“A new year, a new beginning” … ya, that sounds a bit cliché but for the Panas family, as we head into 2012, it really is an accurate statement. Our lives are about to change.
We had many goals as we set out on our three month family adventure through Australia. To celebrate the closing of one chapter of trying to create a family to a new chapter of just “being” a family. To connect with each other. To reconnect with some great friends. To explore. Not only a country, but ourselves. Three months on the other side of the world provides the perfect opportunity to look at one’s life from a distance. It is much easier to gain insight from this perspective when given the time and distance than when you are engulfed in the everyday chaos that becomes your life. Plus, the many kilometres and hours on the Bruce Highway between east coast Australian towns gives you plenty of time to think … and talk … to each other.
They say having children changes your life. Could there be any more of an understatement? One would have to just read most of the past 700 of our posts to realize how much Andrew and Alex changed our lives. One of the most significant changes is about to occur.
Laurina and I had spent much of the past few years doing whatever we could for the Stollery Children’s Hospital and, in particular, the NICU at the Royal Alexandra. Fundraising, members of the advisory team, co-chairing the Family Centered Care Council, members of various committees. I found the “un-paid” work of my life very rewarding and a passion began to grow. I saw myself working in a hospital … I didn’t know in what capacity … but I knew this is where I belonged. The wheels were already in motion, I just had to decide to hop aboard.
During our many long Australian drives, Laurina suggested I consider getting my Degree in Health Administration. After reading the course descriptions I knew that this is exactly what I was looking for to help me make this transition. So, from Australia, I enrolled. Laurina had an opportunity to increase her time from 0.50 so she did and I had planned to reduce my work hours to 0.80 so I could study, spend more time with Alex and more time volunteering in the hospital.
After a couple years of thinking and dreaming, we finally had a plan. However, my first day back to work after (our three month journey), I came to the realization that it really was time to move on. Soon after, I made one of the most emotional and scary decisions of my life … I resigned from a job I’d had for 13 years in an industry I’ve known for almost 20 years. Laurina was now planning on going to full time and I would study full time. I thought about taking odd jobs wherever I could while trying to complete my degree as soon as possible so I could realize that dream of walking into a hospital … as staff. This was a gigantic leap of faith. I was leaving behind the security and safety of a career that has served me and my family so well and left to wonder how I would feed my family. The one hope I had was an interview scheduled later that week.
December 19th, 2011, will be remembered as a very significant day in the Panas family. After years of thinking then months of planning, this day, everything just came together. The morning started with an agreement with my previous employer that allowed me to continue to provide some work as a contractor – earning some income while helping them, my clients and colleagues with the transition of my departure. Then, I got word from the University (after 9 weeks!) that I was awarded almost 54 of the 90 credits I needed for my degree from my previous NAIT diplomas. I hadn’t expected any and now my degree would only take 1 instead of 3 academic years! Then, on the drive home from work, I got a call that would make me the happiest I’d been since I first held my two boys together for the first time.
On Wednesday, January 4, 2012, I will walk into the Stollery Children’s Hospital … not as a volunteer, not as a dad of sick kids, but as the new Coordinator of Family Centered Care. And in this role I will be able to put into action many of the strategies and priorities established by our Councils. And I will engage with children, their families and staff in creating and maintaining a climate where we ALL work as a team for delivery of care to our children. And the short life of Andrew and the strength of his brother, Alex, through me, will continue to affect the lives of so many others.
So, yes, 2012 is a NEW beginning.
But, with every beginning, it signifies an end of something else. I have worked with Bellamy Software for 13 years and, six years prior to that, as a client with Flagstaff County and the Battle River School Division. During this time I had met and worked with some amazing people. Many of which I’ve known for most of those 20 years. People who became more than just colleagues and clients, but friends and, even, family. People who have helped shape most of my adult and professional years and have prepared me for this next chapter in my life. To all of you, I say thank you … for your mentorship, patience, laughter, understanding, kindness and respect. Above all, I will always remember how supportive you were of my family during our most trying time. I have been blessed to work side by side with you and will carry these experiences with me as I move forward. I will not say good bye to you, just farewell to a significant chapter in my life.
We didn’t go to any big party last night. Instead, Laurina, Alex and I continued our focus on family by ringing in the new year together, as a family. We donned our hats and mitts and headed downtown to take in some of the excitement. We returned home, tucked Alex into bed and watched the ball drop in New York (after watching the fireworks from Sydney on youtube!) … and we thought of how many wonderful things we have to look forward to in 2012 and beyond. A new career, big anniversaries, weddings and many, many more family adventures.
Soon after midnight, I snuck into Alex’s room and watched him as he slept so peacefully. I flashed back to New Year’s Eve five years earlier. We had been called in as Andrew’s health had taken a downward turn. We arrived at the unit just before midnight. The medical team was frantically working with Andrew as we hovered overhead with Alex in the isollette behind us. The clock ticked midnight and I remember quietly, yet with hope, saying “Happy New Year” to Dr. Henson and the team. The noise and the chaos stopped for a brief moment. They acknowledged and replied … then continued caring for our little guy.
We hope your new year is filled with the same hope we had 5 years ago and that your 2012 is as bright and promising as it appears to be for the Panas Family.