::pack:: of fixations

life after tragedy. living while grieving. love and triplets.


Page 16

Page 16.  That's as far as I've gotten in writing the book.  I think about it everyday.  I make notes of things I remember and want to add everyday.  


Every night I tell myself Okay, tomorrow you are gonna buckle down and type.  But I never follow through.  I'm putting off revisiting that sad sad miserable place.  Page 16 is where things start to get sad in my story.  It's where we learn that Colum isn't gonna make it.  It's where my heart gets broken.  It's just the beginning.


...I'm a little scared.  But I have to finish what I've started!

I've skipped the entire beginning.  I'm still debating where I want to go and how to make it all flow.  Wish me luck!

And, I just had a HUGE ah-hah moment tonight.  As you know, Ryan and I had extensive injuries and with those injuries came hospitals and Dr's and drugs.  While our bodies have been healing we've been taking narcotics.  It wasn't a choice we got to make.  We woke up with morphine pumps and Dilaudid seeping into our veins.  I didn't fight it, in fact it wasn't a high enough dose & I was in excruciating pain until I was there for 4 weeks.  I've never been free to write about the drugs, they are taboo and it's not safe to announce Hey ya'll I've got pills in my house.  They often are accompanied by labels and stereotypes and it's not something we freely have talked about because of that.  I have a memory of telling my Mom Oh great, now I'm going to be addicted to pain pills from all of this.  But in my memory I was sitting up in my hospital bed and she was standing at the foot of my bed.  I couldn't sit up!  So I don't know if this was a dream or if I was so drugged that I believed I was sitting up, but I remember this being a legitimate concern since the beginning.  

Anyhoo, so I've suddenly felt better and better over the past few months.  But I just figured out why.  It wasn't just because I've reached a magical part in my grief where I'm never going to be sad again.  The Prozac helped but that wasn't really it either.  It's because we've weened ourselves off the hard stuff.  The narcotics, the pain meds, the long acting....  They bring you down farther than you ever could dream.  The drugs that are supposed to take away your physical pain can cause you a lot more emotional pain.  

I HAD NO IDEA...until right now.

I've been terrified about becoming addicted to drugs.  I know addiction is a serious thing and it scares me.  I'm nowhere near perfect.  I have skeletons in my closet.  But it's been incredible because by some miracle I haven't felt a mind change or high from taking these meds.  Weening was uncomfortable but it wasn't very hard for me.  I know very well that some people have to take these in order to be somewhat comfortable.  I hope I'm not offending anybody.  And I'm not saying everybody that takes these medications is depressed either.  I'm just really happy that I was able to get off of them and flush them down the toilet!  


A friend (thanks Susan) a few months back told us to try Arnica.  It's a big reason why I was able to ween off those medications.  This one and this one are my favorites.  It's homeopathic and has no side effects.  It does miracles for my knees.  I apply it to my knees up to 3x's daily and I'm not kidding it gives me instant relief.  For a long time I suffered from the most annoying pain in my left shin (it might be from nerve damage) and nothing I mean nothing would take it away except arnica.  It's good for arthritis, after you work out, joint pain etc.  If you are suffering it's worth trying it.  I'm not even getting paid to say this :) but I should be.


2nd annual Iheartcolum 5k!

My eyes and my heart have been pried wide open.  

Post tragedy, I know what it's like.  I know how it feels.  I know what it feels like to be trapped in a hospital bed and wishing to die because the pain is too much.  I know how hard it is now and I can't ignore the fact that it's happening to other people right this second.  I've looked into the eyes of sick kids at Primary Children's Hospital.  I've experienced what it feels like to be a helpless parent with no hope.  

