(This is an updated and edited version of the blog I posted the other day, in an attempt to make sense of the craziness that was my life a week ago. It was published in a state of extreme fatigue, so hopefully this version will contain far fewer spelling errors, make more sense, and tell the story as clearly as I can. Now, back to the Elite 8 game between Gonzaga and Duke. Go Zags! Never Stop. I can go with that.)
It became Spring the day I was admitted to the hospital. I didn’t know it was the first day of a the new season, in part because of the mind numbing pain I had been in for twelve or so hours, and the sweet numbing and softening of all the sharp edges that the “special” IV drug was dripping into my veins.
I’d managed to put up festive St. Patrick’s Day decorations and pull off all of the requested cooking, baking and wrapping for my sons’s tweltfth birthday earlier in the week. I’d joked that Thursday, after his birthday, I was going to crash for the weekend.
I did not realize the frightening accuracy with which I was predicting that day.
As much as I love a good nap and adore reading before sleep in a pillowed bed, it is rare that I sleep for most of the twenty-four hours of a day. Thursday of last week, I did just that, slept and slept, while only twice dragging myself up to send the boys to school and to welcome them home.
The rest is hazy. Probably because I was asleep. When I wasn’t alseep I was keenly aware of the pain touching every (every) part of my body, and the constant shivering, shaking and cold sweats that wracked my body from top to every aching toe.
That’s exactly what woke me, at 2 a.m. Friday morning- pain. Mark said that the first night back home in my own bed this week, that several times he had to tell me everything was ok; I’d been crying in my sleep. That’s what one’s psyche does after a trauma, phyical, emotional, mental.
That phyiscal anguish awoke me last Friday, crying in pain, and I slowly tottered downstairs, sans my glasses which I’d lost or left behind at camp the weekend before.
I was in search of water, and lots of it. And I discovered that the pain that shook me awake was radiating from my left hand, from my thumb. Weird, I thought, maybe I got some glass stuck in it the other day when I broke my billionth glass item. I carried my water, right handed, back up the stairs, but not to bed, I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. Even with doses of pain relievers, yoga stretches to relieve my back pain, and just flat out exhaustion, pain stole sleep and relisience hour by hour from my weary self.
I’ve been admitted to the hospital several notable times in my life, but always for a reason I/we knew of; overdose of medication (due to a pharmacy mistake) when I was a toddler, tonsils in first grade, labor and subsequent C-section births of my two oldest boys, a concurrent miscarriage, broken ankel and blood transfusion, and then on bed rest and the later C-section birth of my youngest son. While not where I wanted to be, the stays were all understandable, and life saving.
I was pretty sure Friday morning that I’d just had some sort of flu bug all of Thursday, and so was doubly confused when I couldn’t raise my left arm at all, and teared up in pain even attempting. Since I didn’t really sleep, I showered (let water fall on me) and got dressed in some clothes I had left, and then napped on the couch until the boys helped me help them get ready for school.
And I called my mom. I’m lucky my parents are less than ten minutes away from us now, and I knew that even if I didn’t understand why, she would hear in my voice that I did indeed need to a ride to Urgent Care. ASAP.
She took one look at me, hiding under my baseball cap, holding my arm close to my chest and understood that this was something, and I needed help, now. I hadn’t called ahead, how do you explain an injury you don’t even grasp? I was soon ushered into a room, and when I took off my coat and sweatshirt, we noticed that my hand was red and there were marks on my arms that looked as if I’d scratched myself. But I hadn’t.
The doctor came in quickly after the nurse, with a student in tow, all I remember was both of their faces, the doctor’s concern and the student doctor’s face that she was unable to school from an extremely worried expression. I heard words, but the rushing, swooshing sound in my head that had been my compaion earlier in the morning was starting up again. I just knew that what I thought would be a fairly quick and easy visit was turning into me traveling straight up to the ER at the local hospital, to be checked out, and possibly admitted.
My mom drove me calmly as I uncalmly called Mark, who uncharacteristically answered at work. I said, “Mark, I’m headed to the ER, and they said something about sepsis, and I’m really scared.” Then the tears started. And he was on his way.
After sitting in the waititing room watching the streaking in my arms become longer, and boarding a wheelchair my mom procured for me after I said I felt like I might pass out, we shuffled through intake, and then I was fast tracked into a room near the nurses station, onto a stretcher bed, and covered with four or five blankets because I couldn’t get warm.
Mark and my mom kept vigil and asked for ice and fed it to me when I needed, and coordinated with my amazing sister to pick up my Kindergartner from the bus stop. Now, I know I was in a state of shock from the pain and the events of the day; how did I go from flu-like to sepsis in a day and a half? I had such an incredible caring and calm nursing team and doctor, so the fear didn’t set in, at least all the way, during that long afternoon.
I got the whole ER package special; blood draws, urine samples, IV fluids, IV drugs, finally a warmed blanket (seriously sweet), a hand x-ray, and in my case, no answers. Mark thankfully corrected each and every one of the health history questions the ER doc asked (in my defense, I’d just recieved another dose of special floaty meds), and gave insurance information as well as ran home to get a bag of necessary items for me when I was admitted to the hospital, and returned home in time for the boys to get off the bus. He was a stud. Also, this wasn’t our first ride on this particulary pony.
It’s what made me angry when I felt well enough to feel anything again; my suseptability to sickness. I’d told my husband many times before that I was sorry for the heavy emphasis on the “in sickness” part of the vows. I saw myself as healthy in my young adult years. While not particularly true, it wasn’t particularly false either. It’s just that as the years went on, my file at the doctor’s office grew larger and my medication list longer. I still, however, maintain that I am healthy. Just prone to sometimes not be.
