Category Archives: Now

Here we go again…

Thursday morning at 830 am, I was driving to work after a busy few days. I was happily contemplating my upcoming vacation with the family. 4 days off and a trip to see John’s family. And, a pool with a waterfall. Ok, it’s not Hawaii but not bad for a Memorial Day weekend. I was driving my new car and thinking how far I’ve come. We deserve the break and time together. Then the light went on for my low gas tank. I thought I could maybe make it to work but, better not risk it. I pulled over at a gas station in Bellingham and filled up the tank, collected my credit card receipt, closed the tank door and started to walk around the car. Then……

I felt my right ankle turn. My heart started beating fast. Oh no, I was falling. I heard the extremely loud crack and I was on the ground. Shocked, I quickly turned over trying to assess the damage and then I felt it. The burning pain in my right leg. This was well known pain. I tried to move and that made it worse so I stuck my left foot under my knee and screamed for help.

Now, you would think a woman screaming on the ground at a gas station would get some attention but, the other two or three people getting gas didn’t stop to help me. They just finished their transactions and drove away. “Are you kidding me” nope, it actually happened. Finally, the poor attendant came out and tried to help. I asked her to call 911 and get my phone from my car so I could call John and work.

I proceeded to call John first. I tried to stay calm as I was sitting on the cold concrete waiting for the ambulance to come help me up. I didn’t want to scare him. He had to stomach the calls before about Zachary and I. I had to tell him myself. He was calm but concerned. He would meet me at the hospital. Next, I called my colleague at work. I tried to be calm though my leg was burning in pain. She told me I was crazy to call her right after this happened. I knew it was the right thing to do. I knew how my colleagues had found out about my accident before. I couldn’t let that happen again. I would be the one to explain it.

When I hung up, the ambulance and firemen arrived. The paramedics asked if I could stand with help. I answered, “maybe”. They pulled me up in one quick movement where the pain leap up so much I was dizzy and nauseous. I proceeded to try to stop vomiting continuously as they tried in vain to find a vein. Nasal spray was the only way I could get in pain medication.

I got to the hospital and they ran a bunch of tests finding I had broken my right femur above the knee and needed surgery to put in a plate to stabilize tonight. So, here we go again….. More orthopedic surgery, non weight bearing, walker, wheelchair, therapy, pain medication and on it goes. Same old song and dance (well, chair dance at least).

Where am I now? I’m fine. That is something we all tell ourselves when you are trying to convince yourself that you are. What does it mean? FINE = Frustrated Individual Nearing Explosion. How can I do this again? I’m not strong enough. There is a strength that somehow takes over when you are back in your dark place. Back where you thought you would never be again. Broken, immobile, embarrassed, and frustrated.

I rolled into my Physical Therapy place today. As I have for the past two years to start all over again. I was calmed by the message that I received from my therapist. You still strong. You can do this no problem. Here are some exercises. Something to do to make steps towards independence again. I made my weekly appointments and rolled out to my car.

I know I can return to mobility again. This is not where I was before. I have gone through worse in the past years then just one silly broken femur. I have lost my son. I have lost my self. I’m fighting not only for him this time. This time it’s for me! I can do this and will return to my independence. God willing and with the support of the tribe of beautiful people around me. Still routing, praying, and supporting me one step at a time.

So, here we go again…

 

 

 

 

The ride

It has been a few months since I have posted on this blog. We are starting to live In this “new normal” situation that we have been given.  It is funny how my life is defined by a single moment and split into two very distinct parts; Life before the accident and Life after the accident.

I have been quietly searching for what to say in this blog since the anniversary of that defining day in March.  We made it through the first year and we were still breathing. What an accomplishment. The celebration of his life, the candles, the love that shown all around was a mark of completing the first part of this new life. Then, the realization came. Tomorrow you have to begin again and he is still gone.

The mountain that I climbed that first year was a treacherous climb. Not only was a grieving the loss of my beautiful boy, I was fighting for my life. I fought each day to get back some degree of myself back. Although it was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, it was a welcomed distraction from the reality of my grief.  Now, I have leveled out in my journey to gain my independence back, the grief remains.  The gut wrenching, heart pulling, unimaginable loss that is the reality of the death of a child.