Last year during Colum's Birthday we were in the center of our grief and in the deepest depths of despair we could've ever imagined.  Honestly, when I thought of planning the 5k the thought of it deeply overwhelmed me.  I knew walking would eventually get easier and crying would become less.  I dreaded the thought of celebrating his birthdays without him.  But I knew we had to do it.  We have had so much outpouring of love and support from people and I can't begin to explain how much relief we were given.  A lot of stress, a big one was lifted off of our shoulders.  No one could bring him back but they found ways to help us any way they could.  I was so shocked.  I didn't expect any of it.  All of you, every little thing you did was what got us back on our feet.  It helped us to not give up.  It was beautiful.  You've taught me so much.  And I am so excited to share the love.  

Colum, we are gonna make such a big difference in so many lives!  Your birthday is going to be something we look forward to, just like we should.  We now empathize with what other people are struggling with and we are going to help a new family every year in your honor...for your birthday baby!  We are planning your birthday party.

This year we've chosen to give all the proceeds to the Gunnell family.  Shauna sent me an email that I wrote about in this post.  Here is the email:

I have been wanting to reach out to you for some time now, to share my story about where I was on Christmas Day when you had to say goodbye to your sweet boy.

My sweet Norah was born July 27 of last year. Here we are almost a year later, and we are still in the PICU at Primary Children's. With the exception of a few intermittent stays at other hospitals, the PICU has been our home, and the staff is an extension of our family.

On Christmas Day, I was returning from the breastpumping room in the PICU to take my milk to the freezer. I had stopped to chat with the clerk and the charge nurse about Norah. The charge nurse was asked to pick up a call on hold. I didn't know it at the time, but it was someone calling from U of U Hospital to discuss arrangements for your sweet Colum to be with you. I only caught bits and pieces of the conversation - they were deciding if you would go to them, or if he would come to you. I remember the charge nurse's exact words, "We would love to have them here". Whatever needed to happen, they would make it work. The clerk began to cry, knowing exactly what the discussion was about. I didn't want to be nosy or risk a HIPAA violation, so I went back to Norah's room.

I remember being deeply affected by what you were going through. I had so many thoughts running through my head about families that were happy and oblivious to what my own family was going through. Then I thought of your family, and the enormous tragedy that you were feeling and enduring.

That evening, we moved to a different room in the unit. They eventually dubbed it "Norah's Corner", where I decorated it lovingly to look less like a hospital room and more like a baby's room. Shortly after we moved, something went wrong. Norah turned blue, and our nurse struggled to get resuscitation going so she called the code. Before I knew it, the room was filled with ten or fifteen staff members, including those that I later saw you thanked personally from your blog. But in the moments it took them to respond, I was able to help our nurse manage Norah's desat, and get her to come back to us.

But something later stuck in my head; something I felt with intensity. I am not at all religious, but I couldn't help but wonder if little Colum was there passing through that Christmas evening, helping Norah through the scary moments and close call. I will always remember the unit being filled with tears that day, and I now know why. But it wasn't just the visitors that were grieving. The entire staff was moved by what was going on.

Our situations are so different, but I think of you often. I thought of you today, as I walked through the PICU, which has been very quiet lately. Though I have not met you guys, sometimes I think I can feel Colum and the other angel babies there in the unit with us, watching over us while we endeavor to get Norah strong enough, big enough, and well enough to someday come home. And when that finally happens, I'll think of you on that day, too.


Norah is now at a hospital called South Davis and is still fighting to go home someday.  I've emailed and texted Shauna here and there and I've felt an instant connection with her.  I can be myself because she understands.  Since Norah has lived in hospitals her entire life Shauna has seen a lot of sadness.  In Norah's first year of life she would stop breathing and turn blue up to 10x's a day.  10x's a day!  It's stressful when your baby is born with the cord wrapped around their neck, but to have your precious baby struggle to breathe I honestly can't even imagine.  I truly cannot even come close to imagining all the scares and close calls they've had to go through.  Norah is technically on life support.  A machine was surgically placed on her neck and a tube goes down her throat so she can breathe.  A feeding tube is where she gets most of her calories.  

