Better Late than Never

Well it certainly has been a while since I've blogged. Although, it's not as though anyone is missing anything. I mean, with social media these days, aren't many of us bloggers in a sense?

Nonetheless, if I'm going to have a website with a blog, I might as well TRY to keep it up. So let's review shall we?

It was March 2020 when this "Virus" took over the world and everyone lost their minds. I'm not minimizing it by any means, I have friends who lost parents, siblings and loved ones. I may or may not have lost my own mother to Covid, but I'll get to that in a minute.

Just as schools were shutting down, testing sites were going up, law enforcement protocols were changing by the minute (literally). I was assigned to a few testing sites and food distribution centers when I stopped to fill my patrol car up with gas. I had been in rifle training the day before and had tossed my extra magazine in a hurry as I left the range. 

While the car was filling with gas the next morning, I began to look for the extra magazine to put it back in it's assigned pocket and as I was rummaging through the back of my car, I yanged up on one of several black nylon bags. Only this one wasn't as light as the others. It weighed 70 pounds. The next thing I knew, I heard a loud POW in my shoulder and the pain was unlike any other I'd ever felt. It took my breath away and I just fell into the back of my car. A nice county utility worker ran to me and offered assistance until I could pull myself together to call my boss.

Off to the urgent care I went and I'll spare you the details of the crappy medical care I got. Five days later I insisted on seeing a REAL doctor and was sent to another location where he was smart enough to order an MRI. Sure as can be, I had torn my rotator cuff and needed surgery. Problem was, no one was doing surgery due to Covid. So I sat on my butt working on everything from my book to my website etc. It kept my mind busy which is what I needed.

In July I finally got surgery and went through the whole physical therapy routine for TEN MONTHS. I made progress, but not enough. My original surgeon had left the practice so the new surgeon ordered an MRI to see what was holding up progress. As my luck would have it, the original surgeon didn't use any type of hardware like screws, anchors, etc. The stitching he used to secure the tendon to the bone had frayed and I was pretty much back to square one with an even bigger hole in my shoulder. A year later (now, July 2021) I found myself right back here, at my computer, recovering from another shoulder surgery, this one much more painful than the last.

Anyway, going back...

In December, 2020, my mom went to her foot doctor for a wound that wasn't healing. It had been almost 10 years since she had a double femoral bypass in 2011. Doctors told her then if she didn't stop smoking she was going to lose her legs. Sadly she never headed that advice. 

Her foot doctor called the hospital and had them waiting for her to be assessed by a vascular surgeon. When he arrived and assessed her foot and legs, he determined she needed a triple aortic bypass which no hospital nearby was equipped to handle because it required two surgical teams working simultaneously in a very large operating room. The nearest hospital that could handle this procedure was Shands at the University of Florida, Gainesville.  She spent a few days there while they literally mapped out every vein and artery in her 74 year old body. They explained the procedure to me and deep down I felt as though she was just a patient for some medical students to practice on. God forgive me but I never dreamed she would pull through something so extreme. They literally had to rebuild her a new aorta, two new femoral arteries to her knees, a new artery to her kidneys and more to her intenstinal track.  To put it simply, they were repiping her. I seriously don't think she understood what she was agreeing to and on the night before her surgery I talked to her about it to make sure she understood. It was clear she didn't as they had only spoken to her during the wee hours of the morning when she was half asleep. I asked her what she wanted to do and she asked for a Priest, so I requested one and he came.

December 23, 2020. Surgery was early, she was the first case. It was 5 hours long and finally the surgeon came out and told me they were able to get everything done except her kidneys. They didn't want to keep her under anesthesia any longer, especially since her kidneys seemed to be functioning properly.

About two weeks later she was discharged to a rehab facility closer to home. Unfortunately, due to Covid, my daughter and I weren't able to visit with her as much as we wanted to or needed to. 

Physically she slowly healed, but mentally she declined. It seems while all her blood was finally able to reach her lower extremeties, it wasn't making it's way to her brain like it needed to and little by little over a period of two months, the arteries in her brain began to close. It was beyond heart breaking and frustrating to try and communicate with her by phone. She had lost the ability to know how to operate it or even hold it in her hand.

The nursing staff was horrific. I complained weekly to every supervisor I could reach about mom's declining but was continuously blown off. Finally in early April, I called and raised enough hell threatening to bring the cops and lawyers with me to do a "check on the well being" if they didn't transport her to the hospital for a neurological evaluation. They did, but not without screwing up those orders too.

When I got a hold of the ER charge nurse and explained why I REALLY wanted my mother there, things finally began to go in the right direction, but it was too late. At least I was able to visit mom at the hospital though and she had brief moments of clarity before she would get confused again. I'm trying to be grateful for the little things but it continues to be a work in progress. Grief due to death of a loved one is something new to me and I'm still processing it.

