are all Piper

Twenty years ago, E sat at the head of our Thanksgiving table and gave a toast. He was a forty year old father of three and he was wearing a beeper while he waited for a heart transplant. But his toast that evening, in fact his whole demeanor was about positivity. He said, “I am grateful for all that I have and most of what I don’t”

His secret to happiness and I am sure his surprisingly good health is perspective. He keeps everything in perspective. Difficult situations are dealt with up front and honestly and then left behind him. Our family, and friends have learned so much from watching how he deals with challenges. At the end of our day, if it should be our last day we need to be able to say it wasn’t wasted.

As we head toward the twentieth anniversary of his transplant in March we wanted an opportunity to celebrate with his family. Thanksgiving weekend worked for most and we were able to have seventeen show up for turkey dinner and Prosecco. E and I will celebrate on the actual anniversary, just the two of us, somewhere outside of Singapore, but that is another story.

With our kids visiting, everyone was, as usual, put to work. My daughter ran the burn pile while the boys helped put the cedar siding up.

The crazy summer is over now. The urgency of the cabin has subsided. The guests have gone home and we have specifically not scheduled any social activities for the next two months. We are extremely grateful for all of the help we have received but we need a rest.

We are all Piper


wait til tomorrow

First day of Fall. What a great summer that was. Lots of welcome visits with old friends. Good food, good wine. The diet went out the window in May when the first batch of Biscotti was dipped into the first glass of red wine.

The last of our 2019 guests left yesterday. We had a long walk to the park and a whole day catching up out on the deck. The evenings lasted long into the wee hours of the mornings. It seems we had a lot to talk about!

But now, it is just the two of us and a wet dog in front of the fire. We are watching the rain pouring down outside and thrilled we have nowhere we have to be. The water tanks are filling and I am starting a new Fall to-do list with indoor chores included. I was off the island for five nights all year and yet, still I feel I haven’t got much done. The new list will be a long one.

We have one more delivery coming from the lumber store tomorrow. Certainly that should be it! It is the wood E needs to make the door jambs. Then we can get the front and back doors installed and have the cabin nicely sealed up for the winter. There is siding, plumbing, electrical and flooring still to do but getting the cabin water tight is probably the most urgent as we look out our window today.

I need to quilt four large log cabin squares for the seat covers of the oak table and chairs going into the cabin. They won’t get much wear and tear so will theoretically last at least a couple of years. If necessary I can make some more then.. after all I have nothing but time 🙂

My friend brought me some garlic to plant, so that needs to be done. I need to move the apple tree and plant some grass seed where I intend to be able to play Bocci next summer. The compost needs to be spread and layered with the sea soil we brought over and of course the flower garden needs mulching. There are still apples to be sauced and when the bulbs arrive, 400 bulbs to be planted around the new cabin. I am out of the cards I like to give as gifts, so need to make more.

We are going on a big trip in the spring. I know!!! Me …. travelling!!! We wanted to celebrate E’s twentieth anniversary of his heart transplant and cruising seemed like the way to do it. The fact that I get to go shopping in a very popular batik store in Denpasar on the trip is simply coincidental. After being off island for five nights this month I am not really sure how I am going to like being away from my window for three weeks. I am nothing if not flexible but will have to restart the diet, those cruise ships aren’t known for egg white omelettes and grapefruit.

Apparently, after a two year break, I am editing the island newsletter again so I need to start thinking about that and of course there are all the other stories I am trying to get written…..

So much to do! But for today I have put on another pot of coffee. We are tired and all of it can

wait until tomorrow

winter in Hawaii

We don’t leave this island very often. I haven’t slept a night away this year but we are going to the states next week. We are going to a concert at the St. Michelle winery. It’s a gorgeous venue with hot air balloons drifting behind the stage during the concert.

Family will come and take care of the dog and the house so we don’t have to go through any shut down process.

Last week we went in to Westland insurance to renew our truck insurance and while we were there asked about emergency medical insurance. Oh, says she “you should get it on line at Costco, great prices” We thought that was very kind of her seeing as I am sure she must be on commission.

This morning, I found my credit card, plugged in my lap top and sat down to get us some well priced travel insurance from Costco on line. First question on the form asked me our ages. I type 64 and 62. Their response, “We see you are over 60 so we would like to ask you some health related questions”. Things seemed to go well enough for the first four questions but then they asked “have either of you ever had an organ transplant?” “Why yes one of us has” I proudly typed. They responded surprisingly quickly, “thank you for your application but unfortunately you do not qualify for emergency medical insurance.” The form closed.

hmm.. so then I tried Sunlife who have provided our extended health insurance for thirty five years, I thought they would love to sell us emergency medical insurance. For the Sunlife on line application form I had to answer questions for us, two at a time… Again, they asked our ages and also expressed that they would like to know more about our health situation since we were over 60. The first four questions went well but when they asked the now dreaded organ transplant question, E’s form disappeared and he was no longer an applicant.. whoosh.. His options were just gone…. The form closed

hmm.. so then I tried BCAA. We aren’t members any more but we were once. Surely that must count for something. I continued to fill in the form once the obligatory age question was answered. When they wanted to know details of our pre existing conditions asking if either of us has had an organ transplant, I was ready for them and already looking for the Blue Cross website. When you think about it, it’s kind of odd that they would include that question cause how often would anyone ever answer yes.