Ryan and I were lucky enough to visit Norah after she had a surgery at Primary Children's and we got to meet Shauna and her husband Jeff in person and visit Norah while she was sleeping off the drugs from a major surgery.  Norah truly is the most beautiful creature I've ever layed eyes on.  She's endured more than most people ever have at a mere 18 mos old.  Her trach was attached to her neck, the machine that helps her breathe.  A child next door began to cry and she woke up for just a moment.  She looked at her Mom and tears quietly fell from her eyes.  It was obvious she had some discomforts from her major surgery, you could see the pain behind those big beautiful brown eyes.  But what I hadn't learned until that day was that when she cries no sound comes out.  Her trach effects her vocal cords.  Her beautiful eyes did all the talking.  She is beautifully animated.  Her parents have never heard her voice.  It was the saddest thing I've ever seen.  

In my last post I wrote about peoples different reactions to not making it to Vegas on American Idol.  Well Shauna is one of those people that react positively and stay happy.  She is so strong and so is whole family.  They struggle between a life in a hospital and juggling things at home.  Their 4 year old son, Harper is healthy and is such a good big brother.  I pray for the day Norah can come home.

I want this 2nd 5k to be huge!  Registration is up and running.  If you live out of state we will mail you a shirt.  We are so excited to help out this family.  I know every bit of help will go a long way.  They have a long road ahead of them but hopefully we can help make it a little bit smoother.

Click here to register and thank you so much to all of you that already have!

Below are pictures from last year.  Due to the helium shortage I don't know if we will be able to do balloons.  Maybe we will have to do graham crackers. :)



Everyone handles tragedy, stress, and disappointments differently.  Some people handle things with grace and maturity, while others become the martyr or the victim.  No matter how bad you have it, there is always somebody who has it much worse.  Whenever I start to feel sad I think of people I've heard of on the news who lost all of the children, &/or who had to be wheelchair bound after a tragic accident.  I think of people in refugee camps.  I think of women who's husband and children were slaughtered in front of them and how they must go on living.  I'm reminded that I don't really have it that bad, it could be worse, it could always be worse.  

I've connected via the world wide web with other mothers who are mourning the loss of their children.  We are all in the same horrible club.  We are all facing everyday with as much courage and strength as we can muster and have cried more tears than any mother should.  We all grieve different.  Different things help us.  Some things that have helped me, I've read have directly offended other moms.  I wouldn't mind one bit if I were to give birth to a clone of Colum tomorrow, where there are other grieving moms who would feel that's replacing him and don't want that at all.  There are so many different ways of coping with this but in the end; we are all going through the same thing.  We understand each other.  Some of us look more put together than others but I'm sure if you looked closely at all of our hearts they'd all be broken equally.  

Most mothers I've met or those I now know through their blogs have handled it with such dignity and courage.  They are sad but they know they must go on, finding a life beyond their tragedy, leaving their Colum behind because you know he wouldn't want his Mom to live her life in sadness.  It's a hard fight that must be won.  Of course you can be sad and have days where you can't get out of bed because you can't stop crying.  I've been crying often whenever I see a baby on tv, any baby, it breaks my heart all over again.  I want one.  My arms ache for mine.  

As I was watching American Idol tryouts last week I couldn't believe the difference in ways people react.  Some people act like it's the end of the world that they didn't get chosen to go to Vegas.  In some strange way this is their tragedy.  I'm sure there have been a handful of times (or more) that I've acted like that.  Some people hold it together but you can see the anger brewing inside of them for when the cameras leave.  Some people stay positive and are just always happy.  Some people break down crying and can barely get any words out.  All these initial reactions are normal.  But I think if they are still reacting upset or angry a year or two later and haven't moved on then we might have a problem.  

I've learned it doesn't matter how hard I pound my fists on the steering wheel or how long and hard I cry, it won't bring him back.  If there was a way I could buy him back and all I had to do was come up with $100 million, I'd find a way.  I gave myself one year.  For one year I cried, kicked, and screamed.  I moped around and felt depressed.  But, after that year I told myself I had to scrape myself up and get it together...and it worked.  I'm off of the Prozac for now and I am finding myself crying a little more but I've got it under control; I'm happy.  

