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

Handling loss is a skill for living well

Some disappointments this past week have reminded me of the importance of handling “loss” well.  Change is a certainty in this life and many of us have had more than our share of both the voluntary and involuntary fare.  Change often means letting go of something or someone we cherish.  For the Christian we can view change as part of becoming more like Christ, maturing in our faith, and working out the details of our lives with the Lord.  It is necessary!  And all too often it doesn’t feel well though.

Here are 5 changes that came in rapid-fire succession for me lately:

  1. A counselor that I have been seeing to handle the grief of this serious biotoxin illness I’m dealing with, suddenly discharged me from her care.  A week ago Tuesday I had a major seizure attack episode in her office and had to leave abruptly.  The episode went on while standing outside the front door to her office then continued as I struggled to get back into my truck.  An hour and a half later I was able to leave to return home.  She checked on me multiple times during the event and even called me a few times to discuss our next appointment.  Until that day she had been opening the window in her office for me to increase air circulation before our starting time.  When she did not do so until I was about to walk into her office (on a rainy, humid afternoon), the scented “warming candle” residuals, soil aerosols from her live plant, and possible contaminants embedded in the office carpeting were too much for me.  She is now unwilling to meet me in a nearby library conference room since her driving time simply would not be reimbursable, won’t fit into her busy schedule.  So for now it’s bye bye Julie.
  2. For the third year in a row I had to miss my husband’s United States Canoe Association Nationals due to illness.  I am sad.  I love watching Steve compete in his surf ski (racing kayak) and missed both of his races including the exciting trial class event with our outrigger canoe.  It sounds like there was a photo finish as he crossed the finish line and I was not there to take it all in or take pictures.  Sigh.  We love taking road trips together.  Even if we could have afforded the expense of travelling together, I cannot tolerate the fragrances of hotel rooms, conditions of camping, or the unknowns of renting a travel trailer.  Such is life with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome!  I stayed home with our German shepherd pup in our “safe home.”  Parts of the two full days were actually better by the way:  I got to dig in the dirt of a new garden bed.  The second day was terrifying however with two, severe, hour-long episodes while home alone.  My Jesus saw me through when I thought I would stop breathing.  I did not.  My husband needed this time away.  Besides, having someone stay with me or check on me in the end dangerously increases risks to my health.  We made tough choices indeed.
  3. I realize that the isolation that accompanies this illness is killing my spirit.  I sense my social skills eroding.  Sitting in my truck in a cemetery adjacent to a Garden Walk event on Saturday, I nearly panicked because I was late and there were cicadas plunking my windshield as I tried to wrap up a phone call with Steve!  I had not talked to anyone but my dog for 24 hours so I was glad for his call.  However, I had felt awkward and alone getting ready.  And I know that these were just feelings.  The evening out went fine with barely a few tic zips, enjoyment of select entrees, and meeting some really nice fellow gardeners.  It’s just that the social part of my life is so unnatural, absent, and different now.  Just like when I went through a divorce, lots of people have left my life once again.  Reaching out has been tough when it’s so complicated just to get together.   I will keep trying though.  I have to . . .
  4. An occupational therapy (O.T.) recruiter for an agency for whom I used to do contract work called me TWICE this past week!  I guess they really needed someone!  Oh how I miss working.  Last night I did the equivalent of 4 hours of (free!) continuing education credits for my O.T. license, inspired perhaps by the phone call earlier.  Maybe someday there will be an equivalent at-home professional job that I can do that will utilize my skills.  Just gotta get rid of some daily seizure attack episodes first, eh?  Today they lasted most of the day.  My “job” was to take a shower and make dinner.  Done.  Don’t need an App to keep track of this kind of schedule, I tell ya!  Sish.
  5. Most of the time my worship is in isolation.  For a long time I looked to my husband to try and fix this one for me.  Why wasn’t he trying to find a church for us in a newer building that wasn’t water damaged?  My criticism of him and “our” church goes on from here; it is not good.  I have tried to fill the void with a read-the-Bible-in-a-year App, Christian radio talk shows, following various ministries via email or Facebook, interacting with other believers via the same, and continuous prayer throughout the day including praying with Steve.  But I crave real Christian fellowship.  I crave Women’s Bible Study.  There wasn’t even an outdoor baptismal service with our church this year and the annual hot dog roast will be a “no” in October due to the noxious exposures from the campfire.  (The smoke was hell for me last year.)  My heart is breaking on this one.  I know the Lord sees it too.  I trust Him.  Just today I got the sense that I may need to reach out a little more and not wait for someone else to fix it.  I contacted our “Encouragement Ministry” leader about starting something with others who are home bound and I  am waiting to hear back from her.  Hopefully it will be soon!

While we could discuss the solution to these problems the more important point here right now is that I know that each of these will bring goodness in due time.  I have realized the promise of the Lord “restoring the years the locusts had eaten” (Joel 2:25) after my life fell apart in 2003.  Joy returned and reminders of it are all around me.  I have chosen to write about these things in hopes that you will pray alongside me for the Lord’s will and redeeming grace for these recent losses.  Perhaps you, too, have loved and lost much while enduring all kinds of trials.  Please let me know about them and I will pray for you.

Gentle Reader:  we are to stand firm on the foundation of our faith in Jesus Christ who will:

  • Make all things new.  (Revelation 21:5)
  • Direct our paths.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • Extend His love, compassions, and faithfulness in newness every morning.  (Lamentations 3:22-23)
  • Remember us in our low estate with love that endures forever.  (Psalm 136:23)
  • Reward us for our faithfulness.  (Matthew 6)
  • Bless those who are good stewards of time, talents, and resources.  (Luke 16 &  Matthew 25)

And so much more.  I am encouraged.  My Jesus sits on the throne of my life and the throne of grace.  He will make beauty from the ashes (Isaiah 61) which are the losses that characterize living a full life here with Him as our Lord and Savior.  I trust His Word on this and hope that you will too.  Let us rejoice with great expectation for the goodness to come!

Isaiah 61

10 I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up
    and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
    and praise spring up before all nations.