Tuesday, March 21, 2017
A big one...
I have debated when is the right time for this post? It is exactly two weeks since Jeff's "event" as I call it. Part of me doesn't want to write it because honestly, some of it is too raw. But, most of me doesn't want to forget the details of it all and, so here I sit, ready to write it here. I have been thinking much about this blog. It is eleven years old. It has documented so much of our lives, the good and the bad, and so, it is certainly fitting that the BIGGEST story that's happened to us, would be shared here.
I feel like to completely understand everything that happened on March 7, 2017, you really have to go back to the beginning, before we were Jeff and Susan the married couple with three kids!
Jeff was born and raised in Kalamazoo. His father, Roger, died of a sudden heart attack back in 1986, when Jeff was only 11. Jeff's mom did an awesome job raising him, his twin sister Jenny, and older sister Kim. While all this was happening in Kalamazoo, I was a ten year old little girl living in the suburbs of Chicago. Ironically, I have vivid memories of being terrified that something would happen to one of my parents. The anxiety would be paralyzing at times. Eventually we moved to Midland, Michigan and between my sophomore and junior year of high school, several people I knew died. A little girl I babysat for was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor and died within a week, my friend's dad died suddenly at home, a teacher's daughter died in an automobile crash and a classmate was killed in a drunk driving accident. Let's just say that the anxiety I had about death was thrown into high gear. Looking back, I realize that no one really knew how to help us deal with all of this loss. Eventually, life went on and I graduated and went to college. I ended up majoring in Family Community Studies and I ended up meeting Jeff Simpson in March of 1995. I worked for the court system as a victim advocate and with domestic violence victims. When we had Matthew I decided I wanted to be a stay at home mom. However, after we had all three kids, I realized that I wanted more. I decided that I needed a Masters in Social Work to have access to the careers I wanted. I went back to school in September of 2013. My first internship was with Borgess Hospital as a medical social worker intern. I loved every minute of it! Something has always drawn me to medical social work. My love of crisis, medicine, helping those in need navigate difficult circumstances. I love serving as a liaison between the physicians, nurses, case managers and other providers. I have no doubt that the role that anxiety related to grief and loss has certainly influenced my career choice. Truth be told, losing a loved one has continued to terrify me. I have said to co-workers that sometimes I think I have chosen my career because I feel somehow it might prepare me if I ever encountered such a crisis in my own life. I have worked as a medical social worker for Bronson for four years, two in the ER and two as the palliative care social worker. While it has made me mildly parnaoid at times, I think it really has just opened my eyes to the possibility that while usually the worse case scenario won't happen, it is possible. At the same time, as Jeff has gotten closer to the age his father died, his paranoia about sudden cardiac death has increased. It is not unusual for him to google symptoms and self diagnosis a variety of conditions. Most of the time I am exasperated and say, "Good grief! You do not have....this, that or the other thing."
Fast forward to a few days before the event. Jeff had been thinking he might have a UTI but his symptoms seemed to be improving. On Monday night he was complaining of back pain but it seemed to be flank pain, not high up on his back. He did say his leg hurt but he thought it was his sciatica. I know this because if he would have had it in the traditional behind the knee DVT spot he would have asked if I thought it was a blood clot. Ironically, we have had several conversations about blood clots! I went to bed and was awoken to Jeff literally jumping out of bed screaming my name. I will admit that at first I was annoyed as he is prone to doing this periodically if he's had a nightmare. I remember thinking, "Uggh. go to sleep!" But as I became more alert, I realized he was in pain. He said that his back was killing and he didn't know if he should go to the ER. I asked him where the pain was, if he was having trouble breathing, etc. We discussed calling an ambulance but quickly dismissed that because we didn't want to scare the kids and we honestly felt he likely had a kidney stone. Jeff said he would just drive himself and that's when I said, "No way, you could have a blood clot!" and "If you throw a clot while you're driving you're in real trouble." He got annoyed and said, "Why do always have to freak me out?" We drove to the ED and the whole way there I kept checking his symptoms, ten out of ten pain, no shortness of breath and at this time he was not complaining about leg pain at all. When I dropped him off I said, "Tell them you are short of breath, tell them about your mom's history of a blood clot so they work you up for that too." (I found out later he was naughty and did not tell them that!!)I