Happy Belated New Year!

23 Jan

Wow, it has been two and a half months since my last post!  I’ve officially dropped the ball.  But I’m back on track and will start updating more often.  (yeah, yeah, I know – my promises usually fail in the follow-through department, but seriously, I’m going to make a concerted effort)

So what has kept me away for so long?  Let’s do a quick run-down of my past couple months:

  • Doom and Despair. Early November Chuck’s dad experienced health complications which kept him in the hospital for a month. (More about that later)
  • Welcome baby Benjamin Peter Caro!  Born in the same hospital where Chuck’s dad was admitted, at the same time Chuck’s dad was in, so we were all able to amble over to the labor and delivery unit and snuggle him and give our ohhhs, and ahhhs.
  • Happy Birthday Gus!  Our eldest child turned 15 (I’m referring to our two fluffy Pomeranian children), which in dog years is approximately 89 years old.  We love him and cuddle him every day and spoil him at every opportunity.  He’s a lucky dog, but we are so much luckier to have him in our lives and we never forget it.
  • Happy Birthday me! I turned 28…my ovaries haven’t dried up completely, but I can feel them withering and I know it won’t be long until I’m a barren spinster…Chuck and I are going to work on that.
  • Happy Birthday Matt!  My brother-in-law turned 19…so weird – he was a chubby little 13 year old when Chuck and I started dating and now he’s a college student who stands over us all at a muscular 6+ feet…insane! (but he’ll always be the “little” brother)
  • Surprise! My sister-in-law got engaged on Christmas Eve – in front of the WHOLE FAMILY (cousins, aunts, uncles, soon-to-be relatives, EVERYONE – very brave move on our soon-to-be-brother-in-law’s part)…which is wonderful and terrifying at the same time – wonderful because she’s quite smitten with her fiance and had been hoping and praying for a ring for a while now and terrifying because she wants me to be in the wedding…another reason to reacquaint myself with my elliptical machine during 2009.
  • Merry Christmas!  We actually got our shopping and wrapping done early and enjoyed a wonderful holiday! Everyone was happy (even my poorly sick little niece and nephew – who smiled and laughed through the snot, the crud, the coughing and hacking – and gave us all their colds to enjoy for the new year – yay!)
  • Happy Birthday Jonathan Adam Ault! My baby nephew turned 2!  We were able to spend his birthday with him and he had a lovely time with all his new toys, books, movies, and clothes.  Happy Birthday Little Man!
  • Happy New Year!  2009?  Really?  Weren’t we all just crowded around our TV’s and computers waiting for the Y2K end of the world event?  Wow. 2009.
  • Back to work after a fantastic 10-day vacation.  Thank GOD we work in education!  Glad to have the vacation but also happy to go back to work in the most amazing school with the most amazing coworkers (no, seriously…we work in the most amazing school ever).
  • Happy Birthday Chuck! Now you’re as ancient as me!  Hurray!  We’re getting old!  Ouch.  But Hurray!
  • Happy Birthday Rachel Natalie Elaine Ault!  My sweet, sweet niece turned 1!  She is what made this last year bearable for all of us.  We thank God for her every day.  Beautiful girl with her daddy’s beautiful eyes.
  • THANK GOD IN HEAVEN!  We have a new President!  One whom I support fully and for whom I have high hopes and reasonable expectations.  Let this be the beginning of many positive changes for our blessed country.
  • Congratulations!  I found out that two of my very closest friends are pregnant with their first babies and my boss (who is so awesomely cool and I will miss dearly when I leave TJ for student teaching in the Fall) has confirmed that in May she’ll be having a little girl and she’s even picked the sweetest name – “Olivia Suzanne”.  This means over the coming months I will be super busy making all sorts of adorable baby things – stuffed animals, booties, quilts, afghans…I’ll be sharing all of my creations with you here.  I’m so excited!

So, that brings us up to speed.

The one thing that has influenced my absence from the blogosphere the most was my father-in-law’s medical setback.  In early November he went into the hospital with severe gastrointestinal bleeding (he suffers from diverticulitis, which can cause GI bleeding, so it’s happened before and wasn’t totally a surprise).  But because he lost so much blood and then refused a transplant, his ticker had to work overtime to keep what tiny bit of blood he had left pumping through his body.  Eventually his overworked heart gave out and he was hospitalized again.  This is when our cardiovascular education began.  We learned more acronyms and medical terminology than we ever wanted to know.  He experienced a PE (pulmonary embolism – or blood clot in his lung) and two separate instances of MI (Myocardial Infarction – or basically a heart attack).  The second MI lasted for over a day (did you know a heart attack can last and last?  We know now).  The severe heart attack left his left ventricle useless – by the time they gave him a cardiac catheterization, the majority of the muscle in the left part of his heart had already died, so no bypass or surgery could revive that dead tissue.  This left us with two options – immediate heart transplant or implant a device to take over the functions of his left ventricle.  Since heart transplants can’t just be ordered up by the cardiac surgeon, my father-in-law had to have an LVAD implanted (Left Ventricular Assist Device).

