Saturday, May 31, 2014

Gator

Gator.  We love Gator.  We adore him and his quirky and funny ways.  We know we’ve been truly blessed to have him in our lives.  Our hearts are heavy that I have to do this post—and I don’t want to even write about the end as it’s not the memory I want to hold onto.  Gator passed away on March 2nd.  And he has left a gaping hole in our lives—he has been a part of our everyday moments and routines for over 10 years, and such a special part.  I’m finally getting to the point where I can focus on the happy and wonderful times we had with Gator and get smiles instead of tears…ok, maybe with the tears…instead of just feeling robbed because I know we lost him too soon. 

Maybe one day I’ll be able write the post Gator deserves.  A few months out and I’m still unable to write a past tense verb with Gator as the subject.  I’m putting together a memory book of images of Gator so I’ve been going through a lot of old photos.  These are some of my favorites through the years.  I’m very, very sad now, but I’d do it all over again for the joys he has brought us.

{We met Gator on Christmas Eve of 2003.  I was 6 1/2 months pregnant with Ella and Gator was a Christmas gift for me from Jonathan, with a red ribbon and all.  It was love at first sight.  I’ve always told Jonathan that he’ll never be able to top that present.}

{The day Ella was born.}

{And along came Jack.  Gator put up with a lot from the kiddos.  Such a wonderful pup.}

{love the smirk of this picture.  if a dog could’ve rolled his eyes, gator certainly would have at us on a daily basis.}

Gator Williams (October 17, 2003 – March 2, 2014)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Tracy’s CaringBridge Site Journal Entry: " A Series of Fortunate Events"

I am posting the journal entries from my sister’s CaringBridge site (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tracyslatoncrosson) in order to retain that documentation in our 2014 blog book.  Check out the start of the series on my blog with the “My Sister” post.


This last post from the CaringBridge site is one that I wrote after visiting the weekend in which we went to the fire stations to meet the first responders.  And, finally, a post with some pictures! :)

A Series of Fortunate Events

By Tricia Slaton Williams — Mar 31, 2014 8:17am

As the weeks go on and life starts to feel kind of normal again, I think we all find it a little bit easier to revisit the events of Friday, February 21st.  My piece of this day was simply just getting the call, that call you hope to never receive.  Ken called me as they were loading my sister into the ambulance and I only remember his first words, “Something’s happened to Tracy.”  Beyond that, it’s all kind of a blur.  After getting off of the phone with Ken, through sobs, I told my husband that I was leaving for Atlanta that very minute (I live in Charlotte) to which he asked, “Are you sure you heard CPR and defibrillator?”—I’m notorious for flubbing medical terms and, of course, it was just so unfathomable. To that I said simply, “It sounded like [Ken] was watching her die.”  That is something I knew I heard.  And since those four excruciating hours of drive time to Atlanta when I had a lot of time to think of nothing but that call, I honestly hadn't really put much thought into the nitty-gritty details of the 30 minutes, or even hour, before Tracy made it to the hospital.  I knew what needed to happen happened—CPR was started right away and was continuous—and that’s the only source of hope we had those first five days or so.  Beyond that, it was just too hard to spare any mental energy on the past when her future was so uncertain.


Of course, now that our story is one of miracles and hope, the time has come to go back to the beginning. A very unfortunate event happened that Friday afternoon: Tracy’s heart stopped.  After that, however, a series of very fortunate and extraordinary events occurred that day, enabled by some very [extra]ordinary people and everyday heroes, which cultivated our miracle.  And for these acts, we owe a debt of gratitude.  First and foremost, I would like to thank Tracy.  Thank you, sweet and wonderful sister, of whom I could not imagine life without, for taking care of yourself.  You called Ken when you felt unwell, instead of trudging through as you've probably done many times before—as all moms do quite often, not wanting to trouble anyone.  Thank you for making yourself a priority.  I hope you continue to do so.  Thank you, Ken, for deciding not to leave Tracy alone even though she insisted she should just go lie down at home while you picked up the kids.  Thank you for paying attention and understanding that you should be concerned.  And, of course, thank you, Ken, for being a man of action.  You are truly a hero.  I think we can all admit that, if it came down to it, we’re not sure we could have acted so calmly and rationally, or performed CPR so effectively (I mean, really—compression 2 inches deep??).  I’m pretty sure you’ve already told me to stop thanking you, but I think you’re just going to have to get used to it.


