Here and There

Hello Everyone!!

There are really only two styles of packing. One way was best exemplified in the movie “As Good as it Gets” by both Jack Nicholson and Greg Kinnear. Extremely organized, color coded, neatly pressed or folded, and unable to be wrinkled in any way even if the suitcase fell from a 10 story building. The other method was typified in a commercial 20 years ago when a couple traveling had their luggage lost, and the husband pulls out his American Express card and says, “what do you need?” Tonight, I had to assume one of Christine’s favorite jobs and pack our small army for 11 days with Mom-Mom and Da, as well as a separate bag for Max and a separate bag for Maggie for when they go to Tennessee, and I had to pack myself for the trade show in Baltimore. I have never missed her more. Please God, do not ever, ever, ever let me take Christine for granted. The woman would have been a help to Ike planning the D-day invasion. Please let me go back to my simple job of integrating 1800 stores. Have I mentioned lately that I am blessed to be married to an absolutely wonderful woman?

In the midst of organizing this pilgrimage, I pulled something in my back, and I spent the night stooped over but unable to bend down and pick anything up. I swear, I am not complaining but highlighting the absolute genius of God to allow me to “feel” some of the pain that Catie felt 2 months ago. Thank you God for helping me understand how much pain she was in. And thank you as well for all of the medications that are still in the house that did not work to alleviate her pain, but may assist me in getting through the night. Just kidding. Speaking of medications though, great news! After only a 436 hour wait, the Tylenol prescription from Catie’s spinal tap is finally ready. For those of you new to the story, 3 weeks ago, Catie had a spinal tap, and the doctor ordered Tylenol for Catie in case she developed a headache. Christine went back and forth for 3 hours from the hospital pharmacy to the doctor’s office (25 yards apart) 5 times to get the prescription filled, and today, while picking up another medication, they also announced that the Tylenol prescription was ready as well. How’s that for service. Christine, can you send the Tylenol to PA….my back hurts.

In addition to gaining an insight into Catie’s pain, I am also getting a glimpse tonight about what being a parent of teenagers might be like. It is 10:15 pm, and our 10 year old Maggie is still out. Little does she know that the chores she neglected to finish before she went out today are still waiting for her. Nothing like folding laundry while your father stares at you. And I will try to be quiet so as not to wake the neighbors when I take her outside for some midnight weed pulling.

When Kevin and I first were married he suggested that I go on vacation with my friends, either Maria or Marissa and that he would stay home, take vacation and watch the kids. I laughed why would I leave you to go on vacation without you?? Thanks to God and many of youthat is what life in Memphis is like, Catie and I are on vacation and Kevin and Megan are watching the kids.

Seriously, in many ways that is true. There was a lot of waiting again today. We arrived at the hospital at 8:30 and left at 5:45. These are long days and yet there are moments that are so rare. Rare not just in my life but in the lives that Catie touches. I’d like to share a few with you. God also injects humor and laughter to help us all along.

Catie and Da started a puzzle yesterday, they left it unfinished on a table and someone put it away. When Catie noticed this she was sad but Amy Kathleen Kennedy (Child Life Specialist – her job is to make sure the kids are happy. She is there to explain things, play with them and listen to them.) said did you write a sign that said work in progress. Catie said no. So they wrote one – can you tell me any hospital you know of that does that – let the patient keep coming back to the same thing they were working on one day the next day. That doesn’t even work in my house. I know it works at Conrad’s, that is why my kids always want to go there.

Radiation Oncology (RO)Clinic was running behind. Our doctor is on vacation so maybe that is a contributing reason. Maybe they don’t have me running their schedule. Maybe they like to be late. Whatever the reason is they were late – 2 hours late. By the time Catie and I were seen Catie had had it. Her head was in a book and she didn’t want to take it out and perform for the doctors. Dr. Coon is a young resident. He is very quiet. He wanted to test Catie’s reflexes. He asked her to relax. Never ask an O’Brien woman to relax – it just doesn’t work. Ask Kevin!! She tenses up. I suggest that the doctor ask Catie to sing to distract her. She begins to sing from the the movie My Fair Lady Wouldn’t It Be Lovely. She is delightful, very quiet but delightful. Dr. Coon stops examining her and joins her for a duet. It was priceless. Maybe that is why RO runs late – the doctors sing with all of their patients. I tend to think not. I believe it is part of the uniqueness of Catie.

We are now 3 hours behind schedule. Catie goes for a 3 hours pysch evaluation test and so I have time to spend. So I go back to RO and ask for a refill of Catie’s RX. I don’t need it for a few days but if you remember it took them almost 3 hours to not get Tylenol, so I figure I’ll give the pharmacy some extra time to fill the RX. In our house we are very sensitive to the needs of the pharmacists. I pass the Pharmacy 15 minutes later and read the screen for the names of filled RXs. The board reads M. O’Brien. I go to the counter. I ask the tech if the M. O’Brien is Catie. She responds “yes, her Tylenol is ready.” II start to cry with laughter. “You are amazing I say it only took you about 450 hours to fill this script.” The tech responds very kindly “you are welcome we are trying to improve.” If Kevin worked with this tech he could wear anything and for that matter say anything.

After Catie’s psych test we go to her Neuro Onocology (NO) Clinic visit. All clinic visit with their active patients on Tuesday. We repeat all of the tests and questions and Lindsay (the nurse practitioner) explains in greater detail the needs and schedule for the upcoming chemo treatment. Catie begins to grow quieter. It is 5:45 and we are both exhausted and hungry. Catie suggests that we go home and have dinner. She would like stuffed shells. I know this will take at an hour and Catie is hungry now – which means the window of opportunity is closing. I say why don’t we go out to eat? Catie says OK let’s go to The Spaghetti Warehouse. We go and Matt is our waiter. He is very kind and attentive and explains that because Catie is a St. Jude’s patient he will take 20% off the bill. Then Joe, the manager, comes over and tell us that his nephew was a patient at St. Jude’s and his nephew graduated from West Point this year. Joe told us if there was anything that we needed even our tire changed to call him. He paid for our dinner. When Catie realized this she ran right up to him and he was escorting people to their table and hugged him. It was one of those rare and strong Catie hugs that everyone who knows her loves to get from her. Joe comes up to me and she is playing her arcade driving game and says thank you to me. Joe who paid for our dinner is thanking me. He says there is so much need out there some people don’t know where to start. Catie makes it easy to start and makes you feel so good that you did.

OK that is enough for one day. Right?? Not a day with Catie. As we leave the restaurant we see these gentlemen getting into a car and they are talking about NJ. Catie says how can you tell my mom is from NJ. The men are slightly confused but Catie is cute so they begin talking to her. It turns out that this is ELVIS WEEK in MEMPHIS. The two men are brothers and their other brother is a headlining Elvis impersonator. They take down our number and offer us tickets to tomorrow night’s show at the Convention Center. They ask Catie if she sings. (Thank you Catie for not starting with My Fair Lady). Catie only responds that she loved to sing and then tells the men (The Millers) that her dog is named Elvis. Talk about making best friends.

That is what a day with Catie is like. Where ever she goes. What ever she does. She touches someone. Her smile use to light up her face. Now, without hair, it really lights her up. Seeing her smile makes you feel good all over and filled with energy. She is indeed a blessing to me and to everyone who knows about the spirit of this amazing little girl. Keep praying for her and she will keep inspiring all of us.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Catie live from Memphis with Elvis……

Christine, Kevin, Maggie, Max, Catie, Mia, Molly, and M.E.

Ps – Catie’s Blood pressure is running very low……she either needs a little stress or a few prayers that it stabilizes

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