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One Hospital

September 27, 2012

Wednesday, August 8, my sister Natasha had her baby. Suddenly, the very same sister who brought me to my first party and taught me to sing crazy loud in the car was a mother. The other day, my father and I watched her load little Zachary into the car seat in amazement. Even after almost two months, it’s still a little weird to see her as a mom. We looked at each other and agreed: she is doing such a great job. We’re so proud of her.

My father was in the military, so we traveled a lot growing up. This made it hard to stay close with our extended family. We had aunts, uncles and cousins, but they were often more on the periphery of our family, generally living several states (at times even countries) away. Of our extended family, we had the closest relationships with my Uncle Michael and my aunt and uncle from my stepdad’s side. But we had a strong core family consisting of my two sisters and me, my mom and my stepdad, and my dad and my stepmom.

It never really bothered me that we weren’t a close large family. I didn’t bemoan the fact that we didn’t have big family reunions, and while many of my friends had a half-dozen cousins living nearby, I never wished I had the same. That just wasn’t us.

As I spent the day in the hospital waiting room, watching an inordinate amount of cast-off Olympics (i.e. the boring Olympic events they stick in the middle of the day when no one is watching), I realized that I want things to be different. I want to be close with my nephews. I want to be the cool aunt they can call if they get drunk at a party and need a ride home. I want to give my nephews regular high fives. I want to give them advice on how to buy a new car and how to treat a woman. I want my nephews to hug me warmly when they see me. I want my future children to be close with their cousins. I never knew I wanted all these things, but suddenly I do. I want to build a big extended family.

There’s so much you can learn in one hospital.

Holding a newborn

My first picture with Zachary

holding newborn baby in hospital

The next day – still trying to figure out how to hold him without my arm falling asleep

This Side Up baby onesie

Wouldn’t life be better if everything had such clear instructions?

newborn duck outfit

Here’s a duck outfit I bought him. Photo courtesy of Baby Bella Photography

newborn duck outfit

This side is even cuter! Photo courtesy of Baby Bella Photography

newborn in a duck outfit

See, I’m acting like an aunt already, sharing a unecessary number of pictures of my nephew from different angles … Photo courtesy of Baby Bella Photography

Baby holding mother's finger

Okay … I’ll stop … for now … Photo courtesy of Baby Bella Photography

Thursday, August 23, I found myself in the same hospital. Only this time there was no joy to the occasion. There was no inquiring about dilation levels or when the doctor would administer the epidural. There was no waiting for 17 hours (literally) to see the baby.

There was fear. And wondering what we would do without him. We had that panicky feeling inside of us – that feeling that makes you tell yourself repeatedly that everything is going to be OK, but you don’t really know why it’s going to be OK, but you feel like it must be, because you simply can’t handle it if it’s not. It being not OK simply isn’t an option.

I got the call at work. They were taking him to the hospital. He wasn’t feeling right and he fell asleep when he went to the doctor’s office. But I shouldn’t worry and they’d call me when they had more information.

I continued to work. I emailed. I finished projects. My company had hired an ice cream truck to visit the building, and we all got free ice cream.

While I ate an ice cream cone with these little colored sprinkles, I talked with coworkers about my house search. We discussed which neighborhood I may live in. I keep checking my phone, slightly concerned, but not really scared. Everything was OK – it always has been.

While I tried to eat the ice cream quickly before it melted all over my hands, my stepfather was having a stroke.

Jesus.

In the beginning, we didn’t know it was a stroke. We just knew something was wrong. The fear in my mother’s voice on the next phone call snapped me to attention. I sent an email to my teams and packed up to go to the hospital. Then, I found out they were planning to move him to another hospital, one with a neurology unit.

Minutes later, we found out they were transporting him to the hospital via helicopter.

I headed straight to the hospital. And by straight, I mean I accidentally got off on the wrong exit, onto a $2.75 toll road, so I had to pay the toll, turn around and get back on the road going the opposite direction, then pay the toll again. I also had the same lady both times I drove through the toll, who said, “That’s a pretty expensive mistake.”

Yes, that’s what I need right now Ms. Toll Booth Collector. Thanks for that.

