Freedom from Rain

Rainy weather working its foggy magic on a landscape is beautiful. A rainy day encourages introspection. Or at the very least a nap. I love the rain in all of its spirited and benign forms. But we have had rain day after day without much respite. This is rain of a different sort. Too much rain foments rot both above and below ground. Too much rain spoils blooms. Too much rain dampens the spirit. We have had all of the aforementioned. 

Deborah Silver

Is it the rain or the cold that gets to my weary bones far beyond the havoc it reigns in the garden landscape?

Perhaps the dry-out late in July that parches the land through the Fall is even worse, when my soul aches for a simple cup of relief?

How will I look back on this season of my own life where moments of respite, nourished from the right care gives way to occasional relapse and now tragedy?

Alas my dear brother, survived with me but not with our youngest, Rob, lies in a coma amidst the sterile hum of machines you could never repair

In your appliance servicing days let alone fix your own broken spirit from never quite fitting into the affections of our Dad but perhaps too much by our Mom?

What is Mike’s world like right now: can he hear the buzz, taste the plastic tube down his throat, smell the air now sanitized and finally free of cigarette smoke?

I ache for you as I did for Rob. You two never did get the advantages I had as the oldest nor fight long enough for better despite our childhood traumas.

Or perhaps that first year of my life cinched it when there was more love to give in both bloodlines . . . oh how I wish I could go back and carve more out for you!

The Lord grieves for us three as now you are now in the juxtaposition from time to eternity. It’s just not how He meant it to be you know.

I will love you forever Mike. Godspeed if this is the end. Go to your Maker and live at last, totally freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

A rain garden rises from the soil and rocks, bringing beauty and purification. Consider this a sign in the natural world of His creation that imitates the glory of a life surrendered to Christ.

One Day

Friday my Doctor recommended some new supplements to further my care and seemed pleased at some progress revealed in retesting of my gut health.  But neither product is available right now; instead I had to crash in bed that night and most of Saturday.

Yesterday I thought I would work on trimming a sterile plum tree in our backyard that is riddled with black knot disease.  We are trying to save it for a few more years of it’s flowering glory in the Spring and rich wine-colored leaves in the Summer.  It was not to be so today.

Tomorrow I hope that my trial of THC-free hemp oil will resume with receipt of a shipment in the mail.  I didn’t realize when I started it recently, how much I would need nor the extra timing needed for shipments across our country.  This could help resolve the seizure attacks as soon as this week . . . if I get the dosing right . . . and if the next shipment arrives shortly thereafter.  But there was a fire in a warehouse between here and there, threatening my continuity of care.  Maybe I will have enough?  Maybe not?  Lord knows that one day we will have figured this all out!

When today came I thought I might clean our bathrooms and floors then complete an infrared sauna treatment before heading outside.  Instead I was sick.  Only the sauna treatment happened.

Then later and just when it looked like the core of my treatment plan was coming together, another infection sent me and my beloved to the walk-in clinic of our local hospital.  Geez oh man.  Steve offered to take me out to dinner last night but I could not make it.  I was hoping to take a walk with him and the pup in the sunny, 50-degree weather.  Nope, not today.

I cried a lot before proceeding with what we did need to take care of me today.  Life sure is funny.  Perhaps some medical appointments this coming week will clarify what I should do next to get well in addition to responding to urgent changes that seem to come along every few days.  And maybe someday, one day, we will make plans for something fun and they will really happen!

In the meantime,  date nights will be at a clinic or pharmacy at Walgreens or driving to the nearest metropolis for a fancy  NeuroQuant brain scan.  At least in the case of the latter, we got to see a dear friend, Mary, for a quick lunch at Freshii’s in Chicago’s Loop.  Now that’s making the most of a day, eh?

Straining to trust in my Lord this night.  Choosing to trust in His Word and promise to carry me through it all no matter what may be one day for:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.   Ecclesiastes 3

It tops the list

We all have times that define who we become:  turning points such as the day we got M-arried, came to C-hrist, experienced a T-raumatic event, W-itnessed the passing of someone we dearly loved, or maybe we I-nherited some money.  I have experienced all of these and some more than once!  I will leave you hanging on which one(s) have occurred more than twice!

Tonight I will publish the big “T” list for the most traumatic events I have experienced in 2 sub-categories as follows:

Emotional Trauma.  March 4, 2003:  The night my former spouse left me.

Physical Trauma.  December 18, 2016:  The afternoon a case of shingles took hold in my face.

