Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Nine months.

November 26, 2013

Ten months ago today, Gery had his seizure. Nine months ago on Thursday, he died. Thursday is Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday. It means so much to me because (long story short) my mother and two of my brothers (she was pregnant with the youngest) and I ran away from my father in Georgia and arrived in Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving Day. We were met by my favorite aunt and came to live with my grandmother. I had no idea then how very dangerous our lives had become or how dangerous the running away was, but I did understand three days on a bus, followed by baths and clean clothes and a lot of food.

It mattered to me to have my family together on Thanksgiving. Gery and I hosted Thanksgiving dinner for the past 8 years. This year, we're not. Obviously. One of my brothers can't come. Two of them will be there. "There," though, is not my house. We're going to my inlaws' for dinner.

This is no longer my favorite holiday. I don't know that I have a favorite anything anymore. Everywhere I go, I feel like I'm on the outside. I'm an extra. An odd number at the table. I drive myself and I leave alone. Nobody holds my hand, except Sarah, and even that is fading because she is a very big girl.

I don't want to be a burden. I don't want to be an outsider or an odd number. I'd rather skip it all. I'm not handling this well and I am irritating even myself because I can't snap out of it. I can't fix it. I feel like I'm whining constantly. Who wants to hear how sad and lonely I am when they're in love? Pregnant? Shiny new baby? Happy family of four on a beautiful snow covered Christmas card? I'm none of those things and I'm bitter.

The things I wanted and dreamed about and planned will never happen. I'm grieving the loss of my own life as much as I'm grieving the loss of Gery's. People tell me they think I'm strong, that I've handled this with grace. Maybe I have. Maybe the reality is that I haven't handled anything and here I am facing what I've ignored, which is that I am alone. It is extremely tempting to isolate myself further because I cannot believe that anyone would want to be around me right now.

I wish I could end this on some happy note, saying that I've realized something profound. I haven't. I'm depressed and sad and lonely and I'm struggling just to get up every morning. To provide any kind of life for Sarah. To connect to my family and friends when I want to close everyone out. I have hope that one day, if I keep trying, that I will feel like I'm in sync with this world again. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Stop this Merry-go-Round! (I’m ready to get off.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

It was very strange, getting up in the morning after the sun was up. Gery always left for work before me, but because neither of us were going anywhere, we slept in. I took Sarah to daycare so I could make phone calls, but I had to make Gery ride along with me because leaving him alone was just too much to handle. Even for the half hour it would take, I couldn’t have managed to leave him unsupervised after seeing him have those seizures. We went in, I tried to briefly explain things to the director, but she had questions and Gery had a lot to say. 

I called the neurosurgeon to make an appointment. I was transferred to the physician’s assistant who would come to handle absolutely everything for me from Gery’s disability paperwork to my FMLA paperwork to labs and prescriptions and coordination of his many, many evaluations and appointments. She asked me to keep the phone by me so she could get back to me with an appointment time. I assumed it would be a week or so, since Gery was going to be seeing a big cheese. Wrong. The appointment was scheduled for the next day. 

I texted Gery’s parents and sisters to let them know, and his mom said she would come along. I was grateful. My ability to understand all this was limited (though I asked a lot of questions, did a lot of research, and came to know much more than I ever thought possible), and she both knew the right questions and was another set of ears to remember information. 

**Gery was not a reliable historian of the things that had happened that brought us here, and he was still unable to move information from short to long term memory. He was often confused and frustrated, and relied a lot on me and the people he was with to answer simple questions. I came to the point where I would not send him out with anyone who couldn’t keep him from getting agitated. Immediate family and extremely close friends, yes. People who could remember that he liked a steak burrito with hot salsa and no beans at Chipotle, and not ask him what he wanted. It sounds so silly and simple now. Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

I know I called my office and his and spent a lot of time setting up availability for us both to be off, but I don’t remember the details of the conversations. I know I talked to friends from college, to extended family members, and that when I went to talk to him about it, he was asleep. He started napping all the time. He had apparently been falling asleep every day after work – he would pick Sarah up, come home, and fall asleep. She didn’t tell me until after he was gone. Not that it would have made a difference for him; I wish I’d known that she was pretty much unsupervised for an hour every afternoon. 

