Monthly Archives: November 2014

There Is No Place Like Home

slippers

As Dorothy said, “There is no place like home“. Home is a place where you feel loved and comfortable. There is no where in the world like home. I look back on how I could possibly have made it home again. I am back in my home. I am back at work. How did I get here?

This morning, I contemplated this question as I walked into work. I had my crutch in one hand and coffee in the other, I had a sudden feeling of pride. Many thoughts flooded through my mind. The most prevalent included

I am a miracle.

This is where I came back to life.

I am blessed.

Thank God I have a work family like this.

I am the director of rehabilitation and speech language pathologist at a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center in the city where I live. I started working there 2 years ago today. It was a larger building then I have managed out here with a dedicated, strong staff. The mission statement is lived by the people each day. We try our best to make people have dignity and quality of life. I loved working three minutes from my home in my town. I had the opportunity to volunteer at Zachary’s school during a lunch break once a week. Work and Life was balanced. I worked with dedicated, smart, strong team members and I was looking forward to continuing to grow our programs into the future.

Then, the unexpected happen, my accident. Zachary died. I was broken. I needed a skilled rehabilitation stay and needed lots of therapy. At the time of decision, I knew where I wanted to go. I wanted to come home. My life was ripped and torn upside down. I wanted to see friendly faces who knew me before I became the patient. The hesitation I had was the begging question, “would this be too much for everyone to handle?”, “Could I ever be the director again after I was the patient?”.

My boss called and asked me if I wanted to talk to my team. I was so excited and yet nervous to get on the phone. When I called in, I heard everyone’s voices. Excited, concerned, loving voices. I didn’t know they cared so much about me as a person. When I asked, “Is this too much”. A familiar voice said, “We got this. Come home”. Decision made. I was going to be the patient.

The day I arrived, I took a long three hour ambulance ride to the facility. I was greeted by therapists and nurses with hugs and kind words. Entering Room 508, the room closest to the therapy department, I was greeted with flowers, balloons, cards, diet coke, M&Ms, highlighters, a fanny pack and a special sign with a large circle on it that said “Knock if you need anything” on the wall to the therapy department.

I exhaled. I smiled. I was home.

I was at the facility for two months. I worked with my colleagues everyday and saw first hand how amazing they were as therapists. I saw their dedication to my progress. They were with me every step of the process from transferring me with a five person, flat transfer to the chair, to standing in the parallel bars for the first time, showering with dignity, transferring to the car for my drive thru Woods coffee and so many more memories. I had the privilege to experience my staff from a new perspective. I received their hearts. I can’t say enough how much that meant to me.

Now, I am back to work full time. I am the director of rehabilitation and speech language pathologist. I am still respected as a leader by everyone that works in the team. It didn’t change just because I was broken and needed their help. They don’t see me as broken or not fit. They supported me in my worst hours, days, weeks, months. I have the unbelievable experience to work with a team who is closer now then before the accident.

When you go through a war with someone, you never grow apart.

They each have a piece of my heart forever. I am lucky for having known them in this way. I am blessed to be better today because of what they do everyday. I am in awe of their skills. I am humbled. I am thankful. I am amazed.

I AM BLESSED.

I AM HOME.

Harborview – Beginning The Physical Journey Back

Today, I was feeling tired and sore. The angel on my shoulder kept saying, “You are doing awesome Mommy! Keep going”. I thought to myself that I am a miracle. The struggle of the past seven months has been the most difficult journey physically and emotionally. I have talked about the accident but, haven’t begun to express the journey I have been on. The accident broke my body and my heart but, it did not break my spirit. I am stronger now then I have ever been before. I have been through my own personal war and I have begun to see the healing. Walking through the memories of the healing makes me realize how far I have come.

My physical damage caused by the accident left me unable to eat, speak, or move by myself. When I awoke on Easter Sunday to this new world, I was full of both anxiety and hope. It is a strange combination.

