Thursday, November 23, 2006
I came home to give Abbie a workout with Debbie. As she was catching me up on what had happened while I was at school, Debbie said, "At one point she was having a very good dream and had a huge smile on her face. Something looked different though, and it took me a minute to figure it out. The grin was prominent on the left side of her face!" The left side is still not as animated as her right since it was affected by her late-onset brain swell. When I heard this I looked down at Abbie, who was laying on her back on the massage table, and said, "Were you dreaming about running around and causing trouble??" Instantly I got a huge grin and dimple. She was dreaming about that!! We asked her several times and each time she got that pirate smile.
At three o'clock, just as Debbie was leaving and Genevieve was arriving, Carol also arrived to give Abbie a session of Healing Touch. Carol began by praying, as always, but this time as I joined her in prayer I felt strongly that I should stay during this session instead of using the time to catch up on housework. I stood quietly by, praying, for about 10 minutes and then I had to step out of the room to help the boys. I asked Genevieve to stay in the room in case Carol should need her. As I later walked back to Abbie's room I passed the bathroom and heard Genevieve in there, sniffling. When she returned to her seat I mouthed, "Are you OK??", and she quickly nodded "yes" but I noticed she had tissue in her hand and was occasionally dabbing her eyes.
I sat in the recliner across the room and watched Abbie while I prayed. At times she responded so powerfully to Carol's gentle touch or movement of her hands. While this continued it was as if I was seeing her rise above her body. Now..don't get me wrong, I wasn't having literal visions, and this is hard to explain. But, while I could obviously still see her laying still on the table, I could also "see" her sitting up, rising, healthy and whole. I didn't say anything about this to anyone, however.
After Carol left I asked Genevieve what was the matter. She teared up again and said that while Carol was working with Abbie it was like she could see her standing up. It was so clear that she really expected that at any moment Abbie would just leap off the table and say, "Mommy!" Given what I'd just experienced, this was especially strange, in a wonderful way. All I could say was, "We are getting close now! It's right around the corner!!" This journey has stretched me in so many ways, and one of them is learning to trust that there are things to be seen with our hearts.
This evening we took the boys to a baseball game and saw many old friends. We were particularly excited to see Henry and Kathy Chun, whom we met shortly after moving here when their son played on sports teams with Kyle. Henry and I spent a lot of time at practice fields chasing toddlers; his Kobe is the same age as Abbie and they were quite a pair. I'd lived here only a couple months when I met Henry, so my ear wasn't yet attuned to the local speech patterns, and Henry is about as local as you can get. I recall having to really work hard back then to decipher some things he said, things that I now pick up without thinking about.
Anyway, tonight Henry pulled me aside and said, "When we came to see you in the hospital there was something I wanted to say to you, but I couldn't do it then. You were being so hard on yourself, and I didn't know if it would just make it worse. But, you know, kids are so fast, and life is so crazy...you know all this wasn't your fault, right...you know that? I just wanted the chance to say that to you before I died..'Thank You Jesus!'...now I have. Just like Earl, I can cross another thing off my list!" I didn't know what to say, standing there in the middle of a ridiculously noisy baseball stadium, because that felt like a huge hug from God. I think I will always feel responsible, because I was the one at home with her, but God is again telling me that although that may be true, Abbie's injury and the aftermath has been used for His purposes and there doesn't need to be any assignment of fault. I was also blessed to see how heavily this has weighed on Henry's heart. What special people God has surrounded us with!
We wish you all a terrific Thanksgiving! We will be having a peaceful holiday at home, and 24 hours may not be enough time to count all of our blessings...after all, we need to thank the Father for each of you!
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
This sounds a little petty, but I had a haircut appointment that I'd already rescheduled three times, so last night I sent an emergency email to my friend Sandra, and she agreed to bring her four kids to play with Abbie while I had my locks shorn.
Having Abbie to myself in the morning gave us the chance to take a walk to the beach. It's only about 6 blocks away, and it's ridiculous how rarely we go down there. It was a beautiful, soul-reviving day, and the ocean always gives perspective, doesn't it?