And, as you can imagine, there is a team of trained professionals—paramedics, EMT, firefighters—to whom we gladly give unending thanks.  Fortunately, the weekend of March 22nd, through the diligent coordination efforts of Tracy’s dear friend Rachelle, we were able to meet and thank in-person several members of the team of first responders who helped to save Tracy’s life.  [Please forgive me if I get any of this wrong—again, notorious for flubbing medical terms and I heard most of this one time.]  On Saturday, we met Camellia, a paramedic from the ambulance team who intubated Tracy, among many other on-scene responsibilities (intubation just stuck in my head).  Camellia brought her family to Righteous Que’s “Que for a Cause” fundraiser for the Crosson family. Ken, Tracy, and the kids, our parents, Ken’s brother’s family, close friends Kim and Rachelle, and I were all there to meet Camellia and enjoyed hearing her piece of this story.  She herself has four children and, as such, Tracy’s emergency really hit home.  We all have come to know that anyone with the strength and courage to devote themselves to a career in emergency services—immersing themselves in stress and chaos, day in and day out, always choosing fight while everyone else chooses flight—must, for survival’s sake, become disconnected from the emergencies to which they respond. They do their jobs and they do them exceedingly well and how could they if they were to become emotionally invested in each tragedy they see?  Tracy’s case, however, struck a chord—a young mother of four—one a mere babe—with so very little hope for survival.  Camellia spoke of seeing Ken’s anguish and imagining her own husband’s sense of fear and crushing responsibility with four kids to care for on his own if something were to happen to her.  There’s some debate here—her husband remembers Camellia crying on a phone call to him about this particular case, and he says she never cries about cases (how can she and continue to do the stressful work she does??), although she remembers the call to him but not the crying.  I've said it before and I’ll say it again (although, pardon my French), everyone fought like hell for her that day.  These first responders set to work and fought and continued to fight longer than they usually have to and never gave up hope for Tracy.  I can’t even put into words how thankful we are for that.  And I hope meeting Tracy—Camellia did say that most of the time they never find out the eventual outcome of the emergencies to which they respond that, of course, don’t end on scene—inspires the first responders to continue the incredibly important work they do. 


On Sunday, we (the whole clan again--Tracy, Ken, and kids, our mom, Ken’s brother’s family, Rachelle and her family, and I) came bearing cookies and BBQ (Righteous Que, by the way, is THE best BBQ I’ve had in years) to the two fire stations to respond to the emergency call for Tracy on February 21st.  Two first responders who helped Tracy were on hand the afternoon we dropped in to Cobb County Fire Station 14.  The kids were treated to a full fire station tour including spraying the fire hose (Tracy took advantage of this opportunity, too!).  Tracy, my mom, and I spoke with EMT Webster quite a bit—he was the EMT who performed CPR on Tracy and he openly answered our questions about the event (Tracy, as you can imagine, has many about what happened to her and so many things I saw that first week she was unconscious left me with questions—why did she have blood in her hairline and why did she have an intraosseous infusion line (vascular access through a leg bone?).  Another fortunate event along the line leading to Tracy’s survival was something EMT Webster pointed out—the morning of Tracy’s emergency, Fire Station 14 received a LUCAS CPR device.  At about 1pm that day, the EMT’s received their training on the LUCAS device.  Just two hours later they were putting it to work on Tracy.  The LUCAS chest compression system provides consistent depth and speed of the chest compressions and all without the risk of rescuer fatigue.  I won’t go on and on about this automated CPR device, but basically studies have shown that blood flow to the brain increased by 60% with LUCAS, defibrillation can be performed during the compressions (whereas with manual compressions they cannot), and the odds of a good neurological outcome are increased.  And did I mention they had just trained on this device a few hours earlier??  How incredibly fortuitous. 


Our next stop on Sunday afternoon was Fire Station 20 where we spent time with Keith, an EMT who was also part of the team of first responders to Tracy’s call.  Keith downplayed his role that afternoon—oh, he only helped pump oxygen into Tracy’s body (yup, kind of important)—but he told us how he and fellow first responder Charlie (also from Fire Station 20 and the EMT who rode in the ambulance to the hospital with Tracy) inquired several times at the hospital that first week to find out how Tracy had progressed.  Talking with Keith was like talking with an old friend. I felt his, and Charlie’s, true concern for Tracy and Ken and his joy in giving Tracy a hug just a month after she was “clinically dead”.  In the near future, Tracy hopes to thank Charlie for his role in saving her life as well.


What an amazing team of first responders and how heart-warming it was to meet them and thank them in person! One theme that came up over and over again after meeting with each group of first responders was how critical those first four minutes are in responding to cardiac arrest.  Yes, Ken, I’m thanking you again—you called upon your volunteer fireman training from half a lifetime ago and not only started CPR right away, but did it well.  I find myself these days, in various situations, looking around me, wondering if those with me right then and there could, or more importantly would, save me if my heart stopped.  I have read that in the U.S. bystanders only perform CPR in 15 to 30 percent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases, most likely out of fear of doing it incorrectly.  Studies show, though, that even if you don’t have CPR training or your training has lapsed, chest compressions (think to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive”)—however unskillfully performed—increase the victim’s odds of survival greatly. 


