Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Missed it For The World

"Have fun today buddy. Be careful." I said those words to my youngest son as he darted out the door this morning.A heaviness settled over my chest as he took off for a field trip with his class.He was dressed warm, packed a lunch, wore an extra jacket and carried plenty of water, but I dread these trips no matter what.
I don't dread field trips, its just this one...They're going to Zion National Park today.
In my heart I know that a trip to Zion will be filled with beautiful scenery, fun hikes and the chance to meet people from all over the world. Its a great trip and I should be excited. I'm not.
When I was around 14 years old, my brothers, cousins, uncle, Dad and I took a hike down the infamous Zion narrows. My Dad had done the hike before, a number of times and we'd heard the stories of repelling into pools of water, hiking through the river and the flash floods that plagued hikers in this canyon. We couldn't wait. With endless amounts of teenage energy we left to start the hike at about 5 am. One day was all we needed, my Dad assured as we began to traipse down the river. We didn't avoid getting wet, we couldn't avoid it. Why not get started?
I quickly learned the answer to that question.
After spending the better part of the day climbing in and out of the river as we hiked, I was cold, soaked, and ready to go home for a nice bath. We weren't even half way through. When we met up with another tributary named Deep Creek, it got worse. The water was bitter cold and the rocks became covered in a slick coating. You couldn't take a single step without rolling your feet and ankles as you walked. Our progress became slower and my Dad, a diabetic and heart patient, got hypothermia and started throwing up. Soon we were making no progress at all. Darkness was falling, the river was rising and a low rumble echoed down the canyon. The danger level, moderate when we left, rose to 'high' as we struggled through the water. We weren't going to make it with my Dad and we needed help.
Finally, the only hope for any of us was on my uncle's shoulders. He took the two younger boys and continued down the river while my brother, my cousin and I climbed to a jutting cliff about six feet up the canyon wall. We built a fire to warm my dad up and my cousin Michael got an emergency plastic tent out of his pack. We wrapped my dad in the covering to hold in as much body heat as we could and to protect him from the beginning of a rainstorm. We got some hot broth into him, huddled in the plastic and waited.
The rain fall grew heavier and the river continued to rise. We watched as the water level rose more than 6 feet in a few hours. The water turned dark and filthy, churning with rocks, debris and the branches of trees torn from their roots.
All night long we prayed. Prayed that our family had gotten out of the river before the water came down. Prayed our little campsite would stay above water. Prayed Dad wouldn't have a heart attack during the storm.
After a long night, we started down the river again. Cold, wet, and miserable but still alive and moving forward. After a couple of hours, Search and Rescue from the park met up with us and carried my Dad out on a stretcher. The boys and I still had to walk out though.
The crazy part is...We did it again one year later. There was less water, but just as many problems and it all ended with Search and Rescue.
Its been almost 30 years since I took those trips with my Dad. Although I have no desire to ever make them again, those memories are precious to me. It was better to have been there with him. I couldn't have just worried about him all night long, it would have driven me out of my mind. Those long hours with my Dad and my family are moments I'll never forget and wouldn't trade for anything.
Perhaps the reasons I won't go again have more to do with my general health, my missing knee cap, or my blindness, but I don't think so.
When my son left for Zion today, I didn't imagine him being washed away in a flood. A part of my heart still braves that canyon though, even all these years later. Memories I wouldn't trade or forget, but fears that will forever haunt me as well.
So, stay safe, my son, and understand, there's a whole lot more to 'Have fun and be careful." than you ever thought.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Costumed like love

