Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Greatest Treasures

14 years ago today, I was curled in a fetal position begging the doctors to put me out of my misery. I had eight I.V. lines inserted into every vein I owned. I hadn't eaten, slept, or breathed like a normal person in about six months, and I was over 150 pounds. I'm normally five feet tall and about 100 lbs.
Now, if I have your attention then I should start at the beginning, well not the very beginning because I'd have to go back to the day I met Erik, but at least the beginning of how I ended up in the latter situation.
March 22, 2000 was the day my labor was induced so I could deliver my son, Zack. Notice today is March 25, not 22. Hence the story.
I was never expected to have natural children because of my precarious health. However, after I got pregnant on two different forms of birth control, it became obvious that God didn't agree with my doctors recommendations.
My body handled pregnancy only barely for the first 22 weeks. After that my struggling kidneys couldn't keep up. My blood pressure rocketed to 220 over 130. For most people those numbers are extremely high, for me they were nearly fatal. I was immediately confined to bed rest in Utah Valley Regional Medical Center for the duration of my pregnancy.
Bed rest for 12 weeks is a separate story that I will tell one day, but not today.
Today, or rather, three days ago, my kidneys were collapsing. If the baby were going to live as well as the mom, he would have to be born premature.
Now if my perinatologist had been in the country, we'd have just delivered Zack C-section and skipped the three day safari through purgatory.  Unfortunately, anyone who knows me will tell you I never do things the easy way. I convinced my OB that my body would heal faster and do better if I could deliver Zack on my own. Okay, clearly I was a stupid first time Mom who has never experienced labor before, but I was a tough chick I could do it. Man...was I wrong.
The first thing they did was a procedure known as "Stripping The Membranes". Yes, its as bad as it sounds. If your picturing someone sticking a wire coat hanger up to claw a furrow into your uterus, then you're just about right. Its more like a sharpened, rusty, wire coat hanger.
After I screamed like the devil himself were gutting me with a dull spoon, I spent three days feeling like my spine was trying to escape through my mouth. My blood pressure shot up, and my blood sugar went down. I got more medicine in I.V. bags. I got Pitosin to get labor going and then I got Magnesium to stop it from going too far. The baby was having no part of being evicted 6 weeks early, so he stayed as far from the exit as he could. While my too narrow hips tried to widen enough to let the baby through I got an epidural.
Aww, the power of really killer meds can be invaluable sometimes.
18 hours later though, there weren't enough chemicals in a nuclear dump to take away the pain. I'd been pushing for those excruciating hours and the baby was having none of it. It was taking so long, and was so miserable that poor Erik was left alone, the baby crowning, and wondering if he needed to catch the little guy.
He didn't though, Zack was stuck. He was posterior, which means face up, and his head was too big for the birth canal. So after his eye socket was rammed into my pelvic girdle for a day and a half, his heart rate was dropping below a hundred beats per minute and I was wrung out. All of the medications and fluids had filled my body with so much liquid that my failing kidneys couldn't process it and I swelled to 10 pounds heavier than I'd been when I was pregnant by the time we got Zack out.
Our last resort were  forceps  to pull him out at 12:29 on Saturday March 25. He was purple and not breathing. I was torn open and reacting to the anesthetic so I barely even saw him. When he finally started breathing and his color returned to a normal baby pink, the poor kid looked like he'd been through a prize fight. His eye sockets were black and blue from hitting his head on my pelvis, his cheeks were bruised on either side of his face from the forceps, and his head and belly were like a normal 8 pound baby even though he only weighed 5 pounds.
The kid is a string of miracles in just getting here.
The most amazing part is this 14 year old treasure though. My Zack is smart, beautiful, talented, sweet, charming and funny. He takes care of me like I hung the moon, and he loves to fly. You'll find him back flipping off of walls, running pell mell into life, playing his guitar, or helping someone else learn to do what comes so natural to him.
I know all mother's think this about their kids but I'm telling you...If you'd seen this broken, bruised, bloodied little froggy looking baby when he was born, you'd never recognize the brilliant, beautiful, wonderful treasure he truly is.
Our greatest gifts and most valuable treasures are the one's we sacrifice blood sweat and tears for. If you asked me to do it again, to go through all of it a thousand times over so I could be his Mom. I would. You would too. How many times do we shy away from things that are hard, or uncomfortable, or inconvenient because we don't want it.
