Monday, November 24, 2008

Update on Papa Joe

Last week included several tests for Papa Joe. Tuesday we met with the cardiologist, and they were able to do a chemical stress test later that day. Thursday and Friday they did a thiamine test to help determine how much viable muscle tissue there is in his heart.

The results came back in on Friday afternoon, and they weren't favorable for bypass surgery. Papa Joe doesn't have enough live muscle tissue in his heart to make bypass surgery an option. They scheduled an appointment with a different cardiologist to discuss a defibrillator for Dec. 16th.

Per the doctor's recommendation, we have had someone staying with Papa Joe since he's been home from the hospital. He spent two nights here with us, Angie (Shannon's cousin) stayed with him at his house one night, Alex and Jack spent Thursday night there, and Carrie (Shannon's sister) had weekend duty. Alex and Jack were back again with him Sunday night. Tonight Barry is staying with him. We're trying to convince him to come live with us. He hasn't made up his mind that he wants to do that, yet.

Today Shannon received a call from the Iowa Heart Center that they would like to move Papa Joe's appointment up to tomorrow morning at 8:00am. Shortly after that, they called back and asked if we could be there at 3:30 this afternoon. Barry (Shannon's uncle) and I were able to drive him to Ames for this appointment.

Dr. Sorrentino was quite blunt with us, and explained that last year his heart was functioning at a normal level of 55 (%?), but is now at 35, which is categorized as "weak". Even if they could bypass the clogged arteries, it wouldn't do any good because the heart isn't functioning well enough to pump the blood through the new vessels.

She is willing to attempt to implant a defibrillator for his heart. This would "jump start" his heart if it should stop beating again. We have this procedure scheduled for Monday at 12:30pm. We would appreciate your prayers for the surgeons and Papa Joe.

Shannon's brother, John, is making plans to come visit soon. He lives in Virginia.

Papa Joe is feeling well. He is okay with not being able to drive for awhile. The boys went grocery shopping for him today. He needs to reduce his sodium intake, but otherwise can proceed with life as usual, while limiting his physical activity. He's planning a trip to the casino with his buddies tomorrow night.

His Lifeline was installed Saturday. Hudson was kind enough to test it out by pressing the "Help" button twice yesterday while we were visiting. At least we know it works!

"For as he thinks in his heart, so he is..." Proverbs 23:7a

Monday, November 17, 2008

Alex is 16

Today is Alex's 16h birthday. Wow. How can he be that old when I am still 28?

Shannon got up early and took him to Tama to get his license. Both Marshalltown and Waterloo DMV's are closed on Mondays, and he was bummed that he wouldn't be able to get his license today. The deed is done and he's now an official driver, between 5:30am and 12:30am.

It seems like it's only been a few months since I took his picture and posted it here when he got his driver's permit.

Alex continues to make us proud. He is very smart and does great work when he wants to. He's beginning to spend more and more time in his bedroom and not with the rest of us, which makes me kind of sad. I'm not quite ready to start letting go.

Alex was a breech baby, and I had to have a c-section to deliver him. I can remember lying in bed with Shannon the night before he was born and crying because I just wasn't ready to be responsible for a little child, and knowing that our lives were going to change drastically at 8:00 the next morning. The delivery went fine, and at 8:23am we had a beatiful little boy. His daddy was so proud. He just KNEW that he would have a boy first, although we left it for a surprise until the delivery.

It's impossible to describe the emotions a mom feels when that baby is laid in her arms for the first time. Love most of all, fear, uncertainty, fierce protectiveness. When Alex was a baby, we were SO afraid of making mistakes with our parenting. We agonized over what to feed him, what toys to let him play with, what to let him watch on TV. We determined that we weren't going to let him play with guns, because they were too violent. The next thing we knew, he was running around the house with a banana in his hand shooting at us. Needless to say, we've relaxed a little (LOT!) in our parenting style, but we still want the very best for him and all of our children.

Although Alex has been our "guinea pig", we pray that he will forgive us for the mistakes we have made, and know that he was our very first love. We'll do anything we can to help him grow up, even if that means he has to make some mistakes and fall before he learns how to run. I wish I could take all of those hits and falls for him, but I can't.

The past year has been a little hard on Alex, as he is making the transition from boy to man. It's difficult being the oldest child in a large family, and the position holds a lot of responsiblilty. Although Alex didn't volunteer for the position, God put him there because He thought he could handle the job. Alex is stepping up and fulfilling the role God has him in at this time in his life.

Alex has shown great spiritual growth in the past year. We're proud of the decisions he has made regarding his life, and pray that he will always put God first in his life and stay focused on the important things.

One morning a week Alex is a garbage man. He has held the job for almost two years now. The pay is decent, and it keeps him in spending money. The schedule works well for our family, as Tuesday is Shannon's day off, and we don't routinely schedule school on that day. We just extend our school year to make up for the difference. Jackson is his partner on the route.

I wanted to take a picture of Alex with his new license by his new car this morning, but when I got my camera out, it was broken. The screen on the back is all mottled and no picture shows up. We'll have to take it to Best Buy and have them repair it. Extended warranties are a must in our household, and we've been pleased with their service. We'll post pictures when available.

