7.11.2009

Breaking the Silence


I've never been one "lost for words." Usually when I've been this quiet on the blog it means I'm busying plaguing myself with the guilt associated with writing a blog, and having your readers ask you, "Where have you been?" Lately however, I'm the one who has been asking myself that question. Seriously Ali, where have you been? After two weeks in contemplative silence I think I'm finally ready to answer that question.

You may have heard me speak of my mom. Those of you that frequent the cafe know her as The Strata Queen, the lady responsible for those intricate fruit garnishes on the weekend, that slow-baked banana cake and rosemary-mushroom gravy, and for spoiling your dogs while you wait in line to reach the counter.

Me? I know her as both my right and left hand. No, literally: We have the same hands. A fact I first became aware of when I was a child, clutching her hand as we crossed the street, as a teenager, when I could barely distinguish between the curvature of our knuckles and the lines in our palms, then later in my 20's, when I began developing recognizable signs of early arthritis, and then 16 days ago, as I interlaced my fingers through hers as she lay in a hospital bed, unconscious in McMinnville's Willamette Valley Hospital's ICU.

You see, 16 days ago around dinnertime my mom suffered cardiac arrest. Not once, but twice.

She was in McMinnville, on the clock at her other day job, the job she has dedicated the last 30 years of her life to as the director of a program that inspires and supports at-risk youth. A job that requires her to pack up her Portland life every summer and move down to Linfield College's campus (to eat, sleep, and live in the college dorms) for her Summer Program. When we were younger, my sister and I were allowed to move with her. We would all wave and kiss our Dad, four cats, and one dog goodbye, pile into the car, and head to wine country to live with my mom, 8 college-age counselors, and 60 high school kids. Once we got older and our summer schedules no longer permitted 8 week stays, Mom was forced to make the trek by herself, a task she's been diligently taking on alone for the past 30 years.

Sixteen days ago, when I first received the phone call from my sister who was in NYC at the time, I could tell immediately that something was wrong. Terribly wrong. Despite her attempts to keep her voice steady, there was a shrill uneasiness, and most troubling, a panicked eerie attempt to conceal just how bad things were. All I heard was, "Ali, Mom had a heart attack." I can hardly remember handing the phone over to Evan, who was promptly instructed by my sister to get us the car and on the road to make the hour's drive to the valley's hospital. She told us she would be there as soon as she could get a flight.

At this point neither my sister, Evan or I knew whether my mom was alive or dead. On the car ride to the hospital I couldn't stop thinking about Michael Jackson, who had been reported dead, having suffered from a heart attack just hours prior to my mom dropping on the cafeteria floor in front of dozens of witnesses. I wish to highlight this fact not to be dramatic, but because it is because she was in this very public place that my mom survived. You see, the cafeteria was the one location on campus that had access to a defibrillator, the one applied by a witness on the scene, that shocked my mom's heart, that saved my mom's life. Turns out my mom didn't just have a heart attack. She suffered and survived a cardiac arrest, which we have been told less than 5% actually manage.

I can only speak about this now, or even think about speaking about this now because four days ago we were finally able to take my mom home. After spending 4 nights in McMinnville's ICU, coming in and out of a sedative coma, she was finally stable enough to be transferred by ambulance to Good Samaritan Hospital in NW Portland. After a week of floating between this hospital's ICU and Intermediate Care Unit, she was finally deemed well enough to bring home, to her own house, to her own bed.

Needless to say this event has created quite the ripple effect. My family is currently trying to digest the biggest challenge we have yet to be served in our lives, and our cafe is learning how to cope without its "Mom." It has become abundantly clear that nothing will ever be the same again, a fact we are simultaneously trying to accept and be grateful for.

18 comments:

Amy said...

I am thinking of and praying for you and your family! Moms rule.

angesinclair said...

My best BEST wishes and thoughts to you and your mom and the rest of your family. My step father had 3 heart attacks in a row 2 months ago and I know just how you feel - when you get that phone call it feels like your world just shatters. I know heart attacks are different - and less severe - than cardiac arrest, but I can tell you that my step dad is doing really well now, maybe better than before the surgery. I truly, truly hope the same is true for your mom.

Deanne said...

I've been thinking about you guys daily and hoping with all my heart that things were getting better. Hugs and continued positive energy for you, your mom, and the rest of your family.

kati said...

wow, 2009 really has a backwards way of showing you it loves you :(

i am so sorry you guys have to go through all this, but i'm so glad your mom is ok and home!

take good care of each other...

