Releasing the Ghosts of Christmases Past
1/2/2014 3:25 PM
By Yvonne Hall
Five years ago, it seemed impossible that my daughter would be healthy, happy and partaking in family Christmas festivities. December had become the month to dread and with good reason.
As each Christmas season approached, Lorie unexpectedly suffered health setbacks and for two seasons her condition was nearly fatal. The approach of December then became filled with apprehension and fear that Christmas would again be marred by health concerns.
It was early December 2009 when her heart and body gave out. Lorie collapsed and was rushed to our local hospital twice during one weekend. It quickly became clear she was not “okay” and we soon received the diagnosis of an embolism. Unable to be airlifted to Toronto due to snow and low cloud cover, there was no choice but to risk the four-hour drive by ambulance, over snow-covered, slippery roads.
Once we received word she had survived the treacherous trip to TGH (Toronto General Hospital), I felt a small ray of hope. Although she hadn’t regained consciousness, she was in the care of her cardiac team who understood her condition and I allowed myself a breath of relief.
My husband and I spent the following two weeks in Toronto during which time Lorie woke up and began the long road to recovery. However, irreparable damage had been done and she was sent home the day before Christmas in my care and encouraged to get her affairs in order. Nothing further could be done for her. Lorie, however, had other ideas. With two small children and a husband who loved and needed her, she set out to pursue her passion of writing, beginning with a book on living with cardiac disease.
Lorie’s only hope for a future depended on a heart transplant, but we soon learned she was not considered a viable candidate. Nevertheless, her determination never wavered and thanks to a cardiologist who refused to give up on her, the following August the decision was reversed and she was placed on the transplant list. The long wait had begun!
In November 2011 Lorie entered the hospital for some routine tests due to a concern with her latest blood test. What should have been an overnight trip turned into six weeks of hospital care with her almost leaving us twice during that time. Simple exploratory tests turned into nightmares and she grew weaker and more helpless, finally being transferred to ICU. By Christmas Eve her team reluctantly allowed her an overnight pass to stay in the nearby hotel with her husband and children. Lorie’s Christmas Eve dinner of soup in bed, cuddling with her children, remains one of her most treasured gifts. Once again, Christmas had been rocked by fear, apprehension and hopelessness.
Lorie returned home for New Year’s and within a few days she and I had rented an apartment near the hospital in Toronto where we would spend the next six months. Her transplant team insisted she be close to hospital and we all knew surviving an Ontario winter—hours from her team and TGH—was too risky.
Six weeks later, Lorie received the gift of a new life. We offer our eternal thanks to the donor who gave her a second chance. The months following her transplant were painful and difficult, but she never looked back. Last Christmas, nine months post-transplant, was wonderful and although I was ecstatic with the miraculous results, winter still lay ahead. Flu season was upon us (since it seems that influenza now deserves its own season) and we knew winter weather can be ruthless for her. Neither flu nor cold deterred Lorie’s recovery; rather, she reveled in her new ability to enjoy Mother Nature.
This year, Christmas has regained its rightful place of love, gratitude and merriment. Lorie, along with her post-transplant team, recently rejoiced at her best heart biopsy yet. With another holiday season winding down, I’m filled with gratefulness and awe when reflecting on Christmases past. No more waiting for the “other shoe to fall,” as December approaches.
As I look forward to 2014, I wish a blessed and healthy year to all.
Yvonne Hall is a wife, mother, grandmother and life coach in training. She blogs and journals regularly as well as holds the position of personal assistant to her daughter, Angel Thinking author and CHD advocate Lorelei Hill. Yvonne’s intent in coaching is to encourage those in their transition years to embrace their age and value their wisdom while seeing aging as a new chapter rather than the last chapter. Yvonne has a lot to offer families struggling to raise children with CHD as well as women looking to grow wise gracefully.
Copyright ©2014 ACHA