It was the 14th of October…
Its been four years since Ashley went into cardiac arrest, it seems like yesterday. “And I bet right now you’re probably thinkin’ That it’s crazy I remember every detail, but I do.” Thomas Rhett
I am the worst with remembering names, I don’t know why. But the details, those are things that I remember. Like if I meet someone new I will remember what he or she was wearing, what drink they had, where they are from and how annoying they are. But I won’t remember their name… (I am sure there is some subconscious thought going on there that erases their name from my memory.)
I have a lot of memories from these past four years. Some good, some bad, some silly, some sad… But the most memorable moments are when I was fully present. Whether by choice (putting my phone down and enjoying my boys tell me about their Minecraft creations) or by force (having to perform CPR on my wife.)
This day is still unforgettable. It hits me different each year, but I still have an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I am grateful that I got to see her and joke with her and steal a kiss from her before work. I am grateful for God making sure Ash was in the safest place she could be when she went into cardiac arrest. I am grateful that our school nurse Candy was right there talking to her. I am grateful that my colleagues, principal, and administrators were there to activate EMS and made sure that I got to Ashley ASAP. I am grateful that Candy continued to be cool, calm, and collected when I arrived on the scene. Her presence allowed me to “not freak out” and assist her with CPR. I am grateful that our school has quick access to AEDs. I am grateful to be able to literally breath life back into Ash and be at her side when she regained consciousness. I am grateful for being able to ride with her to hospital in the ambulance. I am grateful for everyone in the ER at Gwinnett Medical who took care of her, reassured her, and made sure she was okay when I couldn’t be with her. I am grateful for the friends that came by our side to check on me and check Ash, the friends that took care of our boys while I was at the hospital. I am grateful for the colleagues that took over my classes and made sure my students knew that Ash was okay and that I was okay. I am grateful the family that I have and who have been so supportive of me these past 8 years of cancer, cardiac arrest, and loss. I am so grateful for a COVID free world in 2016 where I was able to be by Ash’s side 24 hours a day. (I never slept while she was in the hospital, I just watched her in amazement as she slept peacefully. Never questioning why but thanking God that He was there with her, with us.) I am grateful for the friendships that have gotten stronger and for the new friendships I have made. I am grateful for the people in my life that are helping me figure all of this out, open my heart, and have hope. And I’m most grateful for faith, hope, forgiveness, love and gratitude itself . These five gifts have gotten me through some of the hardest times in my life. But that is God’s Grace, which we should all be grateful for.
I know I can’t live in the past. I think the COVID world makes reminiscing and wishing things were the way they were more tempting. “Things were better before, things were easier, things were more fun…” Maybe that is true but for a lot of us, there were some pretty awful times before COVID as well.
Often we get stuck on why something happened. This traps us in the could haves, should haves, and would haves. Basically stuck.
To get “unstuck” I have focused on being present, focusing on what not why, (I have a blog on that is the works), enjoying what I can, when I can and being grateful for what I have. This is all I or any of us really can do. Though this a harder task than it seems, it also is more rewarding than being stuck in the past.
I hope you re-read this blog and find some gratitude in your life today in honor of Ashley’ memory.
So, this is a re-release of an original Facebook Post I wrote on Oct 14th, 2017 about Ashley surviving cardiac arrest with a new prologue and epilogue. At first I was just going to repost the original as I had done the past two years. But I felt this post needed an obvious update because Ashley has since passed due to unrelated complications from her neuroendocrine cancer and I wanted to show that I am even more grateful for the events of that day. More importantly this post gives me the opportunity to bring awareness to Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). Most of us know that October is Pink for breast cancer awareness and support but October is also SCA awareness month and I encourage people to get trained and promote easy access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs).
“It was the 14th of October / Had that T-shirt off your shoulder”
I really like Thomas Rhett’s song “Unforgettable.” It’s an upbeat, fun song about the first time he met his wife and how he remembers every detail.
I remember the first time I met Ashley. It was at Mill Creek football game. I introduced myself as Mike, the trainer for Mill Creek. So, to her, my name was Mike the trainer. We were work acquaintances for most of that football season but I must have impressed her or grown on her because she asked me out 2 months later we went out after an October football game. 10/15/04 to be exact.
We met up at a local establishment and she was there with some friends. The friends left but Ashley and I hung out and talked for several hours. I didn’t know then that I would want to spend the rest of my life with her but I knew I wanted her friendship.
Anyone who had Ashley as a friend, knows what kind of person she is and how she will be there for them when they are in need. Be there when they are happy or sad, be there to tell inappropriate jokes to lighten the mood. Be there to speak her mind about things that annoy her. She had the ability to make strangers feel welcome when you might be feeling out of place. So much so that this Chicagoan moved 750 miles to start my adult life in the South and never looked back. With Ashley, we built a life that I am proud of and became part of a community that is like extended family.
Fast forward to the 14th of October 2016. This is also a day that is unforgettable. It started out as normal enough Friday. I leave for work while everyone is sleeping. Ashley gets herself and the boys ready for school, takes a cute selfie with them, loads up the car, drives and drops them off at then brings me Starbucks in the Fieldhouse where I have class. We laugh about our silly boys, she shows off her outfit: “Team Taube” shirt and a purple J. Crew cardigan. Purple for pancreatic cancer awareness. I told her I liked her sweater and she commented on how she loved that sweater but they don’t make it anymore otherwise she would get other colors. I asked how she was feeling since she was on chemo that week. And she smiled and said “actually pretty good,” without missing a beat. I kissed her goodbye and said have a great day.