Could you save a life? I’m signed up for my CPR class next month.  I found several options in my own community—through the Red Cross, American Heart Association, my local YMCA, and several private CPR organizations—so I’m positive that we could all find a convenient option.  Some research suggests that folks would all be more likely to complete CPR training if they knew how great of an impact CPR can have on saving a life, just how important those first four to six minutes are before the emergency services team arrives.  If you’ve followed my sister’s story, I think you’ve come to have a very deep understanding of that impact…


After meeting, talking with, and thanking the first responders, Tracy called this time “emotionally heavy”.  And, of course, it was, imagining the organized chaos at the scene and thinking about how one small change in the series of actions and decisions that afternoon could have changed everything.  But, it all played out just as we needed it to.  And that makes us fortunate.  And blessed. And so very thankful.









Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tracy’s CaringBridge Site Journal Entry: “By Popular Demand”

I am posting the journal entries from my sister’s CaringBridge site (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tracyslatoncrosson) in order to retain that documentation in our 2014 blog book.  Check out the start of the series on my blog with the “My Sister” post.

By Popular Demand

By Ken Crosson — Mar 19, 2014 9:15pm

This website has a counter that shows how many visits it receives. I just came back to the site an hour or so after I posted that journal entry about the found bracelet, and I noticed that the visit counter had jumped up a bit, probably because you all received notices that a new journal entry was posted and you clicked through to get the latest. Well, you deserve better than a desperately-seeking-bracelet-owner post, so here's what's been happening in the past week or so.


Tracy came home on Monday, the 10th. Her stay in inpatient rehab was far shorter than originally expected, and it probably would have been shorter still if it hadn't wrapped around a weekend. Simply put, while Tracy was of course not 100%, she had no deficits, either physical or cognitive, that justified keeping her in intensive rehabilitation.


Physically, she is doing great. She is cautious and a little slow going up and down stairs and gets tired more easily when doing things like housework or holding the baby, and she has added a mid-day nap to her routine. The fatigue is probably the result of both her reduced heart function and the medications she is taking to protect her heart while it heals. The great news about that is that we expect her heart to strengthen back to normal -- or, thanks to improved exercise habits, to better than normal! -- over the course of the next few months, and when that happens she will be able to phase out the medications, so her energy levels should be better than ever by the end of summer.


In order to clear the decks so Tracy can focus on healing, we've put Jake and Zane back into public school (we had been homeschooling them since the middle of Jake's first-grade year). Homeschooling had been Tracy's biggest job, and it was a doozy. Well, Zane is absolutely loving elementary school, and having spoken to his principal today it sounds like elementary school loves him back. Jake is working hard to figure out the routines and complexities of middle school, but he seems to be enjoying it -- and on his first science test, on just his third day of school, he brought home a 95!


Tracy's parents are still in town and are tackling the task of getting the littles off to school in the mornings, and I drive Jake to swimming three days a week and then take him on to school. As a result, the switch to public school has made Tracy's days very relaxing, which is exactly what she needs.


Cognitively, Tracy's doing almost as well as she is physically, although her planning skills are degraded and she still finds herself perplexed by basic math. Apparently her multiplication tables didn't make the return trip from the twilight zone, because today she was trying to help Zane with his homework and she had to call her father in for help with 7 x 3. She knows she SHOULD know this stuff, and she knows she USED TO know this stuff, but she just doesn't know it now. (Well, she knows 7 x 3 now, at least.)  I think she's doing better with new memories, but her retention is still imperfect and we sometimes repeat a conversation shortly after having it the first time. (Lest you worry that I'm revealing embarrassing information about Tracy in this journal, she's sitting right next to me as I write this and I'm reading every word to her -- and she thinks her newfound struggles with math are kind of funny.)


The dust has not yet settled enough for me to be deeply reflective on these events -- while being self-employed means I have the flexibility I need to focus on my family when a crisis hits, it also means that when I turn my attention away from my work for an extended period clients stop coming in, so with things having calmed down a bit I am scrambling to stoke the business development fires and find more clients -- but as strange as it sounds, and leaving aside if we can the temporary death and whatever injuries Tracy has for now, they reveal our family as being profoundly blessed.


First, Tracy flat-out died and then came back, even though the statistics on cardiac arrest say that the odds were 19-to-1 in favor of her staying dead. Then she woke up with her intelligence, awareness, and every essential aspect of her personality intact, even though EEGs and stone-faced warnings from her doctors ("...early signs of moderate to severe brain injury...") had prepared us for the possibility that if she woke up she would be significantly handicapped. Then she improved at such a rate that she got sent home from the hospital weeks earlier than the best-case scenarios had projected. As unbelievable as her initial collapse was, her recovery from such a catastrophe has been even more incredible. I am not numbered among the world's most devout believers, but I genuinely believe we benefited from a miracle, and I will say so to anyone.


Along the way to that miracle we learned that Tracy is deeply loved by an awful lot of people. So many have done so much for us it would take too much space to acknowledge everybody, but everything from car rides to visits to meals to grocery shopping to outright financial support has poured in from all around us, easing every burden that could possibly be eased from the outside, and protecting our entire family from some of the nasty consequences that could have piled on us during this ordeal.