I woke him, made him ride along to pick Sarah up, and we came home and I made dinner. A normal end to an extremely abnormal day. The next day was even stranger.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The smallest things hit the hardest

This weekend, Sarah and I went to a birthday party for a one year old. The one year old's dad is one of Gery's friends from school - probably elementary school, honestly - and they were sweet enough to invite us. As I watched this guy be an awesome dad, and watched another one of Gery's oldest friends be an awesome dad to his two year old, I thought that Sarah got cheated. Gery got cheated. These friends got cheated. They all should have been awesome dads together, doing regular things with their kids, grilling at birthday parties and having a beer together. And then I had to leave the party before I cried in front of people.
Today I took Sarah to Kindergarten orientation. I took her to daycare, went to work for a few hours, and went back and picked her up to go over to the school. I planned to go back to work. That didn't happen.

She is more than ready academically. She's more than ready socially, with one exception - the obvious. Sometimes she cries when she separates from me. That never happened before Gery died, and I'm pretty sure it's a direct correlation. She did not cry today. In fact, when her teacher called her name, she jumped up and ran to the front of the room and got in line with her classmates, and walked out to go to her classroom without a second look at me. I'm proud. It seems like THAT should be a moment that makes me tear up, but really, that's what I want for her. The ability to go forward into a sort of unknown situation and be cheerful about it.

All of orientation was fine. I met her teacher afterward, introduced myself, said that Sarah was very excited for school and that I needed her to know that Sarah's dad had died several months ago. That Sarah has bad days, and on those days, if she asks for me, I'd appreciate a call or an email letting me know. All fine. I didn't cry, my voice didn't crack, I didn't even feel that sick feeling that comes sometimes.

But then as we were getting in the car, Sarah said her stomach hurt. Terribly. Awfully. So bad that she thought I should probably call work and ask to stay home all afternoon, and that I should probably take her to lunch to make it feel better. Then, she very quietly asked me to take her to her Daddy's grave. She needed to talk to him. So I took her to lunch, and then we went to his grave. She hopped out of the car and said, "Daddy, I went to your school today. My teacher knew you when you were kids together. She said you were funny. I miss you and love you!" and she hopped back in the car.

On the way home, she asked me why all the other graves have stones and why Daddy's grass is so green. I explained that his grass is green because it's newer than the other grass, and that I haven't gotten his stone yet because I don't know what to do about it. She wanted to know what goes on the stone, and I said, "His name, the day he was born, and the day he died," so then she wanted to know what day he died. Then she asked what time. And then she wanted to know how I knew what time it was, and I said, "Because I was there with him, baby. Grandma and I held his hands, and Aunt Megan and Grandpap were there too." Her last question is the one that did me in. Usually I can get through and cry later, but this one finished me off. "Did you want to be there?" and I said, "There's nowhere else I could have been."

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Post-ictal family dinner

Sunday, January 27, 2013

***Post-ictal is a word I learned from the paramedics who assessed and transported Gery to the hospital.  It means the period immediately following a seizure in which the brain is still recovering.  I'm using a little poetic license because it's usually not more than an hour unless the seizure was very large (and Gery had a series of large seizures).  

Family dinner was and is a staple of our lives - every Sunday, we have dinner together.  We talk about the things that happened that week, we have inside jokes, we catch up on each others' lives, we have wine, we eat off of each others' plates, we yell, we argue, we love each other and I can't quite capture the essence of it other than to say it can be the best and worst part of my week.  Nobody holds you accountable like the people who love and know you best.  

We walked into Gery's parents' house together like we'd done so many times before.  Sarah exploded through the door because she had a lot to say to her grandparents, her aunts, and her cousins.  She had gone sled riding on a big hill, ridden in the back of a pickup truck, slept in a sleeping bag... her weekend had been amazing.

