The longest Labor Day Weekend… EVER!!!

Labor Day Weekend passed quickly, with most people returning to work or school the following Tuesday. But, for our family, and The Outdoors Guy in particular, it morphed into an almost three-week chaotic medical emergency with residual effects.
The holiday weekend began for Bob and me on Thursday when we traveled to the cabin of son and daughter-in-law, Jon and Sara, 30 minutes north of Hayward. We had a joyful reunion when “The Kids” and grandsons, Jackson and Bryson, and family dog, Guinness, arrived Friday evening.
After a leisurely Saturday morning, the guys left for an afternoon of golf. Sara and I drove to Hayward to run a few errands and have some girl time.
When we returned late afternoon, Jackson and Bryson came racing down the long gravel driveway to tell us Grampa wasn’t feeling well.
Bob was in a lawn chair, not looking well at all. Jon crouched next to him with a very concerned look on his face.
Jon said Grampa suddenly got weak. At first we thought he could be tired from golfing, combined with the possibility he could be low on potassium or sodium, which still happens occasionally as a result of chemo. We gave him foods which should have helped, but didn’t.
Grampa wasn’t talking and had an angry look on his face. We thought he was upset with us for wanting to take him to the hospital.
Jon, Sara and I tried to get him into the vehicle, but couldn’t. Wasting no more time, we called 911.
I rode with Bob in the ambulance where things did not improve. Hayward Memorial Hospital sent a medic to meet us halfway there. We stopped along the highway as the medic made a U-turn, climbed on board and immediately took charge.
When we reached the hospital, M.D. Dayle Quigley met us. She asked a few quick questions as The Outdoors Guy was brought in. We gave her our take on what was wrong. Well, let’s just say she would have none of it!!! Dr. Quigley had already ordered a CT scan, done within minutes of Bob’s arrival.
The scan showed his heart had thrown a blood clot from atrial fibrillation, which Bob has had for years without a problem. The clot traveled to the frontal part of his brain, resulting in an ischemic stroke.
According to a guide given to us on strokes, “Ischemic stroke occurs when (in Bob’s case) pieces of blood clot (called emboli) break off in the bloodstream and are carried along by the blood until they get stuck in a blood vessel in the brain. With the artery blocked, the flow of blood is slowed or stopped, damaging brain cells.”
Dr Quigley wasted no time. She had already started him on Alteplase IV (also called t-PA) given through an IV in the arm. It is used to help dissolve the clot quickly and return blood flow to that part of the brain.
Not only that, a helicopter was ordered to airlift Bob to United Hospital in St. Paul.
"It will be here in 20 minutes,” she told us.
Jon and I looked at each other in disbelief! Yet, we were extremely grateful and impressed with her take-charge stance.
Dr. Quigley explained, “If the clot does not dissolve, Hayward Memorial does not have the necessary facilities to perform surgery to remove it.”
Too soon, and yet not soon enough, we said our goodbyes to Grampa as he was rushed to the chopper. Jackson and Bryson had been in the waiting room with Sara. We told them Grampa was going to a bigger hospital that could help him more.
As darkness closed in, our little family huddled in the parking lot listening to the beating blades and then watching the chopper lift off from behind the hospital. Ten-year-old Jackson cried out in agony, not knowing what would happen to his beloved Grampa.
After they disappeared over the trees and into the darkening sky, we rushed back to the cabin to close things up. I rode in back with the boys, explaining that Grampa was in God’s care. Then, we said a prayer for him. Jackson calmed down. Our normally chatty, almost 8-year-old Bryson was uncharacteristically quiet. Meanwhile, Jon phoned son, Evan, who was unable to be with us for the weekend, to alert him.
