Saturday, December 31, 2011

White Christmas and Memorial Service

My dad's heart attack continued

My last post was primarily about my dad having a heart attack as he was headed for a session of dialysis, and we were waiting to see how much he might recover. Well, unfortunately, I have to report that there was too much damage to his brain when he was deprived of oxygen. Doctors recommended hospice care for him. We agreed and my dad passed away at 2:55am on Wednesday, December 21st.

White Christmas

On December 23rd, snow began falling in Odessa. By early Christmas day, the area had about 8 inches of snow on the ground. It was our first white Christmas in as long as I can remember. We enjoyed the snow. It made the day special despite the sadness we were all feeling. In fact, we hadn't even put up a Christmas tree or any lights. And we had barely done any shopping. I guess this was like getting back to the true meaning of Christmas, because one of the main things we did was go to church for a birthday party for Jesus celebration with my mom. It was nice and simple.

Snowy Ride

We did have to get out and drive in the snow, which was kind of scary. One of my uncles had purchased a special meal for us to be prepared at HEB. So, we just needed to go pick it up. I'm sure he didn't realize we'd be having to get out in the snow to get to it, but that was ok. It gave us a good look at the area covered in snow. See the pictures below:

Memorial Service

We decided to donate my father's body to science and planned a memorial service to celebrate his life midway between Christmas and New Year's, a week after his passing, on Wednesday, December 28th at 11am. We held the service at the church where my parents still went to and where my siblings and I grew up, West Odessa First Baptist Church.

My sister and I created the bulletins for the service and a memorial slide show (see the video below).

And I wrote the eulogy for the preacher to read. Here is a copy of the Eulogy:


Lawrence Allen Ashley was born March 27, 1946, in Crane, Texas. He was the second and youngest son to William Wesley and Zilla Best Ashley; and little brother to Albert Ray Ashley, who is here with us today. The family lived at 1813 McCall Place, behind what was "Strike It Rich" in Odessa. They lived there until Lawrence and Albert were grown.

Lawrence graduated Permian High School in 1964, and went on to Draughon's Business College in Lubbock where he met Mary Lou Day. The college sweethearts married June 10, 1967, in her home town of Spur, at First Baptist Church. Mary says Lawrence talked back then of becoming a preacher.

Mary worked at a forklift company, helping put Lawrence through Texas Tech University, where he graduated in 1970, but not before a massive tornado touched down May 11th, just blocks from where Mary was staying.

Lawrence and Mary moved from Lubbock to Midland so Lawrence could start work at an accounting firm called Conley, Peters and Smith. The house they rented there in Midland was later torn down and is now DerWeinerschnitzel.

For a while, Lawrence and Mary lived on and operated a brine station between Odessa and Andrews. That is where Mary learned many new lessons including how to throw a rock at a rattle snake to get it to coil up, then shoot it with a shotgun.

When they got ready to put down roots, in July 1972, they bought a house and had it moved to 25th Street in West Odessa. Lawrence's father passed away a couple of months later. Then, the couple welcomed their first child, a daughter, Vanessa Jane Ashley on January 26, 1973.

They added a son, Wesley Allen Ashley, on January 31, 1975. That's also about the time Lawrence began building his mother a home on the property on 25th Street, and she came out to live by the family. The family grew again, when they added a second daughter, Amanda Danielle Ashley on February 16, 1987, even though Lawrence and Mary said they were probably too old to be parents again. Lawrence joked he felt like Abraham and Mary was his Sarah.

Lawrence and Mary joined this church more than 30 years ago, when it was still called Westside
Baptist Church. They both taught Sunday school classes here. Mary worked for a while as the church financial secretary. And later, the couple worked cleaning the church, which Mary still does now.

Over the years, Lawrence has had many interests and hobbies he has pursued. Among them, carpentry, collecting cans and melting them down and forming tools, computer programming, spinning cotton into thread and weaving it into material. The local paper, the Odessa American even did a story on him giving demonstrations on that hobby. And he collected books - lots of them - and read on just about everything under the sun - especially about economics. He could give lectures like nobody else on economics - just ask his kids!

And he loved boating and fishing. In fact, he built his own boat - a kayak sailboat - years ago. He talked endlessly about fishing trips he'd gone on as a boy. And he still wanted to go back to Lake Corpus Christ, where he remembered catching a great number of big catfish. His last fishing trip was just this last March, at a pond near Canyon Lake (San Antonio), where his was the biggest fish of the trip. Amanda had to help him reel in his fish, because he was sitting in his wheelchair and the fish just about pulled him into the water!

