Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Long Recovery

I had a dream last night that Stow was having a meltdown and Ren, misunderstanding my request, picked him up in an attempt to help get things under control. Stow weighs well above Ren’s 40-pound lift limit, so picking him up caused Ren's broken rods to fold upon themselves, leaving him in a tangled heap on the floor. A couple of days before his 2017 surgery, I had a bright and airy dream in which the procedure was over in the blink of an eye, and by the time I got to Ren’s hospital room, he was standing tall and unencumbered, grinning at the reflection of his restored posture. The dreams I have the week before surgery are never subtle.

Ren comes around slowly after surgery; he can sometimes spend three or four hours in recovery. Sitting in the waiting room, long after the scheduled finish time, long after other families have come and gone and come and gone again, long after the doctor meets with me in the tiny consultation room, so small that our knees almost touch as he tells me things went as well as they could have, the gravity of what lies ahead always hits me hardest.

At some point, the nurses call for me because they can’t wake Ren, and they think that, somehow, his waking has gotten lost in translation--as if he doesn’t realize he’s supposed to open his eyes already. The thing is, though, I don’t want to translate here; I don’t even want to be here. What could I say to Ren that they haven’t tried already?

The recovery room lacks anything that might give even the slightest hint of homeyness or comfort. Sterile and all hard, shiny surfaces and white sheets with beeps and drains and businesslike nurses, I feel most lost there, as I look down at Ren, who is pale and non-responsive and whose sleep apnea repeatedly triggers alarms. Since I can’t really process the sights and sounds of Ren’s incapacitation, I focus on the the feet of nurses in the recovery room and wonder why they always seem to be wearing Crocs. Why is it always Crocs?

The first major surgery Ren and I went through together--a revision surgery following a serious shoulder injury--we’d been married just three weeks. It was his third shoulder surgery in six months and was done at a hospital two hours from where we lived. In my tiny tin-can of a car, I found myself commuting on unfamiliar roads, barreling along the highway at speeds my car wasn’t meant to go. Pre-GPS and cell service, I had to memorize the exits and back roads that got me to the hospital with the impossible-to-pronounce name. And, once there, I had to remember how to find my way through the snaking, maze-like hallways to Ren. Even now I can see the farm fruit stand that marked my first turn off the highway and the onsen center--named (puzzlingly) after Confucius--just before the turn that led into the hospital. I don’t remember what I did while I waited for Ren’s shoulder repair to be complete, but I do remember being brought into the recovery room only to find Ren lying naked on a gurney covered by a single towel. Unconscious but in pain, he cringed and squirmed, and it became clear to me that my job was to watch over him and his towel. 

Nineteen years and ten surgeries have passed between then and now, but I know come Monday, when he has his seventh spine surgery, I will find myself watching over Ren as lost as I was that first time. I will find myself, once again, feeling like I have no idea what to do; feeling like I want to fall apart, but knowing that if I don’t keep it together on that first day, there’s no way I will make it through what comes next.

I know I am not the first person to go through difficult medical situations with a spouse. I know that there are people all around me who care and who want to help. I know that each week we get further beyond the day of surgery will be a week closer to reclaiming some kind of normalcy. But, I also know no one can do this for me, and there’s something impossibly lonely and isolating in that.

Friday, July 5, 2019

My Heart

I am sitting in the cramped hospital room watching the nurse keep her eye on Sky's vitals. His heart rate keeps falling and setting off an alarm. She tells me not to worry, that the medications they used during his procedure just worked a little too well.

Procedure. I've always hated this word in reference to something being done to a human body subdued by anesthesia. All week Sky and I debated the line between surgery and procedure. Now that he's a teen, we don't agree on much, but we both agree that if cutting and repairing are involved, it should be called a surgery.

"Besides," he says with a grin, "I want to be able to tell people I had heart surgery this summer."

This is out-patient, 2 or 3 hours under general anesthesia in order to thread a catheter up to his heart and put a roadblock in the spare electrical pathway that keeps causing it to race. It doesn't matter to me what they call it; the pre-op process and the time spent waiting for updates from the surgical theater are more than enough to trigger memories of so many surgeries past. Ren and I get out long enough to get some overpriced, ridiculously-healthy, oddly-paired food at the "Asian" salad bar, but soon we are back and waiting in the room that suddenly seems cavernous now that Sky's bed has been rolled away with him in it.

