Monday, December 12, 2011

A Tale of Two Sisters-1 year ago

A year ago, we had no idea what we were in store for. How in an instant our simple lives were about to change forever. Busy with kids, sleepless nights with a baby, the full swing of the holidays and soon to be the birth of our newest addition to the family, our nephew, Tyler Benton Kutler, things couldn't be better. Going back to this time 1 year ago is not easy for me, though I think about it 50 times a day, and remember it like it was yesterday. The wounds for me, are still fresh. It cuts like a knife thinking about what my sister went through, but at the same time I celebrate every day since that I've had with her and truly thank God for giving me my sister back. Though what happened to Cally was tragic in every sense of the word, her story is one of survival and inspiration. December 13 is a day I will remember forever. It was one of the best days of my life as I got to witness my sweet nephew Tyler be born into this world. Everything went really well, and since I was the only other family member allowed at the hospital during the birth, next to our cousin and Cally's doula, Risa, I had the honor of making sure we got all the pictures and calls to each grandparent so they could hear his cries over the phone. Since it was so late at night, everyone else including Tyler's big brother was planning on visiting in the morning. After a while, Cally had some minor complications post birth, so we stuck around for a little while longer to make sure she was ok. The doctors were reassuring that they got everything under control. Since it was around midnight or later and they all needed some sleep we decided to leave. Something in my gut didn't feel right as I walked out of the hospital, and call it instinct or sister's intuition, but I just felt like I should stay. It's something I still have a hard time forgiving myself for. That night I laid awake for quite awhile. When my phone rang just an hour or so later, I knew something wasn't right. I jumped out of bed practically in hysterics, threw on the same clothes I had just taken off and ran out the door. When we pulled into the UNMC parking garage it was 3am. The only other car there and in the very first stall was my sisters'. It was of such irony because this is the very hospital that she works at as a NICU nurse, and normally her car would be parked there for work, but not today, December 14. Today was different. Today my sister was sick, and for the first time ever, I wasn't sure she was going to be ok. Cally had had postpartum hemorrhaging along with other complications. When we arrived at the hospital she was in the operating room and as reassuring and informative as the doctors were, we really had no idea what was going on behind those doors. I now know that it was most likely mass chaos, a whole medical team doing everything the could as to not only save a patient, but one of their own. Every 15 min. or so it seemed, a lady in scrubs would get off the elevator pushing a cart carrying an American Red Cross Box on it. As I would watch her take that long stride down the hall and disappear, it hit me. That is for Cally. There is no one else here that needs that much blood, or any blood at all. Hours went by before her doctor finally came to give us an update. Cally had lost so much blood and in such a short amount of time that she required a massive blood transfusion. She also had to have her uterus removed to save her life. Knowing that she got through it was such a relief and we all, along with her doctor cried and held each other. When they finally wheeled her out of the O.R. we walked her down to her ICU room. Those first few hours in the ICU for me were the hardest. I was prepared to be strong for Cally, to make jokes