Alex starts basketball practice today. He lost about 18 pounds when he was sick at the end of the football season, so we're hoping he's got the stamina to keep up with everyone.

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Our latest project

Last fall we installed a wood pellet/corn/wheat burning stove in our family room to help supplement our geothermal heat pump during the winter. When it gets below 10 degrees, it's really hard to keep it comfortable in our home. Of course, we have a lot of those days here in Iowa.

Last year we were doing our school at the kitchen table. This year we bought a new dining room set, so are now doing school in the dining room. It is kitty corner from the family room on the first floor, and just doesn't get as warm. There were times it was 80 degrees in the family room with the stove burning, and only about 62 degrees in the dining room.

Our solution to this problem was to put french doors between the dining room and living room to help circulate the heat. It's a pretty straight forward home improvement project, and I had never broken through a wall before. It sounded pretty fun.

We chose not to get doors with windows in them for obvious reasons (Alex, Jackson, Chase, Bryce, Colton, Katie, Naomi, Hudson, and SHANNON). I wanted to retain the feeling of two separate rooms, and we often watch different shows in each room, so needed to be able to separate them at times.

We started this project about three weeks ago on a Friday night.

This is the before picture.

Shannon makes the first cut.

Everyone helped.

Some were more helpful than others.

As with every project we take on, it's never as easy as we think it will be. We needed to relocate the cold air return vent. It was smack dab in the middle of our new doorway. Shannon is doing some exploratory work here.

Finally through. I got the honor of using the rip saw to cut through all of the lath board and plaster. FUN!!!

This is where I tried really hard to upload a video of the boys breaking through the wall. Poor Alex was sick on the couch, and got plowed over by the wall when Jack ran through. He didn't get much sympathy. Either I'm not uploading correctly, or I'm not patient enough to sit and wait for the process to finish, but it's not going to happen today.

The framing is done.

The doors are installed.

The drywall is now done, except for some of the sanding. My camera is broken, so I can't take any pictures of it. Obviously I'm not going to get the family room, living room and dining room painted before Thanksgiving (original goal). I have gotten a couple of coats of stain on the trim for the living room side. It's still not dark enough to match the existing trim, so I will continue to add coats until it matches.

Maybe I'll get a finished project picture taken before Christmas. For now, I'm trying to get all of the plaster an drywall dust out of my house before the company comes on Thursday.

I'm finding that my furniture just isn't fitting anymore. I'm not sure how it's all going to play out.

"Prepare your outside work, make it fit for yourself in the field; and afterward build your house." Proverbs 24:27

Saturday Update

Papa Joe is still in the hospital. We really don't have any new information. Everything is on hold over the weekend. We were expecting the doctor to stop in while we visited the hospital last night, but he didn't.

I had an error in my last post. There are four arteries involved, not three. Two of them are 100% blocked, one 90%, one 60%. There was sticky note on the paperwork left in his room stating we have an appointment with Dr. Ahmed on Tuesday at 9:00am.

We are planning to take the kids to visit the hospital this afternoon. Papa Joe is in good spirits, and I think we'll take a deck of cards along to get a game going while we're there.

"The rich man's wealth is his strong city, the destruction of the poor is their poverty." Proverbs 10:15

Friday, November 14, 2008

Update on Papa Joe

Papa Joe had a good night Wednesday night. Of course there were a lot of interruptions throughout the night, but his vitals remained stable.

Shannon and I were able to speak to the cardiologist around 12:30 yesterday. He explained that they would like to do an angiogram to determine what damage there might be to Papa Joe's heart. Depending on the results, there are several options. If they find blockage in only one artery, they will most likely put a stent in at that time. If more than one artery is blocked, then bypss surgery is an option, even at his age (83). He would need to be transferred to a different hospital for bypass surgery. Dr. Ahmed said there was an outside chance that he could do the angiogram late Thursday evening, and if not they would do it at 7:30 Friday morning.

We left the hospital at 2:00pm so Shannon could get back to work and I could get Jack and Chase to basketball practice. About 10 minutes after I got home, Carrie called saying they were going to do the angiogram at 4:30pm. Shannon wasn't able to reschedule his patients with such little notice, so I dropped the boys off in Gladbrook at practice and continued on back to Marshalltown.

They came to take Papa Joe to surgery at about 4:30pm, and we arrived on the surgery floor at 4:45pm. The nurse estimated that they should be done in about an hour. Angie and Tim went to grab something to eat, and Carrie was still in the process of dropping her boys off at our house and returning to the hospital.

At 5:15pm Dr. Ahmed took Barry and I to look at the pictures on the computer that he had taken of Papa Joe's heart. There are three main arteries. One of them was completely blown. Not even visible on the picture. Another was 90% occluded, and the third was 60% blocked. They did not do an angioplasty at that time. Testing needs to be done to determine if the blown artery is viable, or just dead tissue. If it is dead, then it cannot be repaired, even with bypass. Dr. Ahmed is going to consult with the cardiac surgeon today, and let us know what they recommend after that time.

