Friday, November 23, 2007

Thoughts of my brother

Some may know my brother Walt has been very sick and fighting a battle with heart disease.
He was diagnosed many years ago, maybe 20, with cardiomyopathy. This is the same thing my Mother contracted and died from, my oldest brother has it and Walt's son has been diagnosed with it.

Walt became very ill last December and was admitted to Christ Hospital in Cincinnati several times. Eventually the doctors there could do no more for him and arrangements were made for him to go to the Cleveland Clinic to await a heart transplant. This was last July.

Walt has had a rough row to hoe since he's been there.
Early on he was to be transplanted but as it turned out the donor heart was a good match but an unhealthy heart.
He was having lots of ups and downs, sometimes more downs than ups.
Eventually, his heart was sick enough and no donor heart available so they removed all but a small section of his diseased heart to hook him up to a mechanical heart, which we call his artificial heart.
One of the side effects of the mechanical heart is serious infection which he developed.

After the mechanical heart, which by the way is a huge machine almost 5 ft tall that would sit at the foot of his bed and wires and tubes connected inside his chest, he lost over 100 lbs of fluid that had built up inside his body from the heart not functioning.

Soon after that he was able to get on a treadmill and begin a limited exercise program to rebuild his strength. I would call him and it was astounding the change in his voice.
At first he was so weak he sounded like a 90 yr old man barely able to talk.
By late last week he was just about his old self again.

Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning, he was transplanted with a donor heart. We assume the donor was a male between the ages of 30-35 because that's what we were told would be what the surgeons and transplant team felt would be best for him.

Almost immediately after transplantation he developed serious complications. He was bleeding profusely and required 20 litres of blood that day. When they opened him up they discovered the infection was much worse than they expected to find. He developed a high fever and his white blood count was very high.

Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, he became more ill. He became extremely septic and they put him on dialysis, risking his kidneys to save his life.They were giving him megadoses of every antibiotic they could which could blow out his kidneys.
We were told to prepare for the worst.

It was a somber Thanksgiving for all the Mitchell's. His son and daughter were at the hospital alone waiting for news of their Dad instead of home having a happy celebration with their families.
I tried to focus on what there was to be thankful for and there were many things I thought of.

I live a good life;I live in a free country and because of that enjoy freedoms others don't have;I have healthy children and grandchildren; although I may not be as healthy as I could be my ailments are not life threatening;I have access to good medical care and medicine;I have a really great guy in my life who treats me like a queen;I have a beautiful home in a great neighborhood,with many terrific neighbors who have become friends;I get to volunteer at a place that is spectacularly beautiful and have great people that I volunteer with;I get to go back in time to history of the 1850's and recreate events for the folks who visit and especially the children. I have been able to travel;I have had some utterly sad things happen to me however I've learned great lessons so I value these as well. I have an internet community of friends that couldn't be closer even though most of us have never met and never will.They even included my brother and our family in their Thanksgiving blessings.
These are the things I focused on during my Thanksgiving day.

I've thought about my brother a lot of course in the recent months.I guess when you are threatened with losing someone from your life you tend to do that.otherwise,we tend to just take people for granted and think they'll always be there and we'll get to them tomorrow. It's when we get close too running out of tomorrows that realize how precious someone else's life is to our own.

My earliest memories of my brother are of sharing time with our dog,Lady who was an apricot colored cocker spaniel.
She was such a good dog, my best friend at that time.
There used to be a picture of Pat(my oldest sister), Walt, myself and Lady on the front porch of our childhood home.I'm guessing I was not quite 2, so Walt would have been maybe 7. It must have been in the fall because we were bundled up in heavy jackets and had headscarves and hats on. There was no snow on the ground and I don't recall we were wearing mittens or gloves.

Other memories of Walt that aren't so good was when he was drowning turtles my sisters and I had found downstairs in the stationary tub in the basement. He would kill snails with salt or a magnifying glass in the summer,he would fight with me every chance he had.Physically fight.
One time, I guess I must have been maybe 13,on a Saturday morning I changed the TV channel to something we younger kids were used to watching.Walt was usually working on Saturday mornings and I don't remember why he was home that day.Maybe he was sick.
He became so angry with me for changing the channel he got up and started choking me. Honest to God, bona fide strangling me.
My Mom came in the room and was yelling at him to stop, hitting his arms and he kept up. I was turning blue and losing consciousness and finally he quit.

He would skip school at the Polumbo Apartments where his girlfriend Janet (who later became his wife) lived at the time. He would make fun of me for going to school.
Later when I was skipping and got caught and my Dad was ashamed of me "because no one in our family EVER skipped school" I kept my mouth shut about Walt.To my Dad's dying day I don't think he ever knew.

Walt did some other unkind things to me that were abusive but I don't want to discuss them.
As teens we didn't have a very nice or happy existence.
I recall as if it was yesterday the morning he was leaving for Ft. Benning,GA when he was drafted.
This was during the Vietnam era and I realized my brother could be killed at war.
Real life came into clear focus that morning. I didn't hate my brother,I hated the things he did.
We sat at the bottom of the steps in the hallway and talked for awhile.
We both forgave each other perceived wrongs and made a truce that has lasted to this day.
That was in August,1968.

