This is the 17th in a series of postings Karla and I are doing in real time plus five years post brain surgery and all of the drama/trauma that followed us closely. Just click on the colored link if you are interested in the Cliff Notes version.
I remember these days well because Karla had gone home to be with the children as I continued rehabbing in Rochester. It was a full time exhausting job. Karla left for Earlham on Sunday afternoon the 15th and returned on Thursday the 19th. It was only three full days away from the asylum but it seemed much longer. I was anxious to make as much progress in speech and movement as possible during those days that Karla was gone.
I was hoping that Karla’s time home would be refreshing and invigorating. Instead those days away were filled with vomiting children and a frenetic pace that most moms would feel if they had been away from their home for more than a month.
Hearing that the kids were sick almost made me glad to be 238 miles away! To be honest though my mindset was entirely self-motivated at the time. I have said it in a previous post but I put the children on a shelf mentally and emotionally for this brief season of intense rehab. If my mind and heart went there it was overwhelming, so I did what was necessary for me to return with the best possible functioning.
As you will see from Karla’s posts from these days away five years ago, it was not easier for her to be at home with her heart divided and the home also divided if only by the current circumstances of life.
Karla, March 16, 2009 from home in Earlham:
“I keep thinking that being home will be relaxing, but it’s not! I envision baking cookies, reading to the younger children, and playing games with the older boys. I shouldn’t be surprised that it never works out that way, but I always am….
One of the most common comments I get is that it must be good to be home. While I am thrilled to see the kids, it is actually “easier” to be in Rochester. I put that in quotes because it is not easy, just easier. Since Mike cannot always communicate well, I am always concerned when I am not there. I care about him much more than anyone there does and feel a strong responsibility to be his advocate.
On that note, I “fired” the occupation therapist today. That was a tough one to do from home! The occupational therapists work on the activities of daily living, and particularly work with Mike’s right arm. We had consistently not been happy with what she was doing, so I finally decided Mike had had enough. It is too critical of a time to just put up with someone. Talking to her supervisor was very hard, especially when she told me that they didn’t think Mike had a problem with the therapist. I am hoping that tomorrow goes much better in that area, so we’ll see.
Mike said that the other areas of therapy went well today. I am hoping to see a lot of progress when I go back on Thursday. With the nice weather, Mike has also enjoyed getting to be outside some for the past three days. It may get cold again, so I’m glad he is able to get out now. He did try to escape on Saturday. The sun was not in the courtyard area, so he just wanted me to wheel him out the front door onto the street. He wears clothes now, so we probably could have gotten away with it, except for some reason the hospital wants their wheelchairs to stay there!
With Elisabeth being sick, I was able to have some good conversation with just Gabbie tonight [Gabbie was 6 years old at this time]. She is very happy when I am home, and sad when I am not. We have worked out a plan to help her be happy when I am gone again. She also said that she just wants everything back to normal. She followed this up with saying that she knows Dad still won’t be able to do a lot, but it will seem normal to have her whole family back together. She also must have said at least 10 times today, “I really love my whole family.” Now that warms a mother’s heart!”
Karla, March 17, 2009 from home:
“I talked to Mike twice today, and both times he was very positive and upbeat. It sounds like occupational therapy went much better today, so I did the right thing yesterday in requesting a new therapist. Mike is anxious for me to get back up there as he thinks he does better when I am there. Hopefully I won’t take the flu bug with me! A few people have been wondering about what will happen when Mike is discharged from St. Marys.
I had mentioned previously that he would probably transfer to an inpatient program in Des Moines. That is not the plan now. Last Friday we were told that the rehab team believes he will be ready to come home. The main issue is the number of stairs we have to get to the shower and bedroom. I am hoping that he can lift his leg by the time I get back and those problems will be solved…
Two more came down with the stomach virus today. Jared did not feel well all day and Benj started vomiting at about 3. I am beginning to think that the bathroom is a large petri dish and plan to go clean it as soon as I am done with this post! Elisabeth is much better, so it looks like the girls will be able to join my mom and sisters on a trip to Kansas City. I am glad they have something fun to look forward to as I leave again.
A friend offered to run some errands for me in Des Moines today. What a nice surprise that was! I was wondering how I was going to get that done, and she took care of it for me!
I’m off to clean the bathroom and go to bed. I have been doing laundry nonstop, thanks to all the kids getting sick. I’ll even get a load done before I wake up because my washing machine has a timer on it. What a great feature! I’m still going with my thought that this is the same strain of flu that Gabbie had a couple weeks ago, and planning on no one else getting sick tomorrow. That would be a great day!”