While I was laying there, I made a decision to take it one small goal at a time. First goal, get the ventilator out and breath on my own. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love to talk. The loss of my voice was an unimaginable loss. It was temporary and I knew, being a speech language pathologist, that I could talk again and swallow again. First goal met on the first day. The success of this small goal led to another.

The next goal, get the nasal gastric tube out and drink some water. This goal took longer to accomplish as I was tested by a fellow speech language pathologist who noted that it would not be safe to eat meals and would have to be supervised with any trials of water/food. I was upset that I could not met this goal quickly. I did what so many of my patients have done. I asked the doctor could I have ice chips. He said yes. I ignored the speech language pathologist and gave it a try. I coughed and choked the first time. I learned, first hand, that it was not a positive thing to ignore a professional. It took one week of laryngeal exercises and meal trials to bring me to a point of meeting my nutritional and hydration needs by mouth (p.o.). The nurse came in to pull my tube out. With great excitement, I asked if I could pull it myself. She allowed me to pull it out myself. It was a cathartic experience to be free of another tube.

I continued to make small goals as I was transferred to a regular floor from the ICU. I would get up into a chair. This goal was difficult as I had precautions for my hip, sternum, and neck. My leg was in a cast and my knee was in a lot of pain. I worked with my physical and occupational therapists to move from laying down to sitting edge of bed with both of them assisting me with 99% of the work. The pain was excruciating. This small movement caused my head to start spinning and I knew I had vertigo.

The therapists were patient and kind. They talked to me about my job and where I was working now. They asked about my past jobs in Boston. As we were talking, the physical therapist remembered me. She was a traveling therapist and came to interview for a job at Kindred Hospital-Natick. She told me that she almost came to work there because of the awesome spirit in the department. I was touched. You run into people everyday and never see them again. Then, in your darkest hours, you have a chance meeting while they are literally hold you up.

I had the blessing to talk to my rehab team when I was deciding on where to go to rehabilitation. I knew I wanted to return home and wanted to go where I was known. I didn’t know how they felt about it. I was scared that when I picked up the phone that they would sound strange or it would be too much. I was greeted by my team and many other people who just wanted to hear me. My nerves were calmed as I heard their voices. I knew that I was going home. I knew they would do anything to bring me back from these injuries. I knew they were amazing therapists.

As I left Harborview, I started on my journey home. Going from Seattle to Lynden was a long two and a half hour drive in an ambulance. The feeling of going home again. From being 100 miles from my home to 3 miles was an awesome feeling. Knowing that those small steps towards little goals had begun to add up to real progress.

My story continues into rehabilitation and then home with outpatient physical therapy. In my next entry, I will talk about what I learned about myself and healing through those experiences. For this piece of the journey, I am grateful for my fiancé John who has been by my side everyday. I am thankful for my mother who dropped everything to come out and live in Seattle by herself. She came to my room everyday from April until July. I am grateful to our family and friends who dropped everything to come and support us and attend Zachary’s funeral. I am blessed to have a work family who loves me and put me back together emotionally and physically.

Through all this, I am blessed.