As I have continued to fight through this journey, I have found that support of other bereaved parents to be a critical component in my healing. The parent group that no one would volunteer to be a part of and that there is no leaving. The sanctity of being a part of that group is healing and horrible at the same time.  The true miracle of the group I am a part of is knowing that I am not alone in this pain. The pain of this group is that everyone is walking their journey because they lost their son or daughter too.

Writing has also been extremely healing for me. This blog began from not wanting to post long drawn out Facebook posts about loss. I wanted a place to capture my emotions and to mark my thoughts now as I walked through my journey. Friends and family have been so supportive on this journey and I can’t thank them enough for all the blessings they have given me.

Tomorrow is a special day in the bereaved parents world. It is a National Day of Hope: Remembering infant and child loss. I didn’t know that when I took tomorrow off from work. We are going to the fair tomorrow with Grace. It is fitting to have a family day at the fair on this special day of remembrance.

One memory of Zachary that is poignant In my mind tonight.

One year, we went to the fair with Zachary. He was so excited to talk to everyone, the reason we called him “the mayor”. He got his first unlimited wrist band so he could ride all the rides he wanted. He rode the merry go round about a thousand times. Then, he looked at me and said “I want one special ride just me and you”.  He chose the rock and roll ride which was a fast spinning ride that went forwards and backwards ridiculously fast and he was pushed into me the entire ride. At the end, I was dizzy and he was smiling. He said, “I am glad I am with you mom because that was crazy scary. Let’s do it again”.

Tomorrow, we will remember Zachary tomorrow and everyday.  We will ride the rides, see the animals, go on the merry go round a thousand times, talk to all the fair workers, and smile knowing you are there in spirit. I will know that even if this new ride is crazy scary, I am glad I have him to guide me.

One year ago….

Zachary

One year ago. This phrase has been ringing in my head for the past few months. How will I feel on the anniversary? What can we do to remember him? How can I say thank you and be gracious to the thousands who mourned, prayed, loved, and supported us?

Tomorrow marks one year since I have seen my sweet, loving, first born child for the last time. Zachary was the light of my life. He made me a mother on October 1, 2007. He gave me unconditional love from day one. He was always there with a hug or witty remark. He was my son and I was his mom. The simple things in life really are the best.

We went through it all together. He was my best friend when I needed it most. Now, he is gone.

The days that followed our last moments together are a blur to me. I remember moments in time. Feeling confused, the pain, the breathing tube, unable to speak, unable to move,  and all through that all I wanted was my life back. Just to go home. Just to see my kids and John. Just the simple things again.

I was in a coma for 20 days. I was not there to see my son laid to rest. I never said my final words.

I was there to see him be joyful about his glasses on our last day together.

I was there when he took his first breath.

I was there at every moment in his life.

Every day.

Every lunch I packed.

Every boo boo I kissed.

Every bath time.

Every bedtime snuggle.

Every “one more kiss/hug/drink”

I was there.

Why did I missed his last?

Was it God’s grace and ultimate wisdom to shield me from that moment? I knew when I woke up on Easter Sunday fully alert that he was gone. No one had told me that he had died. No one had too. I felt it. I knew that in some way I had said my goodbyes to him in another place. I knew and felt it in my heart.  It didn’t make it any easier in the days, weeks, months to come. I was broken physically and emotionally.  How could I ever live without a part of my heart? I made the decision to fight for my sweet daughter, Grace, who just lost her brother. He would want me to be the best mom to her as I had been for him. I made it my misson to have a small goal each day and meet that goal. Starting with breathing on my own, eating, talking, sitting on the side of the bed, tolerating sitting in a wheelchair and on and on. To live again. To be her mom.

Now, a year later, I am healing physically. After a lot of goal setting, sweat, pain, aggravation, and exhaustion, I am making it back to the mom I was. The one who is there everyday for all the small stuff for her. It’s a struggle someday but it is the most rewarding struggle when I can just do one more thing with her.

Tomorrow marks Zachary’s first heavenly anniversary. I will visit the place where his body is laid. I will bring flowers and candles. I will sing to him.  I will be there at 4 pm  when we fell from Chuckanut Drive and this horrible story began.

We will meet with family and friends to remember him through lighting candles on facebook, singing “This little light of mine”, doing kind deeds for others, making build a bears, sharing our favorite pictures or stories and meeting to celebrate his little life that left an echo into eternity.  His life was important to me. I am his mom to infinity and beyond.

Thank you God for the time we had with him. I needed him here with me. I pray for just one moment more but that would never be enough. Thank you for giving me the gift of motherhood and a little Grace in my life to love. Thank you for showing me that people can support you through the worst times of your life.