Many mothers have contributed to feeding our baby; one in particular we will spend a long time trying to thank properly, because she has supplied us -- and has offered to continue to supply us for a good while -- with all the milk our little one can drink (and then some), and as a result that baby is about as healthy, well-fed, and happy as a baby can be. If nothing else had been done for us except for this extraordinary gift of life-sustaining food for our helpless and beautiful daughter it would still be overwhelming. On top of everything else, it has brought me to my knees in gratitude.


Our friends have taken it upon themselves to organize multiple fundraisers for our family, and the response has been mind-blowing. Hundreds of people have made donations: Friends, and family, and colleagues, and people we don't even know. They've come from as close as right next door, and as far away as the other side of the world. They've come from people we talk to on a daily basis, and from people we haven't spoken to in years. One of my favorite people from college sent a contribution, even though (regretfully) I don't think I've spoken with her since graduation; another came from a girl I had a crush on in fifth grade (she knows who she is). The whole notion of fundraising to support my family makes me shudder, honestly, but while I'm being honest I also should admit that the past four weeks would have been far, far worse without the financial support we've received, and continue to receive, from these many generous people. Those hundreds of contributions -- some small, but some pretty substantial -- have added up to a significant safety net for my family. We cannot pay it back, but I promise that in time we will pay every penny forward, and then some.


Now, as if all the above weren't enough, Tracy is about to be made a cover girl by popular demand. Her friends got her in as a last-minute entry in a cover contest for Little Black Dress/Little Red Wagon magazine, a Cobb County quarterly that was looking for an extraordinary mom to feature in its next edition. Those same friends rallied the voters in her behalf, and Tracy won the contest by an astounding margin. In addition to an extensive prize pack, she will get a mini makeover and then sit for a professional photo shoot next Saturday. Yes, there probably was some ballot box stuffing (I'm pretty sure her 6,800+ votes didn't come from 6,800+ different people), but that just shows that the love for her is both broad and deep. Anyway, keep your eyes peeled for the magazine -- I will post something here when it's available.


Finally, there have been suspicious incidents of sheer good luck. Today Tracy and her mom went out to get their hair done by Challise Copeland at Challise & Company in Marietta. (For the record, Tracy's is the best haircut she's had since I've known her, and Tracy's mom was talking about coming back from Florida whenever she needs a haircut from now on -- and I think she was half joking, at the very most.) Anyway, Challise's salon sponsored today's Northeast Cobb Business Association luncheon, and they gave away a slew of door prizes. There was one separate drawing for a massive grand prize good for a whole array of spa services, and I put Tracy's name on my ticket. I'll leave you to guess whose name was drawn from the bowl at the end of the meeting. Unbelievable.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tracy’s CaringBridge Site Journal Entry: “Hard to Believe”

I am posting the journal entries from my sister’s CaringBridge site (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tracyslatoncrosson) in order to retain that documentation in our 2014 blog book.  Check out the start of the series on my blog with the “My Sister” post.

Hard to Believe

By Ken Crosson — Mar 10, 2014 9:53pm

This entire experience has been so hard to believe that I should be incapable of being astonished by now. Well, astonished I am anyway: Just two weeks after a lot of us were thinking she might not even survive, Tracy is home, having been discharged from rehab this morning.


Tracy's mother, our friend Kim, and I went to the hospital today to see Tracy's rehab routine so we could help out once she got home, but there seems not to be much to do. First her physical therapist put her through some tests, which she passed flawlessly. That therapist recommended discharge with no limitations, and said she didn't even see the point of outpatient physical rehab. Next came the occupational therapist, who said the same thing -- it's time for Tracy to go home, and there's no need for follow-up occupational therapy. The speech therapist said essentially the same thing, recommending some exercises and games to address Tracy's few, minor, lingering cognitive deficits, but questioning whether Tracy needed any formal speech/cognitive therapy as an outpatient. In the end they set up an evaluation for us with an outpatient speech therapist tomorrow, but I doubt there will be any formal therapy after that.


Tracy gets tired more easily than she did before this all happened, and she will wear a defibrillator vest for a few months to keep tabs on her heart rhythms until any real danger of recurrence is past. She still is hazy on some older memories, and simple math problems make her think harder than they used to. For the time being she has to take a few pills every morning and one before bed, and we've switched her coffee to decaf. It will be a little while before she's left alone to care for kids, and probably a bit longer before she drives a car. There are a couple of scrapes and bruises and some small scars, but anybody who sees and talks to Tracy now and didn't see her back when this all started would be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss has been about.


