Monday, July 6, 2015

The Day That Changed Our Lives

I'll admit that when I set out to write this post, it was going to be a long 3 part series with every detail of everything that happened written down. The thing is, when I went to write everything down that has happened over the past 5 months, it was hard, and I didn't like doing it. While a lot of it is actually written down in a journal, I'm not quite ready to re-live or retell every single detail of those days. Maybe someday I will, but not today. Today will be a very short summary of everything that happened. It was too big of an event for me to just let it go without writing some of it down here.

Two weeks after I had Sarah, I got a very bad headache that lasted 5 days. On the 6th day of the headache, while nursing, I lost control of the upper left side of my body. My hand could not grasp things, and when I tried to raise my arm it simply dropped down. There was tingling from my upper neck to my hip. After consulting with my midwife, we decided to go in to the hospital.

After about two hours of non-stop physical tests, the doctors determined (or thought they determined) that I had an a-typical migraine. The plan was to send me home after doing a quick CT scan just to make sure all the bases were covered. About a minute after I was wheeled back in to my room a knock came on our door. If you have ever had tests done at a hospital you know that getting results often takes a long time; I knew immediately that knock was not good. "I'm sorry but we found something. We found bleeds in the brain. Neurosurgery will be up in a few minutes" Minutes.  Those moments were so surreal. Max's boss had just lost his wife because her brain was bleeding. Was I headed in that direction? In that moment life seemed so so incredibly small and simple and God seemed so so incredibly big. I felt like I was hanging over a dark pit of death held only by a thread that God could cut anytime He deemed right. If I have ever felt true "fear of the Lord", if I have ever been able to conceive even a small portion of His greatness and power, it was in these moments. I clung to Max. We prayed, we cried, we called a few people. Then we started thinking of practical things. I started worrying how Sarah would get fed if I needed surgery or wasn't there to feed her. I made him promise to pump milk for her even if I was unconscious, to comfort her through her tummy troubles should she need to go on formula. Nurses came and went and my father-in-law brought a priest friend to give me last rights. I am forever grateful for that favor and the grace of the sacraments that evening. A "few minutes" became lots of minutes as we sat and waited for more news.

Those moments felt like hours, but eventually news came. After an MRI, it was confirmed that I had a huge blood clot in my superior sagittal sinus (a major drain in the brain) and two small bleeds that resulted from the clot.  It was also determined that, unless the bleeds became bigger, I would not need surgery that night. As long as I wasn't having my brain cut open and I had Max and the baby with me, I was at peace. But then another wave of bad news came: I was being transferred to the neurosurgery unit and Sarah was not allowed there. No matter the fit I threw or the people I asked to speak with, the request to have her near me was denied. I thank God everyday that my sister, Joanna, had come earlier to bring Max some food. When we got the news that Sarah could not come with me, she promised she would take perfect care of her, and even nurse her should she need to. It was the greatest gift she could ever give me, and God knew she was the only person on earth I would feel somewhat comfortable sending Sarah with. So, as they wheeled me across the doors of the neurosurgery unit, I kissed Sarah goodbye and left my heart there with her.

The next morning I woke, and my heart hurt more than my head. I missed Sarah with every bone in my body and longed to nurse and hold her. Max had woken up every 3 hours in the night with me to pump milk for her, since I couldn't use my left arm. The next two days in the hospital were filled with pumping, crying, waiting, sleeping, tests, and more waiting. We felt forgotten in that shared room, as every doctor who came in seemed to be for my roommate. After about 48  hours on heparin and test results that showed the bleeds had stopped, I was allowed to go home (I begged for this). With as little sleep as I was getting in the hospital, I felt I would die from staying there, not from going home.

My first night home was an exciting one to say the least. Only a few hours after being home, I was taken by ambulance back to the hospital. I had what they deemed a simple partial seizure where my left side went completely numb again, but only for a few minutes. Needless to say, it scared me very much and on the ride to the hospital I made peace with God that this whole thing might actually kill me. The funny thing is, I didn't fear for my children living without me, or wonder what would become of my family. Instead, I had only a great sadness that I might not be there to witness it all. I realized in that moment the privilege of my vocation. It wasn't that I didn't believe anyone could raise my kids or be a wife to my husband, it was that I wanted the blessing and honor of living out my vocation. And I promised God that if He willed that I live through all of it, that I would do my very best at living it out. My heart felt peace as I watched the lights of the city through the back window of the ambulance.

I was sent home from the E.R. with a new prescription of anti seizure medicine. Looking back I am not sure if it was the medicine, my blood clot, or a combination of both, but I slept....A LOT. Over the next few weeks, I slept nearly 22 hours a day. Taking a shower was almost too much to do. I ate in bed and only got up to go to the bathroom. Max had to go back to work and my mom promised to stay as long as we needed her. She became the woman of the house. She had to. I couldn't do anything but sleep, nurse and heal. If it hadn't been for my mom being there, I wouldn't have been able to heal the way I did. She cooked, cleaned, took care of the kids, took care of Max, took care of me, played interference when people wanted to come visit and loved with every ounce of her being. None of us knew how long the healing process would take, but she promised to be there for it's entirety.

Very, very slowly I began to heal. After the first two weeks of constant sleep, every day got a little better and I could do a little more. It would take about two months before I could even go out of the house, and even then it was a hard thing to do. Days were filled with sleep and doctors appointments and trying to figure out what our life would look like after all of this. It's hard to write down exactly how those days of healing passed, and only my mom, Max and I know what they really looked like. Over time I did heal. My mom stayed with us for four months, until I was finally able to handle the work of four children on my own. It was so bittersweet to say goodbye and I feel a part of me will always be with her for taking care of me during that time. It's as if she took a small piece of my heart home with her, and to say that the transition to "normal life" without her was heart breaking and hard is an understatement. I will forever be thankful for her help to us during those months, and to my dad who was willing to be without her all that time.

I have left out so much here. Maybe someday I will write more. I do want to note that when I got sick I remembered this post about my hardships in pregnancy with Juliana. I remembered the lesson God taught me from all of it: that if we pray to be sanctified and holy, we must accept the sufferings that make that happen. Through the hardships of these past months, I know God is only allowing it for the sanctification of my soul and my family, and there is great peace in that. I cannot write down all the graces given to my soul during this time, but I will say that through suffering comes great spiritual growth and change. I know with everything in me that God allowed me to go through this because He loves me and hears my prayer to be the woman He created me to be. It would have been easier had my house burnt down than to go through what I did. He could have stripped me of my attachment to earthy goods, but He chose something much greater; God stripped me, in those days, of my very core. He stripped me of my capabilities as a wife, mother and person. I was forced to humbly accept any and all help that was offered because I could do nothing on my own. I gave up control of my house, my children, my health and life as I knew it. In giving up that control I had to give it ALL to Him. I was left with absolutely nothing and He became everything. And I wish so badly I could say that I have become a saint on earth from all this, but I continue to fall daily in my vocation. I continue to struggle with the "why" of all of it, and I'm still trying to deal with the great amount of emotion that comes from a traumatic event. But I know that as I struggle through this life, an ever-loving God is there to carry me through it. It is only by His grace that I can do anything.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Drea. You have been through a lot in the past few months. Katie has kept me updated on your progress, and you've remained in our prayers. Here's to more good days than bad days ahead! :)