Personal Rights in Media Coverage

Who am I? The public can view you through a variety of goggles that are specifically crafted to show one side of the story. If you google, Kristin Conzo, you can learn all about me right? At least you can learn what is interesting to the public. You can see my linked in and see that I am a speech and language pathologist. You can see some pictures of me with my beautiful kids. You can read an article about the worst day of my life. How in one moment my blood sugar dropped. My car went over a 40 foot cliff. My son was gone. I “survived” as the papers report. That is a matter of public knowledge, right?
What I need you to understand is what it feels like to be me now. What it feels like to see a front page article of a new business that your ex-husband started in your son’s name. It is a great thing for him to do.
Reading deeper into the article and you see in black and white your name. Your story. Again. Reliving those moments in a public arena of the paper and all over Facebook. Your story. The worst moment of your life. You had no control of. Again. In your face.
Reliving the moments now for the third time in the Bellingham Herald. I was in a coma when everyone was speculating why my car ran off the road. Speed. Text messaging. Talking on the phone. All of which were not true. If you knew me, then you would know I don’t do those things especially on a road like that. I never said a word.
In June, the story was told again to clarify the reasons why I had the accident. It was a diabetic episode. I lived through that story again being reported. The comments from everyone especially the really nasty ones about diabetics and how we shouldn’t drive. Or when someone shares about another time I had an accident and tries to link them together. Or when a family member comments with someone asking “how would you feel if your child was at the bottom of the cliff”. I did not comment on public forums or say how I felt. I stayed silent.
When I was called while living in a rehabilitation center by KOMO News to get my information about the inappropriate use of the GoFundMe account set up for my medical bills and Zachary’s funeral costs. I showed them the records to show that the fund was appropriately using money as it was stated. I was interviewed in my room where I lived during months of recovery. The truth was told and if people wanted their money back they could. Of the 350 people, only one asked for it to be returned and that person was very close to Zachary. All the funds have been exhausted by a funeral that I was not a part of and for a headstone to mark my son’s place.
Yesterday, I faced my story again. What a surprise on the front page 7 months later as a human interest story. Kevin has a new business and is doing well. That is wonderful. Why does my name and my marital status have to be involved? Answer from the author, it was to clarify we aren’t married anymore and that he is married to Bonnie. He didn’t want to leave the readers asking questions. I asked why wasn’t I aware that this article was coming out. I was told it’s a matter of public record. Ok, why is this related to selling food? The worst moment of my life is plastered all over Facebook and all over Bellingham, Lynden, Ferndale, and wherever else the paper reaches.
I am angry that Zachary is gone. I am angry that I have to read these things in the paper. I am angry that people are behind their computers judging that moment. I am a human. I am a diabetic. I am a mother. I am broken. I am trying to have a life that is not public. I am healing one day at a time but that’s not of public interest. My life is not a story. I have remained silent and allowed people to voice their opinions and my story.
This is not an open forum for comments. I am voicing my feelings. If you are mad, good for you. So am I. If you have something positive to say, please feel free. If it is negative, feel free to delete your friendship with me. We aren’t friends at this point. Thank you for listening.

Day 31: “Sunset”

sunsetLynden, Washington, USA. I can’t believe this month is over. This project has been healing and eye opening for me. I am so happy that I was a part of it. The sunset tonight closes this month but my healing continues. I learned that writing is very therapeutic for me. I will be continuing my journeling past this month in some kind of way….not sure how but I will be writing . I want to thank all of you for coming along with me in the this journey and for all your encouraging words,thoughts, and prayers. It felt like a big hug everyday when I read your words. Xoxo All my love.

Day 30: “Intention”

I intended to continue to live the life that I have been chosen to live in the name of Zachary. I intend to learn something each day about myself, others, and the world around me. I intend to seek joy for those who are lost, seek hope for the hopeless, and happiness for the lost. I feel I have been given the opportunity to continue this earthly life because my journey is not complete. I believe faithfully that my journey shall make an impact. My loss will have meaning. The most precious gift I can give has been given. My one and only son. I intend to show compassion, courage, faith and truth through this journey.

Please join me for a minute and look through the goggles of my loss. I woke up a second to the loss of Zachary. The loss of my independence and pieces of my dignity. Living through the horror that no one wants to hear. Your son is gone. You can’t function physically or emotionally. Your family is broken. They received that phone call no one wants to get ever. They thought you were both gone. How do you feel? What would you do? Where do you turn? What can you do? What the ……

Now, take them off and look at your own journey. See how much you have around you. See your gifts of love. Understand that each moment is fleeting and could be the last. I know everyone has a story but this one is mine. I don’t know any of the answers to these questions. Each day I make a new attainable goal and have small success. You can move a mountain one pebble at a time.

