Sunday, April 28, 2013

Love One Another....My Takeaway from Mass

It's no secret.  I've had an incredibly rough year.  Not as rough as some, but rough enough that I wouldn't wish on anyone.  To recap, my sister was in a tragic accident that left her in a coma for quite a few months, a leadership role that I assumed has left me hurt and broken, and the daily struggles of raising three kids while my loving husband was caught up in an extremely busy project at work.

To give a brief update on my sister, she is doing amazing! She still requires 24-hour care and needs assistance with most of her basic needs, but she is awake mentally.  She is beginning to speak to us and eat and take her medicine on her own.  A huge accomplishment.  She still has quite a long road ahead.  The right side of her body is immobile, so she is unable to walk or move herself from bed or a chair.  But, as I have said all along she is a fighter.  She has surprised doctor's and nurses familiar with Traumatic Brain Injury with her great progress.

This past year, I have received numerous advice ranging from - get over it, she will never get better, that will be her quality of life (obviously in reference to my sister).  Other advice I have received is to rid myself of people that are toxic to my mental health (this consists of close friends and family).  I have received hate filled e-mails, when all I wanna do is write back - Eff off, witch! (that's me putting it nicely).  My husband has been involved with a soul-sucking project that has shattered our daily doings, we have to learn how to work together again and work together as a team.

I always ask in prayer - What is the right thing to do?  I always proceed with what I feel is the best and right thing to do.  When I wanna scream and yell and cuss, I know this is not what God wants from me, He wants me to proceed in a manner that shows His love and grace to all.  When I wanna walk away from that mean and hateful person, I am reminded of this morning's message when Jesus said to "Love One Another as I have Loved You".  Wow! What a statement!  There are many times I don't feel I deserve His love!  I've not always been the nicest, I have struggled with severe depression and anxiety that left me shattered, I have not always been truthful with myself or others and yet God still loves me.

When I am faced with an unhappy person that chooses to use words of hate towards me, I must remind myself that I am to love them too.  I must continue to proceed in a manner of love however hard it may be.  Nobody said it is gonna be easy.  I have been told that I need to cut people out of my life, including family, because they are not healthy for me.  Father stated this morning that we are to still love them regardless.  We are to love them to be their best that they can be.  I have accepted that I cannot change them, but I can love them and I do not need to cut them from my life.  Your family is the most important piece that you can have regardless of how crazy and chaotic it can be.

I tell you to love all those around you.  Do you need to bend over backwards and shout "Hey, I love you!"? You can, if that's your prerogative.  It's as simple as smiling at the cashier of the gas station.  Saying hi to a stranger.  Making copies for the secretary.  Delivering a simple message for the teacher. Making a grocery run for a family member.

As for me, I'm gonna tell my family "I love you" constantly at all times, even those that stress me out the most.  I'm gonna continue to provide service even when all odds are stacked against me.  I'm gonna respond to negative emails with truth and kindness.

Because really folks, it's simple, as Jesus has told us "Love One Another as I have Loved You!"

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Long Overdue Update

It's been a while since I have had a chance to sit down and type about Rachel and the healing process.  Rachel has been moved from St. Vincent's ICU trauma unit to Rehabilitation Hospital Indiana (RHI).  She has been at RHI for several weeks now.  First of all, what an amazing place!  Walking into RHI, one of the first things you walk by are two large Therapy Gyms.  This is where the work is done - therapists working with patients one on one to relearn the simplest to hardest tasks.  Walking by these gyms leave you with such a feeling of awe.  As you work your way back to the unit Rachel is in (the Traumatic Brain Injury unit) you are hit with two waves of emotion - hope and depression.  In Rachel's unit, there is an area for patients to eat and visit with family.  These patients are in different stages of the healing process - relearning to eat, write, talk.  You are filled with a sadness as you weave through this small and crowded area.  But, if you are able to sit long enough, the sadness changes to hope as you see that they are making progress and while I may not know their back story, you know that they have truly come a long way.

When I finally get to Rachel's room, I am overwhelmed with emotion.  Emotion that I finally see Rachel, my sister, not Rachel the patient in a hospital.  Was there a miraculous change between the hospital and RHI?  Physically, no.  But RHI is equipped to treat their patients as people, not just another patient.  Rachel was dressed in clothes, she was missing many of the tubes, her room was tastefully decorated, she had a nurse that sits with her to care for her 24/7.  As I sat and visited with Rachel on this first day, I have already noticed many improvements in the 12 short hours that she was released from the hospital to RHI.  I witness the Physical Therapist tell her to move her hand this way or to adjust her leg that way, and she does those very simple basic tasks that she was not doing two days before.  I see her look my way and give a little smile as Bella and I sit to visit for a few minutes.

