Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Currently: February

Currently living/working in: Still property caretaking Fenton Ranch in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico … the environmental education program starts up here at the end of March.

Current mood: Enjoying one more month of peace and quiet before our life gets crazy and busy teaching kids nonstop again! 

Currently excited about: Announcing our grand summer plans! Stay tuned this week!!!

Currently not excited about: Ugh doing taxes. 

Currently worried about: Health insurance. Period. 

Currently thankful for: It’s been 4 months since Justin’s surgery and I think he can honestly say he is feeling better. His spine infection is still present, but has diminished so much that his infectious disease doctor took him off all his antibiotics to let his body do the work now. He still has many other random issues (i.e., sleeping) and his Crohn’s/ileostomy is still part of his life, but overall, there is improvement. He is doing WAY more activity and eating better although he won’t put on much more weight than what he is now.
It is alarming when your husband weighs less than you do! 

Currently proud of: 23 submissions to publishers for my Te Araroa book! I wrote in detail about the publisher-seeking process here, but overall, I’m proud of all my efforts thus far and still hopeful I will score a book deal! It is a discouraging and slow process, but I’m not giving up!!!!!!

Currently regretting: Still no wildlife!! But they are taunting us! Every new snow, we see prints and scat. Come out, come out wherever you are!

Currently amazed by: Puppy sitting. Oh my. Almost as exhausting as babysitting. 

Meet Umbra (Heart of a Shadow), an 8-week-old Australian Shephard, owned by one of the rangers at Fenton Lake State Park (which is less than 2 miles from us).
The cat was less than happy about this situation. 

Current confession:  I love the winter, I do, but I am glad our days of constant shoveling snow are mostly behind us. Not to say we aren’t getting more snow (and I probably jinxed us for a big one), but I am glad we aren’t getting the back-to-back masses of snow we had in January. Nowadays, we chop ice and push snow from the roof of the big house. Not much better, but it still doesn’t feel as hard as everyday shoveling!  

Current guilty pleasure: A new camera! I’ve been talking about it for years, and I finally upgraded to a DSL camera. I bought a used Canon Rebel T3 EOS. I’m slowly reading, practicing outside of Auto mode and trying to understand the impact of shutter speed, exposure, aperture and ISO. It’s going to take some time to master, but so far, I’m happy with my choice! 
Currently reading: Still on a reading roll, although the book I am reading is 350+ pages, so it will probably take me the whole month. 
Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer: I am not a fiction person, but this historical fiction book is based on George Mallory’s life. There is great mystery surrounding Mallory because he died while climbing Everest in 1924. No one knows if he died on his way to the summit, or the way down. The latter would make him the first person to successfully climb the highest point. However, without ever knowing the truth, the credit goes to Sir Edmund Hillary. 
I thought I’d list J’s books too. He’s reading two simultaneously: 
Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen 
Energy Leadership by Bruce Schneider 

Currently watching on Netflix: We have gotten ourselves hooked on “The Wire” TV series. Of course we are still on the DVD program, so we are moving ever so slowly through the first season. We also have a great DVD lending program in the small community of 3-4 neighbors up here in our neck of the woods, so we decided to borrow “Breaking Bad” to watch again. Because when in New Mexico …  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Te Araroa Book Progress Volume 4: Rejections

Boy do I miss the days when my fingertips flitted across the keyboard, barely keeping the pace with the electric currents of ideas sparking through my brain. That's the real magic of writing.
You know what's not magical?

Sending out queries to publishers.

I've sent 20 queries in the past 2.5 months.

That number doesn't feel like a lot. But, I assure you, it's a freakin lot of work.

Researching publishers is step one. Besides a list of potential publishing houses shared by one of my writer friends, I am using Writers Market 2017 to come up with a list of publishers that allow unagented queries for nonfiction directly from writers. Then I go and research each publisher individually. Sometimes this results in crossing them off the list. Because maybe they are listed as interested in nonfiction, but right now they only want books about Asian philosophy, vampire folklore, Catholic heritage, espionage or UFOs (I cannot make this up). Timing is everything. I've also cut ones that ask for snail mail only. By the time I get to a post office, it will be 2018.

