Known to her Family as "Teresa"
My Wife, My Life, My Love
11 October 1999
My wife of 4 years is dead from a Giant Basilar Tip Aneurysm. She was only 29 years old and myself, our son Michael Anthony, our daughter Michelle Aviresa and our baby girl Mari Amber survive her. She has a brother, Ronald Faulk, and her mother, Debbie Mitchell, both of whom miss her terribly. As well as her Grandmother, Clara Conover and her uncle's G.A. and Neil.
I had met my wife on a fine October day (the 12th) in the fall of 1990. She was 20 years old and I was 27. I was a part time mobile DJ/MCEE as well as working full time at Philips Electronics in Tampa, Fl. Philips was having a party and I volunteered to DJ it. My friend, one Deborah Mitchell, had been trying to set me up with her daughter, to no avail. She had also been working on Teresa, also to no avail!
There I was setting up tapes and doing the announcements when she first saw me. I kid you not she actually asked her mother "Who is that hunk?!" Debbie told her that that is the guy that she has been trying to set Tia up with for the past 6 months. She was very surprised to say the least! She came up and introduced herself to me, which was a very good thing (I was terribly shy back then!). I remember that the first thing that I saw was those Beautiful Blue Eyes. Now I have 3 set's of Beautiful blue eyes to remind me of her. I see My Beautiful Blue-eyed, Blonde Haired Surprise every time I look into my children's eyes. God! I miss her!
What followed over the next 9 years was a tumultuous relationship. We broke up, we got back together. We were roommates and lovers and friends, all at once or one at a time. Finally, In the summer of '93, we were at a party. I had a feeling of Destiny ... of Fate, call it what you will, all day that day. I was sure that something was going to happen that would change my life FOREVER! While we were at the party, as friends, I got pretty well buzzed. I was watching her most of the time and at one point I wondered what it would be like if she just left and I never saw her again? I realized that I could not even bear that thought!
SO! I started digging through the kitchen drawers and cupboards. Everyone thought that I had flipped out! I must have scared them, for you see I stand at 6' 3". At that time I weighed in at 210lbs. (Give or take 5lbs.). Tia came up to me after I stopped and asked if I was all right. I didn't answer right away. I was down on one knee after having looked in a bottom cupboard. That was when I saw the shoelace on my left sneaker. I dove for it and practically tore my sneaker apart as I ripped my shoelace off. I twisted it and turned it and tied a knot in it. When I was done I had a ring ... sort of!
I was already on one knee and Tia was still standing there. I reached up and took her left hand in mine and asked, "Teresa Marie Parmer, will you marry me?"
Without missing a beat she replied, "YES!" and she fell into my arms.
The next morning, at her mother's house, when I had made sure that we were all sober and fully awake I did it again. I got down on one knee and took the 'ring' off of her finger and asked her to become my wife for the rest of her life. My Wife, My Life, My Love. Again she said yes!
We got married on October 12, 1994. We settled on that day because that was the first day that we had met. I never told her this, but it was also so that I could remember the date that we met and our anniversary, just in case the question ever came up.
Over the next 4 years and ten months we went through many changes. Three of those were our beautiful children. We got to know each other very well. We learned one of the main secrets of a good marriage...KEEP THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN. We also never left without telling each other those 3 most important words, "I love you."
One day, recently, we had a 'tense discussion'. I stormed out of the house and got in the car. I had to take care of some errands, anyway. I don't even remember what the argument...oh; sorry, 'tense discussion' was about! I got into the car and turned it over and was all set to go. I couldn't. Finally, I got out of the car and stomped back into the house. I pointed at Tia and said in a false harsh tone, "I LOVE YOU!" She pointed back at me and in the same tone said, "I LOVE YOU!"
We stared at each other and then started laughing. I went over to her and gave her a hug and a kiss. It's amazing how a good habit can defuse tense situations! There were other changes over the years. I became more outgoing and not quite so...harsh. She broke some old molds herself and became stronger in her faith.
She was pregnant with Mari Amber when it all began to hit the fan. In December of '98 she started getting dizzy. Her headaches became worse...yes, she had been having headaches on and off for at least the last 6 years. She wasn't the type to 'complain' about her problems. She was always concerned more about other people than about herself. One of the many things that drove me crazy and made me love her.
Her symptoms were:
The doctors thought it was the pregnancy. They put her on bed rest for the remaining months. Our Daughter, Mari, was born March 3. It's a wonder the aneurysm didn't burst during the delivery. Over the next Three months her symptoms got worse, not better. It was after the 5th visit to the UMC Emergency Room that one of the ER Doctors recognized Tia. The Doctor ordered a CAT Scan on her and they found something for My Wife was admitted immediately! At first the Doctors thought that it was a Tumor. It wasn't until after a MRI the next day when they saw that it was an Aneurysm.