When we reached the cabin, each one of us instinctively knew what to do to close the cabin without even discussing it. Then, like a band of thieves in the night, each of us grabbed what we needed to take, including Guinness, and all of Bob’s and my belongings and were on our way. Sara drove our Jeep and Jon had the boys in his truck.
On our drive to St. Paul, we stopped in Hinckley, Minn., to drop off the boys and Guinness with Jon and Sara’s friends. Jon, Sara and I finally reached United Hospital about 1 a.m. Sunday. Evan arrived a little later that day.
Bob was admitted to United Hospital's ICU. Thankfully, the clot had dissolved so surgery wasn’t necessary. However, he was having residual effects from the stroke. He was weak, especially his left side, where the stroke had affected him the most. Bob could walk, but needed assistance or a walker. We learned the reason he wasn’t talking to us at the cabin wasn’t because he was angry. He was unable to speak. But, by the time he got to United Hospital, Bob could answer simple yes and no questions. When we arrived, he was talking, but not nearly as much as usual. He also showed little expression. Oh, how we were missing Grampa’s usual banter!
By Tuesday, Bob had improved enough to be moved to a regular room. We were happy and relieved when his sense of humor and facial expression started to return. It was evident when a nurse asked him to remember three things. He put his index finger up to his temple and said, “Once it’s in the hard drive, I don’t forget!” Laughter erupted from those in the room!! And, he did remember! His personality was returning. He had turned the corner!
That same day, discussion progressed toward moving Bob to La Crosse for acute care inpatient therapy. The only facility who specializes in this type of care in La Crosse is Gundersen Hospital. They had a bed available.
Wednesday, Sept. 6, Jon and Sara returned to St. Paul from their home in Cloquet, Minn. They transported us back to La Crosse. Jon drove Bob, and I rode with Sara. They stayed for a few hours to help Bob get settled in, leaving at 7 p.m. to return to Cloquet. It was an extra-long day for them, but we so appreciated their help!!!
Daily, for two full weeks, Bob underwent three hours of intense physical, occupational, speech and therapeutic recreation therapies. Each session lasted 45 minutes with a break in between. And, daily I saw the strides he was making. It was truly remarkable! Evan visited every couple of days and also was impressed with his dad’s progress.
Besides Bob’s difficulty to speak, lack of expression and weakness, especially on his left side, he also had problems with initiating tasks and conversation, and decision making. One physician stated that the frontal part of the brain is like the CEO, and due to the stroke, the CEO was having difficulty telling the other departments what to do. Many of these difficulties are greatly improved or resolved. It’s amazing!!!   
I asked what would have happened if Bob could not have been admitted to Gundersen’s program. I was told he would have gone to a nursing home, where he would not have received the intense therapy Gundersen offered. Staff told us it would have been a much longer recovery time, with the possibility he would not have improved enough to return home.
This past Wednesday, Sept. 20, was a joyful day!! It was the day I was finally able to bring The Outdoors Guy home from the longest Labor Day Weekend ever… 20 days!!
In just three days, The Outdoors Guy and I have seen additional improvement. Thursday he and Texas fished off the dock at the boathouse. I couldn’t have imagined it even a week ago!
Bob’s healing process will continue with outpatient therapy twice a week. He is now on a blood thinner to help prevent another stroke. The possibility of a pacemaker is in his future.
Our family feels incredibly blessed with the excellent care Bob received throughout his ordeal. We know God had a hand in providing the remarkable hospitals and staff who cared for him and our family along the way.

