the heart attack (part one: Camden)

As many of you probably already know, while we were in New York for Matt’s sister Denya’s funeral, Matt actually had a heart attack. I’m still not entirely certain how to write about this event in our lives – it’s still pretty raw, and I think it’s something that we’re going to be continuing to process for months and years to come. I’m going to share just a glimpse into how I’m currently thinking about it now, and I’m sure I’ll revisit it in the future, as well.

We’d all gone as a family to the calling hours for Denya on that Wednesday afternoon and then went to Matt’s mom’s house for a quick dinner. Knowing that it would be even more crowded that evening and that it had already been a long day for our kids, we decided that the kids and I would go back to the hotel and hang out there while just Matt went to the evening calling hours. The kids and I read books and played, and I set them up with a movie, and I texted with Matt intermittently.

I almost can't even look at this picture. It was so soon afterwards that everything changed. Every minute matters.
I almost can’t even look at this picture. It was so soon afterwards that everything changed. Every minute matters.

At one point Matt told me that his chest was hurting, and he got an aspirin from someone. I was concerned, but he’d had chest pain in the past and had even gone to the ER to get it checked out about a year ago, and the doctors had said they believed it to be more related to his chest muscles than his heart, so I think both of us assumed it was more of that.

Matt came back to the hotel after the calling hours ended. The girls were still watching their movie on their bed, so Matt and I sat with Atticus on our bed and chatted a bit and just relaxed. Matt was laughing at their cheesy kids’ movie, and at one point his laugh turned into a funny sort of wheeze-laugh. I asked him why he was laughing that way, and he just looked at me. I even asked him if he was having a heart attack, but he couldn’t respond. I started to become alarmed, and I remember thinking that it might seem silly if he came back to normal in 30 seconds, but I really thought I needed to call 911.

I told the dispatcher that I thought my husband might be having a heart attack and told him where we were. And I told him that I’d taken CPR classes but couldn’t remember right at that moment exactly what I was supposed to do first, but if he’d tell me what to do, I could do it. He told me I needed to get Matt off the bed and onto the floor. I really wasn’t sure I could do that – the hotel room was tiny, and there wasn’t much space between the beds, and Matt is a lot bigger than I am. I remembered seeing other cars in the parking lot that night, so I ran out into the hallway and yelled that we were having a medical emergency and was anyone else there. Fortunately for us, a couple, whom I later found out were Matt’s cousin Mechell and her husband, were staying right across the hall. They came over to our room and helped me get Matt onto the floor, and Mechell – a nurse – started performing CPR while her husband and I held Matt’s legs up. He was pretty blue by this point. Every once in a while he’d take a gaspy breath on his own, but he wasn’t breathing at all normally. I yelled to him to stay with me. All of our kids were upset by this point, and Mechell’s husband told me he could hold Matt’s legs, and I could grab the baby. Holding Atticus, I called Matt’s mom and told her that Matt had stopped breathing, and I needed her to come. In true mom fashion – doing what needs to be done no matter what – she said she’d be there.

An older woman also poked her head in the room, and as the 911 operator asked me if the doors were unlocked, I asked her if she’d go down and unlock the back door to get into the hotel. She also volunteered to stay down there and tell the EMTs where to go once they arrived.

At that point things seemed to be in something of a holding pattern, and the 911 operator told me that help would be there soon. I asked if he knew when they’d get there, because we really needed them, and right after that the first man ran into the room. Immediately they shooed us out, telling us to go across the hall to Mechell’s room.

I sat down on the floor with the kids and prayed. And I called my friend Brooke and told her that Matt had stopped breathing and I needed her to pray. Matt’s mom and his step-dad, Dan, arrived then, too. It wasn’t long before the EMTs – who, by now, had crowded into our hotel room, the hallway, and Mechell’s room – all let out a cheer – they’d shocked Matt’s heart, and he had a pulse, and they were hopeful that he’d be okay.

Mechell told me that someone would come and talk to me, and she asked if I was going to ride along in the ambulance. I didn’t know what I should do – I wanted to be with Matt, but I also wanted to and needed to take care of our kids. Matt’s mom said she would take care of the kids, and Mechell nodded. I had enough time and was able to get back into our hotel room just enough to grab my sweater, my phone charger, and my wallet. I wasn’t able to get to my coat, but I told Matt’s mom where to find our car keys in its pocket, and I said a quick goodbye to our kids, and Mechell gave me her coat as I walked out the door.