I unfortunately do not get the time to spend at the hospital to visit like I would like to do.  I keep in constant contact with my mom who gives me daily updates on Rachel's progress.  Rachel has always been our trouble maker - of which I say that in the most lovingly way and those of you that truly know Rachel know that I speak the truth with no ill will in mind.  With that said, Rachel does like to cause some stress by pulling at tubes.  Something that is quite common with patients with a traumatic brain injury (TBI).  In a short amount of time, she removed her trach tube.  She no longer has a trach and now breathes on her own.  She communicates using hand signals or by closing her eyes for no.  On nice days my mom takes her for long walks outside in her wheelchair.  She is relearning to eat and has been able to eat pudding and suck on ice cubes. She will give us high fives.  While all very simple tasks, they are amazing feats of accomplishment. 

As for Rachel herself - it's very hard to explain medically what is happening.  (Part of the reason it has taken me a while to write about her)  She is in "twilight" - she is not fully "awake", but is waking up more and more every day.  While she has made a tremendous amount of progress, she still has quite a long road ahead.  We do not know what is ahead nor do we know how much longer she will be at RHI.  Part of the mystery of brain injuries is that it is a very complex and as you can guess an overwhelming process.  

The last thing that I want to write about is the power of prayer.  I have a small confession to make - prayer is not a strong suit for me.  Wait, what?  Yeah, you read that right.  I believe that it is something that is learned at a very young age and grows with you as you grow older.  I started late in life so, I am in the child-like stage of learning about prayer.  What I can say is this: prayer works.  Never, ever underestimate the power of prayer.  On that fateful day of Rachel's accident, I had several close friends pull me aside and say "believe in the power of prayer".  While I still have a lot to learn, I do not doubt nor have I ever doubted that one statement.  I see prayer working everyday.  I see your prayers working for Rachel, my family and myself every single day and for that I am truly, truly thankful for all of your wonderful thoughts and prayers.  I am not going to get into a theological discussion here - do we really want a headache right now trying to discern theology?  We'll leave that to the priests and pastors to disseminate.  We do not know what the future holds for Rachel.  For you naysayers that say - well you are praying, but she's not up walking and talking, how can you say prayer works?  It's simple.  Prayer works because we receive a caring nurse that does not give up on Rachel.  It works because we "bump" into another family at the bank that we have not seen in years and this family has been through this exact process years ago and has now made turned this into a living by working at RHI as a case manager.  This person is now an advocate and resource for our family - that's not a coincidence.  We create new relationships with other people - I have been introduced to many of Rachel's wonderful friends and I am happy to meet and get to know them.  A friendly gesture that may mean nothing to the person giving the friendly gesture, but means the world to us - a smile, a helping hand, the right word. And most simply, a sense of peace knowing that God's will is at work.  A simple statement I learned last night from a dear friend's mom - I felt a punch right in the face from the Holy Spirit when she looked at me and said - "It is so good to meet you! I have been praying for your sister every single day."  She ended her statement "God's will be done".  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Baby Steps

Rachel is showing us she is quite the fighter.  Something that those of us close to her already know!  She is beginning to respond to commands - like wiggling her toes when she is told or giving us a thumbs up.  Her medication has been decreased and we see her respond to the pain - a hard thing to watch, but also another good sign (the one time I witnessed this, I could tell she was in pain and I was ready to go tackle the nurse to give her some medication, but I didn't want my visiting privileges revoked)  We feel her squeeze our hand when she likes something we say.  We also see her get agitated when there is too much going on and we must leave.  Through this she is showing us her fighting spirit!

As I have mentioned earlier, Rachel did not have many other injuries to her body, except to the eye area.  She was due to have surgery to repair her eye today, only for my parents to receive a phone call that the doctor's wife went into labor today.  This surgery should now take place early next week.  I have to admit, I chuckled a little when I heard that news.  

