A few minutes later a nurse in navy blue scrubs walked into the waiting room and asked if we would like to go back to the ICU to see Justin. Debbie and I went back leaving my sister in law with Skyler, who was passed out on a waiting room chair exhausted from the day. On the way back to the ICU the nurse explained to us that the ICU was unusually busy right now and that Justin was actually in the pediatric ICU since that was the only bed available at the moment. For once he was not the youngest patient on the floor!
We entered into the ICU unit through two motion activated doors and passed two giant elevators that had bright yellow signs above them that read STAFF USE ONLY. The ICU units are horseshoe shaped. All the rooms have glass walls between them and the desks in the middle of the unit. The steady hum of oxygen tanks, and heart rate monitors seemed keep a steady pace to things even well passed 1 am.
Maria was Justin’s nurse the first night in the ICU. She was a short Hispanic woman with a no-nonsense personality. She seemed to command the room as soon as she walked into it. A younger blonde haired guy was training in under Maria’s guidance that night. It was one of his first days on the ICU floor. Maria quizzed him questions about
After they had a pretty good handle on his breathing and where his stats were, it was actually time to wake him up a bit. Even though they had been monitoring his brain activity while he was in surgery they still wanted to wake him up enough to ensure brain damage hadn’t occurred. One thing Maria was pretty causes about was how Justin would react to being woke up especailly since he still had a breathing tube down his throat. She warned the new nurse that sometimes younger guys like Justin will start thrashing around and try to pull the breathing tube out. In all the surgeries before that I hadn’t really been around him while he was awake with a breathing tube. Justin did really good. He opened his eyes, squeezed her hand and gave a thumbs up! I was so relieved to see that thumbs up.
Ever since we started dating whenever Justin would catch my eye from across the room he would blow me a silent kiss. That night in the ICU he blew me a kiss as best as he could with a tube down his throat. I don’t know if anyone else saw him do it, or if he would even remember but it made me feel like I could finally breathe after holding my breath since the moment the doctor walked into the echo room two weeks ago. I stayed with Justin for a while that night in the ICU before finally heading across the street to get some sleep.
The next morning we grabbed breakfast at the hotel and headed back over to the ICU before Justin went down to surgery again, this time to close his chest. I waited in his ICU as it started to fill with people in scrubs. Anesthesiologists, respiratory teams, cardiac, so many people wearing the same blue and green scrubs. They hooked him up to the portable oxygen and wheeled him off the oversized elevators. They were able to safely close his chest and he was back in the ICU by that afternoon. This time he was put in on the adult side surrounded by much older patients. When doctors came around for rounds that evening we were informed of some pretty scary news. Justin’s heart was not beating on its own. After major heart surgeries like this often a temporary pacemaker is placed while the swelling goes down usually the heart starts to beat on its own. In Justin’s case, the damage was so significant, and the surgery was so extensive that the hearts wiring may have been nicked at some point, but it could still just be swelling.
As we neared the 24 marks, Justin’s heart was still dependent on two flimsy wires attaching his heart to a little white box with two knobs on it. This is all that was keeping his heart beating. The scary part is just how temporary these pacemakers are. The wires are barely attached to the heart so if it starts beating on its own it’s easier to remove. They gave us the news that if Justin’s heart wouldn’t start on its own in the next two days he would be going back into surgery to get a pacemaker placed. Two days came and went and Rochester was covered with snow after a huge snow storm. The hospital staff was snowed in, those who should be going off shift were stuck and those trying to come on couldn’t make it in.
It was concluded that a pacemaker would be needed. First, however, they needed Justin’s INR blood thinner, to get to a certain point in order to make surgery a possibility. So we waited. We ended up waiting almost a week, all while these flimsy wires kept his heart beating. This created a few problems. Justin was completely bed bound. This meant bedpans and sponge baths. I love my husband but after 9 days of not showering laying in the same bed, he stunk bad!
It was during those 9 days I got a call from my dad. We were down in the lobby of our hotel having breakfast before heading to the hospital. He called to let me know that my Grandma had passed away that morning. Everything for me seemed to freeze. So many of my childhood summers had been spent in my grandma’s garden picking peas, and in her family room coloring. I got off the phone and finished getting Sky her breakfast. This older gentleman sat down at the table next to us and started talking to us. I’m sure I came off as super crabby but I really didn’t care for his bad dad jokes. All I wanted to do was cry. When Debbie sat down I told her what had happened and asked if she could finish up breakfast with Skyler. I just wanted to head on over to the hospital and have a minute to myself on the walk there.