She's fine. Not 100%, maybe, but fine. And she'll get to 100% in a few months. We'll be taking the safety bars we got for the bathtub back to Home Depot unopened, because she doesn't need them. Setting up a bedroom on the main level to keep Tracy from having to walk up stairs looks like a waste of effort, because stairs aren't a problem for her. We're taking the homeschooling of our two homeschooled boys off her plate one school quarter earlier than planned - they will be starting public school this week, but we had already been planning to send them to school in the fall. And I will work from home more often so I can be around to help out, but that's something that probably should have happened anyway.


Tracy's home and life, amazingly, goes on. I hardly believe it and I don't pretend to understand it. I'll just accept it, gratefully.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tracy’s CaringBridge Site Journal Entry: “Boring, for a Change”

I am posting the journal entries from my sister’s CaringBridge site (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tracyslatoncrosson) in order to retain that documentation in our 2014 blog book.  Check out the start of the series on my blog with the “My Sister” post.

Boring, for a Change

By Ken Crosson — Mar 6, 2014 9:05am

I've never enjoyed being bored, but I have to say that the boring parts of this hospital stay sure beat the exciting parts.
For the past few days Tracy has been in an intermediate-care unit -- technically still a critical-care ward, but a step down from the CCU where she spent her first week. She's doing very well, and it seems like every day they back off of one intervention or another, or let her off one monitor or another. With decreasing help she's able to get out of bed and move around a little, and every day her memory and cognitive function get a little bit better. Although the cardiologists are going to wait and see, for the time being it looks like she won't have to have a pacemaker/defibrillator implanted.


She's been cleared for admission to the inpatient rehabilitation unit (IRU) upstairs, but apparently it's taking some time to get all the paperwork in order. I know there was some discussion of whether she would even qualify for inpatient rehab, because of how high-functioning she is, and I imagine that slowed things down a little. We're trying not to get impatient with the hospital that saved Tracy's life, but it sure will be nice when they finally get around to making the move they were talking about making almost a week ago. Once she is in rehab, she should be getting about four hours of therapy - physical, occupational, and speech/cognitive - every day. Originally the plan was for her to spend 14-21 days in the IRU, but we're now hoping it will be more like seven.


In the meantime, this has been a great opportunity to visit with friends. People Tracy has loved all her life and not seen in years have stopped by to wish her well, and she's been able to fill the hours of these very long days with conversations that probably do her heart more good than any therapies the hospital is able to provide.


Other than the importance of learning CPR and taking chest pain seriously, the biggest lesson learned from this experience might be this: No matter how much distance life puts between you, don't let tragic events be the only reason you get together with the important people in your life.


Feel free to swing by if you want to say hello. If we get enough hands, maybe we can put together a poker game while we wait for Tracy to move upstairs.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tracy’s CaringBridge Site Journal Entry: “Where There Is Great Love There Are Always Miracles”

I am posting the journal entries from my sister’s CaringBridge site (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tracyslatoncrosson) in order to retain that documentation in our 2014 blog book.  Check out the start of the series on my blog with the “My Sister” post.

Where There Is Great Love There Are Always Miracles

By Ken Crosson — Mar 1, 2014 11:11am

As I started this journal entry, about the miraculous course of Tracy's recovery, her friend Kim came in with a gift, a beautiful framed piece of chalk art inscribed with the Willa Cather quote I'm now using as the title of this journal, from their friend Lauren. I think it expresses not only a great truth, but a perfect description of what has happened here.


Tracy's own doctors call her "Lazarus" and a miracle. One of the cardiologists, after evaluating her yesterday and being astonished by the difference in her condition from when she entered the hospital a week earlier, said, "This," meaning both her survival and alertness after such a catastrophic injury, "simply does not happen."


Another warns that after we get out of the hospital doctors will be fighting over getting her as a patient because her case is so remarkable: First, a tremendously rare coronary condition that caused a heart attack. Then, a complete cardiac arrest that in most cases is irrecoverable and that required well over an hour of resuscitation just to get her heart beating again. And now, awakening with her personality and so much of her mind intact right off the bat? Literally unbelievable.


The cardiologist who's spent the most time with her, and who two days earlier had told us our best course of action was to pray for a miracle, yesterday cautiously suggested he now hopes for a full, if lengthy, recovery. She's not out of the woods yet, he warned, but he sees no reason that with time, medication, and rehabilitation she can't get back to where she was before.


I firmly believe they're all right, and were right before. She DID need a miracle to survive -- after all, when your heart stops six times in one afternoon you're in a bad way. She DID need a miracle to wake up and still be herself. But those things happened. She DID need a miracle to have any hope of eventual rehabilitation and leading a normal life. But it looks like that's going to happen too, in time. She needed miracles, we prayed for miracles, and we got miracles. Even the doctors, when I thank them for what they did for her, demur -- it wasn't us, they tell me; they did their best, but they give all the credit to the Great Physician.