and lighten the mood, but nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. When she opened her eyes for the first time she couldn't talk because of the breathing tube down her throat. Her entire body had swelled to twice its size it seemed from all of the blood products she had received from her massive blood transfusion. She motioned for something to write with. I gave her a pen and paper and she wrote, "Where am I?" As I calmly explained to her that she was in ICU, I prayed she couldn't see the tears welling in my eyes. I could see the instant panic set into her face, and just as I thought she was going to freak out and start pulling out tubes, she slowly wrote, "Did they take my..." I interrupted her and said, "yes, they did." She nodded. The questions didn't stop there. It was her way to communicate with us. I could tell when her morphine was starting to wear off because she would frantically push her button to give her more, but it wasn't time yet, and I hated seeing her in so much pain. They sedated her as best they could but sometimes it wasn't enough and that was hard. That first night in ICU (I think) Matt laid baby Tyler on his mommy, and even though she couldn't hold him he was there next to her, healing her in a way no one else could..his tiny body was now nursing her back to health. The 24 hours or so that she had her breathing tube in were hard. Cally would try to gesture to me to move her a certain way or elevate her feet somehow and it would take my dumb self 20 minutes to figure out what she was trying to say. I remember she wanted her socks off once, and I seriously couldn't figure out what she wanted by her wiggling her feet. She got so frustrated because she couldn't talk and I couldn't understand her and she would just look like she was going to cry. When I finally figured it out, or someone else did, I don't remember, she just looked so relieved, and then I would make fun of myself for her benefit. The staff taking care of Cally was amazing. I remember her first ICU nurse she had that first day. Her name was Barb, and she, as Cally would explain later, was an angel in her ear. She didn't leave Cally's side for a second and we nicknamed her Badass Barb. Cally lost so much blood, that if she were in any other hospital she most likely wouldn't be here today. She received 60+ units of blood product that day and she is lucky she was at the Med Center. No new mother should have to endure what Cally went through, and I can't help thinking of the irony of it all, how she was literally fighting for her life in the same hospital that she saves premature babies in for a living. Last winter was a slow recovery for Cally and after a few scary setbacks and a trip back to the hospital after Christmas, she finally made a full recovery in early spring. I can't even begin to thank everyone who surrounded us all with love last year. Our family and friends who were literally on call to watch kids so we could go to the hospital, everyone who brought them meals every day for over a month, and even Cally's friend who donated her breastmilk for Tyler to have while Cally couldn't feed him. Last year at this time we had no idea what we were in store for, but do we ever? As the winter months fall over us it's hard not to feel the weight of anxiety pulling me down just thinking of last year. That being said, this Christmas and holiday season is one to celebrate and reflect. I just feel extremely lucky to have had 1 more year with my sister, my best friend, my other half. Hold the ones you love close, tell them you love them. What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger, and I truly believe that. Love you Cal! And Happy 1st Birthday Tyler Benton!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Short but sweet