When the nurse calls to tell us all is fine but that they have to cross into the left atrium, I thank her for the update and then try to focus on the tiny tennis ball high on the tiny TV screen. It's the first round of Wimbledon, and we don't get cable at home. Ren wants to know who called and what they wanted. I find it hard to explain in Japanese as my anxiety rises in my chest and settles in my throat. I know that crossing to the left increases the risk of dangerous clots and stroke.

The room has no windows, and I have to traverse a maze of hallways in order to reach one. The prospect of tracing my way back to the sunlight seems particularly daunting, especially since the hospital lobby is a dizzying combination of cows and farm theme and old cars. I'm at a loss as to how to keep my shit together. This surprises me given the vast experience I have with hospitals and surgeries. Ren barely takes his eyes from his iPad. Apparently his coping strategy works better for him than mine does for me.

And, then, suddenly, it's over and the doctor comes in and explains what he did before we're asked to wait for ten minutes in the hallway while they get Sky settled in his room. Twenty minutes later, we are still waiting, so I knock on the door. The nurse says that most parents don't handle seeing their kinds on breathing support well, but she knows how many surgeries we've been through with Ren and tells us we can come in if we're ok with it. I'm more ok sitting with Sky than I am in the hallway with strangers, so I tell her we'll be fine. Like Ren, Sky comes around slowly after anesthesia, and it takes his body even longer to deal with the various meds on-boarded during the surgery.

The lighting in the room sucks--our options are a massive, blinding fluorescent ceiling light or  a depressingly dark headboard light. We wait for Sky to wake in near darkness while tennis continues on the television. When he finally opens his eyes, he wants to know if it's done. He wants to get out of bed. He wants to watch something else on TV. He switches to National Geographic, some show about the Sphinx and the Pyramids. He's still trying to watch it when they come in to do an echocardiogram.

I often wonder if I am doing right by my kids, by Sky, who is my oldest, my practice run, my test case. Every phase he enters, every new challenge he faces, I am doing it with him for the first time. Most of the time, it doesn't go smoothly and I am convinced I am blowing it. But as I watch them track his heart on the screen, I am transported back to the first time I ever saw that heartbeat. Back to that moment fifteen years ago--before I had a baby, before I learned to doubt myself so deeply--when I was simply awed to see that life growing inside of me. Watching Sky's heart beat so perfectly on the screen I am flooded with gratitude--gratitude that I've been able to hold and to love and to protect and to help grow this heart in this boy.

It's his heart, but as I look at it in the darkened hospital room, I realize that it is my heart, too. It always has been.

My heart four days post-op.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

On Writing...

Thanks to a kind friend, I had the chance to participate in a writing workshop and think about my fiction writing for the first time in a really long time. The workshop combined illustration and creative writing, and by the end of the day, we had the starts to several stories and a pile of illustrations we'd drawn.

Two panels from a 4-panel comic
I've never been able to stand having my writing read aloud. When I wrote one-act plays in college, I had to leave the theater when my plays were being performed, and when I was asked to do a reading of my prize-winning short story, I could only manage to read the final paragraph to the expectant audience. Yesterday was no different. I suspect most everyone else read aloud over the course of the day, but I just couldn't do it. Seems we grow as people in some ways and not so much in others.

All of our writing was based on the prompts we were given, and we were told to start each story with "I am....." (which goes against every instinct I have). In the time allotted for each prompt, we could produce just a few paragraphs at most. Below is a sampling of what I wrote during the workshop.


