Sunday, February 22, 2009

Twelve Years

February 23...
I hate this day.
My dad died today. 12 years ago. That's a long time. And it feels like a long time too. It doesn't hurt as badly. And I feel bad about that. I feel guilty. But I have just gotten used to him being gone. I feel like I have been without him for so long. It's just the way it is.

I don't like being used to it. I wish it still hurt. Then he would feel closer to me. I know I have blogged about this before. Blogged about these feelings. I started feeling like this about 2 years ago.

I want to write something special for him. About him. I know a lot more people will read this because I import my blog into Facebook. So I feel I want to write something good. Something meaningful. But I don't know what to say.

I can write about the day it all started. The day this whole life-changing cycle began. The day I found out. About his illness. His cancer.

I was 17. I had started at a new school in Pittsburgh. A new life. Living with my "Surrogate Family". Things were good.

Back in St.Louis my dad had been having some back trouble over the summer. My mom and I kept telling him to go to see a chiropractor - that he probably just needed a good adjustment. But he didn't want to go. But the back pain continued. Fast forward to October. October 23rd to be exact. That was the day he found out.

I found out shortly after. I had been trying to call my dad and wasn't able to reach him. And he wasn't calling me back. I started to get worried and so I called my grandmother. I think I left a message and she called me back. It was awful. My grandmother doesn't know how to give bad news. She doesn't know how to break things to someone. Not that there is any good way to tell someone their father is dying of cancer. And after all, this is her son!

I finally got her on the phone and asked what was going on. Where was my dad? Why couldn't I reach him and why didn't he call me back? She said, "Natalie. I have bad news. Your dad is very sick. He's very very sick. He's in the hospital. Your dad has cancer." There was such fear in her voice.
That was it. No sugar coating. No easing me into it. WHAM! I felt like I had just gotten hit with a ton of bricks. I couldn't breathe. I felt sick to my stomach. I didn't believe I had just heard those words. I don't remember much more about the conversation. I remember being in shock, total disbelief. I was angry. I was hurting. When I hung up the phone with Grandma, I fell apart.I started crying. Hysterically. I didn't know what to do with myself. I ran outside of the house. I was crying outside. I knew I looked like a crazy person. Like someone who was out of control. I came back in. I was on the floor in my room. I didn't want to believe it. What the heck?? How could it be? It was just a stinkin backache!
The family I was living with heard the commotion and came to try and calm me down. But I didn't want to hear it. I didn't want to be calm. I didn't want my dad to have cancer.
The cancer was "Adeno Carcinoma of Unknown Origin." Whatever the heck that means. It started in his back bone and spread to his hip bone and his sternum by the time they found it.

The doctors gave him 4-6 months to live. He died 4 months to the day after he was diagnosed. Talk about Iyin Hora.

I somehow managed. Got through day to day life. I wanted to come home but my dad said I shouldn't. He didn't really want me there during the chemo. It was too horrific and made him too sick. They say the treatment is worse than the disease.
They treated it. Radiation. Chemotherapy. We even tried homeopathic treatments. Anything to save my father. But it was too aggressive. It spread to his liver. And that was it. That was when they knew we were getting to the end.

We had a scare in January. I was still in Pittsburgh, going to school, doing what I was "supposed" to be doing. It was Motzei Shabbat. Someone called (maybe my grandmother?) to tell me what happened. My dad was in the hospital with a blood infection. And I needed to come home. I didn't get any more information or realize how bad it was until I talked to my Rebbetzin from St.Louis. It was really bad, really serious. People die from blood infections. The doctors did not know if he would make it through until the morning. And my Rebbetzin told me that I had to call him and say goodbye. So I did. I called my dad in the hospital and even though I felt like I couldn't even think straight I managed to tell him that I would be there in the morning, I would see him in the morning. And I told him that I loved him so much. I would be there soon.

A couple of my friends came over and we sent out a mass e-mail. Asking everyone to daven for my dad or do a mitzvah in his merit. This e-mail went all over, to all kinds of lists. All over the world. And I believe it worked.
I made it home in the morning and he was still alive. Not only that but we had another month with him. A month which I spent by his side every day. And every time I left the room I said, "I love you." The fact that he got better from the blood infection gave me hope - I thought maybe, if we all keep praying for him.......just maybe he would get better......

2 years ago, I wrote about when my dad gave us The News.
I still don't know how a parent does that. What he must have been going through to tell his children he was going to die. And soon. My poor dad.

