Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Kari's Heart

I mentioned the other day that I wished I could share with you Kari's words about what they were dealing with. Well, she gave me permission to share her notes from Facebook with you. I didn't post the first one, but here are the next two, in order. Some of you might not care to read them, but some of you who are praying might be like me - you might like to know the heart of the ones you are praying for. This will show Kari's heart, that's for sure! She said she would be posting another update note soon, so when she does I will share it as well. Thanks again for praying!

When the World Becomes Ten Feet Square
Friday, May 15, 2009 at 2:47pm

There really is no "best case scenario" in the mind of a mother when it relates to her injured child. Best case would be me in the back yard with my boys this afternoon, watching them run around in big boy underwear with training potties close by. Best case would have my son climbing into bed with me this morning at 5:30 AM to snuggle on me with his blankie and Thomas the Tank Engine. But if I must be sitting by the bedside of my brave little boy in ICU, the scenario I see playing out before me is the very best I could have asked for, had I known what to ask.

Yesterday morning, William lay in his bed with a tracheostomy, sound asleep and still. He was warm and pink, and slightly swollen from the events of the night before. Within a few short hours, the paralysis drug they'd used overnight had worn off, and he began to wake up from his deep sleep. I jumped up from my chair, and put my face close to his. William's eyes fluttered open, and he looked at me, then around him. He raised his hand to eye level to see the tubing and tape that was weighing it down, and shook his arm as if to swish it away. I started to talk to him, telling him that he fell down and hurt his throat, and those tubes were there to make him all better. I used words and phrases that he was used to, as his anxiety level grew and then subsided. He mouthed "Stephen", and I told him that his brother was at school. He nodded slightly and closed his eyes.

By evening, he had awakened and fallen back to sleep several times. Because the drugs they would eventually wean him from caused some amnesia, I reminded him every time he woke up that he had an accident that that they were going to make him all better.

All around us, the nurses and doctors continued to evaluate, make changes, and adjust, always with the eventual goal of weaning him off the strong drugs and preparing him to go to "the floor". Meaning out of ICU. The CT scan had come back fine. There were no additional complications. The nurses got permission, and took him off the oxygen, and he breathed on his own with no problems. The only issue really affecting William was his confusion and distress at not understanding where he was, what was going on, and why he couldn't move or roll over or function the way he wanted. They sedated him as necessary to help calm him down.

At one point, he tried to tell me something. I didn't understand. He tried to move, to pull out the trache tube. We stopped him. He started to cry, and no sound came out. That made him panic, and his little face scrunched up, tears rolling down the sides. I put my face down to his cheek and cried with him. The nurse opened a box of kleenexes for us.

Visitors came and went all day. I appreciated every face that showed up. I didn't answer my phone. I couldn't make myself talk on the phone, so I didn’t. Not even when my mom called. I wanted to be available for everything happening right there, in our ten square feet of Operation: William. I listened to all my messages; read all the Facebook comments, replied to texts, and waited for the next thing. Each next thing just got better.

By evening, William was feisty enough that they decided to sedate him somewhat to help him sleep on his back. He wanted to roll on his tummy to sleep like he does at home, with his blankie wrapped around him. They were afraid he would damage the trache site. Because he was asleep, I decided to go home and get a shower. John stayed with William. I showered and packed myself some things. Somebody had come to the house and made my bed, rinsed my coffee pot. I fell asleep by 1:00 AM, and slept like the dead until after 6.

At 9 AM, Penny and John and I had an interview with Channel 3 News. Somebody had read my Facebook note, and passed it on to somebody else, who passed it to somebody else, and so on. While my baby lay in his bed, alive and thriving, God got the glory. People from as far away as Russia heard about William and contacted me. My pastor left me a message. I will call him back. After I call my mother back, of course. She understands.

Later this morning, they put him in my lap. He flailed around the tubes and cords and pointed to the floor, then failing that request, to his Daddy. John leaned over and hugged William, who settled back against me. The nurse filled a sippy with apple juice. I held it up to his mouth, and he stubbornly shook his head. Then with shaking hands, William took the cup from me, lifted it to his mouth, and drank. They took the tube to his stomach out of his nose. We put him back in the bed bolstered with pillows and a DVD player, and handed him some applesauce. I put the spoon to his mouth, but was rebuffed again. He took the spoon in hand, and shakily brought it to his mouth. The effort cost him, and when he dropped his hand, his fingers fell into the sauce. He licked them off, and fell sound asleep.

