In our house, we believe in second chances. Thank God for that, because most days I ask for more than five. I forever lose patience and sometimes even temper for the silly things, the serious things and all the things in between.
It’s the things “in between” I write about today. It’s been some time since I’ve updated everyone, and the things between this post and last are too numerous to detail. But they are miraculous. Not in the day-to-day of course, but rather as a collection of progress that has added up to our miracle. We are here and even on the hard days, that is a privilege.
By nature, Jesse is funny, pleasant and has a sweet innocence that makes him see the good in people before he sees anything else. About a week ago, the neurosurgeon who performed his life-saving craniotomy declared to Jesse, “you are my new favorite patient because you are doing so well.”
I know what he means because I was there. Not as a patient or a clinician, but as a spectator, watching every minute of what happened to my beloved husband. Jesse had three undetected strokes sometime during or just after a routine jaw surgery on March 19 and one of them was massive. He suffered at home for five days in intense pain while his oral surgeon team told me over the phone not to worry. They said it was residual pain from the jaw surgery and gave us a stronger prescription for Percocet – without reexamining him in person. The most epic miss.
Jesse recently missed his final follow-up appointment with said oral surgeon team and didn’t call to cancel. He just didn’t show up. A teeny act of defiant silence that I hope spoke volumes. There’s nothing left to say.
When we walk into the neurosurgeon’s office now, Dr. Petrov tries to hide his surprise at the pace and extent of Jesse’s progress. When he looks at him with what I interpret as a small smirk of disbelief and says Jesse is his new favorite, it’s easy to understand why. Petrov saved hundreds of lives the day he saved Jesse’s (mine inlcuded), so he’s my new favorite too.
MY FIRST FAVORITES
Kevin starts studying nursing tomorrow at Rowan College at Gloucester County. So basic of me to say, but don’t blink friends, this will happen to you too. One day you’re watching them whirl around on teeny helicopter kiddie rides on Gillian’s Pier and the next day you’re trying to decide what’s a better choice for a college kid – a Mac Book Air or a Mac Book Pro.
We went with the Pro. It’s Kevy Levy after all.
Jack just got back from a long vacation in Ocean City with his best bud Jalen, where he had the time of his life. The weather wasn’t great but the boardwalk cuisine was, and he sent home for more money on day three after blowing through $200. This is the kid who asks for very little aside from chicken fingers from Ciconte’s and an empty driveway so he can shoot his basketball, so I was happy to oblige. Jack will reach a sweet milestone in 22 days and is looking forward to his birthday. His 15th summer was the best of his life.
For Kelly, field hockey is life. During preseason she reported to the high school each morning by 6:45am, which got me to work before 7:30am for the productivity WIN. Falling in love with the sport has helped her heal from years of stress and verbal abuse at the hands of an evil gymnastics coach. Learning how to play field hockey and lacrosse has been a brain surgery of sorts for our teeny perfectionist, replacing years of negative programming with positivity, fitness and fellowship. We are so proud of her triumph.
Our green-eyed finale had a grand summer full of beach days, sun rays, sleepovers and ice cream cones. Cruz Crespo is headed to first grade to a set of teachers that Jack broke in for him nearly a decade ago. Turning six was the highlight of his summer, and he marked the occasion with not one, but three birthday cakes. After today, the carefree long days racing his Disney Cars collection and busting bad guys with his trusted K9 officer will come to an end.
OUR FAVORITE NEW BEGINNING
Rico Crespo is truly a delight and the cutest mini-golden doodle that ever was. I’ll be forever in this puppy’s debt for giving me a second chance in life to be a dog person. His only flaw is some uncontrollable barking at night when he sees his reflection or god forbid hears a firework. Rico’s steadfast dedication to Jesse’s recovery has been the most precious to witness, he has not left his side for even a minute. Daddy is Rico’s favorite too.
THANK YOU, NEXT
I returned to work in July to a new job at Comcast NBCUniversal. After spending a few years at Comcast Headquarters in HR Communications, I am now in the field working on Employee Communications for New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. There’s a lot to learn, but I’m loving working remote two days a week. I was fortunate to be able to interview for the job while I was on Family Leave with Jesse. My colleagues were – and continue to be – beyond supportive.
And now the news you’ve been waiting for. Everyone’s favorite is getting stronger every day. If you see Jesse at the box doing his physican-approved amount of fitness—then you know. If you don’t see him, rest assured, you’d have to look really closely to find much different besides the gnarly zipper scar in the base of his skull.
Patience is the name of the game when it comes to stroke recovery. Much like in fitness, gains aren’t seen in a week but rather over months, driven by knowledge, consistency and faith. Jesse has been working with a genius coach who specializes in neuro recovery and first responder training. You might not see him repping out muscle ups this week or next, but that’s probably the only thing on the CAN’T list in terms of his abilities, and it’s more of a PROBABLY SHOULDN’T anyway, too much risk of falling. I’m sure he’d bang out 2-3 on his first attempt.
Getting back to work with the NJSP is the ultimate goal, and we are hoping that day will come in this calendar year. Jesse is also looking into finishing his college degree by using his GI Bill, which inspires me more than I can say. His inspiration? Seeing everyone at the gym when he’s training or visiting on weekends. He lives for those days – and he knows that the best is yet to come.
Beginning these chapters in the context of our new normal will undoubtedly come with challenges in terms of energy, time and bandwidth – but that’s the thing about second chances. After using your first one, you know what you can and will endure to make it out ok on the other side. Together, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.
ONE PERCENT IS BETTER LEFT OUT
Of course, this update to our story is only 99% of what has happened which makes it 100% FACE-STA-GRAM-approved. There have been dark scary moments, medical setbacks, marital battles and times where I have scream-cried asking the sky why this happened to my husband. Writing about that, sharing those moments or obsessively talking about stroke recovery only forces me to relive the trauma time and again. So I flat out won’t do it.
Speaking of not doing it, Jesse is not complaining. He has never faltered in his commitment to positivity. In the moments when he was retraining his brain to control his balance, walk efficiently and mentally work through speech and occupational therapy challenges, Jesse believed in his “1% better” each day mantra and “trust the process” attitude. His patience stands as a lesson to me, even though it gets on my nerves at times.
Thank you for reading this update, for sharing our story and for financially helping our family while we were out of work. I don’t even dare imagine where we’d be with out our CrossFit 1Force or the NJSP – because I don’t have to. We took a step back from the world to focus on our health and on each other, and our community took a step up. They rallied troops all around the country and spread the word about stroke awareness and prevention. So many helped save us, and in turn we want to help save others.
Helping others will give our story greater meaning, and then our misfortune will not be in vain. After all, living with meaning is what second chances are all about – and that includes the silly things, the serious things and all the things in between.