Next installment to come in a day or two…

The Great Road Trip of 2015 (Part 3) and MCQ is 5!

It has taken me longer than I’d hoped to get back to share this final installment about our trip out east (feel free to go back and check out parts one and two if you missed them earlier!). The last big part of our trip was spent with Matt’s side of the family in upstate New York. We don’t get to see them very often, but we always enjoy the time we have together!

We stayed with Matt’s sister Denya and her husband Tim and their two daughters, Cassi and Elisabeth. Miranda and Madeleine CaiQun settled right in with them 🙂


We all very much enjoyed swimming in their pool that week!


The girls always love helping Denya cook…


…and Elisabeth was kind enough to help them and their cousin Averie make and decorate Frozen-themed cookies one afternoon!


They also enjoyed coloring with their cousins and Matt’s sister Stacey 🙂


Meanwhile, Atticus continued to cultivate his love of dogs.


And everyone got in some good snuggling time 🙂



We really enjoyed our times just hanging out at the house with family, but we also had some fun outings. One day we went to the zoo with Stacey and Averie, which everyone enjoyed!



We even got to see a little baby elephant!


And of course the girls are always excited about penguins, since they are Sharon’s favorite animal 🙂



Averie is about 6 months younger than CaiQun, so all 3 girls are at a great age to play together and enjoy each other. Miranda and Averie – being firstborns – had to spend some time working through each of their desire to be in charge at all times, but really they all did pretty well together 🙂


Another fun outing was our evening bowling. Elisabeth and her boyfriend Michael are part of a bowling league, and they made sure we were all set for a fun night out!


Then the next morning, Madeleine CaiQun’s birthday, Michael came over early, and they made a special pancake and waffle breakfast for us!


Our little mei mei was so excited to spend her birthday with family, and the day did not disappoint 🙂

Matt’s older brother brought over a bounce house, which the kiddos loved!


I did let Atticus crawl around in it a bit but only when things were very tame, so for much of the time he enjoyed some snuggles while the girls bounced 🙂


And of course mei mei got some fun gifts! One present we got for her this year was a photo book with pictures from when she was in China up until now. She loved looking through it.


She also loved getting gifts from her grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.



So much fun with cousin Averie 🙂


Our little puzzle-lover was gifted several puzzles this year for her birthday, and she loved getting to do some of them with family on our trip!


We were also able to visit the museum at Matt’s alma mater, Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute, which has an awesome children’s area. Our kids loved it, so they hung out there with me while Matt walked around the museum with a former student of his. I actually can’t say enough good things about our experience there. CaiQun left a Frozen ring, which she’d just received for her birthday, in the children’s area, and, when I called about it, the staff went back and found it and mailed it to us at home in Missouri – so sweet.


Atticus was particularly taken with Matt’s step-father, Papa Dan, and especially Papa Dan’s cane, which he spent much time trying to grab!


On our last night in town, there was a sweet cousin-and-uncle game of Uno 🙂 You know you’ve got a good group of high schoolers when they’re willing to spend their evening teaching 5-year-olds how to play a card game!


And as much as we enjoyed our time in NY, it was over quickly and time for all of us to head home. The kids really did pretty well with all of the driving, but the highlight of the trip home was definitely our stop in Ohio mid-way through our drive.

In the orphanage at which Madeleine CaiQun lived until we adopted her, the toddlers shared cribs, usually 2 (but sometimes 3) to a crib. Her cribmate and friend was adopted about a month before she was. Her mom was kind enough to send us some photos of CaiQun when they traveled to adopt Lily, and we were able to reunite the girls and meet as families 2 years ago on our way home from New York. On the way home from this trip we were able to stop and have dinner with them again!


It was such a joy to spend an evening with them and reflect on how these two girls, 2.5 years after being adopted, have settled into their families. As they are only 4 and 5 years old, there is obviously not a great depth in their interactions right now, but we are thankful that they have this connection and can maintain it as they get older as they choose – and for now, they can enjoy playing together!


After our visit with Lily and her family, we drove on to Cincinnati, where we spent the night with my brother David, who graciously put up our family of 5 in his 1-bedroom apartment! It was nice to get another couple hours with him, but then we were up early and on the road again the next morning. And after 16 days away, as wonderful as they were, it was very nice to be home 🙂