Sure, she can't read a clock and her coordination is shot, she can't remember recent history and sometimes she thinks it's 1996, but she knows who she is, who all the people around her are, and who her kids are. Everything else is trivia -- she'll either get it back in time, learn it again...or live without it, because it really doesn't matter. There is great love for Tracy in this world, and she is -- we all are -- getting the miracles that come with it. Keep praying for her as she starts down the long road to recovery, because she will need more support as she makes her way back to her former self. Thank God, and all of Tracy's prayer warriors, for affirming, even restoring, our faith.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tracy’s CaringBridge Site Journal Entry: “Questions and Answers”

I am posting the journal entries from my sister’s CaringBridge site (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tracyslatoncrosson) in order to retain that documentation in our 2014 blog book.  Check out the start of the series on my blog with the “My Sister” post.

Questions and Answers

By Ken Crosson — Feb 28, 2014 5:34pm

"Why did my heart stop?" Tracy always has had a knack for getting to the core of the matter at hand, and sure enough the first question she asked after getting her breathing tube out was the one we had all been puzzling over for the past few days. Well, here's the answer:


Tracy suffered a medical emergency known as a spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD), a rare event that overwhelmingly affects women, and disproportionately occurs in women who've recently had babies. Basically, hormonal changes in Tracy's body temporarily weakened her blood vessels, and for no specific reason a small branch of a coronary artery ruptured on Friday, depriving a section of her heart muscle of oxygen. Unfortunately, that tiny disruption of oxygen flow in Tracy's case caused a massive response -- her heart went into a quivering arrhythmia, and stopped pumping blood to her body. (Fortunately, the link to pregnancy means that Tracy, whose baby-making career concluded, gloriously, back in November, is unlikely ever to suffer a relapse.)


As academically interesting as it is to learn the mechanism behind her incident, the real questions we needed answers to were these: Would Tracy wake up?  And, if she did, would she be the same person as she was before? The last two days have provided answers in the affirmative to both of them.


Tracy's second question upon waking up was all the proof we needed that her essence remained intact: "Is Ivy hungry?" If a single word summed up Tracy's person, it would be "mom," and it is no surprise that her thoughts immediately ran to her precious baby as soon as she understood where she was. The answer to THAT question is that Ivy, like the rest of us, has been protected and provided for by the loving hands of the family and friends, including some friends we have yet to meet, with which our lives have been blessed. She's not hungry. She's happy and healthy.


Once the artery problem was explained to Tracy, her next question was whether she had caused the condition somehow by having a home birth. It appeared she didn't really understand how much time had passed since Ivy's birth, and although she knows Ivy's face and clearly has some memories of her deep inside, right now Tracy's having trouble remembering anything of the past few months. I explained that the home birth had nothing to do with her incident, but that the pregnancy itself might have contributed. She took one look at Ivy's picture and said firmly, "It was totally worth it for that baby."


There remain some questions for which only time will tell us the answers. Although Tracy is clearly still Tracy, with the same personality, sense of humor, and mannerisms as before, it is still early in the healing process and her memory and reasoning haven't completely returned. Her physical coordination is missing, and she is going to need weeks of intensive, in-patient rehabilitation before she will be able to return home, and months of therapy after that to get her back to her old form.


In the meantime, she remains in the CCU (although she will probably be transferred out to a normal ward, or the rehab ward, in a day or two), working on her coordination and other skills, and trying to enjoy as much Cran-Grape over ice pellets as she can get. For the three child deliveries she made at Kennestone, the high point was always the Cran-Grape over ice pellets, and I had a back-of-the-mind suspicion that this whole series of events might have just been a ruse of Tracy's to help her get the Cran-Grape she missed out on when we chose to have Ivy at home.


Whatever her reasons, and however long her rehabilitation will be, it's good to have her back. Her mood is terrific, and her attitude toward both her treatment and her own limitations is one of good-humored patience. There's no anger, no frustration, and not really any fear. She trusts her doctors who have gotten her so far, and believes that with God's help and the skillful hands of the medical providers entrusted with her care, she will get where she wants to go. In the meantime, she faces the challenges ahead with courage and acceptance.

And, of course, with her signature sense of humor, of which, a taste: After getting her breathing tube out and being cleared by her nurse to take fluids by mouth, she was able to have her first drink in a week. I got her a cup of her old favorite. She took a few sips, and then whispered to me, with cracked lips and a twinkle in her eye: "It was totally worth it for the Cran-Grape."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tracy’s CaringBridge Site Journal Entry: “A Journey of 1000 Miles Starts With a Single Step...”

I am posting the journal entries from my sister’s CaringBridge site (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tracyslatoncrosson) in order to retain that documentation in our 2014 blog book.  Check out the start of the series on my blog with the “My Sister” post.

A Journey of 1000 Miles Starts With a Single Step...

