other clichés. We are ever reminded of what brought us here. To this day, to this place. Nothing more important than our kids, their health, each other, our health, our friends and their health.. Money, savings, possessions.. all irrelevant.. It’s the today and the now that counts.

Yesterday, our Doctors and the support staff at the St. Paul’s hospital transplant clinic celebrated their 500th heart transplant. 500 people out there with a second chance!  E was number 163, March 22, 2000.

Forever more, 163 is our lucky number

 

 

wash my feet

When my Mom was retired at sixty she started Tai Chi. She was a decidedly unathletic woman but she enjoyed the pace of it and eventually worked up to having her own sword  (that’s a Tai Chi thing). Later, in her eighties she recovered from an ugly operation unusually quickly because, the Doctor said, her legs were so strong from Tai Chi that they took over the hearts job when it was weak.

When E had his heart transplant, the Doctors suggested that what saved him (other than the gift of life) was that his legs were strong from playing hockey and were able to take over the hearts job of pumping blood when his heart was unable. I have a point to these anecdotes, stay with me.

Do you remember the movie from the sixties, Walk Don’t Run, with Carey Grant and Jim Hutton. No? that’s okay, here is a brief synopsis. Guy goes to the Tokyo Olympics as a competitor in the walking race… Hilarity ensues…

The women on the island walk most days around the island and they look a little like the race scene in Walk Don’t Run. They walk like Jim Hutton. I do not.

When I walk, the descriptive word is more likely ramble, mosey or wander. Walking the dogs, E patiently forces himself to impersonate a snail and we often look like a Japanese couple in the 1800’s with me always three steps behind. Although we make it work, I don’t think I can ever up the pace to participate with the WOW (woman who walk) speed..

The women here (they are a fit bunch) also do yoga and kayak and bike and well, as I’ve said before, can seemingly do anything. I am out of my league.. But after feeling like Sh*t for the last month I thought perhaps I could try the yoga with the women and see if I could work my way up to a downward dog or an upright cat while I strengthen my leg muscles.

The women who really know what they are doing with yoga met at the island yoga studio of one of our own on Tuesday. On Thursday, there was a restorative session held at another’s deck for a less strenuous class. Imagine if you will, a beautiful deck perched at the edge of a cliff on a calm warm morning. Seven women with their mats in front of our instructor who patiently brings us to our centre of calm.. I spent a relaxing rejuvenating stretching hour in my first attempt to get with the yoga program and try to take better care of myself and strengthen my legs. It was lovely, Patty (our leader) was patient and kind.

At the end, as we all lay motionless on the deck, a float plane flew closely overhead. I am sure they all thought we had “drunk the kool aid” as we all relaxed in the corpse position (my personal favorite).

The whole experience was lovely and I have every intention to practice at home and return to class next week. But considering my lack of water and limited sponge bath options at our house right now, I only wish they had told me that the common practice when doing yoga was to take your shoes off.. If I had known, I would have

washed my feet

DSCN5106.JPG

 

 

 

Okay by us

After living here full time for six years and the reno almost complete, our life has returned to what could be considered routine. The questions begs, what are we going to do with our time, going forward.

Many on the island spend the winter months travelling to warmer climates. Renting accommodations with power and heating. A bit more warmth, or a greater variety of activities.

E and I watched a few episodes of Anthony Bourdain, listened attentively to our friend’s adventures, considered brochures and websites. We even renewed our passports. But we couldn’t come up with one place we would rather be than here, in the spring, summer or fall and there is not one place we are interested in visiting during the winter.

Our options are limited by our interests vs. E’s health. Heart transplant patients are unlikely to get medical insurance for the Galapagos and if an emergency arose kayaking in the Antarctic.. well we would be hooped.

So we renovate to create our dream house and tuck in for twenty or thirty years on the nature channel. We are forty minutes from a hospital and an hour from the transplant team. It works for us.

What we don’t need or miss travelling the world, we get from our family and each other. Our family has always included two dogs. Except for the last three years, since Bacardi died at thirteen, we have always had two dogs.. E and I each want one on our lap when we are reading by the fire in the winter. My dog Sami is twelve.

Today, we picked up the newest member to the family. You will be able to find him, I am sure, firmly attached to E’s hip. Like Bacardi before him, a shadow following E around the property while he does his chores.

We needed another dog you see, because the truth is.. we are going no where and that is

Okay by us