He came home on leave in December,1968 to get married to Janet and I was in the wedding. he left January 2nd for Germany. Janet joined him in February and they lived there when Ken was born the next February and she came home when Ken was few months old and Walt came home shortly after.
I was married the following October, Halloween night to be exact and my then husband and myself and Walt and Janet became best friends.
We lived within a few blocks of each other and within a few blocks of our parents,and my oldest sister.
Being around family was an everyday occurrence.
Actually, Janet and I were friends since I was 13 yrs old until she passed away a few years ago.

I admit I wasn't in contact as much with my brother those next years as I should have been. I did call a few times but few and far between.
I lived far away and like other things in life,one day turns into the next,one week turns into the next and then it's months and years. You always think there is going to be tomorrows.

My brother is the type that everyone considers friendly. Once you've met him you don't forget him.
I can't tell you the times we'd be out together and he would run into someone he knew in the service, someone he knew in school, someone he knew through a job.

For a few years he had a beer route out in the suburbs where we all eventually moved when we bought homes.
He was much loved and well thought of on his beer route. he serviced his customers as he would have wanted to be serviced had the shoe been on the other foot.
He was more than conscience. I wish I knew how many Sundays I saw him in stores on his route checking his displays, going to the back room to add to the displays when the product was dwindling.
I don't think I've ever heard someone talk trash about him his whole adult life.

I've been told by Ken even his coworkers from Kroger's warehouse and bottling plant where he eventually worked after the beer route have sent him cards and good wishes. They call and check up on him and he hasn't worked there in more than a year.

I would know anywhere my brother's voice;he has always as long as I can remember had this tic of clearing his throat while he talks.
Another memory I have of him when we were real little,I guess maybe he was 6-7 yrs old so I would have been 2-3. For some reason he needed to spell the word Carlotta.There was a family across with that name.
For whatever reason he got on the phone and called the operator. I can still hear it.
"I am just a little boy and I don't know how to spell Carlotta". That became a family joke for years and years and years. He hated it but we loved it.

In high school somehow someone gave him the nickname "Moose". I don't recall how it got started but he hated that too. Of course, knowing he hated it I called him that every chance I could. Sisters are like that.

One of the most special memories I have of my brother and my sister-in-law was when I was going through the first divorce. My soon to be ex had kidnapped my kids from me and was suing for custody. To say I was despondent would be an understatement.
At this point Janet concocted this idea for me.Walt and her to go kidnap my kids back.
We thought out the plan. Walt was off because it had snowed and iced that morning. they had an old station wagon.
So off we went to the exes house and I knew he had the lady next door watching my kids. She was supposed to be a friend of mine but I guess she liked being his mistress more.
I knew we had no more than 10 minutes to get the kids and any stuff out of the exes house before he would have been called at work and gotten home.
While I was inside Diane's house grabbing my kids, threatening to kill her if she tried to stop me, Walt and Janet were scurrying through my old house gathering items I had written down for the kids and placing them in the back of their car.
At just the right moment we jumped back into the car and headed to my apartment and got inside and locked the door.
Sure enough, pound,pound, pound on the door. The soon to be ex was fuming. I had outsmarted him and he didn't think I had it in me.
Possession was 9/10ths of the law for the custody case. I had possession.
I will be forever grateful to my brother and sister-in-law for helping me that day.
After Big Dan left we hurried out to the car and got all the stuff inside and then they went home. Me and my kids were safe.

So many memories of being together. They'd come to my house,we go to theirs.
We watched the kids grow up. We joined forces to help my Dad when he was sick.
So many memories.

I pray today that Walt is allowed to get better and go home and reunite with his family and friends and we are able to make new memories.
He and I have already talked about him visiting me here in California. he and his Yorkie, Mitch.
Maybe other family members will visit with him too.
We still have lots of living to do.I'm not ready for my brother to be gone from my life but will accept it if the Good Lord decides to take him Home.
He will be missed. he will be mourned.
And he would be embarrassed that he was.
He wouldn't want to believe he had that effect on so many people.

If anyone reading this believes in miracles and the power of prayer,please believe in a miracle and pray for my brother and his family.
We want him home for Christmas and we believe with god, all things ARE possible.

For four months now my brother hasn't eaten at a table, showered or gone to the bathroom by himself in private, smelled fresh air, felt the sunshine, heard raindrops,pet his dog, worn street clothes. His view has been of a new building being contrustected next to the building he's in.

I believe he should be healthy and go home and poop scoop drop droppings, shovel snow,rake leaves, clean his refrigerator and toilet, pay the sky high prices for gas. he should be able to complain about the high cost of food, the high price of heating his home.
He should be able to cheer on his grandson at a football game, be made to have tea parties with his granddaughter.
He should have to endure long phone conversations with me.
He should have to mow his lawn next spring and water his flowers.
In other words he should have a normal life like everyone else.

I pray our heavenly Father sees it this way too. If not, I know Janet and my Mom and Dad will be waiting for him as he crosses over and that is the way it will have to be. I will have to be thankful for no more suffering and that he has peace.

I love you Walt and am selfish that I want you around for another 20 years.

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