And when I’m not healthy, and something goes askew in my body, it tends to be in what I like to call the “ten percent category”. I think my OBGYN knows this pretty well; if he gives me any statistics, I’ll say, I bet I fall into that ten percent. Unfortunately, I say this because it has been true, too, too many times.
People like to call some people in their lives hypochondriacs. I’ve come to believe that while there may be some of those who are, there are far more who are simply born and wired to be ultra sensitive, in every way, and that means, mind, body, soul, spirit. More sensitive to stimuli, germs, pain, emotional highs and lows, and illness. Yes, I just described myself. While I’ve come to accept this in others, and in most part in myself, I still don’t like it.
My oldest son’s big birthday parties were Saturday, at a trampoline place with ten friends, and Sunday with our family for lunch and cake at our house. I missed both of those. You don’t get that back. He doesn’t, and I don’t get a do-over.
The thing I haven’t told you yet is that the fact that I ended up in the hospital with an agressive, and potentionally life threatening infection when I did didn’t really surprise me. You see, for the past few months, and especially past few weeks, I’d been on the verge of some pretty big breakthroughs; for me and my family, life changing kind of stuff. I’ve been battling and praying and claiming and believing, all things that the enemy of our soul hates.
“So put on all of God’s armor. Evil days will come. But you will be able to stand up to anything. And after you have done everything you can, you will still be standing.” (Ephesians 6:13 NIRV)
“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.” (Ephesians 6:13 MSG)
Let’s not pretend that there isn’t a spiritual realm. Most people would say they are spiritual, not religious. We know that there is not only more than this life, there is more to this life.
I just know that I have seen enough in my life to know that we may live on this earthly plane, but much, much more goes on around us than we could ever imagine. And, as I’ve been grown in faith, and grown in who I am, fear has shrunk and my capacity to put on my battle gear and take up my weapons has gained traction.
I’m not content anymore to leave things the way they stand. Have stood. Could stand for generations. And you know that when you draw a line in the sand and use that kind of power on behalf of God’s children, you’re also going to draw attention. Ever noticed that when you are doing exactly what you know is the thing you are supposed to be doing how it feels like you are suddenly under constant attack?
I watched The Theory of Everything last night, part of my recuperation plan (distract and entertain). It is the story of Stephen Hawking told from the perspective of his wife, Jane. It reminded me that we all have giftings, in one way or another, on stages large and small, in front of the camera and behind the scenes. I believe that there can and will be great adversity at times when we use those gifts in a way that impacts and imprints others with God’s love.
Alll of you, who prayed for, sent encouraging notes to, visited, and made meals for me and my family, you have left indelible imprints of His love on our lives. And know, that you are loved right back.
Thank you. Those two words seem like not enough, and I wish I could thank each of you in person and tell you how much a part of my and my family’s healing you were. Since I cannot, at least today, thank you.
Last Wednesday, there was no way I nor my family could have guessed at the long and draining weekend we would soon face. He was our strength, gave us times of unexpected refreshing and poured love into our weary days.
Four days, four different antibiotics, four main nurses on rotation; He was in each and every quarter of that time.
Blood draws, blood tests, blood cultures; His nail scarred and bloodied hands held my own wounded hand.
I took my first walk outside today, on the kind of gorgeous blue skied, green grass, blooming flowers and budding trees sparkling with drops of yesterday’s rain that only Eastern Washington can pull off. The moss clinging to the rock wall down the street was glow in the dark green. The forsythia bush on the corner was beacon bright yellow.
Only my thumb is red and stifff now. The swelling has left my hand, the streaking is gone and I can lift my arm above my head and stretch. I need less rest and sleep, can focus for a length of time and write, doodle, and play the piano keys again.
Best, my boys have all felt a little bit safer every day, trusting that I wouldn’t leave, to wander back to my side to share what’s on their minds, and I can catch them up in hugs again.
There were moments last weekend when all of this was in question. Serious words from me to God in the deep night between IV bag changes, blood draws and med deliveries. Four nights of intense in and out of awake and asleep dreams, my head trying to work out at night what my heart couldn’t.
After something like this, it can feel almost too good to be true to be back to normal. I’m just thankful for each corner of quiet, calm and even crazy dimension in my home. I’ve made a list of things that need done, eventually, but I’m not in a rush. I’m on a ten day course of oral antibiotics, and while we can see where the infection must have entered and started and spread from, there is still no answer as to what, how and why.
That could be unnerving. Would have been seriously unnerving for me a few years ago. Now, I think I like the ambiguity. No known cause, nothing to obsessively try to control or avoid. Random can win this time.
I don’t think my family and I have come out of this unscathed or unaware, but certainly undaunted.
Before I contracted this infection, I’d found several chapters in Isaiah that spoke to me about the place I was in, the place I felt I just couldn’t move frrom.
“Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me-The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.
But God’s not finished. He’s waiting around to be gracious to you. He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you. God takes the time to do everything right–everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones.
Cry for help and you’ll find it’s grace and more grace. The moment he hears, he’ll answer. Just as the Master kept you alive during the hard times, he’ll keep your teacher alive and present among you.
Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right. “This is the right road. Walk down this road.
Look, God’s on his way, and from a long way off!” Isaiah 30:15, 18, 19-21, 27-28 MSG
That’s the kind of infectious faith I want.
And I won’t be going back to where I was before this. I feel like I’ve crossed a bridge, over a swift and treacherous part of a river and I’m sitting on the bank of the roaring water on the other side. It’s not that the other side wasn’t a good place to be or a safe place to land.
It’s just that now I can see the new path in front of me. And I’m ready. I think I have what it takes to navigate this journey. I’m prepared. I’ve got all I need.
That’s the funny thing about the other side of suffering. I’ve been reminded that instead of subtracting from strengths, it only expands your capacity to listen to the voice you’ve known has been there all along.