I knew there would be meatloaf.  It was Gery's favorite.  Mine is okay, but nothing compares to his mom's.  I haven't eaten meatloaf since he died.  He seemed a little confused and kind of awkward, like he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do or say.  I was relieved, honestly.  I had gotten him to his mom, a nurse with a lot of experience and education, and I had done it without further incident.  For a couple hours, I was not in charge.  I did have some of the answers, though, even though we all had many more questions than answers. All I really knew was that I would call the neurosurgeon on Monday, and that I wasn't going to work because I didn't know what to do with Gery.  He couldn't be alone, and he couldn't drive, and he was still easily confused and very quickly tired - so I was off work to make a plan.

I wish I could give details of the conversation, or of the questions, or of Gery's reactions, but the whole thing is a blur to me.  I was so physically and emotionally exhausted (though I had no idea that I was at the very beginning of what I would end up being able to handle and stand up to) that I just checked out and let someone else pay attention and take care of him until it was time to go home.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

The long drive home

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Once the decision had been made that Gery needed to come to Pittsburgh (again, something we were both happy about because we got to go home), they moved pretty quickly in releasing him from the hospital, giving me prescriptions to fill and phone numbers to call, and sending us on our way.

The friends who had picked Sarah up from me right after Gery seized came and visited, brought us breakfast and me some sinfully delicious sweet coffee concoction that did a lot to perk me up and restore my sense of balance ("When in doubt, have dessert," is a pretty good description of my life's philosophy), and made me promise to keep them updated.  My brothers brought Sarah to the outside of the hospital with perfect timing to keep her from seeing her daddy in the hospital, because at that point I was still concerned with her not knowing too much.  And we hit the road for a drive I made every other weekend for 3 years, then monthly for the next 5 years, and only recently was able to do again.  Erie to Eighty Four.  We were going directly to Gery's parents' house so that they could see and touch him and know he was okay, and so we could talk about the plans from here.  I knew that of all the things that would come next, I could not do any of it on my own, and that I didn't have to.

But I cried after Gery and Sarah fell asleep.  I cried from Edinboro to the split (and only those of us who have made this drive know what I mean - it's about an hour and a half).  Big silent tears rolling down my face as I thought about the possible outcomes.  None of them were good.  While the neurosurgeon in Erie had said the tumor was "on" Gery's brain and led Gery to believe it was between his dura mater and his skull, I had googled "hemangipericytoma" and the name of the neurosurgeon he'd been referred to. The neurosurgeon was the chief of neuro for all of UPMC, and the tumor was rare and not much was known about it.  And it was in the center of his brain according to the MRI images we'd been shown, not between his skull and dura mater.  But we were in the car, heading home. 

Later I would know that his anti-seizure medication levels were subclinical, meaning he could have had another seizure at any time.  Later I would understand that I had been given just enough information that if he were to have another emergency, I would be able to make the first responders understand that he was medically fragile.  Later I would be angry that I had been put in the position of being responsible for things I didn't understand yet.  But at that moment, I was just sad and scared, and determined that I would do whatever he needed me to do.  I would be whomever he needed me to be. 

And then he woke up and he wanted to know how much longer.  What?  How could he not know this?  He went to college in Erie and he made the drive just as often as I had, and since my family was there and his was in Eighty Four, we'd made this drive together many, many times.  How could he not know we were just 45 minutes from his parents' house?  He was the one who knew every sign and landmark in every place he'd ever been.  He was the one with the map of the world in his head.  I need GPS, but Gery knew every place and how to get home from there. 

I said, "45 minutes," and he went back to sleep, and he didn't wake up until we were on his parents' road. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Five months

Sunday, July 28, 2013

In five months, you can be halfway done gestating a baby.  It's almost two seasons long.  It's not quite anything, five months.  And yet, five months feels like five minutes and five years at the same time. 

Gery died five months ago today.  I didn't do anything to commemorate it.  I hate going to his grave.  That hole in the ground has nothing to do with who he was and everything to do with what isn't possible anymore and I hate it there.  I don't go to church anymore.  I went to Easter Mass and sat there and sobbed the entire time because all I could see was Gery's casket in the front of the church and all I could feel was how I'd had to be held up by Gery's dad, my brothers, the firemen, and Gery's fraternity brothers.  At every moment, I had to be held up.  And instead of remembering that we were married there, that we were in his sister's wedding together while I was pregnant with Sarah there, that Sarah was baptized there, that both our niece and nephew were baptized there... all I feel is the crushing sadness of a life we no longer share.  Not the joy of new beginnings but the pain of an early ending.  It's not sharp anymore.  It's just a piece of me.  It's dulled and so have I. 

