A Heart, A Flower, and 7 Swallows

Today was full of coincidences. It has been difficult, as I age, to deny that things don’t happen for a reason. Sometimes things happen that seem completely unrelated only to have them come full circle and suddenly connections are made, dots are connected, and we see the whole picture.

The first dot

Eleven years ago today our oldest son was just 5 days old. He was born with a congenital heart defect called Transposition of the Great Arteries. In normal people words it means his aorta and pulmonary artery were switched. At 5 days old he was stable enough to undergo open heart surgery and Crash got his second go at this crazy little thing called life. He got the telltale “zipper” as a keepsake. We almost celebrate today like it’s his second birthday.

The second dot

When DW’s father was in the hospital there was a hibiscus plant in the sunroom across the hall from him. When he was taken in to the hospital the plant had one giant, red bloom on it. Being February, it was odd that it had bloomed. Rarely do they bloom in the winter. On his second day the bloom had withered and hung sadly from its stem. That night the bloom had fallen and DW’s dad quietly passed away in his sleep.

The third dot

A friend of ours makes and sells bird houses. When we found out he was making houses for swallows we knew we had to buy one from him. Two days later we had two swallows sign a lease and move in. We saw them come and go frequently, mostly during breakfast and supper times. We love watching them. They’re aerial acrobats while they’re chasing bugs to eat and salvaging nesting material. The pair of them flitted around, the female would build their nest while the male would sit on the wire above and watch for danger. They made a good pair. Until today. Today they were no longer a pair. I counted seven swallows on the line above their home.

The whole picture

This morning while DW was updating her Facebook status to share our joy of the eleventh anniversary of Crash’s heart surgery, I went out to the front porch to shake the beach out of our front door rug. That’s when I noticed that one of her hibiscus plants had a single, orange bloom and it was wide open, gulping the morning sunshine. Here, on the 11th anniversary of our son’s second chance was sign from DW’s dad. Then, to see five fledging sparrows flying for what could be the first time, it is many coincidences that happened for a reason. Life.

A Tale of Two Drivers or A Journey to The City

*When you don’t know which title to pick, pick both.

When we left Tuesday afternoon, Country Driver was behind the wheel. He likes wide open spaces, long drives on clear highways, and sing alongs to whatever song is being bluetoothed from his phone’s playlist. His wife rides along shotgun and happy. The kids ride content in the backseat quietly entertaining themselves.

All is good. They have the rest of the day (and the next day) to look forward to. There’s going to be a hotel stay, shopping, a museum, and a heart checkup. The skies are as clear as the highway. We’re all excited for our trip to The City.

Fast forward 3 hours and we are in the heart of The City with 415,000 people. This is 138 times bigger than Country Driver’s town. He got out from behind the wheel shortly before arriving in The City. Country Driver is too courteous to drive in The City. City Driver drives like he owns the place. He does what he needs to do to get where he needs to go. Blinkers be damned.

Anyway, City Driver took the wrong bridge into The City. Fortunately, his wife and Google Maps were able to navigate him to the hotel. The hotel overlooks a lake named “Chocolate Lake”. Hence, the hotel’s greeter is a chocolate lab named Aero (as in the chocolate bar of the same name).


Loving Aero kisses

No trip to a hotel is complete until you have bed jumped and pool swam. Having competed the former upon entry, we changed into our suits and went to take a dip. I want to apologize to the couple who was in the pool when my otters arrived. I tried to keep them from splashing as much as I could. I tried to get them to keep their voices down, too. They are two country boys who are used to swimming in wide open lakes.

Bonus! There was a hot tub and it was nice to finish the swim with a sit in the hot tub. The boys joined me for a few minutes (I limited their time).

Then City Driver rounded everyone up, got them changed back into city clothes and we headed out to supper at Montana’s. The atmosphere was neat – wild west country style decor. The boys got to see a moose head and see just how big they are.

After horking down supper, City Driver got them to the mall where the boys could ride the escalators. Only one store had toys for the boys to look at and they were over priced.  $35 for a $10 stuffy. I imagine! They were happy get a bath bomb, though. We perused Build-A-Bear and came out empty handed. We made it to Toy-R-Us, too. One boy spent his $10 from Nanny. The other didn’t because he’s saving up for a puppy. I’ll let you guess which one couldn’t wait to spend.