Getting back to a bit of normalcy lately has been kinda nice, but still a struggle.  Being a mom of three kids with a husband that works many hours, I find myself going back and forth between the kids and spending time with my family at the hospital.  I want to spend more time at the hospital holding Rachel's hand, but find that I am only able to squeeze in a few hours here and there.  Getting time to go to the store or watching the kids participate in their gym classes has been what I have needed too.  But, I also find there are times I want to scream at people, "No, I am not interested in meeting with you to talk about life insurance, I have other things on my mind right now!  Oh yeah, and thank you for reminding me that I am gonna be another year older next month!"  Instead I tell them politely that I am unavailable at this time.  Sigh!

I've been debating on what to write about for this next part of my blog and I think I'm gonna go with the thought that has been on my mind the last few days and that is "I'm Catholic and I Know It"!  I heard a teacher say this once last year and it brought quite the laugh to our group.  This is not a push to the Catholic faith, this is a push to find the church that is right for you to deepen your faith and bring you peace in your life.  It took many years of searching until I decided upon the Catholic church.  As I was deciding on a school for my oldest son Allan, I really wanted him to go to our local Catholic school.  I realized at that time that I could not expect my son to learn something that I did not know about too.  So, I went to my first Catholic Mass.  Now, for those of you familiar or somewhat familiar with Mass you know that there is a lot of standing, sitting, kneeling, "and also with you's".  There are not big screen tv's, electric guitars, coffee stands in the corner (nothing wrong with any of that - just not for me, that's all).  It would definitely be easy to feel lost and confused if you didn't know what to expect and are a person used to holding her Starbucks cup with her during church.  But, the amazing sense of peace that I experienced during that very first Mass, I knew I was hooked!  So, I kept going.  I enrolled my boys in Catholic School, I got involved in their school and Rick and I began the RCIA process.   

St. Susanna has become my second family and I still find peace when I attend Mass, I come out learning something new every time and I am able to watch my family grow in their faith every day.  Going through an event like this, I have found that my second family has wrapped me around their loving arms.  We have received several visits from Father Glenn - he has blessed and anointed Rachel.  He has shared other stories of encouragement, for he has visited many with similar situations.  He is always uplifting to all when he visits.  He didn't know me or my family, but he came to visit anyways.  Rachel is on the prayer chain.  The kids at school all say prayers for her in their hearts.  

Surprise visits from friends bearing food and diet coke? Check  

Need a meal? The moms club provides meals.  

Cold? Here is a prayer shawl for you. 

Watch the kids? Let me take them for you tonight.  

I have been so overwhelmed by all of the generosity that has been given to me and my family.  My kids ask me why I am crying - I tell them they are tears of happiness for finding a place so good to all of us.  

So, again, I am not saying go run to your nearest Catholic church and join, just keep searching for that special place that holds that peace and community you are looking for.  I searched for quite a while and wanted to give up at times, but I am so very thankful that I was able to find what I was needing in my life.

Thank you to all for bearing with me as I struggle through the ups and downs of this experience. I am learning more about myself and strengthening my faith along the way.  As this happens, I find that I like to share what I am learning and for that I thank you!  (I must admit, I've become a bit addicted to this whole blogging thing :)

P.S. - I think my next update will be about the power of prayer - food for thought, until we meet again.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

And We Wait

The much awaited MRI results arrived Monday morning.  It was not quite the news we were expecting, but the way I look at it, it is news.  It gives us a plan on how to move forward, it gives us hope, and it gives us as her family and friends a time to heal, too.  

Rachel has a Primary Brain Injury, what is that?, you ask.  I have no clue.  We have found that neurosurgeons do not have the best bedside manner. (A trait apparently shared by all neurosurgeons.)  The Trauma Team at St. Vincent's has been great at answering these questions in which we are left feeling clueless and hopeless.  In a nutshell, Rachel's brain needs time to heal.  This will take quite a while to heal - months and maybe even years, we just don't know.  She will be moved to a Long Term Care Facility for the healing process.  I believe this to happen within the next week or so, but again, we don't know.  Everyday we work to wean Rachel from some of the medicine's that keep her under, but we find that this causes too much agitation.  We are also working on weaning her from her "vent" - the machine that helps her to breathe - how she is breathing, whether on her own, with a "vent" or through a "trach" will determine where she will be admitted.  It will be a long road ahead, but I do believe that this time will be a much needed time for everyone to take time to heal, reflect and grow in their faith.

Even God took a break.  Today I find myself at home.  Even as I type this well into the afternoon I have yet to change out of my pj's.  It's hard to make that decision to stay home and not be there physically at the hospital.  But, I realized late last night that I am not a service to others by wearing myself thin.  I have been able to use this day to rest, recuperate, and reflect.  I am slowly beginning to feel re-energized to tackle this next phase of recovery for Rachel.