I cleaned his things out of the closet and put them in the basement.  Not today, that would have been too much.  But I did it because I needed the space for the shopping spree I've been on for the past five months.  Four, really.  I was numb and paralyzed for all of March.  Sarah's wardrobe is similarly expanded.  It's a rebellion, really.  Gery was the most frugal person I've ever known.  His friends used to call him "tighter than two coats of paint."  And I have so many new clothes, new furniture, new paint in the living room and plans to paint everywhere else, new, new, new.  Anything I have that's a memory does not get worn anymore.  A black dress that I loved and wore constantly?  I wore it to a wedding and there's a picture of us.  I wore it to a Christmas party and I'm wearing it in our last family picture.  And I wore it to his funeral.  I will never wear it again, but it hangs there.  It's a symbol.  One day I'll be able to put it away or give it away and I'll know on that day that I am normal.

On a daily basis, I'm fine.  I know I'm fine because I get up every day, I get Sarah up, I get us both ready to face the world, and I show the world what it wants to see.  It wants to see that a 31 year old widow isn't going to shut down and hide and so I don't.  I don't take the medications that I have so readily available to me.  I don't want to do that because I understand complicated grief and I know that my grief is not complicated.  We didn't have "unfinished business," unless you count the next 50 years that we should have shared.  I said everything I needed to say to him and the last thing I know for sure he heard from me is, "I love you," because I was sitting there talking to him when he came out of the first surgery and he was conscious and coherent (which is a story for another day). I don't need counseling. This is how it's supposed to be for someone like me.  It will get better because it has to. 

In a lot of ways, it's already better.  I'm no longer paralyzed.  I don't cry very much, and when I do, it's not for hours.  I have continued to spend a lot of time with his family and I'm spending more time with mine.  I'm lucky enough to have friends who knew and loved him and want to stay in touch with me. I'm also lucky enough to have friends who did not know him, were indifferent to him, and love me for who I was before and who I am now and it's not painful for them to see me be different than I was then.  I know when it hurts people to see me and I try not to do that to them. 

And so.  Five months.  It's not that long, but it's forever. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The day everything started to change, part 3

You may want to read part 1 and part 2 first.

Saturday, January 26, 2013, continued

Gery was admitted to UPMC Hamot in Erie and moved to a regular room.  At this point, he seemed pretty normal, except that he kept asking me the same questions over and over again.  He wanted to know which hospital we were in, and why we were in Erie.  Where Sarah was and who she was with.  He wanted to know what happened, and when I told him, he wanted to know if the car was fine. He wanted to know if I'd called his parents, and if I'd canceled the hotel room and dinner reservations.  Then he'd watch tv for a little bit, and start the cycle of questions over again. 

A neurosurgeon came in and pretty excitedly explained that Gery had "a mass" on his brain.  He specifically said "on," and not "in," and I didn't realize then that I was being snowed in order to get us out of Erie and back to Pittsburgh.  He showed us digital MRI images and said that with contrast, the mass "lit up like a Christmas tree," and that preliminarily, he thought it was either a meningioma (most likely benign) or a hemangipericytoma (most likely malignant).  He gave me a name and number for a neurosurgeon at UPMC Presby to call on Monday.  He talked about Gery's tumor being "interesting" and maybe that there could be research about it since it was pretty rare, especially in a 34 year old man. 

A neurologist came in and talked about Gery's seizure history (febrile seizures as a toddler and nothing until now) and about the medication he would be taking.  They put me in charge, basically.  I felt pretty confident that I had everything under control.  When they said I'd be driving him home on Sunday, I thought that things could not be that bad.  If it were terrible, they'd put him in an ambulance, right?  Not send him in the car with me with a referral to make a phone call.

Through all of this, Gery was making inappropriate jokes and comments.  He told a nurse in the ER that she had "nice tits, but her roots needed done," which was true but out of character for him.  He told me that I looked like hell and I should go wash my face and fix my makeup (thanks, honey!).  In retrospect, he'd been heading this way for a few years and it wasn't until this day that it became obvious that he wasn't just being a jackass.  My socially awkward, nerdy, pinball machine and train set loving, electrical engineer of a husband had become the kind of guy that makes everyone cringe because he's so far over the line. 