When I finally made it to the hospital, I heard this noise overhead. Police officers began to close off the road next to the hospital, stopping all cars from passing.

It was a helicopter. I knew immediately it was him.

I pulled into the closest parking lot, searching frantically for a parking space. This woman stopped ahead of me, blocking my way from parking. I held the horn down, startling her.

“Get the hell out of the way, that’s my dad!” I yelled out of my window. In hindsight, I should have expected her to be just as rude to me as I was to her, but instead she immediately pulled over and let me through. Maybe she could tell that I meant business.

helicopter at a hospital

I knew it was him and for some reason I felt compelled to take a picture.

I parked and watched as the helicopter landed. Either this was him and I was a concerned family member, or this was a stranger and I was a crazy lady. I texted my mom and found she was still driving to the hospital.

They began to pull a hospital gurney from the back of the helicopter. From the feet up, my stepfather emerged.

I walked/jogged alongside the doctors as they took him into the hospital. For a man who had just suffered a brain injury, he sure was talkative. He told the doctors how he had just been here a few weeks earlier, when his grandson was born.

One hospital.

Then we waited. The doctor came in and told me all sorts of things that I wasn’t ready to hear. And by “wasn’t ready to hear,” I mean literally wasn’t ready. I should have had a notebook or a recorder or something, because she spoke to me about his condition for three minutes straight, then asked me if I had any questions, and I didn’t even know what to say.

Of course, the moment she walked away, I had about 15 different questions to ask. But she was already gone.

My mother finally arrived, and I relayed the information the best I could. He had a bleed in his brain. They were doing a CT scan to see how bad it was. He needed to be monitored while they worked to get the bleeding to stop. His blood pressure was excessively high and they had to get it down immediately. He may get worse before he gets better, because the brain swells when it’s been injured, and on a young person, there isn’t much room for the brain to swell. Which means we could expect slow movements, numbness, difficultly speaking, etc. But we won’t know the extent of it – or how permanent the damage would be – until they could complete the CT scan and give the swelling time to come down.

Here’s why I could never be a doctor: I repeated all that information the doctor told me to my mother, and as I watched her face fall and tears well up in her eyes, I wished I hadn’t said a single word. If the doctor’s bedside manner was somewhat bad, well mine was terrible. I immediately regretted my wording and that I wasn’t more delicate.

What followed were hours of fear. Questions on top of questions. Some answers, but not enough. Worry. Hope. Some laughter, because my family always finds a way to laugh. Chef left work early to be with my family. The hug he gave me when he got off the elevator was the kind of hug you need when you are scared out of your mind. It’s the kind of hug that lets you know you aren’t alone.

Then there was the regret. Regret that when the phone call came through, I didn’t react more immediately. Regret that I said something hurtful that I didn’t really mean some time ago. Premature regret, regret that I may lose someone I love dearly, and they never saw me get married, have kids, do something really significant.

It’s premature regret because sometimes everything is OK. Your father had a stroke but he’s going to be OK. There may be minor lasting effects, but somehow, he was lucky. We all were. And now you have the chance to say you are sorry for what you said. You can give him the hug you should have given him. You can continue to plan for him to be at your wedding. He can be a grandfather to his new grandson.

Sometimes scary things happen to wake us the hell up. Start eating better. Take better care of ourselves. Love the hell out of the people in our lives. Pay attention (remember the swans?).

There’s so much you can learn in one hospital.

Copyright 2012. Simply Solo blog by Catherine Gryp. All Rights Reserved.

37 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2012 9:36 am

    Hard times really do make you appreciate the good times. Stop hitting yourself; you did the best that you could!

  2. September 28, 2012 10:50 am

    Thanks for sharing. I recently lost my little brother and it sucks because our last conversation ended sourly. It doesn’t matter though. He had a great way of ending conversations with I love you, something he learned to do himself (we didn’t grow up in a home where those words were spoken). His passing reminds me of just how important it is not to take for granted those you love and to always remember to tell them that you love them every single chance you get. You just never know when you won’t be able to talk anymore.