The prompt was a photo with this sign and the phrase "I wish you wouldn't have mentioned that." This is what I wrote:
   I am driving through a desolate stretch of eastern Nebraska in February. The man I've picked up looks down as we pass a sign that says, "Hitchhikers may be escaped inmates."
   "Shit," I think to myself, "figures."
   "So, what's waiting for you in Seattle?" I ask, pretending not to see the sign or his reaction.
   He doesn't seem to hear me at first, but then comes to life. "My daughter."
   I'm silent then. I figure the questions tumbling through my head are ones I shouldn't ask. Maybe he doesn't know the answers to them, or, worse, maybe the answers are too hard to face. I weigh my options--if he's an escaped inmate, I should keep things light.
   "I have a daughter, too," I say finally, even though I am single and hate kids.
The prompt for this one was simply "substitute:"
I am sitting at the kitchen table late at night writing and rewriting an email to Mrs. M. Though she's been my son's teacher for weeks, it only now occurs to me that I need to reach out to her directly. The house is quiet, the kids long silenced by the deep sleep that follows the meltdowns and the chaos that come with dinner, and breakfast, and playtime, and homework, and just about every waking moment in a house with autism. 
The fridge hums quietly behind me, and I'm surprised to find I miss the drip, drip, drip of the faucet that kept me company for so many late nights the first five years of our lives in this house. Sometimes fixing things leads to more loss...
The prompt for this one was "stitches":
I am staring at the wall, my back to him so I don't have to think about the 100+ staples that look like a zipper holding him together from the base of his neck to the tip of his tailbone. If it came unzipped, would his insides spill out? I know the answer to this question, and yet, it plagues me. The human body isn't meant to be split open this way. When I turn, I can hardly see him across the room since the rented hospital bed sits pressed against and lower than the queen size bed we haven't shared for weeks now. The pattern of his breathing tells me he's awake, even though he's silent, eyes closed. 
It occurs to me that I need to learn something from all of these spine surgeries and the seemingly interminable post-op recoveries. But, mostly I've learned that I hate stitches and staples and drains, and I worry that my hate for those things is morphing into a hatred for him. 
The prompt for this one was "cars":
I am sitting in my driveway waiting for Jeff to get in. He needs a ride to town but thinks he might be too tall for my tiny car. I wonder why in the hell he's in Japan, then. I also wonder why I've left work and come to meet him when I could be on my bike riding away from him, from this town, from myself. Even now, I don't know how I ended up here in this small mountain village where everyone knows my name; knows my habits; knows what I bought at the grocery last week; probably knows what I ate for breakfast and even what I'll eat for dinner, though I don't yet know that myself, yet. 
Before the car that is too small for Jeff, I biked and bussed everywhere--no train in this forgotten hamlet. But, the bus is stressful on these mountain passes. On winding one-lane roads with no shoulder, it's easy to find yourself playing chicken with a bus. Much harder is backing your way down the hill...
A portrait of myself as grapes.
*****

Needless to say, I didn't finish any of these stories, and I am not sure I will. Still, it was good to spend a day thinking about writing (though the drawing part was much harder). It reminded me of the ways in which putting things onto paper (or the screen) helps me process, even if it has nothing to do with what's happening, even if it's total fiction. As we head into a couple of months of surgeries and travel and who knows what else, I especially appreciate these reminders.

Here's a link to a future date of the workshop.  Hopefully you can catch it somewhere!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Heart, It Races

"Let me start with the takeaways," the pediatric electrophysiologist began. "There are two big ones. First, this won't kill you. Second, it won't go away unless we intervene."

Supraventrical tachycardia (SVT). Thirteen months (and just 81 hours after I got home from a work trip to Japan), we finally had an answer to the inexplicable heart thing that has been plaguing Sky for just over a year. Getting to the diagnosis was a combination of frustrating waits and missed symptoms and a last-minute act of, shall we say, well-timed disobedience.

SVT reading
It started early last summer when Sky came in from basketball on the driveway reporting that his heart fluttered and he felt like he was going to pass out. Because the symptoms coincided with a significant growth spurt, we figured that it was a one-off. When he reported similar symptoms once or twice a month for the next couple of months, I reached out to our pediatrician, and she ordered an EKG. The normal report was both reassuring and frustrating, especially for Sky, who wanted to know why his heart felt so funny. Two different pediatricians told us that his symptoms most likely resulted from his rapid growth and dehydration.

In the spring, when we were in to see Ren's cardiologist (that's a whole other story, btw), I described Sky's symptoms and asked what he would advise. He suggested an echocardiogram and a 24-hour Holter monitor. We followed through with both, and both came back essentially normal. By now, Sky was getting anxious. He worries about a lot of stuff a lot of the time, and the unilluminating test results made him feel bad.

You've probably noticed that life tends to be chaotic around here, so three "normal" test results sent Sky's heart issues to the bottom of my concern list. He continued to get light-headed easily and to have heart "spasms" from time to time, but since we'd been multiply assured that there was nothing wrong, I wasn't sure what else to do. Then, the week before I left for a 12-day work trip to Japan, Sky started tennis camp. On each of the four days, he had increasingly concerning issues with his heart, ending on the fourth day (a Thursday) with him going temporarily blind. I contacted our pediatrician and Ren's cardiologist early Friday morning. By the end of the day, Sky had a do-not-exercise restriction.