I took a picture of the MRI image and sent it to Gery's mom.  I wanted her to see it so that she could tell me everything was going to be okay.  She did not tell me that.  She said she loved us and keep her updated. 

Several friends stopped by the hospital to take care of me, and I will be FOREVER grateful.  I forgot to eat, to drink, to do anything but try to get the information from the doctors and send it to Gery's mom to be my backup memory, and keep Gery from being agitated.  My brothers still had Sarah, and people brought me dinner, brought me coffee, brought me snacks and magazines, and made sure that I paid a little attention to keeping myself under control.  You guys are the best. 

About 4am, it all hit me.  I was pretty sure he was asleep, and I was in the chair next to his bed, and I just absolutely lost it.  We were in Erie, two and a half hours from home, on a last-ditch effort family vacation to save our marriage and our family, and I just knew he was going to die young.  That I had chosen the very best dad for my very special little girl, and she wasn't going to have him dance with her at her wedding.  That we were never going to get the chance to fix what was wrong with us because even if he lived, I would be his caretaker.  I was absolutely terrified and shaking and sobbing, and he said, "Hey, come here. Don't cry like that."  I reached over and held his hand, and he asked me to get in bed with him.  I didn't want to because of all of the lines and monitors, but somehow we made it work, and I cried myself to sleep in bed with him. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I am ready to start writing again. I think.

The last time I wrote anything for this, I was going in to see Gery, and he was conscious.  He was very sick, but conscious, and he knew who I was and who his parents were.

Four days after I wrote that, he died. 

I'm going to try to save all of my memories of that time for Sarah.  For myself, too, but for her.  She turned five years old one month ago, and if I don't keep Gery alive for her, she won't have clear memories of him.  But if I do, she'll have memories and she won't know what is her memory and what I told her or showed her through pictures and videos of the life we used to have. 

The brief update on me is that some days are great, some days are terrible, and most days are somewhere in between.  Sarah talks about him almost constantly.  So does my niece (at least with me), who is 8 months younger than Sarah is.  She was called Tuna Roll back when everyone had code names on here, but I haven't talked to her parents about putting her real name out on the internet, so she will remain Tuna Roll for now.  We miss him.  I miss him.  There are so many things that he did, that he knew, that he made happen for us - just his existence made our lives whole and we're not whole right now.  I don't know if I ever will be again.  I don't mean to make it sound like I live a bleak, sad existence.  I do not; I have family and friends who fill my days and my heart with joy.  I just used to have a husband who was my partner in all things and now I don't. 

So... the memories.  The short story is that Gery had pulmonary emboli (embolisms? there were multiple and the spell-check doesn't like emboli) and then he got pneumonia.  His heart failed.  They did a lot of things to try to save him, but it didn't work, and in the very end I asked them to make him comfort measures only, which is fancy hospital language for "PLEASE LEAVE HIM ALONE," which was what I had wanted to scream for days.  As much as I wanted him to get better, there was no Gery left by the time I said that.  He had had two brain surgeries,had a hemorrhagic stroke, had a piece of his skull removed to allow his brain to swell, had a surgery to place a filter in a vein to try to stop further pulmonary emboli from forming, his heart had stopped five times, and his brain had been assaulted and deprived of oxygen so much, so often, and for so long that he was never going to be anything he wanted to be. 

The only instructions that he had given me, and I had to push so hard to get just these, was that he wanted to live.  If he couldn't be himself, he did not want to be fed and watered and turned to the sun.  So when that was all that was left, I had to tell them to leave him alone.  I thought it would be hard.  But I knew when it was time for me to be the person I'd promised to be for him - all of that better or worse, sickness and health stuff.  I stood by him (literally and figuratively) until the very end.  I held his hand.  I kissed him.  If there's a way that people who are in that situation can possibly know how much they are loved, he knew. 

And with that, I've said enough for one night.  I'll be back because it's good for me to write and it's good for me to preserve this, painful though it is. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The day everything started to change, part 2

You may want to read part 1 first.