I was about a block from home when I saw San's van pull up to our house. I jogged the one block (which was enough jogging for me, sad to say), and met them at the gate. Into my SuperMom phone booth, and a few minutes later I was out the door to the salon. I left with Abbie being fed on her bed, joined by Keiko who was using stuffed animals to put on a play for Abbie. I returned to find Abbie and Keiko laying side-by-side on the floor, with Keiko holding a book up and reading to Abbie. They had french-braided her hair, had her do ballet and hula with them (they agree that she likes hula even more than ballet..a local girl!), and Abbie had obviously soaked it all in. What a perfect morning for her! I wish I could bottle hours like that and give her a dose every day. Abbie is so blessed to have friends with such tender, caring hearts.
Praise God, we got a key step accomplished in the effort to obtain the stander. It was submitted 3 months ago for an approval process that was supposed to take 30 days at the max. We were expecting it to get denied, and needed it to so that we could take the next step and access a special fund for thing like standers. After the request seemingly disappeared into a black hole, and being unable to get anyone to talk to me or explain where it was, Ray got involved last week. Because of his job he has access to places that most people don't (including me). Anyway, he was told that the approval person requested more medical justification on October 11th (43 days after we first submitted the request). The vendor nor our physician ever received anything like this. Ray asked for a copy of the letter yesterday, at which time it was also sent to the vendor (apparently for the first time). Today the vendor sent a scathing letter stating that there were reams of medical justification already on file, but sent what had been requested. Shortly after this letter was faxed to the approval authority our request was denied because it is "not a covered service." WOW! It had taken them three months to figure this out?? So, we have been delayed, lied to, and run around. Without Ray's access we would still be in the dark. On the upside, we can now move forward to use waiver (special fund) monies, and hopefully the stander will be approved soon. This is the third time we've had an experience like this, and we've only made three requests for durable medical equipment. So, when the responsible parties labeled this recent snafu an "outlier", we just smiled and thought that either we are really wierd and know a lot of other really wierd families who have experienced "outlier" after "outlier", or perhaps the system is truly broken. We are hopeful, now that we have the documentation of this latest round of madness, that Ray can have a constructive conversation with the appropriate people to effect change in this important but ill-functioning system. The bottom line...ARGH!!!
At the end of the day, though, I am standing here typing with a big smile because God is so good to us, all the time. There is peace in my home (the kids are in bed), we are all healthy, and we live freely, things that I try never to take for granted.
Monday, November 20, 2006
I was fortunate today to attend a conference called “Hilopa’a”, which in English means “to braid firmly”. The conference gathered players from all segments that impact on the lives of medically fragile or developmentally disabled individuals. In the opening remarks I was blessed and encouraged to hear about so many things that started in Hawaii, including Early Intervention and the Medical Home movement (keeping kids with their families rather than in institutions.) It renewed my hope that even from these small islands we can change things for the better.
The opening session was nearing its close when I answered my cell phone because Ray had called a number of times. I thought it would be normal logistical stuff…who’s picking up which boys etc…instead I found myself doubled over in my chair, fumbling around the tabletop for napkins to cover my sobbing face after he told me that Everett McDaniel had just come into one of Ray’s ERs and died.
Those of you who knew Everett need no explanation for my response. For those not blessed to meet him on this side of Heaven…Everett was a mountain of a man, both physically and in heart. A leader in our church, he came with the elders after midnight one evening to lay hands on Abbie in the PICU, and seeing his huge, gentle hands laid on her tiny hurting body brought me such peace. But most of all, Everett gave the best hugs ever! Between my sobs that’s all I could say to Ray, “No one give hugs like Everett.” A welcoming smile and a warm hug awaited everyone entering our church on Sunday morning. Everett taught all of us how meaningful something as simple as a hug can be.
I continued crying unabashedly down the hall to the first breakout session. A woman who had been sitting next to me when I got the call, caught up with me to give comfort. She related that she had been reading Abbie’s site since the beginning and had been so blessed. As we talked my eternal vision was renewed, and I realized that at that very moment Everett was in Heaven..wow!! I was crying selfish tears, because I was going to miss his hugs, but he was rejoicing.
Almost losing a child makes Heaven so real, and the battle to bring her back fills me with anticipation of when the fight is over, every tear is wiped away, and we enter into perfect joy. Everett’s homegoing has also made Heaven more real because now I can clearly envision who is going to be greeting me at the gates, with a warm hug, big smile and probably wearing a white-on-white Reyn Spooner shirt.