Further, each publisher has a certain format and specific requests (one publisher asked what I envision for the cover). Yes I developed a skeleton book proposal upfront, one in which I could copy and paste parts for each individual query. But I personalize each cover letter (which includes tracking down a name of the acquisitions editor) and rename certain parts of the proposal. For example, one publisher may call it "marketing platform," another "marketing plan" and another "promotional ideas." You may think that sounds neurotic, but I've heard of publishers making their requirements so peculiar in order to make cuts easier.

Every time I click send or submit for a query, I'm as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

You know what's also the opposite of magical?

Getting rejections.
FYI, if any fellow writers out there need an organized tracker, I downloaded this one from Writer's Digest.

I'm up to 3 rejections. Certainly not enough to wallpaper my cabin, and quite honestly, all the rejections have been extremely polite. They've also come within a day of my submission, so that says something.

One editor wrote: "This sounds like quite the experience, but we're primarily looking for how-to guides at this time. If we get to the point where we're able to expand into travel narratives, we'll be sure to follow up."

I'd like to remind you that publishers pursue less than 1% of submitted work and it took bestseller Chicken Soup for the Soul 140 queries before finding a publisher. I'm submitting to small publishing houses and these stats ring true. They typically publish between 10 and 250 titles a year, but receive between 1,000 to 5,000 queries. Response time is typically between 2 and 6 months.

Tough odds and a painstakingly slow waiting game.

In the meantime, I am still self-editing my book. Boy did it need polishing from the very first draft.
I still have a long list of publishers to research and probably at some point, I should go through and check how many times I've overused certain words (like very or so). I am also going to triple protect myself by asking permission of those who I've included in the book. (I drop more than 60 names!!!)

But for now, that's all I have for you folks! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Visitors in New Mexico

Besides Justin's mom, who visited in December, we've had 3 other brave souls venture into the boonies this past week to spend time with us.

First were our kindred spirits: Paul and Kristen. We call them our kindred spirits for many reasons, but mainly because they are just as keen about sleeping in the dirt and reusing foil as we are. J met Paul back in 2009 at a Parks & Rec event, and shortly thereafter, we had a successful "couples" date introducing myself and Paul's wife, Kristen. My first post about hanging with Kristen one-on-one is hilarious (I wondered if we would be lifelong friends ... LOL). Paul & Kristen have been our go-to active friends. They are the friends who helped us cross train for the AT in 2011, hiked the first 60 miles on the AT with us, introduced us to the Insanity workout in 2013 to help whip us into Rainier shape, the list goes on.
More than lifelong friends ... kindred spirits!

Our other bold soul was Jason. Jason is Justin's college buddy. We see Jason and his wife, Adrienne, pretty regularly even though they live in Ohio. This is because we are often driving across the country and Columbus, Ohio, is a convenient stopover. Like this time, and this time, this time and this time (you get the picture). We actually claim Jason and Adrienne's home as one of our many addresses. But I digress. When we ARE settled, these two usually make their way to visit us. Adrienne couldn't make it this time around, but she did send Jason with some clothes for me (most of my wardrobe comes from A or my SIL!).
These 2 and the stories they can tell ... 

Now, just in case you think you've missed out on visiting us in yet another one of our random locations, fear not and brace yourselves. We will actually be returning to Fenton Ranch for the fall 2017 through winter 2018. I know, simply amazing that we will keep an address for more than one year!! (More on our future plans in another post)

To wet your palette, here are the top 5 reasons to unplug and visit Fenton Ranch.

1) We will put you to work. Either moving snow, breaking up ice or chopping wood.
You would never know Jason had never chopped wood in his life -- a born natural!

