The Hunter Family Chronicles (part 3)

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Somewhere around 11 am on New Year’s Day I got a call from my Dad. He informed me that he was in the hospital. He had taken himself to the emergency room because he was getting very lethargic, his feet were swelling, and overall he just wasn’t feeling right. They had immediately transferred him to the main branch of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in downtown Youngstown. The initial thought was that he had a leaky heart value. He seemed in good spirits and was feeling a little better. That day he was scheduled for a heart catheter. I knew that this was a pretty standard procedure and that he wasn’t in any real danger since this was mostly to diagnose, not treat, the issue, so I told him that i was going to stick with my original flight schedule of leaving Montana on January 2nd. On the morning of the second, I found out that the catheter had revealed some real issues. He had a hole in his heart and was being transferred to Cleveland Clinic. Obviously this news was more than a little nerve racking. I looked into flights and quickly realized that my only real options was to keep my scheduled flight from MT to Chicago, which landed around 7:30 pm, and catch a later flight to Cleveland. Although I would have loved to have Melanie and Brooks with me, we decided that it was best to have them go home once we landed in Chicago. He was sick and she was tired (and pregnant), and we didn’t even know what was going on with my Dad yet. I booked a 9:40 pm flight that landed in Cleveland around 11:40. Luckily I got a little time to rest on the flight back from Big Sky because the next 72 hours would prove to be exhausting.

When we landed in Chicago O’Hare I kissed Melanie and Brooks goodbye and started out towards my gate. I quickly realized that the flight that I had booked on American Airlines had been canceled. So had most of the other flights. They had rebooked me for a flight out the next morning. There was a huge snow storm that had hit the Midwest. We were lucky to have even made it back from Big Sky. Lines for the support desks were hours long and the wait time for calls seemed just as long. As I was walking down the terminal, I happened to look up and see a sign that said Cleveland. It seemed like fate. It was a United Airlines desk but I figured it was worth a shot. I explained to the lady working the desk that I had a medical emergency and that my flight had been canceled. I offered to buy a ticket on this flight, but she said that she wasn’t a licensed ticket agent and therefore couldn’t sell me one. To do that, I had to go wait in the hour long line at the help desk. That wasnt going to work considering the flight was leaving soon. The lady was great and helped me more than I expected. Honestly I assumed that I would get the normal bitchy airport employee, but was pleasantly surprised. She informed me that this flight had been delayed since 5 pm but was about to depart. She also told me that if I could get American Airlines to switch my ticket over to United, that she would get me on it! Great, now I just had get them to switch the ticket. I called the AA number that I had, and again was pretty surprised at how helpful the person was. However, switching the ticket wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Since the flight that I was trying to get on was so delayed, it was showing as already departed in their system and therefore they couldn’t do the transfer. After some brainstorming with both of them, we decided to transfer my ticket to a 5:30 am flight the next day, then the United employee would transfer me to the flight that was getting ready to leave for Cleveland. The American rep transferred the ticket and it seemed like we were all set, which was great timing considering that the flight was already boarding. Suddenly, I lost my connection. This would have been fine except that the United rep needed some more information. I was starting to panic. The flight was completely boarded and I was on hold! The gate agent was stalling for me and the the guy at the desk had my ticket printed and ready, he just needed a little more info. It felt like they were just about to close the doors when all of the sudden the guy yelled “I got it” and handed me the ticket. I boarded and they immediately closed the door behind me! The good news was that I was on one of the few planes leaving Ohare that night and even fewer planes landing in Cleveland. The bad news was that I got a seat next to a very big lady with a 3 month old baby. It was a minor inconvenience considering the situation.

I finally landed in Cleveland around 11 pm in the middle of the “polar vortex”. It was freezing, I mean below zero, and snowing like crazy. The guy at the car rental place was really cool. When I changed my rental from a mid size to an SUV the system tried to take my fee from $88 to $1042! He was pissed and agreed that that was ridiculous. He worked the computer multiple times until he got the bill down to a $10 surcharge. I could barely see as I drove to the hospital from the airport that night. I followed the only two visible tracks on the highway, but arrived safely at the Cleveland Clinic around 1:30 am that night. This day had restored my faith in people. There were multiple people that day that really helped me out and if any one of them hadn’t, I wouldn’t have made it to see my Dad that night. That night was just the beginning of another long and emotional week, but I know my Dad felt a little better that I was there…I know I was a little relieved to see him.