The aneurysm was located at the top of her spinal cord and was compressing it. That is what was causing all of her symptoms, the fact that the aneurysm was pushing on the spinal cord. Tia's case was refereed to Doctors' Kopitnick and Samson at the UT Southwestern Medical Complex in Dallas, TX.
My wife and I arrived in Dallas June 6, 1999. We met with Dr. Kopitnick to find out what her condition was and discuss just what was going to happen. The Doctor described the procedure that he would use to bypass the Aneurysm. He would take a piece of her skull out above the right eye. The doctor would then measure the distance from the Facial Carotid Artery to the Posterior Cerebral Artery. He would then take a blood vessel from her left shinbone and graft it from the Facial Carotid Artery to the Posterior Cerebral Artery so blood would get to her brain. Then he would block the Aneurysm from the bottom.
This would, in effect, reverse the flow of blood in the Basilar Artery and, hopefully, shrink the Aneurysm in size. She weathered her first operation just fine! They went in and clipped her right Vertebral Artery. A week later she was scheduled for the main surgery. This was the all-important bypass!
They had made the incisions in her head, neck and left shinbone when disaster struck! A patient across the hall was having an embolization of an AVM. They had just finished when a blood vessel in another part of his brain hemorrhaged. The surgical team, very professionally, sewed the incisions closed and put my wife in the recovery room. They then rushed the other patient into surgery!
After a time Tia was moved up to the 5th floor to rest. The whole time that we were there she worried and fretted about the other patient. Was he all right? Did he make it? What his wife must be going through! I swear to God the almighty above that if she could have gotten up and gone to that man's wife, well, SHE WOULD HAVE! That was one of the things that drove me crazy about her.
It was also one of the things that I loved so much about her! Her capacity to care about her fellow man often put me to shame.
Thankfully, the surgical team was able to save that patient's life. I am going to find out exactly what happened to him and I will update when I can.
Fortunately, they continued Teresa's surgery the very next day. Turned out that the other patient was scheduled for surgery that day. Guess he couldn't wait, huh? Dr. Kopitnick was doing a post-op follow up on Teresa after the surgery. She surprised him by opening her eyes and squeezing his hand! He didn't expect her to wake up until the weekend! The Doctor had to tranquilize her so that she could get some rest.
My blond-haired blue-eyed surprise spent about a week in ICU. I spent about a week sleeping on the chairs in the ICU waiting room. [OUCH!!] Then we were moved up the 5th floor where she continued to improve every day. After another week we were moved up the 8th floor where they would intensify her Rehabilitation.
She was there for one week only. Then her Aneurysm bled! She was rushed back down to ICU where she was put on a respirator. She had that blasted tube down her throat for a week and a half! After it was removed she could barely speak because her throat was so very raw. It was very frustrating not to be able to hear that beautiful soprano voice of hers. She was reduced to using a letter board in order to make herself understood!
Now I know why we never played charades. I'm a lousy guesser! She would try to sign for what she wanted and I always had a hard time trying to figure it out. She was in ICU for 2 weeks then they moved her up to the 5th floor again. By this time we had been there long enough that there was hardly anybody on the staff that we did not know!
That last week was mostly downhill. Oh, My Wife started out strong, but the walls of the Aneurysm were giving up the ghost. By Friday Teresa had lost the use of her left hand and arm. It was paralyzed. Saturday was the worst. She lost the use of her right hand and arm. At the same time she could only look down, when Tia tried to raise her eyes she could not hold them still. Try holding your head absolutely still and look up and down rapidly. Now multiply that by ONE HUNDRED!! She couldn't even watch the tape that I had made of our children!
There is a huge collection of Quilts hanging in glass cases all over that hospital. Tia loved quilts. That Saturday afternoon she spelled out on the letterboard one solitary word. It was "Angle". The nurse asked her if she meant "Angel". Teresa nodded yes! She signed that she saw an angel in the pattern of the Quilt that was hanging on the wall in her room. We looked and, Lo and behold, there it was. I do wonder every now and then if she had actually seen a real Angel. Sometimes I really do believe so!
I went outside after a nurse had come in the room to be with Tia. When I got back a half-hour later the population in her room had quadrupled. One or two of them would call out her name just trying to get some response. I looked and saw that she was unconscious. They had wheeled in an EKG machine and told me that she lost consciousness and started to have trouble breathing.
The rest is a blur. I felt so very numb, but I tried handling the situation as best as I could. Sometimes I don't think that I did very well. Other times I think that I did okay. There are times when I know that I did the best that I could and that no matter what I did it would not have changed the outcome.
Finally, Doctor Kopitnick and his resident Dr. Steele took me into the little room just off of the ICU waiting room. My heart sank and my soul...my soul felt like it had just been delivered a mortal blow. I saw the way that they walked and the expressions on their faces...and...I knew. I just knew.