The first breakout session was informative, but I was thrilled by the second. I knew it was for me just by the title. “When Strangling Isn’t an Option: How to Work Well in Difficult Teams”. There were about 50 professionals in the room, 4 panelists, and me. I listened for quite a while about how teams can work together well, how trust is built, and how decisions can be reached. This discussion focused on the IEP process for special needs kids in schools. Finally I had to rain on the Peace and Love Parade and inject a little reality. I related our IEP experience, of not being privy to much of the information discussed away from the table, and even decisions made without our knowledge, let alone input. I remarked that because of the broken trust we had to walk away from the table and continue to home educate Abbie to this day.
The Department of Education panelist spoke and within one minute had said the word “constraints” five times. Parents needed to understand the constraints of the system, the schools are under constraints etc. This was familiar and expected, so I just let it pass. Then, an angel was revealed. He was another panelist, representing the Board of Education. He said something to the effect of “I don’t buy the ‘constraints’ thing. You need to be focusing on the needs of the kids first, and trying to figure out how to meet them.” I started crying. To hear someone in a position of influence advocate for our kids was overwhelming and unexpected. Later in the session he also remarked that there needs to be an “attitude change” at the principal and school level. He didn’t concretely express what this change referred to but it’s well understood that complex specials needs kids are seen as drains on resources who are not going to improve, and therefore are unworthy of investment. Principals have been recorded saying this to parents in IEP meetings recently, so this is more than just a perception. I left there with more hope than I’ve had in a long time, and if you ever get a chance to vote for this angel in a Board of Education election, I beg you to do so. Check the box for Garrett Toguchi, and thank God there are people like him fighting for our kids.
In the final session, God used the exercise to remind me of just how blessed I am. We had to fill out a “Natural Supports” worksheet with four concentric circles. The inner circle was the “3am circle” -- people you can call for help at three in the morning. The next circle was “good friends”, the next was “acquaintances” and finally “paid supports” I had to use just initials to fit people in my “3am” box, and still didn’t get everyone in. As we went around and shared our results, I found out that I was almost the only one in the room with anyone except immediate family in the inner circle. I didn’t even work on circles 2 and 3 because again, there were just too many names. This was inconceivable to everyone around me, and made me realize anew how God is carrying us through this – with your hands!
The other thing it made me think is to ask each of you, wherever you are, if you would reach out to a family with a special needs child. Understand that they may not return phone calls often, if ever. This isn’t lack of desire, or flakiness, it’s just sometimes impossible. Simple kindnesses are profound to a family that may feel isolated. Stop and talk to them when you see them out and about, encourage your kids to interact with theirs, don’t be afraid to ask questions, find a way to include them. These things have made all the difference to us, and to Abbie. You may one day find yourself in someone’s “3am circle” and will be blessed because of it.
Abbie’s tone had been a little higher lately, so I really didn’t know what to expect at PT. We decided to try to get her on hands and knees with the sling again. We raised her a little, but her knees weren’t wanting to bend much. I tried to keep my spirits up by focusing on how well she was doing with her hands, arms and head. Even though it didn’t look like we could get into a true crawling position we decided to raise the sling anway. Once it was at a height to allow her knees to bend to 90 degrees they just melted into the mat, simple as that. We ended up having a terrific session, and at the end I was relating highlights of the Hilopa’a conference to Lynette and Patty. One takeaway point was to ensure we celebrate victories, no matter how small. Lynette looked at me and said, “Well, today is definitely a session worth celebrating.” I grinned at that, because it’s sometimes hard for me to judge what is a good session and what is a great one. I am so proud of Abbie!
Another little vomiting episode impacted Abbie’s sats in the morning and made her participation in the afternoon Speech group questionable. I laid down to take an early afternoon nap and awoke to find Abbie in her wheelchair, all set to go. When I asked Debbie if we should go to speech, Abbie hit her switch, blinked her eyes, raised her legs, and in all ways available, shouted, “YES!” So, with her sat rates good, we took off.
These sessions are a real respite for me, because while Abbie is enjoying her friends and doing good speech work, I get a break and some time to spend with other parents. We chattered away the hour-and-a-half in the snap of a finger, and then went down the hall to collect our group of singer/artist/reader kids. The therapists were raving about how responsive and engaged Abbie was – they have really seen changes in her these past two months. They were doing a painting project and Abbie didn’t much care about it until she noticed what a mess it was making on the therapists' hands, then she couldn’t get enough. A great afternoon!