Lawrence walked daughter, Vanessa down the aisle here when she married James Wooten on June 25th, 1994. Lawrence and Mary became grandparents to James' daughter, Steffany that same day. On September 19, 1996, they welcomed their second grandchild, Joshua Wooten. When son, Wesley married his wife, Marlo on May 23, 2003, they became grandparents again to Marlo's seven children: Whitney, Russell, Zachary, Hunter, Emily, Jaci and Abi Inzer. Wesley and Marlo have since given them 5 more grandchildren: Chavvah, Ayres, Batiyah, Flynt Maverick, and Gideon Ashley. Batiyah passed away at birth in 2005.

Lawrence and Mary also became great-grandparents to one boy - Logan, and to two girls - Amelia and Caroline - with one more on the way in April.

Complications of diabetes sent Lawrence into the hospital at the end of 1998. He lost a little toe and had a heart attack, requiring triple bypass surgery. Soon, he was spending three days a week in dialysis. He did that the rest of his life. His diabetes claimed his eye sight, but never detered him from his studies - especially on economics.

On December 7th, as he walked out of the house, to head for dialysis, Lawrence had another heart attack. This time it did too much damage to his brain. And doctors were not able to save him. He went home to be with the Lord on December 21st at 2:55am with wife, Mary by his side.

My mother wanted my aunt and uncle (her sister and brother) to sing at the service, which they did beautifully. All in all, the service turned out well.

We are now all back home in Cibolo. We've got my mom here while my brother works on her house. It is in pretty bad shape - needs lots of electrical and structural work. We wouldn't mind, though, if my mom decided to give up the old house and just stay here with us. Of course, we will support her in whatever she decides to do. I do ask, though, that you keep her in your prayers. Doctors just told her she is diabetic and has problems with high cholesterol and high blood pressure. And she is trying to adjust to living without my dad. She has been his caregiver for so many years now.

Thanks for checking in on us and may God bless you all and give us all a happy new year in 2012!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter Break - Heart Attack

Here is our most recent picture of the three of us together, taken December 3rd as we watched our local high school football team win their quarter final championship game. They actually proceed next week to the State Playoffs at Cowboys Stadium.

Today is
Monday, December 12, 2011, less than two weeks until Christmas and instead of doing Christmas shopping and decking our halls, I’ve left the guys at home and made a trip to my parents’ home because my dad suffered a heart attack Wednesday, December 7th.

I drove down by myself, my first time to be away from Josh for more than one night since he has been ventilator dependent, etc. Josh was not too happy for me to be going without him, but we a great team of nurses helping his dad with his care while I am away.

On Wednesday, December 7th, I had just gotten home and finished lunch after one of my four big final exams of the week. I just had one more to study for and take the next day. My plan had been to spend the afternoon and evening studying for my last exam then dig out the Christmas decorations, cards, etc.

My plans changed quickly, though. My sister called me to tell me she had just got a call that Daddy collapsed on his way to his regular dialysis appointment, and they were rushing him to the emergency room.

I immediately called my mom to find out what was going on. Mama told me that Daddy had not been feeling too well the night before or that morning, but had walked out to the van that takes him to dialysis.

**My dad has had diabetes for many years. He is blind in one eye and only has a little vision in the other. He has had bypass surgery several years back. And, his kidneys are so bad that he has had to be on dialysis treatments three times a week for at least 10-12 years now. Below are pictures of what dialysis is like***:

They were getting things ready to help him into the van that transports him to dialysis, so he sat down in a wheelchair. As they were loading him in the wheelchair into the van, they noticed he had his head hanging down and he was not responsive. The van driver yelled for my mom and asked her if she wanted the driver to call 911. My mom didn’t know anything was wrong until then. She came to try and help rouse my dad and said, “yes, call 911.”

My mom says a sheriff’s deputy arrived very soon afterwards and helped them lay my dad out flat and start CPR.

An ambulance and more sheriff deputies arrived minutes later and worked on my dad a few minutes and raced him off to the hospital. The deputies asked if my mom wanted them to take her. She said she would be okay to drive but they followed her a ways to make sure she was ok.

At the hospital, my mom found my dad hooked to a ventilator.

Doctors asked her if my dad had advanced directives for an event such as this – in other words, did my dad to be revived if his heart stopped. She wasn’t sure, but said she wanted them to do all they could to save him. They suspected he’d had a heart attack. And that means he was probably without oxygen to his brain for some amount of time. They weren’t sure how much damage had been done. But his vital signs were so poor they did not risk taking him through a CT scan.

