A Major Wake-Up Call

Things sure have changed since this time a week ago. Mother and I were in Scottsdale, the construction on the home was finally starting to come together and we were looking forward to attending both the Scottsdale Gem Show and the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market for the first time this weekend. However life threw us a major curve ball last Sunday morning. I was talking to Melinda on the phone and Mother came into the room and said Mark is on the phone, you must talk to him now. It turned out Kuochun had a massive heart attack Sunday morning. He called Mark to ask him to take care of Vivi and Margot but Mark missed the call and when he called back, one of the EMTs answered Kuochun's phone and told him they were on the way to Northwest Community Hospital.

All over again it was the worst feeling of helplessness, the same as when we learned Mother had her stroke last April while Kuochun, Vivi and I were in Scottsdale. It was a very nerve-wracking time while we waited for news. Thankfully Kuochun never lost consciousness and was able to call 911. He was rushed to the hospital where an angioplasty was performed and a stent installed. He was then moved to intensive care. When the doctor called me I did not know what he was going to say. He told me Kuochun was very sick when he came in but he came out of the procedures successfully. The soonest I could get back home from Scottsdale was Monday evening. It was at a premium price so Mother stayed in Scottsdale an extra day and took the redeye home overnight Tuesday into Wednesday. I was able to get back home in time for Kuochun's discharge from the hospital Tuesday afternoon. Like Mark said, modern medicine is amazing. I feel just terrible that Kuochun had to go through this alone. I was able to read the various notes which were made on Kuochun's online chart and at one point his heart rate was only 43. A heart rate under 60 is considered to be dangerously low.

The day after his procedures, Kuochun felt well enough to tell me what happened. He said that several times last week he felt pain in his left arm but would take a rest and it would go away. On Sunday morning he was following a normal routine - he walked Vivi, then brought her home and walked Margot. About 2/3 of the way on Margot's walk, he started to feel really bad. He did not have his phone with him but he made it back to the house and called 911. The police came and then quickly determined that Kuochun needed to get right to the hospital. Four men came to take him away on a gurney and both Vivi and Margot were hysterical. I am sure it was very upsetting for them to see Kuochun being taken away like that by strangers. They were alone but both Mark and Maureen chipped in to visit them for meals and walks.

I have known Kuochun since 1996 and to my knowledge he never smoked. However several years ago after he retired he took an extended trip to China. He has many friends there as well as all his family members. Everyone smokes and Kuochun came back a smoker. I personally abhor smoking, I never had any interest in it and have never even tried a cigarette in my life. Kuochun only smoked in the backyard but he would come back in the house smelling like smoke and the smell would stick to his coats. Also, it gave him a horrible cough which was pretty constant. It was obvious that his body was not liking it.

The potential health consequences have been weighing very heavily on my mind these years. I am not one to tell people how to live their lives or be a nag but it was giving me a lot of sleepless nights. A few months ago I saw something online which said a smoker can be 100% certain that smoking will be the cause of their death. This really shook me up and before Kuochun's recent annual checkup I asked him to talk to our doctor about getting help quitting. He said he would but I do not think he did. I read the online chart after his checkup and thought his heart rate seemed low at that time. It is very unfortunate that our doctor did not pick up on this as a potential problem. The moral of the story is not to ignore those warning signs!

After this happened I was going to insist that Kuochun stop smoking but he came to this conclusion on his own. He was already off to a good start by having a couple of days away from it while in the hospital. So far he has gone cold turkey and has not looked back. Even in the span of less than a week there is such improvement. His coughing is down about 90% and his horribly loud snoring has decreased dramatically as well. He is still not feeling well but his appetite has started to come back somewhat and I am hopeful that in time he will make a good recovery.

I told both Kuochun and Mother that the three of us need to stick together and not be in separate cities. Kuochun has always enjoyed using the snowthrower and shoveling the snow but after what has happened, agreed to retire from these duties. Hopefully he can see the benefits of staying in Arizona with its delightful winter weather and endless fun things to do. The dream is still to be able to take some winter driving trips within 6 hours of Scottsdale such as Palm Springs, Las Vegas, northern Arizona and Albuquerque to name a few.