Papa Joe will likely be released from the hospital today. We are scrambling to set up schedules of care for him. He's not one to lie back and take it easy, but he NEEDS to rest. He lives alone. We're also looking into getting him a Life Alert type thing, you know, the "I've fallen and I can't get up!" necklace thing. He'll just LOVE that.

Thank you for your prayers, calls and support. There were several prayer chains going for Papa Joe, and we certainly felt God's hand in the way events played out.

Our older boys have been great caring for the younger ones this week, and we really appreciate their help. The littles are missing their mama and daddy, and are making up for lost time by sleeping with us at night. Oh, joy.

We're attempting to get some good school time in today, and maybe even cook a real meal. It's taken me over six hours just to complete this post, so I'm not holding my breath on anything today.

I've vacuumed the house, folded 4 loads of laundry that has been hanging around in the laundry room since early this week, and I'm steadily attacking the mound of dirty laundry awaiting my attention. All in good time...

We discovered this week that Papa Murphy's 5-meat Stuffed Pizza is really good.

"As in water face reflects face, so a man's heart reveals the man." Proverbs 27:19

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Yesterday I left home at 11:45 with Alex, Jackson and Bryce. Shannon and I are doing a bible study with Julie once a week. The boys had haircut appointments scheduled at 2:00.

At 12:53 Chase called my cell phone and said in a shaky voice that Papa Joe (Shannon's grandpa) was lying on our garage floor but wouldn't say anything to him. His eyes were open.

Shannon immediately took off for home. I stayed on the phone with Chase and told him to get a piece of paper and pencil and had him write down our address. He knows this information under normal conditions, but I wanted to make sure he wouldn't forget it. I told him to hang up the phone, then call 9-1-1 and the dispatcher would help him through the rest. I gave the boys the check for their haircuts, then left for home (13 miles).

When Shannon arrived home at 1:04, Papa Joe had no pulse and was blue. As Shannon began CPR, Papa Joe took a big gasping breath, but remained unconscious.

When I arrived home, about 5-6 minutes after Shannon did, Papa Joe's truck and Shannon's car were parked out by the barn. I assumed the ambulance had been there and left already, but as I approached the garage I saw Shannon doing CPR on Papa Joe. I lifted his head up off of the damp garage floor, and he was able to raise his head and was moving his tongue, but he wasn't able to squeeze my hand. His eyes were wide open and unfocused. Shannon continued CPR.

A few minutes later the ambulance arrived. The ambulance crew loaded him up and left for Marshalltown. They picked up a couple paramedics outside of Gladbrook. Shannon followed them to the hospital, and I stayed home awhile to get the kids settled in.

Chase was shaken, but doing well. The 9-1-1 operator kept him on the phone until the ambulance arrived, which I'm thankful for. She kept telling him not to look out the window in the door, and to keep the little children away. I made some phone calls to Shannon's uncle and cousin, but they were both at work. I was able to get ahold of a friend of Papa Joe's, and he knew where they worked and was able to contact them. I also called the school to let them know the boys most likely wouldn't be at basketball practice. Grandma Shirley was able to get the boys to their haircut appointment and then home. Chase opted to skip basketball practice, but Jackson wanted to practice.

When I arrived at the hospital, Papa Joe was getting a CT scan. He was conscious, but not speaking clearly. Amazingly, within about 10-15 minutes he was speaking more clearly and moving his arms and legs pretty well. He was quite nauseaus, and got very emotional when he found out it was Chase that called 9-1-1 to save him, but overall made great improvement within a relatively short period of time.

Apparently Papa Joe had come over to work on the snowblower. Shannon had gotten it attached to the tractor, but hadn't put the belt on yet. Papa Joe remembers backing the tractor out of the barn, then the snowblower fell off. He drove the tractor to the driveway, then walked back toward the barn to get the snowblower. Chase says that's when he first noticed he was at our house and saw him out in the yard by the snowblower. We think Papa Joe tried moving the snowblower (VERY heavy) to the driveway, and something happened. He has no memory of coming back to the house, just backing the tractor up from the barn.

Colton found him inside the garage by the entrance door to the house and told Chase.

The CT scan showed no bleeds, and his labs showed very elevated potassium levels, but his enzymes were relatively normal. They at first suspected a stroke, but now are leaning more towards a heart attack or some type of arrythmia that caused his heart to stop. They admitted him to the ICU and will run a bunch more tests today. Papa Joe, of course, thought he was ready to go home by about 4:30 yesterday afternoon.

I'm very proud of Chase and Shannon. They kept their heads in a scary situation and literally saved Papa Joe's life. They're my heroes. Papa Joe has been the "rock" in Shannon's life, and would be greatly missed.

Shannon was able to get to sleep after about an hour of Xbox 360 to "decompress", and slept pretty well until about 6:00am. He got up, went the the fitness center (he has NEVER done that in the morning), and just got back. He's feeling better now and is getting ready for work. I've been awake since 3:00am.

Please continue to pray for Papa Joe, and for the rest of the family as we assess the needs that he may have and make arrangements to care for him.

"Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers." Proverbs 17:6