Another little peek into Abbie’s personality that confirms she is the same rascally girl. Ray noticed that every time I said the word “nebulizer” she would have a little cough. Not a productive one, and not one that took much effort, just a little one. Just as I was preparing to actually give her a nebulizer I said the word again, and she gave her little cough again. Ray said, “Abbie, even if you cough you still have to have a nebulizer.” Out came her little dimple. Busted!!! She’d been trying to get out of the neb treatment by faking coughs, because we always tell her they help her have big coughs and clear her chest. Ray and I both recalled the little two-year-old Abbie who would wander into the kitchen to see a brother taking medicine and immediately cover her mouth and begin fake-coughing in an attempt to get some of the pretty purple stuff too.
We left Abbie to be spoiled by Genevieve and went to the UH football game. It is really fun to watch a group of boys who work hard and care about each other excel. (Please note that they are now ranked #25!) This season is going to be over much too soon for us!
Abbie finally made it to Sunday School again! The past two weeks she’s been all dressed and then we either had a vomiting episode or a blow-out diaper that prevented us from going. This is the highlight of her week and she was noticeably excited to as we loaded the van.
Again, I thank God for her switch and for the months and months of work her therapist Lisa put into finding a way for Abbie to communicate. It is like a magnet for the other kids and ensures Abbie’s gets many opportunities to interact.
I did get a little teary when Kathleen told me that at one point Abbie got very frustrated. I asked her what she meant by that and she told me that Abbie had been pulling her head and chest forward, wanting to get up, and then a big tear rolled down her face. This broke my heart while it made my soul rejoice. How I hate to see her suffer, and how glad I am that she is driven to get up.
Sunday afternoon was very special for our church, as we had the dedication for our new sanctuary followed by a luau. I’d initially planned to take Abbie, but Genevieve wanted to come stay with her, and it turned out to be the best thing. She was falling asleep as we left, and probably enjoyed the restful time at home rather than the busy crowd and loud music.
As soon as I saw the program I tried to leave my seat to get tissue because I knew the waterfalls were bound to flow. This dedication was a poignant marker in Abbie’s journey because the capital campaign that paid for the construction was scheduled to kick off the Sunday after Abbie’s accident. During that initial week in the PICU, Pastor McDaniel and other leaders were questioning the timing of that since our church family was emotionally devastated by what had happened and was consumed with supporting us through it. The leaders gathered for a late night meeting at the hospital chapel to pray about it, and afterwards came up to pray for Abbie. That was how Everett ended up laying hands on Abbie so late at night. Anyway, Ray and I supported their decision to proceed because we had learned very powerfully that week how critical the bonds of Christian brotherhood (and sisterhood) can be, and want to see every family have the same support we experienced.
Now, here we were in our beautiful sanctuary that Pastor has called us to think of more as a bridge than anything else. Everett is already Home. Others in that late night group have moved away. On one hand it drove home that life has moved on since that terrible week. I opened the program to find the song “Be Thou My Vision” listed, and tears filled my eyes. It’s the song we sang together that first night, in the conference room next to where Abbie lay on a ventilator with “no hope”. To sing that song again, on a night of such sweet and true celebration, made it for me partially a celebration of how far we have come from the night we sang it through fearful tears.
I don’t think I’ve ever been part of such sweet worship and such pure celebration. It let me imagine what it will be like when Abbie is healed, and then led me to consider what it will be like when that celebration is continual and everlasting.
We honored the first pastor of our church, who served for 31 years. I realized that he and his wife labored all those years, and are now seeing another part of their vision fulfilled. I got to experience for the first time how truly precious the victory is that has been long awaited. The whole night felt like a foreshadowing to me, and I continue to wait with anticipation for what the Lord is going to do!
Another great PT/OT session in the sling. We made it to hands and knees very quickly, but the thrilling part today was her head control. As we were getting her in the sling I assumed Lynette was holding up her chest and arms from the other side. Nope, it was all Abbie. She was pushing through straightened arms to support her chest and head. She was looking straight forward, and looked so strong that for some reason she reminded me of a lion.
