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Merry Christmas!

This is a long one, and it’s a couple of posts I didn’t get to finish tied together.  Sorry if it’s confusing.

I stumbled on this clip earlier Thursday morning and I think I must have watched it 100 times throughout the day.

That’s my Anissa.  She’s intelligent, beautiful, vibrant, quick witted, well spoken and funny.  She’s a writer.  She’s the life of any party.  She can thrive in any situation not requiring heavy math.

My kids just call her mom though.

Yeah, last night, I was definitely missing my wife.  We generally finish up the wrapping on Christmas Eve, together, munching cookies and watching Randy Quaid and Chevy Chase ramble off some of the all time best lines ever on the TV.

It just wouldn’t be a Mayhew Christmas without the phrase, “Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?”

Because that’s how we roll:  Generally inappropriate and built to stay that way.  🙂

At times throughout this journey, I’ve felt like the last idiot who refused to admit that the ship was sinking.

Other times, most of the time really, I know, without a doubt, that we’re going to do this.

Because, that too, is how we roll…and we don’t roll alone.

Friends and strangers alike have been helping my family throughout our time of need.  Team Anissa is in full swing, evident by the mound of freshly wrapped presents under our tree.  I only picked out a few.  The majority were provided by great friends and family, both old and new.  The kids helped me wrap them.  There was enough that we can open some presents here at the house, and some up with mom.  I made sure to tell the kids where the presents came from.

The gifts were dropped off late Wednesday, and my mom, niece and I went through them to see who was getting what and making sure things were balanced.  The girls were asleep, but the cats (yes, we named them Puppy and Kitty) were bugging Nathaniel while he was trying to get to sleep, so he came down for a drink of water.  I was in “sort mode” and asked him what was the big thing he wanted for Christmas, worried that a late night Walmart run would be necessary.  His reply was simple, “Dad, the presents are great, but I just want mom home”.

Thursday morning I got the kids in the car and asked them what they wanted most for Christmas.

All of them just wanted the one thing I couldn’t do…yet.

Get mom home.

Today, we celebrate the birth of Christ.  I think I saw once on the history channel where they figure that it probably didn’t happen at this time of year.  That’s fine.  The important thing is that we celebrate his birth.  Not just one time a year either.  I try to teach my kids to be Christian not just on Sundays, but to live it Monday through Saturday too.  It’s not always easy, and we fail.  But the cool thing about Christ is that’s why he was sent here.  Because He knew we would stumble and need to be picked up occasionally.

So, the dry run went well.

After 35 days of separation, the Mayhew’s were reunited once more as a family.

I got my hug.

That’s the goal in all of this really:  The reunification of my family.

When we got to the rehab center Tuesday, Anissa was sitting up in a chair out in the hall way.  She could see us coming down the hall.  The kids approached her cautiously at first, but just couldn’t help but run up to her and assault her with hugs and kisses.  It was a little much for Anissa, so we wheeled her into the room and that’s where we got our hug.

Anissa again put on her mommy game face.  She held her head up for as long as we were in there.  Talking to the kids some, and interacting with each of them.  Towards the end, she was too exhausted to speak, but kept trying to keep her head up.

What we didn’t know at the time was that they had stood her up for the first time earlier that day.

Wednesday, the girls got their hair cut and Nathaniel got some awesome boy time with some great friends passing through:  The Williams’.  These were Nathaniel’s best buds in kindergarten, and he still talks about them.  They took him to see Avatar.  He needed it.  Didn’t stop talking about it all day.  While the kids were occupied, Traci Williams and I headed up to spend a few hours with Anissa.  Anissa struggled mightily to keep her head up for the whole 3 hours we were there.  While Traci was there, I slipped out and went to talk to the therapist team.  Apparently they had worked her pretty hard earlier and had actually been impressed by her.  One of the therapists said something that caused me to break down a little.  “She’s doing very well.  She’s in good hands Mr. Peter.  We’ve got her covered.”

After 30+ days of being in that hospital where it felt like the doctors and therapists were working against us, giving us such horrible reviews that we were being turned down for nursing/rehab centers, she’s with a team that actually believes in what they’re doing and, more importantly in her.  I now know I’ve got her in the right place for this stage.

