Friday, February 22, 2013


That should be said the same way that Wilford Brimley says "The Diabeetus" in his commercials. It also MUST have the word "the" in front of it--I would never say, "I have PTSD"; I would say, "I have THE PTSD". It's like "the Walmart" or "The Krogers" (the s on the end is intentional...).

My life has been one barrage of medical tragedies--seriously.  A brief mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 10, and she died when I was 12. Many, MANY family crises later...I'm in college and I meet Marty. Fall in love, blah, blah, blah...and he is diagnosed with brain cancer about 9 months later.  The outlook is grim, odds are not in our favor with the type of cancer he has (anaplastic oligodendroglioma, if you're curious...).  He undergoes surgery, chemo and radiation.  Fortunately, 13 years later, he remains cancer-free and defies the odds.  In that time, he's also had melanoma, but it didn't require any further treatment other than removal.  Not as bad--but still frightening, given what we'd already been through.

Fast forward to 4 years ago, when, after years of fertility issues, we undergo IVF and I'm pregnant with the twins.  At 22 weeks, I find out that Amelia "has" Trisomy 18 (which she doesn' can read about that here), and we prepare for her to either be stillborn, or to die shortly after birth.  In a word--nightmare.  It's not even describable, that feeling.  Fortunately, again--positive outcome. She doesn't have Trisomy 18, and she's still here, albeit tiny, changing lives every day.  However, we had to endure "the roller coaster ride of the NICU"--and every NICU parent reading this is collectively rolling their eyes right now, because that phrase is said OVER AND OVER when you have a child in the NICU.  Unfortunately, it's true. Anderson contracted a serious infection in his PICC line when he was there, and he got pretty sick. We were NICU parents for 99 days...that is 99 days of staring at monitors, watching your child's sats and heart rate, hoping that everything is going to turn out okay. Nerve-wracking medical experience, and that's an understatement.

This past August, we returned from a trip to NYC--just Marty and I, the longest vaca away from the kids we'd had up to this point. The day we are set to return, he comes down with a respiratory infection.  Less than 24 hours after getting home, he's admitted to the hospital for pneumonia.  He's there about three days, and starts to get better. Then he gets worse. Then he gets dramatically worse.  They do a surgical biopsy of his lung, put him in a rotoprone bed (looking at that honest-to-god triggers anxiety...) and keep him on a ventilator, tell me it's very, very serious.  The diagnosis is ARDS, and the outlook can be grave.  He's in intensive care for a week, in this bed for five days. Five impossibly long, incredibly frightening days. On the scariest of nights, I spend the night in the ICU waiting room. And then, when I'm exhausted beyond belief, I sleep fitfully at home.  I go through the motions--wake up, take the kids to preschool, spend the day at the hospital, return home to the kids around dinner time, do the bedtime routine--trying to keep some semblance of normalcy for them.  After about a week, things start to improve. One horrible bout of ICU Psychosis and about two weeks of rehab later, and he's home.  Since then, he's been hospitalized once for pneumonia--fortunately, just a three day stint, which seems like nothing compared to the five weeks in August.

All of this--all of my personal experiences with illness and loss and near-loss--all of these lead to a fun new diagnosis of "the PTSD".  Post-traumatic stress disorder, for those of you not versed in the psych stuff.  It manifests in me as extreme anxiety, for which I have to take medicine (and I am not the least bit ashamed to say that. It has changed my life for the better, and in turn, the quality of  life for my family..). I have also battled panic attacks, which are awful. I have flashbacks to August--and I literally have to shake myself to get myself focused on something else.  My sleep suffers, my body suffers--it ain't pretty.  I'm working on it--I go to therapy and read self-help books, and generally try to tend to my mental health--but it's a battle, and it's definitely real.

This week, Anderson has had the funk. Same funk Amelia had a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, when Marty was in the hospital in August/September, I ran out of sick days. My co-workers were magnificent and donated days to me so that I wouldn't have to take days without pay. However, I just found out that I can only use donated days for sick days directly related to the condition that caused me to use all of those days and take FMLA--Marty's illness.  The days taking care of Amelia didn't count.  Therefore, Marty had to stay home with Anderson and do the care-taking--which is my worst PTSD nightmare, because I do not want him to get sick!  But what do you do???  We don't have family in town to watch the sick kiddies--we have no real back-up.  Marty stayed home...and today, he's in the process of getting sick. friends...if you could send us some sickness-fighting, good-health vibes, prayers, whatever you've got, we will take them.  I'm trying to be chill about the whole thing...making him take supplements and vitamins and decongestants, but "the PTSD" is flaring up. Hope we remain hospital-free in the next few days. Stay tuned.

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