After we’d been in the sling for a while we got her out and sat her on a bolster to see if she could keep her knees so nicely bent. Easy-schmeasy. We do plan to get her back up on the tilt table on Friday, though, because her ankles are getting a little tight as we still await her stander.
The stander…this is a whole ‘nother issue. One that had me sobbing in absolute rage on Sunday evening. We are still in the process of working this out, hopefully for the betterment of all kids in Hawaii, so I don’t want to post details. Please just pray for us as we proceed. Pray that people in authority would listen and realize this is not just an isolated incident but rather that the system is broken.
There…all up to date! Just a couple of housekeeping things. Pictures…I need to post some so badly, I know. I lost the charger for the digital camera during our trip to Disneyland. I’ll work on this issue so that you can see, literally, how great Abbie looks these days.
Secondly, I don’t know why but I feel the need to write this. Many times I dread writing about things like how much better her drooling is, or how we are suctioning less. I feel like “oh, shouldn’t we be past this by now!?!” But, the real problem is that I don’t trust my words to convey the Abbie I see, so that when I post about things like drooling I fear that will paint a picture of her that is incomplete. I don’t know how to capture her spirit, her spark in writing. I’m not sure how to accurately convey her intelligence, her humor, or her beauty. When I look at her I don’t see “mentally retarded” “developmentally disabled” or “handicapped”. I see “strong”, “funny”, “loving” and “determined”. I pray that when I write about things that fit in the former category, they don’t eclipse the qualities in the second, because that is who she truly is.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
We've been getting Abbie up to stand every day, and although some days we can only do it for short periods before her legs start to discolor, I do think it is helping her. I've also been feeding her peanut butter and jelly orally with breakfast -- two tastes she loves, especially together. At the same time I have been putting conductive patches under her chin and connecting them to the Biomodulator to stimulate her swallowing and improve her facial tone. I know this is having an impact because although Debbie wasn't aware I have been doing this, she asked yesterday what was up because Abbie wasn't drooling at all and not needing to be suctioned either. This was encouraging for me to hear and spurs me to keep up our early morning stim sessions.
Yesterday I was visited by some friends I hadn't seen since Abbie was in the PICU, Jim and Remle Winand. In fact, Remle brought 3-week old Levi to visit us, and chatted until the nurses pointed out that there were some very sick kids in the unit, including some with RSV...that was quickly the end of our visit! Jim and Remle brought now-two-year old Levi and big sister Mia over so that we could discuss things I've learned on this journey that may help Jim beat the colorectal cancer he was recently diagnosed with. He is a very healthy, 38-year-old firefighter (nothing bad should ever happen to those guys!), and finally went in to be checked because the pain level was getting intolerable. I think Jim would love to tell anyone reading..."GO EARLY!" They are still awaiting the PET scan results to determine if the cancer has spread. Jim is in a serious fight, I realized, as I saw his chemo pump around in a fanny pack around his waist. I sent them home with a couple of things we use, as well as information about Dr. Tennant. Although I would never wish a diagnosis like this on anyone, it feels good for me to be back on the other side, having something to give instead receiving all the time. The Winands are another link in Abbie's chain, of returning all that we have been blessed with. So often, when I am am awake in the middle of the night I worry about things like whether I've sent thank you cards to people or have adequately expressed my gratitude for all that we have received. I think the answer to those questions is "no", but if you are one of the ones to whom I owe a card, phone call, or email, please know that while I'm not currently able to correspond as much as I 'd like, we try every day to pass your kindness on to others.
Abbie woke up right before they left, so Mia sat up on her bed with her a while and talked. On the way to the door Mia asked me why Abbie couldn't talk back to her. How to explain that to a four-year-old without engendering fear of the water??? I told her Abbie got a big owie in her head and that it's kind of like talking to someone on a telephone who can't hear you...Abbie is talking to her body, trying to tell it what to do, but it can't quite hear her well enough yet.
Remle is a woman after my own heart - praising God in the midst of the storm and believing his promises as the ground shift beneath her. You can follow Jim's battle, and pray for his family, by going to www.pray4jim.blogspot.com.
Abbie's tone has been a little bit higher since we've not been doing hyperbaric therapy these past couple of weeks. I am hoping to get that started again next week. In the meantime, we are giving her lots of massages and exercise to keep her comfortable.