Stores closed at 9, we stayed until 9. Back at the hotel we went to spend the remainder of our change down in the games room. Air hockey. Donkey Kong. The Simpsons. Pinball. Double Dragon. Ghosts and Goblins. A photo booth.

photo booth

It was a nice try…

10:45 pm and the kids were finally in bed sound asleep.

8 hours and 15 very short minutes later we were all bright eyed and bushy tailed. We hit up the free breakfast buffet, packed up all our stuff and made two trips to the truck to get it all loaded.

It was finally time for the moment we were all excited for. We were going to the Museum of Natural History where the Body Worlds RX exhibit was on display. First, we checked out what else the museum had; a 70+ year old tortoise, frogs and snakes.  Our favorite was the topographical sand table. With the help of a projector and an X-Box sensor bar, the sand would change color and the topographical lines would change to reflect the height of the hill we built. Furthermore, we could “dig” for water and the water would flow according the topography! We all want one for our house. The other really awesome thing they had was a globe that would change depending on what was being projected on to it. It could be any of the nine eight planets or the moon. It showed ocean temperatures over a year, daily air traffic around the world, shipping traffic, earth quakes, tidal waves and that was just the stuff we hung around to see!


Finally, we visited the Body World RX exhibit. We had to get there before Bang exploded. He was super excited to go. Should you ever get the chance to see this exhibit (there 9 and they travel the world) I highly recommend it. It’s such a learning experience. It shows how our bones work, how our muscles work. It shows our organs and veins and capillaries. It shows our 25 feet of intestines. It shows heart disease and lung disease. It showed our reproductive organs. Neither DW or I realized that a uterus was so small! And it showed it all in pristine detail. We were blown away by it. Unfortunately, our exhibit didn’t include the infant section where would have been able to see fetuses in various stages of development in the uterus. Bang was disappointed as he was really looking forward to that part.

From here, City Driver took the family to the hospital. It was time for a check up. For those who are newer readers, you can read about Crash’s open heart surgery when he was just five days old. First on the to do list was an EEG of Crash’s heart.


Our Robot Baby


2 years ago, Crash was only up to Dr. Wong’s shoulder. 2 more years and he’ll be as tall as him!

After that it was off to get an echo-cardiogram (ultrasound) done. Once that was done and Dr. Wong had a chance to look over the images he came to fill us in on his findings. There is a normal narrowing of his pulmonary, which is expected from this type of surgery. He said if there was any stress on the pulmonary it would cause Crash’s heart work harder in the right ventricle. He didn’t see that happening so he’s confident Crash is doing well. He doesn’t need to see him for another 2 years…

What a relief.

City Driver, ready to be done driving, got the family out of the city and back on the highway toward home where Country Driver gladly took over while the boys watched Cars 3 and DW crocheted. Anxious to be out of the truck and not wanting to fall asleep, Bang threw a couple fits that made us want to throw him from the truck. Fortunately, by 8:30 the boys were back in their own beds, the lights were out, and it was night night time after an exciting day and half journey to The City.

A Heart In My Hands

EKG 001

That’s our new heart shape. It really doesn’t mean much to me. I don’t know how to read an ECG – electrocardiograph (a.k.a. EKG) recording. But, it means the world to me because this is the shape of Crash’s heartbeat when recorded by an ECG. If you know how to read these things, you’ll notice that’s it not normal. If you don’t know how to read it, I can tell you this is not what it’s supposed to look like.

If you haven’t yet read Crash’s arrival into this world, you can read With An Open Heart, here.

This past Wednesday we made a trip to the renowned IWK Children’s hospital in Halifax, three hours away. We’re country folk, so going to the big city is a big deal. We made sure to do a bit of shopping. But I’m not here to tell you about what we bought.

I’m here to tell you about what we saw.

A heartbeat.


Crash had TGA – Transposition of the Great Arteries. It’s just a fancy way of saying his aorta and pulmonary arteries were switched. At just 5 days old, a surgeon put them in their right places. This meant open heart surgery, bypass machines, and a 16 day stay in the hospital.

Flash forward 8 years and he gets his routine check up only once every two years. While this is good news as it means he’s doing well, it makes his mother and I a bit nervous going that long between check-ups. These check-ups aren’t for him. They’re for his parents’ peace of mind.