After that, we moved him to some kind of Extended Care Home. It was basically a nursing home. It was awful there, people always asked if he was my grandfather. I think he was there for a week until we moved him home. Hospital bed in the living room, hospice care, and us.
It was hard living like that. Seeing my dad so sick. Never knowing when or how. But knowing we were nearing the end. On the other hand, we were lucky. We were really lucky that we had that time with him. That we knew it was the end. And we could say our I love you's and appreciate what time we did have left. Sometimes I just wanted to curl up into bed with him. Sometimes I wanted to ask him for something - a letter with advice. Some "last words". Something to pass on to his grandchildren. But I didn't. That would make it too real. That would mean accepting it. I wasn't ready. And by the time I may have been ready, he wasn't able.
I wanted to take pictures. I so desperately wanted pictures of him. He was the photographer in the family and so we have very few pictures of him. But I didn't take pictures because I don't want the images of him looking old and sick stuck in my head. I already have the memories taking over my other memories - I didn't need the photographic proof.

February 23, 1997. It was a Sunday morning. A beautiful, crisp day outside. A day my dad would have loved. And the day he died.
That's all for now. That's all she wrote.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Happy Month

Wow, it's already February 19th. That means Kayla is a month old today!!!!
Ahhh, my baby girl is growing up. It happens so fast!!

She is treating us pretty well. She is not a big crier or anything. No colic, thank the good Lord. She just cries when she is hungry or when she is getting a diaper change. She's not a fan of being naked.

We've had a few good nights, where she has slept really well. And a few really bad nights - where she sleeps the evening away and then is up and ready to party starting about 11pm. Last night was one such night.
What makes it harder is Shauli has been sick since about a week after she was born. And can't seem to fight off whatever it is that he has. And I finally succumbed to the illness a few days ago. It wasn't too bad the first 2 days and I thought maybe I would win the battle. But the past 2 days have been rough. My lack of sleep certainly doesn't help and today my throat is on fire.

But I digress................ HAPPY ONE MONTH BIRTHDAY KAYLA!!!! Can't wait to see what the next few months/years bring. :)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kayla's Birth Story - Part 3 - THE BIRTH!

WARNING!!!!! THIS IS THE GRAPHIC PART OF THE BIRTH STORY!!! (Not to worry, it was a c-section so it was more gory than the kind of graphic you might be thinking)

Finally, they came and rolled me into the operating room. Shauli had to wait until I was all prepped and they started the surgery. But Sharon was with me the whole time. Talking me through everything that was happening. Oh my G-d, I was so nervous. I was scared, I was dreading it. I wanted it to just be over. Everything felt surreal. We got into the operating room and it was just us. Me, Sharon, and a male nurse with a funny name – Ubi or something. Sharon introduced me to him and then it was time to do the spinal. I kept thinking Ok, it's time. I can do this. I can get through it. I got onto the operating table and sat with my legs over the side. I had to curl my body like a banana and arch my back like a cat. Sharon was checking where she was going to put the spinal. She was poking around and it was pretty uncomfortable but she did a good job distracting me with random small talk about my Aliyah, my kids, etc.

Then it was time to get started and I guess first she did some local anesthetic which was like pin pricks and then she did the spinal. I had to move my legs back onto the table and then lay down. It was nothing nearly as dramatic as the spinal with Jonah where the scary anesthesiologist cranked my head all the way down and where I felt a whole shock down my side. Nope, this was way less dramatic. My legs started getting numb. The rtest of my body started getting numb. Then the rest of the surgical team came in and started setting up. I was introduced to a couple nurses. Sharon was great because she would do all the talking in English and translate for them if necessary. It made me feel like I, the patient, came first.