I answered yes. This time though, E’s form didn’t disappear and there was no passive aggressive thanks but no thanks response. Instead, the running total for the cost for his insurance jumped from $47.00 to $84.00. But they didn’t say no. My costs went up when I admitted to a propensity for kidney stones but that’s okay, they do come up suddenly and it could happen that I get stones when we are away. The likelihood however, that E is going to suddenly need a heart transplant during our four day stay is less so.

We are insured but goodness it’s no wonder we don’t travel very often. I can’t imagine what it would cost us to

winter in Hawaii

a new back

As promised, today we can get back to a discussion about off grid living, renovating, gardening, and best of all pictures from the nature channel… No more heart transplant stuff til next year’s anniversary. Onward, to happy healthy days.

We have decided that we aren’t buying anything more to update or renovate this house until everything we have already purchased is installed and used. You know, before it goes rotten, dries up or whatever else happens to unused building supplies when left to their own devices.

To that end, E has decided to use our left over fascia boards for siding on the new addition. It will be blended with the shakes we saved from the front of the original house. It was a perfect day to be working out front, not too hot, no wind.. very pleasant.

There have been a variety of whale sightings in the last week. Normally, the whales tend to hang around on the other side of the channel in front of our house. Yesterday, they were near the reef at the entrance to the cove where we keep our boat. The day before that, they were under my neighbour’s house on the west side of the island.. She thought they were rubbing on the rocks beneath her. This morning they were in front of our house around ten am. Not too close, but I was still able to get a decent group of pictures.

We finished cutting up the big tree yesterday and we got all of the rounds down to the wood pile area ready to be split. Man, they were heavy. At one point we agreed the only way we were going to get them down there was to cut them in half with the chain saw. That still wasn’t enough. We had to cut them into quarters… sigh we are old..

So today I was able to spend the morning turning soil over in the vegetable garden. I’ll try to get one bed (they are big) done a day. During the afternoon, me and Youtube tried to learn how to paper piece a cat for a quilt I am making.. It didn’t go well.. I feel that the women (you know who you are) on the island who know how to paper piece should be somewhere in the nearer vicinity when I am trying to do this.

I was asked yesterday by a friend, if she could bring me anything from Victoria… If I needed anything… All I could think of was maybe

a new back

off grid stuff

Ok, so full disclosure we opened the champagne at four and the celebrating has continued.. so as always, when wine in hand, I feel the need to write.

To share our current conversation….. It has been recently mentioned how a second transplant could be in our future… If you talk to E.. it is never going to happen. If you talk to the statisticians it’s likely and if you talk to me, I normally just sigh and change the topic.

But tonight I said to E that one of the reasons, other than the obvious, that I would hate to see us have to go through it again is because of the advantages of our blissful naivety the last time. So many things happened last time which we had NO IDEA were as big of a problem as they were.. Now we laugh and laugh.. Thinking how lucky we were and how stupid we were.. But if it happened again, I think I would be a little more alarmed (and rightly so)…

Whether you want to hear them or not .. here are some of our top four naive moments..

  1. When the Doctors first diagnosed E, a perfectly healthy looking 42 year old with a fatal disease requiring a heart transplant as his only chance, they sent a liaison from the transplant team to meet me and answer questions. He was 42. a federal government employee with only 7 more sick days coming to him that year. She said very kindly. Ask me anything. How can I help you? My first question and she has since teased me about it , was “How many days should I tell his boss he will be off from work?” Side note, he was never able to go back to work.
  2. After being transferred from Delta emergency and then from Vancouver General Intensive care to St. Paul’s cardiac care they wanted to assess his base level and took him off to an exercise class. E had been playing hockey the week before so as he looked around the room at the frail old men he thought “I got this!” Sitting in a chair he was asked to raise his arms. He passed out and was rushed back to his hospital bed with a blood pressure reading of 60/0 (zero!!)
  3. After waiting on the transplant list with a beeper for four months, we overslept one morning for our sons 5 AM hockey practice. E jumped from the bed to rush to his bedroom and wake him. E dropped like a brick on the floor. Briefly unconscious. But he came to and got up. We all continued as normal but at routine office hours, I called the doctors to mention what had happened. E’s Dad had already left for the ferry to the island. He stayed with us regularly to help with the kids when E was in the hospital but would go home to the island when things were stable. After hearing my story of E dropping to the floor the Doctor told me to GET HIM TO THE HOSPITAL.. they met us at the door and put him on a dobutamine drip to keep his heart pumping.. They told us the heart was just about done, he wouldn’t be leaving again without a transplant. I called E’s Dad, he had already paid for his ferry ticket and had to turn around in the on loading parking lot and ask to leave.
  4. When E got sick he didn’t have a will or a power of attorney signed. As a mother of three young children you can imagine how stressed that made me. If I asked him to get his affairs in order it would sound like I didn’t think things would work out. But if he didn’t get his affairs in order.. well .. it added to my stress level which was over the top as it was… My Doctor who was prescribing my happy pills coincidentally had dinner with E’s cardiac specialist. When we went to our next regular weekly clinic we were given our usual list of testing and appointments. This week though, there was a different appointment. We were scheduled to see a social worker. The social worker told E to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Asked him if he had his affairs in order… I remember sitting in a cafe on Burrard after the meeting and E looked at me and said.. ” I guess I need to have a will” Our Doctors were awesome

It was a lifetime ago and I really can’t imagine how we would have survived the whole time without the support of our friends and family….

I love E. I love you all..

I thank each and every one of you in our lives….

tomorrow we will get back to

off grid stuff

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.