Thank the heavens and stars that God knows what treasures are found in our trials. I remind myself when I'm in the middle of something horrible that I'm not suffering, I'm digging for a diamond.
Pain is inevitable. It comes with being human. Running from it or avoiding it will only result in missing out on the treasure. While you deal with pain, because everyone of us does, take on the attitude of a treasure hunter. You are in for quite an adventure, but suffering through it is optional. Instead focus on the golden prize.
Happy Birthday Zack, my little knight in shining armor. I'd do it all a million times over, You're worth it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Loosing My Mind

A wise man once referred to mental disease as; the dark abyss of the mind. A crater of darkness in the brain for which there is no relief. It has been my privilege in life to care about, pray for, and love a number of people who have bravely struggled through this blackened landscape of emotion. Such  devastating diseases of this nature vary in degree as well as intensity for not only the people who live with and love the sufferers, but for the victims themselves. Everything from Postpartum, Bi-polar, anxiety, Obsession,Disassociation, schizophrenia, borderline personality, and attachment disorders have touched the darkness.
The worst part of these diseases is there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Many people know what it's like to be in pain, depressed, tired and worn out. We also know that when we rest, heal, and "get back on our feet" those sicknesses are temporary. Have you ever imagined how you would cope with those feelings if they never went away?
A dear friend of mine suffers from Dis associative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple personalities. This disorder is formed through extreme trauma at the hands of the most trusted care givers, and at a very young age, before the age of seven. The condition is deepened and worsened with continued abuse and trauma, but before the age of seven experts believe the broken pieces of the mind can be put back together. My friend didn't have the chance to learn what was happening to her until she was in her twenties however, and now she struggles daily, and for the rest of her life. If it's not the paranoia, anxiety, depression, hallucinations, and physical pain. It's the expense of therapists, medication, treatments, and hospitals. The side effects of both the disease, the trauma to her body, and the medications make her life a dark abyss, indeed.
The good news is, she is actually a fabulous cook, an avid hiker, a dog lover, a preschool instructor, and a primary teacher. She loves, laughs, inspires, and sets an example for people like me.
Anyone with chronic disease of any kind knows how easy it is to slip into depression when your body and/or mind betrays your desires to be happy. I was warned years ago that diabetics are prone to depression. After I lost my father, I sank into that very quagmire of darkness with out a fight.
Yet, anyone who knows me now, knows I am severely optimistic. I love life, people, my family, my friends, and my Savior more than anything. It doesn't treat, heal, or eliminate the diseases. It doesn't bring health, rest, or relief. It does bring hope.
"The best medicines are listed as: Love, Laughter, and hope. I will never see this world, my children, my grandchildren, or the ones I love. I hope that one day when I can see, i will. I'm not sure it even matters though.
The hope that keeps me from losing my mind is not to recover what has been lost. It is the hope that nothing is truly lost.
Its not the hope that there will be an end to life and release from pain. It is a hope that life learning will never end, even if it comes with pain.
It isn't a hope that soon it will be over. It is a hope that even though it will never change or get better; I will.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Right Of Way

When the front bumper of a car smashed my knees against the bicycle I was walking through the intersection, I was to say the least shocked. I was in a cross walk. The audio signal was indicating it was my turn. It evidently didn't matter though. I was knocked down and my 2 year old son, who was in a bicycle carrier was knocked over as well.
Luckily for both of us, the car had slowed to turn right at a stop light. When the older lady driving checked left but not right, she plowed into me as I crossed in front of her. A frightening experience for my son and I, but I think she was scared too. She jumped from her car, ran around to where we sat crumpled in the road, and began yelling at me for marking the paint on the hood of her car.
As I brushed gravel from my hands and knees, picked up my screaming toddler and dragged the bike out of the intersection, she continued to berate me for crossing the street when she had the right of way. She informed me her son was a lawyer and would be contacting me to pay for the paint job of her car.
I just turned my back on her and walked the bike down the road. She yelled for me to come back so I could give her my phone number, but I ignored her. My son was clinging to me and my focus was on him. My husband later told me I should've gotten her phone number and sued her for running down a blind lady in a cross walk.
It made me feel better certainly, but the truth is; it wouldn't have been the right way.