Some problems seem unsolvable, especially when it's Friday at 4 pm and you're leaving before dawn the following Monday and you're not established with a pediatric cardiologist and the local pediatrician has just left the practice. Fortunately, we have a pediatrician back in Indiana who sees the kids once a year and who is amazing in all sorts of ways, not the least of which is that she doggedly pursued Ren's cardiologist until we had a plan and means to get Sky hooked up to a 30-day monitor. It took a few middle-of-the-night phone calls from Japan (sorry, travel mates, I know I was being a bit loud), but we got Sky set up with both the monitor and someone specializing in pediatrics to keep an eye on its readings.

Summer in Tohoku--my job's pretty awesome (#breathedeep)
By the time I got home in the early morning hours of Saturday, Sky had been wearing the monitor for four days and off of sports and exercise for two weeks. He was frustrated because he hadn't been cleared to go back to tennis (we were told the doc wanted a baseline before he did), and he was worried we were wasting time and money on the monitor (this is a huge thing for him, despite our constant reassurances). Given the haphazard way I'd strung together the medical coverage for this, I imagined that the lack of response from the doctor had much to do with the fact that Sky wasn't actually anyone's cardiology patient.

So, I made a decision that would turn out to be either brilliant or catastrophic (did I mention how HARD parenting is?)--I sent him to tennis on Monday morning with strict instructions to stop and record anything amiss. I also sent messages to both the pediatrician and Ren's cardiologist letting them know I'd done this. Sky and I both knew the weird heart thing wasn't going to happen as long as he was sitting around chatting with friends on Discord.

I dropped Sky off at 9, and by 11 am, I had a call from Ren's cardiologist's office telling me that he needed to stop whatever he was doing immediately. Within an hour, we had an appointment scheduled with the pediatric cardiology specialist for the next morning (an appointment I'd been told wouldn't be able to happen until August at the earliest when I called from Japan).

Summer Midwestern Sky (#breathedeep)
So 13 months and 81 hours later, we finally know why Sky's heart "spasms." We are trying to wrap our heads around how we got here and exploring the various available interventions; fortunately, the condition seems highly manageable. Sky is back at tennis this morning, and I am reminded of my mantras: "Breathe deep," and, perhaps less inspiring but still extremely helpful, "Everything will be ok."

After the appointment, I took Sky for pizza and a little shopping. Not sure Taro approves of Sky's purchases, but I think if you can match the ties to the eyes, you're doing something right!

Taro is not amused.



Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Forest Bathing

The summer I was 20, I lived and worked at a youth hostel and retreat center in Grand Lake, Colorado. An Indiana girl, I had before then only ever dreamed of living in the mountains. I spent much of that summer in Colorado wondering why I was born in the flat land of corn.

The job required me to spend three out of every five days running the registration desk, cleaning toilets, and cutting vegetables (not all at the same time, obviously). But, the other two days, I was free to roam, and little by little, I covered most of the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park, walking alone for hours surrounded by rocks, trees, and bodies of water whose grandeur was a constant reminder of how small and insignificant my life was next to the vastness of the universe and the expanse of geologic time.

My days on those trails were spent encountering unexpected wildlife and discovering new vistas around every turn. In the mountains, I was completely present. Everything seemed clearer. I felt like I could breathe for the first time. I left that summer in the mountains restored.

Me, Colorado circa 1992
One of my good friends from college spent the same summer at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. In those pre-email days, I was a fervent letter writer, and she was one of my most reliable pen pals. I wrote about my anguish at knowing my time in those mountains was limited since, come August, I had to go back to the stifling humidity and relentless flatness of the Midwest. She wrote back, "Breathe deep the mountain air and save it for the rougher days."

I'm not sure I've gotten such good advice before or since.

Back at college, I tried to live by those words and draw upon the lessons I learned during those hours alone in the mountains. And, when the last reserves of mountain air seemed to leave me, I drove along the lonely country roads of rural Indiana searching for any vista that could appease my wandering soul.

I've had chances to be in the mountains since then. Ren and I met and started dating because of our love of hiking. For three years I lived on the side of a mountain in rural Kyushu and rode my bike along rivers and rice paddies. I spent weekends with Ren exploring Kuju and Aso and Kirishima. But, our struggles with autism and allergies and the (god forsaken) spine have left us landlocked in a barren landscape. It's hard to imagine hiking and biking and camping given the set of challenges we face, and it's even harder not to feel completely hemmed in by the fears that these challenges bring. But, it has also become abundantly clear to me that I need the mountains and woods like I need the air in my lungs.