We also know Our Outdoors Guy is one tough, awe-inspiring dude!!!

In the 'eye' of the storm

The La Crosse County Amateur Golf Championships get especially hectic a couple of weeks beforehand with entries pouring in and final preparations.
This year, in the midst of laying the groundwork, we also experienced the severe thunderstorms that rolled through portions of Iowa, Minnesota and Western Wisconsin July 19-20, causing flooding and property damage.
Power in our area was knocked out for 20 hours. Because we are on well water, having no power translated into us having no running water. Loss of power also meant our sump pump couldn’t run. Consequently, we had a catch-22 dilemma. Where we needed water, we had none. Yet, where we didn’t want it, the water was running in like an open faucet!
Bob and I slaved from dusk until dawn bailing rainwater as it poured into the sump pump. Throughout the night, we only had a flashlight to show us the way as we hauled buckets and buckets of dirty water upstairs, and dumped them outside in the pouring rain with lightning flashing all around us. It was a night where we only rested for two,-20 minute breaks between storms. Our hard labor paid off, though, as we managed to keep our lower level from flooding. Others in our area weren’t as fortunate.
Mr. Outdoors did just fine throughout the stress of those busy couple of weeks… or so we thought. Shortly thereafter, trouble started brewing.
A visit to his ophthalmologist, Dr. Jerald Cundiff, confirmed Bob’s suspicions. The shingles virus was worse again.
The Outdoors Guy had been doing so well and was close to having his shingles resolved back in January. Then they intensified after he had cataract surgery in March.
Unfortunately, this latest obstacle pushed him back to square one for the third time! Dr. Cundiff explained that all the stress, plus lack of sleep during that two-week period is what brought on another round of shingles. The Outdoors Guy has been battling this nasty virus in his left eye since early October. It is a result of low immunity from chemotherapy.
Bob went back to four eye drops per day, plus Acyclovir pills, used to treat viruses, including shingles. Things are somewhat improved as now he is down to three drops a day and two Acyclovir.
Dr. Cundiff told him, “We need to remain vigilant. If not, this could result into glaucoma, although it is rare.”
Most people don’t enjoy doctor visits. Yet, if this is what it takes to keep his eyesight, we both say, “Bring on the appointments!”
Meanwhile, Mr. Outdoors took advantage of the cloudy weather the past couple of days for a different kind of visit… to his favorite streams for trout fishing. Did he have success? He told me he had so much fun that he knew he would be dreaming about it all night!!!!
Often, it’s the little things in life that make life worth living!!!

Simply “Spectacular!!!”

No one ever expects to receive the dreaded news: “You have cancer.” Yet, considering the number of new cases diagnosed every year in the U.S., an individual shouldn’t be all that shocked if their number does come up.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the lifetime risk of developing cancer is approximately 38.5 percent of men and women who will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime. This percentage was based on NCI’s 2012-2014 data.
The National Cancer Institute’s latest figures also show an estimated 1,688,780 new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2017.
Hence, the battle for survival ensues.  
Unless it has happened to you or a loved one, it is impossible to fathom how the trauma of a cancer diagnosis alters the life of the person who has suddenly been thrown headlong into the cancer-patient arena. The same holds true for his or her family. Their lives will never be the same as they undergo the trials of helping their loved one battle the disease, and additionally live with the fear of losing that family member. We are there.
One final statistic: NCI’s five-year-survival rate from 2007-2013 (the latest figure available) is 67 percent.
Twenty five months ago, on June 8, Mr. Outdoors was given the Big “C” diagnosis.
Yup. His world, and that of our family, turned upside down in a heartbeat.
Bob’s oncologist, Dr. Paula Gill, has told us she will never say the words cancer-free. However, the fantastic news he received recently soothes the soul almost as much as hearing those words.
Last week, The Outdoors Guy learned his CT scan is clean again!! Since Feb. 22, 2016, this is his sixth scan. And it is the sixth where there is no sign of the pancreatic tumor he was diagnosed with on May 8, 2015. There are no words to describe the jubilation we feel each time we receive such incredible news!!!!
Besides the CT scan, the tumor marker is another important part of the equation. Previously, we were told 55 is normal. Recently we learned a number below 35 is normal for cancer patients. Mr. Outdoors’ is looking fantastic at 7!!!
Bob’s liver is also doing much better since he is no longer undergoing chemo.
Dr. Gill was elated as she told Bob, “You are doing "’SPECTACULAR’!!!"
This marvelous news feels like gazing at the exquisite beauty of the heavens on a star-filled night, complemented by 4th of July fireworks!!!
The awe and wonder of God’s grace is all around us.

