Monday, October 01, 2007

Brain Activity

It's fascinating to me to observe how the brain handles crisis.

As I flew from Missoula to Seattle Friday evening, I was unaware of what the plan of action would be on my dad's heart. I had not yet heard the results of the angiogram as I boarded my plane in Missoula and flew over the Rockies. Would just a simple stent or two do the trick? Angioplasty? Would they really have to crack his chest open and do a bypass? If so, how many? I was feeling totally at peace about my decision to come and God's sovereignty in the situation, but my mind was full of questions. I knew I could have the answers if I could only use my cell phone, but alas, I was at 20,000 feet and it would be disallowed until I landed in Seattle.

Once on the ground in Seattle, I talked to my brother and then my husband and got the news that it would indeed be open-heart surgery and they weren't sure how many bypasses would be needed, but it would be quite a few. I felt a little stunned when they spoke of numbers as high as six. I'd never heard of a sextuple bypass. Had I even heard of a quintuple? Yes, I thought that might have been the surgery David Letterman had a couple of years back.

I think it was these high numbers that sent my brain into a bit of confusion, but I felt very out of sorts there for a bit. I stood in line at a burrito place in the airport and couldn't make any sense of the menu board. I walked to my gate and couldn't figure out where to sit down and where I should set my belongings. I held my boarding pass in my hand, then tucked it into my backpack, then zipped it into my carry-on, then got it back out and held it in my hand again.

As I sat, mechanically eating my burrito, I looked around the airport. Every middle-aged man I saw somehow reminded me of my dad. It was the strangest sensation. This one had the same salt-and-pepper hair and gray goatee. That one was about the same height and build and wore the same jacket. Another man walked with a similar stride and had the same gold wire frame glasses. I knew it was odd and irrational as it was happening, but I couldn't make it stop. It seemed that somehow my brain was searching for answers to all the questions by just looking for my dad.

When I landed in Portland, I walked the long hallway to the security checkpoint and scanned the crowd for someone familiar. I saw no one at first, but then Patricia said my name and I was back to reality. I was amazed how calming the presence of a smiling familiar face was when my mind was racing in a million directions, and tucked that bit of understanding away for later when I would need to be that smiling face for someone else.

The first night and day at the hospital, I continued to go in and out of periods of clarity and times when I was terribly scatterbrained and ditzy. I got off elevators on the wrong floor. I turned the wrong direction for the cafeteria, even when I was staring at the sign with the arrow pointing the way. It was actually pretty funny after a while. My mom offered me a car so I could come and go as I pleased, but I declined. I was not familiar enough with this part of town to trust that I'd even be able to follow even the simplest directions.

At times, I have had trouble even remembering what city and state I am in. This hospital, one I'd never been to before Friday, somehow feels like an isolated island in the middle of nowhere. I arrived here in the dark and haven't left it much since Friday, and the same heavy cloud cover and drizzle has continued to blanket the area in a uniform grey, hiding any detail that might help identify where I am. I suppose that grey drizzle should clue me in to the fact that I am in Portland.

My friend, Alison, who has sadly gone through this all before, had warned me that there would be times I wouldn't be able to write out my thoughts and that she would continue to pray, even when I couldn't give a decent informational update. I thought that was strange--I like to write and best process my own thoughts by writing things down. But sure enough, while my dad was in surgery, and even soon after, I stared at the blank screen and couldn't seem to construct a single sentence. Bizarre.

Now that my dad is somewhat stable, out of ICU and back in his regular room, I am starting to function more normally. And a visit from my Vancouver friend, ReNai, helped tremendously. She came here to the hospital and we talked about good books and world cultures and schools and our kids and all the other topics we always talk about when we get together, so that helped me feel a little more anchored, too. Things are slowing down. Dad is doing as well as could be expected right now and my mother-in-law had a good day yesterday, pressing apples into cider at a fun, multi-family event that my friend, Nancy, invited them all to. It was as if, with Dad doing ok and Mom C. having had a good day, my brain was able to return to thinking clearly--or almost clearly.

Anyway, just wanted to record my experiences before I forget again.

Please continue to pray for my dad and Andy's mom. Mom C. begins chemo tomorrow. And pray for all of us, trying to keep our brains on straight as we process all that is going on and support those we love so much. Thanks.


Sandy Rinck said...

I just read your posts for the past few days. I had forgotten your mom told me about Andy's mom's cancer. You (and Andy) have gotten a double dose of hard to deal with stuff. Bill and I will be praying for you.

You have gotten your gift of writing from your mom. I was impressed with your posts and how you present yourself. As I told your mom and now you--take care of yourself too--don't let fatigue and stress bring you down. You need to do something to rest your body and mind.

CML_Shearings said...

The interaction between you & your Dad was wonder you went into a state of shock at the possibility of losing him! You are continuing to be in our prayers day by day.

AmberJ said...

Praying for you and your family. Please let me know if I can do more. Here's a hug for now.

Mister Ed T said...

Thanks for sharing your heart. It's quite norman to react the way you have. We'll continue to pray for your family, both sides!

Eagle-eye Di said...

I have just caught up with all your recent posts and want you to know we love you very much.I sat here shedding a few tears for you and fully understand where your at.Our prayers are with you through all the double stress you are currently going through.Yes like you friend said I told Chuck.You are dealing with double doses of terrible stress.Like the cute kitty hanging on for dear like from the tree limb.Hang in there Sherry.Rest in the Lord big time and he will renew your strengh to hold on.We love you all.

Jeannie said...

Sherry, I don't remember ever reading this post before. I am deeply touched (to tears) to realize how extremely shook you were, yet you were a tower of strength for me at that time, immediately taking over for my feeble mind and heart. (I was also struggling to stay "with it" during those days.) I had no idea that you were barely hanging on to reality. You've been there for me many times as a strong and steady help to me. a great source of comfort and strength.

I love you so very much, dear daughter. When God gave you to us, He gave us an incredible gift! You are truly a treasure! Thanks isn't nearly adequate.

With a heart full of love and appreciation,