live us all

Today, the first of spring, is the day in March when we advance the transplant milestone marker one more year. It will have been nineteen years ago tonight when E said good bye to the heart he was born with.

I blame him for being too nice. He just plain wore out his first heart in half the time most of the rest of us do. We heard this week of a third patient who had to have a second heart transplant as, and I quote “they don’t last that long.” Frankly, I’m encouraging him to try to be a bit more miserable. You know, try to make this heart last longer than his first.

I suggested to him last night that for the next two days he should do what ever he wants. No chores required. Heart transplant anniversaries are fairly rare milestones and well worth taking the time to enjoy. He wants to spend it chopping stuff up with the chain saw. Good for him. To each his own. I put champagne in the fridge and intend on breaking my wine drought with some well deserved alcohol. Diet be damned, maybe some chocolate too…

For the first time in nineteen years I didn’t go to St. Paul’s with him for his annual check up. I stayed on the island and one of our sons went with him. Our eldest was thirteen when E had his heart transplant. Now he is an adult, a father himself, keeping his Dad company through his rounds of annual testing at the transplant clinic.. I can not stress to you how unlikely I would have ever imagined such a day. Honestly, in my wildest dreams I had hoped E would live long enough to get the kids raised and out of high school. A task I seriously doubted I could have done without him.

Yet here we are thirty-seven years married, three successfully raised kids. Nineteen of our years together are post heart transplant or as we now like to think of it, seven since moving to the island.

Which brings us to organ donation.. Imagine the power to give life. You have it. Sign your donor card. Encourage your friends and family to sign theirs.

We wrote a thank you letter to our donor family on the one year anniversary of the transplant and I think maybe we will write again on the 20th anniversary.. Twenty!! Good grief I cannot believe we are almost there… Those of you reading who went through 1999/2000 with us, probably are as incredulous as we are. Those who we have just met probably find it hard to believe E was ever “that sick”, but his heart had hours left. The pathologist told me, maybe 48 hours. How do you say thank you to someone for giving your husband life. It isn’t easy, but I practice the words every night in my head.

Living on this island, with the attitude he carries with him every day, there is no stopping E. He is likely to out

live us all.

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