Monday, April 6, 2015

An Easter Power Outage

'Twas the night before Easter
When all through the house
Everyone was sleeping
And the power went out!

In the wee hours of Easter Sunday, Jeff and I were startled awake with the blaring beep of his ventilator alarm. I threw my covers off, stumbled over to Jeff's bed, and checked the alarm. On the rare occasion it beeps in the middle of the night it's usually because he has a spasm which changes the pressure in his lungs. In cases like that, the vent alarm would blink "High Pressure." Or sometimes if his exhaust trap becomes full with condensation, it might pull on the tubes, and the connection from the tube onto his trach might disconnect, and a "Disc Sense" alarm will blink. But this time the alarm was blinking something completely different.

Power Lost

"Power Lost"? I said, my confusion evident. We looked around the room and saw ... nothing. No green clock numbers to tell us the time. No street light peeking in our blinds.

"Our power's out." Jeff said gruffly.

His vent had automatically shifted to internal back-up power, but before doing so, it abruptly let us know that it was no longer drawing power from the wall socket.

And we had approximately 45 minutes until it would stop altogether.

This was our first time experiencing a power outage since Jeff's injury. And when your husband uses life-support equipment 24/7, a power outage is one of your worst nightmares.

My brain immediately went into overdrive.

I need to get the wheelchair in here so we can plug this vent into the external battery.
What if I have to turn on the generator?
Where's the notes my father-in-law left for that?
Where's the extension cord?
How much battery is left on our phones?

I grabbed the big flashlight from under my bed and lit the room, hoping the light would start to clear my mind.

Jeff, on the other hand, was not even slightly worried about the fact that we had no power. He mumbled something about having plenty of internal vent power to last "a while" and that the power would be on soon enough. Nothing to fry over.

He even went so far as to suggest we do some Internet browsing on our phones while we waited for the power to return.

Here I am thinking this is the start of the zombie apocalypse, and my husband wants to do online shopping!

Our mindsets could not have been farther apart in the pitch dark of this Easter morning.

I called the Outage Center of our utility provider and listened to the automated message about the loss of power in our area. A widespread outage had occurred due to equipment failure, and they were estimating that power would be restored by 10am.

10am!!! That was NINE hours away!

Jeff calmly assured me that the power would be back on waaaay before that.

I wasn't buying it (and I wasn't too happy with how nonchalant he was considering the circumstances!)

I took the flashlight with me down the hall, woke up my mom, and asked her to hold the flashlight while I drove Jeff's chair into our room - I had to be ready to plug in his bedroom vent into the external battery.

After getting the chair in place, I went into Evie's room to check on her with my flashlight pointing down. I had naively expected to find her fast asleep because she usually sleeps through this kind of stuff. But it was Easter, and she was excited. And apparently on high alert for any unusual noises that could possibly signal the arrival of the Easter Bunny. She was sitting up in her bed.

"What's going on?" Her voice was clear. She'd evidently been awake for some time.

We lost power, and I'm working on Daddy's vent.

Her eyes were wide with wonder. But Daddy's vent was of zero concern to her. With my flashlight illuminating the floor, the white powder footprints Nana the Easter Bunny had left earlier were shining like diamonds in the darkness.

She drew in her breath, "Ahhhh! Look!"

I sighed a you've-got-to-be-kidding-me sigh and said dryly, "Looks like the Easter Bunny was already here."

"Is it time to get up?"

"No. We have many hours to sleep."

Thankfully my mom stepped in at this point and ushered Evie down the hall to where they would spend the night in Nana's room, though they would be awake for the next hour talking of the Easter Bunny the entire time.

I returned to our room to find Jeff still as unconcerned as ever about the loss of power.

It was then that I realized that the power was not just affecting his ventilator - but it also caused his special air mattress to deflate.

Jeff sleeps on an alternating air mattress, meaning it turns him slightly from side to side so that he doesn't develop a pressure sore. And it works great.