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The Hunter Family Chronicles

Anyone that knows my family will agree that we lead pretty hectic lives. As an example, our son Brooks, went out to eat sushi with us at three days old, yes that’s DAYS. Obviously he didn’t eat any, but he was there. He is 18 months old, has been on at least ten round trip flights, been to Montana twice, lived on Miami Beach for three months, resides in Chicago, and frequents Ohio. You get it, right? Sometimes our schedule borders on the point of insanity. To keep track of it all, and to share a few of the stories, I decided to start a series of blogs that I’ll title “The Hunter Family Chronicles”.

The holidays are always crazy for us. We head back to both Cleveland and Youngstown for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Since our son was born, we’ve tried to make our schedule a little less hectic while in Ohio, but we still make the trip. This year we went to Youngstown on Friday Dec 20th – Monday the 23rd and stayed at my Aunt Sis’s house. After getting in around 8 pm on Friday, we started our Christmas celebration early Saturday at my Step Dad’s house with my Mom, brother Kyle, and Grandma (Mema as she’s known to our family). After eating and opening gifts, we had a little downtime before getting ready for the evening.

20140103-193244.jpg By the time we packed the car with all the gifts for Brooks, we barely had room for our suite cases. The funny part about it is that this was only our first Christmas celebrations of many for the week. The day was already long, but after putting Brooks to bed, we got ready and went to my Aunt and Uncle’s company holiday party.

The next morning we headed to my Dad’s house. We were supposed to get there early for breakfast then head to church with him and the family of a good high school friend. Unfortunately we slept in and missed church. Just for clarification, at this point in my life, sleeping in means that we got up around 8am! After breakfast and more present opening by Brooks, we went to see Uncle D (my dads brother) and Aunt Doe and the rest of the Hunter side of the family. My cousin Jamie and her husband have three children, so it was a little hectic over there but Brooks loved hanging with his cousins. We ate homemade Italian wedding soup and pasta so it was all worth it. When we finally got back to my Aunt’s, around 6 o’clock, we were stuffed and tired out. When we walked in, most of my mom’s family was there to visit and eat leftovers. Needless to say, we ended up eating and drinking again. By the end of the night I was so stuffed and tired, they had to roll my ass into bed! This was the first year we weren’t going to be at Aunt Jeanine’s for Christmas, so it was great to get to spend more time with everyone that night.

The next morning we drove to Cleveland to stay with my in-laws. We noticed that Brooks had developed a bad cough that sounded like Croup. Considering that my brother in-law and sister in-law have a 10 week old baby, along with two other children at their house, and that was where we were supposed to stay, we decided to take him in to get checked. As expected, they said it was likely early stage Croup and gave him a steroid to use if it got worse. We ended up staying at my brother in-laws anyways. That night we finally got to meet our new niece, Nadia Vidovich. She’s a little dark haired cutie.

On Christmas Eve, I meet a friend for coffee to discuss an entrepreneurial venture he was considering. I love to talk with entrepreneurs, both established and aspiring. It’s exciting to talk to motivated people that are willing to take risks. After hitting the gym to burn off some of that excessive eating I had been doing, I met my brother in-law, his wife and kids along with Melanie and Brooks at a mall. We were finally taking Brooks to meet Santa!

20140103-181504.jpg I know, a little late right? We had tried a few times earlier, but the line was huge, so we figured we’d wait. It all worked out in the end and Brooks actually liked Santa. That night we went to church. Luckily we went to the children’s service, because my man Brooks did not feel like sitting still. At one point I thought he was headed for the pulpit!

On Christmas morning we woke up later than expected, 7:30 am. With a 10 day old, an 18 month old, a 2 year old, and a 4 year old in the house, we expected to be woken up by 5:30 am. My niece and nephew were excited to open their gifts. On the other hand, Brooks could care less. At this point, he had opened gifts five times already. I told my wife he probably thinks he’s Jewish and celebrating the 8 days of Hannakka. We finished opening presents and breakfast, headed to my mother and father in-laws, and ate again! I’m lucky that my wife and I are so into working out. If we weren’t, we’d be morbidly obese with the way we eat during the holidays.

The morning after Christmas we jumped back in our completely over-packed car and headed back to Chicago. We didn’t have any time to spare. We had to get home, unpack, do laundry, and repack to fly to Big Sky, MT where we were meeting some friend to spend New Years….