It has not been much fun for Karla or me reliving in real time the storm that blew through our lives five years ago. It has been an emotional, painful, and gut wrenching experiment and experience. It is exhausting in every way. The memories are all still very vivid for both of us, making it seem like only yesterday that these events were occurring. But alas, I look at the calendar and it has been exactly five years ago. These days cover March 19-21, 2009.
Having lived these past five years the real pain now is seeing where these 46 days away and surgeries would eventually lead. As we said in a previous post the past five years have been rough for our entire family. But the final 8 months serving at Crossroad Church (Nov. 2012-July, 2013) and the emotional trauma that came with it was even more gut wrenching than reliving the F5 tornado that blew through our lives five years ago. Yes, that is correct. Both Karla and I are in complete agreement on this.
It’s one thing to be presented with earth shattering news (the AVM in my brain) because we essentially knew what we were dealing with and could make the best possible plans to move through it in faith. And we did. It is quite another thing to be faced with largely faceless criticism after serving the church for nearly 18 years. One was devastating. The other was devastating with a slam dunk.
Over the course of these days five years ago (March 19-21, 2009) Karla had just arrived back in Rochester after being gone for parts of five days. Below you can see her comments regarding encouraging improvements she noticed in my speech and movement. Also I made just my fifth contribution to the blog during these 46 days away. My first posting after the brain surgery on Feb. 12 came on Feb. 24th, two days before I coded with the blood clots in my heart and lungs. It was not until eleven days after the open heart surgery that I was able to post again.
I do want to make clear that I had posted 78 times on the blog from October, 2008- February 12, 2009. During those 46 days Karla posted 56 times. I am so very thankful for her excellent detail in communicating the facts and progress or regression…all through the eyes of a faith-filled woman. I will be relying upon her precision in recording of these days in writing the book.
More Progress 3/19/2009
“It was great to get back to Rochester and see the progress Mike has made. It was noticeable in leg and arm movement and speech.
Mike was in physical therapy when I got to the hospital. I continue to be amazed by how they get the different muscles to work. When I left on Sunday, Mike was doing sidesteps at a bar. Today he was doing it without assistance or support. He is able to tap his toes and lift his leg. Great progress!
His arm movement has also improved. Last week Mike could grip with his hand, but not let it out. This week he can. He can move his thumb very well. He can also lift his arm higher.
Mike’s speech has improved greatly. He pauses much less and the words seem to come more easily. He said that he feels less foggy in his thinking, which is a good thing. The speech therapist is very pleased with his progress.
We spent quite a bit of time discussing getting out. Putting it that way makes it sound like he’s leaving a jail, which I think it is starting to feel like! Tomorrow we should find out the definite discharge date. Mike was not aware that he is going to need extensive outpatient therapy, probably three to four times a week at first. I have already had people volunteer to help with transportation for that, which is great.
The big news of the day is that he gets a day pass to go out of the hospital! We are planning to do this on Saturday. It is a kind of like a dry run for going home. I’m not sure what we’ll do, but I think it will involve eating, and possibly Menards. At least part of it will be fun! There are a lot of things to think about as we prepare to go home, and it will be good to see how we get along outside of the hospital.”
Mike Escaped 3/21/2009
“Yesterday Mike had a great day in rehab. His speech therapist is really challenging him and I have noticed a lot of progress, even though it’s not as much as Mike would like. His hand is opening much better and he is able to lift his arm quite high. The wrist is the next target. In physical therapy he is to the point where they are working on having good control of his shoulders and trunk. I think this will help the pain he has had in his neck.
We had a good, but exhausting, trip out today. First we drove around Rochester a bit looking at the huge houses near the hospital. Then we went to Menards and got the new shower attachment Mike needs. After that it was Olive Garden for our usual chicken parmesan and fettucine alfredo. We finished off the trip with a Culver’s concrete. Mike became thoroughly exhausted and fell asleep immediately after getting in bed.
The other big news is that we have a discharge date. We will be going home next Friday, which is Benj’s birthday! That is probably as good of a birthday present as Benj could get. The rehab therapists had suggested that we not even tell people that we are coming home, but I’m sure the information would get out anyway. They also suggested that we not have visitors for at least the first week, which is advice that we are going to follow. It will be very exhausting for Mike just to go home, let alone be around 5 kids all the time and start the outpatient rehab. I know that everyone is anxious to see him, but I’m afraid that will just have to wait. As he gets his strength back, he will need less rest and be more than ready to see people!
This next week will involve getting the house ready for Mike and me doing more with him in therapy. I have more confidence having gone out today. There are so many things we need to be aware of. I am far more aware of obstacles to walking than I ever was when the kids were learning to walk! We would appreciate your continued prayers as we make this next transition.”