I usually don't do this, but I would like to include a story by and about a woman who is one of my mentors (unbeknownst to her). It is lengthy but more than worth the read...
HAIR BRUSH EXPERIENCE
BETH MOORE AT THE AIRPORT
For those of you who do not know Beth Moore, she is an outstanding Bible teacher, author, nationwide speaker and is a married mother of two daughters This is one of her experiences:
April 20, 2005, at the airport in Knoxville, waiting to board the plane, I had the Bible on my lap and was very intent upon what I was doing. I'd had a marvelous morning with the Lord. I say this because I want to tell you it is a scary thing to have the Spirit of God really working in you. You could end up doing some things you never would have done otherwise. Life in the Spirit can be dangerous for a thousand reasons not the least of which is your ego.
I tried to keep from staring, but he was such a strange sight. Humped over in a wheelchair, he was skin and bones, dressed in clothes that obviously fit when he was at least twenty pounds heavier. His knees protruded from his trousers, and his shoulders looked like the coat hanger was still in his shirt His hands looked like tangled masses of veins and bones. The strangest part of him was his hair and nails. Stringy gray hair hung well over his shoulders and down part of his back. His fingernails were long, clean but strangely out of place on an old man. I looked down at my Bible as fast as I could, discomfort burning my face.
As I tried to imagine what his story might have been, I found myself wondering if I'd just had a Howard Hughes sighting. Then, I remembered that he was dead. So this man in the airport...an impersonator maybe? Was a camera on us somewhere? There I sat, trying to concentrate on the Word to keep from being concerned about a thin slice of humanity served on a wheelchair only a few seats from me. All the while, my heart was growing more and more overwhelmed with a feeling for him.
Let's admit it. Curiosity is a heap more comfortable than true concern, and suddenly I was awash with aching emotion for this bizarre-looking old man. I had walked with God long enough to see the handwriting on the wall. I've learned that when I begin to feel what God feels, something so contrary to my natural feelings, something dramatic is bound to happen. And it may be embarrassing. I immediately began to resist because I could feel God working on my spirit and I started arguing with God in my mind.
"Oh, no, God, please, no." I looked up at the ceiling as if I could stare straight through it into heaven and said, "Don't make me witness to this man. Not right here and now. Please. I'll do anything. Put me on the same plane, but don't make me get up here and witness to this man in front of this gawking audience. Please, Lord!" There I sat in the blue vinyl chair begging His Highness, "Please don't make me witness to this man. Not now. I'll do it on the plane."Then I heard it..."I don't want you to witness to him. I want you to brush his hair." The words were so clear, my heart leapt into my throat, and my thoughts spun like a top. Do I witness to the man or brush his hair? No-brainer. I looked straight back up at the ceiling and said, "God, as I live and breathe, I want you to know I am ready to witness to this man. I'm on this, Lord. I'm your girl! You've never seen a woman witness to a man faster in your life. What difference does it make if his hair is a mess if he is not redeemed? I am going to witness to this man."
Again as clearly as I've ever heard an audible word, God seemed to write this statement across the wall of my mind. "That is not what I said, Beth. I don't want you to witness to him. I want you to go brush his hair." I looked up at God and quipped, "I don't have a hairbrush. It's in my suitcase on the plane. How am I supposed to brush his hair without a hairbrush?" God was so insistent that I almost involuntarily began to walk toward him as these thoughts came to me from God's word: "I will thoroughly furnish you unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:17) I stumbled over to the wheelchair thinking I could use one myself. Even as I retell this story, my pulse quickens and I feel those same butterflies.
I knelt down in front of the man and asked as demurely as possible, "Sir, may I have the pleasure of brushing your hair?" He looked back at me and said, "What did you say?" "May I have the pleasure of brushing your hair?" To which he responded in volume ten, "Little lady, if you expect me to hear you, you're going to have to talk louder than that." At this point, I took a deep breath and blurted out, "SIR, MAY I HAVE THE PLEASURE OF BRUSHING YOUR HAIR?" At which point, every eye in the place darted right at me. I was the only thing in the room looking more peculiar than old Mr. Longlocks. Face crimson and forehead breaking out in a sweat, I watched him look up at me with absolute shock on his face, and say, "If you really want to." Are you kidding? Of course I didn't want to. But God didn't seem interested in my personal preference right about then. He pressed on my heart until I could utter the words, "Yes, sir, I would be pleased. But I have one little problem. I don't have a hair brush.""I have one in my bag," he responded.