2) We will enjoy outdoor recreation. We have trails out our back door and are surrounded by national forest, so there is no shortage of opportunities to play. We took both Paul/Kristen and Jason to Valles Caldera National Preserve for some snowshoeing. I actually think I like visiting that area better in the wintertime than when we did in the spring. The National Park System took over management of the Valles Caldera in October 2015 and it is growing in popularity. The park is a massive crater left by a super volcano eruption from a million years ago. Oddly enough, it has been the filming site of dozens of popular movies and TV shows, like The Missing and Longmire. Cool sites to see and vast land to explore!
The 1.2 mile La Jara trail makes for a very beginner-friendly snowshoe or ski loop. 

Yes that is a coyote! 
This was Jason's first time snowshoeing! Lots of firsts for him on this trip!

Backyard shenanigans in our DEEP snow are just as fun, but are straight uphill!

Of course Paul & Kristen were smoking me on the uphill ... I thought I would have the edge living at 8,000 feet, but the altitude didn't even phase them. 

3) We will enjoy indoor recreation. Anyone who knows us well knows we love to play games. The Bean Game is our go-to, but we may have discovered a new addiction thanks to Jason: Sushi Go! This card game is similar to the Bean Game, feeding Justin's competitive edge. Besides games, we discovered a special indoor activity thanks to Paul and Kristen ... wooden spoon making! I would say we have a lot to learn in the craft, but it is fun to try. I also read a few chapters of my book to Paul & Kristen, which reminded me I really need to get back to editing it (reading out loud is a humbling way to edit!).
The Bean Game!!!

Justin and I worked our first spoon together!
New game obsession: SushiGo!

4) We will take our cat for walks. Mrs. Gibbles—the once stray mama cat who chose Fenton Ranch as her home and us as her owners—follows us everywhere!

5) You will spend very little money. Aside from your flight and rental car (under $100 for multiple days!), we live in the middle of nowhere, making it hard to spend money. We did venture down to the sole bar 35 miles away from us with Jason, but a meal out there is not going to break the bank. 
Have no fear, civilization is only 30ish miles away ... 

I know I am always trying to convince you that Fenton Ranch is a magical place, but we are excited to keep it as one of our many homes! 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Currently: January

Currently living/working in: Still property caretaking of Fenton Ranch in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico … and January finally produced the winter we expected with FEET of snow! 
Home sweet home!
The icicles around the property are deadly!

Current mood: Content to be snowed in and cozy by the fire most of the month (except for almost every afternoon when we went out to move snow). 
Our view from our cabin.

Currently excited about: Visitors!! The end of the month produced 2 sets of back-to-back visitors braving the long haul to see us! More details about their visits to come. 

Currently not excited about: Some logistics involved for our summer plans … it will all be worth it in the end, but we have to throw a few curveballs to make it happen. 

Currently worried about: The future of health insurance and how it affects J in particular.  

Currently thankful for: Finding a forever home for the two kittens! I worked with a local program, Animal Amigos, and we quickly found new owners that would take the cats together earlier this month! We are hanging onto Mama Cat (Gibs/Gibby/Mrs.Gibbles) for at least a little while longer. We have some ideas about what to do with her come spring, but we shall see. I think she was depressed at first about losing her kittens, but now she is very affectionate with us and follows us everywhere! 
She does not like to be leashed, but she seems to keep herself out of harm's way.

Currently regretting: The LACK of wildlife we are seeing here in the Jemez Mountains. Our cabin window faces Santa Fe National Forest and a huge meadow. There are mountain lion, bobcat, coyote, elk and bear in the area and I fully expected to have some sightings! We’ve seen prints and scat a few times, but no live ones!

Currently amazed by: Our friends! Gosh I can’t say it enough. We have an amazing support system. I cannot believe how some have gone above and beyond to do special things for us. Also, thank you for all your comments, e-mails and texts from J’s blog posts about Crohn’s.

Currently proud of: I feel particularly bad ass this winter. J feels very, very bad about not being able to do as much as he usually can (who are we kidding, he would normally be doing the bulk while I stay inside). But, as we said, he is still not fully recovered, so I am doing 80% of the work around here. I tell him no worries! I will gladly hand over duties when I know he is back to normal. 
Trying to keep up with the mass of snow! 