Gratefully the gifts of time and good counsel have allowed the first one to fade over the past 14 years.  I have a wonderful husband now who loves me beautifully in my “intended beloved” Steve.  He has witnessed and endured the second big T with me two weeks ago.  I think we are both still in a bit of shock as I continue to recover.

I had just been diagnosed with shingles on Friday, December 16th in my doctor’s office.  (Shingles is a flare of chicken pox in adulthood triggered by severe stress.)  Dr. J prescribed an anti-viral medication and sent me off to the grocery store pharmacy to pick it up.  Within a day I started to itch and the pain in my right jaw was ramping up; the lesions on my face began to get bigger and blister.  Various remedies here at home were not making any impact.  I began increasing my dose of Ibuprofen to near-prescription levels to be able to sleep.  By Sunday I was holding the right side of my jaw and ear canal in agony and taking double the OTC dose of pain meds every 6-8 hours.  I thought that maybe I needed a chiropractic adjustment to treat the wrenching my neck from the daily seizure attack episodes.  However, the interim massage or stretching techniques were not working; heat or ice made everything much worse.  I sat in our sauna for awhile and had a rash by the time I was done.  What was going on?

Nothing really prepares you for the cruel, searing, unrelenting pain of shingles when it erupts in sensitive areas of the body!  I started to scream when the pain randomly pulsed up like a lightening bolt cutting through my jaw and ear.  I called our local Rapid Care Clinic and figured out how Steve and I would need to get there before it closed at 2:00 p.m. on a Sunday.  The internist who saw me marveled at the lesions that were now worsening both inside my mouth and on my face.  The rash was from the Valacyclovir (anti-viral).  He sent me to the hospital . . .

Even a crow bar might not have been enough to wrench my hand morphed into my face in a feeble attempt to control the pain.  Excruciating stages of waiting followed.  It would be EIGHT HOURS from my last pain medication at home before my first dose of Torodol in the ER (that did NOTHING, by the way!!!).  It would be an  additional FOUR HOURS before I would receive Dilaudid in my hospital room that brought relief and another day and one-half of nausea that broke through the Zofran administered to counter it.  Four liters of fluids ran through my veins over the next 3 days.  I held back portions of food on my bedside table to try and protect my stomach from the two new anti-viral medications, gabapentin, and prescription-strength Ibuprofen needed to manage my symptoms.  I slept 3 broken hours each night.  The foam ear plugs didn’t work.  HGTV got me through a drugged, constipated stupor.  I was so very sick.

I will never forget what happened in the tiny room in the ER where Steve and I landed that Sunday afternoon.  The room was so small that the gurney was positioned on an angle.  There was no call light and medical supplies were stuffed in open shelving within reach of each of us.  That’s not right!  A doctor eventually came in and started questioning me as if he had just met me in the hallway outside the gift shop.  “Did you not get report from the Rapid Care Clinic or internist who sent me here?” I blubbered.  “All of my allergies are in your computer system,” I tried to state while keeping some semblance of composure.  He left to go check as if to bow at the end of a chat at a wedding reception.  Unbelievable.

We tried to remain calm.  There was a lot of commotion outside our closed door from the activities and people moving about beyond it.  Hours were passing.  I had never had children before so the pain of birthing was not in my memory.  They do say that the pain of shingles is worse but I really do not know that personally.  Steve appeared numb with exhaustion.  We have both been through so much trauma over the past 5 years of my nightly seizure attacks, tens of thousands of dollars of medical expenses, lost holidays/events of life together, cancelled dreams, permanently altered sleep patterns, maddening chemical-avoidance activities, and existence from one crisis to the next but even so, we were not prepared for this night.

Then I completely came unglued.

Blood-curdling screams erupted from the depths of my soul.  Wails of grief were so deep that my entire body twisted and extended against the bed as heavy tears burned my scorched face and dampened the sheets, my clothes.  (I would end up wearing my sweats that way for the next 3 days.)  I could hold on no longer!!!  For a brief second I was able to glance at Steve as I gasped for air.  I never want to see that pained look on his face again as long as I live.  His fingers were stuffed into his ears to protect his hearing.  I was that loud!

Someone burst into the room to see what was wrong.  I could not speak, just screech!  It hurt my good ear and infected ear alike.  I could not stop except to push air into my lungs by thrusting out my chest wall.  Soon came the IV Toradol and it did nothing.  Back on my allergy list it went.  There was a chance that it would help this time.  It did not.