Metolius Mark * Computer God said...

There IS a lot to be grateful for. In time Mother, daughters and family will have a new set of realities and life may continue, changed by events but happy that things worked out, though the odds were so against it.

Oh and Happy 1st Anniversary, btw.


Mark

Alyssa said...

I stumbled upon your blog over a year ago and enjoy it immensely from Colorado.
I am a registered nurse here (with cafe inspirations). You don't need me, a perfect stranger, to tell you, but what you and yours have experienced is so difficult. You conveyed your experience and your strength beautifully in this blog entry.
Love, peace, healing, & comfort for you all.

secretnatasha said...

Ali, I'm both sorry/glad to hear about this - sorry about the cardiac arrest, but so glad to hear that she made it through and is improving! Thinking of you.

Swift "Squeaks" Blackstock said...

Thank you for filling us in on the details. I know it's hard to talk about, write about; while you are struggling to say anything, know that everyone else is struggling to say the right thing. We love you, and we're there for you.

small town dyke said...

my heart goes out to you all the way from ohio. I wish you all a speedy recovery

Jonlyn said...

Ali, thinking of you, Evan and your wonderful mom during this trying time. Wishing you and your mom all the best. Bless you all. Stay strong. You are all loved. Jonlyn

Sarah Jane said...

sending good thoughts. i know that feeling and it's the type of moment that makes the earth stop. i had a very similar experience and know how difficult that can be. enjoy lots of precious moments and i'll say prayers. xo

filoli said...

I am glad to see your silence is broken - at least for now. Your family has been everpresent in my thoughts. These devastating and amazing blessings are bitter sweet. I can't believe that there was a defib at the cafeteria. [head-shaking and jaw dropped in awe] My thoughts and prayers are with all of you. I know sometimes coming home and starting intensive rehab can be the hardest...everything is now - well different. If you need anything from a shipped bottle of wine to a sample "I am not a child and I can still understand you" business card for your mom to hand out, shoot me an email. (We made up a bunch for a dear friend that had a stroke for her to pass out...)

For now, you wait...and we wait with you:

"We wait with patience. But patience does not mean passivity. Waiting patiently is not like waiting for the bus to come, the rain to stop, or the sun to rise. It is an active waiting in which we live the present moment to the full in order to find there the signs of the one we are waiting for...Waiting patiently is suffering through the present moment, tasting it to the full, and letting the seeds that are sown in the ground on which we stand grow into strong plants. Waiting patiently always means paying attention to what is happening right before our eyes and seeing there the first rays of god's glorious coming."

- Henri Noewen

If it is at all possible - I send you every positive and good thing in the world as your family deals with this unfortunate new challenge.

Kronda said...

I knew something was up. I'm devastated & so glad for you all at the same time. I do NOT want you in the club. Thank god for public defibrillators and crowded cafeterias!

I'm thinking of you guys and hope to see your mom's smiling face in the cafe again (perhaps as a very spoiled customer :-) someday soon!

Jaynel said...

Your whole family is in my prayers. I experienced a similiar health scare with my father 4 months ago. Hang tight and hug alot. You are right....nothing will ever be the same.

Susie said...

Hey Ali. Although I never comment, reading your blog is one of my weekly rituals. I love the food you make and everything about the cafe and blog. Last winter, when the Catlin Girls Soccer team ('05) came to the LRBC, we were so happy to see you, Evan and of course your mom (one of our most dedicated fans). The Greenebaum family and your Catlin soccer girls are thinking good thoughts for all of you and a fast recovery for your mom!

Anonymous said...

Years ago I worked with low income young people in Portland Public Schools and referred students to a summer program that was in McMinnville at Linfield College. I believe it was your mother? who worked for this program and to which I sent many students where they got an idea of what living on a college campus might be like. I am so sorry to hear of her heart attack and know you will tackle this new change in your life with your amazing passion zest, and adaptability. To say my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family seems so trite, but I wanted to offer something and to say I believe she touched the lives of many young people.

Catherine said...

Sending warmness, loves, and hugs through the airwaves... so much.

Lala said...

It would be great if more public places had automated external defibrillators like the one that helped save your mom's life. Especially in a community like ours in St Johns, where the population has a risk much higher than normal and resources for acquiring the devices are scarce, it would be a blessing to have more of them around. Hmmm, makes me want to try a little grant writing....