The site is ready for the 5k, just waiting for some kinks to get worked out for registration.  I will let you know when it's available.  I'M SO EXCITED!


Finn's phase

Finn is in this adorable, lovable phase.  I get told a couple each of these daily:

Oooh, I just love you so so so much!
Mom, I'm gonna have to take a picture of you 'cause you are just so cute!
"Yuv" you, Mom.  Mom "Yuv" you.

These are followed by about three kisses somewhere, my elbow, my cheek, my leg, my butt if I'm walking around.  I've asked him to refrain from kissing my bottom but we spank each others bums a whole lot around here.  We've always told him we have to squeeze his butt so much cause it's just so so cute, and so he also says "Mom, I just love your bum" a lot too.   Ryan started this little tradition and the poor kid probably tells his Preschool teachers that their butts are cute at school cause he thinks it's a sign of love.  

I'd walk into the boys room to see how Ryan was making them laugh so hard and he would be squeezing their butt cheeks together with one hand.  This would force them to stop crawling fall onto their bellies and laugh and laugh.  

You always hear how boys are hardest when they are little but you are thankful for them when they become teenagers.  Girls however, are so helpful and sweet from a young age until they become teenagers and the hormones kick in.  

Finn started his hard stage earlier than a lot of kids his age and I worried and cried about it a lot.  Slowly I noticed that the other kids were starting to do the same naughty things that he was and I got over it.  Finn, our first child has been our first learning experience as parents.  He is an absolute angel right now and I never need a break from him, in fact I miss him when he is gone.

I never expected such loving, sweet behavior coming from a young boy.  I went to parent teacher conference and his teacher told me that his heart is just right there on the surface all the time.  He talks about Colum a lot at school and whenever it's puzzle time he runs for the Buzz Lightyear puzzle because Colum loved Toy Story.  When she told me this I had to look down and concentrate on holding back the tears.  You get better at doing this over time and I've found that it's best to try not to make others feel uncomfortable if you want to hear more things like this ever again.  Hearing her say that meant so much to me.  Hearing her say his name felt so nice.   And knowing that Finn carries Colum with him wherever he goes makes me cry happy Mom tears.  I'm so proud that he is mine.  The boy that wears his heart on his sleeve and always participates in class.  

I often wonder if Colum would've been a hard toddler or an easier one since he was a hard baby.  I wonder what games my boys would play and if Colum would count the seconds until Finn got home from school.  I wonder if Colum would become obsessed with Spiderman also and they'd play Avengers around the house.  

Will Finn ever have another little brother and if so will they be close like he was with Colum?  I know Finn has a big heart.  But I also know there's a spot in his heart that will always be for his baby brother Colum.  And if we are so lucky to have more babies Finn has made it clear that It's okay if they pull my hair all the time... I will let them.

This is the last picture I took of him before the accident.  We were at Aunt Bobbi's and he was modeling some Mickey Mouse Mr Potatohead glasses.  He thought this was hilarious. 

At the Pack family Christmas sleepover.  He was just fine sitting on Santa's lap, he spent a while just looking straight into Santa's eyes, he was fearless I tell ya.

Baby Finn.  He stuck his bottom lip out for a couple hours after they pulled him out.

Baby Colum.  Wish we would've gotten a better picture.

Ooh, I just love him!

Our first time out sledding this winter.  I was so happy this day.  Another milestone, something I didn't get to do last year.  Something I never knew if I'd be able to do again.

Note: I hardly post pictures and as much as I want to it's really hard to scroll through iphoto and be reminded of old memories.  I always cry when I look at old pictures.  It's something I'm working on.



Lately, I find myself doing the same two things everyday.  

