Saturday, March 10, 2012

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger... stand a little taller."

Warning: This is not a happy post. If you're wanting to read something happy - Skip this! 

             I have tried to sit down and write this post every day this week, but I can never get through it, or I don’t like how it turned out so I start all over again.  
              This week has been one of the longest, and the hardest, of my life, and I have a feeling the hard part isn’t here yet.
              Over the past few months, my mom has increasingly succumed to an illness that is baffeling doctors, specialists and all of the science-related individuals she has met. It has been very difficult to watch her go through this. First, from a distance in the early stages while she was still in PA, and then from Virginia after we had her medically transported down here in late January. 
             However, I can only imagine how difficult it has been for my mom. She has not been in too much pain overall, but has slowly watched herself become similar to a quadrapalegic with severe liver problems over the course of five months or so.
             We had her medically transported a few miles from my brother and I so we could better manage her care. It has been heartrenching at times, but it has also been the sweetest, most tender experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything at other times.
She has been in and out of more hospitals than I care to mention over the past few months, so when I got a call on Monday that she was most likely going to the hospital again, I didn't really think too much of it because they didn't make it seem too serious. However, when I got word a few hours later that she was in the ER at Georgetown and that she was VERY sick, I got nervous. Her vital signs were all going in the wrong directions and they didn't know the cause. They were definitey going to admit her and most likely to the ICU. It was about 11 at night. I thought about going to the ER, but the doctor reassured me that he would call if things got worse. He suggested I get sleep and come in the morning.
Well, I didn't sleep a wink. I was afraid I wouldn't hear my phone ring and I was worried about her.
I got up in the morning very tired, but the adrenaline kicked in and off I went to the ER. She was still there, but they had regulated her for the most part. 

              My mom was conscious, but very tired. She recognized me and felt relieved I was there. She asked me a couple of questions as best she could, but I just reassured her that I was there and the doctors would help her feel better. She would doze off every now and then. Once, when she woke up, she turned to me and with a scared, but serious expression, said that the night before she had felt like she was dying. She then asked me bluntly, “Am I dying?” Ugh. How do you reply to that. I didn’t want to lie to her, but I didn’t know really what was going on. I just simply told her, as I unsuccessfully tried to hold tears back from my eyes, that she wasn’t dead because she was there talking to me and that I would stay with her. 
              She felt reassured and dozed off again. As she rested I just stared at her with tubes and things coming out of her everywhere, beeps and noises going off from the machines, and the pale skin of my mom’s fragile body. I couldn’t help but weep with thousands of thoughts running through my head and prayers for comfort, peace and understanding from the Lord. 

             Just as I had gained control of my tears, the ER doctor came in to talk to me. He reminded me of one of my friend's dads from high school. Tall, skinny, dark hair, but also patient, gentle and supportive. However, it is his job to be honest and frank with me, and he was. My mom is, and was, very sick. There was a 50/50 chance the treatment would work, but the bigger problem was that they still didn’t know the underlying cause and that meant the ravaging infections would most likely return. He discussed her case with me and gently brought up that they needed to know her will concerning health care and end-of life saving wishes. I broke down again and said I had the paperwork was in the car and that I would go and get it. He was very nice and told me to take my time, hang in there and that they would do the best they could to help my mom. I thanked him, grabbed my cell phone, and started to walk to the car to get the papers. As soon as I got out the ER door I called Evan and just bawled yet again. I am pretty sure he didn’t understand a word I was saying, but listened patiently, offered comfort and said he would get on the train that afternoon to come back to be there with me. I felt bad asking him to come back from his job, but deep down I knew I needed him here. 
             I can only take the hospital in short bursts, so after I got the directive, I told my mom that I had to go to work and that I would be back later in the day. Of course my employers would have given me the time off, but I told them I needed the distraction. So, for the afternoon I was on duty. However, it was hard to keep from tearing up and staying strong while I had the kids. I think they knew something was up, despite my efforts to appear normal, but they didn’t pester me about it.  
              I got off work very early and headed home to help Evan get the car so he could spend the evening with my mom. I needed sleep and a break. I fielded phone calls from doctors during the afternoon and evening, but it was reassuring to know Evan was there. I went to bed around 8 PM and Evan told me that he had informed the doctors that they should call him if anything happened during the night or if they needed approval for anything. Well, they didn’t get the message because I got calls at 12:30 AM and 3 AM asking for verbal approval for something they needed to do to my mom. I know I sounded so groggy on the phone and don’t even remember what I gave verbal approval for, but I figured at this point, they needed to do what they needed to do to save her.   
         I had to get up very early for work to take the kids to school on Wednesday, but I knew I would be free after that. Sleep definitely helped my spirits. And, fortunately, the kids had a good morning and didn’t test my patience! However, on the way, they were silent in the car as we drove. This NEVER happens, so I am sure they knew I still wasn’t myself. 
I was encumbered by my own thoughts when I heard A. say “I love this song. Can you please turn it up?” I tuned it to what the song was and immediately agreed. It was Kelly Clarkson’s song “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger… Stand a little taller” and I almost started to cry again as I wanted to shout out the lyrics with Kelly! I knew that if I did the kids would think I really had gone completely nuts, but this song has  now taken on a completely new meaning for me. 
 Watching my mom go through this and being a strength and support for her… really is going to kill me or I know in the end I will come out of it a much stronger, hopefull, faithful individual who can stand a little stronger in the face of trials. It has also helped me realize just what really is important in life. It's love, our relationships with others, the gospel, and keeping an eternal perspective. This doesn't mean we won't experience pain - sometimes excruciating pain - but what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. And, most of the time we have the choice as to how we will react to that pain... another post to follow. In the meantime - enjoy 

1 comment:

HaH said...

I know you must have been shedding buckets of tears writing that post, but I'm so glad that you did.

I know that your mother is so proud of who you are, everything you stand for, and everything you strive to be.