I go back to my classroom waiting for students to walk down for class and then my phone starts ringing from multiple numbers at once. I answer the one I recognize, one of the administrators. I’m getting called to bring the AED because someone, possibly a cheerleader, has collapsed. (Being called to the school for an injury or emergency is not out of the ordinary for me. But when they say bring the AED, I know it’s urgent.) I fly up to school still not knowing what the emergency is or who it is.
I arrive and it is Ashley. Our school nurse Candy, our principal and several administrators have already activated EMS. They have just hooked her up to the AED. The AED gives her the lifesaving shock and then Candy and I perform CPR until she begins breathing again just as EMS comes in the door.
Ashley comes to and does not know anything of what just happened and is scared but she had me there right next to her.
So, when I usually tell this story, everyone always asks how was I able to do that? I first answer by saying “training.” I first became a CPR instructor in 2002. I estimate that I have certified over 1500 students, coaches, and administrators since then. But the true answer is God’s Grace. You see when I got in that room and saw Ashley lying on the ground I went from being “Mike the Athletic Trainer” to Mike, Ashley’s husband who was confused and scared. How can this be, I was just laughing with her, she just brought me coffee, why isn’t she answering me, why is this happening?
As I try to get Ashley to “wake up,” I feel Candy’s hand on my shoulder and her calmly tell me, “Mike the AED needs to analyze.” That’s snaps me out of it and I let the AED analyze. We stand clear and it advises a shock. Ashley is shocked once. Candy immediately begins chest compressions and I take over breaths. After 2 minutes of CPR the AED reanalyzes and states no shock advised continue CPR. At some point during that second set of cycles and breaths Ashley tries to raise her arm and then say something. Candy is still doing compressions and I tell her to stop Ashley is coming to. Just then the paramedics walk in. Ashley is scared, confused, and has no recollection of what happened. I tell her everything is going to be okay and ride with her to the hospital in the ambulance. I’m still in “emergency mode.” I’m calling her parents, her family, my family. Coordinating rides for the boys, finding someone to get Baxter, our dog…
We arrive at the Hospital and I jump out the front seat and go around to the back to meet Ashley. She is no longer scared and she can see the relief on my faced but even more confused. She asks why we are at the hospital and what’s going on.
(A side effect of her cardiac arrest and face planting on the mailroom floor was amnesia. Over the next few hours I would repeat what happened at least twenty times. Each time I am very patient with Ashley and go through the whole story, only to have her forget twenty minutes later. This continues so much so that several hours later when my sister in law Ingrid arrives at the hospital Ashley asks again why she is there and I bluntly say, “you went into cardiac arrest at school, we had to do CPR on you and you got shocked by the AED.” Ingrid gives me a look like that was cold and heartless. I tell her don’t worry she won’t remember. Sure enough 5-10 minutes later, Ashley is asking “so why I am here?”)
So back to arriving at the hospital…They shuttle her into a room and keep me in the hall. Now that I can’t be with her, the gravity of everything hits me. I must have went pale because, whoever I was talking to has me sit down and offers me water. Then the bring me back to a room and all I remember is them asking for Ashley’s insurance info. I begin to pray and pray and pray.
I’m praying that she will be okay, I am praying that Ashley won’t have to spend Fischer’s birthday in the hospital, I pray for strength for me to get through this, but mostly I am praying thanking God that he took care of Ashley and put the right people in place when Ashley needed them.
Five days later she is out hospital with a new state of the art ICD, memory in tact and a “long” road to recovery. Ashley wanted to go back to teaching the next week and coaching that day. I did not let that happen but I could not keep her from coaching long and she got medical clearance to coach sectionals and state.
Ashley was always apologetic to me for “having” to deal with her health issues. But from my perspective, I’m happy and grateful that I “got to” deal with them. I also “got to” have dinner with her, go to concerts with her, spend a vacation at the beach, watch her read with our boys, snuggle them before bed, cheer on Fischer at soccer, be room mom, plan birthday parties, design Pokémon costumes, coach her team to another State Championship, and countless other things we take for granted. But above all, I got to witness her live life as best as she could.
The boys and I Choose Happy for the blessings. We did not have an easy year, but even when we are at our worst and missing Ashley so bad it hurts, we can still feel her love.
I am grateful for the 14th of October and for God putting Ashley in the right place at the right time at Mill Creek on that day in 2016. I am even more grateful that he put me at Mill Creek 15 years ago so we could meet and have that first date.
We were given (I say “we” meaning me, Fischer, Baker, her parents Dot and Lee, my family Ashley’s family, our friends, Ashley’s friends, colleagues, acquaintances, blog readers, etc. you get the point) we were given two years, two months and six more days with Ashley. It wasn’t enough. It will never be enough.
But then again that was 797 more days with Ashley, and that I am forever grateful for…
After I finished writing this blog the other night, I wasn’t able to sleep so I went on my phone and to Facebook. The first post I saw was this picture posted by my friend Bobby. It’s a picture of Promontory Point on the Southside of Chicago by photographer Ionut Lupu. This is where I proposed to Ashley. I’ll take this as a sign that she is still with me and has a great view.
Maybe I need to post more.
For more information about sudden cardiac arrest, please checkout the following link: