Thursday, October 12, 2006


Things that are REALLY important.

As we move through the motions of living our daily lives, it's not uncommon to go into what I like to call "auto pilot" in that we could be halfway to work and all of a sudden think to ourselves, "Did I lock the door when I left???" Of course we did, but it's become such an ingrained part of our daily routine, we can't really remember for sure if we did, or didn't. We'll also get into a mode where we're irritated by things that, when you get down to basics, are really non-events. Until I had a life changing event happen to me a little over seven years ago, I used to be a classic type A white knuckle commuter. I'd get incensed at things that I've since learned are truly meaningless. People cutting in front of me, flipping me the bird, tailgating me. Man, that sort of stuff would just make me go ballistic. By the time I arrived at work, I'd be a wreck, and would need to take time to settle down and concentrate on my job. I eventually learned that all of this stuff is meaningless and unimportant in the big scheme of things. Get caught in traffic? So what? Turn on some music I like, settle back, and go with the flow. After all, (And this is an important point folks, don't just blow by it.) THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT ANYWAY! Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Got that? Good. I know it's much easier said than done, of course. It took me the better part of 45 years to get to that point. And it takes maintenance to stay at that point. There are still times during the commute where I find myself getting annoyed at the pinhead in front of me, start cursing at him/her, and think about blowing the horn and when they look in the rear view mirror, flip 'em the time honored Bronx salute. I have to remind myself to calm down and take things easy.

This last Monday, I was sort of at that type A spot again. Left the house later than usual, was annoyed at my bride for what were really, unimportant things, got caught up in traffic, arrived at work late, a bit annoyed, and started to put out a few fires. Then, I got a sudden reminder that, in the grand scheme of things, all of that is really small stuff. My beloved oldest son called. Told me he was sitting at the hospital. (Oh crap!! NOW what???) He had been bicycling to school that morning and while pedaling up a hill, suffered a black out and seizure. It was in an area full of pedestrians, and help arrived in short order. Well, I got to the hospital in record time. Found him in the ER, still pretty woozy, a little confused, and embarrassed at having caused "all this ruckus." The doctors were concerned about the sequence of events and ordered a CT scan. He returned from that, and the doctor showed up later, talking about "a mass in the right front lobe of his brain" and I don't really remember much after that, except they were now going to do an MRI scan. I felt as though I'd been punched in the gut, knocked upside the head, whacked in the ass, all at once.

I can tell you with no uncertainty that the phrase "a mass in the right front lobe" really gets your attention. You immediately assume the worst. What made this even more terrifying to me was a co-worker died of brain cancer about a year ago. A fit active, vital man, who was a scratch golfer, ran, rode bikes, all that stuff was absolutely leveled by his disease. I saw him about 2 weeks before he passed away and was stunned at what he had endured. It was NOT pretty. All of these memories came flooding back to me while they rolled my boy (He's 24 years old, but he's still "My Boy.") out for the MRI. That was the most miserable hour I've spent in my entire life. There are other events that come close, but this one takes the cake. I was scared, nervous, anxious, my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach, which was all knotted up. During this hour, my wife arrived from her job, and after I told her what I knew, she wasn't any better. They rolled our boy back into the ER room, and we all sat there, scared shitless.

Not long after that, the doctor who conducted the MRI scan came in and told us that the mass was vascular in nature. (Relating to the circulatory system.) Man. Whew. Boy. For the first time in an hour, I was breathing again. For a few minutes at least, a ton of weight was taken off of our shoulders. But, back to reality. What it appeared to be, the doctor said, was Arterio Venous Malformation. I'll let you look that up. Just Google it. There's good sites out there that explain it well. The short story is our boy has a big Gordian's knot of blood vessels in his head. An angiogram done the next day confirmed it. The prognosis is positive, but the doctor said that while they often don't disturb them, this one is so big (The biggest one this doctor had ever seen, and he's been around for a while.) that it has to come out, or we risk a leakage, or outright blowout. With results that would be disastrous, and probably fatal. Can't have that. This entire process took 2-1/2 days. I spent almost all of it at the hospital with him, coming home to sleep fitfully for a few hours at night before heading back. Finally Wednesday at noon, my wife kicked my ass out and sent me back to work. (For various reasons, I don't do hospitals well, and was getting pretty punchy.)

