Tuesday, August 16, 2011

And The Beat Goes On .... Thankfully

A year ago at this time, my husband and I were in Ireland driving through what appeared to be a farmer's field!  Our GPS had directed us to this "road" as we entered Cong, County Galway.  Do NOT believe everything your GPS tells you, regardless of the seductive quality of that automated voice ... "recalculating!"

We had gone to visit relatives (his) in Northern Ireland and had proceeded to County Galway to visit the birthplace of his paternal grandmother.  While driving through what the GPS insisted on calling a road, I began reading emails on my telephone to distract me from the fact that branches and shrubs were scratching all sides of the rental car we were driving.

One of the emails delivered grim news.  My brother, Patrick, was critically ill in a Naperville, Illinois, hospital.  Since our parents were elderly, Ed and I had worried about the very real possibility of receiving news of a health crisis for one of them during the 2 weeks we were to be gone.  Never did we think that the crisis would involve a brother (quite a few years our junior!) He had entered the hospital on his 56th birthday.  None of us would ever have predicted the twists and turns his health would take before he celebrated his next one.

Patrick had experienced a cardiac event following a successful surgical procedure.  I won't go into the medical details, except to tell you that he was kept alive for a number of days on a tandem heart machine and he was in the hospital for many weeks.  Recovery, at the hospital and eventually at home, was a slow process, but fully successful, due in large part to his hard work, determination, healthy lifestyle, exercise and the love and care of his wife, daughter and medical team. And I don't think the many prayers that were offered up hurt.

While he was in the hospital, major yardwork was going on at his house.  He and his wife, Janet, had contracted to have a lovely patio laid in the backyard with custom-made bricks that would also include a walkway around to the front of the house.  Major landscaping was being discussed and designed. The contractor was there; the work was underway.  On a daily basis upon reaching home after a long day at the hospital, Janet was faced with making decisions about things such as the shape of the walkway pattern in the front of the house, where shrubs should be placed, etc.  I can only imagine the angst this added to her already high level of anxiety.  Janet is very artistic and creative and, despite the stress in her life, she made wonderful decisions and the patio and all surroundings took shape under her creative direction.

As Pat recovered, he and Janet and their daughter, Natalie, talked about the patio and the yard and how much they would enjoy it once he was healthy.  They decided to hold a patio party for family and friends a year after his "event," once he was fully recovered.  A celebration of life in so many ways ... recovery of his health, another year older (what a gift!), good friends and family, and, of course, the breaking-in of the new patio!

So, on Saturday, August 13, 2011, we gathered in Naperville to "party on the patio."  It was a beautiful sunny day - except for that little storm that blew through exactly at the time the party was beginning!  Wind gusts - rain - even hail!  Did it daunt Pat and family?  Not a bit - bring on Plan B! What? There is no Plan B?  There is now!  The outdoor party on the beautiful new patio became a garage party ... with a few partiers claiming couches inside the house.  Unruffled, Janet and Pat carried on as if Plan B had been Plan A all along!

The afternoon and evening brought together many family members, neighbors, co-workers, and medical personnel from the hospital, all who came to celebrate Pat's success story.  

Pat's cardiologist was one of the guests, and I was pretty taken with Pat's easy relationship with this man who has treated him for 10 years. Their mutual admiration was obvious, and I believe it was this "friendship" that contributed to the doctor's all-out efforts to do everything possible to save our brother.  He didn't just do the minimum and walk away. Lot to be said for the importance of a doctor-patient relationship.

In the last couple of years, Pat has taught himself to play the harmonica ... or the "harp" as I've learned it's called by real musicians!  He has teamed with D.T. Strickland, who plays guitar and sings.  On Saturday night, they treated us to a few songs that showcased the talents of both of them.  

As they played, I noticed the strenuous "in and out" of Pat's diaphragm, and realized what great breath control and lung capacity this skill requires ... yet more proof of his full recovery. The hoots, hollers and applause that greeted the end of each song represented gratitude for Pat's good health as well as for the musical talents on display.

There was a "beat" to the party that you couldn't miss.  You couldn't "beat" the fun we had ... the music had a honky-tonk "beat" to it that I dearly love ... and more than that was the beating of Patrick's heart ... long may it go on!

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