So, I have been asked by many, "Why have you not posted on your blog in forever?"
I believe I answered this question with lots of different ways...except maybe the truth. The truth of the matter is that July is a very exciting, overwhelming, and sad month for me. Today marks the ONE YEAR anniversary of when Josh got sick. I know that may sound silly to be emotional about this, but to live with a person that you almost lost, is a very unusual and surreal feeling. I have been thinking about how to write about this for most of the month. I wanted to write...I wanted others to read and understand...I just didn't know how to put it into the right words.
My mom, JuJu, wrote this awesome letter to Oprah about Josh's story. Nothing has come of it...but she is a wonderful writer and I think the way that she details everything make such an amazing story.
I have a very risky feeling by putting this out there. My sister, Brea, talks often about getting "real" with others in your life. I know that it is a long story, and I understand if you don't care to read it all...but understand that today is a day of beauty in my eyes. I see my hubby with all the love of the world in his eyes and my daughter that loves her daddy so much.
God is good.
In the words of JuJu...
I made CPR count……..
Our daughter Alison Harris is so happy she can say this after saving her husband Josh’s life on July 30, 2007. It is quite a story to tell……
Josh was diagnosed with Pericarditis in late June and hospitalized on July 15 for 4 days while a team of specialists including a cardiologist and rheumatologist did tests to be sure nothing else was wrong. The tests confirmed the diagnosis, Josh was given several medications and sent home to rest and recuperate with assurance it would take a few weeks to recover.
It was a busy and exciting time as they had just moved on July 10 and their first child was due on July 28. Although they hadn’t planned to move, when our oldest daughter Brea, her husband Jonathan and their 3 children learned that a home with a full basement (something they had always wanted) was going on the market, they offered to sell their home to Alison and Josh “by owner” at a price that would make it possible for both families to pursue their dream of living close together. Brea, Jonathan and the kids would remain and share the current home with Alison and Josh until their new home was vacated on July 31. They planned to make the best of both families living under one roof for a couple of weeks.
On July 24, 2007, after a full day of labor, Alison and Josh’s daughter Maggie was delivered by Cesarean section at 7:11pm. Josh had run fever and had chills off and on all day. Their wonderful OB, Dr. Kyzer, checked Josh to be sure he was okay before could be in the delivery room when Maggie was born.
On Saturday, July 28, Alison and baby Maggie were released from Baptist Hospital and Josh drove them all home to start their new family life -- a dream come true after losing a child to miscarriage in August 2006.
Sunday, July 29 was a busy day with family and friends’ coming by. Alison had been told to take it easy due to the c-section and Josh preparing to return to work the next day. Everyone went to bed around 10pm, then at 1am, baby Maggie woke up to eat. Alison was breast feeding and woke up Josh to get up for a towel as Maggie had spit up some of the milk. As Josh got back in bed, Alison said he did not look “well” and after only a short time, Josh made a “horrible” noise and seemed to have some sort of seizure and look through her with a trance like stare. Alison jumped up and ran into the other part of the house yelling for Brea and Jonathan to come and help her. After taking one look at Josh, Brea grabbed the phone and dialed 911. The 911 operator told Brea to check for his pulse and Brea realized then he had no pulse. The 911 operator wanted to know if anyone knew CPR and Brea said yes, Alison did, but that she had just had a c-section and was recovering. The 911 operator told Brea there was no choice. Alison remembers handing Maggie to Brea and then beginning compressions and breaths – the breaths came right back out and his body was rejecting them. The 911 operator told Brea that they had to get him to the floor –Josh is 6’9” tall and weighs 250 pounds – and Brea told him she and Jonathan could not possibly lift him and that Alison could not help due to the stitches she had from the c-section. In what seemed like forever but was only a couple of minutes the first responder was at the front door. As soon as he arrived, the responder and Jonathan pulled Josh off the bed to the floor and compressions were continued. Shortly the ambulance arrived; Josh was shocked 4 times before they could restart his heart, and then transported by ambulance to the local Hendersonville Hospital.
Brea called us (Julie and Eddie H. – Brea and Alison’s Mom and Dad) to tell us Josh was very sick and to “come now” – and Jonathan called his Mom Barbara F. to come and help with the children. Within minutes we were all at the hospital ER waiting room.
Dr. Lee was the cardiologist on call and he continuously advised us that they were doing everything they could, Josh was being closely monitored as they tried to get him “stable.” We called Josh’s parents, Pam and Jerry Harris, who got on the road from their home in French Lick Indiana for the 4+ hour drive to the hospital.