He was discharged and is home now, and while still a bit out of it, is sort of back to his old self. But that time bomb is still there ticking away in his head. While they adjust his anti-seizure medicine dosage, we're left to mull our options. We're getting a second opinion of course. But I've seen all the scans and pictures they took. I've got a hunch the second opinion will probably agree with the first. But with something this major and important, you still have to do it. If the second opinion agrees with the first, and I'm assuming it will, the next step is surgery to remove it. The prognosis so far is good, and once it's out, it's gone for good, and will not reform or return. None of this "in remission" shit. It means a 4 day hospital stay, and about 4 weeks of recuperation. There's still a good amount of risk and danger of course. I certainly don't relish the idea of someone digging around in my kid's head. But we've no choice. To quote an old commercial, "Pay me now, or pay me later!"

I've been doing a lot of introspective thinking since this all happened. I've been re-thinking a lot of stuff that I THOUGHT was important, but, upon reflection, doesn't seem so damn important anymore. What IS important is my family, their well being, and health and safety, and making sure they know that I love them. That's what's important. Everything else is just "stuff." One of the things I'm truly grateful for is that he was on his bike, in the middle of some people with cell phones when it happened. He landed on soft turf, and was unhurt from the bicycle wipeout. It could very well have happened while he was cruising along on the freeway at 70 mph. Thank goodness neither him, nor anyone else was hurt. Also, it was discovered while he's still young, vital, and healthy, and will probably not have any long term complications because of that.

Please do not misunderstand me, I'm not feeling sorry for myself or anything like that. I'm glad he's alive, and we've got an excellent chance of beating this. I'm taking this one day at a time, because there's nothing else I can do. You have to look at the bright side of things, or else you'll go nuts. This is pretty long winded, and if you're still with me, thanks for hanging in there. Please keep my son in your thoughts and prayers.

I went back and re-read something I wrote early this summer. Still holds true. Sometimes the hardest advice to follow is one's own, but I'll do my best.

I used to be a classic type A white knuckle commuter.
Sure glad I was never like that!:P

Somebody told me once, when I was at a tipping point as you are now, "God never gives you more than you can handle." At the time, I said to the person's face "Bullshit!!" and walked away. But I'm still here, so they must have been right. Battle scarred, yes, but here. This horrific event will leave it's mark on you as well. I hope you come out of this stronger, as I was able to do.

I also hope you never get behind me. Jeeze!! What a jerk!:)
there aren't words to express what people who are close mean. knowing that your son will be fine doesn't negate the fact that he is in for major surgery. my heart is with you and your family at this time. knowing what is really important in life is half of the battle. keep the faith- if it means anything we bloggers are here for you.
Family really is the only thing that matters. You all will get through this. Be strong. We are rooting for you.
You're right. Everything else is just stuff.

I'll keep your son and your whole family in my thoughts and prayers.

Being a mother of 3 I can relate to your feelings and all my prayers are with you. Things usually have a way of working out for the best. Keep those positive thoughts
As a mother of 3 my heart goes out to you. Keep those positive thoughts and know if you need support were here
Just came by to wish you all well and tell you that for sure you guys will have strenght to go through it. Not meaning to sound presumptious, but as a parent of still two very young children and one having asthma and a slew of other things, we've had our shares of some of those feelings you described. I am glad that it turned out to be that Arturio thing rather than what you first thought and we'll (all of us who've come over via Is America Burning, a quick send over for well wishes and the like) pray, send out healing thoughts, and think of you all and encourage you along the way. Phoo, sometimes being a parent just levels you completely when scary things happen to your kid..
good luck!
My own son was in hospital recently for a very nasty operation, from which he is still recovering. The worst thing for me was that I was unable to go to him because of distance.

I wish you, your son and his mother all the best in the world for his speedy recovery.

God bless.
Our thoughts are with you. Hang in there and be strong. I'm sending good vibes.

(I'm having trouble w/blogger, surprise. I thought I had posted a comment already. If I have please ignore me. I do want to be sure you know I am sending my best.)
I salute you in how rapidly you returned to what is really important and you are absolutely correct. Nothing causes so much discomfort as the thought of a loved one suffering anything at all. I told the whole family here your story and we send you all our very best thoughts.
Hi Mary sent me,
so I thought I'd fly in for a quick hi

Wishing you a nice weekend
All the best. Q
Found my way here from Betmo's page. Isn't the electronic community amazing in its ability to connect us with the click of a button?

It's a brave and cathartic thing to post these intimate details of your life for us to read. Thank you. Your courage is evident even to those who have never met you and inspires random strangers to pray for you and your family.

With warm regrads,

I'll be keeping your son in my thought and sending him prayer with healing.
Blessings to you and your family!
Thanks for posting this, Dave. Yep, it's funny how things like this make us realize how unimportant most things are. I'll be keeping your son in my thoughts.
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