Still groveling, gasping, yelping in pain, someone eventually wheeled me out of that tiny room, onto a cold elevator, up a couple of stories, and into a room outside a noisy nursing station somewhere in that massive medical center.  Room 475.  Then Steve and I were alone.  Actually I don’t remember where he was.  I could not stop the yelps and hot tears as a rather disturbed-looking nursing assistant tried to help me to the bathroom around yet another angled hospital bed, infusion pump in-tow.  [Two weeks later I would learn a possible relationship between urinating and relief of seizure attacks as each relate to the issue of dehydration.  (See https://justjuliewrites.com/2017/01/03/hydration-is-key/ for more discussion on that topic.)]  More agonizing hours brought a nurse with another pain med on my allergy list but I did not care.  The torture finally began to come down some for the first time in half a day.

What remained was a shell of a man and his wife who kissed goodnight in that darkened hospital room.  The acute phase of the Physical Trauma was coming to a close as the chronic phase of shingles was to begin for me:  now officially labeled a “medically complex patient.”  There have also been complications of severe constipation, mouth sores that spread to the inside of my mouth and throat OPPOSITE the herpes simplex inside-and-herpes zoster outside on the right side of my face.  The body rash on my torso and forearms that accompanied the Valcyclovir spread to my groin on the right when the anti-viral medication was changed to Famciclovir.  Eventually the Hospitalist/Physician’s Assistant (because I never was allowed to see an Infectious Disease Doctor as promised you see) agreed to let me try Acyclovir with an OTC remedy just hours before discharge from the hospital.  I am still on it and tolerating it.  Whew.  Most importantly, the new combinations of medications controlled the worst of the facial pain.  Two weeks later I have started to sleep more hours in a row!  Woot!  Woot!

Interestingly, I was spared virtually any neck or back pain during the entire ordeal.  I had been in the ER earlier in December with intractable back pain.  Good golly!  Hydration and the use of new antibiotics for the treatment of Lyme disease probably played a role in both the flare and alleviation of both events.  Go figure.  Or maybe it was those simple back exercises I had started in the middle of the night before going to bed that did the trick?  Who knows?  I am grateful to the Lord for some sparing during this crisis, these crises.

The Lord is like that you know.  While he promises there will be trials for Christians during our lives, he also promises that they will have purpose and meaning in His plan for our lives.  There will be grace and goodness along the way (ie. HGTV hospital hangover!).  Jesus Christ grieves over our suffering and knows it too from His beatings, stabbing, death on a cross.  I will never know the amount of Physical Trauma that He willingly endured for me, for us when He died in our place for our sins.  And one of His own, Job, endured much more with tragic losses and boils over his entire body (not just his mouth and face), before the Lord blessed him immeasurably, restored his life anew.  After the Emotional Trauma noted above from 2003, I got to experience this kind of blessing.  That gives me hope with the more recent Physical Trauma.  Knowing all of this is helping me to rebuild, heal, go on from December 18, 2016.

Gentle Reader:  to whom will you turn when your time of testing comes?  I hope and pray that you will turn to the person of Jesus Christ:  our Redeemer Who makes all things new, all things right, all things good.  Even in the worst case scenarios of life, we won’t be suffering forever you know.  Our pain will not be wasted.  How about if we spend our lives worshipping the Lord together?

My God is Jesus Christ.  I can’t think of a better Person to place at the top the list of who I want to spend eternity with when the time comes.  It might even be soon ya know . . . JJ

 

 

Six Deer and a Skunk

We were heading south along a remote section of a newly created road when six deer, one by one, carefully stepped across the road in front of my truck.  My husband was driving and proclaimed that he was glad that he saw them just in time to slow down!  My proclamation was the awe of the gentle animals crossing our path on a night when the witness of God’s creation in the dark was the last thing from my mind . . .

Yes, we were on the way to the Emergency Room again.  After the third night in a row where convulsive episodes escalated with the setting of the sun coupled with unusual right, lower abdominal pain, we decided that our threshold had been reached.  The decision to drive off to the ER is never and easy one.  Am I really that bad?  If I am not dying should I just wait and see a little longer?  Now that our sixth trip in four years has come and gone we both agree that having an evaluation in the middle of the night is no worse than the alternative.  This trip was unusually unpleasant, however.