I was pretty torn on if I should go back home for the funeral or not. I decided to stay in Rochester, but I would help put together the slideshow for the service. It was kinda nice to have something to do other than stare out the window of a waiting room watching the snow fall. Justin would often fall asleep mid-sentence so our conversations were usually pretty short, and repetitive. When his INR levels were finally to the point where surgery could be done we were so relieved. The pacemaker was placed, and an x-ray tech came in to ensure the leads were where they needed to be. Skyler got to see the x-ray that day in the hospital room. One of my favorite photos is the one below. I love how Justin is smiling at her!
We spent a few more days in the ICU after the pacemaker was placed. Doctors wanted to make sure that the leads for the new pacemaker had some time to heal to the heart. This also meant that Justin had to keep his arms down and hold pretty still for a while longer. One of the big concerns with the placement of the pacemaker was deciding what side of his chest they would put it. Since Justin is a hunter, they decided to place the pacemaker on his left side so that the recoil of a gun wouldn’t damage his pacemaker. His pacemaker is a Boston Scientific. He now has a small box plugged into next to our bed that downloads information from his pacemaker each night and sends it to his cardiologist in Bismarck. They read the reports each month and if there is anything crazy they call us to come in and get it checked out.
Justin’s work has been so amazing through all of this! While he was in Rochester I spoke with the HR department almost daily. They called just to see how he was doing. Justin’s foreman called and texted some too just to check in on him, and assure us that everything at work would be taken care of all he needed to do was rest up and get healthy. The pacemaker has been one of the things that have made the biggest difference at work. Since Justin is a lease operator, some of his locations have generators on them. Since generators use large magnets Justin would need to steer clear of them to ensure not to disrupt his pacemaker. This meant he would be moving routes when he eventually went back to work.
We were finally moved to the cardiac step down unit. We got a much bigger room with a wall of windows that let the light pour in, something that was much needed after almost a month in the hospital. Justin finally got to take a shower, thank god! He started going on walks down the hallways. On one of our first few walks, we got passed by this little tike who had also had heart surgery of some kind. He couldn’t have been older than 5 years old. Watching Justin get lapped by a 5-year-old gave Justin a bit more determination to push himself a little longer that day!
On March 3 we got word that we would be discharged soon. Luckily we had already done the home antibiotics and wouldn’t need the educational part of that. Chip, the pharmacist in Fargo, was on the ball with all our paperwork and had everything lined up. We would get Justin’s morning dose and head to Fargo to pick up meds and stay the night, before heading the rest of the way home to Tioga. We got all the paperwork and
We got home on March 6th. I was scheduled to have an appointment on March 7th. That morning snow was falling and no travel was adviced for most of North Dakota. I called and rescheduled my appointment for the 8th. I drove Justin and myself to my doctor appointment that afternoon. Justin would not be released to drive for another 3 to 4 weeks. My appointment went well. I was seeing a different doctor since my doctor was on vacation. This new doctor was pretty confident I would probably make it to my due date that was still two weeks away. As we walked out of the office I told Justin that this baby would be here in the next day or two.
We drove home and packed our bags once again. Though I’m fairly certain they were not ever really unpacked! Along with all the hospital necessities, I was also packing a cooler with all of Justin’s antibiotics, heparin and saline flushes and plenty of alcohol wipes. I wrestled the car seat into the car and we called Justin’s mom Debbie to drive us to the hospital. My contractions were about 7 minutes apart and we had an hour drive to the hospital. I got a little worried when we reached Ray. My contractions stopped altogether. I was worried we would be driving there for no reason at all. But as we pulled up to the hospital 30 minutes later contractions were back at full force.
We checked in and started hooking me up to monitors. It was funny to see Justin in the waiting chair and me in the hospital bed for a change. After monitoring contractions for about an hour they let me get up and walk the hallway. Debbie was still there with us since we were still not certain they would be admitting me to deliver. Justin walked the first hallway with me slowly, it was probably the longest distance he had walked in over a month. We joked walking into the hospital that night that I would be pushing him around the hallways in a wheelchair! He was pretty tuckered out after that first lap so he stopped in the waiting room and Debbie took his place as my walking partner.
We walked for about an hour before heading back to my room to get checked again. I was progressing nicely and they said they would be admitting me so Debbie headed home to help Lorin with Skyler leaving me and Justin to wait for this baby to arrive. We walked the halls a bit more before I headed to the tub to relax between contractions and let Justin get some shut-eye. I stayed there for a while. At this point, I am a second-time mom, so I’m sure that played into the more relaxed atmosphere in our room, but our entire stay was so peaceful and wonderful. There just seemed to be a calmness that everyone who entered the room seemed to sense.