However there has not been room for all three of us in Scottsdale with the first floor not being livable for over a year. Once the construction is complete, it will be a wonderful place for all of us to stay. Kuochun and I will each have a bedroom upstairs and Mother will have the primary suite. The primary bedroom did not have an eye-level window and it felt dark and closed in. A large sliding window will soon be installed which will give a great view of the patio with palm trees and Camelback Mountain in the background.

The completion of the first floor this spring will be a major milestone. I would like to set up a great work environment in the dining area where everything I need to do estate sale and jewelry work will all be handy but I can easily put it away when guests come to visit. Upstairs, getting rid of the dirty white carpet is first on the checklist. It has been suggested that the popcorn ceilings in the second floor bedrooms and living room not be scraped due to asbestos but instead smoothed out and a thin layer of 1/4" drywall placed over it. It is still nearly as expensive as having a remediation company scrape the ceilings so I will think about it.

At this time I am unsure what the exact short-term plans will be. Melinda kindly picked up the jewelry and clothing I wanted to sell at the next estate sale event a week from now. I am hoping the event will go well and that I will be able to participate in future events. I think it is a win-win situation for everyone involved. I will continue to help both Kuochun and Mother with whatever they need and hope they can both get their health conditions under control. They are actually both taking two of the same medications right now. People have found it surprising that this happened to Kuochun because he is not overweight but I know the smoking, too much fried food / fast food and too much salt were all contributing factors. I know sugar gets a bad rap but from what I have personally seen salt is very dangerous. It is the root cause of many of Mother's health issues as well.

Understandably I was not able to post any new jewelry this past week but I think things have stabilized enough where I can post a new lot of jewelry this evening. I only brought a computer bag back with me. I left the laptop in Scottsdale, I use the big computer at home so I did not see a need to bring it back and forth. I only brought the clothes on my back, my phone, my personal jewelry collection and estate sale / tax papers. Kuochun had just shipped all my expense receipts to me but I had to bring them all right back. The jewelry in the online store / eBay / Etsy has to go where I go so I shipped it all back in two flat rate boxes. This was more cost effective and convenient than packing it all in a carryon bag. Mother decided to get a carryon and checked bag and I was able to get her a bundle deal for only $50.00. I gave her my toothbrush and toothpaste to bring back as well as the new Tucson Gem Show jewelry. Somehow a portion of the jewelry which came back from the gallery did not make it back with her but I have enough for a new lot this week.

These past couple of days while staying at home as much as possible to keep an eye on Kuochun I took the time to post the first lot of jewelry Claire helped me out with, the Federico Jimenez jewelry from last year's Tucson Gem Show. Claire shot the photos and set up the Shopify listings. I filled in the missing information, then published the listings to the online store, eBay and Etsy. All of the items are in the New Mexican Silver Jewelry collection, click on the link to check them out. They are pricey but amazing heirloom-quality pieces.

Amazingly I made it through the maze of the Phoenix food scene and ended up exactly the same weight to a tenth of an ounce as when I left. We are starting up Seattle Sutton again, I am going to back to the 7-day plan and decided Mother needed a compromise so I signed her up for the 4-day plan. This way she will have more flexibility and not get overwhelmed as she is more of a grazer and not a 3 square meals a day person. We went to Mariano's the other day and they had some great convenient options such as beautiful salads in a variety of flavors for only 3 for $10 and some mix and match entrees and side dishes, several meals worth for $9.99. I also snagged a couple of pasta salads for a steal of a price as their expiration dates were approaching. They tasted just as fresh to me. Kuochun ate one of the salads I bought so that was encouraging.

Well that wraps up our very eventful week, I am extremely grateful that Kuochun is alright, that he knows a lifestyle change is in order and has already taken steps to do so. We had a lot of fun dining out all these years but we always have fun no matter what and will make the necessary changes to keep us all happy and healthy for many years to come.