Monday, March 15, 2010

The Tapestry, Part 2

I'm sorry that this has taken so long to get's an emotional story for me, and not one I choose to share with a lot of people.  It took several days of thinking, writing, erasing beause I didn't want to share, get the idea.  Since I want to be able to look back and remember where God's brought us and maybe encourage others who are struggling, I feel like it's really important that this day is shared.  So here you go...

If you'd like to read the first part of this story, go here

I had been up early for swim practice, so I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go out in the boat. But, since my grandparents and cousin had driven 5 hours to see us and they really wanted to go, I agreed. My dad was at work, but my mom, Stephen (my brother), my cousin Cortney, both of my grandparents and I went out to the lake. Water skiing is a legacy in our family, so we were each going to have a turn.

I’m not sure who went first or what, but I do remember my grandpa’s turn. He wanted to slalom, but since he was in his 60s and hadn’t skied in years we all encouraged him to use two. He got up after a couple of tries and went about 70 yards or so. He got back in the boat happy that he’d gotten up, but irritated that he wasn’t able to stay up very long. Stephen got into the water to kneeboard and my grandpa was sitting down to catch his breath. Stephen got up on the kneeboard and we were in the middle of the lake. Since it was early afternoon there weren’t any other boats on the lake. We were thrilled to have it to ourselves.

Until, in mid sentence, my grandpa stopped breathing and slumped over in his seat.

My mom, grandma and I went into panic mode. I checked for a pulse but couldn’t find one. I had mom double check because I couldn’t really tell for sure. She verified no pulse and sent me to find someone, so I gracefully dove belly flopped into the lake. Stephen thought that the boat was sinking and I was bailing. After what seemed like an eternity (but really was only about 1 minute) I realized that there was no one I could swim to in order to find help. I got back into the boat and I started CPR. At that moment my mom looked up and happened to see someone out in their yard, talking on the phone. She drove the boat as fast as she could to the dock. As we were coming in she was yelling at us about the no wake zone until she realized that we had an emergency.

She called 911 while my mom and I tag teamed CPR. I remember that when you do the breaths the lips do a “raspberry” thing while the air is escaping from the lungs (or exhaling). I never knew that. It surprised me, but I just kept going. I was doing the chest compressions while my mom was doing the breathing. It was easier and more efficient with two people and we had a good rhythm down.

I felt his ribs crack under the pressure I was putting on them. I remembered from my training that if ribs crack you are doing it right. I was relieved to know that I was at least on the right track. I tried to treat this just like any regular monthly CPR skill assessment (I was a lifeguard, I had to practice monthly), but that lip motion made it impossible for my mind to accept that. Thankfully I had enough practice under my belt to be calm, collected and fall back on my training. My mom did, too. We worked together well, in perfect rhythm, knowing that this and praying was the only thing we could do. We didn’t get hysterical, it was too important to keep our heads calm and stay focused.

After a few minutes the husband came down to see what was going on. He assumed that I was a teenager and had no idea what I was doing because as soon as he saw me he physically lifted me out of the boat and started to do CPR himself. I was too shocked and suddenly too tired to be angry. I took Stephen and Cortney up to the road to wait for the ambulance, shaking and praying the entire way. At this point I really started to lose it, but I was trying to keep calm for Steve and Cortney, who was only about 7. Luckily the ambulance came quickly. The paramedics rushed down and got him on a backboard. They took over CPR and got out the paddles to shock his heart. At this point it had been between 10 and 15 minutes since he collapsed, even thought it felt like several hours.

The paramedics asked his name and repeatedly called him by name as they shocked him. They told him what they were doing and asked him to fight. Suddenly, his heart was beating again. They loaded him in the ambulance and were off. Just like that. We raced back to the cabin to dock the boat and were off in about 3 minutes ourselves. We were quite a sight, all of us in our bathing suits and towels. I’m sure there was some sort of cover up (maybe shorts or something?) but I don’t remember. I do remember that I couldn’t find my shoes so I just wore my dad’s flip flops. They were about 4 sizes too big.

At the hospital all they told us was that he was still unconscious. They were unsure of the amount of damage he had sustained. My best friend’s parents came and picked us up from the hospital and we went to their house until my dad came to take us home. Over the weekend we learned that my grandpa had a very little bit of his heart left, and the doctors agreed that he had between 6 months and 2 years of life left.

When school started on Tuesday there were about 20 people staying in our house. I had somehow managed to finish all of my summer assignments and was excited for the year to begin. With everything going on with my grandpa, I was ready to be distracted by school and everything that went with it. After school we had our first swim meet, the Jamboree, and my mom and grandma showed up! I was thrilled to see them because I wasn’t sure they were going to be able to get away from the hospital. They told me that my grandpa had wanted to sneak out of the hospital to see my meet! Of course he couldn’t, but knowing that he was awake and aware enough to not want to be there was good enough for me.

I don’t remember how much time passed before my grandpa was out of the hospital. I don’t remember how long he stayed at our house. But one thing I do remember thinking and storing in my heart: the realization that life is short and can change forever in an instant. It took me a long time to work through some of the fears that I developed from that day (fears of a health crisis and death- I can share more of that struggle later) but I can honestly say that this event shaped my life in a way that none other has. My grandpa is still alive today, outliving every doctor prediction about his future.

As we look back, we see God’s hand everywhere in this incident. God allowed this to happen when my grandpa was with people that knew CPR. Had this happened at home, he wouldn’t have survived. My grandma was still working at the time, and she hadn’t taken a CPR class yet (now I think our whole family is certified). Even though this was a very difficult time in my life, I am comforted knowing that God was there, and he was in control. I believe that our faith “muscles” are built as we learn to rely on him, and this was one of the first instances that I can look back on and see my faith muscles forming. I’m willing to bet that if I hadn’t gone through this, I wouldn’t have been able to get through other trials in my life with my faith intact.