Our nurse Amanda came in to check on me while Justin slept in the chair. It was definitely another busy night in Labor and Delivery. She seemed a bit hurried and stressed. I’m sure the quick turn around of moms and babies in the maternity ward can definitely just have you going through the motions. We visited awhile and I shared with her our story of the last nine months. How we were just so thankful to be back home together in time for this baby to be born. She shared how she was ready for winter to be over and how she had recently lost her father. She left to check and see with my doctor if I would be able to get my epidural soon. Honestly, I would have waited a bit longer to get it, but I knew Justin wasn’t really getting any sleep and he was exhausted, it was past 2 am and we were both in need of some sleep.
Amanda came back almost
Our birth plan was fairly simple. One thing we really wanted to do was to have delayed interventions after he was born. We wanted to do skin to skin and wait on cutting the cord, weights vitamin k shots and any other disturbances for about the first hour. I was ready, the nurses were ready, this baby was ready, but we were waiting on the on-call doctor. She finally came a few minutes later and three pushes later our son was born. He was blue, and he wasn’t crying. They started rubbing him down on my chest but he still was silent. Our plan changed, cut the cord and get him crying. A nurse scooped him off my chest as soon as the doctor cut the cord and rushed him to the warming table. They took towels and started rubbing him down hard. I just remember sitting there in that dark room as three doctors and nurses crowded around by blue baby trying to get him to breathe. Justin was holding my hand my doctor was delivering the placenta and I just cried out to God “No you can’t bring us through all of that and not let this baby live. God, breathe life into our baby!” and then Grayson started screaming. A sigh of relief came over everyone in that room. His color started to change from blue to red as we all listened to that sweet little baby cry.
They brought him back over to me and everyone started to clear out of the room I was so fixated on the sound of Grayson’s cry that when I finally looked up from him the room was empty. It was just me and Justin and Grayson. Even thinking back to that moment brings me such joy and peace knowing that this was all God’s plan. Everything was right we were a family of four. Over the next hour, Justin Grayson and I bonded. I held Grayson close to my chest skin to skin, I don’t think I even looked up at Justin that entire time. A nurse finally came in and asked if they could get Grayson weighed, measured and bathed. We agreed and a few nurses filed in to clean up and take Grayson’s stats. It was about time to get Justin hooked up to his antibiotics. We got a few funny looks from nurses as I laid in my hospital bed hooking Justin’s
Justin’s pharmacist Chip called to let us know that the next shipment of meds would be at our house the next day, and ask if we needed any other supplies for Justin’s
We called our parents and shared with them the news. The hospital was limiting visitors due to a bad season of the flu going around.
I just remember over the next few days watching the snow fall outside in silence feeling like all is right in the world, God is so Good! These are some photos I took of the kids that first week. They are some of my favorite photos and I still have them in a frame above my desk in our dining room.
In the days following Grayson’s birth, I shared the story on my personal Facebook page. I had been giving updates on Justin to share with our family and friends. So many people had added me as a friend to keep up with our story. A lot of Justin’s relatives and friends from college had added me and I accepted almost all the friend requests knowing people were just wanting to stay up to date on our journey. I want to share an excerpt of the post announcing Grayson’s arrival.
” Looking back on the past year it’s hard to deny that God’s hands molded our path. So many things worked out at just the right time to get us to just the right people. We are incredibly grateful to our family and friends for all they have done for us. I am so happy to be surrounded by such a loving and supportive community. The night we got home from the hospital with Grayson, and Skyler got to meet him I sat down and cried. It finally felt like the storm was starting to calm. Thank you to everyone who has stood by us this past year. So many people have told me how strong I am. But the truth is God is strong. I would not have been able to make it through off of this if it wasn’t for Him, and the support of those around us. Your prayers have lifted our family up and kept us strong. I want each and every one of you to know just how thankful our family is for everything you have done for us! Thank you!”Chelsy Weisz’s personal Facebook page March 12, 2019
Hundreds of people read liked and commented on this post. So many of those comments brought on the waterworks again for me. Hearing how our story was touching other peoples life’s and making real impacts was amazing. I would like to share one of those comments. This was a comment from my nurse Amanda, that night in labor and delivery.
From the few hours I meet you, you have left a lasting imprint-Amanda
onmylife. I had benhaving bad dasysuch as wehnyou asked “Do you like it in ND?” lol. Talking with you two really put my pettiness into prespective! I am so so sad I missed Grayson’s birth, but blessed our lives passed as God saw fit! I pray for your family daily now! Can’t wait to see all the updates on little Grayson grow big and strong.
It was then that I really was able to step back and see just how powerful of a story we had. I think when something big and scary and hard happens in your life you have two options you either let that mountain crush you and wallow in self-pity or you conquer that challenge. This season of life was hard, it was a mountain I knew we couldn’t climb on our own, we needed God. While reaching for God in our time of need helped us it has also helped others. Bad things happen. How we deal with them and the attitude you choose to have each and every day will determine if you will come out victorious. No matter what lies ahead for our family this is Gods plan and we trust that he is good.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.Zephaniah 3:17