Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

On this cloudy and cool Colorado morning I am enjoying some quiet time with a cup of coffee, counting all that I have to be thankful for.

The kiddos are growing strong and happy. After my boy's health scare and surgery this summer I honestly didn't know what the holidays would look like for us. And here he is – begging me for a ski day tomorrow!! My girl continues to adjust to the challenges of middle school – making new friends and learning the trials of group work. Both excelled on their fall sports' teams – the boy leading the statistics on his baseball team and the girlie consistently ruling the soccer game at mid-field.

As you sit down around your food-laden table today I hope you are able to celebrate the time together, and remember those who are far from home today. I am thankful to be spending the day surrounded by my children and our good friends – part of the awesome community we are so blessed with.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Time on my Hands

Rare occurrence for me this week – time on my hands... I tend to be in constant motion – between kids' activities and my own schedule we so rarely have time to just do nothing for long periods of time. This week is the school Fall Break (something we never did growing up but we very much enjoy now!) and for the last two years the kids and I have gone exploring around the area. One year we went to Estes Park and hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park; last year we visited a good friend in the Vail area and biked, hiked and explored her new stomping grounds. This year – the kiddos spent time with their dad, which left me with time on my hands.... Yes, I could have canceled my vacation time and headed to work (this would have been my nurse's first choice as her workload increases considerably if I am not there) but instead I decided to attempt some time just for me.

Day one was easy to fill – I spent much needed time with my college roommate. She lives just an hour away but we rarely manage more than a visit every 6 months or so. We talked non-stop for the afternoon and barely touched on all the topics that needed covering. She is one of those people in my life that I can go months without seeing and we pick up the conversation almost right where it was left off... Day two was easy too – well, until dinner time. I spent much of the day with another friend – baking and doing little chores that seem to be easier with a friend. But as dinner time rolled around it was hard to consider cooking for one; and how to fill those hours between dinner and bed – hours normally spent in homework or breaking up fights over the remote...

As the week has rolled on I became introspective over these empty hours. We as a culture are often so busy that unscheduled time becomes scary. I found myself feeling like I still needed to fill those hours with productive activity – cleaning the grill, preparing the patio for winter, typing a blog post... And I felt guilty if I chose to just sit in the sun and read my book (maybe not too guilty – I have a sunburn to show for that “lazy time”). So rarely do we take the time to just be still, to take in what is happening around us, and to reflect rather that react.

In the long run I am sure I will pay a price next week when I return to work with all the things that will be waiting for me... But as the week winds down I am thankful for this time of quiet, unscheduled activity before we go into the Holiday rush, before ski season starts and we are back on the run. Now, all that said – time to get moving – there is laundry to get started, errands to run, homework to accomplish...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Simple Acts of Kindness

I have a confession to make... I am a softie at heart. Please don't let my kids know – they think I am tough, the enforcer of all rules and responsible for squashing all fun....
In truth – TV commercials and sappy songs on the radio bring tears to my eyes, and those little stories people post on Face Book can make or break my day.

Recently I shared one of those little FB stories with my 11 year old girlie. We've all read it – the one about the boy carrying all his books home on a Friday afternoon after school who is befriended by the popular “jock”. The two go on to become lifelong friends and the first boy eventually admits he had planned to commit suicide that weekend they first met. The simple act of kindness and friendship, unknowingly offered by the “jock”, changed the course of this young man's life. I read the post to my girlie in hopes of reminding her how little things we do through the day can affect people; how a simple smile or helping to pick up a dropped item can lift someone in ways we may never know. As she navigates the waters of middle school and concerns of popularity can overshadow studies I don't want her to lose her kind heart that has shinned so brightly all these years.

Yesterday was “Make a Difference Day” - a day to volunteer, to reach out to the community, to serve those in need. I love the concept but shouldn't every day be a day to reach out? I know – it isn't practical to have a coat drive every day or serve at a soup kitchen on your lunch hour. But simple acts of kindness incorporated into everyday are easy – and you never know how it might affect the life of another (or even your own...).