As mom was being placed into hospice care, she tested positive for Covid... with NO SYMPTOMS. As a result, my daughter and I could no longer visit her. She remained in the same hospital room and I would spend my time sitting outside the window of her door. I was watching her die and it was clear it wouldn't be long, still no covid symptoms.

As a 74 year old woman who smoked for 60 years and was prone to bronchitis when she got a cold, don't you think she would have had a fever? cough? flu symptoms? Nothing... it was heartwrenching. 

Then on the night of April 13, 2021 as I sat outside her door with my daughter, the nurses pulled some strings and we were permitted to go in for 30 minutes. I waited... I knew she wouldn't make it through the night and I wanted to be there when she left. I owed that to her, no one should die alone. I just kept telling her to say Hi to Jesus and enjoy holding her baby boy in her arms. I told her I was sorry about a million times for all the awful things I'd said over the years in anger. I told her over and over how much I loved her and thanked her for always loving me no matter what. Then, as I cried uncontrollably, the nurse told us we had to go. I drug my feet leaving the room and just as the door closed behind me, the charge nurse announced her vitals were crashing. My daughter and I ran back in as fast as we could and I held her hand as she passed at 2308hrs. (11:08pm). I swear I think she was waiting for us to leave, but there was no way she was going without me there. 

I'm happy she is finally out of pain, but I still have days I want to pick up the phone and tell her something and the second I realize I can't, the pain and realization she is  really gone and not coming back is as though you just found out for the first time.  As poor as my mother's health had been for so many years, I really expected her to pass in her sleep. I would always check on her before I'd leave for work in the morning so my daughter wouldn't find her "just in case". I thought her passing would be different. I thought I would be ready, but trust me, don't take your loved ones for granted because when you least expect it, tomorrow won't come.

Meanwhile between grieving and dealing with the pain I was constantly in with my neck, back and constant memory problems, I decided it be best I retire before something really bad happened. Sometimes you just have to know when it's time to close a chapter in your book of life and move on to the next. There was no doubt in my mind, the way things were going for me, it was time. I wanted to leave my career with my head held high and avoid being the next "Breaking News" story because I did something unintentionally stupid. 

I was amused by how many officers far senior to me asked me if "I was sure" this was what I wanted. Some didn't believe me, they thought I'd stick it out longer for the money. I answered each of them the same, "I have never been more sure of anything in my life... EVER!"  

If there is one thing I've learned, money does not buy happiness. Time with family does, time doing what you love does and for sure, a low stress level does. Nope... it was definitely time to leave.

On May 7th I made my final 10-7 (off duty) call on the radio. I can't lie, the only emotion I felt was pure joy. I will miss my coworkers and especially my bosses, but I will not miss the job, not after what it has become. I'd love to say I miss making a difference and keeping my community safe, but these days, we aren't really allowed to do that anymore. Hell, I literally got cussed out my second to last day for asking a guy what grade his child was in.. as if I am supposed to know every parent of every child in a school of 700 kids. When it was clear I wasn't going to bow down to his attitude problem, he then lectured me about how I was what was wrong with cops these days. Seriously? for asking you what grade your child is in so I can direct you in the correct direction?  It was then I was counting the hours to say Adios!

A few days later Kiddo and I were off to Dallas for me to get some medical testing at University of Texas, Dallas thanks to the amazing people at Boot Campaign. There I learned my worst fears weren't true. I had started to believe I was in the early stages of Alzheimers because my memory was beginning to fail me so badly. Thanks to an incredible doctor and neuroscience team, they determined I had suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) at some point. After going over all my injuries and their timeline, he determined the auto crash I was in, in 2016 was to blame. Believe it or not, I was relieved. Especially since I'm now a candidate for some research treatment that could help.  

So here we are, me back at the keyboard, nursing a healing shoulder, blasting social media about my book and my mission to erase the stigma of PTSD. I've made some amazing friends and connections over the past year and am fortunate to have built a team that helps me write this new chapter of my life. God knows I can't even keep up with where my keys are or if I fed the dogs.. I sure as hell couldn't learn a new job or remember what goes where and when. 

While I'll be the first to admit the memory thing is driving me batshit crazy, I have no choice but to make light of it. Otherwise it'll get the best of me and I don't want to go down that rabbit hole again. 

So, if you are reading this and I forget something I should have remembered, please, by all means, remind me. I will do my best. But if I can't, you can bet I'm gonna pull the "brain injury" card and laugh about it,because if there is one thing I've learned, a good sense of humor is essential to life. 

Don't believe me? Ask the priest who I persuaded to let me put a pack of cigarettes and a diet coke next to my Mom's Urn during her funeral service (true story).

Love you Mom and Miss you Every Day!