In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Visit to the Local Hospital

In my last update about my back, I was counting the minutes until I got cortisone shots in my back. I wrote, and I quote, "I am literally counting the minutes until May 28th, which is the soonest I could get in to get shots.  I don't get that either?  Anyone who is getting shots is in pain, but it takes two weeks to get an appointment?  I'm not totally sure I'll make it.  I don't know what the alternative is, but I might find out."

It is the last sentence that I want to highlight:  "I don't know what the alternative is, but I might find out." Find out, I did.  It turns out, the alternative is, an ambulance has to come and get you off the floor and take you to the hospital.  I could not have made these things up about my life, if I tried.  So, here is the ridiculous story that started last Wednesday.

I had just finished taking Spencer to his year end parent teacher conference.  We returned home for the official start of summer break.  We were home for all of about 5 minutes, when I bent/squatted down to look at one of my dear cherubs in the eye.  In mid squat, I crumpled to the ground in severe pain.  Fortunately, I had my phone on my person and I scrolled through the first group text I could find and pleaded, "Someone Come Now Help."  I didn't even know who was receiving this SOS.  My kids started doing chores that they had never asked to do before and probably will never ask to do again, in attempt to do anything that could help their groaning mommy.  Not long after, my sweet peeps started arriving, phone calls were being made and plans were getting drawn.  It wasn't until I discovered that there was no possible way on this green earth I could go to the bathroom in the appropriate place, that I was in serious trouble.  I literally couldn't move an inch without excruciating pain. I couldn't crawl, I couldn't stand, I couldn't sit and I couldn't even shimmy across the floor.  I could only lay on my back, with my left leg in the air.  After my attempt to get to the bathroom failed miserably, the only option was to have the paramedics come.  I cringe every time I think about them coming.  There is this nagging little voice that keeps telling me that it is embarrassing that I had to go by ambulance.  Everyone is tempted to say, "you shouldn't be embarrassed," but I bet a whole lot of you know that deep in your thought bank, you might be the tiniest bit embarrassed, too.  

Anyway, they gave me a very special drug called Fentinol.  It was beautiful.  I wish that was available on the open market.  However, it only lasts about 20 minutes.  For the next two days, I was in the hospital, just trying to get ahead of the pain.  I did manage to get some cortisone shots a week early and they did give me some relief from the knee up, but from the knee down, it was another story.  It gave me increased pain, loss of feeling in my foot and loss of strength in my leg, to the point of falling over when I tried to stand the first time.  It was another "what in the world?" moment.  I feel like I could write a book called, "What in the World?" and each chapter could describe each little story, where life should get easier, and it only gets harder.  

The night I got the shots was a definite all time low.  After countless months of pain and trying to push through it, I literally had nothing left to muster.  I wanted to give up.  I don't even know what I wanted to give up on, but I just wanted to give up.  

That night, nobody was slated to spend the night in my little hospital room with no extra place to sleep.  I had flown solo for a few hours the night previous, so I thought I could make it again.  God knew better.  At about seven or eight at night, two friends, Liz and Brooke, came to visit me.  I was OK for a while, but as night came closer, my pain did the same.  The nurse was giving me the max amount of morphine, etc. . . ,  but I just wasn't responding.  At one point, Liz suggested maybe just putting some pressure on me to distract my brain from the pain. It helped slightly, but I needed more.  So, I asked her, if it wouldn't be too weird, if she could just lay in my bed with me and rub my back.  So, hour after long hour, Brooke, Liz and later Christina, gave me the sacrificial gift of just being by me.  They gave up their sleep to take turns rubbing my back and just being close to me.  Every time I think of it, I cry.  I don't know why I'm so emotional about it?  In those dark dark hours, I really didn't feel like I was going to make it.  I really didn't.  In the morning, I told them that I seriously felt like they had saved my life.  That sounds so over the top dramatic, but it is how I felt and still feel.  Upon recounting that story to another friend, she started talking about how little preemie babies need touch more than anything else, to help them survive.  I was like that (super cute) preemie little baby.  I needed touch and my body needed to know that someone was there and that I was loved.  I will forever be struck with the truth that a friend to love me and be close to me was far more effective than high powered narcotics.  Even though, I am always asking where God is, throughout these long months, there are these little moments where I feel like God is so present.  He knew I needed someone (somethree) that night and that I needed their touch.   I want to take this moment to say that I am thankful for the most amazing friends in the world.  I'm so indebted every single one of them.  

