Milestones...refers to a roadside marker that lists the distance to a particular location
We had just passed Mile 2. It will
forever be etched into my mind. Our brains are just wired that way.
Our triumphs and tragedies stick with us. Sometimes those memories
linger for weeks, months, years. Sometimes forever. Its been almost
six years since that day and I can still see that mile marker in my
It was a beautiful race morning.
The sun was rising on our drive to Folsom on Memorial day for the
Wounded Veteran Run 10k. Getting our BIB numbers was easy peasy and
seeing our good friend Jim made it that much sweeter. Michael had the
race route planned out just like always, because he is the BEST crew
chief Ever!! He would take some photos for us at the start line and
then meet us at Mile 2.
The course was on a nice,
shady, bike path for about 4 of the 6 miles. It was flat and fast. We
were settling into our race pace. Still comfortable enough to carry
on a conversation with Jim and catch up on "all things family".
As we turned the corner at Mile 2, Ari saw Michael and waved. I
yelled, "see you in another two miles". He smiled and kept
taking photos as we passed him. Seconds later, I felt Jim tapping me
on the shoulder. "Kelli, we have to turn around". I was a
bit confused. Jim never stopped during a race. "There's something
wrong with Michael. He's on the ground", he said. We made an
abrupt 360 and got off the path. About 100 yards in front of me I
could see Michael laying on his back with several people attending to
him. Jim stayed with Ari and I ran to him. He was conscious and
talking, but shared that he was in a great deal of pain. He said that
his abdomen hurt. He didn't know how he had fallen. Others explained
that they had witnessed him pass out.
Things went from bad to worse
quickly. I called 911.The Fire Department took Michael to a nearby
hospital in Folsom. After several hours and multiple tests later,
blood work, and a CT scan, it was revealed to us that there was a
serious problem, Michael had a very rare abdominal aneurysm. I
couldn't believe what I was hearing. I think I was still in shock. Michael
had always been so healthy. How could this be true. I called our son.
He was driving to meet us. I phoned our oldest daughter. She was
booking a flight from France to return home as soon as possible.
Michael was then transported
to Sacramento and admitted to ICU at Mercy Hospital. The team at
Mercy Hospital began to prepare us for the news that none of us
wanted to hear. The aneurysm was in a very difficult location to
treat. The docs informed us that Michael "could bleed out if
they did nothing and that he could die if they attempted to "coil
it". Michael was being kept comfortable on pain meds but he was
still alert enough to make decisions. He told the team his wishes,
"take him into surgery and repair it".
was in a race for his life. I was scared. I couldn’t imagine our
lives without a husband and father. I was forced to have those
conversations again, the conversations you never want to have with
your children about death. Lindsay & Nic were all too familiar
with Ari’s health threats and vulnerabilities. They had grown up
with their little sister's disabilities and her frequent
hospitalizations. And now it was their dad's life that was in
The first attempt to repair the aneurysm took five hours and failed. We all felt defeated. The medical team was relentless tho and would not give up. The next day Michael went back into surgery. Two days and 10 hours of surgery later, it appeared that he was finally out of the woods. The team placed eleven coils around that aneurysm. We began to let our guard down, just a little. Michael spent the next week in Mercy Hospital and was discharged home for a brief 36 hours before complications would set in.
We were devastated. Another hospital admission but this time at a highly skilled research and teaching facility. The next six weeks would prove to be some of the most difficult weeks of our lives. Nic and I stayed in a nearby hotel, to be close to Michael. He was in the trauma unit, had a Pic Line, and was receiving TPN (total Parenteral Nutrition). It was a watch and wait, hoping his body could heal. Every few days I would go home for a day. See my girls, take care of laundry, do bills, check in on my office, and attempt to sleep. At times I felt like I had hit the wall and couldn’t place one foot in front of the other. I vividly remember during week three, I was in the depths of despair. Michael had had a nightmare, he shared that in his dream he saw Christmas lights from his hospital room window and feared that he was never coming home again. Outwardly I kept a brave face on and comforted him, but privately I wept. These were the moments when I felt like I needed to dig deep and achieve a PR in mental toughness.
Michael well became a family effort. I tried to tell myself that doing the small things would somehow make him feel better. I would change his sheets
everyday and bathe him. Engaging in those simple tasks, in some way
soothed me and gave me a sense of control, when internally I felt so out of control.
Nic would shave him, carry his IV poles, and take him for a lap
around the nurses station in his wheelchair. It was his physical
therapy. Ari & I would challenge him to have wheelchair races on
the floor. For Father's day we took the moment in and thanked the
universe we were all together. Lindsay &
Ari broke out with their classic tradition and had a dance party in
the hospital room. Michael was able to smile again and even laughed.
Slowly but surely he was making his way to the finish line. He gained
back a few of the 25 lbs that he had lost. The Ashen color in his
face began to fade away and I could finally see shades of pink. We celebrated the milestone.