My sister, Amanda (see her in her orange UTSA shirt below) got a flight and I took her to the airport so she could be with my mom by that night. I took my last final exam on Thursday and headed to Odessa that afternoon.

Oh, here is a picture of me with most of my fellow Respiratory Therapy students on the day of our last final of this semester (taken December 8th, not long before I left to go to Odessa):

By the way, I've since got my grades back for my 1st semester classes. I got all A's!!!

Anyway.... back to my story:

Luckily, Josh’s nurses were able to work out a schedule to be with him the majority of the time so I could worry about my parents without having to take Josh out of school and with me. He did not need to be sitting up at a hospital all the time with me with my dad in intensive care. **Huge thanks to Nancy, Dot and Cisco for all your help!!!**

The doctors gave my dad a hypothermia treatment (see example picture below) in order to try and preserve neurological function as best they could and to slow down his body and allow him to heal as much as he could. They gave him powerful sedatives and other drugs to make sure he would not move around or shiver from the cold. That treatment lasted Wednesday night through Saturday. They began warm him back up then slowed down and eventually stopped the powerful drugs, so they could see how he was.

They say his heart looks enlarged on the right side (which is the side that pumps blood into the lungs where it gets oxygenated). This enlargement usually happens because there is a problem getting blood into the lung area and the heart has to work extra hard. When you work a muscle more than usual, it gets bigger. Below is a picture I found to illustrate this:

And, they say my dad had significant right pleural effusion. That is fluids that make their way into the space that surrounds the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Below is a picture I found of someone's chest xray that has this problem (this is NOT my dad's xray, but one I found on the internet) The black is air, the white where the right lung is supposed to be (near bottom of chest) is fluid:

They treated my dad for pneumonia (in case that is what was causing this fluid) and gave him blood thinners (in case a clot may have caused his heart attack).

My dad’s vital signs improved. He did not require as much oxygen and his heart rate and blood pressure looked better. He had some fluid pushing into his right lung. And that has since lessened, helping him to get better ventilation. He has had a CT scan of his head and an EEG. Those were done to look for brain activity and evidence of a possible stroke. They told us the CT scan looked good – no signs of stroke. But we have not heard results of the EEG. We were told they would likely take my dad for a CT scan of his chest with contrast solution today, to check for problems with his heart and lungs.

Here is what an EEG test looks like:

Here is what a CT scanner looks like:

We are waiting to see how much my dad can recover. So far, he has only opened his eyes a few times, moved his legs and looked like he was trying to move his mouth as if to try and talk. I think he moved his hands slightly today, but just a couple of times. Mostly, he sleeps.

Meanwhile, we found that my mom had an eye infection on Saturday, and got her to a clinic to get it taken care of. And she has not seen a doctor for herself in quite some time. At the clinic, they found her blood pressure was elevated, so my sister made her an appointment with an internist doctor. They are at that appointment right now. And my dad’s nurse just came to say he would be headed to the CT soon. So, I will finish this post and post some pictures and links to more information on all these medical terms, etc. when I go wait in the ICU waiting room.

Back home, Josh was asked to participate in a couple of tests for ROHHAD research. One was a smell test and the other was a temperature regulation test. He received the materials for the test... including the little beanie baby leopard wearing a temperature Ibutton and a wrist band with another Ibutton (seen in the pictures below) He finished up those tests after I was away in Odessa.

Josh seems to be doing pretty well, all things considered. This morning, he saw an orthodontist, who says he could benefit from braces. We are waiting to see what insurance and Medicaid will cover on this, to see if we can move forward. They say it could take three weeks to learn what would be covered.

I'll try to update my blog more during this break from school. I go back January 17th!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Summer Updates & Begin Respiratory Program!!!

It has been a long time since I've updated (sorry about that)
mainly because Josh's health has been pretty stable (thank God)
and because I have been SO busy preparing to be in school full time...
which has now begun. I'll tell you more about that later, but first...
I'll catch you up on our summer.

Over the summer, I took two classes that are part of the Respiratory Program
but neither is specific to that program.
First I took English Literature 1302

Then came General Psychology 1301

I made an A in each one, so I've kept my GPA at a 4.0 ... yay me! :)

Those classes, though they were online classes, took so much time and effort, that I decided to quit my job at the daycare a little sooner than I originally planned.

I knew I would not be able to continue working there while going to full time day college classes. I miss the kiddos but it sure helped me focus on my school work and preparing both Josh and me for the beginning of this school year.

A big part of our summer was also spent learning the art of Extreme Couponing!

First, there are some great websites to get you started...