By Ken Crosson — Feb 27, 2014 8:55am

...but there's no rule that says it can't be a gigantic step. This morning the doctors decided Tracy was stable enough to attempt another independent breathing trial. They turned off all her sedation, and fifteen minutes later she was alert enough that they cut off the ventilator. She passed the trial with flying colors, and another fifteen minutes and they were taking out her breathing tube. She is now alert, responsive, and even asking questions. When I gave her a kiss, I got one in return. It will be a long road, but we got a tremendous head start on it this morning.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tracy’s CaringBridge Site Journal Entry: “Little Things Mean a Lot”

I am posting the journal entries from my sister’s CaringBridge site (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tracyslatoncrosson) in order to retain that documentation in our 2014 blog book.  Check out the start of the series on my blog with the “My Sister” post.

Little Things Mean a Lot

By Ken Crosson — Feb 26, 2014 5:24pm

In The Princess Bride, a limp Westley, recently reanimated by a cure from Miracle Max, incredulously asks his companions, who eagerly celebrate his slightest movement as they contemplate the overwhelming odds against them in their quest to storm the castle, if under the circumstances a small head-jiggle is supposed to make him happy.


I'm here to answer Westley: Yes, sometimes a small head-jiggle means everything in the world.


Around six this morning, Tracy was stirring. I went to her side with her dear friend Kim, and we talked to her and stroked her arms. I asked her if she could hear us. She nodded. I couldn't believe what I had seen, so I asked her to do it again. She did it again. I asked her to squeeze my hand, and she did, faintly.


Then, the early mobility team came to work with her this afternoon, and apparently got a lot out of her with their techniques. I wasn't there for it (dad duty called), but I hear she moved her arms and her legs both on command and in response to postural changes, and raised her head several times to look at the therapists. I'm really looking forward to their visit tomorrow - I will be here for it for sure.
Later, I understand that Tracy's dad was telling her a story, and she smiled at him. She also squeezed her sister's hand, making Tricia squeal in surprise, which scared the nurse and made her jump - all of which evoked another smile from Tracy. I can't wait to see all of this myself.


So, Westley, yes, when you are riding a miracle and facing long odds, sometimes a head-jiggle is the first, quiet answer to ten thousand prayers.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Tracy’s CaringBridge Site Journal Entry: “No News is No News”

I am posting the journal entries from my sister’s CaringBridge site (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tracyslatoncrosson) in order to retain that documentation in our 2014 blog book.  Check out the start of the series on my blog with the “My Sister” post.

No News Is No News

By Ken Crosson — Feb 25, 2014 9:15am

The upshot of today is what we already knew: Time will tell.


Cardiology tells us Tracy's heart is weak (unchanged since Friday), and she still needs medical help to keep her blood pressure adequate, but all that can be managed with medical support and eventually heal or be overcome.

Neurology says her brain shows no signs of swelling, or maybe a little bit of swelling (significant swelling would be very bad), and her EEG shows reduced brain activity (which of course is bad), but not none (which of course is worse). The bottom line is that there is no bottom line. She hasn't woken up, but she might at any time.


The doctors are talking about evaluation over the course of weeks, not hours or days. It's a long game, and we're just getting started.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

My Sister

Just four days after my sister was at our house visiting, on the afternoon of Friday, February 21st, I got a call from my brother-in-law Ken that Tracy had gone into cardiac arrest and was being loaded onto an ambulance and taken to the hospital.  As fast as I could throw some necessities into a bag and get in my car, I was headed down to the hospital in Atlanta where she and Ken would be.  For most of the drive I didn’t know if Tracy was dead or alive and I cried the entire way.  As I got closer to Atlanta, Jonathan called me to fill me in (my parents had called him and weren’t sure whether calling me would endanger me on my drive because it would be upsetting) that Tracy was stable, on life support, in a cath lab.  Ken met me by the elevators outside of the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) and I honestly thought for a brief moment that I needed to be strong for Ken before I nearly collapsed into a hug with him and tearfully said, “Please tell me she’s going to be okay.”  Ken, to say the least, was a lot better at being strong for the rest of us.  Ken stayed at the hospital that first night (and every night for more than a week) with Tracy’s amazing friends Kim and Rachelle.  I went to their house for a sleepless, tear-filled night but was comforted by seeing the familiar sight of the life Tracy was leading (homeschooling projects on the table, a bounty of fresh produce on the counter, photos of her beautiful family on the walls…).  I made the mistake that night of doing research on “sudden cardiac arrest”, the survival rate—even with CPR, which we knew she had received from Ken immediately—was something in the 5-7% range, in other words very low.  And, as trite as it sounds in this situation to relate to a song, Bastille’s song “Pompeii” was on the radio and in my head quite a bit this day and for the next several. “And the walls kept tumbling down|In the city that we love…But if you close your eyes, |Does it almost feel like | Nothing changed at all?…How am I gonna be an optimist about this? | How am I gonna be an optimist about this?”  On Saturday morning, a stone-faced CCU doctor put her hand on my knee as we sat next to each other and said in an apologetic tone, “We’re just not seeing the responses [gagging, eye dilation, etc.] that we should expect to see.”  In other words, they expected she had no brain function.  And it was those apologetic tones and apologetic looks from nurses over the next few days that made me wonder if I was na├»ve to have hope…How am I gonna’ be an optimist about this?

