President's Column - April 2024

President's Column,

What a week! There are some things in life that truly just stop you in your tracks. This past week was one of those times for me…and especially for my brother, Tom.

As you all are aware, I am close with my brother. We work together and we live together. So, when something is wrong, I will generally find out about it rather quickly. Last week, he was not feeling his best. He had mentioned he was feeling a little “off” mid-week. At the time, I remember hoping he wasn’t coming down with anything, as viruses made their way around this winter. On our drive home Friday, I noticed that Tom was stretching his back out and trying to find a comfortable position to settle in. It caught my attention because that is usually me who is the one stretching my back and neck out. He had said his stomach was bothering him some too and he didn’t have much of an appetite. His discomfort stayed with him through the evening. 

On Saturday morning when I checked in on Tom to see how he was feeling, he stated he was the same. Not feeling the symptoms myself, but knowing my brother doesn’t complain much, I asked that he consider going to the hospital so we can get things checked out. Our family history of medical issues, especially heart related, have me hyper-aware of certain symptoms and I always err on the side of caution. Tom said he’d think about it and it wasn’t even 10 minutes that passed before he agreed to go.

Once at the hospital, they took Tom’s vitals and began to prepare for some tests. They did an x-ray of Tom’s chest and ran an EKG; both showing nothing abnormal. They kept him overnight to monitor the situation but released him on Sunday with instructions to follow up with his cardiologist. So, on Monday, we did just that. The cardiologist seemed to be more in tune with what Tom was explaining as his symptoms and with some simple tests of pushing on Tom’s abdomen, referred us to go back to the hospital. He stated something was going on with his lower quadrant abdomen that needed to be checked out. He suggested the hospital over a doctor’s office, so we didn’t have to wait for appointments and tests. He strongly hinted to go sooner than later and to not ignore things. We picked up on the urgency of the situation and went back to the hospital Tuesday morning. We began another day in the ER and saw more doctors and nurses throughout the day. At this point, we have all but confirmed that the likely culprit was Tom’s gallbladder. Surgery would be scheduled for Thursday. 

By the time I got home on Tuesday evening, I was spent! I put my phone down, walked the dog, cooked and ate dinner. It was no more than an hour that I had my phone down and when I checked it, I saw a message from my boss stating Good Luck tomorrow and to let him know how things go. I thought he must be mistaken but when I checked my texts further, I saw I missed a half dozen others and the schedule had been pushed up. Surgery was now for Wednesday. I spoke to Tom and he said they hoped to fit him in but he was the “extra” for the day, and there were no guarantees, but it seemed like it would be in the afternoon if at all on Wednesday.

When I checked in with Tom on Wednesday morning, nothing had changed. I hopped in the shower and by the time I got out, I had a text stating “Sounds like they’ll be coming to get me shortly.” What the heck? By the time I got to the hospital, Tom had already been taken back. He signed me up for text updates, so I knew what was going on as I waited in his hospital room. When I received the text that he was out, I figured I would be able to see him in the next 90 minutes or so and hopefully get an update from the surgeon. I received a phone call from the surgeon maybe 30 minutes later though and he stated it was a “mess in there” and we were fortunate he had surgery when he did. His gallbladder was badly infected, gangrenous and perforated. I was much more freaked out by the entire ordeal after I learned this. 

Tom was returned to his room an hour later or so and both looked and sounded good. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that a part of me was hoping he would have some funny things to say as he shook off the anesthesia. Later that afternoon, Tom received the same update I had from the surgeon and had the same reaction. This entire ordeal was very, very close to going really badly! I just thanked our lucky stars that they had moved the surgery up to Wednesday and they were able to get it out before the infection began to spread. Tom stayed in the hospital for two more nights as they wanted to keep him on a strong IV drip antibiotic for a few days due to the severity of the infection. I was able to pick him up on Friday and bring him home. 

This event stopped both Tom and I in our tracks and demanded our attention NOW! In discussing the events after it happened, I can say that we were both proud of our communication throughout the ordeal and how we acted when things didn’t seem right. Tom is happy to be home and be with Kelowna (his dog) who was super excited to have him back! This girl is also happy to have him back! And especially happy to get cleared of dog duty responsibilities and get her bed back to herself!

Jennifer Thoroe is Director of Customer Service & Business Development for National Steel Rule, a steel rule manufacturer based in Linden, NJ, USA. She joined forces with National on November 1, 2018 after working in the industry and volunteering with the IADD for over 15 years. She moved up to NJ from GA in the summer of 2019. One pandemic and three moves later, Jennifer is finally settling into her home near the Jersey Shores with her awesome super-fantastic brother Tom and his even cooler dog, Kelowna.

She has consistently used her time and talents to bring greater value to IADD members, whether through chapter activities, managing volunteers, Board service or overseeing myriad membership recruitment and retention activities. For this, Jennifer received the 2017 IADD Cutting Edge Award, one of the Association’s highest honors. She is the first woman to serve as IADD president.

The President's Column appears in The Cutting Edge, the IADD's monthly magazine.