Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Breaking Point

Some of you might want to know how my hurricane journey went.

Not so good. 

So here's how things have been since I last posted my Saturday update.

On Saturday I went over to my new house where I'll be moving at the end of the month because my cable person was showing up to install my Internet service. The original intention was for my friend Jeaux to drive me there, help me clean and measure some rooms, and we'd test the appliances by cooking a meal, and park his car in my garage so it would be protected from the coming storm. I mean, it's a brand new cute car and probably should be protected from the weather if possible. So we were gonna do that but when I got up it was starting to become scary--the news kept saying it was more and more certain that Tampa was getting a DIRECT HIT from this hurricane, and we were scared.

Jeaux and I went to the new house anyway but didn't get much done. We were really distracted trying to make a plan and were considering actually running from the storm because it was sounding so dang scary. My new house, my old apartment, Jeaux's apartment, and my mom's house were NOT in a mandatory evacuation zone or flood zone, but we were thinking crap, maybe get some gas (if we can!) and get the heck out of here and take our people with us. 

As we waited for the cable guy and sort of cleaned some things, we investigated options and didn't really find anything good. Highways were jammed up with fleeing Bay residents and gas was scarce. We didn't have anywhere to go lined up. And there was a possibility wherever we'd run to would be worse than where we were because the storm was bigger than the state. So what do you do?

We decided the best thing to do would be to hole up at my mom's house. She has a relatively sturdy structure and had bought aluminum window coverings that her lovely roommate David had put up for her (man, that guy was really good during the storm!). I had initially planned to weather the storm by myself but I was getting really panicked and wanted to stay with others. So we arranged to do that, and I invited my friend Victor but he didn't want to leave his house because he was afraid of his stuff getting soggy if he didn't personally keep the water at bay, so he didn't accept our invitation. At my new house, we waited for the cable guy to complete the installation, made some rice on the stove (hey, at least we know that works!), and drove Jeaux's car back to our side of town to get ready.

I packed up my stuff and put some other important stuff in places where they'd be less likely to get wet or damaged if there was damage to my apartment (especially windows). And then I packed some nonperishable food and a flashlight and some candles and battery backups for the eventuality that we would lose power. That night we went over to my new house again to park Jeaux's car, and my mom picked us up and took us to her house, where we burrowed in for the night.

In the morning we were ready for a hurricane to hit us, though it wasn't supposed to get really bad until the night. There was a curfew coming and up until then you could still go outside but it wasn't smart to do so. In the morning it started pouring on and off and there were some weird winds. My mom cooked us breakfast so we could have a hot meal while we still could, since we were still expecting we would lose electricity pretty soon. We had some eggs and toast and I had coffee. Just before Mom was about to eat some of the breakfast she'd made, we heard a loud noise in the kitchen and called to see if she was okay, and she didn't answer.

So Jeaux, her roommate David, and I all kinda converged on the kitchen at the same time and Mom was lying on the floor. We could see some blood and she was unresponsive. I called 911 immediately and asked my friend and her roommate to check if she was breathing. They said it was hard to tell but it seemed like she was not. While I was on the phone she had a weird seizure--she stiffened up and jerked around a little, but then relaxed and coughed and started clearly breathing again. They tried to get a towel under her head but since the 911 people told me not to move her it was hard to do effectively.

I kept it together pretty well during the emergency--listened to the 911 instructions, made sure she was still breathing, got her medicines and personal things together in her purse, and waited. The EMTs got to her house in the pouring rain and came inside, and started asking her questions to see if she'd reply. She did start replying, sort of--was able to answer her name and where she was, but couldn't seem to get out an answer to what year it is or how old she was. It was pretty scary and there was some blood on her face but it seemed like it wasn't actually flowing from anywhere--just a bloody nose, I guess. There was already a knot at the top of her nose where some swelling was happening--looked like she must have bonked her face on the way down.

The EMTs took her and told me there was not really a reason for me to come in the ambulance because there was nothing I could do and I was going to get stuck at the hospital if I came. I elected to stay with my friend and Mom's roommate, but felt like shit because I knew when she woke up she would be scared without me. After they took her and took my information for disclosure, I was like okay, now I can freak out, and Jeaux let me cry on him for a bit. Then we ate our breakfast. David cleaned up the blood.

I was so grateful that this happened early enough that the EMTs would still get to us and that we were here for when it happened because I don't know if the bang was loud enough that David would have heard it had she been home without us. Also am very grateful for having Jeaux with me to hold me together. I wouldn't say I don't cry easily--I cry over emotional stuff all the time!--but I don't freak out easily. The stress of the storm and my mom getting hurt was a LOT to deal with and I couldn't weather it without some tears.

For the rest of the day we mostly just maintained the status quo, monitored the storm every time there was an update, got stuff ready as the hurricane came closer (moving into an interior room, blowing up the air bed for Jeaux, informing other people who wanted to know if we were okay what was going on). I also texted my sisters and asked them to call me so I could tell them what happened to Mom. Both of them were really awesome about it, and sister P took the task of calling around to find out where Mom was (because if they told me where they were taking her, I didn't remember!) and giving me updates on what was going on, while sister L decided to come see us after the storm. Mommy called me from the hospital later (I had remembered to include her phone and charger!), and she asked me "How are you, honey?" Man. How am I? How are YOU? She said she didn't remember anything--didn't remember falling or the aftermath or even the ambulance ride. Just woke up in the hospital. It must've been so scary.

