This Valentine’s day marks the 1 year anniversary of me giving up practicing neonatology. It is a day that I will never forget. It was a day that I truly accepted the “defeat” of my stroke. I accepted that even though I had always overcome any challenge placed before me, that a major brain injury was an entirely different beast. I had learned to read again, I had learned to navigate my “new” world of visual impairment, but the injury was real. The days of severe headaches following working a shortened shift in the NICU and the overwhelming brain fatigue of ICU medicine was a constant unwelcomed friend. I choose to feel better. I choose to have fewer days of pain. I choose to be more present for my family and to use the energy and drive that I had remaining to focus on what mattered most... my family.
Sometimes the hardest decision is the best decision. I do not know when or if I will ever stop tearing up when I speak about my former life- my pre-stroke life where I was just at the start of the “dream” I had. But, life goes on. I choose to be grateful for the things that I do have.
My grandfather died last Tuesday at 88 years old. As I sat next to him in the hospital, I put my arm around him. I felt the fragile frame he had become. Being the doctor in the family, I lead my family in the decision to place him in hospice given he had poor heart function and a clot in his heart. He was a ticking time bomb for when that clot would move and cause a massive stroke. He only lasted a few days in hospice before he passed away.
Being the doctor in the family can be hard. Making difficult decisions grows even more acute when making those for loved ones. I know he is free of the pain of mortal life. I know he was proud of me and my accomplishment. I hope he feels that I lead my family in the correct end of life decisions for him.
So, this Valentine’s Day we will be celebrating the life of my grandfather. I have worked on his memorial service all week. I have connected with family members who I have not spoke to in a long time. And, at the end of the service we will let off blue balloons and drink one last Coke with grandpa.
Happy Valentine’s Day!! ❤️❤️