Aunt Jessie, Gratitude and the Miracle

This is not a recipe – this is a family story and one of our best yet.  It’s the story of a miracle and one of gratitude for the love and strength our family has had pouring in from all over the world in our time of worry.  It’s a story of a favorite aunt and how we almost lost her.

I’ve had a crazy week.  Flew into LAX from cold, snowy, rainy, muddy Virginia on Sunday to the gorgeous L.A. sun on my face.  Driving with my guy on the 5 freeway and seeing that heart stopping emerald green view in that bit of freeway from Broadway to Stadium way with the windows down and the breeze kissing my skin was a revelation.  I was home!  I travel a lot, go all over but L.A. is home and it always finds ways of surprising me and showing me more of its beauty.

Couple of days into my return home, I get a Tweet from my cousin Maria to give her a call.  Immediately, I got nervous – something was wrong.  A few harried IM’s later, my nervousness was confirmed – something was wrong, very wrong.  My Aunt Jessie (AJ) was desperately ill in the hospital.  They were pretty sure she had cancer that had spread all over her body and reached her kidneys.

Luckily, I was in Glendale at the Starbucks there having coffee.  Coffee forgotten, I packed up my laptop, slung the bag over my shoulder and ran the whole way over to Glendale Memorial.  Stopped only long enough to splash water on my face, catch my breath and compose myself so I could walk in with a smile so as not to scare her.  My heart almost stopped when I saw her lying so frail and tiny on the bed.  She almost didn’t recognize me.  I made light of stuff, joked around and kept her talking till my Aunt Lupita and cousins arrived.

I can’t tell you just how important this aunt is to me, to all of us.  She’s always been special, an amazing blessing to our family.  She taught herself how to sew just so she could make me school clothes.  She was my first best friend, my first imaginary friend because I honestly thought she was a fairy left behind from NeverNeverland.  My cousins, sisters and I played board games with her, rode bikes and loved her.  Aunt Jessie is a high functioning autistic.  We never really knew what exactly was going on with her all the time we were growing up, only that she was special and that we were lucky to have her.  She was quiet and shy and patient with us kids.  She taught us to bake cookies and cakes and how to sew.  She loved video games and books we liked and we thought she was the coolest aunt ever. Each of us has our favorite stories about AJ and we all love her very much. She loved us and taught us more than she will ever know. Important lessons like kindness, tolerance, generosity and a strong sense of community are just a few of the lessons learned from being blessed enough to have her in our lives.
Throughout the day in the hospital, we spoke to nurses, doctors, specialists.  The news wasn’t so good.  She’d lost tons of blood.  They gave her transfusions.  Seven units of blood she got.  We spoke to colorectal surgeons who thought she had a tear in her colon, the words hysterectomy, cancer, radiation, chemo, colostomy bag all were said, each one like a knife in the hearts of my family who gathered around her room.  We saved our tears for the hallways when we sent out of the room during her exams and kept on smiling, laughing and joking when we were in there.  She wanted to go home.  We thought she’d never come home again.  One nurse told me that she’d never seen anything like it – that no one with their blood count so low outside of ICU let alone walking around like my Aunt was before she arrived at the ER.  We’re made of strong stock, but we didn’t think she’d pull through.  We prayed like crazy, got friends praying, lighting candles, Aztec dancing, putting her name in temples.
I went home exhausted, spent and worried.  In the morning, I headed over to the hospital again to find her looking much better.  The blood they had given her had given her some color and she seemed in much better spirits, though still very weak.  I kept notes as the doctors and specialists came in.  We waited for her surgery to happen, then late in the afternoon we heard the amazing news  – the surgery they had planned was cancelled and a new surgery would take its place.  All the problems that she was thought to have had were potentially not happening and it was something completely fixable – a fibroid with necrosis.  For the first time since it happened, we began to hope, really hope that she’d be ok and come home.
During her surgery, we sat in the lobby of the hospital anxiously.  Time passes slowly when you’re waiting.  Then I saw the two most amazing people on the planet – the two color rectal surgeons coming round the corner and they came to us with huge smiles on their faces.  She was going to be 100% better!! It was just a fibroid – a huge one and there were no other problems that they knew of.  They still had to wait for the pathology, but chances were she’d come home the next day!
She’s our miracle, a living breathing miracle and proof that prayers and positive energy work.  To the staff at Glendale Memorial Hospital in Glendale, CA – a huge thank you.  We can’t thank you all enough.  From the paramedics that got her to the ER, the ER staff that cared for her, to Nurse Pat on the 8th floor, Nurses Madonna and Victoria on the 7th floor, Don Octavio who got her safely from one bed to another, Drs. Anaki, Shanassa, Versuk, Garza, Cabrera (probably misspelling half these names), Vlad the joking orderly who brought her back from recovery, you all are wonderful, caring and amazing people that treated my our very special aunt like gold and made her feel not terrified.  We love you all and you’ll always be in our thoughts and prayers.  We can’t possibly express the tremendous gratitude we have for this staff, this hospital and the amazing people in it.  To everyone on Twitter, Facebook, the churches, the dance groups who danced out prayers, the people who lit candles, ran prayer circles, took flowers to the Virgen de Guadalupe, thank you, thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts for your love and healing energy.  We have our aunt home and she’s going to be ok.  She’s our miracle.
**Thanks to my cousin Maria for the pictures.
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