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!

Discovery Documentary - Life or Death : Battling to Breathe