    • September 30, 2012 12:34 pm

      Neghie,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your little brother. I appreciate your sharing your story in the comments. We all have a lot to learn from your experience, from mine too. You are so right that we need to tell people we love them every chance we get. It’s too easy to take people for granted, and we shouldn’t live with regrets. I’m sending positive thoughts your way.

      Thank you, Catherine

  3. amanda permalink
    September 28, 2012 11:50 am

    Your nephew is adorable!!! Such a cutie! Sorry about your step dad. Glad to know he’ll be fine.

    • September 30, 2012 12:31 pm

      Thank you Amanda!! Appreciate your reading and commenting.

  4. September 28, 2012 11:55 am

    Amazing. Makes you realise how unpredictable life is and you just have to live it , by the day. Love and love fiercely and not take people for granted just as much. I’m just happy I can spend time with my parents these days , my siblings. Makes you value them even more.
    P.S –> Zachary is adorableeee (quack quack) :P

    • September 30, 2012 12:31 pm

      “Love and love fiercely” I LOVE this statement… it’s such a great mantra. I’m writing this one down for future reference.
      Glad you liked the duck pics as much as I did :) QUACK!

  5. September 28, 2012 12:44 pm

    This entire post reminds me how grateful I am to have moved nearly 6 years ago to be closer to family and friends; particularly because of the now amazing bond I have with my nephew and niece.

    Always good to hear good news and that your step dad is doing well. You really tugged at the heart strings; largely because I began thinking about one of my family members being in that situation and what it would do to me.

    • September 30, 2012 12:29 pm

      Matthew,

      It really does make a big difference to be closer, doesn’t it? A year or so ago I was thinking about moving up north. I’m so glad that I didn’t. It’s so important to me to be close to my family during this time. Being near family is such a blessing.

      Thanks for reading/commenting!

  6. Debra settles permalink
    September 28, 2012 1:04 pm

    Oh man wow that was an awesome blog!!!! I have tears in my eyes!!!!!

  7. Coleen permalink
    September 28, 2012 1:59 pm

    Catherine, that was wonderful, makes me want to go and hug someone! Anyone! And yes, you will be that cool aunt, my sister means the world to my sons, no one better than an aunt. And how great is it that we still have Kevin with us, and we don’t have to say goodbye too soon. PS, you have really got this blog thing down, your writing style has gotten even better, and you were good to begin with!

    • September 30, 2012 12:28 pm

      Coleen,
      I hope you got the hug you needed on Friday! :) I’ll give you one the next time I see you…

      It would have been devastating on our family if we lost Kevin. We are so lucky that this wasn’t the time.

      Thanks for your kind words about my writing. It means a lot to me to hear that!!

  8. September 28, 2012 3:17 pm

    Glad to hear that your step-dad is doing better. And I agree with Coleen above – you seem like you’ll be a cool aunt!

    • September 30, 2012 12:25 pm

      Hi Matt! I’m so glad he’s doing OK now… was a scary ordeal! I need to start thinking of cool aunt things I can do to secure my position as the COOLEST aunt. Because you know, I have another sister, so I have some competition…. :) Hope all is going well for you!

  9. September 28, 2012 3:22 pm

    So happy to hear your step dad is doing well! And your nephew is absolutely beautiful.
    I loved this blog. “The hug he gave me when he got off the elevator was the kind of hug you need when you are scared out of your mind. It’s the kind of hug that lets you know you aren’t alone.” —- This sentence took my breath away.
    You’re a wonderful writer, and as always, this was amazing.
    -Shannon

    • September 30, 2012 12:21 pm

      Shannon,
      Wow, thank you so much for the kind comment; it made my day on Friday. It makes me want to write more! (Now, to stop being so lazy…)
      Everyone can expect more pictures in the future of Mr. Zachary! :)

  10. Natasha permalink
    September 28, 2012 3:59 pm

    Another awesome post :) you’ll be a great aunt and Zach loves you– would love you more if you set him up with a college fund.. Hahahaha!

    • September 30, 2012 12:19 pm

      Natasha,
      Hahaha, funny. Let me pay off MY college and then maybe we’ll consider it. :) Love you!