Christmas Eve morning was interrupted twice.  First off, the girls went to the walk-in clinic.  Rachael has some infection and got some antibiotics.  Peyton had leg cramps the night before.  That one scared me.  This is why.  That’s how this whole thing started:  leg cramps.  Her color is good.  It was only one leg.  There is no bruising.  A warm soak in a bath made the pain go away.  It still terrified me to no end.  I’ll set up an appointment with her oncologist Monday or Tuesday for a cbc.

Wednesday night, I had a heart to heart with the Lord and told Him I could handle a war on one front, but historically speaking, wars on two fronts rarely end well.

The other interruption we got on Christmas Eve was a car sick Rachael.  Yep.  It was all over the place.  Good times.  We waited in the parking lot of a Chick-Fil-A for my mom to bring us up a change of clothes for Rachael.  She handled it well, and barely mentioned it the rest of the day.

We got up to the rehab facility and hung out in the room for a good 2 hours.  The kids and Anissa got to open up some gifts.  I told them the gifts were from mommy.  Nathaniel put together the Legos he got, the girls squealed with delight at the make up/spa stuffs they got.  Anissa got some flowers, and a Yoda, her favorite Star Wars character.  Basically we turned her room into a little hotel room for a few hours.  The nurses and techs graciously worked around us.  Anissa was pretty talkative the whole time.  Toward the end, she was again too tired to speak.

The key is that she held her head up and sat up in a chair the entire time we were there.

In other words, she’s getting stronger.

Today, she won’t get any therapy.  We’re going to go hang out all day with her.  I’m praying that the lack of therapy today means the kids get the best response yet from mom.

If I haven’t said it enough, thank you all for everything.

I pray you all have a Merry Christmas and laugh a little louder, love a little deeper and hug a little longer…just like what we’re going to be doing.

Firing Booster Rocket #3

The past few days are an absolute blur because the playing field has completely changed.

I took Peyton up to see Anissa Sunday.

I had prepped Peyton the night before, just like with the other two.  I showed her one of the videos and explained to her that mommy was still pretty sick and needed sleep.  I also told her that if mommy was asleep, that was ok because she could still hear her.

Sunday morning, Peyton and I watched the video that all the bloggers put together.  About half way through that, Peyton teared up and decided that she wanted to go before church.

She just couldn’t wait to see mommy.

So, we hopped in the car and headed on down the road.

That drive took forever.

We stopped at Walmart to grab a few necessities (mini tree, large numbered digital clock, lotions).  Peyton was pretty nervous about things.  She was pretty excited, but wanted to stay within 2 feet of me at all times.

Believe it or not folks, she’s the shy one of the family.

We finally got to the rehab center, signed in, and strolled down to Anissa’s room.

Anissa’s sister, Angela, was in the room when we got there.  Peyton slowly walked up to the bed, and gave her a hug.  Thirty some odd days worth of tears poured out of Peyton.  It was a silent cry.  We sat her up on the bed and Anissa ran her hand over Peyton’s hair and told her she loved her.

Anissa made a comment about Peyton missing teeth.  She’s lost 2 since this all began.

She also made a big todo about Peyton’s cast.  She wanted to sign it.  We put a pen in her left hand and she scribbled some lines on it.

Basically she put on her “mommy game face” for Peyton.

We talked about the birthday and Thanksgiving activities.

I wasn’t thinking.  I was trying to show Anissa that I had things under control and we just needed her to get better.  Yup.  Dumb me.  It wound up making her sad because she missed those things.

The impressive thing is that she waited until Angela took Peyton out of the room to break down.

We had our cry.  She apologized for what’s happened.  I reminded her it wasn’t her fault and this was just one more thing to deal with.

Peyton came back in the room and we talked a little more.  Good-byes were said and Peyton and I went to the car.  She got in the back, I got in the driver’s seat and looked back to check on her and saw the biggest crocodile tears ever.  We sat in there and talked things out for about 20 minutes.  The tears kept coming.  I let her pick a spot for lunch and we headed there.  The tears were gone for a little bit.

At bed time, we said our prayers and thanked God for everything good in the day.  Peyton was thankful she got to see mommy, and then, even bigger crocodile tears came out.  We talked it over for a little bit, and I assured her she’d get to see mommy again very soon.  She fell asleep that night looking at and rubbing the scribbles mom had done on her cast.

That absolutely broke my heart.

It will get easier with time, as they see mom improve.  This was the reaction I was expecting with Peyton.  It still didn’t make it any easier this first time.