In the morning Nurse Ratched  (actually she was a doctor) pretended to care how I was doing, so I expressed my worries over never walking again, and she replied, "Only time will tell," and then she said, "smile,"  as if this answer shouldn't disturb me on any level.  I then used that weak leg to kick her in the shins!  Just kidding, but I sure wanted to.  

By the afternoon, I was breaking records with my newly purchased walker and so they sent me home.  Trepidatiously, I left the morphine giving walls of the hospital and have pretty much laid in bed until my appointment this morning, for fear that any other sudden movement might catapult me right back into the swinging doors of an ambulance.  The appointment today pretty much confirmed my suspicions of setting a date for surgery, which is what I think I need.  Next Tuesday, I will go in for surgery on my lowest disc.  So, I return to my knees and beg again for healing and a successful surgery.  

My mind is a battlefield right now.  I'm desperately trying to hold the line right now.  I am reading, "Walking Through Pain and Suffering," by Tim Keller, which is helping me to hold that line.   

Third, we learn that it is perhaps when we are still in unrelenting darkness that we have the greatest opportunity to defeat the forces of evil. In the darkness we have a choice that is not really there in better times.  We can choose to serve God just because he is God. In the darkest moments we feel we are getting absolutely nothing out of God or out of our relationship to Him.  But what if then-when it does not seem to be paying or benefiting you at all-you continue to obey, pray to, and seek God, as well as continue to do your duties of love to others?  If we do that-we are finally learning to love God for himself, and not for his benefits.  
And when the darkness lifts or lessens, we will find that our dependence on other things besides God for our happiness has shrunk, and that we have new strength and contentment in God himself.  We'll find a new fortitude, unflappability, poise, and peace in the face of difficulty. The coal is becoming diamond.   


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Kids Have Stepped on Too Many Cracks!

Say what?  How is summer actually here?  Maybe I'm making this up, but I seriously think that it snowed the same week that my girls got out of school for summer break.  I am underwhelmingly not prepared for summer at all.  Sadly, this is the case, because my herniated disc is still quite miserable.  I know I look like I can walk and function, but it's all a ruse, people.  If I hadn't lost Dave and I didn't require so much tending to over the past two years, I'm sure I would be laying my pain on thick to everyone and anyone who would listen or even pretend to listen.  I'm just sick of feeling so needy and like such an impossible case.

I, finally, did meet with a surgeon this week and I feel like I have some glimmer of hope of getting out of pain.  A million times over I have heard NOT get back surgery under any circumstances, but I just don't think I can take it anymore.  I am going to try some cortisone shots first and I really pray for the millionth time that I will return to normal and that I can avoid surgery.  But, at this point, I am willing to go under the motha loving knife.

I still can't believe that I managed to lose my husband and gain a herniated disc, all within ten months.  Surely, life will get easier?  Right?  I seriously feel like, if I can get out of pain, I can do anything.  I can easily be a single parent that can pack healthy lunches, cook dinner, get definition in my triceps, volunteer in my children's classrooms, reads books every night, sends out Birthday cards on time and wash sheets twice a week (not that I would actually do that, but I COULD!).  However, this summer I feel like I am back to the beginning of last summer.  I'm just trying to survive.  Just trying not to fold.

My pain was 100 times more manageable a month ago, but it has altered again, to where there is NO comfortable position and it really hurts when I try to sleep.  Not being able to sleep, because you are in so much pain, is no joke.  I am literally counting the minutes until May 28th, which is the soonest I could get in to get shots.  I don't get that either?  Anyone who is getting shots is in pain, but it takes two weeks to get an appointment?  I'm not totally sure I'll make it.  I don't know what the alternative is, but I might find out.  