They looked so miserable. I am going to carry my memory of that eternity in that little room for the rest of my life. I may have just suddenly become a widower, but they lost a patient. They were fighting for her life and they lost! God, I pray for them every day. I pray that they don't get discouraged and that they feel the Love that I received from My Wife. God Bless them and everything that they do!
Fight! Fight, against the dying of the Light!
I'm not exactly sure just who wrote that verse. I think it was Tennyson. It just speaks volumes to me. And that is exactly what My Teal did. She fought with all her breath and spirit and soul to stay and to heal. I guess that GOD had different plans for her.
One of the situations that have vexed me so is that we could not donate any of Tia's organs. Teresa had told me that she wanted to be an Organ Donor. I could not think of any other way that her life could be so Honored. I thought that it would be some kind of Justice that she could still give and help even in death. Alas, it was not meant to be. It seems that My Wife had the precursors to Lympghnoma, as well as cancerous bacteria.
Teresa Marie Strasser's funeral was a beautifully simple and elegant affair.
The picture that you, hopefully, saw at the top is a 'Glamour Shot' photo. She was very surprised when I sprung it on her. We used that photo for her Obituary and for the Funeral Home to prepare her body. They did a fantastic job! No one could tell what had happened just by looking at her remains. Since I am her husband it was up to me to organize the 'chain-o'-events'.
I had Teal's mother come up first. Since her brother was next they decided to sing a beautiful song for Teresa. They did it Justice. After that I got up and introduced my parents. I wanted to give them a chance to say something for they regarded My Teal as a Daughter. Not just as a Daughter-in-law. Then it was my turn. I had written something the night before, but I couldn't use it. I ended up winging it. I don't remember much of what I said, but that is okay.
She had told me that she wanted to be Cremated and her ashes spread in the mountains. I asked her which mountains and she replied that it did not matter. As long as it was in the mountains. I reminded her that we had planned to walk the Appalachian Trail after our children were older. She had thought about it and said that that would do just fine
October 12, 2000, I will be in the mountains along the Appalachian Trail. There is a spot that I had visited once that I had wanted to show her. Her eyes would have lit up and widened at the awe and majesty of it. On this mountain there is a short trail that hides this sight until you are right there!
There is a 20-foot drop off and there, at your feet, are the Great Smokey Mountains. The vista took my breath away and I'm about as cynical as a person gets! I could only imagine what joy and awe and wonder and...all those emotions she would have experienced. That is all I can do now.
As I know what my wife would have said, so I say to you dear reader. Please, take care of yourself and your Loved ones. Live life, don't just survive it.
And last, but most importantly, she would have said this: Love you guys, God bless!"
Update 14 Jan 2000
My loving wife, Teal, would watch as I would build yet another computer for a friend or customer. She was always telling me that she admired the fact that I taught myself all that I, presently, know about computers. She wanted me to go to College so intensely that when I lost my job in April of 1999 she convinced me to apply for school instead of finding another job.
Well, we all know what has happened between then and now. I have yet to go to school! I am glad of it, for if I was in school she would have insisted that I stay and continue my studies instead of being with her at the Hospital. I needed to be there with her until the very end.
Now, for some good news. I AM GOING TO COLLEGE!!! With the help of some friends, I am now prepared to attend South Plains College. I will register for classes on the 13 of January and school starts the following Tuesday. I must admit that I am excited ... and yet ... and yet.
I will do my best, never fear! I owe it to Teal and to myself and our children to do no less. Never give up, never surrender! All things are possible through HIS son, Jesus Christ. It is true, Love is the most powerful and potent of emotions! And yet, I miss my wife so.
Update 30 Aug 2000
It has been one year as of August 29, 2000. One long, lonely year that I thought I would never have to go through! There are times (at least once a day) that I still can't believe she's gone. Teresa's death still hits me pretty hard just about every day.
My kids and I are doing as well as can be. Mari, the baby, is 1½ years old and she is a firecracker! She is walking and talking. Well, trying to talk anyway. Michelle will be 5 years old in January, 2001; however, she is already in Kindergarten. Michael, the oldest, is in 1st grade and he and his sister, Michelle, are both going to a private school.
As for me, I am attending the Fall Semester at South Plains College. This is my 3rd semester and I will be attending the Spring Semester here as well. After the Spring Semester I will move myself and the kiddo's back to Tampa, Florida. That is where my immediate family lives.
I want to thank you all for your stories and support. Reading these stories and knowing that there are other people out there in the same boat has helped a lot. Reading these stories and knowing that there are survivors out there has helped as well! Keep up the good work and tell those stories as often as possible. Let those that hear the stories judge them as they will. The Rest is Silence.
Discussion, comments, or questions: David Strasser
© Copyright 1999 David