Smoke.

We are starting to get consistently late in posting. I had intentions of getting my post out on the weekend, but I frankly just couldn’t find the ambition to care whether or not I did it on time. This is because last week was maybe one of the worst weeks I have had since I can remember. It was a mixture of night shift and a never-ending headache so consuming that I couldn’t seem to pull myself out of a dense and blinding fog of apathy.

But my update should really start about three weeks ago.

There was a wedding I was supposed to go to on the last weekend of August. August had been ferociously busy for me and by the time the wedding was a week away the thought of having to drive eight hours each way to attend my sixth wedding of the summer (I’m including the ones I photographed) was too exhausting to entertain. So with a heart full of guilt for missing a very dear friends wedding, I bailed at the last minute.

Turns out that it would have been even worse than I thought had I decided to attend. So much more than just the exhaustion that would have come from driving that far in such a short time.

On Saturday my mom and I were out of cell phone reception for a few hours in the afternoon. When we got back into range we received a barrage of texts and voicemails from my brother and my dad saying things like “call me as soon as you get this!” Never a good message to get. I called my brother and he answered with, “how much do you know?” Also a terrible thing to hear. Turns out my dad had been in a pretty serious mountain biking accident at the Fernie ski hill. At that point he was in the Fernie hospital and they were saying he had multiple broken ribs and a suspected pneumothorax. He was waiting for an ambulance transfer to Cranbrook so that he could get a CT scan.

While it was a very stressful few minutes, we were fairly quickly assured that while he was badly hurt, he was definitely okay. He was transferred to Cranbrook later that evening. He had a CT scan and we found out that he had five broken ribs, all acute fractures (broken all the way through), one broken in two places, and two ribs displaced. He also did have a punctured lung and had blood in his lung and air in his chest cavity. There were going to keep him in the hospital and see if he needed a chest tube.

Then we went to bed.

In the morning I woke up to my mom bursting into my room. She told me that my grandma had called and my grandpa had just died and she was on her way over there and could I call my siblings and let them know.

I should interject here that my grandpa had cancer. He had it for about four years and just recently had reached the point where they decided to stop treating him. It was a mixture of running out of different drugs that would work against that cancer and just the fact that his health was declining and chemo is rough on the body. He had just spent a few weeks in the hospital before they made the decision but he was supposed to continue to recover at home and have a few months. No one was expecting it to come this fast. I think it was something like ten days after he came home. So while it was not a completely unexpected thing for him to pass, it was still a shock and no one was ready.

A bit later than morning, my dad’s doctor came and told him that he was going to need a chest tube right away and that they would be moving him to the ICU.

The next week was basically split between my grandma’s house and the ICU. I took two days off work to be around and spend time with my mom, grandma, and dad. Then I went back to work and fit in visits to the ICU and my grandma’s around my work schedule.

My dad slowly got better and a week after the crash he came home and things quieted down. This was also the time I got switched on to night shift for a couple weeks and the forest fires got really bad.

The first week of night shift was not so bad. It was really smokey, but I was coping alright. The second week however, was a whole new story. This was last week. Early Tuesday morning the smoke rolled in a whole new kind of thick. It was insane. By the end of the shift I had a headache and as you know from the first paragraph of this post, it was to last a loooong time. By Thursday I was a complete mess. There were four of us on night shift (two of us on clean up and two millwrights) and we would sort of joke about who looked the most like shit each night. I’m pretty sure I won every single night that week. And I was in such a fog of smoke and pain that all I could do was weakly agree that I did, in fact, look like complete shit.

I thought that maybe getting off night shift would clear the headache. A caffeine pill gave me a very brief reprieve on Friday and I foolishly thought that perhaps I finally beaten the headache. Nope. It came back Saturday morning with a vengeance and I still could not manage to think straight. It felt like someone was forcefully and consistently stabbing me in the eyes.

I was supposed to be on night shift again this week. But thankfully something changed and on Friday afternoon I got a call saying I had been changed to afternoon shift. However, the headache persisted and I was beginning to think I either had a brain bleed, meningitis, or a brain tumour and on all accounts was on my way out of this world in a whirl of smoke and pain.

BUT! I did not die. I can’t remember which day (because it is all a smokey blur), but it rained and cleared a lot of the smoke out of the air. Then it got cold and kept raining and I could see the mountains again. When I came back to work on Monday I still had a headache, but I the mill yard was clear. One of the millwrights who had been on night shift with me the week before told me I looked 100% better than I had on night shift. I told him I still had a headache and he told me that the smoke had given him a headache too. (He said that he had a constant headache before his two week vacation to California. Once he got out of the smoke he said it took a full week for the headache to go away. When he came back into the smoke he said it within two days the headache was back).

About halfway through my shift on Tuesday it was like a light switch turned on inside my head. My headache wasn’t completely gone, but I felt the light come back on behind my eyes. It was like a fever breaking; the heavy fog I had been in just suddenly lifted. On Wednesday I woke up without a headache for the first time in over a week. Over the rest of this week I have slowly been feeling better and better. I think I went the whole day yesterday without feeling like anyone was stabbing my in the eyes.

.

So there is my update. I have had a kind of terrible month, but things have sort of calmed down and I have a bit of hope that they are (slowly) on their way up.

Here are some fun before and after photos of the mill yard:

 

ALSO. I did an interview/guest post on another blog about working in a sawmill and being one of the only women in a male-dominated work environment. You could read it if you want to here.

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