I feel quite unspiritual lately, as you might be able to tell from my harsh language (i.e. - "motha loving knife").  Just kidding. Yet, the only thing that brings me any kind of encouragement is knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that somehow God will use this, too and that He is still here, walking me through this. But it you don't think that I have used even harsher language with God on a daily basis, you would be wrong.  I'm pretty sure I have said this before, but I'm so thankful that I can share EVERY single thought, frustration, and emotion with my God, and I don't have to feel guilty.  He can handle it all.  I don't have to pretend that this is OK to be a good little Christian.  God has got my heart and I love Him, but it doesn't keep me from saying exactly how I feel about all of this to Him.  And when I do, I know he still pours out his grace and I pray that he'll pour out His healing, too.    

Because there are not any good pictures to go along with this kind of crazy pain, I will post a couple of pictures of Tony from a couple posts ago.  It has been amazing to have someone who is willing to encourage me through this trial and to keep life exciting and lighthearted in a set of circumstances that are anything but!  I do thank God for him, that is for sure.  

It's good to learn early on in a relationship, whether or not you can trust someone with your camera.  I guess I've got my answer to that one.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Second Time Dave Missed His Birthday

As I headed into 2014 and I crossed over the year mark of Dave's death, I heard many a person tell me that the second year is harder than the first.  It's so strange to me that people actually say this out loud.  It's like when you are three days from your due date and people feel like that it is a perfect time to tell you that they lost 600 pints of blood during their delivery and their child was born with three legs.  I don't get it?  However, now that I think about it, maybe I should be grateful for such stories and words of warning, because they set me up to believe the worst.  In my very personal experience,  I think the  first year was the hardest.  It is not to say that I have closed up my tear ducts to all things Dave, but life has a rhythm now. Of course, that rhythm is about to be upset by the impending end of school, but that is for another post.

Any landmark date causes me to compare this year to last year.  Dave's birthday recently passed and it was one of those comparison dates.  Last year, we had a big celebration and a giant race and the whole time I was feeling my way through it all, minute by minute.  It was a great weekend and an excruciating weekend, last year. . . I think.  I think I remember it??? Or maybe I just know it from pictures.  This year, it was a simple and special celebration with just my little family.

When the kids woke up on April 22, I told them that it was Daddy's birthday and that we get to celebrate after school.  They didn't have a mix of emotion, as far as I know.  They were just excited to celebrate.  So, after school we traced the steps of the path we used to walk frequently when Dave was still alive.  First, the Manitou Penny Arcade and then to Dave's favorite little stop in Manitou - The Colorado Custard Company.  Then I fixed Dave's favorite dinner and we wrote messages on helium balloons to send off, after a round of Happy Birthday to You.

The most difficult part of the day for me was choking back tears when the kids were dictating their messages to their Daddy.  I really wanted to maintain the the focus of celebrating Dave's life, though. I figured we can lament his absence any day, but his birthday gives us a unique opportunity to celebrate him and share Dave stories one after another.

Leah's message: "I miss you, DAD! I am so glad you are here for me. I love you, DAD.  I wish you never died.  I'm so glad you got to take care of me and see me! Love, Leah."

I love, love, love, that Leah feels known by Dave and that she seems to treasure that he took care of her. Sometimes, I talk about when they were babies and how Dave was so much better at bathing and changing their diapers when they were itty bitty, than I was.  So, I wonder if that is why she said that about how she was glad that he got to take care of her.  Who knows, but it is sweet.
Maci's message: "I love you, Daddy.  You are the best Daddy. I always loved playing with and tickling.  Happy Birthday.  I miss you.  Love, Maci
One of Spencer's messages: "Dad, I'm so glad I had time with you, even though it was short.  I'm glad  you are in heaven, even though I am still sad.  Love, Spencer.

Charlies's message: "Yo Dave, Miss you.  Charlie."

I think Charlie's message pretty much sums up how our little family feels.  We just still miss him.