A few years ago I went to the wedding reception of some good friends of mine. It was a beautiful ceremony, nice decorations and wonderful music. The members of the wedding party toasted the bride and groom and handed out sage advice for how to make the marriage last.
There were funny ones like..."You get what you get and you don't throw a fit" and "Cut up her credit card and all will be well."
There were a also more serious advice. "Love each other every day" and "never go to bed angry at one another"
My favorite and the one that has stayed with me is "True love is the way you treat your partner when you're not attracted to them."
What? You're married to someone you're not attracted to?
A shocking idea and one that rubs our sense of love and fidelity raw.
It is, however, the truth.
Over the last 18 years, my ability to be attracted to my husband is based on his voice, his personality, his good nature, sense of humor and patience. He is a man among men unlike any other.
He is also human and imperfect, even though he hides it really well.
It is harder for him though. He has seen me so sick I'm shaking and crying. He has seen me cut open from rib cage to pelvis. He watched his premature son, snatched from my womb which was cut wide open until he could see my lungs and rib cage. He's seen every manner of blood, fluid, puke, tears and pain come through my skin, my body, my scars and my heart. I've had tubes up my nose, down my throat and inserted in every vein in my body. He's held my hand, my hair when I vomited, my legs when they were swollen to twice their normal size and my body flat when I had an allergic reaction to a medication. He's seen in me, through me,  and around my misshapen and malformed body.
If attraction were necessary for us to have stayed married all these years, he'd of left me before we got married.
So often we think that attraction is love. Its not. Its just the costume love wears until the work begins.
When we go looking for the person we'll spend forever with, we look with our eyes and the first thing we find is the costume. It's said. "Men love what they're attracted to and women are attracted to what they love." The truth is Love is hard work, sacrifice, unselfishness, compromise, swallowed pride, being wrong, listening instead of hearing and letting go of being right because its an empty prize compared to being loved.
I always tell my husband that after all he's been through with me, his next wife needs to be a super model or something. He laughs, traces my healed wounds and tells me he loves my scars. They tell our story.
After all he's seen, the crazy part is he's still attracted to me too. Not the costume, the real me. Flawed, broken and imperfect because he looks at me with love, real love. Its the way he treats me, when he's not attracted. Its what makes him the love of my life.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Why Survive?

 A few weeks ago I awoke at 4 o'clock in the morning with a fever of 103 degrees. A bit extreme for most people, but for me...dangerous. I have two transplanted organs and an extremely compromised immune system. A fever of this magnitude requires a visit to the ER. My husband took me in about 6:30 where we discovered I had a raging infection. Antibiotics, rest, and a long series of medication and fluids can take care of it, but not this time. An infection turned to sepsis. Sepsis is where the infection goes into your blood stream and your entire body is basically one live bacterial circus. I got blisters on my face and hands, all of my organs were in such pain I couldn't move, but the pain was so extreme I had to move to keep it from taking over. I suffered from 'riggers' (maybe the wrong word) which is such extreme shaking from the fever that my bones rattled and I curled into a ball to try to keep any warmth. After five days of this, the fever cooled but my transplanted organs received an acute injury...damage done by the fever. After a few more days I was taken by ambulance to the transplant team to check on the organs. I felt pretty good at this point and just wanted to go home. I had a lot of blistering still and the infection wasn't dead so we decided to check on the organs. During this procedure where needles were stuck into the kidney and pancreas and sections were biopsied, I had an allergic reaction to one of the medications. My blood pressure dropped and I couldn't breathe or get my heart to beat at a normal rate. When this happened more than once, the doctors discovered I was bleeding from the biopsied sites into my abdominal cavity. I was moved to Surgical ICU, given a transfusion and pain killers before being watched for another 24 hours.
Now, if you know me, this is pretty normal for my health. When I go down, I go hard and fast. The older I get though, the more I realize the getting back up is harder and harder. I've spent the last week trying to get back on my feet and feeling like I might have been better off to have stayed in the hospital. At times like these, when recovery is long, painful and slow I wonder why I survived?
During this same period of time, a 16 year old boy in the surgical ICU next to me was brought in with a lacerated spleen. He did not survive. A car accident took the lives of a small family in the canyon and my neighbor's granddaughter, just 2 or 3, died suddenly with little or no explanation for what happened.
There were times in the hospital where I cried, begged for relief and gave my will to The Father as far as my transplanted organs were concerned.
So now I ask...Why did I survive?
I don't know the answer. My father-in-law says he stays alive because the devil won't take him and only the good die young. Perhaps its true. Its possible that I'm still trying to find my place between heaven and hell. I don't believe that though.
A part of me feels guilty because I get to stay with my boys, love my husband and fight a little longer. Part of me is grateful that the struggle is going on even though being free of this body would be easier. Most of me however, doesn't have answers.
One day we will all understand why 'The plan' is the way it is. Some day it will all make perfect sense. In the meantime, I live the best I can, I work to get better all the time, and I have faith that The Lord knows Why and for now...its enough.