went home and we continued to text throughout the night. It seemed the ED staff also felt it was likely a kidney stone. However, all the testing began to return and it seemed that was not the case. Thank God, his CT showed some fluid in his left lung. Thank God, the ED physcian decided to do another CT of his lungs. The last text I got from Jeff was at 7:19a.m. It said, "The CT shows blood clots in both of my lungs, they are admitting me." I remember thinking "Crap!" But, looking back, I definitely wasn't as freaked as I would think I would be or as I probably should be. My plan was to take the kids to school and then go to the ER before I knew about the clots. When I got the text, there wasn't a sense of urgency for some reason and so I continued with my plan. Matthew was wanting to talk to Jeff and so I texted Jeff and said to please call or text if he could. When I didn't hear anything back, that is when the panic set in. I called his phone twice and the third time his boss answered the phone. I remember knowing immediately something horrible had happened. I asked Scott what happened and he told me Jeff had an event. I remember asking, "What do you mean?" He said he passed out. I asked with urgency, "Did he pass out or did he have an event?" My experience as a former ER MSW knew that it was the latter. He didn't really answer but simply said, "Are you coming?" I called my friend Annie, who already knew what was going on and told her what happened and it felt like literally a minute later she was at my house calmly getting my kids. I was able to keep it together and stay calm for the kids. I remember hugging her in the laundry room and crying because I had no idea what was ahead for Jeff or myself.
Long story short, I arrived at Borgess and was taken back to one of their trauma rooms and here is where it was absolutely surreal for me. I have been in countless trauma rooms, with family members, with doctors, being told similar things that were now being said to me. When I walked in I recognized one of the ICU residents that also rotates to Bronson, I think I was like, "Oh, hi, how are you?" WHAT IN THE WORLD! The ICU doctor asked me if I was Jeff's wife and I nodded and asked what happened? He looked at me with much concern in his eyes and said, "Your husband had a pulmonary embolism that stopped his heart. He died but we were able to resusciate him". I felt like I wanted to say, "Who? Him? Jeff? " It seemed so unreal to me. Jeff was awake and was able to respond to me but was definitely not himself. The doctor went on to say many things that are now mostly a blur. I remember asking, "Do you think he has an underlying malignancy?" and then went on to tell him that I was a palliative care MSW. I am sure he was like, hmmm, that's strange your telling me all this and asking strange questions. He was very nice, albeit brutally honest. I found out that they were able to administer CPR to Jeff right when his heart stopped and they gave him TPA immediately as well. Looking back, I thank God for so much of this story but not being with Jeff when he coded is one of things I am most grateful for. I don't think I could have handled it. Even the thought of it makes me teary. There was so much peace within me from 7:19a.m on, even if I felt panicky at not knowing what the heck was going on. My kids still don't know that all of this happened and most of that is because I was able to get them off before going to the ER.
It is an absolute miracle that we did not blow off the pain. We could have so easily had him take some Motrin and go back to bed. If he had, he would have died. I have no doubt about this. I feel certain that between his paranoia and mine as well as my medical social work experience, together, we were able to have Jeff be exactly where he needed to be. I thank God that the PCA was putting on the EKG leads when he coded. He easily could have been alone in his room when this happened. I am so thankful that chest compressions did the trick and he didn't need to be intubated. Even though he was out of it, I could hear his voice when I arrived at the ER!
I am completely convinced that God's hand was in every step of this. I can see His hand in our lives, preparing us for this, even 18 months ago. We were very far from God and our relationship was suffering. We were approached by a couple to join a small group, which we did. This group helped us come back to church, to God and devoting time to what was important in life. Our faith's grew. Good relationship's blossomed. The grace He has extended us is overwhelming. We have been blessed beyond measure from so many different people. Life long friends, church friends, work friends, people who don't even know us. God has given us peace that surpasses all understanding. There has been healing in brokenness. This story is just beginning. I am humbled. I am grateful. I can not imagine a life without Jeff. I am so thankful that God spared him. There is much more I want to share about this grace and God's love. But, for now, I think this is enough. That being said, if you are reading and you've prayed, brought us a meal, watched our kids, run to the store, sent us a gift card, etc, please know we are so grateful. Our lives have been blessed because of your thoughtfulness!
Posted by Susan at 5:46 PM