As I read these two posts I am reminded of just how thankful I am for Karla and appreciative I am for how God has uniquely wired her with certain strengths. I had been expressing to Karla my frustration with the Occupational Therapist, but did not have the ability to say anything about it in a way that would be helpful. I am so glad that Karla took the initiative to have my OT “fired” as she puts it. I hit it off immediately with Stefano and was able to make much progress in a brief time. Plus, it was just weird having a young woman help me take a shower, even if she was just doing her job. I was still taking a shower by sitting in a special chair at this time, but even so…I didn’t have many clothes on my skinny body!
Blog comment from Tom Curtright, a friend and fellow pastor on March 18, 2009
Wow, what a battle this has been. I’ve always appreciated your competitive nature. Even little things like playing Frisbee. My hand hurts thinking about it. God has blessed you with a level of intensity and determination that has been necessary for such a trial. We are keeping track of your progress and look forward to speaking with you. But will wait until you have more time to bounce back. Keep bringing your full bore intensity to each and every therapy time. I can see the mountains from where I write and still plan that one day we will climb some of them. I wish Brenda and I were with you and Karla. I’m sure that if we fired up a few game of sequence and catch phrase, we’d see a few thousand more neurons reconnect, just so we could win.
I think of the vows couple make when they get married and how easily the vows are broken. When I think of the way you have been in the battle for Mike in every conceivable way, I think of you as model of how God wants us to be toward our spouse. I know your focus is on Mike, but be sure to do little things to take care of yourself and do little things to fill your tank. In the long run, that will be not only helpful for you but also Mike. Keep fighting the good fight. We love and pray for you all. TC
Karla, Blog posting from March 18, 2009 How We Have Endured This Trial
“Many thoughts have been ruminating in my mind regarding how we have endured this trial. I read a sermon this morning that fueled those thoughts anew.
I do not follow many blogs or check out many websites on a regular basis. But one that I do is the Desiring God website. John Piper was our pastor from September, 1988 until June, 1992. Mike was an apprentice at the church during that time and one of the benefits was that I got to go to the apprentice wives’ gatherings led by Noel Piper and another pastor’s wife. Mike also discipled Benjamin Piper, so we got to know the family quite well. From the time that Mike became a pastor himself, I have always looked back to Pastor John when I need extra pastoral encouragement.
That is why I check out the Desiring God website. Today there was a sermon from 1980 entitled Christ and Cancer, which I assumed would have something to say about what we are going through. It did. It reaffirmed much of what I know to be true and encouraged me to stay the course.
Let me just go through some of my thoughts on how we have endured this trial. One of the main things is that God has been faithful in the past so I know He will be faithful now. I look back at all of the trials Mike and I have had in our 22 years of marriage, and all the experiences in my own 43 years, and I see that God was preparing us for this mother of all trials. Here are some of the things God has done.
My brother has had seizures since he was a baby. This affected me greatly as a teenager, but eventually led me to see that I do not know very much and pushed me to Christ. It also allowed me to watch my family. My parents stayed married through it all, when many they knew did not. This is a great example of how God was faithful to me before I even knew Him.
We have many memories of God’s financial provision during our graduate school years. Car repairs were paid for, dental bills taken care of, always enough money to pay for our needs. We have had many smaller health issues, and one seemingly larger one, over the years, usually involving me. Following the birth of Gabbie, I had shortness of breath and low heart rate for some reason that was never discovered. I don’t like the unknown, and I now see that this helped to somewhat prepare me to face Mike’s unknown issues with the AVM.
We lost an unborn child that was due exactly four years ago. At the time I had been through no harder trial. God sustained us, and then blessed us with Jared. On February 26th, Mike had the open heart surgery. The next week I said that I had made it through the worst day of my life and I am glad that is over! I know there are more difficult days ahead, hopefully a long way ahead, but I made it through that one, with many evidences of God being merciful to me on that day.
God has ministered to us through His word, in prayer, in music, and by the encouragement of others. The hope of heaven is more glorious than ever, since Mike was so near to it. I have spent much more time thinking about eternity, which is a good thing. I have had to only hope in God as all earthly supports couldn’t take away the problem and the pain.
This quote from Pastor John’s sermon really struck a chord with me. I am thankful for the purification and strengthening of my faith by this trial! “Satan may be sly but on some things he is stupid, because he fails to see that all his attempts to despoil the godly are simply turned by God’s providence into occasions for the purifying and strengthening of faith. God’s goal for his people in this age is not primarily to rid them of sickness and pain, but to purge us of all the remnants of sin and cause us in our weakness to cleave to him as our only hope.”