We waited almost 2 hours before being escorted back to exam room 22.  During that time we witnessed the collapse of a young woman in a wheelchair whose urine bag tube dangled over the edge of the leg rest and two family members looked on with worry.  We prayed for them.  Moments later one of the several children in the expansive waiting area spontaneously vomited all over her mother and the floor (about 15 feet away from us).  The mother and a nurse-type staff person whipped into action including spraying everything with a sure-to-be-aromatic cleaner.  In my heart I prayed and in the moment we moved to another section of the ER as I donned my mask so as to avoid the fumes and vomitus aerosols from further exacerbating the convulsive episodes.  In the distant section in which we landed was a double-wide chair that made a makeshift bed for my own weakened frame.  We later discovered that by the end of our tenure at the hospital there would be EIGHTEEN car accident victims that would filter through the emergency department that night.  Lord have mercy!

My own challenge was significant yet still I was filled with gratitude that it was not as bad as those around me.  Much later and somewhere after the halfway mark of the IV infusion of sodium chloride, the convulsive episodes subsided.  Yeah God!  Then came the abdominal CT scan and pelvic ultrasounds.  Each were laden with their own versions of torture just for me.  I guess I’m just “sensitive,” right?  (If I hear that phrase one more time I’m going to scream!)  No matter, the noxious symptoms accompanying these tests mixed with tears and additional pain were bonuses upon which I had not planned that night.  For example, I had planned ahead and brought my warmest fleece jacket for covering up in between procedures.  It just wasn’t enough to counter the cold life-size tongue depressor gurney of the refrigerated CT scanner!  Another episode added to the collection.  And for me, pelvic ultrasounds are very painful.  I was there for abdominal pain, right?  Oh yeah.  “Just breathe deeply honey.  You’re doing great . . . ”

Sometime later the nurse assigned to me returned.  She had already navigated through the comfort and pain medication options that I could tolerate then brought the latter in the wrong form for a person whose stomach was empty.  I declined.  Pain management Plan B never arrived.  Later I was sobbing after the ultrasound (US).  The US technician activated my call light requiring me to ask for my own pain medication to which a nursing assistant responded.  Someone beyond the closed glass doors and pulled curtain decided that a relaxant for the gut would be a good choice for me.  Perhaps that was indicated?  But the nurse appeared with an 8-inch long syringe including a 4-inch needle that was bigger than those I had become acquainted in my lifetime!  I thought surely she would administer it into the IV line.  Nope.  She started to pull up the sleeve of my hospital gown.  With horror I wondered how so many cc’s of fluid from that big of a needle would ever penetrate my deconditioned arms.  “It has to be given intramuscularly,” she instructed.  “How about my hip?” I replied.  And as I turned to reveal the warmth of my skin buried beneath 2 blankets and a flimsy gown I began to freak out.

“No.”  “I don’t think the pain is bad enough to endure the pain of an injection like this,” was all I could blurt out.  She said “fine” and some trained nursing replies as she discarded the second drug that I wondered if or not would be added to our massive bill that night.  She left the room.  And then I began to cry and cry and cry.  I just couldn’t take the whole ordeal anymore.  I wept some more.

Within the hour we were making our way to the all-night cafeteria in that large Regional Medical Center.  My beloved, Steve, and I scarfed down more food than we had in a long time!  French fries are a great comfort food at 2:30 in the morning!  The salads were reasonable too.  At last my brain and personhood began to revive.

Steve drove us home into the dark and near-drizzly night.  Perhaps he was a bit cautious as we went, knowing the numerous auto accident victims that were our unseen neighbors in their own suites at the hospital.  “How bad were they injured?”  I wondered.  Oh my Lord, please comfort them too.  My mind drifted to the half-dozen deer that welcomed us before the bright red lights of the “EMERGENCY” entrance had illuminated our path 4 1/2 hours earlier.  I felt so much peace when I had seen them.  It was like the Lord was showing me that things were going to be alright.  Then again, their crossing was followed by the stench of a skunk!  What on earth could that mean?  Who knows?

Maybe the deer were “skunked” before they crossed the road.  Hunting season has begun dontcha know?  Maybe Steve and I we were somehow skunked too.  We made our best decision and ventured out to the hospital instead of what most couples do on a Saturday night.  And through it all, my beloved Steve was a champ the entire time.  He always is, dontcha know?

Some of you know that in about a month the number of years that I have been sick will exceed the number of years that I have been well during my marriage to Steve.  When presented with this observation Steve never flinches and repeats his vow of promise to love me forever on either side of the road of life.  Sigh.

headstone, marriage vows, til death do us part, cemetary, his and hers, cemetary plots, funeral, graveside service, Christian marriage
Til death do us part . . .

Oh my Stevers.  YOU my love are such a precious dear!  JJ