Monday morning, I got out of the house early so I could meet with the therapist team.  The meeting was rescheduled to later in the day, but as I passed the administrator in the hall, she grabbed me and gave me some pretty impressive information.  She had popped in on Anissa earlier to introduce herself.  The administrator was apparently talking to Anissa in simple terms, to which Anissa responded, “What do you think my cognition level is?”

So, the intelligence is there.

The memories aren’t fully.  She knows I’m her husband, but couldn’t recall my name until today.  She thought it was Daniel.  Probably Larusso.

She was able to recall different things from the day before, but there are definite holes in there.  Holes you could drive a 1973 Oldsmobile through.  That too was expected.

Monday, she was sat up in a chair and started dedicated therapies.

I popped in late Monday evening and she was too exhausted to communicate.  I figured that would be the case, but I just had to go.  I know in some way, she knew I was there, she just didn’t verbalize it, or acknowledge me with much more than a slight squeeze.  I’m praying it was exhaustion, but it felt like last week.

I woke up at 4:45 this morning.  Simply couldn’t sleep.  I’m anxious.  Today, I’m going to do a dry run for Christmas.  I’m taking all three kids up there at the same time for a short visit.  It will probably be overwhelming to her at this point in the recovery, but, I want to push her a bit and get an idea of how Christmas Eve and Day will go.

We have one fairly simple tradition at our house:  It’s called the “Mayhew Family Hug”.  It’s pretty much the equivalent of a scrum in rugby, and generally happens when I get home from work.  It’s only official if all 5 of us are together, otherwise we call it a mini-Mayhew Family Hug.

I was asked a while back what I wanted for Christmas.  I didn’t give an answer and avoided the question because it wasn’t something that could be bought.

In a few hours, after 5 weeks of waiting, I’ll get to open my Christmas present a little early.

I’m going to get my Mayhew Family Hug.

Firing Booster Rocket #2

If I had ANY marketing sense whatsoever, I’d quit blogging and turn this into a book.  I’ve got the perfect cliffhanger every stinking week it seems.

I really don’t want to, but that’s life with us Mayhew’s these days.

If you saw my bank balance, you’d know I don’t do it for the money, or web hits, or anything like that.  I’m writing about this because it’s my form of therapy.  I learned that benefit from a very special teacher I had in high school.  Thanks Glenda!

Some people scream.  Some yell.  Some hit things.

I write.

When I don’t, I get emotional.  When I dump everything out on the keyboard, it helps me.

Saturday was Rachael’s big day.

I asked a local friend, Ali, to pop in on Anissa in the morning and find out how she was acting after the move Friday.  Ali didn’t get the message until late, so I didn’t get word on how she was until after Rachael and I were in the car headed up there.

I thought about it this morning and prayed on it last night.  Truth be told, it didn’t really matter to me how Ali said she was doing, I had an overwhelming desire to take Rachael up regardless.

As I was driving up, we stopped at a couple of stores to grab things to make the room more “Christmasy”.  We got an LED candle and some simple lights.  When we’d stop, there were emails from Ali.  One said that she was very aware.  A few minutes later, one said she’s making sounds!  SOUNDS!

Understand folks, other than a big “Lion King yawn” and several “ahems” I haven’t heard much come from my wife.

I was extremely nervous for Rachael.  She hasn’t seen her mom since day 2 or 3 and then mom had tubes in her mouth and nose.  Pretty terrifying stuff for an 8 year old.  But on this drive up there, where I’m sweating bullets, Rachael was laughing and joking and goofing off.  I kept trying to re-focus her and would say things like, “if mommy doesn’t respond, it’s ok.  She can hear everything that’s said in the room” and “The important thing is that you make sure she hears you and gets a kiss”.

Rachael would look seriously at me for half a second and then say, “how much longer…are we there yet?”

We pulled in to the parking lot almost exactly 31 days since this all began.

Rachael and I signed in and walked down to her room.

Ali was in there and said she’s very aware today.

Rachael walked around the bed and said, “hi mommy”.

Anissa grabbed her and hugged her and kissed her and kept rubbing her back.

There were tears from both of us.

Ali hugged us and left the room.

Then Anissa made some sounds.

Rachael looked at me, a little confused, and I asked Anissa to say that again.

“I love you”.

More hugs.