The full week, from February 21st until the 28th—the one I lovingly refer now to as “hell week”—, is one that has forever changed me, I’ll never forget, and for which I am grateful.  The story of that week is a long one and every single day we rode a roller coaster of emotions.  The short of it is that she was in an induced hypothermic state from Friday night through Saturday night, on Sunday they warmed her back up and took her off sedation, and then we spent the next three days trying to read into clues (she’s awake *yay!*, but now she’s awake but doesn’t respond to us  *heart.breaking*, brain scan looks hopeful but not definitive, no purposeful movement…and on and on) to assure ourselves that Tracy was still Tracy.  The last few days of the week, once we knew Tracy could respond to commands, were left to determine how many challenges she would face in her future.  Just two weeks after Tracy’s “event”, however, we knew (with the help of some speech/cognitive and cardio therapy in the months to come) that Tracy was going to fully recover.  Yes, “skip to the end” (not the last Princess Bride reference you’ll find in our story), we witnessed a miracle.  The journey to that miracle is a long and exhausting tale to tell—it honestly starts the waterworks all over again and wears me down to think about it all too much—and, fortunately, Ken did a wonderful job documenting the steps along the way through a CaringBridge website.  So, in my next few blog posts, I am going to borrow his words and put his journal entries on this blog so that we have it documented in our 2014 blog book.  As you can imagine, that first week was chaotic and stressful (I wasn’t even in a state to visit my nephews and niece until that Tuesday), but so many loving and caring friends and family wanted to know what was going on, so Tracy’s CaringBridge site (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tracyslatoncrosson) was set up to communicate updates to all interested parties at once.  Ken posted some beautifully (and wittily, in true Ken style) written journal entries to the site. Here’s the first one:

How We Got Here

By Ken Crosson — Feb 24, 2014 10:44am

On Friday afternoon, completely out of the blue, Tracy went into cardiac arrest. By the grace of God she was in a place where the arrest was witnessed, so CPR was started immediately, paramedics were on the scene within ten minutes, and she was quickly transported to Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, where she has been receiving world-class care in the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) for the past few days.


The doctors are uniformly surprised to see a patient as young and healthy as Tracy in the condition she is in. The best explanation they can come up with is that a tiny tear in a tiny branch of a coronary artery deprived her heart of just enough oxygen to trigger an arrhythmia that led to complete cardiac arrest. They and the nursing staff have been working around the clock to prevent further damage, preserve her neurological function, and to bring her back to us.


Clearly, her condition is critical and she is on only the first step of a very long road to recovery, but we have high hopes that she will recover consciousness soon and give the many people gathered here to pray for and support her a real reason to cheer. So far good news has been hard to come by, but, by the nature of her injury and the immediate interventions it required, today is really the first day of what we know in our hearts will be her triumphant comeback. The outpouring of support from family and friends has been overwhelming.


Our kids, who would be her first, and perhaps only, concern under these circumstances, are being lovingly cared for by friends, with a list of backups a dozen strong, standing by if needed. Right now we need prayers for a recovery as swift and thorough as possible.


Thank you for lifting up your hearts in her behalf. I will keep you posted on her progress through this site.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Sweet Visit

My sister, her youngest son Drew, and baby Ivy came to visit us over President’s Day weekend in February.  Without older brothers Jake and Zane there, it was actually a great opportunity for Jack and Drew to spend some focused time together and bond.  Ella hung out with the two boys, too, but I’m pretty sure she barely set Ivy down the entire weekend.  Tracy and her crew pulled into our driveway and no sooner had Ella unclipped Ivy out of her car seat and was carrying her around over the driveway.  It makes me pretty nervous, but Ella handles her well.  I don’t blame Ella—Ivy sure is fun to hold and nothing’s sweeter than kissing that soft head.  My sister and I had a nice time catching up and hanging out, too.  We even went out perusing some shops together (with just Ivy) and had some girl time.  But, once again (a la Thanksgiving), when Ivy’s around most pictures are focused on her.  Come Hilton Head, though, I’ll be sure to include everyone else!

{love that ivy has her own rainbow loom bracelet from the kids.}

And, the Monday morning that Tracy, Drew, and Ivy left (Ella and Jack were in school that day for a make-up snow day), we did a little photo shoot with Ivy (Tracy didn’t plan on being in the pics) to mark her 3-month milestone.

{sweet little birthmark.}

{she was going through her “mr. burns plotting hands” phase, but this one kind of looks like she’s making a heart.}

{little miss ivy loves to flap with her arms and kick with her legs.  busy, busy.}

{ivy liked this hat about as much as my other niece emilee did. not so much. ha ha}

{and one last stretch…}

{…before she’s finally tuckered out.}