Way back on June 26, when we were visiting Atlanta before heading for Norway, my mother in law went into the hospital with some pain in her abdomen thinking she might be having signs of a heart attack. We all thought she would be out in a day or so, and so when we visited her two days later just before we left to head off on sabbatical, we were sure she’d be out of the hospital within the week. Now, 47 days later, Mary Ellen has been on an odyssey battling pancreatitis and it’s many related complications, extended stays in the ICU, batteries of tests, treatments, and procedures and so much more.
You might think that an experience like that would drain a person’s spirit and leave them with little reason to smile. But not Mary Ellen—her unsinkable spirits and her determination to overcome every obstacle are amazing, and even on days when she couldn’t speak at all, her smile filled the room.
On the 41st day of her hospitalization, Mary Ellen got to go outside for the first time because of her wonderful occupational therapist, Danielle. We arranged for her to get a visit from two of her granddaughters when she exited the hospital doors. You can see the smile I’m talking about—there isn’t much medicine in the world better than a sunny day and two granddaughters.
Presently, Mary Ellen is out of the ICU, making great progress in breathing on her own, and getting ready to move to Long Term Acute Care facility that will continue to work with her on breathing and other rehab to get back to normal.
Secondly, I am deeply impressed by the incredible care Mary Ellen has received throughout all of this. Certainly, Northside Hospital and all of their doctors and nurses are incredible, but the most impressive thing has been to see the way in which all of the family has cared for Mary Ellen throughout this journey. Diana’s Dad has spent literally every day with Mary Ellen since she entered the hospital. Diana’s sister, a Nurse Practitioner, has also spent every day at the hospital and has been a de facto member of her medical team, updating a daily group chat to many family members keeping all of us informed of her progress. Diana’s Uncle, a professor of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina, spent a week in July at her bedside, while Diana’s two aunts spend every afternoon with Mary Ellen. The get well cards Mary Ellen has received could easily be measured in pounds, and when she started receiving visitors last week, her signup was quickly filled. I can’t imagine a person who has more people thinking, praying and caring for her than Mary Ellen, and when you spend any amount of time with her, even in the most challenging times, the dreariest days, or the gloomiest hospital room, Mary Ellen buoys everyone around her with her smile and positive spirit that cannot be diminished.
And today is Mary Ellen’s 48th anniversary. I’m sure this is the last place she and Jeff really want to spend such an occasion, but I hope Mary Ellen’s incredible progress over the past weeks is enough to make it a memorable one. Happy Anniversary Mary Ellen and Jeff, and we look forward to seeing you in Norway!