These often have all the ad details along with a database listing of coupons available for each item... you can make your list plenty ahead of time and collect all your coupons and be ready to head to the store and save money!

We got coupons from several sources,

cut and organized them all (which is a BIG job, I must say)

and planned many, many shopping trips.

My sister (college grad, gainfully employed, and a coffee junkie)

is a spreadsheet queen.

She used them to help us maximize our coupons for several of our trips - especially to Walgreens and CVS, (where they use Register Rewards and Extra Care Bucks to keep you shopping there, but can also save you big bucks if you know how to use them).

So over the months, we stocked our shelves with all sorts of needed items: toilet paper, paper towels, kleenexes, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste, laundry and dish soap, toilet cleaners, ketchup, mustard, cereal and the list just goes on and on.

We are stocked up now with enough of most of those items that we shouldn't need any more for several months.. maybe even a year or so! So, that should help reduce our grocery bills while I'm in school.

Then, this week, looking for more ways to save money, we finally cut the cable.

I hadn't realized just how much we were really spending to watch tv -
$100 per month is about what it added up to.
We had basic cable through ATT U-Verse $69 per month
plus 3 boxes for DVR that were an additional $7 each.
Add in taxes and fees, and it came to about $100.

My sister already had signed up for Netflix basic (about $8 per month) which hooks to 4 devices... one of them was Josh's Wii. So, we have LOTS of things on that we can watch as long as my sister isn't home watching it on her other devices. But, it's free to us.

And I got a converter box from my daughter, bought a nice $15 antenna at Walmart and found we had like 15 channels or so of regular TV that came in crystal clear! And of course we have DVDs and VCRs and still have internet where we can watch many shows on or and dozens of other sites.

With our lives already so busy with school, work, etc.
we should be plenty entertained with what we have
and busy the rest of the time...
so without the cable bills, we should save
like $1200 a year!!! Nice!!!

Next, we're thinking of cutting our home phone bill by looking into Magic Jack.

A lot more happened over the summer....

In June, we lost an especially remarkable woman...
my Grandma Day...

(pictured here with my Aunt Peggy and Uncle Jr)

she had been suffering with Alzheimer's for quite a while...
she had been living in a nursing home...
Her passing was pretty sudden and sad,
but we know she is now in heaven.

And in attending her funeral, we got to visit with many people in our family we had not had a chance to see in a really long time.

Then, in July, we took a mini vacation
to the Gulf of Mexico... where we did some fishing
and had a great time... despite it being so HOT!

In August, we tackled a project James had wanted to do
for a long time.... we ripped off the carpet and took out
old wood from our stairs and put in nice hardwood
steps and risers

Oh... and we had Logan (the grandbaby)
with us every once in a while...
like on this trip to Lowe's to look for supplies

he's growing up so fast!

Josh helped his dad and me with the project
(which is a good thing since he is in woodshop
this year in school!!)

here 's the new steps... Josh and I stained them!

We also collected school supplies... which for me included
scrubs, a stethoscope, new shoes and expensive books

So, I officially began classes ... Respiratory Classes... this week.
And I've got information on where I will be doing my clinicals - at University Hospital, San Antonio. Luckily, they don't begin until mid-October. Until then, we'll have our hands full learning all sorts of information we'll need before stepping foot in a hospital. I will take a refresher CPR class on Monday, Aug 29th, so I can renew my certification for another 2 years. I am super excited about starting the program. And I can't wait to graduate ... which should be sometime in July 2013. (so I may not be on here too much between now and then).

Another big change as we began school... we decided to have our home agency nurses take Josh to school this year, instead of having the school hire a one-on-one nurse for him during school hours. It works out much better this way. With our agency nurses, they can drive him - so no having to ride the bus every day. Also, if Josh gets sick and has to come home or stay home from school, he will have a nurse who can be with him the whole time, rather than me missing class or clinicals if we can't find a nurse to step in at the last minute. And if Josh wants to participate in an after school function, his nurse can stay with him. A school hired nurse would not be able to do that. Plus, we have a great team of nurses right now who all had a chance to train with Josh and us prior to school starting and communicate with one another well. Josh even has a guy nurse like he's wanted for a long time. So, we are looking forward to a great year.

Josh is still using his diaphragm pacemakers during the day... but has to take his ventilator, etc. with him just in case. And his nurses have to take his vitals several times per day to make sure his settings are good. They can also give him medicines to help regulate his temperature when needed, etc. And if he needs attention to his trach or anything, they are there to help. It is really good to know there is someone there who knows what to do if anything horrible should happen and to help prevent that before it does.

Discovery Documentary - Life or Death : Battling to Breathe