Today's update: Gery is having trouble maintaining his blood pressure and respiratory rate.  He has pulmonary embolisms and is on blood thinners, which carries a risk of more bleeding in his brain, but his lungs need to be functional to make his brain functional.  Gery is DEFINITELY more awake and aware, and he has the capacity to move his right side.  Yesterday, when I walked around to his right hand, it was laying on the pillow, clenched in a fist with only his middle finger extended.  He is unhappy, and while I don't want him unhappy, I am so glad to see that my stubborn fighter of a husband is there.  He calms down when I sit with him, and I'm just waiting to be allowed back in now - the nurses usually ask me to leave for shift change.

Saturday, January 26, 2013, continued

As the ambulance arrived, so did our friends who were picking Sarah up, so I took her over to their car with her car seat and coat, and wished my friends luck.  As it turned out, Sarah was totally happy and fine with them until my brothers got to the Children's Museum to be with them, and once they were there, she had a blast.

Gery, on the other hand, was agitated and frustrated and starting to become a little defiant to the paramedics.  Since he was conscious and capable of moving, they wanted him to stand up out of the car.  He seemed to think he was being pulled over, and kept saying, "I already gave it to you," and "I'm not getting out for any f***ing Australians."  I finally said to him, "You're not in trouble, they just need to see what's underneath you," and he stood up.  I've never seen two men move so quickly - they had Gery on the stretcher and restrained in seconds.  I know it was for his own protection, in case he had another seizure or were to become physically aggressive. 

The ambulance then sat there for about 15 minutes.  During that time, an emergency response truck from the ambulance service came, too, driven by my brother's boss.  My brother is an EMT in Erie, though he wasn't working that day.  My brother's boss explained that even though we were a few blocks from the hospital, they were giving Gery some Ativan and assessing his mental state.  Later I was told that he gave the correct latitude and longitude for Erie in response to the wrong question (he didn't answer "Do you know where you are?" with that).  He says he doesn't know the latitude and longitude for Erie. 

Finally, the ambulance moved and when I started following it, I thought the car was shaking really badly.  I was sure I needed a tire and an alignment.  The car turned out to be fine and I was the one shaking.  When I arrived at the hospital, of course, I couldn't just go in with Gery.  I had to do his registration paperwork and wait for him to be settled into a room.  My brother (the EMT) arrived at the hospital to be with me at about the same time my other two brothers were arriving at the Children's Museum to be with Sarah, and while I was waiting to be let in to Gery's room, I called his parents' house to let them know. 

At this point, I was certain that he had diabetes and had a seizure related to blood sugar.  He's a big guy, diabetes runs in his family, and he had been irritable and complaining of short term headaches that were intense and didn't respond to anything but went away in seconds to minutes.  Diabetes totally made sense.  But my first question to the ER doctor was, "What's his blood sugar?" and when she told me, it wasn't high or low enough to have caused a seizure.  I said that, and she said, "That's why he's going to CT next."  (This is a trend that has continued.  I am always a step or two ahead, mentally, than the doctors are telling me to be.  Gery's neurosurgeon laughs at me a little bit but humors me, and I appreciate it.)

After Gery's CT, the ER doctor came in and said that there was something "interesting" (a word I have come to hate) on the films and that neurosurgery and neurology would be in to talk to us, but he would be admitted to the hospital for the night and we would be "sent to Pittsburgh," which made me laugh and say, "I do want to go home, so that's good!"

Gery remembers none of this.  He remembers the odd smell and then he was in the regular room at the hospital.  Nothing of the ambulance or ER, and most of the hospital is fuzzy and vague for him. 

TO BE CONTINUED (again)... I get to go in with Gery now!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The day when everything started to change

I know I haven't blogged in a few years, but it's time to re-activate.  Life is dramatically different than it was even just a month ago, and certainly different than the last time I wrote.

My baby Llama is not a baby anymore - she'll be five years old in six weeks.  Her real name is Sarah.

My sweet husband, Bucket, is in ICU after surgery to resect a brain tumor and complications.  His real name is Gery.  And I'm going to tell the story here, because as much as I love texting (and I do love texting!) I am spending more time texting than time with him or with Sarah.  Time is the one thing I have never had enough of and now it's even more precious than ever before.