I went around to the back of that wheelchair, and I got on my hands and knees and unzipped the stranger's old carry-on, hardly believing what I was doing. I stood up and started brushing the old man's hair. It was perfectly clean, but it was tangled and matted. I don't do many things well, but must admit I've had notable experience untangling knotted hair mothering two little girls. Like I'd done with either Amanda or Melissa in such a condition, I began brushing at the very bottom of the strands, remembering to take my time not to pull. A miraculous thing happened to me as I started brushing that old man's hair.Everybody else in the room disappeared. There was no one alive for those ",moments except that old man and me.
I brushed and I brushed and I brushed until every tangle was out of that hair. I know this sounds so strange, but I've never felt that kind of love for another soul in my entire life. I believe with all my heart, I - for that few minutes - felt a portion of the very love of God. That He had overtaken my heart for a little while like someone renting a room and making Himself at home for a short while. The emotions were so strong and so pure that I knew they had to be God's.
His hair was finally as soft and smooth as an infant's. I slipped the brush back in the bag, went around the chair to face him. I got back down on my knees, put my hands on his knees, and said, "Sir, do you know my Jesus?" He said, "Yes, I do." Well, that figures, I thought. He explained, "I've known Him since I married my bride. She wouldn't marry me until I got to know the Savior." He said, "You see, the problem is, I haven't seen my bride in months. I've had open-heart surgery, and she's been too ill to come see me. I was sitting here thinking to myself, what a mess I must be for my bride."
Only God knows how often He allows us to be part of a divine moment when we're completely unaware of the significance. This, on the other hand, was one of those rare encounters when I knew God had intervened in details only He could have known. It was a God moment, and I'll never forget it. Our time came to board, and we were not on the same plane. I was deeply ashamed of how I'd acted earlier and would have been so proud to have accompanied him on that aircraft. I still had a few minutes, and as I gathered my things to board, the airline hostess returned from the corridor, tears streaming down her cheeks. She said, "That old man's sitting on the plane, sobbing. Why did you do that? What made you do that?"
I said,"Do you know Jesus? He can be the bossiest thing!" And we got to share. I learned something about God that day. He knows if you're exhausted because you're hungry, when you're serving in the wrong place or if it is time to move on, but feel too responsible to budge. He knows if you're hurting or feeling rejected. He knows if you're sick or drowning under a wave of temptation. Or He knows if you just need your hair brushed. He sees you as an individual. Tell Him your need and he will fill it!!
I got on my own flight, sobs choking my throat, wondering how many opportunities just like that one had I missed along the way...all because I didn't want people to think I was strange. God didn't send me to that old man. He sent that old man to me.
John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." Life shouldn't be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather, to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly shouting, "Wow! What a ride! Thank You, Lord!"
Friday, November 10, 2006
The outcome of the moms vs. boys football game last weekend was, of course, a TIE! We found that throwing candy on the ground during a punt is a good distraction technique when playing against eight and nine year olds.
We are very fortunate to have the folks from Litegait, the maker of The Walkable, in town for a conference. They gave a lunchtime presentation to therapists at the children's hospital today, which I got to attend a portion of. Tomorrow they are going to meet us again at the hospital, but this time I am going to bring Abbie along so that can do a one-on-one consultation for her. We will be able to learn so much from them, not only about how to get Abbie walking again, but also about how to use the Walkable in creative ways to help with sitting, crawling, and playing. I was so enthused by the material I heard today that I put Abbie up in the Walkable this evening. I realized that even without orthotics we could still use it, we may just not be able to have her bear as much weight.
It has probably been 8 weeks since she's been up, and that girl always amazes me. She held her head and trunk for 10 minutes straight, looking as if she were thinking "ho-hum, I do this all the time." I was able to get her feet into a good position, with the heels almost all the way down - much more than I expected after this long break. Again, proof that she is improving even when we are not working on certain areas.
I was feeling pretty ragged earlier this week, and when that happens I tend to drift away from my moorings. About the time I was meandering into some serious waves, my sweet friend Julie K. sent me an encouraging note with a Bible verse that made me sit, catch my breath, and recharge, and then allowed me to get up again with a smile. So, I want to leave you with that same verse tonight.