“I’m getting better”.

More tears.

“We’ve got this”.

Yeah I lost it.

She doesn’t have full control of her tongue just yet, so conversation is garbled at times.  She does appear to fully be in there though.  Up until she spoke, I didn’t have any confirmation other than squeezes and blinks and facial expressions.

About that time, the nurse came in.  Since we’d gotten in so late, they didn’t know what Anissa could and couldn’t do.  I haven’t had THAT meeting with the staff yet.  I told the nurse to pass the word.  Don’t put a single limitation on her.  Don’t ask if she can do something, expect her to be able to do it.  This woman can and will move mountains.  She asked about the kids.  I told her about each one of them, Peyton last.  I told her about Peyton’s fight.  She said she was going to cry.  I told her not to.  Sad as it is to say, we’re built for this.  We can do this.

The nurse told me that Anissa kept putting her right leg off the bed throughout the night.

I asked if she was sure it was the right one.

That would be the one that she hasn’t been able to move in 31 days.  We’ve felt “twinges” only until today.

When I went back in to the room, Anissa shoo’d Rachael away and told me not to bring the kids up.  “It’s too hard on them”.  I looked her square in the eye and told her that I understood exactly what she was saying and that Peyton would be the next to come up.

We wound up “discussing it” for about 30 minutes.

That’s putting it nicely.

We were arguing.

I did finally get a chance to tell her about how many people are pulling for her so I was certain she understood it.  I told her about the friends, new and old, near and far that are lifting her up in prayer.  I told her about Ralph Macchio.  She chuckled and said, “welcome to my world”.

A little after I left, another friend from Tampa, Whitney, came through to drop off some Christmas gifts for the kids.  I had warned her that Anissa wasn’t in the best of moods and relayed the conversation we had.  Whitney went in there, wearing her “Team Anissa” t-shirt.  Anissa wanted to know what that was about.  Whitney also reminded her that Peyton was going to be coming up and that she had better be ready for that.

I’m still amazed that I’m talking in actual verbal “conversations”.

So, this is where you guys come in.  My goal now is to provide her with constant, overwhelming, motivation and reminders of love.  She’s been staring at mine and the kids pictures for a while now.  I plan on taking in this video as well.  What we’re fighting against now folks is depression.  If anyone has any bright ideas, I’m all ears.  I’ll be taking up dvd’s of some of her favorite feel good shows.

Encouragement is the word of the month.

Understand, she’s still incredibly weak.  She hasn’t stood up in a month.  Hasn’t taken anything orally in a month.  Can’t fully hold her head up yet.  We’re not sure about her short term memory.  This will take gobs of time.

Consider this Day 0.

But, like my wife said, “We’ve got this.”

31 Days

It took us that long to get out of the hospital, but Friday night, late in the pouring rain that’s hitting everywhere it seems, we transitioned to a new facility.

It’s not going to be Anissa’s first choice.

I’ve prayed on this one like you wouldn’t believe.

I think it’s what she needs for several reasons.

Comfort is not what she needs right now, it’s love and caring.

This place she’s at, is not neccessarily the prettiest, it does, however, have what she needs right now, I think:  Soul.

The physical therapist looks uncannily like Anissa’s mom, and I think that will work for her.  Also, when we described our situation to her, and how important she is to our 3 little kids, She looked Sandi dead in the eye and said she’d give Anissa everything she’s got.

It’s THAT attitude she needs now.


Basically, I’m concerned about depression at this point.  I backed out of taking Rachael up there the other day.  I’m doing it this morning instead.  Anissa has been extremely weak, and I didn’t want to see Rachael crushed.

So I just broke the news to Rachael that we’re going this morning.  Rachael is the definition of absolute joy.  Yes, I’m a doting father, but if you met her, you’d agree too.  She’s got a big deep belly laugh that you can’t help but join in.  She’s also Anissa’s little mini-me.

I’m praying that something happens today and Anissa hears that laugh, and it draws her out more.

Prayers Needed

I’ll be taking Rachael up this evening.

We’re 28 days into this today and STILL in a hospital because there are no beds in a reasonable skilled nursing facility and it’s iffy if she has the stamina to sustain the rigors of a true rehab just yet.  We’ll be re-evaluated soon.

Please pray that Rachael gets the same reaction Nathaniel got.

Also, please pray that we get into the right facility for us.