I'll start at the beginning, tell chunks of it as I have time, and update daily or close to daily.  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gery and I took Sarah to gymnastics and got in the car (my new car - the first I'd ever bought for myself with financing) for a quick weekend trip to Erie.  The Thursday before, we'd decided to go up, visit the Children's Museum with friends, take my brothers to dinner, stay at a new hotel with a lake view, and I would go out to the bars for a few hours with my high school and college friends while Gery and Sarah swam around in the fancy hotel pool and bounced on the fancy hotel beds.  What can I say?  We're easily pleased.

We got close to Erie and stopped for lunch at McDonald's.  We bribed Sarah to finish her chicken nuggets with the promise of getting to play with her friend Claire-Bear at the Children's Museum in a few minutes.  Everything seemed okay, even in retrospect.

As we were getting off the Bayfront Highway onto State Street, I gave Sarah a piece of gum and offered Gery one.  He said, "No, that smells like... disgusting.  Like solvents and... garbage!" and put down the window to try and get the smell out of the car.  I thought he was being ridiculous.  Gum?  Seriously?  It's the same gum I always have in my purse.

I don't know why, but a few seconds later, I asked him if he felt okay.  If he wanted to pull over and let me drive.  He didn't answer me.  As we passed UPMC Hamot, I asked him if he needed to go to the emergency room.  He didn't answer me.  I didn't think his not answering was that strange, because Gery just does not answer questions that he thinks don't deserve answers.  He passed some parking spots right in front of the Children's Museum, and I got a little snippy and asked him why.  He didn't answer that.  He turned right and came to a red light and stopped.  We were the first car at the light.

The light didn't change.  Gery jammed on the gas, completely floored it, and I looked at him angrily, about to yell at him for screwing around.  He was having a seizure.  I grabbed the wheel as I realized we were rocketing through a busy (for downtown Erie) intersection against the light, against traffic, and toward pedestrians and buildings.  I don't recall saying anything, but when Sarah re-enacted it at school, she had the passenger saying, "You need to give me the wheel.  You are having a seizure.  You're okay.  You need to give me the wheel," very calmly over and over.  I was absolutely panicked.  I thought we were going to die, all three of us, in a terrible car accident in Erie.

I remembered, somehow, that Gery had told me several times that if I turned the key off, I would lose what little control I had of the car, so shift it in to neutral and try to steer.  That's what I did.  The engine was still racing because his foot was still jammed on the gas pedal, but it wasn't making the car go faster.  As the car slowed, I steered it into a pile of snow (thanks, Erie, for not plowing side streets!) and it stopped.  I put it in park as Gery stopped seizing.  But he didn't start breathing.  I got out of the car and went around to the driver's side to put the seat back and do CPR.  My car is too nice and has electric seats, so it took forever to get the seat to recline.  He started having a second seizure, and I thought, "Well, you can't seize if you're dead," and took Gery's phone out of his pocket to call 911.

I gave the dispatcher the wrong street.  Forgive me, I haven't lived in Erie for 10 years.  Gery stopped seizing and started puking yellow foam on himself.  I got off the phone with 911 and looked in to reassure Sarah that everything would be okay.  Gery started seizing again.  I heard the ambulance one block up and called back to 911 to report that I was one block north, but I could not remember the street names.  (I was on Fifth Street, so that shouldn't have been difficult for me).

In the middle of all this, my friends texted me to say they were running late and would be at the Children's Museum in a few minutes and I called back to say we would not make it at all.  They came and picked Sarah up, took her with them, and between them and my brothers, Sarah still had a sweet little vacation weekend.  She did not come to the hospital except to leave with us on Sunday morning, and she never came inside. 

When Gery stopped seizing for the third time, his eyes came to the front.  He looked at me and I said, "You had a seizure.  Don't even worry about it, you're going to be fine," and he took my hand and kissed it, then said a bunch of sounds that were not words.  He clearly thought he said something, though, so rather than upset him further, I said, "I know."  The ambulance arrived.

TO BE CONTINUED... Sarah's up and getting in the bathtub.