Two weeks before Christmas in 2016, I offered to take some family photos for my in-laws so they can send out Christmas cards with nice photos. We were going to take photos on Saturday but my mother-in-law unexpectedly ended up in the hospital that Friday and was diagnosed with Congestive Heart Failure. Three days after that, her heart surgeon brought us the shocking news that mom's heart was so weak that a heart transplant is the only possible cure. Mom was transferred to Mayo Clinic right away and soon after that she went through an open heart surgery to install a heart pump (LVAD) to sustain her life winning her some time to wait for a heart transplant. Due to some complications, she was under sedation for many weeks and went through 8 operations within that period of time. During her hospital stay she had lots of ups and downs, sometimes even on an hourly basis. There were many times when we didn’t know if she would be able to make it.
I was 8 months pregnant with my baby boy when my mother-in-law was admitted. We kept telling mom that she would see her new grandson soon and we even joked that we are depending on her to take care of our new baby!
With many prayers and her strong will to survive, she was able to recover from her open heart surgery faster than all the doctors had expected and came home in April. My son was born in March so we were very happy that grandma got the chance to see him.
My mother-in-law was able to come back home in April to continue her recovery journey but it is far from an easy one. Gaining back her strength and getting used to this new life with a big device connected to the heart is challenging. Special diets are required. Staying healthy in general is top priority. I was with a brand new baby and I was helping her with cooking her special meals, medicine administerings and many other little details. It's safe to say that the whole family is a little bit overwhelmed with all the new norms and all the uncertainties. No one had the spare energy to think about photos at the moment. I made sure to keep the traditions of a monthly photo for my baby boy but that's about it.
Now I look back on that period of time, I wish I could have picked up my camera more. I wish I could have documented the first step my mother-in-law took without a walker. I wish I could have documented my crazy grocery trips shopping for three kinds of dietary needs in one family. I wish I could have documented how my little baby gave his grandma much needed cheers and joy every evening when she was depressed about the dark night. It was a very difficult but special time. Even though it was not a beautiful time in our lives if not the darkest time, all the struggles and trials we faced together made us closer than ever as a family. All the miracles we witnessed along the way made us ever more grateful for the time we have together as a family.
Life goes by fast especially when life is busy. Christmas 2017 came along quickly. This time, I made sure that I get a nice family photo. Maybe with my mother-in-law's health condition, it is more urgent for us to make sure that we have photos together as a family because we don't know how much longer we will have with her. However, this is true for everyone. Life is too short. Life happens. I know this sounds cliche, but memories will fade away unless they are documented. I'll have to say, I was very happy that I got to keep my promise after all to take some nice photos for my family.