Anyway, upon our arrival at the IWK, they take us to a small doctor’s room where his cardiologist comes to talk to us. He simply wants to know if we have any concerns. He asks Crash if he’s had problems with dizziness or fainting (nope). If he’s had problems with chest pain while exercising (nope). Then Crash is off to be measured.

Robot 8 year old


He’s 35 kg (77 lbs) and 44 inches tall. No failure to thrive here.  Then he gets stickered up for the ECG. We joked with him and called him robot baby like we did when he was just an infant and hooked up to a bazillion monitors. A minute later and was done. I barely had time to get this picture with the phone.

Then we were sent back to the room where we first spoke with the cardiologist. He informed us that all looked good. While the ECG wasn’t “normal” it was normal for him. No surprise. We always knew his version of normal wasn’t quite like everyone else. DW had the great idea to ask for a copy of Crash’s ECG. Then she mentioned making a tattoo out of it. You betcha! We now have a physical copy of our son’s heartbeat. I can hold his heart in my hands. I can wear his heart on my sleeve.

From there we went to yet another room for an echocardiogram.

When his aorta and pulmonary artery were switched 8 years ago, some stretching occurred (as was expected). Imagine what happens when you stretch a hose. I narrows. This was what they were looking at in the echo. They were making sure those arteries hadn’t narrowed further and that blood was flowing properly. Again, when I say properly I mean properly for someone with TGA. To our great relief, all was “normal”.

He even got cleared to join Tae Kwon Do.

Then Crash asked for a picture with Dr. Wong. Perhaps a hero. Or, at least, an idol. Crash wants it printed and put in a golden frame.

Crash and Dr. Wong


A Heart Lesson and a Check-up

*This article originally aired on November 8,2013. Over 2 years later, we are headed to the Pediatric Cardiologist for a check-up. I will let you know how it goes tomorrow. We’ll be on the road traveling for the next 6 hours. For now, I’ll leave you with Crash’s last Cardio visit.

Heart lesson: the two top “chambers” are  the left and right atrium. The bottom “chambers” are the left and right ventricles. The lines separating the atrium from ventricles are the Mitral valve and Tricuspid valve. Those valves open and close to let blood flow through as the heart beats and pumps it through. Or at least that’s how I understand it. I’m not a doctor.

This isn’t Crash’s heart. But this is what Crash’s heart looks like on an echo scan. You can clearly see the   valves separating the atrium from the ventricles. Crash’s doctors are keeping an eye on the tricuspid and mitral valves because there some regurgitation. This simply means that the valves aren’t closing completely. Therefore, some blood flows backward into his heart. However, what they are mostly concerned with is his aorta and pulmonary artery. They are making sure they are not narrowing, which is something that can happen after the surgery that he did at 5 days old. But just like he has for the last 6 years, he rocked his cardio check-up! The regurgitation is minimal and always has been. The aorta and pulmonary artery haven’t narrowed. He is thriving, now standing at 3′ 11″ tall and  61 pounds. We found all this out yesterday from his cardiologist at the IWK… Dr. Kenny Wong (joined yesterday by Dr. Matthew Woo).  Dr. Wong was impressed enough that he doesn’t need to see him again for 2 years! For the last 3 years we visited Dr. Wong once a year for Crash’s check up. Crash always amazes me while we’re there. The child who is normally loud and rambunctious as most boys are (noise with dirt as we typically describe them) was calm, quiet and patient while they did his EKG and again during the echo. Thank you Crash! I kind of liked his yearly check ups. We always used them as an excuse to get out of town and visit family we don’t get to see often. Guess we’ll have to find a new excuse… Daddy needs new running shoes? Mommy wants to go to the K-cup store?

On another note, I was terrified thinking about how Bang would behave during Crash’s EKG and Echo. I was relieved that he wanted to be held while we were in the patient room for the EKG. He watched with curiosity what they were doing to his big “bubby”. Then in the patient room for the echo, they turned the lights down to see the monitor better. Bang took that as his cue to snuggle in and fall asleep in my arms. Whew. I got to watch the whole thing! I was afraid Bang would get restless and have to go run and play and I would miss the best part. Thank you Bang!

The 2 and a half hour night time drive home with 2 sick kids (the oldest with a bad cold and the youngest with a fever) is a story for another blog.