Posting from One Who by all Reasonable Accounts Shouldn’t Even be Here 3/21/2009
- I want you all to know that I’ve read every single one of your comments that you have left on my blog. After all, there were about 3-4 weeks in there where I didn’t even care about anything. I thank you all for your encouraging comments, but Pastor Randy Anderson from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, you sir get the award for the most thoughtful insights through this whole ordeal.
- I am a living walking miracle if by that we mean God working in ways that he normally does not. Kim Whittaker, I believe you were the only one to use this word….I mean people just do not make it out alive from what I’ve been through!
- I can move and lift my arm even higher than I could a week ago, I can tap my foot to keep up with all the square dance parlance, and they say my speech is becoming more fluent…quicker response time and less difficulty in word finding. Not only that but I am also working at a fever pitch on stairs.
- Many of you have asked about how my right side feels. Let me tell you this, it feels normal! I just have to teach my body to re-learn all of these otherwise normal actions.
- Just happy to be here,
Mike’s take on these three days:
While Karla was back home for a few days I was pushing myself as hard as humanly possible to regain movement and speech. They were not unrelated. Or at least I made it so. As Karla writes, when she left for home on Sunday afternoon I could grip things but not release my hand. Regardless of how hard I tried I could not release my grip. I looked at it. Nothing. I spoke silently to my hand. Still nothing. I visualized my hand releasing. Nothing.
But now five days later I had regained the ability to release my hand from a grip. God gave it back to me but I was able to find a method that worked for me. I would speak to my hand and tell it what to do, in no uncertain terms, and not very politely. The louder and more forcefully I spoke the more effective it seemed to be in obeying the command center.
This would prove to become rather humorous to others in the family when I would go home in one week. I found that if I did not speak or even yell at my hand I would grab hold of the refrigerator door or the handrail on the stairs and not let go, thus painfully wrenching my shoulder. My right shoulder already had pain issues from the temporary right side paralysis. I can happily say five years later that I no longer speak to my hand.
But I still didn’t have great movement on my right side. Or coordination. So here we are just one week from going home and I still have minimal functioning and was wondering how it would work going home, barely being able to walk, difficulty with speech, and right side weakness and right side lack of fine motor skills.
Five years out my speech is good. My right side is still weaker than the left, though I have always been left handed. But regardless of how hard I work my right side it is just weaker and it always will be weaker. I have now accepted it as a by-product of the brain surgery.
In order to give a visual to help understand what I mean by right side fine motor skill issues, let me say this. I used to gain much joy by just sitting down and playing the piano nearly every day. I have not done much of that in the past five years because my right side is not able to do what it previously did. My brain still knows what it should do and where it should go but it does not work as it once did. Therefore, it is not an enjoyable thing for me to do anymore.
Plus the break on my right pinky left it deformed and bent-in precisely the width of one note. I broke two fingers tubing behind a boat in 2011 on the first day of vacation in Michigan. I was attempting to do a roll-over on a body tube and didn’t let go of the rope in time…you guessed it with the right hand. Two surgeries later one is better. The other remains as a constant reminder…of many things…like limitations, what once was, but most of all that my right side is always going to be one step behind real life. It’s weird.
The following is just one of 38 insightful and helpful comments on the blog by Randy Anderson on March 21st of 2009. He expresses in words what many of you have told us you also were feeling at the time.
On the morning of your heart surgery any notion that you might be home by the end of March would have struck me as simply ridiculous. In fact all that day if I paused and thought of you and Karla, which I did many times, I would feel my throat tighten and have to struggle to hold back the tears — it all felt so ominous — and now it all seems like it must have just been a bad dream — now your progress sounds so steady and hopeful and encouraging.
I don’t know what all of that was about, but I do know that the Lord had a design in it all — I am confident that both you and Karla will be more compassionate and caring people for the rest of your lives because of these last long, trying, draining, frightening weeks.
I know that the journey of your recovery is long from over, but I also believe and certainly hope that the darkest and most painful days are behind you for some considerable time.
Reading your blog each day pulled me back to those helpless days when I watched my brother suffering in the shadow of his sons cancer; I supported him poorly (if you can even call it support) — I felt so cheap to try and say or do anything — the circumstances were so overwhelming. I felt some of that same helpless, stunned sadness for you. Frozen by the crushing circumstances that Karla would share day by day.
I would say this, there have been times in the past month when what would pass for my prayers for you were ‘groanings too deep for words.’
I am so thankful for your progress; I am so thankful that you will be heading home on your son’s birthday. There are words for this ” Praise God from whom all blessings flow…’
Indeed Randy. Indeed.