heartmate-ii

This little machine lives in his body and is attached to his heart in two places (to the aorta and the left ventricle – it helps pump oxygenated blood back out to the body).  The surgery was necessary, but quite serious.  He had to stay in the hospital another three weeks for recovery.  Now he has a tube that comes out of his body that connects to a controller, which in turn connects to either a power base unit plugged into the wall or a set of batteries which he wears in a harness around his shoulders (imagine a gun holster you see cops wear on TV).

Here's what the LVAD looks like on a computerized model - it basically looks like this in real life.  Except Chuck's dad isn't quite as see-through.

Here's what the LVAD looks like on a computerized model - it basically looks like this in real life. Except Chuck's dad isn't quite as see-through.

We have to change the dressing around the tube every day and keep it clean and dry to prevent infection and he has to take a myriad of pills every day.  He already had diabetes before the surgery, but the surgery made it much worse, so now he is insulin dependent and has to monitor his glucose levels closely.

He was briefly re-hospitalized because his glucose levels got up to 578 and were still climbing (which is incredibly dangerous – can even cause coma or death)…  The doctors never discovered what caused the spike in his blood sugar and eventually let him come back home, but it was quite scary.

We have had multiple scares during this time – constant worry about his health and if we’re doing the right things and taking care of him properly. It’s been stressful for us all – when he was in the hospital we prepared for the worst, upon his return home we had to adjust to a new lifestyle and medical care, and now we have to constantly battle with him to get him to be compliant with his doctors’ orders – which means lots of shouting at the dela Cuesta house (because that’s how dela Cuestas do business, I’ve learned.).  I’ve, ashamedly, even been in on the shouting.  He is currently on a heart transplant waiting list and he his listed as 1B, which is one step down from the highest level of need (1A).  They’ve told us it will probably take a year for him to get a compatible heart.  In this time he’s basically puttering around at home, on temporary disability.  Which means a financial crunch during a recession.  More stress.  Chuck and I are living in the basement of his parents’ house and have promised to stay until after the transplant – we try to help out with medical care, driving my father-in-law around (because in Virginia you aren’t medically cleared to drive or even sit in the front seat of a vehicle for 90 days after any open-heart surgery) and with various responsibilities around the house.  Chuck and I even played landlord and maintenance crew for a rental property Chuck’s dad has – the day of the surgery the sump pump at the rental house broke down and the basement flooded with sewage – which meant dealing with difficult tenants, ripping up carpet ourselves, replacing the sump pump (with the help of my daddy), and replacing the carpet.  We decided we don’t ever want to manage rental property, no matter how lucrative it may be.

To say the least, we have been slightly stressed since November.  However, we have managed to have some wonderful moments, as I listed above.  We enjoyed lots of birthdays and holiday celebrations and Chuck and I have managed to even squeeze in some romance, cuddling, and quality time with our sweet, sweet pups.

Now, of course, for some gratuitous photos of my sister’s adorable children:

Dirty-faced Munchkin - How can you resist a smile like that?

Dirty-faced Munchkin - How can you resist a smile like that?

Uncle Chuck with his favorite niece

Uncle Chuck with his favorite niece

Blurry brothers having fun playing in the floor

Blurry brothers having fun playing in the floor

My hair is even longer now - it's about 2 inches below my ears...

My hair is even longer now - it's about 2 inches below my ears...

Curious little girl

Curious little girl

I just can't take enough pictures of her beautiful eyelashes and little rosebud mouth

I just can't take enough pictures of her beautiful eyelashes and little rosebud mouth

Here’s to a new year – a year full of hope.  Hope for less loss and sorrow and more joy and laughter.  Hope for better health for ourselves and everyone we love.  Hope for more time spent with family and less money spent on materialistic endeavors.  Hope for more books, more learning, more creating, more relaxing.  Hope for healthy babies for everyone expecting and those hoping to expect.  Hope for our nation and our world – may there be peace and understanding, charity and kindness, and blessings of freedom, financial relief, healthcare and food for all who are in need.  This year will be better than the last.  Welcome 2009.

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