On the evening of May 31 - the day before my dad's surgery - we celebrated my dad's 60th birthday. His actual birthday on June 2 would be two days later while he was in intensive care, so we figured he wouldn't be up for much celebrating then.
Birthdays are a big deal in my book, so I felt sorry for my dad (or maybe for myself?) that he'd spend his birthday in the hospital. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized how fortunate we were that my dad would be around to celebrate his 60th birthday. Having this surgery meant my dad would hopefully have many, many more birthdays to come.
My sister made an angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream for the birthday celebration, and we all crowded around and sang happy birthday to my dad. I love how the kids and I are always back in Nebraska during the first week of June to celebrate his special day.
Bright and early on Wednesday, June 1, my parents, sister and I drove to the hospital in Lincoln where the surgery would take place. On top of the nervousness we all felt, it also felt a little strange to be alone with my sister and my parents. Seriously, when was the last time that happened - 1989?
My brother Adam joined us at the hospital in Lincoln, and we were all able to hug my dad and wish him well before they wheeled him back to surgery at 6:00am. The surgery was expected to take 4-5 hours, so my mom, sister Ashley, brother Adam and and Adam's girlfriend Carley (who just finished her overnight shift in the hospital lab) hung out together in the waiting room. There's no one better to lighten a serious mood than my sister, Ashley. She had us all in stitches before long.
The surgeon joined us in the waiting room around 1:00pm to let my family and I know my dad had made it out of surgery. The doctor confirmed my dad's aortic valve was 95% closed, and said they successfully replaced it with a new valve made of cow tissue. He also said my dad's heart was very, very weak and near the point of stopping altogether. Scary! The surgeon expected my dad to make a full recovery, and lead a healthy life going forward.
My dad was moved to intensive care in the hospital's heart unit. We were able to see him around 5:00pm that evening and it looked absolutely terrible. It was so hard to see him hurting! I didn't want to leave his side that night, but I had to drive back to my parent's house to relieve my brother-in-law, Jason, of babysitting duty. He'd graciously agreed to watch Tory and Aden all day so I could be with my dad.
I drove back to Lincoln early Thursday morning (my dad's 60th birthday!) to spend the day at the hospital. My mom, sister and I did lots of sitting and waiting. We visited my dad in his room off and on throughout the day, but he was still in pretty bad shape. I returned to my parent's house again that evening, only to discover Aden had come down with the flu. By the next morning, Aden and my nieces Neeley and Brooke had the flu as well; it must've been some sort of 24 hour bug passing through the kids. So, I stayed home from the hospital on Friday to take care of the sick little ones.
On Sunday, my dad was released from the hospital -- five days post-surgery. It was amazing how much he'd recovered since I saw him last on Thursday. The color in his face had returned, and he was more conversational. I was never so glad to hear his voice!
I wanted to help my mom and dad in any way I could, so I meal planned and grocery shopped before my parents returned from the hospital on Sunday. A true sign how exhausted my mom was from the ordeal: she actually let me cook and clean for her in the days following! I figured it was the least I could do to relieve her of some responsibilities, so she could transfer that energy into caring for my dad.
Tory, Aden and I spent the next few days post-surgery with my family. I tried to get the kids out of the house every morning that week so my dad could rest. He was so tired, and nodded off in the recliner throughout the day. My sister and I took Tory, Aden and Neeley to a few parks in town and had a play-date with my cousins, Jen and Jes.
I took Tory and Aden to the bakery one morning -- their absolute favorite thing to do when we're back in my parents' small town.
I was nervous to drive 8 hours alone with Tory and Aden, but the trip went surprisingly well. I threw the kids into the car at 4:00am, and we'd already made it to Iowa by the time they "woke up" that morning. I stopped at a gas station somewhere along Interstate 80 to change them into their clothes and stretch our legs, and stopped once more south of the Minnesota border for lunch at McDonald's and a small town park pit-stop. We made it back to the Twin Cities by 2:00pm that day.
My dad's health is improving with each passing day. He's still tired, but isn't in much pain and feeling more like himself all the time. My parents are planning to visit us at the lake cabin over Labor Day weekend, so I'm hoping my dad feels well enough to make that trip a reality.
It was tough seeing my dad go through so much during my visit to Nebraska, but I'm thankful for the flexibility in my schedule and for Andi's support and understanding in allowing me to be there for two weeks. Aside from the actual surgery, it was really great to spend so much time with my parents, siblings and my extended family.