*****


Just after sunrise at camp.
As things have fallen apart the past few weeks, I've felt myself drawn to the woods (flat though they may be). Walking along creeks or lakes in the early morning or evening, I try to find some of that "mountain air" that makes it possible to breathe.

In Japan, they acknowledge the restorative power of nature by emphasizing the importance of "forest bathing" (shinrin yoku). Forest bathing highlights how simply being in the woods can heal our souls.

Sunset at camp.

I've started taking the kids with me when I walk or bike. It seems they could use some restoration, too. It thrills me to see them drawn to the trees and streams and rocks. They haven't lost their ability to let nature speak to them.
Near home.
We had already started planning a two-week road trip out West when we learned about the broken rods, so yesterday after we got home from the surgery consult, I had to tell the kids the trip was off. Their responses were quick and unfiltered; they were angry and sad and scared. They wanted to know why they have to spend so much of their lives waiting for their dad to have surgery or waiting for him to recover from surgery. They wanted to know if we would ever get to go to Florida or Colorado or Hawaii or any of the many places their friends visit in the summer. They worried about starting middle school and high school less than two weeks after the surgery. They know how much life turns upside down when Ren has surgery, and they were worried about what this seventh spine surgery would mean for all of us.


Whereas with previous surgeries, I could convince them (and myself) to look on the bright side, this time, I found myself at a loss for words. They're right. This is scary and unfair. None of us deserves this.
Near home.
Today, I decided we'd go to the mountains anyway. It will be a shorter trip, and we will have to fly instead of drive. I'm trying not to worry about the cost of it as we head into another avalanche of medical bills. Maybe forest bathing is what we need to get us through this time. I don't know, but it's certainly worth a try.



"The mountains are calling and I must go." 
John Muir

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Nerf Karate Panda Party

Stow has been talking about his birthday party for months. He kept suggesting grand plans that sounded, well, hard. And, expensive. He wanted to go to Great Wolf Lodge (So. Overpriced. Also, no way am I spending the night at a water park with other people’s kids. I know my limits!). He wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese (This is my wish for you, dear blog reader; may you never, ever have to do a party at Chuck E. Cheese). He wanted to do a swimming nerf party (Gah! Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to, well, you know. Plus, the last time we tried to do a swim party on his birthday, it was cold and rainy and everyone ended up inside watching a movie they’d all already seen).

“Let’s have a karate party,” I suggested more than once, but Stow resisted the idea. The anxiety Stow developed during the basketball season had carried over into karate, and he missed a lot of lessons during the winter. This made it difficult to help him get back into the swing of it. For weeks, I'd been kicking myself for not anticipating the ways that changing his karate routine might mess up the awesome vibe he'd developed there.

Two equally compelling reasons drove my persistence with the karate birthday party suggestion, though. First, it would be a cheap and easy party. They provide the karate instruction and the space as well as a free (!) month of lessons for each kid, and all I had to do was bring food and decorations. After a long semester and a fifth-grade campout, I couldn’t imagine a better way to manage a birthday. Second, I hoped having a party at a place where he’s been successful would give him confidence and maybe even reignite his passion for karate.

So, I enlisted Pink’s help. Whenever the topic of Stow’s birthday party came up, she knew to casually say, “A karate party would be so cool! I wish I could have one.”

Up until two weeks before his birthday, Stow continued to change his mind about his party. He wanted a shopping mall party (???), a movie theater party, a Build-A-Bear party. It seemed that every encounter in his life held the potential of being the world’s best birthday party.

As he started to finally settle into and do well at karate again, I decided to ask one last time.

“What would be your favorite party ever?” I asked him on our way home from a karate class.

“A nerf gun panda party!” he replied, without missing a beat.

“Well, we can’t do a nerf party at our house, but I can ask about doing that at the karate place.”

“Yay!” He replied.

And, so finally, he agreed and we found ourselves hosting the first (and probably last) ever Nerf Karate Panda party:


Nerf battle.

Helping lead the karate instruction.


Makeshift panda cupcakes.
Party favors--Panda sleeping masks.
And, it turned out to be a perfect little party. The kids had fun. It was low stress for me. Best of all, many of the boys said it was their favorite party ever. The only downside?