“And His mercy endures forever!!!” Psalm 136:1

Let the competition begin thanks to Jackie and Bruce Kaiser

Jackie Kaiser

Things are heating up in the Coulee Region. And, I’m not just referring to the warm and humid July weather.
Yup, the La Crosse County Amateur Golf Championships are once again on the horizon, and on the minds of perennial golf competitors in La Crosse County.
This year the Seniors' is Saturday, July 29 at Forest Hills Golf Course in La Crosse. The Women’s tournament is also July 29 at The Golf Club at Cedar Creek in Onalaska.
The Men’s County Am, a two-day event, is scheduled Saturday, Aug. 5 at The Golf Club at Cedar Creek. The final round is set for Sunday, Aug. 6 at Drugan’s Castle Mound Country Club in Holmen.
Every year is special in Tournament Director Bob’s eyes as he prepares for the tournaments (Men’s, Women’s and Seniors'), and the field of competitors he enjoys being involved with.
This year marks the fifth year since the County Am lost it’s signature sponsor, the La Crosse Tribune. However, Pepsi-Cola Bottling of La Crosse quickly stepped in and picked up the slack. It has proven to be a winning combination as the County Am continues to be as popular and strong as ever!
On May 8, 2015, Bob was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The 2015 tournaments were difficult for him. He was battling cancer with the strongest chemotherapy available, making him very weak. On Saturday morning of the men’s tourney, he took a tumble and had to miss the morning tee times. He rested and felt well enough to attend both Saturday afternoon and Sunday’s competition.

Bruce Kaiser

Then, there was another cancer-related crisis last year in mid-July. After a 911 call where Bob was taken to emergency by ambulance, we learned he had developed a large ulcer caused by chemo and the effects it has on the body. Again, things were testy because it was at the height of prepping for the County Am.
But in a strange twist of fate, Jackie Kaiser, County Am board member, was admitted to the same hospital as Bob. Not only were they at the same facility, they were there at the same time, on the same floor, and in the same wing! While Bob was being treated for the ulcer, Jackie was there for an eye disorder. It was downright convenient for Jackie to cross the hall to Bob's room where the two of them worked on County Am preparations...a definite first in the County Am books! LOL!!
Jackie commented, “Frankly, I look back on it and giggle ... we didn't need matching County Am shirts ... we had matching hospital gowns instead!”
With the steadfast backing of the board, including Jackie and Bruce Kaiser, who are also the official score keepers, the 2015 and 2016 tournaments went off without a hitch.

Hats off to Jackie and Bruce, who have been an integral part of the County Am since it’s revival in 1991. Their support throughout Bob’s cancer battle has been nothing short of exemplary and unwavering.
For these reasons, Bob recently named the couple associate directors, as they continue to do what they do best in keeping the Co Am Championships first class.
County Am 2017 brings with it a stronger, healthier director, who is excited for the challenges and rewards this year’s tournaments promise.
Don’t forget to fill out your entry form, ensuring a tee time to experience the thrill of competing in the challenging 2017 La Crosse County Amateur Golf Championships!! Deadline for Seniors and Women is midnight, July 17. The Men’s deadline is midnight, July 24.
For thrill-seekers who love golf but are not into the competition aspect of the game, make plans to be a part of the 2017 County Am gallery. The crowd gets the players’ adrenalin flowing and puts them on top of their game. It’s fun and it’s free to follow your favorite local celebs and cheer for a winner!

I already have mine in mind!!! How about you?!!!!

