March 15th, 2011 started like any other day. I woke up after having slept in, and like most teens on spring break, I immediately picked up my cell to see I had texts and various other notifications awaiting my response. One of those texts was from my best friend, Ryann, who was home from college on spring break. She wanted to know if I was coming over before I headed to work. I quickly responded, letting her know I would be there shortly, before climbing out of bed.
Once I was dressed and ready to leave, I did what I always do… I went to tell whatever parent(s) was home where I was headed and that I loved them… Out of respect, I made it a habit to never leave the house without telling them where I was headed and if they were home, telling them that I loved them and bye.
It was a Tuesday, so Dad was working at his shop, but Mom had not gone back to work yet after having the winter off from the greenhouse. This meant she was home, so I poked my head in their bedroom to find it empty. That meant that she was upstairs in the computer room. I yelled up the stairs to the computer room tell her I was leaving. When she responded, she had an irritated tone in her voice.
I felt that the tone was unwarranted so I did something I never do… I turned around to leave without saying anything in response… No have a good day. No I love you. No Bye. I looped back through the house, grabbing my book bag before heading out the door to my car and to Ryann’s house where I spent the next several hours before I then headed to work for 3-4 hours.
When I got home from work, the house was empty. Mom had taken my brothers to Dad’s shop before meeting her cousin, Lexie, at one of the local high schools to see her son, Trevor, swim. I had the entire house to myself!
Shortly after I got home, my (step) brother, Jonathon, came by on his way to see some friends. At that point in time, he was living in Indianapolis and attending The Art Institute. He had come home to surprise his mom, but knew that she wouldn’t be home until after the swim meet so he went to hang out with some of his buddies and I enjoyed having the house to myself for a while.
When my dad came home, his unease was palpable. I knew immediately something was wrong.
He entered the house and my brothers followed in his wake. He sent them directly up to their rooms to get ready for bed and pulled me into my bedroom. He told me Mom’s mom had called. That they were at the hospital. That they thought she was having a heart attack.
My brain immediately went into overdrive.
I did what I always do in an emergency… I started taking control of the situation. I told my dad to go to the hospital and I would stay at the house with the boys. He sarcastically responded “obviously…” as he headed for the door.
At this point, it was approximately 10:00, so I called Grandma (my dad’s mom) as he was pulling out of the drive to fill her in on what had happened. She usually heads to bed around 11, but said she was going to stay up for a while in hopes that she would hear from Dad before. She promised to call me if she heard anything before I did.
After I spoke with my grandma, I called a friend and explained what was going on… She decided that she was going to come sit with me until we knew more.
While I awaited her arrival, I was really taken off guard when Jonathon came home to put more laundry in the washing machine and asked me where everyone was.
He didn’t know.
So I broke the news.
I told him that everyone was at the hospital with his mom.
That they thought his mom had a heart attack.
He asked if she was ok.
I didn’t have an answer.
He was rightfully pissed that I knew and no one had called him.
He went outside to call his grandma.
When he came back inside, he said that she told him that he should come to the hospital.
Just moments after he left for the hospital, my friend arrived. By the time she arrived, it had been about an hour since I spoke with Grandma, so I decided that I would call and check in with her.
The phone rang twice and then went to voicemail.
She rejected my call.
Grandma had never rejected my call before.
I knew right then in that moment that Mom had died.
I hung up and called again. This time Grandma picked up the phone.
I asked if everything was ok, and she said “I don’t even want to tell you.”
“You have to. I already know. I need to hear you say it.” I said with tears already running down my face.
“She didn’t make it.” I could hear the heartbreak in her voice.
I vision got hazy and started to go black around the edges and my knees gave out…
I don’t remember much of anything else from the rest of the night. I don’t even remember the rest of my conversation with my grandma… So the rest of this is pieced together by friends and loved ones.
After getting off the phone with my grandma, I paced between the door where I curled up in a ball on the floor and my bed continued to sob and repeat “no no no no…” and “Dad… oh no, I’m so sorry…” or “Jonathon! NO! I’m SO SORRY!” over and over while I waited for the rest of my family to get home.
At some point I somewhat pulled it together long enough to call a few people who could be there for my dad.
I called his secretary and one of his business partners to let them know that he would probably not be in the next day. And then I called two of his best friends to let them know. One of them works nights so I left a message he would get when he got off of work and, the other answered right away because I had never called before… He met my dad at our house shortly after he got home from the hospital.
After I made those calls, I continued to pace between my bed and the door.
My friend who had gotten to our house shortly before I had gotten the news called my two best friends, Ryann and Laura, to come be with me.
When my dad arrived home, I greeted him at the door and just bawled… apologizing over and over.
Because my brothers had been listening to me sob all night and had been too scared to come down and ask what had happened, my dad quickly brought them down to tell them what had happened.
Branden, who is the middle of us three kids and the most in tune with his emotions, didn’t react at all until several days later. Nick, who is the youngest of us all and doesn’t typically understand emotions cried and cried and cried.
The very first memory I can recall is around 5AM. I am on the couch outside my dad’s bedroom with my laptop in my lap. I am working on sending e-mails to my professors and my brother’s teachers letting them all know what has happened. I can see him trying to sleep alone in their bed for the first time. My three friends squished into my bed asleep.
After the swim meet, Mom and Lexie were walking out to their cars and Mom stopped in her tracks, turned to Lexie, and grabbed her chest. Lexie, who is a nurse, asked if there was something wrong, and Mom said “Yes!” and collapsed.
Lexie started doing CPR and continued to do CPR until an ambulance got there, but unfortunately Mom was already gone when they got there.
The autopsy showed that Mom unexpectedly passed from a heart aneurysm caused by an genetic condition, called Marfan Syndrome, we were unaware that she had. There were some small symptoms that would have been red flags indicating we should have gotten her in to a cardiologist or a vascular doctor… the biggest of those red flag being every couple of months she would pop a blood vessels in her fingers/hands grabbing a handrail, door knob, etc. or in her feet by stepping down the wrong way…
If she had mentioned this to a doctor, in conjunction with her height, and big hands with long fingers, they would have known to test her for this genetic condition and would have done testing that would have caught the aneurysm and would have been able to operate before it became fatal.
Unfortunately, because we were unaware that she had this genetic condition and the aneurysm, when the aneurysm burst, the pericardial sac quickly filled with blood making it impossible for the heart to continue to constrict and expand.
Today marks 8 years since we had our hearts ripped from our chests.
In some ways it feels like it happened just yesterday.
In others it feels like you have been gone for so much longer.
Mom, you are loved and so incredibly missed. Every day, but especially today.