Monday, September 3, 2012

101 Days of Summer Comes to an End

As so often seems to happen in these busy times it has (once again) been forever since I have posted to this page...  All I can say is we have been living life and lately it has left little time for writing about life.
The summer has flown by - today is Labor Day, the traditional end to summer, day number 101.  In reflection, it has been three months of worry and stress followed by a few weeks of rest, then a return to our typical 100 mph speed.
The start of summer was consumed with preparation for my boy's surgery.  He had his heart repaired on 22 June and by 22 August he was back to playing baseball and launching himself off his bike ramp.  I still cringe when he competes with his best buddies for "most air" but know he is strong and healed.  I would love to wrap him in a bubble but know that he would be miserable - life in his estimation is meant to be lived going full throttle.  He has started 4th grade and has set his goal on reading 1 Million words by the end of the school year (and well on his way at over 115K so far!).
Our mid summer was spent with my girl in training for a new soccer team.  She had played for a large corporate club based near our house with satellite clubs all around the front range and the size was becoming a barrier for true player development.  So, she tried out for a smaller club, made the team, then did both a soccer camp and a speed/running camp.  Saturdays are now spent driving the "soccer shuttle" all over the place (one drawback to leaving the big club is we are now in a more independent league - and going further afield for games).  She also started middle school and seems to be flourishing in the independence.
For me, fall brings the realization that I have just two years left in the Air Force - two years that I am sure will speed by.  I am starting to think of life after the military, looking at securing my Colorado licence and networking a little for jobs.  The Air Force has done a great job of training me to be an NP, a leader, and in some cases a follower but does little to train us professionals on how to find employment once our time is done. 
All deep thinking and worry aside, this weekend has been spent in celebration of all the joy and strength we have in our community - sleepovers and play dates, happy hours and dinners with friends, live music and long runs.  So much to be thankful for and so much more on the horizon.
Happy Labor Day!!!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Waiting over, now real work begins

The time seemed to pass so slowly leading up to my boy’s surgery, and then the last two days flew by so fast! We spent last Thursday doing preoperative requirements–blood draw, chest X-ray, physical with the surgical team. All day long I was counting down in my mind: “In 24 hours, they will be wheeling him into the operating room. In 12 hours, we will be leaving for the hospital.” Thursday evening was pretty laid back, with visits from friends and time spent just being together. I let him pick his favorite for dinner, so we dined on soft-shell tacos and watermelon!

The morning of surgery, we headed for the hospital early, and things moved quickly from then on. Our pastor was there waiting for us, as well as my college roommate. (Yes, we both settled in this area, a thousand miles from Indiana where we met.) After some quiet time together, it was time for them to wheel my little boy away. That was the hardest part. I kept it together until he couldn’t see me anymore and then gave into a couple of tears. Even knowing he was in good hands, it was hard to watch him go. But the staff was wonderful, and we were updated several times during the procedure. I shed a few tears again—this time, tears of joy when we got word he was off bypass, and everything was working great. Five short—but very long—hours after he was wheeled away, we were at his bedside in the cardiac intensive care unit.

I didn’t recognize him at first; he was just so small in that big bed with all the monitors and IVs. Thankfully, he was extubated already and breathing well on his own. Throughout the rest of the day, he woke up occasionally, but it wasn't until Saturday that he really started to make progress. His chest tubes were removed that morning and, by afternoon, his central lines were pulled as well. He was up in a chair and sipping water before we knew it. And, surprisingly, he moved to the step-down unit that evening. Sunday was spent with visitors and coaxing my already picky eater to eat. Nothing sounded good on his upset tummy—poor boy—but, by Sunday evening, he was nibbling on strawberries and bread and, by Monday, was willing to eat some yogurt.

I was shocked on Monday when the staff wrote discharge orders. My first thought was, “There is no way I am ready to have this kid at home!” But they felt he would eat better and we would both rest better at home. (I had been sleeping at his bedside every night with just a few short breaks each day to get some fresh air.) I think I drove 10 miles under the speed limit the whole way home; my cargo just seemed so much more precious to me!

And now, two days later, he is eating better and walking almost like his normal self. (He has lost at least four pounds, though, and looks skeletal.) He is also getting sassy, a sure sign he is feeling better. I am still watching him like a hawk. As I write this, I am sitting in the same room he is, and I confess I slept the last two nights on the trundle bed in his room. I continue to entice him with all the foods I can think of—How long can a boy live on Otter Pops?—and we even ventured outside to water the flowers together this morning. Now I fear he is feeling too good, and it will be tough to keep him calm the next couple weeks. Already, he misses riding his bike and doing jumps on his scooter!

Wonderful friends and having my parents here has been instrumental in his quick healing. We have been wrapped in prayer, well fed, and his sister has been entertained, if you call soccer camp in 100-degree weather entertained! Thank you all for the support. We couldn't have made it this far this fast without each and every one of you!

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Boys will be boys!

“Mommy! Mommy!” I could hear my boy screaming, but couldn’t see him. Just seconds before, he had been swinging in a friend’s swing while we grown-ups relaxed on the patio. I looked at my friend. “Where is he?” I asked as we both stood up—and there he was, lying under the swing, on his belly with his arms folded under his body.

Apparently, his friend had dared him to jump out of the swing—on the back swing. (His sister also broke her arm while swinging. She was attempting to tie her shoe—another hard-learned lesson in gravity.) We ran over, brushed him off and all appeared fine. His left arm hurt all over, but he could move it, and there was no swelling, no apparent broken bones, We set him up on the couch with some ice and went back to relaxing.