In the meantime, i am working on having compassion, courage and grace for yourself and others, To appreciate the small important things like Halloween costumed and trick or treating, and to love fiercely. Love you to the moon and back buddy. Xoxo

Day 29: “Reflect”

I can’t believe it is already Day 29 of this project. The month will be over in just 2 more days. 2 more posts about this subject to go. Reflection is to take serious thought or consideration, or the throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat or sound without absorbing it. To reflect on my current experience, I have learned to be kind to myself and be true to what I am feeling during the grieving process. It is ok to be mad, sad, happy, worried, etc. I am learning to be less self critical of myself and let the true emotions come out. The other process is the act of “reflecting”. I am reflecting that which is not helpful to me in this process. I am reflecting without absorbing any negative thoughts, feelings or emotions to allow my feelings to be validated

Day 28: “Wisdom”

There is a wisdom that comes with a journey of losing someone so precious, so innocent in an accident that you can not remember. The weeks of laying still in a coma shielded me from the fact that he was gone. I did not see his funeral. I did not hold him or kiss him one last time. I did not have that experience. I had a much deeper feeling that I was with him during those days where he went to be with the Lord. That I walked him there. My experience is my own. No one elses. Everyone is grieving. I have learned that it’s not my fault that he is gone. I am free. I am humbled by my God and his love for me and Zachary. No one deserves to lose a child. It wasn’t a choice. He was taken too soon. I will not be anyone’s punching bag for their grief. We each walk our walk. This hurts more than anything I have ever been through. I know it hurts many of my friends and family.

God giveth and God taketh away. And still I rise. One step at a time. One minute at a time. I will rise. The sun will shine. We shall meet again. Until then, I will rise up and say this hurts but thank you for the time we had. Why me? Thank you for holding him in your arms when I could not. Why now? Please teach me to have an understanding that this life is temporary but love is everlasting. Please help me to rise again.

Day 27: “Express”

Expression comes in many forms; spoken, written, pictorial, art, and many more. In my professional life, I help people express their wants and needs clearly and in the least restrictive way to be understood. I have always been able to express myself with ease. Now, I can understand what it feels like to have difficulty physically.

I have constant physical pain. I need a device to walk and a wheelchair when I am tired. All that is manageable. The emotional pain is the hardest to bear. The hole in your heart that is invisible to the untrained eye. The missing piece of your life. The happy and the sad moments. He is missing.

It’s hard to express how I feel now. It changes moment to moment. How do you express the feeling of missing his laugh? His smile when his blue eyes just sparkled? His hugs and “just one more thing” at bedtime? The way he took care of his sister? The projects with tin foil just before bed? His wit? His compassion for others? There are no words for that. Just memories of my beautiful boy.

I have a hole that will never heal. I also have the joy of all the things that are hard to express with words. You just have to feel them. If it leaves a hole, it just means that you feel the loss of all those moments and treasure their memory even more.

Day 26: “Ritual”

It has been a little over 6 months since that day. I haven’t spent much time beginning a ritual for myself. I am spending as much time with this little girl as I can. My snuggle time with my kids has been a ritual since they were babies. Bath time, pajamas, snuggle and book time. Love this special routine that we have. Seems small but it means the world to me.

Day 25: “Mother Earth”

cropped-forest.jpg The idea behind today was to plant something to grow in your child’s memory. Mother nature decided to have a rainy day and my body still can’t get down to the ground to garden. Mother Earth like any mother nurtures and cares for her children. Even mother earth knows that life cycle shall come to an end and others shall begin again. I wish I could say something profound about growth and plant something for him. Today I was mad and sad. It’s ok. I look to those with shared experiences to understand that feeling. Spring shall come again and the earth will benefit from the rain in the long run. I am hurting so horrifically because I love him so much, my little flower. So I say, Let it rain! Let the tears flow! The rain shall make the flowers grow.