They don't know why she fell. She was wearing non-slip socks so it's doubtful she slipped. She may have just had a weird drop in blood pressure and fainted. It happens, I guess, but they couldn't find anything wrong with her that we didn't already know--she didn't have a stroke or anything. 

So Mom spent the hurricane in the hospital. Jeaux and I stayed up through the night waiting for it to hit us. We monitored the progress and I did some digital art like a dork. I actually finished an entire Steven Universe fan comic. 

A frame from the comic

We didn't lose power! Jeaux ate some of my mom's chicken nuggets because we still thought it was going to go out when the worst of the storm hit, but it didn't. The wind made some super scary noises and the rain was, you know, sideways and thick, but to be honest I felt like I'd been through thunderstorms that were worse, and there was no thunder, no lightning. Jeaux understood the updates better than I did and he thinks the storm was a Category 2 when it hit us. But we didn't even get what we were expecting because the way the storm turned was a little different and we were not directly hit.

Victor was okay--he did have some water splatter in but he just kept changing the towels at the door. My mom's house was pretty okay--nothing too significant got damaged, but a fence came down.

My new house had electric power, but had some minor damage too.  Mostly it was just small branches and crap lying around and strewn on roofs:

But!! When I got there a door was standing open on the side of my garage. The door was busted--the bottom of it is damaged and it doesn't want to open or shut properly.

So the new house was not in terrible shape, but it probably had the most damage of any place I'm associated with. My apartment turned out to be okay, but the power was out there. And the power was out at Jeaux's house too. Jeaux set up his cable because he can monitor whether it's online and control what it records with an app, so if it came online he'd know he had power at his house without being there. We went back to my house to clean out the fridge and freezer--we didn't know how long the power had been out, but I didn't want all the popsicles in my freezer to drip everywhere and anything in there to start stinking. It kinda smelled like warm soy in my freezer. Haha.

So we went back to my mom's and spent the night there again because she had power and the all-important air conditioning. Jeaux and I watched one of his favorite shows, American Ninja Warrior, and I was super tired so I fell asleep kinda early. It was weird being there without my mom.

In the morning we went to our places again because Jeaux's cable came on indicating he had power! And he did, but I didn't! So we took showers, got some stuff, went out to breakfast, and eventually went to pick up my mom from the hospital. She got released with some instructions that I somehow freaking lost. We wanted to drop off her prescription but I couldn't because I lost the damn instructions. I had another crying fit about that and tried to get the hospital people to help but they refused because of codes that protect patient information--they were saying we'd have to drive back to the hospital and it was almost half an hour away and I didn't know what to do. Eventually when I called them back they said they'd mail the packet for us to have and call in my mom's prescriptions. Whew. Jeaux was nice enough to let me cry on him again about all of that.

So! My air conditioning at the new house isn't working very well and so they had set up a repair person to help us, and we had to go meet them there, so we did. I cleaned a bathroom while the A/C guy messed with the air, and I guess it's working. And we found out my power was on so I went home after going back to my mom's and giving her her birthday present. (The day she got out of the hospital was her dang birthday.) I had gotten her a cute shirt. ;)

I took a shower and did a load of laundry because my stuff smelled like smoke due to staying with my mom in a smoking home, but that was no big deal. I was so exhausted that I just cooked some food and ate it and went to sleep. And I did manage to go to work the next day, even though the buses were on a limited schedule.

We got through the crisis with just a broken fence, a broken door, and a broken nose.

Could have been a lot worse. And was, for some people. 

Please donate and help if you can. I'm too tired and frazzled to tell you where, but please do your part if you are in a position to do so. 

Now with that interruption past, I'm diving aggressively into preparation for moving. Moving is honestly the second most stressful thing that happens in my life, outranked only by the times my mom has been sick. To have both of those things at the same time on top of an uncontrollable, unpredictable MAJOR STORM EVENT that had people I hadn't talked to in years e-mailing me to see if I was alive . . . that was it, that was my breaking point. I'm usually really good at taking everything in stride, handling it, coping. 

This time, I couldn't.

No one would blame me or think I'm weak for that, but I learned what combination has to happen before I Can't Do It Anymore.

This was it.


  1. I'm sorry about your mom :( crazy timing....

    As soon as we got news in Miami that the storm was moving west, I thought about you and Tampa. Sad that the islands in the Caribbean got the worst of it (have a friend with family in Cuba who told her the place is practically destroyed) but we got it a little weaker. I was scaring myself like crazy imagining it making landfall as a cat. 5. We had more time to plan an evacuation (though I was also not in a flood zone) but by the time my loved ones didn't have to go to work, there was no gas and the highways were jammed. So like you, we rode it out. This was way more stressful than I anticipated. But I'm glad to hear you're okay and I'm sorry for all you went through.

    1. I can't believe Miami avoided the direct hit, so fortunate!! We were just thinking okay, we're going to be hit, but it won't be as strong when it gets to us. But like . . . the infrastructure of Tampa Bay is really NOT ready for a big hurricane. I guess most places kinda aren't, but we have so many bridges and low-lying areas that need better management. I'm so glad to hear you made it okay.