Often when someone has wronged us, or acted foolishly, our immediate response is to make them pay because they are wrong. In the driver of the car's perception, I was in her way and she was right. I wasn't perfect in my behavior, even though I had the right of way in the situation. I know some of you are asking yourself what a blind lady was doing riding a bike with a baby in tow? I can almost hear you smiling right now!
Life is never as cut and dry as who is right and who is wrong.
Each of us make mistakes. Every one wants to be in the right, but will find them selves on the back side of what "Right" really is.  Instead of worrying about whether or not you have "the right" to behave the way you are acting. Ask your self if you're acting "the right" way. Do you allow others the same mistakes you want others to allow you? Do you judge a group of people based on the actions of a few individuals? Even if your intentions were right, were your attitudes, actions, and understanding accurate? Even if you were "right", would you rather be justified or peaceful?
I learned this lesson from my mother a very long time ago. For a good portion of my young adult years and even before, I wanted to prove to her that I was right, that there were differences between her way, my way, and the right way.
When I stopped trying to prove to her I was right; I discovered we actually agree on a lot of things.If my mother is reading this she's probably shaking her head and wondering if I've had a seizure. You probably don't know you taught me this but you did Mom. Thank You.
 This lesson has been invaluable in my life. God's way is "The Right Way". My foolish, mortal, flawed mind can't begin to grasp infinite principals with finite understanding. I don't have faith in God because I'm too stupid to use my own brain to tell the difference between right and wrong. I walk with faith because this planet is occupied by imperfect humans. I trust the only perfect being I've ever known, Jesus Christ.If you're asking yourself if that's difficult not having ever met the man. Its Not. The hard part is doing the work to know, trust, and give my life to Him. With the last 40 years of practice, I know Him. I can't wait to know him better every day. I can't wait to ask him all my weak and mortal questions. Mostly, I can't make it through all the interpretations individual people have of their rights without his love and example to show me the right way.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

When The Blind Lady Can See...Be Afraid

After a five day stint in the hospital, I turned my head toward the sound of the television only to see a curtain of thin flowery material shrouding my bed. My sister was in the room talking to me, her husband and mine were commenting on the basketball game blaring from the screen. I couldn't see any of them, but I could see colors, tropical flora, and a pale green background. When the nurse's voice asked me if I was Okay, I sighed and smiled. "I'm hallucinating. We should probably figure out Why."
Being able to see colors and images that I hadn't seen in almost 20 years was kind of fun, but after everything I'd gone through over the previous five days, I knew it wasn't good.
It all actually began two years earlier. When I started having kidney dialysis in July of 2007. The side effects of not having kidneys immediately started piling up. You are limited in your food possibilities because of your body's inability to filter out certain things like potassium, calcium, salt, water, and some vitamins that are dangerous in large quantities. I immediately was restricted from: all dairy products, tomatoes, potatoes, celery, peanut butter, orange juice, or any citrus fruit, starfruit and a myriad of others. The difference in nutrition and hydration is difficult enough, but even when you're compliant your body holds anywhere from 3-5 extra pounds of water that swells your tissues and puts pressure on your nerves. Your skin turns colors, your hair and nails are brittle and thin, and your blood pressure is rising or sinking according to how much water is in your veins. Your heart struggles with the three hour process of taking your blood from your arm, running it through a machine to clean it, and then circulating it back into your body. A tablespoon at a time, by the way.
You're exhausted by the process, your hematacrit, which is the iron in your blood is low, and your body is trying not to destroy itself. You can imagine the medication, doctors, and dietary discipline you must have.
I was on over 13 different medications to balance, sodium, calcium, digestive processes, heart and blood issues and proper nutrition. The side effects of all of this were mind boggling.
One of the worst I dealt with was the problem of my resting heart rate. I'm a small person. five feet, 100 pounds or so. My resting heart rate is higher than a much larger persons would be, but mine was 112. Normal is around 80.
One of the medications I was on slowed my heart rate to a more normal range. Nine months before receiving a kidney transplant, I was being evaluated and my doctors told me to get off this medication. One of its side effects was that it would camouflage the symptoms of low blood sugar. It was doing that. for over a year,my blood sugars would dip down into the 30's before I could tell it was too low. An average person loses consciousness at 24. Needless to say; I'd lost consciousness, turned purple, and been in a semi-comatose state a half dozen times due to this medication.