They set up the screen and got a couple things started. It’s a weird sensation. The whole process. One one hand, my entire body from chest and below is numb. I can’t move my legs at all. But I can feel some sensation. I can feel tugging and pulling. But not pain. They got started with the surgery. I was so thirsty and my mouth was so dry. I kept clearing my throat and was just horribly parched. I mentioned it to Sharon and she snuck me a few drops of water from a gauze pad. Ahhhh…… A couple minutes in and Sharon asked if I was feeling nauseous. I thought about it for a minute and said not nauseous but strange. Not good. She told me my blood pressure had dropped, which is very normal after having a spinal, and so I may feel nauseous. She was keeping an eye on it but I guess it kept going lower and lower. Then the nausea hit. Badly. And then the throwing up. Or what would have been throwing up if I had anything in my stomach. Oh, it was awful. It wouldn’t stop. Sharon gave me something to bring my blood pressure back up and I think something for the nausea too. That whole episode was also really weird because my entire lower body was numb. And throwing up usually involves the abdomen. But I just felt it in my mouth. Ugh. While it was happening, I was just wondering if I would make it through the surgery. Not if it was like this, I wouldn't. I just wanted it to be over. Finally, the medicine kicked in and within another minute or two, I felt better. So much better that I knew I could get through the surgery as long as I didn’t go back to that!! I was feeling really warm and asked Sharon to get me a wet washcloth for my head. My “comfort” cloth. She brought one but it had warm water so I asked for cold water and she said it would be harder to find but she got some! I started feeling a bit lightheaded and she gave me some oxygen. It was the mouth mask which was more annoying than just a nose one. But it helped relax me and remind me to take deep breaths when I was nervous or when things were bothering me. Then I just concentrated on breathing. My right shoulder got really really sore too and that may have been from when they were touching my diaphragm at the time. Weird.

FINALLY, Shauli was able to come in. A sight for sore eyes. But I was feeling pretty out of it and don’t remember a lot from this point on. I know that everything seemed to happen really really quickly after this. He had the camera and Sharon took a picture of the 2 of us. I happen to think it is a great picture. Not sure why. Maybe because it is so "in the moment". It was almost time for the baby and Sharon took the camera so she could take a picture as soon as the baby came out. She asked if we knew what we were having and I said we did but weren’t telling anyone. The baby was about to be born and Sharon said, “They are taking the baby out….I can’t see what it is yet….here it comes. Oh, it looks like a girl. You have a girl.” And they held her up right over the screen!!! She was SOOO small. I could not believe it. And that’s what I said, “Oh my gosh, she’s tiny.” Ahhh – that’s my daughter. They checked the time (Shauli?) and said she was born at 11:13. Then they whisked her away and off Shauli went to be with her. I was introduced to another nurse and that would be the baby nurse. Then they brought the baby back to me for another minute. Oh my gosh, I was in love. They held her up to me but all I could do was give her kisses. She looked very puzzled. Some more pics and off Shauli went with our daughter.

And that was that. I could not believe how quickly they got her out!! Then it was close-up time which Sharon said would take longer. But she also told me that the surgeon is the head of the department or something so I shouldn’t worry, he would do a good job. At some point she introduced him and he popped his head over. That was all I saw of him!! That was really about as much as I saw of anyone. Aside from Sharon and Udi. I remember someone had told me to ask about future kids. So Sharon asked him how it looked, how I healed from my previous sections, were there any lesions or whatever. Could I have more kids? She asked in English and he answered, “Surely. She can surely have more children.” Good to know I healed nicely. For the FUTURE.

It seemed to take forever for them to close me up and it was somewhat uncomfortable at times. One of the yuckiest parts was that at some point, I could hear the scissors. Snip snip snip. I think that was when Shauli was still there because I told him, I could hear them cutting me. Ohhhh, it was awful. It felt like they were really high up. And in my mental image of myself, I picture myself laying on the operating table with my entire abdomen and chest cut open. Because that’s how it feels. I feel them low and high, tugging and poking around in there. At some point I also knew they were cauterizing me. I can’t remember if I could hear it or smell it but I knew what they were doing. Ugh. I started feeling tired. SO tired. I just wanted it to be done. But I was scared. Scared for the pain. They seemed to be taking forever. And I missed Shauli. But I was lucky because Sharon was awesome. She told me what was going on when I needed to know that and just chatted with me when I needed that. She was just really chilled out and a very calming presence. She also had boys before a girl – 4 boys before a girl. A boy, a boy, and then triplets! Wow!

So eventually, they finished closing me up. Then here is a CRAZY random story! Just before they moved me back onto the stretcher, someone walked into the room and said in English, “Hey, your maiden name is Martinez?” and I said “yes…” thinking it was just someone who wanted to comment on my strange last name. Then he said, “And you grew up in St. Louis?” so then I was thinking ok, was it someone from my class? I said, “Yes..” And he said, “But you were born in Milwaukee?” Who IS this guy? “Yes…” He continues, "And I even know the street you lived on. It was umm.. Shepard Avenue. Your brother is Adrian! You moved when he was in like 3rd or 4th grade?” And I said, “Yah, that’s my brother. And I guess he was in 4th grade – I was in 1st – who ARE you??” He said his name is Chezky and that he was friend's with Adrian when they were younger. Then he asked if Adrian is living here and I said no, no, he’s in Seattle. I asked what his last name was and he said “Landy.” I said yah, that sounds familiar – how crazy!! When did he come to Israel? He said his family made Aliyah when he was in 6th grade. Then he came over and helped them move me onto the stretcher. And he said, “Well, send regards to Adrian. Tell him Chezky Landy says hi.” And off he went. SO random!!!

