Family is everything to me, as I'm sure it is to you. My parents divorced when I was very little and his priority was working. So my family circle consisted of my mother, brother, and maternal grandparents and we were very close. My grandparents would visit often weekly to "drop off a few things" and if you are Italian, you know what that means! Sunday dinners and sleepovers at my grandparents house were a favorite! My grandfather was 100% Italian and my grandmother was 100% Sicilian. Kind of wonder how they survived 43 years of marriage (LOL)! At a whopping 4'11", grossly overweight due to a hypothyroid condition and a heavy smoker, my grandmother was not as healthy as she could have been but still your typical Italian grandmother. She was always putting her family before herself. Cooking, going to the grocery store, helping with her local grandkids, etc. She did not take care of herself the way that she should have. Money was tight and always an issue, but if she had anything extra, she would spend on the family, not herself or her health. She was stubborn and hard headed, but loved her family! That was her downfall in the long run. (another story for another blog!)
My journey to where I am now and why I do what I do, started back in high school. My mother and grandparents were very supportive and came to as many events and sports as they could! In high school, I was a 3 sport athlete, sang in the music program and was the Vice President of the drama club. My brother was a hockey player for multiple teams and a runner. We also played summer sports and they were always there! Sometimes they would come to watch us practice.
Then one September day in 1993, our entire world came crashing down on us and we were forever changed as a family! I recount most of these events based on conversations with my mother and grandfather since I was at a friend's campground an hour away. (Prior to Cell Phones!) Before I left with my friends, my grandparents had stopped over our house to visit and bring "a few things". My brother and I use to love Chef Boy R Dee's Beef-a-Roni and Ravioli, (Yes Mike, I know you still do!!) so of course that was a necessity in my grandmother's eyes for her grandkids! I remember that she said she didn't feel well and her shoulder was sore (the sore shoulder was something that she complained about on and off over the years. Never realized she was having mini heart attacks!). She was always hot and sweating, I believe from being overweight and the thyroid issue, so no one would have thought anything of it. They left and I went on my way with my friends.
Later that day my grandmother had a massive heart attack at home!! Apparently when they got home, my grandmother told my grandfather that she was going upstairs to lay down. My grandfather laid with her, as he must have had a gut instinct to be with her. When she got up to go into the bathroom, she collapsed between the toilet and tub (ironically a typical place where people are found). He could not turn her over as he was a fraction of her size and the small space made it difficult to move.
My mother received a frantic call from my grandfather telling her that my grandmother collapsed in the bathroom and was not responsive. She told him to immediately hang up and dial 9-1-1!! When my mother arrived at their house, the paramedics were bringing my grandmother down the stairs and they had revived her. Unfortunately, she died later that night at the hospital.
The next morning as I was on my way home, I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that I couldn't shake. I didn't know what it was until I was told what happened. I was devastated and my world was crushed. She was my second rock! Not only did she love and care for us as a grandmother does, but she was also another confidant. The only thing my grandfather could muster in between sobs was "there goes your Beef-a-Roni!" I was very upset at that comment, but then I realized that was his was of saying "she's gone!".
If only he knew the signs!
If only he knew to call 9-1-1 (instead of my mother!!)
If only he knew CPR!
If only he pulled her out of the bathroom to turn her over!
We may have been able to save her OR at the very least say goodbye to her! I realize she was not as healthy as she should have/could have been, but if my grandfather had made some different choices, had some knowledge about these things, just maybe we could have seen her one last time and her son and grandchildren from out of town could have been there too! We can only hope she knows how much she was loved and appreciated!
Do I blame my grandfather for his actions?? NO! He did not know what to do because he was never educated on these matters! Do I wish he was educated...OF COURSE! In my mind, I wished I could go back a day and not go with my friends. If I stayed home, I could have gone with my mother to help! I had just learned how to do CPR in school and was certified. BUT WAIT...the outcome would have been the same. I wasn't there when it happened, only my grandfather. I would have just been in the way of the paramedics who already had converted her before transporting her to the hospital. *Sigh* Nothing could be done. It is in the first minutes of recognition that could have altered the outcome.
It weighed heavily on my mind and apparently I did a paper in health class about heart disease. I remember I did it but didn't care about the paper. My health teacher at the time was a very stern teacher, but found her soft side and allowed me to re-do the paper in light of the current events surrounding my life and the timing of the paper that was due.
I went to college to become a physical education teacher/coach and I joined my local fire department. Soon after I was teaching, I also started teaching CPR and First Aid classes on the side. After several years as a teacher, I lost my job to the economy and what should fall into my lap, but an opportunity to own a business teaching people how to save lives! How Ironic!
This may now be my job, but it s my MISSION to educate as many people as I can to be able to save a life! Just knowing the signs could be enough to save your own!! If my grandfather had known even a little, I may have been writing about something completely different today!