Of peaceful wooded mornings, ticks, wine, righting the dock…

Holiday weekends in our family always come with the unfolding of a mishmash of planned activities, plus a few unexpected surprises. I’m guessing, more often than not, it works that way in your family, too.
Last Thursday, Mr. Outdoors and I headed north for a second visit to the cool cabin our son and daughter-in law, Jon and Sara, recently purchased near Barnes, WI. The Kids, plus grandsons Jackson and Bryson, were due to arrive late Friday afternoon.
Before unloading the Jeep, the lake was calling. We strolled down the path to capture our first view of the lake, brimming with high water from all the rain. Jon sent us photos earlier in the week showing how much the dock had moved as a result. Sure enough, it was about 10-12 feet from it’s normal position. Righting the dock was one of the starred items on the to-do list we had to accomplish.
But, for the moment, never mind that!!! Mr. Outdoors looked down and saw five ticks making themselves comfortable on his calf! He brushed them away and we hot-footed it to the cabin!! It was to be the first of several stories from the weekend. Ticks. Ticks. And, more ticks!!! AAARRRGGGHHH!!!
The Outdoors Guy and I went to dinner at the only nearby restaurant in Barnes. After an excellent meal, we returned to the cabin and got a chilly greeting when the heat in the cabin wouldn’t come on. Then, we had to drive a ways to reach Jon by cell because we couldn’t get a signal. He told us the hot water heat takes quite a while to get going. We waited and waited and kept turning up the thermostat. Finally, we felt the in-floor heat doing it’s thing! With that resolved, it was time to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening.
Friday morning, we were up bright and early, taking in the peaceful morning and the woods surrounding us…just what The Outdoors Guy loves! He went down to the lake to drop a line. This time though, he wore knee boots for tick protection. After a few bites, but no keepers, and additional ticks, he returned to the cabin.
We took a 30-minute drive to Hayward in the afternoon to pick up a few supplies. Then, it was time to return for The Kids’ arrival. After a happy reunion and lots of hugs, Gramps got the grill going. Festival Foods’ brats were on the menu…yum! We voted on who prefers the precooked and who likes the regular. It was a tie!
Early Saturday morning I quietly slipped down the stairs. As I tiptoed into the kitchen, it looked like someone had spilled something on the kitchen floor. It still looked wet. But, when I reached down to touch the area, I found it was SUPER-STICKY!!! Then, I discovered more and more sticky areas. When I finally finished mopping it up, I had done nearly the entire floor! I wondered who had made such a mess and why they hadn’t cleaned it up! When I was sure I had it all, I went to get milk for my coffee and found more of the sticky stuff by the fridge door! Eeeek!!! Frustrated, I decided to leave it there so Jon and Sara could figure it out.
When they woke up, I told them what I had found and pointed out the goop still by the fridge. They didn’t have a clue! I went upstairs. When I returned, the mystery was solved.
Jon found a cork and foil laying on the kitchen floor opposite the fridge, which was where, on top of it, they had a wine rack with several bottles on their sides. One of the bottles was a carbonated wine. Apparently, something had triggered it to blow it’s top, causing the wine to splay across the kitchen floor and even onto the closet doors, which I hadn’t noticed. The bottle was blown backward and lay against the wall behind the fridge. Despite more cleanup, including pulling out the fridge and finding additional goop, we were thankful no one was in the path of the cork-turned-missile!!
Saturday morning we all went to Hayward. The guys looked at boats, bought a lawnmower, trimmer and picked up additional spud poles. Sara and I shopped and grabbed lunch at our favorite local coffee haunt, Backroads.
When we returned to the cabin, the guys were already back. Jon was giving Jackson, age 10, and Bryson, seven, instructions for operating the new mower. They did great, but will need time before they can mow themselves.
The boat isn’t due to arrive until next weekend. Needless to say, Jackson was totally bummed because he was expecting to go fishing with his Grandpa. Now, he has to wait until next time. I was so sad for him.
However, we needed to continue on to the next item, which was moving the dock. The guys put on their chest waders and got it into position. Then, they placed the spud poles, while the boys chattered and eagerly assisted. Sara pitched in when and where she was needed, while I snapped photos.
Suddenly, Gramps picked a tuber from a water lily and shoved it in his mouth!! Everyone gasped and groaned. How could he put that thing in his mouth? He chewed it for a few seconds and spit it out! We were all laughing and gagging at the same time!
When the dock was almost finished, Sara pointed at the ground and yelled in disgust, “What is THAT?!!!”
Crawling through leaves and pine needles on the forest floor was the most revolting-looking creature we girls have ever seen!! Gramps took one look. “Oh, that’s a leech,” he casually remarked.
He scooped the repulsive piece of black, accordion-like slime off the ground to the chorus of more shrieks!!! Then, he laid it on his arm. Immediately, the blob started to attach itself to him!! Jon pulled it off Gramps and the creature did the same to Jon!!! Meanwhile, the rest of us were going nuts! Gramps pulled the leech off of Jon and tossed it in the lake.
Sara scolded Gramps and said, “Thanks, Grandpa!! Now I won’t be swimming in the lake this summer!!” The boys and I agreed. Yet, I suspect Jackson and Bryson will forget all about that leech once the hot weather kicks in! Sara? Not so much!!
We left on Sunday to give The Kids an extra day to themselves. They finished the 1,000-piece puzzle that will be framed and hung in the boys’ room. Another puzzle awaits for their next stay.
Mr. Outdoors and I brought home six uninvited guests…TICKS!! One would expect evening showers would get rid of them…NO WAY!
Finally, there was one big AHA discovery: It’s downright amazing how a family can actually survive without…yup, you guessed it…television, and minimal internet and cellphone service!!!