I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
Eph. 1: 16-19
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Later that evening, still in somewhat of a funk, I heard a commercial that simply said, "When you feel like giving up, remember why you hung on so long to begin with." Great point.
Tuesday was a terrific day; I felt well, got a lot accomplished and Abbie had a good day as well. God was gracious in giving us this day, because we certainly needed to catch our breath to deal with the Wednesday that followed it.
Abbie was on oxygen all night, but when I went to get her out of bed the cannula wasn't even in her nose, and her sats were 96-97. Being slightly grumpy still, I decided we wouldn't go for a morning walk as we had the previous two days. I felt sort of guilty about that, but God was about to teach me that what is right on one day may not be the right thing on another. Shortly after I began feeding her, Abbie vomited just a little and began coughing out a lot of mucous. This doesn't happen regularly, but it's not totally uncommon either, so I wasn't overly concerned. Then her sats started dropping quickly. I put her on two liters of oxygen, but she continued to drop, all the way down to 82. I bumped her up to three, and then four. She still wasn't quite stable at four liters, and at that point I began considering calling an ambulance because I was home alone.
Thankfully, Debbie arrived shortly after I turned her up to four liters, and quickly did an assessment. She hates seeing Abbie go to the ER as much as I do, but we agreed that we really didn't have a choice, so began packing everything up for the trip.
Dr. E. was an ER doc I hadn't yet met, but with whom I was very impressed. It didn't take him long to burst my bubble by saying, "Plan on her being admitted. This is a high oxygen requirement, especially since she normally doesn't need any. Unless something miraculous happens, like her coming off the oxygen, I think we need to keep her here." Darn it! He suspected, as we did, that Abbie had aspirated something during the vomiting/coughing episodes. He ordered a chest Xray and an IV to start antibiotics.
We went to radiology first, with Abbie being driven by her "Uncle Mike." Mike is the radiology tech we got to know so well when he came to give Abbie a chest Xray each morning in the PICU after her injury. We have seen him many times since, and he has a real soft spot for Abbie. He and I teamed up to sit Abbie on a stool and take a couple quick pictures. As we were loading her back in her chair she broke into a HUGE grin for Mike, who had never seen her smile. His joy was infectious and overrode the sickened feeling I had from being in the ER again.
Back in the ER I worked on slowly weaning the oxgyen. I had her down to 2 1/2 liters when the nurse came to put in the IV. I asked her to wait, knowing that if the line went in, we'd be staying for sure. She got Dr. E's approval to hold off, and within an hour I had Abbie down to one liter, with my hopes rising that we wouldn't be going upstairs.
The chest film came back, showing no evidence of aspiration, but giving an explanation for why Abbie has been on and off oxygen for the last month or so. There is a technical name I am not even going to try to spell, but the bottom line is that in the lower portions of both of her lungs there is a bit of collapsing going on. This is caused by not using that portion of the lung and not moving around enough. As we put the pieces together, they all fit --- after her leg was burned she couldn't wear the orthotics we use for standing, so she hasn't done much standing since then. For a while after she was burned her activity level was much lower as we tried to protect the wound and she guarded it. Her breathing was also much shallower because of the pain she was in.
Just like most things in this journey, it's never one simple issue, there are always secondary, tertiary, and kajillionary things to deal with. I didn't see this one coming, and felt bad that we have allowed her to get to this point. The good news is that is reversible. We are going to concentrate on getting her up, even without orthotics, moving her around a lot, and enouraging her, through activity, to take deep, large breaths.
They gave her a nebulizer treatment before we left the ER, and it helped her significantly. So much so, that by the time we left she was off oxygen. The "miraculous" hurdle Dr. E. had set took only three hours to overcome...praise God. As we were leaving I realized again that I had seen the hand of the Romans 8:28 God. We needed that chest film to figure out what has been going on with Abbie so that we can fix it. Without an acute problem we never would've had an Xray taken. All things work together for good...
She got a neb treatment in the evening and then slept deeply, without oxgyen all night. We plan to give her about 3 treatments a day until we start to see improvements in her lungs. She looks noticeably better and brighter this morning.
Another day, another step -- and even the steps that hurt get us closer to the finish line.