The next day was pretty busy—church most of the morning and a Cub Scout barbecue in the afternoon. He was favoring the arm but not really complaining of pain, and it still wasn’t swollen. At the barbecue, the boys were to work on their athlete badges. Sit-ups, push-ups, a long jump and some running was involved.

My boy did great on everything but push-ups. He refused to put weight on his arm. So, off to Urgent Care we went, 30 minutes before they closed and—surprise—discovered the poor boy had a buckle fracture of his left radius. The good news? It wasn’t displaced, so surgery wasn’t needed and, once the arm was splinted, he really had no pain. The bad news? We were just 12 days out from his open-heart surgery!

Monday morning, I spoke to his surgical team, and we agreed that surgery could go as scheduled. If he has significant body swelling afterward, we can just have the cast removed. We also arranged to have the arm casted, and he is now sporting a purple “Rockies” cast. I have struggled to keep him grounded over the last week but, in typical boy fashion, he has tried to ride his bike, has been cruising the street on his scooter and has even hit baseballs. Maybe this is a sign of how his post-op recovery will go, and he will just bounce back to being the active little boy he’s always been!

The irony of this story: Last week, I was on call for our clinic, which involves being available for medical advice and approving all urgent-care requests. We are pretty cognizant of not providing care to our own family members. (It can be bad medicine, as providers sometimes lack objectivity when caring for those they love.) So, on Monday morning, I joked with our medical director: “If my kid breaks his arm while I’m on call, can I enter his urgent care referral?"

Yep, boys will be boys!

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.

Monday, May 28, 2012

I did it!

I run for many reasons. I run because I have to. (The Air Force requires a biannual assessment of fitness, part of which is a 1.5-mile run.) I run because it is easy. (All I need is a good pair of shoes, some music 30 minutes of spare time, and my workout is done.) I run for stress relief. (I miss those endorphins if I skip more than a day or two.) I run to spend time with friends. (When time is limited and both a workout and a chat are needed, a run is a great way to accomplish both at once.) And I run because I am competitive and enjoy accomplishing a goal, beating my last time or achieving a new distance.

But even with all that, I never wanted to run in races. The thought of all those people, the adrenaline that comes with a race and doing “my” run on someone else’s schedule just never appealed to me.

In January, my running partner at work suggested we do a half marathon. I gave the excuses listed above and said, “No, thank you.” But, shortly afterward, when my sister and her son completed their first half marathon and loved it, my mind opened to the possibilities. Besides, my runs had started getting a little stale, the stressors at work had started piling up and I needed a new challenge. So I acquiesced, and my running partner and I signed up for the Colfax Half Marathon—three months away at the time—and started training.

Friends who had done marathons and half marathons gave advice—one sent a training plan— and we fit runs into our afternoons as much as possible. Even with the plan, it was tough to fit too much distance into my week. Between, homework and ski season, there was little time for long runs. And, with my boy’s recent health concerns, I didn’t relish the idea of running on weekend mornings and leaving the kiddos home for very long. Another friend was kind enough to find a few afternoons free, and we managed an eight-mile loop around a local reservoir, my longest runs leading up to race day.

Race day actually started in what I normally consider the middle of the night–4 a.m! With a 6 a.m. start, I needed to be at a friend’s house by 5:15 to walk to the start. Yes, we walked two miles to the start of the 13.1 mile course, ran the race, and then walked the two miles back to our cars. Crazy! But, it all culminated in a great morning. Although the crowd was big, it was part of the experience and, with friends around. it wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I had feared. I finished in 2:07, running a sub 10-minute mile the entire way. The sense of accomplishment is still with me a week later.

I think our next half will be the Rock and Roll in late September, with a few shorter races—and maybe even one of those mud runs — before that, as well. It is true: Once you do one, you’re hooked!

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A second opinion, and life goes on

It is hard to believe it has been just a month since we discovered my boy has two heart defects that will require surgery to repair. Life continues to fly by with science fair projects, end-of-year school performances and wrap-up of our spring sports schedule. Sometimes, I can even forget we have this major event staring us in the face!

Not so, last Monday. My boy and I met with a cardiologist for a second opinion and a repeat echocardiogram. Not surprisingly, the second opinion was the same as the first. Yes, there are two large defects that need to be repaired to prevent further compromise of my son’s heart function. Knowing that I’m a nurse practitioner, this cardiologist even took the time to do the echo himself, walking me through the pictures and showing me the defects and altered blood flow. He also included me in the assessment, putting my hand on my boy’s chest so I could feel the force of his heart beating against his ribs, not a typical assessment finding!