Current confession:  I love cooking (we both do), but I really haven’t tried a new recipe since the summer of 2015! I tend to get into a cooking rut where I cycle through the same dozen recipes over and over again. J’s diet has changed a little bit and I knew I needed to track down a few new ones. I’m happy to say I found many keepers: Slow Cooker Massaman Curry, Shrimp Scampi, Pasta a la Carbonara and Butternut Squash Soup. (For the record, I will only make the Butternut Squash Soup one on very special occasions because, well, working with butternut squash is expensive and a lot of freakin work!)

Current guilty pleasure: Summer planning … we have some awesome things in store!!!

Currently reading: We are both on a reading roll! I finished 2 books this month and have started a 3rd. 
Tears in the Wind by Larry Semento — Not surprisingly, this is another Denali climbing book with a tragedy. A good friend knows the author and sent us a copy, knowing we would enjoy it. And we did! I will say it read like a journal, but it was still a very quick read. 
Minus 148 by Art Davidson — This is about the 1967 winter ascent of Denali. It is a harrowing tail and truly unbelievable what this team of 8 went through, so thus a compelling story. But I didn’t find the writing to be particularly good. The author babbled a little too much for my liking. 
Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly - I don’t love it so far, but it’s meant to be one of those deep, inspiration reads and it is short, so I am determined to get through it. 
No more kittens!

Currently watching on Netflix: We finally decided to upgrade to the 2 DVDs-out-a-time program … Our mailbox is 30 minutes away and we only go once a week, so we were growing too impatient with having only one DVD out at a time. And I suppose I should rephrase the “we upgraded” part to “my parents upgraded us.” Netflix was a Christmas gift to us in 2013 and we share the account with my dad. Since he is now Netflix-addicted, we decided it would become a Christmas gift that keeps giving year after year.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Inflamed, Yet Untamed: My Crohn's Story Part III

This is the third in a 3-part series chronicling Justin's journey with Crohn's disease so far. The story gets personal, and may be TMI for some people. Be warned. The first post was focused on J's history of Crohn's from his perspective and the second post was about his Oct. 18 surgery and the 10 days in the hospital that followed. This last post will be about his recovery. 

I would not wish the experience of stomach surgery onto anyone. I would also not wish the 9 CT scans I have undergone in a year onto anyone. Or a PICC line in the chest. Or an ileostomy. Really any of this. But, such is life and the experience truly does make me appreciate good health and sympathize more with people who have their own medical battles.

Patrice and I had no idea what I was getting into. Had we known, we probably wouldn't have had the courage to face it. We knew this was big, but truly thought after maybe 5-7 days in the hospital, followed by a couple weeks recovering in Denver, I would be on my way, back climbing those mountains. I even had an expedition in my mind for Denali in May/June.

The hard truth I learned was that I couldn't even climb out of bed for those first few weeks out of the hospital.

I left the hospital on October 27th, nervous and worried that my insides would fail. My insides were about the only thing that did not fail.  Brad (my buddy visiting from NJ) and my mom carefully placed me in the car and we loaded up all my medical supplies. I left the hospital with my bag in tow along with a port (permanent IV) in my right arm, where I administered IV antibiotics every day at 4:30pm. The IV antibiotics were not my only regimen. I was a walking pharmacy, taking 10+ pills a day. My mom had moved a nice recliner into her living room and I plopped down. My routine would be bed to recliner to bed just about every day.
Taken on Dec. 20, 2016 - Last Day of IV antibiotics

The first week was slow, I was slow. It took me forever to do everything, wake up, get dressed, eat, take a shower.  I rarely left the house. Once a day, my mom took me for small walks around the neighborhood. I forced myself to go over my sister's house for Halloween to see the kids dress up.
I was dressed as a patient for Halloween 2016.