1). I enter the HGTV dream house giveaway.  I enter myself and then Ryan.  I enter most years.  How amazing would it be to win?  I made the mistake of letting Finn see the pictures of this house and he's got his poor little heart just set on those bunk beds.  I remember entering last year in the hospital every.single.day.  I really  thought I would win.  I thought the universe owed that to me after the hell we'd been through.  But we didn't.  And Ellen didn't give us $10,000 dollars and a new car either.  She was even giving away Subarus last year. I imagined myself getting on the stage with my walker and protruding stomach and Ryan on crutches.  Or if they were going to fly some one out to the hospital as a 'fun' surprise, that somebody would spontaneously wash and brush my hair for me and slap some make up on my face....a bra too, they would have to make sure I was wearing a bra.  Don't get me started on how many people saw me without a bra on, OMG!

2). I rub my scalp feeling for new growth.  There's yet another growth cycle coming in.  This makes me happy.  Ryan now sometimes says to me "You totally had supermodel hair".  Yup, he's referring to me and a supermodel in the same sentence.  I miss my old hair, but mostly I just miss being able to put it in a pony tail.  But I will never complain about my hair ever again after losing it.  I'm beyond grateful that it's growing back, and I will once again have supermodel hair.  A dear Aunt emailed me a message that a friend of hers posted on Facebook after her Mother had suddenly passed away, she wrote:

"Native Americans show their mourning by cutting their hair when some one dies. I'm so thankful that My sister was willing to cut my hair for me. It measures the passing of time and reminds us to heal as our hair grows back. "
I think of you cutting your hair when it thinned out as a result of all your stress and medications. I love the part of measuring the passing of time and healing as the hair grows back.

I had no idea that this was something Native Americans did and I think it's beautiful.  I also think my Aunt is beautiful and I'm so lucky to have her in my life.  (Thanks Nadine!)

I really do want that house though!  Even if there are alligators and crocodiles roaming around.  I drool a little bit at the thought of dining on the dining table on the deck...al fresco...that's what classy people that aren't scared of spiders do.  

The other day Ryan got the idea to drive out to the desert and cut down some firewood and shoot the used muzzle loader I got him for Christmas for the first time.  We packed up all of our warm clothes and drove out to the middle of nowhere.  It's probably my least favorite place in Utah.  We camp there sometimes.  The dirt is the same consistency as ashes and everything is dirtier than an average camping trip.  There's no shade, it's not pretty, and it's always windy.  Why do we camp there you ask?  Firewood.  Ryan's favorite cedar firewood is there.  It's where his Dad took him to chop down firewood and I think it's safe to say Ryan has a serious firewood obsession.  He has an entire Pinterest board dedicated just to firewood piles.  I love him!  

It's been snowing a whole lot lately and when we turned off the road towards the trees our normal bumpy path of a dirt road was covered with snow.  1-2 minutes in and we were stuck.  I hate "digging".  "Digging" is when people drive around on dirt roads (sometimes in the mountains) and almost roll there trucks or get stuck or get flat tires or... you get the drift.  Normally I would've started panicking at the thought of us getting stuck, but I honestly just didn't care.  The panic attack never came.  We would get un-stuck and drive just to get stuck again.  Some nice young men came over to help us try and get out but to no success.  I felt so bad every time Ryan picked up a shovel and cringed at the thought of more wear and tear on his handi-capable body.  He felt so bad and kept apologizing to us.  He probably thought I was just hiding my anxiety really well.  After 4 hours of this Ryan called his trusty friend who literally knows everybody and also has their phone numbers and called a local guy with a tractor.  Ryan finally shot his gun while we waited for the 'good ole boy' with the tractor to come to our rescue.  After we were pulled out we safely drove home without any firewood.   But in the end I was with my favorite people, Finn and Ryan.  I got to be trapped in the cold desert with the people I love most; my very own family.

Lately, I'm different.  I don't sweat the small stuff.  I appreciate the good stuff.  Sometimes the worst things can turn into the most beautiful.  I'm liking the new me and I hope I only grow stronger. 

 Another year will probably go by without winning the dream house and I will probably never receive an oversized check on the Ellen Show but it's probably a good thing because I wouldn't have made it to where I am now, and I wouldn't trade that for the world.