Today, we went to the store. Tanner and Sam were acting wild, and I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Just as I was a checking out and feeling completely drained from our trip, I hear Tanner sweetly say to the elderly man helping us bag our groceries, "Thank you so much for helping us." the cashier looked at me and I thought she was going to cry. She then went on to say that parents tell their kids to say thank you all the time but never has she heard a child say that on their own like that.". It's moments like that, that I'll remember forever.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Tale of two Sisters Continued

Long roadtrip with sleeping baby and quiet kids= lots of time to reflect. I was thinking back to almost a year ago today. I was nearly 8 months pregnant and just found out that my sister was pregnant as well. It was a really big surprise. They wanted another baby and Vince, their son was a year and a half years old, but they weren't going to try for awhile and it was a really big surprise especially for them. I was thrilled that for that short time Cally and I would be pregnant together. I feel like it was quite by accident and miracle really if you knew all the specifics that we were pregnant at the same time. Not only were my sister and I pregnant, but we had 4 cousins on the same side of the family that had babies in 2010. I had Samantha in May and she was the second baby born in '10. It is very poignant that Cally had baby Tyler in December and he was the last of the babies in the family to be born last year. God knew that Cally was going to have the hardest time of all of us with her pregnancy and delivery. She was going to need to have us ALL healthy and recovered so we could be there for her and Matt and the boys. My sister and I had opposite pregnancies and labor/delivery experiences, but had our own difficulties as well. I have had 2 healthy pregnancies and babies, however, with Tanner's birth things got a little complicated. I labored all damn day without an epidural (stupid) and that boy did not want to come out. My body finally gave in to the pain after about 7 hours of hard contractions and I got my epidural which was the best invention ever in my opinion. Good thing I did too, because before I knew it, Mike was throwing on scrubs, 20 people, or so it seemed came running in my room and I was being wisked away into the operating room. I was terrified don't get me wrong, but exhausted was more like it and before I knew it, Tanner was born via C-Section at 11:59pm on July 18, 2006. I do remember asking the Dr. if she was sure the time of birth was 11:59pm because that's the difference of a birthday, and was it according to Sprint time or the clock on the wall because I will lay awake at night wondering if my son's birthday is the 18th or the 19th every night until the day I die. The one thing that sucked about that day, I guess not the only thing, but a really big one, was the fact that Cally lived in North Carolina at the time where Matt played ball. She was my one crutch I knew I could count on to reassure me that everything was going to be okay, besides my husband (although poor Mike should have been given an epidural just for having to go through everything with me). She's a nurse and I knew she would be asking all the right questions, making sure things were done correctly, but more importantly I knew I wouldn't die if she was there, but I could if she wasn't. This is how my brain operates. I'm the hypochondriac of the family and having a baby is no exception for my hypochondriacal ways, and everything you go through during labor I felt so vulnerable, so exposed. Your body isn't yours anymore. It has another little person in there and your whole system gets out of wack. You realize laying in your hospital bed or on the operating table in my case, that so much can go wrong. It took me a good 3 years to get over Tanner's delivery and emergency C-Section to decide that yes, I could try to do it again. Cally on the other hand had horrible pregnancies both times. The sickness got worse with the second one and she would get sick, really sick all the way up to Tyler's due date pretty much. She always seemed to lose 10lbs or so in the first trimester or later. Vince (her first) was a hard delivery for her. Things were eerily similar to my experience with Tanner. However, everything turned out perfectly in the end, and mom and baby were healthy. I knew that I wanted Cally in the delivery/operating room with me my second time around. She was still having sickness from her pregnancy when I went in to have Sam, but she made it and having Mike and Cally there was the most comforting thing in the world. Now we had to wait another 7 months to meet our other little niece or nephew. We just had no idea that a semi truck was going to hit us head on. Our family has been through scary, tragic and trying times before, most of them being in the past 4 years, so it is hard to shock us out of our system. 3 years ago in January, Mike's sister, Jennie was pregnant with their first baby, a boy that they already knew his name would be Caiden Michael. It was just a few weeks coming out of the holidays and I got the call that Jennie's water had broke. That would be exciting, if Jennie was due, however, Jennie wasn't due until the middle of April. This put her at 26 weeks. Ironically enough, Jennie and Mike live in Chicago, us in NE and my in-laws in VA. Not to mention her parents had just moved over to live in the UK while her dad was working on a project over there. I don't even think my mother in law's plane touched down in the UK yet before she was basically on another one coming back home. I flew out the second I got the news to be with Jen and Mike and to make a long story longer, with Jennie on complete bed rest in the hospital they were able to keep Caiden in her for 5 more weeks. It was reassuring to me and I think the new parents to be that Cally is a NICU nurse. They had an amazing support system at the hospital they were at and it was no surprise that Caiden would most likely spend some time in the NICU after he was born, but it was nice to hear from a family member who this is her job to take care of sick babies and nurse them to health. Feb 23, 2008 Caiden was born and weighing only 2 lb. 15 oz., he was so tiny but so determined. My sister once told me that babies fight harder than adults do to live. Caiden is a miracle, he's our miracle and seeing that we are now arriving in Chicago to celebrate his 3rd birthday tonight, it brings tears to my eyes. It feels like so much time has lapsed yet time is standing still at the same time. Every milestone is important to us with all of our kids and tonight is a night to celebrate, sing Caiden happy birthday, and watch him open all of his presents. It's also a time to reflect on how far he's come since his first little breath on this earth. Things don't ever go as we plan them, but we can take what miracles God gives us and celebrate them. More later...TO BE CONTINUED>>>