I was moving too slow for my liking. I lacked motivation to do anything and I hated seeing myself like this. I was used to approaching life at 100mph. Now I could barely go 10mph. I just kept thinking I need to get back on the trail, back in the mountains.

On the morning of November 3rd, I experienced my first complication. I felt off, something more than the usual aches and pain. My chest was really hurting and I was having trouble breathing.  I had felt this in the preceding days, but not as bad as this particular morning. I also had been having pains in my calves. I just attributed this to being inactive. We loaded me up in the car and shot over to the ER.  Within minutes they had me hooked to every device and were drawing blood.  The tests reveled bloods clots, not just one, but several. They started in my calves and some were still there and some had moved up to each lung. Luckily, they were caught very soon, so there was little damage done to my mountaineering lungs. Now Patrice and I would be the only couple to BOTH survive pulmonary embolism! To top it off, the port in my right arm had clotted up too, so they moved it to my left arm. I was admitted for two days and felt immediate relief as I was put on blood thinners. A little setback and a new drug to add to my plethora of medications: 2 injections a day!

I started feeling a bit better after the clots issue was discovered and resolved. And I welcomed another visitor, my buddy Matt from New Jersey! Again, he watched me sleep more than anything, but I appreciated the company and my mom appreciated the break.
My friends are just the best.

It was about another week when they had to switch the PICC line from arm because the line had clotted up again! This time they moved it ... to my chest!!  And while they were moving it again, they said why don't we put IVC filter in your chest to catch any loose blood clots traveling around before they hit main arteries?  Luckily, that was only an outpatient procedure (the basket is still in me, but will be coming out in the next few weeks). Out of everything I've been through, I still think having the double line sticking out of my bony chest for weeks was the least pleasant.

It was just one thing after another. I felt so unbelievably unwell. I missed my wife. I wanted to put this whole thing behind me and get back to my regular adventures. I didn't want to face my condition. Sleeping at night was so uncomfortable with all my new devices. Eating was a struggle for me. I just was not hungry. I had lost 22 pounds during my hospital stay and of course a lot of my insides. Research showed that I would not gain it all back, but every bite was a struggle for me. And strangely enough, some foods I loved in my past life completely turned me off, like I was pregnant! The doctors kept telling me the more I eat, the more strength I would gain, but my appetite was just not there. Mentally, I struggled. But the love and support (and cards and care packages plus a dedication at a From Good Homes concert!) from friends and family was unbelievable and really helped get me through.

To top it off, my IV treatment that was supposed to be six weeks extended for three more weeks, delaying my return to New Mexico.

Patrice came to visit once in the middle of November and my mom and I ventured to visit Patrice in NM the first week of December. It was nice to share with my mom the wonders of NM and have a change of pace. The trip was a huge success and proved that once I finished the IV treatment, I could return to NM and continue to recover.
New Mexico! 

Taking that trip was a huge mental boost, and I knew Patrice would come to Denver for the holidays, so I plodded along in recovery.

Finally, after more than 50 days of IV treatment, my doctor on Dec 21st gave us the go ahead to remove the line! And return to New Mexico! A joyous occasion!!!

On December 27th, I boarded a plane and headed off to NM to our cabin in the woods. Two months removed from the surgery and once again, we both thought that I would be fine, climbing and backpacking and I still wasn't.

Now that I am three months removed from surgery and one month living at the cabin, I still feel like I am moving too slow for my liking. But, I am doing things I could never do even a few weeks ago. I do walk everyday, but not up that steep mountain in the backyard, the one I used to run up with a backpack. It is hard for me to let my wife do 80% of the work shoveling snow and chopping wood. The infection in my spine and the abscesses on my colon are not gone. The infection is contained, but I still need to try to battle it, thankfully with just oral antibiotics.

I do understand time will make the difference. I don't like it, but I know someday I will look back and see my progress. I will strap on a backpack and climb that mountain in my backyard. I will even attempt Denali someday again. But for now it is only baby steps and I have accepted that.

