This is the 13th in a series of blog postings Karla and I are doing as we vividly recall the events surrounding my brain surgery and massive complications from five years ago in real time. Karla lets us in on her thoughts and I let you in on mine from March 6-7th 2009 at the end of this post. Some of this will be included in the book I am currently writing.
(Karla writing) As I look at March 6 and 7 five years ago, I find it interesting that everything remains very vivid, and feelings that I did not express in the blog at the time are still very real. So today I have added commentary to pieces of those posts.
From March 6, 2009:
“I’m about to head out for lunch with a friend. I’m trying to be gone more during the day to see how it goes before I head home. He is managing just fine!”
I think it is very difficult for people to understand how hard it was to be out of the hospital after all that we had been through up to this point. Whenever I left the hospital and went somewhere in Rochester, other than just a restaurant, I felt lost. When walking around at the mall or Target, I always felt like everyone was else was there without a care in the world, and my world was falling apart.
I know that other people had problems as well, but they never looked like it. Laughing, carefree people made me very sad. I was wondering if I would ever feel carefree again. I was wondering if my husband would ever walk and talk normally again. I was wondering how I was going to get adaptations done to the house that would be up to his standard, and done quickly.
I was wondering if Mike would ever be able to drive again… It was always better to get back to the hospital, where everyone had health issues and I could focus on the immediate issue at hand. It was easier to just stay in the safe confines of the hospital, than leave and deal with the rest of the world. I was thankful that I didn’t have to do that too often!
“I can hardly wait to see all the kids! I’ve missed quite a few things, but they all seem to be understanding.”
Another issue that was very hard for me to deal with was being away from the kids. We have told them that we would be gone a few days, and at this point we had been gone almost a month. School was not getting done, and I didn’t care. I was missing lots of their activities, even though it was a down time in the year between sports.
Gabbie was very sad all the time that we were gone, and Jared wouldn’t talk to me on the phone. Elisabeth had a hard time sleeping due to the stress in her life. Your dad almost dying was not something anyone wants their children to deal with! At one point I just had to call someone back home and ask them to find someone to take care of my kids.
It didn’t really matter who, just that someone was with them and they were fed. That is not what mothers do!
And we have had to deal with many issues in our kids’ lives that were influenced by the events of five years ago. No, a three year old is not too young to be negatively influenced by such events. No, teenagers are not so self-absorbed that they are not impacted by their father almost dying and having to come back from major deficits following brain surgery. So I had the stress of the known in Rochester to deal with and the unknown in Earlham. It was not something that was all taken care of when we got back home, but something we have been steadily dealing with for the past five years.
“The following is a verse from the Sovereign Grace CD, Come Weary Saints. I know that you all wish I’d listen to a new CD. I usually listen to this once while I’m driving, and then I do listen to part of another one! This is the last verse from “I Have a Shelter:
“I have a shelter in the storm when constant winds would break me.
For in my weakness I have learned Your strength will not forsake me.
O Jesus I will hide in You, the One who bears my burdens
with faithful hands that cannot fail, You’ll bring me home to heaven.”
People keep commenting on how strong I have been through this. Trust me, I haven’t been, but it has been evident that Jesus has been sheltering me when the constant winds (a.k.a. brain surgery, seizures, blood clots, fevers, blood infections, coding, CPR, more blood clots, open heart surgery) would break me. I am hoping this lull in the storm will last awhile!”
As I read that last sentence I wrote, “I am hoping this lull in the storm will last awhile,” I now know that it did last awhile, but it was merely a lull and not the end of the storm. For the past five years, I have always felt that God was my shelter, and often my only shelter. I have been surprised when the storm starts to brew fast and hard again, as it was a year ago right now. Those winds have attempted to break me, and us, but have not been able to do so. So no, it is not my strength, but the strength of Christ in me that has prevailed. I hope our children have learned that in Christ, they, too, can be strong regardless of what happens in their lives. Due to these storms, my faith is stronger, Mike’s faith is stronger, our family is stronger.
From March 7, 2009:
“For the past couple of days, Mike and I have been discussing when I should go back home for a couple of days. We had decided that I would go home today and try to come back on Tuesday. When I got back from lunch yesterday, Mike said, “I’ve got an idea. How about if the kids come up here for the day on Saturday, so they can see me up and without tubes.” I thought that was a great idea!”
March 7 was a really fun day! Mike and I had great anticipation waiting for the kids to come up! The rehab staff was excited to get the room ready for our family pizza party, and the kids were very excited to see their dad. Mike was ready to show off what he had been accomplishing, and the kids were duly impressed with his progress. They even got to lay in his bed and watch Cars on the in-hospital movie channel. It was a great day, and a great way to leave Mike as I took the kids home for a few days.
I also was leaving feeling much more confident that Mike would be okay with me gone. I trusted the rehab staff, and his roommate, Melvin, was great. I had also lined up friends, the Harder’s and the Schwartz’s, to check in on him. I believe Ray and Connie stopped by as well. He was in good hands and I was able to go home for a few days and spend a short time with the kids.
What follows are excerpts from Karla’s posts during these two days. Then I will give you all my take from these two days.
The Fog is Lifting March 6, 2009 (Karla)
….This morning the fog had lifted, as had Mike’s spirits.