Then they strolled me out. They took me to a recovery room – across from the pre-op room. I asked how long I would be there. They said it would be about an hour. And I watched the clock. And watched and watched. They were waiting for me to be able to move my legs. I kept trying and trying. I just wanted to be with Shauli and my daughter. I missed them SO much. I hated being away from them. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t be with me. ARGH. People kept coming and going and randomly checking on me. But for the most part it was very lonely. It seemed so strange to me. I had just given birth to my daughter. Yet I was lying there alone. Desperately wanting to be with someone. I am used to being in the recovery room with my family – and certainly with my new baby. Even though I couldn’t hold her – I just wanted to be with family at that time.

Finally, they decided I could move my feet enough that I could head to a real room. They rolled me out and I heard a big cheer. Along with Shauli was Aviva and her sister, Aliza. Whee!!!! They came with me up in the elevator and to the room. And then they left.

Well, that is really it for the actual Birth Story. I have plenty to say about the 5 days following it and my experiences in the hospital. Maybe that will be for the next edition…………….


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Kayla's Birth Story - Part 2

Baby Day!!!
Woke up around 5am. Had to be at the hospital by 6am. We had rented a car for a few days so we didn’t have to worry about busses. We had packed the day before so pretty much just got up, dressed, Shu had breakfast, and off we went. Arrived at the hospital and Shu dropped me off to register while he went to park. There were 2 others there for scheduled C-sections also. No one gets appointment, we are just told to show up at 6am and then they choose who goes first. We were told I have a good chance of being first because it’s my 3rd and they want to get the baby out. Lucky me. I followed another couple and we attempted to find where we were supposed to go. We met up with Shu and found the right building, and the right floor. Then came a lot of waiting. Checking in and waiting, some paperwork and waiting. Had to get an IV thing put in and my blood drawn. I was there with Shauli, and we were playing Word Twist and on the computer. Another woman was there with her husband but he kept leaving. And a 3rd was there and she already had so much company! She arrived with one person – maybe her husband, then another lady came (mother?), then a few more people, and then a few more! They were all talking and laughing A LOT. Very busy people. We were finally called – close to 9am and a nice religious doctor – English speaker who we called “Ira” – took us to get an ultrasound and make sure the baby was still breech. We asked if he would be the one doing the surgery but he said he had to do clinic so he probably wouldn’t be back in time. Then back to the room and more waiting. They finally called me and I had to get prepped. I changed into a gown ,went to the bathroom, got the IV put in, and got onto a stretcher. A guy came who maybe was an orderly but seemed more than that. He was Russian and chatted with us for a bit. At one point, he asked how Shu and I met if Shu was Israeli and I was American. That was funny.

So, off we went to the pre-op room. There was another woman on a stretcher in there and then another woman sitting on a chair. Throughout the whole morning, I had been asking Shauli what he thinks is worse. The anticipation of the surgery or the actual surgery. He felt it was the anticipation. I wasn’t sure. At this point, I was getting really nervous but now that we started the process, I just wanted to get it over with. I still hadn’t met the surgeon and had no idea if the people who were going to be dealing with me would speak English. So far- they hadn’t really. But I also almost wished I had a big sign that said “English Speaker”. This way they would know why I am looking at them with a lost expression. I felt weird to preface every conversation with “Do you speak English?”. So there we were…waiting. Again. But I was all set and ready for the surgery.

A woman walked in and stood by my bed and I heard the most wonderful words come out of her mouth. She said “Hi, I’m Sharon. I’m your anesthesiologist.” In perfect English! I cannot explain the sigh of relief that came out of my mouth. And I said something like “Wow, that sounds good. An English speaker. Thank G-d.” Turns out, she is from Louisville and made Aliyah years ago when she decided to do medical school here. She was absolutely phenomenal. I cannot imagine what I would have done if she was not there to help us.

