August, how’re you already here? This summer has flown by and it’s crazy to think we’re just a couple weeks away from September. This month started off on the wrong foot and continued to worsen as time went on. My grandmother, an 89 year-old woman full of spunk, experienced a series of unfortunate events, you could say. But before all that, I’ll give you a little backstory.
When I was about 4 years old, my nan fell ill while visiting my other grandmother in Kingston, Ontario. She remembers sitting down and chatting with Marnie (maternal grandma) and ‘feeling funny’. She couldn’t put her finger on it, or describe how she felt in any other way, but she knew something was off. Without hesitation, Marnie took her straight to the Kingston General – and it’s a good thing she did because things got serious quickly.
Nan doesn’t remember anything after being admitted. Her last memory is of her removing her shoes. Doctors diagnosed her with pneumonia. As the days went on, she fell more ill. She developed sepsis, a life-threatening illness where your blood becomes poisoned. Sepsis is furthered described as when, “the chemicals the immune system releases into the bloodstream to fight an infection cause inflammation throughout the entire body instead.”
The events from that time onward only continued to go downhill. Nan’s lungs turned into what was described as ‘cement’. Doctors had to push tubes into her chest cavity to release the air. She was given medication to paralyze her so she wouldn’t move. She developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), a life-threatening disease that prevents oxygen from getting into the lungs and bloodstream. The doctors preformed an tracheostomy, and inserted a tube into her windpipe for prolonged respiratory support. Nan would spend the next three months in the ICU. When the doctors saw that Nan wasn’t getting any better, they recommended inducing a coma to help her body heal itself. And so they did. She remained in a coma for 5 days.
I don’t remember any of this happening. As a four year old, all I understood was that we were going to visit Nan. My strongest memory, however, was the smell of her room and jumping up onto her hospital bed. I can picture the layout of the room and the big window behind her. I remember her food being delivered on beige hospital trays and we’d always share her dessert; Jello, chocolate pudding, etc.
On the 5th day, as I’m told by my father, the doctors had lost hope and recommended my parents make the necessary phone calls and begin planning Nan’s funeral. They told us they didn’t expect her to make it through the night. So we did as they suggested and we all said our goodbyes to Nan before leaving the hospital. That night, my parents and my aunt called our extended family and friends to tell them the news.
The next morning we returned to the hospital, expecting Nan to have passed, and the doctors said she had a slight rally during the night and that we should continue on treating her. Things continued to take a turn for the good and Nan grew stronger every day. Awoken from her coma, Nan remained in the hospital for a couple weeks before being discharged and returning home to Montreal. In the end, Nan walked into the hospital in July and only left by Thanksgiving.
So, why the backstory? Ever since that chapter, Nan has had a higher susceptibility to chest infections and regularly has coughing spells. Her lungs, you could say, are her Achilles heel. Yet, her condition never stopped her from being the active chick she is. For as long as I can remember she’s walked 3 times a day, attends line dancing every Tuesday, 55+ dinner/dancing events, fitness classes, etc. She’s a ‘yes girl’. She attends all social events she’s invited to and is the designated driver for all her friends. Her lungs never brought her down.
Over the last year or so, Nan was catching more coughing colds than normal, which resulted in a buildup of phlegm in her lungs. As a result and preventative measure, our family doctor recommended keeping her on a low-dose of antibiotics to help ward off any cough/colds. She took these pills every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for a year. And it helped. But the body becomes immune to drugs and bugs become stronger and she was catching colds more frequently. The last major one being at the beginning of August. It didn’t disrupt her daily schedule, though. She kept up with her fitness and social events.
It was only the first Sunday of August, while visiting my parents and sitting out by the pool, that nan confided in me a small worry of hers. In a nonchalant manner, she told me she had a coughing spell the previous Friday night and brought up some phlegm. When she went to spit it out she noticed a lot of blood. I don’t know if it was out of fear or that she simply didn’t want to ‘bother‘ us, as she put it, but she didn’t call or tell anyone for 2 days. It was only while she was telling me this by the pool that I began to pay more attention to her coughing.
