The Ride - sort of what I have been calling the past 3 years. We have gone from desperate lows to euphoric highs, then back to rock-bottom. We have experienced every human emotion, and maybe created a few new ones. Many times, the low-high-low came in a period of just a few hours. Was it draining? Absolutely. So many times we faced the absolute worst, only to have the slightest glimmers of hope work their way into reality. I am under no illusion that we did this alone. Oh no, while we were on this ride there were Angels at every turn waiting to catch us and lift us up again.
That first night in 2009, Dr. Chui and his team in the Emergency Department at St. Elizabeth's were our first angels. I watched as they struggled to keep Tracie alive. They were nothing short of heroic. They dug deep and used all of their skills, and then some to save Tracie. No doubt that the fervent prayers of the few who knew what was going on helped. Over a period of about 12 hours St. Elizabeth's had done all they could and arranged a transfer to Tufts Medical Center. A young doctor there was our next angel. She was examining Tracie's feet for a pulse and noticed that one foot was cold. An immediate ultrasound showed a blood clot in the leg. If it wasn't removed, she would lose the leg or the clot would move and cause a stroke. That was on New Year's Eve. Tracie underwent surgery while I waited in her room, watching the reflections of the fireworks in a nearby building from the window.
There were angels abound at Mass. General when I had to take Tracie there when she went into heart failure in the car with me. As I carried her into the ER, doctors and nurses rushed in and took over. They quickly went about stabilizing her. I made frantic phone calls to another angel, my mom. She and my sisters went to our home and collected the kids and brought them to her house. They cared for the kids so many times over the years. Without Mom, Julie, Karen and Debi, I don't know where we would be.
In the Cardiac Care Unit at Mass. General, we met the angel who would carry us through the next few years, Dr. Moore. Of everyone who had a hand in helping us, she is the absolute reason that Tracie lived long enough to receive her transplant. She refused to allow Tracie quit -not that Tracie ever had thoughts of quitting. Dr. Moore worked with Tracie and brought her along. She took the time to explain things, and would sometimes just stop in to talk with Tracie. In 2011 when Tracie's LVAD surgery was going bad, she took me to the chapel at MGH and prayed with me. She is a first class Angel. I have no doubt that without Dr. Moore, our lives would be much different.
Boston EMS, the mobile angels - I can't say enough about them. Every time they came to the house they were professional and efficient. Nine times they took Tracie to MGH and nine times they got her there alive. There were one or two close calls, including the last trip in December of 2011. They had to stop along the way to intubate her, but they got her there. I always felt that once Boston EMS had Tracie on board an ambulance, she would be OK. We had that much faith in them.
Our kids achieved angel status right away. They pitched right in to help out and became more independent. They did all that I asked and more. Eric, Tommy and Jessica each had a turn to call 911 for Tracie. I held drills (when Tracie wasn't around) on what they should do if Mom went into heart failure. They were flawless. They had the medication list ready for EMS and made sure the doors were unlocked and the hallways were clear before the ambulance arrived. The did a great job of isolating Katie from the goings on. Nearly every EMT or Paramedic remarked that they were surprised when the kids, often through their tears, said "Thank You" as they hustled Tracie into the truck.
Friends, Mike and Gail nudged me in the direction of accepting help. I wouldn't have ever asked, but they did a good job of getting me to agree. Frank and Tracy went above and beyond friendship, they were there for the good, the bad, and the in-between, helping us all the way. Sam bailed us out twice, organizing fund raisers and getting people to chip in. My fellow representatives in the BPPA were amazing. They twice made huge sacrifices for us. Everyone at work was great, offiering support throughout the ride.
It seemed that at each uncertain moment during this ride, a new angel appeared. As we would bottom out, someone was there to lift us. Reconnecting with Deborah was a godsend. She appeared at a time when I needed someone with her skills and compassion. Things happen for a reason. Greg, David and Deb, David and Lynn, Larry, and AJ were a phone call away. I don't have any brothers, but these guys come pretty damn close. There's nothing I wouldn't do for them (within reason). Marty convinced me to get out hiking a few times. He just set a date and time, and off we went. After each trip I realized it was just what I needed. His insight is pretty cool!
Family and friends - angels all. I'm hesitant to start naming them for fear I would leave someone out. You can't image what each text, e-mail, Facebook message, phone call or card meant to us. The world is cold, mean place, but each of you make it warmer, kinder place. It is our privilege, our honor, to know each of you. You got us through this. You pulled us along. You were on the ride with us and got us to the end. Thank you isn't enough, but it's all we can say. Repeatedly, and forever.
There was one more angel, the one we don't know. The one who made it all come together. The one, who along with their grieving family made one final, unselfish gesture. They gave themself, they gave their loved one, to us. They don't know us, and we don't know them. We will think of our donor and their family every day. Each day we will thank them for this wonderful gift of life. Because of them, because of their loss, we will go on. Once again, thank you is a feeble phrase to offer after receiving such a gift, but we'll say it anyway. thank you. We will show our gratitude by living, and by enjoying each day for the gift that it is.
The ride is over. It went up, down, around, over, under, through light and dark, twisting and turning. There were turns we never thought we could get through, but we did. Never alone, always with an Angel.
To donate to the AHA Boston Heart Walk, click this link. Thank you!