We talked about my previous c-sections and the pain management in each. What I liked and what I didn’t like. She told me straight off the bat that pain management here is lacking. But that she wants to do whatever she can to make the experience as good or better than my experiences in the states. Because Israel is always competing with the States. We discussed a few options for pain management and finally came up with a plan. She would put it in my chart and be available in case I was in any pain. She gave us her cell phone number and said to please call if I am in any pain. Then basically it was a matter of waiting until they were ready for us in the operating room. There was an older nurse there too who kept coming and talking to us. She was really nice too. Shauli got to put on some scrubs, and Sharon took a picture of us. I took one of Shauli too where he looks like a big scary surgeon.

Almost time......

Kayla's Birth Story - Part 1

This whole pregnancy has been pretty crazy. What an experience! That is for sure.
To summarize, it was an easy pregnancy as far as the actual pregnancy was concerned. A bit of nausea in the beginning and some tiredness throughout. But no major complications, aside from one trip to the hospital . That was scary but it turned out to be okay. One of the biggest adjustments was switching to an Israeli OB. I was not impressed. Twice. With 2 different OB’s. I am used to the fantastic doctors at Women’s Health Consultants in Detroit. They were concerned about me, took their time to talk to me, delivered 2 of my babies, and I could call them anytime with any questions. Even once I moved to Israel, I called with a question for Dr. Schoenberger because I didn’t know who to call here!
So the pregnancy was definitely my easiest. My biggest issue was that I didn’t sleep well. I often spent a few hours in bed, then a few on the couch, then back to bed. I was in pain if I stayed in the same position for too long. For a few months, it was my lower back and towards the end, the pain was in my hips. Not so fun. I also got sick a lot. Not badly sick but I kept getting colds, sore throats and they would NOT go away. My immune system had a rough time.
But who had time for a difficult pregnancy? We had to apply for Aliyah, pack up our house and lift, get our house ready to be rented, move to Israel, adjust to life here….and just when we were getting settled in – have a baby!!!! G-d only gives us what we can handle. I could not have handled a difficult pregnancy.
They had scheduled me for another C-section because I had already had 2. Also, the baby was breech. So that made me feel better. I don’t like having C-sections and I always wonder, were they really necessary? So far, yes. And with a breech baby, yes.
We went in to the hospital on January 11th for a meeting with the surgeon and to register, etc. We met with a great surgeon (but who would not necessarily be our surgeon) and he explained the process to us. Then he got out his calendar and said, ok, let’s pick a date. He said, “Since this is your 3rd C-section, we like to deliver between 37-38 weeks. And tomorrow you will be 37 weeks so you can have the baby anytime between tomorrow and next Monday.” I looked at Shauli and said, “What? We are having our baby in a week?!? I thought we would have 2 weeks! If we have it Monday, we will miss Rachael’s wedding and (Shauli’s) Mom won’t be here yet – woah, that’s really soon.” I told the doctor that I know they like to do the surgery early so I don’t go into labor but that’s not really a problem with me. So do I really have to have it so early? He said not only do they not want me to go into labor but they don’t want me to have any contractions. That puts stress on the uterus and could cause uterine rupture. Well, we don’t want that. I wasn’t going to argue. So Monday, January 19th, it is.
The following week was spent anxiously getting ready for Baby Day. Cleaning up a bit, getting caught up with work, etc. I never got to the point of “Nesting” which was sad. Meant my house wasn’t quite as clean or organized as it could have been. But I think we were ready. As ready as we were going to be!! We arranged with Shev that she would come and stay with the boys for that first week. This way, Shu could come and go to the hospital and she could watch the boys. We had a nice day on Sunday. Boys went to school, Shu took Sammy to the ENT, Shev came around 5:00. Shu and I went to a meeting with the Mayor of Ariel. He wanted to meet with the Olim because he wants to bring a lot more North American Olim to Ariel. Then we went to Petach Tikvah and got dinner (Mmm Chinese food) and went to a movie. That seems to be our tradition. A pre-baby movie. We saw Madagascar 2. We had the entire theater to ourselves. It was a cute movie but seemed to be a little too much like The Lion King. But it was nice to spend a few hours of just the 2 of us. That will be it for awhile.
Baby Day!!!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

In Search Of:

I'm looking for copies of the newspaper (English and Hebrew, Detroit or Israeli) from Monday, January 19th.
Please let me know if you have one still around or know how to get one.