  11. September 28, 2012 4:29 pm

    Yeesh, Catherine — what an ordeal! I’m thrilled he’s doing well. NEXT summer I’m getting back to that lake, dammit!! And congrats again on being an Auntie! What a beautiful boy, and that duck outfit is hilarious. I can tell you’re an awesome aunt already!

    • September 30, 2012 12:19 pm

      Katie,
      YES you have to come back next summer. In fact, we need to plan something fun SOON! I love that duck outfit. I almost wish he would never get bigger so he can always wear it. :)

  12. September 28, 2012 5:01 pm

    big knot in my throat! great post lady bug!

  13. malaktaib permalink
    September 28, 2012 7:27 pm

    Glad to hear that you’re stepdad is doing well and your nephew is doing well as well, I’m sure you’ll be the best aunt ever.
    You’re a great writer, I enjoyed reading your blog and it took my breath away :-)

    • September 30, 2012 12:18 pm

      Malaktaib,
      Thank you so much! That’s very sweet of you to say, and it means a lot to me. I hope to be a pretty damn good aunt, although I have to figure out what that means! I need a checklist or something… LOL :)

  14. September 28, 2012 7:42 pm

    Wow, you had me on the edge of my seat. Weird to say someone is “lucky” when they just had a stroke, but I’m sure it could have been worse. Also, your nephew is super-handsome,.

    • September 30, 2012 12:17 pm

      Thanks Grant! He is a cutie, isn’t he?
      I know, it is weird to think of yourself as lucky after something like this happens. You see the hospital bills, you are so scared, maybe you even have a few lasting effects of the stroke, and all of this can actually make you feel very unlucky. But really, we have more time with my stepdad now and it could have been so much worse. We are very lucky, ever single day. Thanks for commenting :)

  15. Kwvin Turner permalink
    September 28, 2012 7:47 pm

    I am so sorry to scare you like that and that you were rude to the lady in the parking lot, .that post made me cry I am so lucky to have my three girls in my life and your mom as my best friend , thanks for loving me back. Bet you did not know I was going to say that HA HA

    • September 30, 2012 12:15 pm

      Kevin,
      We love you so much and are so happy you are OK! We want you to stay around for many many years! And don’t scare us like that again…

  16. Ben permalink
    September 28, 2012 10:36 pm

    Glad to hear your stepdad is going to be relatively okay. I agree, going thru something like this (I did very recently too) changes your perspective.

    P.S. I think you’ll be a great ‘cool’ aunt :)

    • September 30, 2012 12:14 pm

      Thanks, Ben! I hope you are right :). Sorry to hear you’ve gone through something like this recently too – hope all is OK.
      Appreciate your reading/commenting!

  17. September 29, 2012 10:21 pm

    Enjoy nephew, etc. Rejoice in life for nephew…and for your stepfather…the time is short.

    I don’t I can claim exclusively as the cool aunt, more like the crazy aunt that bikes alot. Other aunts are cool too, they jog alot, run marathon, etc.

    I grew up in a family of 6 kids and am the eldest. We have already lost a sister. I am part of a huge extended family, which we only see cousins, their kids, etc. maybe once 1-3 years even though some live in same city (I’m out in a different part of Canada right now.)

    It’s fine to have a big family, but more importantly how one establishes closer relationships.

    • September 30, 2012 12:03 pm

      Jean,
      Sometimes you need a crazy aunt or two :) You’ll give them lots of stories. And I’m really sorry to hear about your sister.
      Our time is short and we are lucky to have both my new newphew and my stepfather :) Can’t ever forget to appreciate the things we have in our life.

  18. October 1, 2012 12:07 am

    Wow. What an ordeal – your telling of it all had me on the edge of my seat, nervously awaiting the outcome. Glad things are looking up and I’ll send good vibes your way that they continue to do so.

  19. Haley L. permalink
    April 14, 2013 7:45 pm

    Catherine,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I have to ask you….WHERE did you get that duck outfit!!! it is super cute and ive been looking all over for a duck outfit for my niece! I love that one!

    • April 16, 2013 7:54 am

      Hahaha! I think I got it at Motherhood Maternity in my local mall. Good luck!!

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