We talked about how healthy my son seems, and the doctor explained that because my boy is always working at an increased effort, he has less reserve. Light bulb moment! That explains why he struggles more than I would expect to peddle up a mountain on his mountain bike and why I’ve twice had to carry him the last 100 yards up Mt. Evans, a 14,000-foot mountain you can drive up most of the way. I would frequently get frustrated with him during these times. Often, the biking was at his request, and then he “refused” to keep up, often throwing a fit when the rest of us peddled on ahead. Pile on the “mommy guilt!”

Although I really appreciated the second physician’s time and patience with us, I will stick with the original doctor’s office. It is more convenient and is associated with one of the best children’s hospitals in the country. So, surgery is scheduled for the third week of June with the chief of the cardiothoracic department. He comes highly recommended and he has an NP as his assistant. (He can’t be all bad!)

Years ago, I worked in an adult ICU doing open-heart recovery and was the lead on the balloon-pump program. The up side is, I am prepared for the surgery, knowing what to expect. The down side is, I keep remembering all the complications, all the times people returned to the unit still “open,” the times I rushed to the OR with the balloon pump praying for a miracle, the times I sat with families after passing along the news that “things are not going well.” I keep holding to the truth that my boy is healthy and strong, and that this is corrective and planned surgery—not an emergent response to an ailing heart with blocked blood flow.

In the meantime, life goes on with Cub Scouts and camping trips that were planned prior to surgery, together with baseball practice and building of bike ramps, using construction debris scavenged from around our cul-de-sac—typical, active boy fun.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.

Monday, April 30, 2012

From practitioner to parent of a patient

Seems I always start a post with a statement of how long it has been since I have managed to write or how busy life tends to become. It seems I blink, and time just flies past—between school projects, spring sports, a big inspection at work and training for a half marathon, there is barely time to breathe some days.

But summer is just around the corner and, thanks to a fluke episode, my boy is ensuring that we will slow down over the school break. He just turned 9 and is an active, typical little boy—playing baseball and riding his bike over any jump he can find. A few weeks ago, he had what appeared to be a minor viral illness but then suffered what is now being termed a fainting episode. Because it mimicked seizure activity, off to the ER we went.

A routine ECG turned up some thickening of the right side of his heart, so we saw a cardiologist a few days later. A long afternoon spent in the cardiologist’s office ended up in a surprise diagnosis of two congenital heart defects that could result in significant damage if we don’t repair them. Needless to say, I was in shock and still am two weeks later. My healthy, typically wild but extremely kind-hearted boy is shunting oxygenated blood back into his right heart with every beat!

Yes, we are getting a second opinion in a week but, because I have confidence in the diagnosis, the surgery is scheduled for the middle of June—a week after school ends. He will spend the summer being spoiled rotten, and the goal is to be back in school when it starts in mid-August. The cardiologist even said we could sign up for fall baseball. I think he is as optimistic as I am about all this, something I really appreciate.

In the meantime, my son has no activity restrictions, so we are pressing on with life. We fill our free time with baseball and soccer, bike rides and yard work, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts. We have tickets to see the Rapids and the Rockies and hope to throw a big presurgery party in June. I firmly believe attitude can affect outcome, and we will enter this with the best attitudes we can muster! I will do my best to keep this site updated with our progress on this new adventure in life and know we are wrapped in prayer every day by so many people, something I am very thankful for and believe is contributing to my calm emotions.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Inevitable change ... continued

Why is it I seem to find time to blog only when the clouds roll in and gloominess invades? Maybe because on the sunny, blue-sky days we are on the go—skiing, hiking, exploring!

What a whirlwind December it was! Between school and scout programs, church activities and ski lessons, our evenings and weekends have been packed. The kids took a series of skiing and ski boarding lessons that really paid off. In the last week, we managed to have some days on the mountain together and they were racing down the hill with me, hitting little trails through the trees. We even ventured into the terrain park for one run!

My boy is a daredevil on his board, and he was thrilled to tackle a small table/jump. He almost landed it! The down slope on the landing surprised him a little; he’ll get it next time. My girl switched to skis this year and is very happy with the change. She is flying past her brother, leading the way through the trees. It’s a big change from last year, when she boarded well but was a little fearful.

Work is ... work! The only constant is that change continues to occur and should just be accepted as fact. We continue to plan for our big move to our new space, but that appears to have been pushed back a few weeks or months. The space isn’t finished yet. One concern is that it was developed three or four years ago when we were much smaller. With the current floor plan, we will be short on exam rooms, so are attempting to creatively plan for this challenge. The space also appears to limit efficiency with provider offices segregated from the exam rooms. Technology may save us on this. There’s talk of tablets and more mobile computing.

I am sure more change will happen with the new year. It’s inevitable and, if you know me well, you know that change is something I don’t enjoy. My personal goal for the coming year is to embrace change better for the opportunity it provides. We will see how that works out!

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.