One year ago tonight, right about the time I am writing this blog, Sam and I posted a picture on Facebook of us in front of the “Welcome to Kentucky sign”. We were on our way down to Florida for a vacation that would not only serve as a vacation, but also as our honeymoon. Coincidentally, 4 years before that picture, we became Facebook friends. With our first anniversary approaching, I thought I would write a few blogs that tells our story.
In June of 2013, I graduated from Baker College with my degree in applied science as a Polysomnographic Technology (Those two fancy words simply mean, I am a sleep technologist). I became very good friends with the sleep instructors (Christine, Michele, and Angie). I was asked by the program director if I would be willing to volunteer to tutor students in future classes if they needed help. I told her that I would love to help out.
One of the hardest classes of the degree was Pharmacology. This wasn’t your normal Pharmacology class. Yes, you had to know the types of drugs, the names of drugs, what they did, and such, but you also had to know how these drugs affected a person’s sleep. It was pretty detailed, and much of that information was not found in the books. I was called and asked to meet with a small group of students from the current class. I remember meeting up with them at the Tim Horton’s near the college. Sam was among those in that group.
Sam and I actually met shortly before this. I was doing my clinicals at a lab that worked with pediatric patients. She brought 2-year-old Gracie to my lab and I actually ran her study! She may have been the first pediatric patient I hooked up and ran on my own.
Well, over the next few months, I met with Sam off and on and went over stuff for the classes. We prepped for tests and talked about working with kids and sleep related stuff. When it was time for her to do her clinicals, she was placed at a lab that did not work with pediatric patients. Sam wanted to work with kids, so there was one night she shadowed at my lab so she could observe, prior to starting her clinical rotation. Sam graduated one year after me.
The “Unwritten” Rule
Many sleep techs drive far to get to their jobs. Many people who graduated in my class drive anywhere from 40-60 minutes to work. It’s just the way it goes. I currently drive 70 minutes, and Sam drives 50 minutes. So, there is an understanding among people who work in sleep, an “unwritten rule” so to speak. Basically, what it says is “Know who is working on nights you work. If you are driving home in the morning and you feel like you are falling asleep, call someone you know is also driving home. Talk each other home.”
Sam and I ended up working many of the same days. It was not odd for either of us to call each other at 6:30 or 7:30 in the morning to “talk each other home.” At first, it was a lot of shop talk – what kinds of studies we ran that night, crazy heart stuff we saw, or comparing notes on what equipment or mask worked best. The more we talked, the more we learned about each other. It was not odd to chat about my boys and her brothers. There were times where she would even call to say she was taking her brothers swimming and wanted to know if my boys wanted to go as well. We became very good friends.
It was not odd for us to run into each other at the college in the office of Christine, who was the Dean of the program, or at one of the sleep classes. Sometimes, we even helped present review material or helped proctor tests. At one time, there was talk of how we could all start our own sleep lab. Conversations involving Christine, Michele, Sam and I were often referred to as meetings of the “Collective Brain”. The friendships that were made because of the sleep program go very deep and helped me through some very turbulent times.
Days of Trouble
Without going into detail, I will just say that working the midnight shift had only added to problems I was going through at home. The added stress affected me very much. I was already suffering from depression and was just going through the motions and fighting the constant battle of trying to make ends meet. The struggles were physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. It was not something that I spoke about to many people. There were plenty of fake smiles on social media, and I hid things very well.
The “Collective Brain” saw through much of this. For example, one day I got a call from one of them while I was at the laundromat. Our dryer had died months before and the budget didn’t allow for us to get a new one. I received a call one day asking if I was going to be at home. I stated that I was going to be home for a little while, and I was told that I had to be home between 3:30p and 4:30p. I asked why, and was told by one of the “brain” folks not to worry about it and to be there. At about 4:15 a truck pulls in my driveway with a dryer in the back! I was told that someone had paid for it and they were told where to deliver it. These three friends, pooled together money and wanted to relieve a little of our stress and bought it for us!
There was another time where we were all just talking. I was trying to work some overtime to try to make sure I had money to get the boys Christmas presents. The stress must have shown, because the “brain” once again surprised me with a bag of Nerf guns, and other toys because “there is no way that your boys are not opening up presents on Christmas morning!” You cannot even begin to know how humbled you can feel when you are the recipient of someone’s gracious giving heart. They brought me to tears yet again.
Saved from the Darkest Days
As the trials and tribulations continued at home, I found myself in an unhappy place. I was feeling worthless. I felt like the ultimate failure. As I began to really sense all that was going on, there was this overwhelming feeling of emptiness. I was worried, I was scared, and I felt like I had truly reached the end of my rope.
There are a few people who know this, but now I will publicly admit that I had reached a point where I was ready to end my life. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I didn’t know when I was going to do it. I had convinced myself that I was not doing anyone any good and that I was causing more trouble for people by being around. Then, without knowing it, Sam said something that saved my life.
It was one of those “talk me home calls”. She was tired and trying not to fall asleep. I was driving home. She innocently asked me about the boys and asked what we were doing with them over the weekend. I don’t remember what it was, it probably wasn’t much. After I told her, she replied with, “That sounds like fun. Your boys are so lucky to have you as their dad.”
BOOM! It was a punch to the stomach! The ton of bricks hit me square on the head. It was a shot of reality. It was one simple sentence that made me realize that I could NEVER leave those boys! It would be selfish and hurtful to even consider it anymore. What kind of dad would do something like that and leave his sons to wonder “why”?! NO! That option, which should have never been an option, was officially off the table! She saved my life.
I had no choice but to move forward! Dark days became darker. Struggles became more difficult. Arguments, disagreements, more arguments, and irreconcilable differences led me to divorce. There was a brief period where I tried to co-exist, but the tribulations continued and I was told to leave the house.
In another “talk me home” call with Sam, I asked nonchalantly if she knew of anyone who had an apartment or room to rent. She asked my why and I told her. Without missing a beat, she told me that she had a spare room in her house that her brothers used when they came over every other weekend. She told me that if I didn’t mind sleeping on a bunk bed, I was welcome to stay with her until I found a place. She said I could sleep on the couch when her brothers were there. I asked her how much she would want me to pay her to stay and her response was simply, “Keith. You’re my friend. You need a place to stay. Every so often, help buy some groceries or toss a few bucks toward the electric or water bill. I’ll help you in any way I can”
“I’m on my way from misery to happiness …”
In the months that followed, we spent lots of time together. She helped me with so many difficult decisions. She was a voice of reason, a true friend, a shoulder to cry on, and was always honest and supportive. It was apparent to both of us that we really enjoyed each other’s company. The more time we spent with each other, the more connected we felt. As feelings continued to grow, we began dating.
What an amazing feeling to live life with someone who doesn’t judge you, belittle you, insult you, make false accusations of you, spread gossip, or is not happy unless they are making others unhappy. To be free of the judgement and negativity and to actually feel special, loved, and important was all new to me – and wonderful!
She saved my life. She changed my life. This beautiful friend and I fell in love at a time when I never expected it, but then again, isn’t that when they say you truly find love?! I was experiencing joy that was so unexpected and astonishing that I decided I had better make sure we were going to be together forever …
…that story will be in the next blog.