Around 5am Josh was moved to CCU/ICU and Alison, 6 day old Maggie, Brea, Jonathan, Eddie and I moved to that waiting room. Pam and Jerry arrived and tears were shed as the story of what happened was repeated and we tried to make sense of this nightmare.
Josh remained in Hendersonville Hospital for 4 days as specialists did test after test trying to find out what happened and why. This hospital is part of a group that includes the first hospital Josh was at two weeks earlier, so Eddie contacted the first group of specialists, let them know what happened, and request that everyone work together.
We quickly realized he had no memory of what happened, did not know where he was, why he was there, at times he would look at Alison and want to know why she wasn’t in bed (he thought she had just had Maggie), and he seemed to loop through thoughts. He realized his tongue was swollen (he had bitten through it in the seizure) and he could not grasp everything but was reassured by family members. He also did not retain information from visit to visit indicating possible brain damage from loss of oxygen.
It was a very painful and confusing time for Alison, trying to take care of Maggie and breast feeding in hospital waiting areas every 3 hours, meet with the specialists, talk to Josh and reassure him, remember to eat, rest, and accept the enormity of it all. On day 2, Alison developed mastitis in her right breast and her OB put her on antibiotics, she also had damage from administering the CPR with pain in her abdomen, but through it all she never complained and said she would do it all again, she just wanted Josh to live and recover.
By Thursday, the Hendersonville specialists agreed Josh needed to be moved to Centennial Hospital where he had previously been admitted. Late that afternoon, Josh was transported by ambulance with Eddie riding with him. All of the Specialists previously involved were now re-engaged and most of them came by shortly after he was admitted. We were told that unless additional testing could determine anything, they expected Josh would have to have a defibrillator. At age 26, the doctors did not want to have to take this life changing step, making him uninsurable and destined to the live changes, but with no explanation for what happened or why, this was the only way to assure Josh and Alison that his heart would not stop again.
After extensive and invasive testing and procedures over the next 5 days, Josh was carried to surgery on Tuesday, August 7, for the defibrillator.
Eddie stayed with Josh at the hospital almost every night while I stayed with Alison and Maggie to help with Maggie and encourage Alison to get a few hours of sleep.
We joked that Maggie believed her home was a recliner in a hospital as this is where she was the first 3 weeks of her young life. We knew Maggie was being exposed to germs and illnesses, but there was no choice as Alison was nursing Maggie and she needed to be with both Maggie and Josh trying to do everything she could to help this young family survive.
Josh was released to come home and recover on August 8, 2007. The instructions included rest, very limited activities, restrictions about moving his left arm, no driving, no lifting, and lots of medications.
On August 28, Alison’s 26th birthday, Josh had a stress test at Vanderbilt hospital. While riding home in the car, Josh became violently ill with nausea, sweats, and vomiting. After a phone conversation with his Cardiologist, we took Josh back to Vanderbilt ER where he was given IV fluids over the next 8 hours and carefully monitored. This was the 4th hospital experience in Maggie’s young life, but through it all Maggie did great and has been the best baby ever.
It is now October 7, two months since this life changing surgery. How is Josh doing?? He is getting stronger every day and returned to work full time a week ago. Thankfully the company he works for has been very supportive and understanding. Josh continues tests and monitoring by the specialists at Centennial and also two from Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville that specialize in heart research. Every indication is that Josh is doing well. The doctors have started reducing some of the daily medications. A concern remains about his long term prognosis – whether the Pericarditis is cured or if it will come back and what options exist if it does.
Alison returns to work tomorrow, Monday, October 8. She is a PE teacher at two local elementary schools and has been on a 12 week leave of absence. It is amazing how much has happened in the time she expected to simply be at home with a new baby. Thank God for her job that provides the only health insurance this young family has. We know the medical costs for everything so far are close to $500k and will only continue. For Alison, returning to work is no longer an option – as Josh is now “uninsurable” keeping the insurance through Alison’s work is a necessity.
As it has been all along, this is in God’s hands and only He knows the ultimate outcome.
Making CPR count – it saved Josh Harris’ life!! We remain so thankful that Alison volunteered for the training that ultimately allowed Josh to survive.
Everyone needs to know how important CPR can be – at any age, at any time! I hope that this real life story helps to prove just that!!
October 7, 2007
1 week ago