Mike slept last night! He was much perkier this morning when I got here than I have seen him in days. Occupational therapy went much better this morning, which is good. Physical therapy went very well! They get them up right away. He was walking around the therapy table, with assistance, of course.
Mike does not think this is real walking, but it is the first step to where he wants to be. He also can grip with his right hand for the first time today, so, it’s only 10:30 and we’ve already had lots of progress!
I’m about to head out for lunch with a friend. I’m trying to be gone more during the day to see how it goes before I head home. He is managing just fine. I can hardly wait to see all the kids! I’ve missed quite a few things, but they all seem to be understanding. Jared even talked to me again last night. I am grateful for all the people who have been taking care of them for us.
Dr. Meyer was in today and actually smiled again. He was glad to see that Mike was talking well and progressing in therapy. He keeps reiterating that it is now a waiting game and we need to be patient. I think that is getting through to Mike…
March 7, 2009
….Mike slept well again last night. I’ll never make fun of another Ambien commercial again! It really helps everything to be more rested. He is frustrated with his inability to do what he wants to do. He told me that I have no idea what it’s like not to be able to do things he wants to do. He did not say it in a mean way, just a frustrated, matter-of-fact way. He’s right, I don’t know what it’s like, and neither does anyone close to us. Mike’s roommate, Melvin, knows parts of it, but his abilities are different than Mike’s, so he can’t understand perfectly. I have paid attention to how much I actully use my left hand, and I use it a lot more than I thought. Then there is the inability to walk, or squat, or bend, or move over on the bed, or… I don’t understand.
Mike’s Thoughts from March 6-7th, 2009
When Karla writes that she felt “lost” outside of the safe confines of the hospital I know what she is saying. I too, developed a strange sort of codependent relationship within the safe confines of the hospital surrounded by my caregivers and staff. I don’t expect many of you to understand that.
I too was completely unaware of how this might possibly affect our children who at the time were 16, 14, 10, 6, and 3 years old. There is no question but these events impacted our children in a big way. Our youngest who was 3 at the time still has vivid memories as well from these traumatic days and remembers when dad’s leg and arm was “stuck.” He has been an angry child for much of the past five years. In desperation we took Jared to see a Christian psychologist who specializes in children. That was one of the best moves we have made in the past five years! How is a three year old supposed to handle it when his mom and dad are gone for nearly seven weeks…when we had told them a week or so…and dad nearly dies? We are thankful to report that he has made huge positive strides in the past year!
On the other side of the spectrum Benj the 14 year old at that time began to think of nursing as a possible career, as he saw the male nurses at St. Mary’s in Rochester taking care of me. Benj is a compassionate kid and I believe my ordeal helped him to solidify his future aspirations. Benj is currently in Haiti on a short term mission project and is a sophomore at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, MN pursuing a nursing degree.
Now back to March 6th-7th. Keep in mind that I was still out on the entire right side of my body. Split right down the middle. The brain surgery was on Feb. 12th and it is now March 6th. The only movement I had at this time was a slight wiggle in my right big toe and slight movement in my right thumb. No leg movement. I was able to close my hand with a very loose grip. No movement in the arm yet, just the hand and only when I concentrated with all of my might. Imagine me getting excited about being able to move my thumb and big toe a quarter of an inch or less. Nevertheless, it was enough to make me say “I’m back!” I believed it in my heart and mind.
It was an unexplainable relief to find out that I would not have to be in this state for the rest of my life. Before that I did not know. I didn’t know. Little did I know then the amount of work necessary to regain even more movement.
And here is what I did at this time. Karla does not like this. But it’s the truth. In my mind I set my children on a shelf and left them there for this short and intense season of recovery. If I let my mind go toward my children I would become so emotional that I couldn’t continue.
My reasoning was thus: In order for me to regain as much as possible I needed to set my children aside in my mind. In order for them to have the best possible dad with the best possible functioning I needed to relentlessly pursue recovering through rehabilitation. So Rocky became my inner theme song. I knew that I needed to have the “eye of the tiger” for my children’s sake. Karla was my Adrian. I didn’t put her on a shelf!
I understand now why this was and is still so hard for Karla to hear. She had the uncertainties of me going home and the days that yet remained in the hospital. We would be coming home only 19 days from today. My main focus was on myself. My main focus was not on God. It was not on my wife. It was not on my children. It was on me recovering as much as I could and pushing myself as hard as I could.
Narcissism at its finest. Or was it? To this day I do not regret my mindset during those difficult days five years ago. It was a necessary, conscious and willful decision on my part to be entirely self-absorbed. My faith in God was still intact, but not entirely without conscious wrestling with my situation as related to God’s plans and such. More about that in tomorrow’s post about the nighttime wrestlings.
We were in a big storm alright.
Karla wrote and writes: “I am hoping this lull in the storm will last awhile.” I now know that it did last awhile, but it was merely a lull and not the end of the storm. For the past five years, I have always felt that God was my shelter, and often my only shelter. I have been surprised when the storm starts to brew fast and hard again, as it was a year ago right now. Those winds have attempted to break me, and us, but have not been able to do so. So no, it is not my strength, but the strength of Christ in me that has prevailed. I hope our children have learned that in Christ, they, too, can be strong regardless of what happens in their lives. Due to these storms, my faith is stronger, Mike’s faith is stronger, our family is stronger.”