Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now.
I returned to work from being on maternity leave on November 16. I had a new boss and I was trying really hard to make a good first impression, get back in the office with a productive attitude, and keep my emotions at bay because I was really missing my baby. Things didn’t go according to plan. To give you a little bit of context, RSV was running rampant pretty much everywhere and I was supposed to leave my three-month-old baby girl for the first time in a child care center. As a first time mom, and a working one at that, my heart was torn into. My mom came to the rescue as she has done for me so many times before. She offered to watch Lydia Grace that week while I went back to work. Plus, it would make the transition of me “leaving” her for the day a little easier since she was going to be with my mom. The only caveat would be that I would have a longer commute to work that week.
Everything was going alright considering I was leaving my baby for the first time and my new mother hormones were through the roof. I managed to back out of my parents’ driveway without crying. Big sigh. “I can do this!” I told myself in my mind.
Highway 27 in our part of the state is pretty rural. I took Highway 27 through small towns like Chickamauga and LaFayette to work that day and then I saw something I won’t soon forget. A deer ran out in front of a mid-size SUV and I will omit the rest of the details because it was gruesome. The driver of the vehicle was stable but blood was pouring from his head. I saw the whole thing happen. I grabbed a pack of baby wipes from my car (it was all I had) and pulled over to help him until paramedics arrived. That should have been the first sign as to how things were going to go that particular week: not good.
I was late to work on my first day back, but I had a pretty good reason. I was met with banners welcoming me back and a wonderful display of refreshments from my students and coworkers. It was so incredibly thoughtful. I finished up day one back at work and I was feeling a little more confident about everything. Until, early Tuesday morning, November 17.
Anytime a phone call comes at 2 a.m., it’s probably not going to be a call to chat about the weather. More than likely, a phone call that early in the morning is bad news. So was the case on that particular Tuesday morning. My grandmother was calling me. “Nanny, are you okay?” She had been having a horrible time with regulating her blood pressure and it had been through the roof for the last few days. She had visited the emergency room and the doctor’s office, but it just wasn’t coming down. “I tried to call your mom, but she isn’t answering her phone and I’m having bad chest pains.”
Here is where I tell you that I believe it is divine providence that I was at my parents’ house that night. Mom’s phone was set to “airplane” mode by accident. She wasn’t getting any calls or texts, but we didn’t realize that until this happened. My dad got up super early for his job, and it just so happened that my mom was also up seeing him off as she so often did before he left for work. They were sitting at the kitchen table talking when I went downstairs at 2 a.m. “Nanny’s having chest pains and she said she can’t get a hold of you on your phone.”
Mom was out the door and dad was right behind her. Matthew and Lydia Grace were asleep upstairs so I decided to stay up and pray. I didn’t hear anything from my mom about my grandmother’s condition for several hours. The emergency room doctors had determined she needed a heart cath at the end of the week. She would stay in the hospital until then.
Friday came and the heart cath procedure showed what we feared the most. Two blockages. One lesion in a very dangerous place. A stint would not be possible without extreme risks. The best option would be open heart surgery. Our biggest obstacle was going to be convincing her she needed it. If she didn’t have the surgery, the odds were really against her. It seemed like a no-win situation at the time. Do we encourage her to have the surgery and a long recovery with no real guarantee of how the surgery could go? Or, do we just take the chance of not having it and hope for the best? One thing was clear: she had to be the one to decide. After the doctor talked to us, I was so discouraged. I was trying to keep my faith up, but the human side of me was grieving over the news.
After her heart cath procedure, we were able to visit her in the critical care unit. She was in a lot of pain and very groggy from the medication. Because there are only certain hours you can visit your loved ones in any critical unit, we left when visiting hours were over and came back that evening. Mom and I talked to nanny that evening while my dad sat outside with Lydia Grace in the waiting area. Nanny was in such great spirits. She was laughing, reaching out to touch us, and she had even told us she was going to go through with the surgery. We were baffled because my grandmother had specifically said before that she never wanted open heart surgery. Now, she was saying, “I have to do this if I’m going to get better.” Visiting hours were coming to a close so mom, dad, Lydia Grace and I left. On our drive home, we were relieved. We said, “it’s so great that she’s going to go through with this! We’ll just have to be there to help her with recovery.”
Shortly after we got to my parents’ house, my mom got a phone call from the hospital. “Mrs. Fitzsimmons, we need you to get back up here immediately. Your mother has taken a turn for the worse and it doesn’t look good.”