I want to also take a moment to send out a thank you to everyone that has been lifting Rachel and our family up in your prayers.  When I am feeling at my lowest, I take a moment to reflect and I can feel your prayers coming through to lift me up.  When I am visiting with Rachel, I can feel the prayers swirling around her room.  It is then that I realize and understand that everything will be ok.  So, again, thank you for your constant vigil and support.  It is truly appreciated.

Please remember, to take a moment each day to tell your family and friends that you love them.   

Rachel has always been a fan of Charlie Brown - this is for you Rachel!  We love you and miss you!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

God Smacked!

The doctors always say that it's good to write it out or to start a journal.  I figure the doctor's make the big bucks, they know what they are talking about, right?  So here we go!

First of all, an update on Rachel.  She is making small improvements each day.  Today, Sunday, we are waiting for Rachel to be taken away for an MRI.  We know that this won't answer all or any questions, but the hope that we can learn a bit more is definitely needed.  She had a special "bolt" inserted into the top of her head that shows the brain pressure/swelling.  This number has remained at a low and stable level, which provided two things - the removal of the "bolt" and the ability for an MRI.  We wait patiently now for this MRI to happen in several hours.  We have watched little twitches and small signs that give us hope.  We have seen positive responses to her "neuro" tests that the nurses administer every few hours.  On the flip side, we do continue to learn about some internal injuries that are present as well - a torn liver, some extensive bruising and some damage around the eye area.  These are secondary concerns until her brain continues and finishes its healing process.

I've titled this blog "My Sitcom Life" because some days I feel like my life is like a sitcom.  I can't believe how many times I've felt like my life has been plucked right out of a sitcom.  Being a stay-at-home mom of three young children, you find yourself in many amusing situations that you don't believe can happen to you.  This week has been like an episode of "Jerry Springer".  The waiting room that we are in is not very family friendly.  It becomes your home away from home.  The chairs are somewhat comfortable, but it is not large by any means.  You find when a tragedy like this happens, it becomes a family reunion.  We have had many family members stop through here, some in which we haven't seen in quite a while.  So, we share this waiting room with several other families with the similar situations.  Tensions can get high due to stress and sleep deprivation.  So, one night tensions were rising as a new family arrived in the middle of the night.  They were quite loud and woke many up in the process.  As the day wore on, we found that we needed to move to a different area because of noise and feeling squeezed out.  (Strike 2).  As evening approached, there became some dispute over the lights (yeah, you read that right, the lights).  It was literally like a scene from Jerry Springer.  As I removed my mom from the situation, security was called.  They were on the lookout for two women that ran away.  So things settled down a bit for the night, but the next morning it started right back up again.  Well, I lost it!  I mean literally lost it.  I let everything out - all the stress, anxiety, pressure, tension by screaming - and screaming at the top of my lungs.  If anyone was asleep, they weren't any more after that mental breakdown.  (There may have been a comment such as "That girl is crazy")  After being placed in my "holding pen" - that's what I call it, I was able to settle down a bit.  In comes my husband - like a scene from an old western - the sheriff with the guns at his side - goes over to "enemy" territory and begins the peace negotiations with the other family.  As the day wore on, tensions managed to settle down.  I was able to pick up some more sleep throughout the day.  As we were leaving, my husband goes over to say good bye to the other family - man, do they love him.  Me, I was not ready to make amends.  I knew I needed to, but I thought I'd wait another day..... Well, not until I was "God Smacked"....  

I went to Mass that evening in the Chapel here at the hospital.  I honestly wasn't expecting that much from Mass, I just knew that going would provide some peace.  Boy, was I wrong.  It was filled with the message - forget about the past, release your bitterness, and move forward with compassion.  Oh boy, I knew what I needed to do then.  I told my husband that God just smacked me upside the head.  His response was that you have been "God Smacked".  Yup, he was right.  So, I walked straight upstairs and walked right into "enemy" camp and made my peace with this other family.  In order to march that mountain to God, we need to be able to nourish our self with His word - through reading, discussions with friends, Mass.  We need this nourishment in order to complete that march.  Without His nourishment that He provides for us on a daily basis, we find that bitterness, anger, resentment creep in.  We find that those same things weigh us down and we are no longer able to continue that march.  

Well, I think the doctor's are right. This writing thing may be a good thing.  I do believe I feel a bit better!