When I spoke to my dialysis doctors about the medicine, I was assured it was necessary. That is until I ended up hallucinating in the hospital.
The hallucinations were actually due to another medication my cardiologist tried after taking me off the first one. He took me off the first one because...
One morning in July of 2009 I was getting my kids out the door to play with their friends when I lost all feeling on the left side of my body. It started with my hand, moved up my arm and then spread to my mouth, tongue and face. It then traveled down my body until I couldn't stand because I couldn't feel my left leg. I called my doctor who told me I was having a stroke. The doctor's office called an ambulance. I called my husband.
After taking me to the ER, I was checked into the hospital. After about an hour all feeling had returned, I'd had a CAT scan, an MRI and a neurologist assigned to me. They couldn't find anything. I stayed for 24 hours without another 'episode' and my doctor said I should go home. No answers, no explanations, my body was just going to randomly betray me without warning. "Good Luck."
The nurses from dialysis came to my room to dialyze me as I prepared to go home. At the end of the three hour session, my nurse removed the machines and left my room to go get the paper work ready when it happened again. My entire left side was numb. I could feel my face drooping. Even my tongue wouldn't form words. The nurse came back, took one look at my ashen skin, blue lips, and panting breaths before calling an emergency.
We went through all the tests again, and I had two more episodes, one in front of the neurologist before they told me they just didn't know. My brain scans showed no irregular activity, my EEG and EKG were both normal.
Moving me to the cardiac floor, they hooked me up to 'tele' no, not the television. It reads your heart beat and plots its activity.
That night my husband called my mom and told her the doctors suspected I was having a series of mini-strokes but it was impossible to tell. All the episodes of low blood sugar had caused blank spots on my brain, scar tissue from mini-strokes caused when I would pass out from the low sugar levels.
As I fell asleep that night, I had a long heart to heart talk with God. He and I have had a deal ever since I lost my Dad. I would die when I was good and ready. He wasn't taking me one second sooner.
Does it sound like a spoiled, impertinent, child? That's because I was.
That night as My Father-in-Heaven and I spoke, I told him I was sorry. My life didn't belong to me, it belonged to Him. I relinquished my will to live in exchange for a mustard seed of trust. "Do what is best, I will stop fighting," I told Him.
I drifted off that night never expecting to awaken.
Imagine my surprise when the morning dawned, and I was still breathing.The nurses bustled around my room, asking if I wanted a shower. If I was ready for breakfast, and if they could do anything for me. I took my blood sugar and it was around 50 so my nurse brought me a cup of juice. As I drank it and chatted with her, we heard an alarm start blaring throughout the hallways on the cardiac floor. "Code Blue...Code Blue..."
I knew what Code Blue meant, someone was having a "Cardiac event",  never good.
Suddenly the door to my room was thrust open and three male nurses burst into my room. They stopped in their tracks, staring at my nurse and I.
"You're awake," one of then said, blinking. "And your sitting up?"
Nodding at him I'm sure I looked utterly confused.
"You should be having a heart attack. Your heart just stopped beating for 10 seconds."
As I felt the numbness swarm over my body again, it all made sense to me.
My cardiologist took me off the medication to slow my resting heart rate. It was causing my heart to stop completely. For the next three days we tried different drugs to solve the problem, but in the end...
The gift of my brother's kidney saved my life. Kidney transplant services will tell you a kidney transplant is not a life saving procedure. People live for years, even decades on dialysis. I was not going to be one of those people though.
After I relinquished my will to God that fateful night, I have never looked back. I am nothing, He knows what's best.I got the chance to understand that great principal without losing more than a little feeling in my left side, freaking out my family, and seeing some really pretty colors.
That's what I call a happy ending.God always provides those. One of my favorite quotes is: "It will all work out in the end. If it hasn't worked out yet, then its not the end."
Stepping away from God when you don't like his way is like destroying a masterpiece because you can't find the right frame. He hasn't abandoned you, it's just not the end. This life, this world, this time is only going to last a moment. It might be a painful moment. It might be the moment when your masterpiece just looks like a splash of paint, but its not the end. Light will return. Peace can fill your heart if you let it in, and a blind lady will see.