Finn. He's been following me around the house ever since the party, staring at me with his flat affect and soulless eyes, oddly stiff arms and legs that don't entirely bend at the waist...Every time I turn around, there he is. It's hard to get things done when Finn stares at me like that. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Thousand Tiny Cuts

I wish I could say that Ren and I have come to terms with the spine news, but we haven't. I wish I could say that my powers of positive thinking and spiritual beliefs have helped me know it will be okay, but that's not true, either. Instead, in the down time I've had between the fifth-grade camping trip, Stow's "Nerf Karate Panda" birthday party, and various graduation activities this weekend, I've been mentally composing a list of the thousand tiny cuts that threaten to do us in. 

So, I made a table. I know it's lame and that you probably don't even care, but I feel like someone needs to keep a record, a record that will either tell of our amazing ability to persevere and overcome or one that so clearly maps the detours and road blocks along the path to our demise.


September 2009
Moe starts as teaching fellow at small liberal arts college.
December 2010 
Sky formally diagnosed with autism after extensive testing; Pink is diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy.
March 2011
Pink is diagnosed with other food allergies.
May 2011
Stow is born.
May 2011
Pink is hospitalized and receives asthma diagnosis.
September 2011
Ren’s back goes south on Sky’s first (and Ren's last) ever Cub Scout camping trip.
March 2012
Ren has his first spine surgery (a lamnioplasty) in the lumbar spine.
March 2012
Moe accepts position as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the same college.
May 2012
Moe successfully defends her dissertation. 
May 2012
Stow turns 1.
August 2012
Ren has his second spine surgery (a laminectomy) in the lumbar spine; Stow is diagnosed with C-diff and a MRSA infection.
March 2013
Moe accepts a tenure-track position.
April 2013
Stow has an endoscopy, colonoscopy, and cystoscopy to determine cause of multiple infections and repeated “failure to thrive.”
May 2013
Stow turns 2.
July 2013
Family moves from one small midwestern town to a another small midwestern town.
August 2013
Moe starts new job.
November 2013
Ren has first his lumbar fusion surgery.
Winter 2013/2014
Polar vortex—Ren doesn’t leave the house from November until April. Moe shovels a LOT of snow.
March 2014
Ren and Moe go to Mayo Clinic to see if anything can be done for the spine. They are told (paraphrasing), "The spine is bad. It won't get better. Learn to live with pain."
May 2014
Stow turns 3.
September 2014
Ren has a 2-level fusion in his cervical spine.
May 2015
Stow turns 4.
September 2015
Ren diagnosed with severe depression.
November 2015
Spine surgeon discovers spinal cord is at risk of being permanently damaged due to stenosis.
December 2015
Ren has a second lumbar fusion and doesn’t leave the house from December to April.
February 2016
Stow is preliminarily diagnosed with autism.
May 2016
Stow turns 5.
December 2016
Family completes first year since 2010 that no one is hospitalized.
March 2017
Stow is formally diagnosed with autism after extensive testing.
May 2017
Ren’s kyphosis is so bad, they (Ren, Moe, and the specialists) determine it needs to be fixed so Ren can have a chance at a better quality of life.
Stow turns 6.
July 2017
Ren has a spinal fusion from T2-S1 that requires 140 staples. He doesn't leave the house for anything except doctor's appointments until October.
August 2017
Ren hospitalized for heart attack symptoms.
September 2017
Ren hospitalized with double pulmonary emboli.
December 2017
Lung cancer scare for Ren.
January 2018
Doctor suspects bone bruise in femur and tells Ren he has to limit walking for six weeks.
May 2018
Stow turns 7.
December 2018
Moe gets tenure. Ren cleared by spine surgeon’s office after x-rays and exam show fusion looking good, completing only the second year since 2010 that no one was hospitalized.
January 2019
Polar vortex. Ren starts feeling new pain and hearing new noises coming from his lower back.
April 2019
After months of phone consultations, Ren finally agrees to be seen at spine center again.
May 2019
Spine doctor discovers broken rods.
Stow turns 8.

When I am looking on the bright side, I remind myself that these circumstances would test the strongest of families, and I tell myself we should be proud of how we've pulled through and found humor and joy even in the hardest times. But, when I can't find the bright side, I wonder why the hits just keep coming and doubt that I have it in me to keep fighting.

I've promised myself and my readers that this blog will always be "real," and sometimes real means that I don't know what comes next or whether we have the grit and strength necessary to face it.  I don't know how we go on from here, but I do know that we have a spine consult scheduled for this week and that Ren and I will do what we can to keep moving forward until we just can't do it anymore.