You may have heard me tell stories about my strong and independent Mom known fondly by her friends as Tessie. As I started my work day this morning, she was my first thought today, so I thought I would take a few moments to share with you. Many of you who know me, know that my Mom is a nurse who came from the Philippines to the United States in the 1960s. As her nursing career progressed, she specialized in intensive care and cardiac care while working in various hospitals working her way up in promotions and management, and eventually left the hospital life to pursue her own medical businesses—initially a minority-owned home health and nursing staffing agency in Virginia to currently an adult care residential home in Hawaii.
What some of you may not know is that 1 year and 2 days ago, this cardiac care nurse was a cardiac care patient herself and went through triple bypass surgery. The thing is that she was lucky. Like many women, regardless of age, just keep going and doing. Tessie is no different. If there is something to be done, she does it. She even told me on a call early yesterday morning that she can’t sit still. While I was growing up, she would tell me regularly, “You sit, you rot.” (I swear I will put that on a t-shirt one day to wear.) That message was and still is clear to me. Don’t be lazy. Keep doing. You can do great things. Be unstoppable. That’s what those four words my Mom would tell me meant and still means to me today.
So back to why she was lucky. My Mom was on a trip to Vegas (yea, try keeping up with where she goes and what she’s doing can get a little crazy), and she slipped and fell. She didn’t think anything of it. A couple of weeks later she asked one of my sons to take her to the ER, because she knew that something wasn’t right. For those you who think that medical professionals make bad patients and try to avoid being seen, some do, unless it’s mixed in with some pain and intuition. After tests and a few follow-up appointments, my Mom officially was diagnosed as a heart patient. It took a while, but it was definitive that she had a heart attack and that the blockages she had put her in the category of widowmaker status. The blockages were so severe, and she knew the risks that she told the doctors to get her surgery scheduled for the earliest date. Lesson here: Listen to your body when it’s telling you something.
Tessie has always and still has a positive spirit and a strong spirit, and we had a couple of tough conversations leading up to her surgery. Being an expert in cardiac care, she understood all too well what was to come regarding surgery, recovery, and post-op changes. And I think the hardest thing that I heard my Mom say to me was that if it was her time, although she wants to live, she was ready to die and that she’s had a good life. She ended that phone call before her surgery with “I will be OK. Be good to one another. Love each other. Take of each other. I love you.” (I can still hear her saying this to me, and I won’t lie, my eyes are welling up writing her words.)
I am very happy to report that Tessie celebrated her one-year “heart birthday” just 2 days ago. She’s doing well in HawaiI, taking care of her geriatric patients, and hoping to enjoy some gardening this weekend. There is another reason I am sharing this story today. Today is National Wear Red Day. The American Red Cross’s Go Red For Women movement raises awareness regarding the #1 killer of women in the United States—heart disease. In honor my Mom Tessie and for all the cardiac patients for which she cared over the decades of her nursing career, I will not only wear (coincidentally my favorite color) red today and regularly, I will practice healthy living, awareness for women in my community, and encourage to those who need it.
Thanks, Mom, for being my role model. I promise not to just sit and rot. I promise to continue to do my best just like you taught me and still teach me today.