Nan is known to have coughing fits, but at this point it’s second nature to all of us; we bring her water and when it’s passed we check in and see if she’s okay. Except now I was on high alert and shortly after her confession she had another spell. It was then I noticed her Kleenex was pink. I told my parents and they said he’d keep an eye on her. I had to leave for another engagement and said my goodbye’s to Nan that afternoon. By 10pm, I noticed my family group chat on my phone was off the hook and I had 23 new messages. Nan had been emitted to emergency.
She spent the next 72 hours in the Jewish General. They kept her in quarantine to rule out Tuberculosis, which was very hard on her because she wasn’t allowed to leave her hospital room at all. This stirred up feelings of claustrophobia, and rightfully so. Once discharged, Nan returned home and was on the mend once again. Just one week later, to the day (Thursday), Nan was in a car accident. She was leaving Walmart in Kirkland and was hit on the right side. The whole right side of her car was destroyed; the wheel bent in and under, the passenger door couldn’t open, etc. Luckily, driving the car behind her was a retired nurse who immediately ran over to help Nan. She found my dad’s phone number on a paper in Nan’s purse and called him. I met dad and Nan at the Jewish General emergency. My aunt Diane drove down from Toronto for the week.
After an X-ray, Cat scan and numerous physical exams, our family doctor confirmed Nan had fractured her sternum in the crash, but her organs were not affected. She stressed how lucky Nan was that her airbags didn’t deploy or her situation could have been a lot worse. They kept her in the hospital for the night to monitor her pain. Diane and I brought Nan home the next day (Friday) and have been with her ever since.
All the while this was happening, we were wondering what was going to happen for her birthday. My family had planned a surprise 89th birthday for her prior to the accident and was scheduled to take place that Saturday! The party went on as planned and nan was completely surprised. *See below picture* She was (and is!) such a trooper. I think seeing all the friends and family lifted her spirits and was a real boost of joy for her.
A week later, we continue to take things one day at a time. Despite this period being tough – both emotionally and physically, she continues to crack jokes and see the positive side of her situation. Anyone who knows Nan knows she’s a spunky chick with a great sense of humour. If there’s a person you could be a goofball with it’s Nan. I hope things continue to improve and we finish off this month on a high note. I made these Cherry Dream Bars for her and plan to bring them over to her today. She has a real sweet tooth and I know they’ll bring a smile to her face. Cheers, Nan. These go out to you. 🙂 <3
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 1 cup / 6 large medjool dates (soaked in warm water for 15 min)
- pinch cinnamon
- pinch Himalayan sea salt
- 1 cup cashews (soaked warm water + sea salt for 1+ hours)
- 2 dates
- 1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
- 1.5 cup fresh cherries (pitted)
- 1/4-1/3 cup water (depending on desired consistency)
- (optional: 1-2 tbsp pure maple syrup for added sweetness)
- 1/2 cup sliced fresh cherries (pitted)
- Drain and rinse soaked dates.
- In a food processor, blend base layer ingredients until roughly chopped, about 30 seconds. If you prefer the based to be less crunchy, blend for an extra 30 seconds.
- In a bread pan lined with saran wrap or parchment paper, using you fingers press the base layer down firmly. Once evenly distributed, place in freezer for 20 minutes.
- Drain and rinse soaked cashews.
- In a food processor or high-speed blender, blend the cherry layer ingredients until smooth. Taste test for sweetness. If you prefer sweeter, add a couple tablespoons of pure maple syrup. Pour cherry layer over base layer. Place pan back in freezer for 15 minutes while you prep the cherries for garnish.
- Remove pan from freezer and gently press cherries on top. Place back in freezer for 20 minutes.
- Store finished dessert is either fridge or freezer.
- Will keep fresh in fridge for 7-10 days or 1 month in the freezer.