And so my mind starts again:

I'm going to have to turn him every couple hours and prop him with pillows.
Where are the extra pillows?
Crap - his head is elevated and I can't lay him flat without power.
How will I turn him with his head elevated?
He might have to sleep in his chair tonight.
What if the power never comes back on?
I should've watched more Doomsday Preppers.

And just before my mind spiraled too far down the rabbit hole...

WOOSH - the power came back on.

The high-pitched hum of the ventilator combined with the low rumble of the air mattress sounded like a chorus of "Hallelujah!" to my muddled mind.

Jeff gave me a tired, "See, everything's fine." He was asleep within seconds of the restoration of power.

I of course was wide awake, high on adrenaline from the chaos in my mind of the last hour.

Luckily, the rest of our Easter was mellow and uneventful.

So what are my takeaways from this power-outage Easter 2015?

When the zombie apocalypse does finally hit, I know what characters Jeff and I will be: Jeff will be the level-headed voice of reason, and I'll - apparently - be the lunatic wife.

But seriously, this event just shows how Jeff and I always manage to balance one another out. While my mind was racing miles ahead, he was calmly reminding me to take it one minute at a time. (Though I'd like to point out that if the sh*t really did hit the fan, my neurotic ramblings would probably have saved the day.)

Just sayin' ...


Here's a couple pictures from Easter night of Jeff and Evie relaxing.

With the power on.

Happy Easter!

And a huge shout out to Southern California Edison for truly saving the day.

1 comment:

  1. I'm currently visiting friends in Pretoria, South Africa. This is my third visit and this time I've been introduced to something new; load shedding. If you're not familiar with it the very basic explanation is that it's planned power outages (because the power plants here in SA are unable to produce enough power) where they cut power in certain areas on a fixed schedule to prevent the power grid from being overloaded.

    Today we went spent the afternoon in a game reserve and we were all too busy looking at animals and taking photos of them to check the news or Twitter on our phones. After watching a stunning sunset by the exit of the game reserve we set off and headed home. During the drive back to the house we noticed that it seemed like the power was out in an area we went through - it was VERY dark. Someone mentioned it might be load shedding. I checked my timeline and our suspicion was confirmed. "Stage 2 load shedding from 10 am to 10 pm."

    That meant we'd be without power between 8 and 10 this evening. My first thought when I saw the tweet was: "Crap! My iPhone only has about 20% of battery left because I've been taking pics with it all day and I unplugged my laptop before we left the house this morning and it was less half charged." We got back to the house at about 6:30 pm and we all hurried to get our various electronics plugged in to charge as much as possible in the next 90 minutes so we'd have something to entertain us while we're without power. To my friend Ash and I the #1 priority was to charge our laptops so we could watch Daredevil (we're slightly *cough* addicted to that show...;-)).

    As I was frantically digging out the charger for my phone out of my bag and plugged it in and then plugged my MacBook charger back in this post came to my mind (I actually read it last week). I immediately felt silly for feeling so panicky about not having battery enough on my laptop to watch a couple of episodes of a TV-series I'm addicted to. It hit me that there are people that are dependent on power for more serious reasons and that it can actually have big consequences when the power goes out.

    I guess the good thing about load shedding is that it's (supposed to) be done at a fixed schedule and when it's implemented Eskom (the power provider) alerts the public that it'll be happening. People (mostly) have time to prepare and know when and how long they will be without power. Unfortunately it doesn't always start on schedule. And sometimes it takes longer than the scheduled two hours for the power to come back. For most people it's not a big deal to burn candles for an hour longer or not have power on their laptop for half an hour, but I realize that for people like Jeff, who depend on life support equipment, a power outage can have serious consequences.

    I'm glad the power came back quickly and without causing too much stress for you on Easter Sunday. I hope you and your family have a great week. :)


    PS! I've been reading your blog for a while. You and your family really is an inspiration to me. Thanks for sharing your journey.