And don't you worry ... we already have some adventures planned! Stay tuned ...

Friday, January 20, 2017

Inflamed, Yet Untamed: My Crohn's Story Part II

This is the second in a 3-part series chronicling Justin's journey with Crohn's disease so far. The story gets personal, and may be TMI for some people. Be warned. The first post was focused on J's history of Crohn's from his perspective. This second post is about J's Oct. 18 surgery and the 10 days in the hospital that followed from both of our perspectives. 

On October 18, 2016, at 7:30 am, I (Justin) laid on the gurney and was pretty relaxed, not because of any drugs, but because the Rose Medical Center staff was so nice and informative. The anesthesiologist told me everything she was going to do and promised I wouldn't remember a thing. I wasn't scared or nervous. I then tipped back the cup with some pills and washed them down. The last thing I remember was a kiss from my angel and I was out.

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I (Patrice) walked with Justin's mom into the waiting area, leaving my husband alone to be rolled away into surgery. I didn't dare show him how upset or nervous I was. Justin told very few people about the surgery beforehand and our coping mechanism had us playing it off like it was nothing.

I just kept thinking about some of the points a good friend wrote Justin the night before:
  • You ARE destined to climb those mountains
  • You ARE destined to dance at at least 250 more shows
  • You ARE destined to continue to help children learn about nature and how we can live together
I knew these things were true.

Justin's mom, oldest sister and I nervously waited. The 5-hour surgery passed slowly for us. Believe it or not, the anesthesiologist and a nurse texted me updates and we hung onto every word.

"Slow steady progress. Not unexpectedly there is a lot of adhesions from the inflammation of the Crohn's. The procedure has turned out to be involved. He is remarkably stable. All is well."

When his awesome surgeon came out with news around 12:45pm, she was as patient with us as she was during the surgery.

"It was not pretty in there. I had several doctors taking a peek and no one knows how he endured living like that."

She removed about a foot of diseased small intestine (including his appendix), 6 inches of his colon that was also compromised and sent samples of the tissue for testing what type of bacteria was causing his infection and how best to treat it. What she removed was actually the "worst case scenario" she described to Justin and I months ago in her office.

It had a name, or rather a mouthful: a complex ileosigmoid fistula and erosion of sigmoid colon into the sacrum because of Crohn's inflammation causing sacral osteomyelitis.

The hospital liaison allowed only me, but only me, to go back to see him in recovery.

After you wake up from a five-hour operation, it isn't at all like they show on Grey's Anatomy. Justin was disoriented and could barely keep his eyes opened. His lips and throat were so parched from the breathing tube and he was begging for water.

He wasn't allowed to have water, let alone any liquids. The best I could do was swab his lips with a sponge and apply chapstick. It was futile; each letter he mumbled was a chunk of pumice scraping his larynx.

"Did they take out my whole small intestine," he wheezed. "Do I have a bag?"

"Shhhh," I squeezed his hand a little tighter. "Don't talk. Everything is going to be okay."

The "bag" was the biggest source of worry for Justin. His surgeon—not knowing what she was going to find until she cut him open—said a temporary colostomy, or an ileostomy, would be a possibility.

The best way to describe these foreign words in laymen terms would be a "bag for poop." A surgeon essentially telescopes an intestine with an artificial opening out of the stomach and connects it to a bag so it bypasses certain systems. So for Justin, he ended up with a ileostomy, using a piece of his ileum (small intestine) to connect to a bag and bypassing his colon so the abscesses on it could heal.

Justin was so worried about having a bag and only agreed to it if it were temporary. He told his surgeon before the procedure, "if you get in there, and it is so bad that you think it will be a permanent bag, please just sew me back up."

It was temporary, but she really couldn't say on the day of surgery for how long. Intestines have their own timeline for healing.

They settled Justin into his room on the 6th floor around 4pm and his mom could finally see him (she sat in the waiting room pacing and wondering why I was in the recovery room for 45 minutes when they said I could only see him for 5 minutes).
Justin's first time outside wasn't until Day 6!