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Tale of Two Sisters

Growing up as a kid, I always wished my parents would have had more kids. I had always wanted a little brother or another sibling for my sister and I to play with. Being it just the two of us and 2 years apart in age, we have had our share of hair pulling (literally) sibling rivalry. Not only are Cally and I close in age, we also share the same temperament, sense of humor, road rage and fashion sense (which now sadly revolves around sweatpants, t-shirts and pony tails with headbands). And not to mention that we look a lot alike, especially as kids. We both had long blond hair and blue eyes to match and the same exact laugh. The only way some people could tell us apart was by our height difference. As we got older, I stopped caring about the fact that it was just the two of us, but actually reveled in it. I loved that we shared so much. Sisters share a sacred bond that is unexplainable. It doesn't matter how far apart we are or how long we go without seeing each other, we have something that no one else in the entire world has with us. Both our own person, having our separate lives, friends and activities, but together we are a whole. She is the other half of me. Without a Cally the world (in my eyes) isn't as big, the sun not so bright, and the stars would have half the sparkle. Cally, this blogs for you. I know it's a probably over the top with sappiness and mush, and that's okay. I figure you need something to read during the days while you're at home still recovering with the baby Tyler. This will have to be a series of posts because there isn't enough time in the day to get it all out at once. OK, so here it goes. A synopsis if you will of the very early years of Matt and Cally's relationship. Warning, details may not be exact replica of actual truth (meaning, this is from my memory, not from Cally's).
Sept. 2005: Matt finally proposes to Cally after she gave him the ultimatum. Not that he was forced into marriage, just that he needed a little shove in the right direction. It basically went like this...Cally: "Matt, if you don't propose by such and such date, I am breaking up with you." Matt: "Uh, ok." Well a few months go by and this so-called "such and such" date arrives and Matt has big dinner plans for them on this particular night. They have reservations at a fancy restaurant and Cally probably was hoping that he would propose so she didn't have to break up with him somewhere between the filet mignon and the chocolate souffle. Nothing ruins a good expensive meal more than a break up.. They ate dinner. Nothing. They had some drinks. Still nothing. Things were winding down for the night and this is where things get a little fuzzy on my end. Dessert finally made its way out to the table and it was nearing 10pm I think. Waiting for the very last minute in typical Matt fashion, he pops the question! Like I said, things get a little fuzzy here, I can't remember if Cally screamed, "Good God! Look at that huge rock!" or if she mumbled in a pretend cry voice, "About time," before finally giving Matt the answer he was waiting for. Yay! for them, and YAY for me too, now I get to write a speech for their wedding. Obviously I am way over confident in my writing skills because I couldn't wait to get started. For months I would get out my pen and paper at night and try to come up with something so touching, or funny but most of all I wanted my speech to be a one of a kind, unforgettable speech that Cally and Matt would be proud of forever. Ambitious much? Probably. Here's the thing though about having a life's worth of memories about someone. Trying to put those thoughts on paper wasn't working for me. Finally the wedding day came, and I had written a couple sentences at most. Somehow between the "You two are a beautiful couple" and the "Cally, you've been the best sister any sister could ever have" nonsense, nothing felt right so I decided to wing it. It's not like me to ditch my safety net of having everything written down on paper so I don't get up there when it's time for my speech and look like a lost, stumbling (and worst of all sober) idiot, fumbling over my words. But I did it. I winged it. My speech consisted of a story centered around the time we were probably 7 (me) and 5yrs. old (Cal). Cally got mad at me for something and ended up biting her own arm so hard it bled, just so she could cry real tears and blame it on me. I don't know why I chose to tell that story and I can't say I wish I didn't, but I would have never still to this day found the words. So, Cal, if you were wondering why my speech wasn't so heart felt, that is why. It's not because I just didn't care enough to make sure it was perfect. It just was never perfect enough for my one and only sister. The sad thing about not knowing what to say at times is that for me, I always find the words I am looking for when it's too late. When I don't have that special person in my life anymore to tell them in person how I feel, I suddenly know exactly what to say once they're gone. I'm really good at writing eulogies. Isn't that sad? Luckily for you, Cally, you get to read all about yourself, because you are alive. But just don't proof read what I write because it's just not as fun when someone is critiqing their own eulogy. Not that this is your eulogy, because it's not. Let's be clear. It's...a story..of us...TO BE CONTINUED>>

Me and Cally at her and Matt's engagement party It looks like she is touching my boob, but she is just showing off her ring)
Sept. 2005

Matt, Cally and the RING