Thank you for Zachary.

All I want for Christmas is you

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It is December 25, 2014 at 10:00pm. Merry Christmas to one and all, especially my Zachary. This was our first Christmas without you here.  I have been dreading this day and the emotions associated with it since Thanksgiving.  I have been counting down the days until Christmas and trying to “plan” what I would do if the emotions become too much. What would be the exit strategy?  What would I feel when I was celebrating with the kids? How can we keep up traditions without him?

I decided that Grace, John’s girls, and John needed to have a Christmas. In June, I started shopping online to make sure we had gifts even if I couldn’t walk into a store.  The boxes started rolling in when I was home in July and right up until last week. I was determined to make sure I could give them a little magic this Christmas.  The packages were stacked in the closet one by one (ended with a mountain as usual). It was going to be ok. The kids would have Santa and that makes it better.

As the Christmas season began, office parties were coming up. I had a hard time going to the Christmas parties.  Eventually, I made it to each one. I was so thankful that God had afforded me the strength to just walk in. I was greeted by love, support and kindness that is unmet by any other experience I have ever had. I am grateful for my co-workers and can not believe I am lucky enough to have these amazing people in my life. I smiled. I cried. I was thankful.

However, when the night ended, I came home and no little man was there to have stayed up too late waiting for a good night kiss, story or just a snuggle.  I am grateful for the support of many but I would give anything for one more hug. One more bedtime story. Just one.

Friends and Family kept asking me, “what do you want or need for Christmas this year?”. I politely answered, “Oh I don’t know, socks, candles, lotion…” The truth is that all I want for Christmas is you, Zachary. I don’t say that because I didn’t want the reaction that often naturally follows. The person feels horrible and I didn’t want to do that. I know that it is the impossible. If you ask me, that’s truly what I want. Zachary back for the next 80 years or so.

This is the deep truth of my grief. One minute, I was driving home from a doctor’s appointment looking for an ice cream shop. The next minute, it was three weeks later, I was broken and he was gone. No last kiss. No last hug. Just dust in the wind.

When I ponder this loss of those moments, I realized I was spared seeing my son’s body without his spirit. Our last moments together had so much joy not sorrow. We were together not apart.  His spirit has left his earthly body and gone on ahead of us. He is spending his first Christmas in Heaven. It has to be the most beautiful celebration. I feel more peace knowing his spirit is with us even when we can’t kiss, hug, hear, feel or snuggle him.

Last night, I was playing Santa with John as we have done for the past 4 years. Wrapping presents, stuffing stockings, eating Santa cookies, writing a goodbye letter from Jack (our Elf on the shelf) and making sure our lists where checked off. I asked him, “What do you want for Christmas?”.  He said, “I already got it”. I was confused. I asked him what he meant. He said, “You are here”.  It made me stop and I got teary. I realized that I could have left my body as well. We lost Zachary. I lost my independence. It was a horrific event.  Prayers were answered for me and my healing. Prayers were answered for my cognitive and functional abilities returning. I am a miracle.

It is the dichotomy of the situation that amazes me. To be angry and joyful at the same time. To be surrounded by prayers and cheers in my corner and to be so lonely in your grief. This situation has changed me. I have a choice as to which path I will follow. The supportive, joyful, grateful path with light or the dark, lonely path of despair full of “poor me” or “why me”. It is a daily struggle to continue to chose the right path. There are good days and bad days in my life. Looking for the joy and gratefulness is not a simple task but, I will actively look everyday.

For today, it is Christmas night. I am here with my family, even with mom who flew in to spend the holidays with us.  We had a magical day opening presents and enjoy each others company. I am grateful that I have the chance to be here with them. I miss Zachary every moment of everyday. It feels like a piece of my soul is gone and will never be replaced. The loss this great is not something you ever “get over” but you learn to cope and grow stronger. His little spirit is always with me but, I wish I could just wrap my arms around him and give him a hug and say,

“Merry Christmas Zachary. I hope that you are celebrating with Jesus for his birthday. I am sure it is a big celebration in heaven. We miss you so much here. We found an angel ornament in your stocking this morning and made sure it was on the tree.  Now, its late make sure no more candy, brush your teeth and get some sleep. I love you to the moon and back”.

XOXOX

Mommy

 

 

 

 

 

There Is No Place Like Home

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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.