The fits of misery started right away. There was a deep aching pain and he couldn't find a position that worked. Not to mention that he was still very hooked up: he had a catheter, a drain the right side of his abdomen, the ileostomy on his left side, a 5-inch incision, two IVs, a heart rate monitor and oxygen tubes in his nose. Remarkably, he was still cracking jokes, thanking the doctors and nurses, and apologizing all the time for requesting things.

The first thing I (Justin) remember was being in my room and seeing my mom and Patrice. There was so much stuff hanging off me. I was so drowsy, had a hard time staying awake and was so forgetful and confused. I would dose off, then wake asking the same questions over and over again (Do I have a bag? How much intestine did they remove? What about the infection?)

Justin's mom and I (Patrice) became the super power tag team through his hospitalization. I slept at the hospital every night, and Justin's mom took the days. Neither one of us wanted to leave him alone. It pained us to watch him, but we fed off of each other's strengths so we could be there for his every need.

The first few days following the surgery were a blur for me (Justin). I have pockets of memories, like getting up to walk the first time, wondering why my pee was bright red, feeling my lips on fire, pain everywhere and being hungry.

Justin's recovery plan entailed two things:
1) No eating, not even liquids or water, until his bag had output (for clarification, his bowels had been sleepy because of all the meds and trauma. They needed them to "wake up" and eating would only block him up.)
2) Walk and move from the bed to the chair at least three times/day, and increase that movement as the days went on. Moving not only got bowels moving, but prevented blood clots.
The poor guy had issue after issue. Immediately after the surgery, one of his complaints was about his left eye ... turns out taping his eyes to protect them during surgery resulted in a scratched cornea. He slept in 45-minute increments. His anxiety was at an all-time high. His throat was so dry from the breathing tube (he was only allowed to have hard candies and chew gum). The pain meds made him itchy. His skin was so tight from water retention. His belly was distended. The staples on his scar were painful. Then of course there was the "bag."
An eye injury! Of all things!

Watching the bag became Justin's biggest obsession and source of stress. Output in Justin's bag was not only his ticket to eat, but his ticket to being released. Just as a watched pot never boils, a watched bag never produces. Justin was checking his bag just about every 30 minutes. Asking people to pray for poop was both funny and sad.

By Day 5, Justin was in a dark place of major discouragement.

We tried to keep him positive by pointing out the bright sides--the eye was healed, the catheter came out, no more oxygen needed and there were now 3-hr stretches of sleeping instead of just 45 minutes. Luckily, both J's sisters live in Denver and 2 nephews, so there were lots of people to bring cheer. Plus, Justin had more energy to talk on the phone, so everyone was doing their best to lift his spirits. The doctors and nurses were not too worried, reassuring us that the number of days for output depended on the person. Listless and empty, Justin soldiered on.
Everett said he could make Uncle Justin all better! 

On Day 7, the floodgates opened!

I (Justin) felt like I was winning the lottery, finding gold, striking oil!!!  Ok maybe it wasn't that great, but boy did I feel relief ... in so many ways. The funny thing is I had no one to celebrate with.  Patrice and Mom just stepped out for a well-deserved lunch, but upon their return, they partied with me. Plus every nurse on the 6th floor stopped by with a big congrats!

Even though I was so hungry, eating was tough for me. I was so nervous about blocking things up. I ordered whatever I could on the menu, but only took a few bites here and there.

First solid food in EIGHT days!!!

I (Patrice) left on Day 9. We had committed to caretaking Fenton Ranch in New Mexico knowing the surgery would take place and Justin may have to remain in Denver for IV antibiotics. Justin's mom was happy to take care of her son, and although I hated leaving him, I knew he was in the best of hands.

On Day 10, I (Justin) was being released! My buddy, Brad, flew in from New Jersey, which was perfect timing as both my mom and I needed some help.  Brad was a lifesaver, even though I could barely function and spent most of his visit sleeping. Little things really do help!