Monday, November 22, 2010

Love is Stronger than Death; Laughter Wipes Away Tears

It's taken me several days to catch up on sleep and digest the events of last weekend's Near-Drowning Mom's Retreat  (the first annual, I might add).  It was like the longest slumber  party I have ever attended.  In the weeks leading up to it, I was concerned that it might be really heavy and sad, with many stored tears let loose.


Or, more appropriately, hahahahahahaha!!

I don't recall ever having laughed so much in my life.  Perhaps it was because for one smidgeon of time each of us were "normal", and our lives were just like everyone else's.  Perhaps it was because we could make jokes that we would never say nor tolerate in the outside world.

Here's one example:  we'd just come back after a long day in Seattle and were determined to go in the hot tub even though it was 11:30pm.  We dashed through the cold air, and hopped in...only to find that for some reason we were now submerged in a Lukewarm Tub.  The temperature was only 90 degrees, and we were stuck.  It was way too cold outside to make a run for it without being heated up by the tub, but it was way too tepid in the tub to be enjoyable.

We decided we would push, poke, tickle, talk to and yell at the tub controls until it began heating the water (which eventually worked.).  Two hours later it was at 99 degrees and we were feeling pretty toasty, comparatively.  As the clock neared 2am, our eyes were drooping.  One mom said, "Now, I don't think it would be too funny if the headline tomorrow read '5 moms drown in hot tub at near-drowning retreat.'"

A line like that would have made us cry or yell in the real world, but here in our bubble of understanding and shared struggles (and sleep deprivation) it was just plain funny.

Most of all, though, I think we laughed so much because during the time each of us has been on this road (varying from 2-8 years) we have had to choose over and over and over again to laugh instead of cry.  We have highly refined senses of humor, and our instant sisterhood allowed us to poke fun at each other's expense from minute one.

Annie is the mom of Isabelle, who drowned 13 days after Abbie did. We have been in touch since that first incomprehensible summer when both our girls were in rehab, and I have been longing to meet her.  She was the last to arrive, at 1:30am.  I, on the other hand, flew over night the night before and had been at the house since 9am...waiting, and welcoming, and waiting some more.  Finally, she walked in, gave me a hug, said "hi" and then...."You are SO SHORT!!  I just really thought you'd be taller."

Yep, after 6 years of shared trials THAT was the first thing out of her mouth....and thus it began.  Sharp tongues and sharper wits kept the weekend lively.

The other thing that was overwhelming, in hearing everyone's stories, was not the loss or the heartache, but the goodness of people.  It is staggering, truly, the kindnesses that have been showered on our children and our families.  Teresa, Samuel's mom told of being discharged with no nursing care -- an unfathomable load to carry.  The nurses at the ER where Samuel first went heard about this and organized a volunteer schedule of shifts that covered two months.  The meals, the prayers, the financial help -- THAT was what we talked about in awe.  Each of us is so, so grateful.

While I had looked forward to meeting these women, I had not begun to conceive how powerful it would be.  The safety of shared experience, the freedom from judgement or the need to explain, the concentration of hope and faith, and the permission to be a little (lot) silly.

It may sound overly sentimental, but I say it in the fiercest voice I can raise - these are my sisters bonded in tears, and grief and sorrow, but experienced in joy and laughter and hope.  What a heavenly gift!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

OR Express Lane

For Abbie, this morning brought a "Wham-Bam" of procedures in the operating room.   At 6:30am she had tubes  placed in her ears to drain fluid, allow her to hear better, and ensure she tolerates the hyperbaric chamber without pain.  Since she was going to be under anesthesia for this, I thought it would be an opportune time to repeat the Botox injections in her arms we had done in April.

Her orthopedic surgeon was so gracious to sandwich her into his jammed schedule, so he saw Abbie at 6:45.  He told me later that he had some Botox left over after injecting her biceps and supinators (forearm muscles), so he injected her stubborn little thumbs.  That unexpected bonus made me smile.

I am so pleased we were able to get the Botox on board now, so that it will be in full effect by the time the seating specialist from San Diego gets here to assess her for the power chair next month.

After these two procedures, she was then handed off to an audiologist, who tested her auditory nerves while she was still under sedation.   She feels that Abbie can hear well, despite having some neuropathy.  The level of the neuropathy has not changed since her first test 6 years ago - so that was good news.

Ray and I met Abbie in recovery around 8:45am.  I was excited that we would be getting home so early in the day, as I still had some preparation to do for my flight to Washington tonight.  Just one glitch....Abbie needed to wake up before we could go.

We knew she was with us because she would furrow her brows when a new recovery arrival would awaken and begin crying.  But, she would not crack those peepers open.  Finally, she was moved out of recovery, because she no longer needed the monitors, and we went back to the "SurgiCenter" where our morning had started.


She just kept snoozing.  By now, Ray had had to leave for a meeting, so Kyle had arrived to help me take Abbie home.


Nothing was working - not uncovering her and letting the cool air hit her skin.  Not changing her panties.  Nothing.

Finally, I asked Kyle to just go to her bedside and start talking to her while gently shaking her chest.  A glimmer of hope, as one eye cracked open!  I prodded him to keep going, until she was awake enough for us to convince the nurse to take her IV out.  She was definitely not completely with it, but we made a break for it while we could.

Once we got home, she did very well.  As she really brightened up, we could easily see how much better she was hearing.  Every little sound, and the softest whispers got responses from her.  What a blessing!  We will be looking forward to see how her schooling will go now, and are grateful that her ears won't be causing her any more pain.

Could I ask you to pray for her this weekend while I am away?  I'm a little surprised at myself, that I am flying away the day she had procedures done - but, I trust her and I trust Ray.  I know all will be well if they are covered by prayer.

Please pray also for the moms who will be converging on Suncadia tomorrow, and the families they will be leaving behind in North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, Utah, Arizona, California, Washington and here in Hawaii. I can't quite envision what it will be like to all be in the same room together, but it is going to be gooooood.

My prayers go out today to the families of our fallen veterans, and those caring for injured and recovering veterans, as well as all vets.  May the Lord bless and keep you; Make His face to shine upon you; May He always be with you; and bring you peace.  Your country is so grateful.