I don’t know how my little girl is doing. I don’t know if Stephen got over his flu bug last night. I don’t know when my mom might arrive from Minnesota, or really anything at all that is going on in the world right now. In a week or so, I’ll bring him home to my little girl and his twin brother. Tonight or tomorrow they might even come see him. Penny told me that I would learn things about priorities during this experience. I am beginning to understand her. Because right now in our little corner of ICU, I’m looking at my precious little best case scenario. He is doing great!

Thank you for all the prayers and well wishes, and for the food and offers of help. Thanks to Benny for the frequent flyer miles for my family in Minnesota. Thanks to the Mothers of Multiples for the Target gift card and for remembering to bring goodies for my other children. Thank you to John’s boss at FedEx, and to his MDs and VP, for their lunchtime visit and support. Thank you to the many people who have stopped by, to the thousands who have been praying non-stop since Wednesday night, for the phone calls and messages and notes. We are reading all of them. I am bolstered by this, and by the knowledge that God’s hands are so much bigger and better than mine. When I can’t hold my child, He always will.
The comment I seem to receive the most in the past few days is amazement at my presence of mind and peace in the face of such upheaval. My response to that is that nothing I have done or felt since William's injury has been normal for me. I'm not an amazing mom. I'm just a mom, like all of these other moms in the ICU, waiting and praying for her little boy to heal.

My personality is naturally calm. I choose my battles; I am quick to make decisions, yet rarely impulsive. I am very internal. Even shy. My parents saw this about me as a child, and made sure that I had plenty of experience with public speaking and communication. They enrolled me in writing and speaking contests as my primary educators--homeschooling me and my 8 other siblings for most of our grade school years. I can speak publicly when I have to, and I see it as a challenge I want to master; it’s like my personal Mount Everest. But writing comes naturally to me. I write the way I think. And I've always done a lot of thinking.

Wednesday night will always have a haze over it for me. I wrote on Thursday what I knew and had been told because I knew that the haze would probably grow rather than recede when it comes to remembering the events of that evening. There are one or two things cemented in my brain. The rest is peripheral. I don't need it. I just praise the Lord that He gave me the grace that night going forward; grace that He promised he would give to His children in just the right measure to meet the need. God's presence in my life has been a constant for me since I was a very small child. I would never even consider excluding Him during moments of great distress or upheaval. He has always been there for me; I talk to Him at odd moments of every day, whenever a thought comes to mind. He talks to me through the Spirit, sometimes even when I'd rather He wouldn't. But I've never doubted Him. He's always there. He knows me, and I know Him. I'm glad you see that.

God uniquely prepares us for events in our lives that we don't see coming. One question Christian detractors often ask is, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" We may never get the whole answer to that question until we meet again in Heaven, but I can give you a tiny piece of the answer right now. Penny did not know 18 years ago when her daughter was born needing multiple surgeries, that one day she would be at the right place at the right time and know just what to do when William was injured. She didn't know. But God gave her the grace to handle that experience at that time, and the preparation for my child's distress and my own subsequent measure of grace. She learned empathy through that experience. It changed her life. This will change mine. Picture the butterfly making it's way through much effort out of its cocoon. Or imagine the baby chick breaking its way through the egg. Science will show that the effort itself is part of the process; without the trial during transformation, these creatures can fail to thrive and develop. As His creatures, God uses our trials to develop us and help us to become better, stronger people.

Friday night, John sat beside William while I claimed a recliner in the waiting room and fell sound asleep. It was the first rest I’d had that lasted longer than a few hours, and I woke up much refreshed, in spite of the chair itself and the other ICU dad snoring loudly in a much less comfortable chair a few feet away.

Saturday seemed like a really good day for Operation:William. John went home for a shower and a nap. At noon, Anita brought me some Chik fil A, and when the nurses heard about it, they offered to let William eat some. We handed him a nugget, and he smiled, stuffed the whole thing in his mouth, chewed and swallowed. He held out his hand for another, and dipped it in my sauce before taking a bite. It was a great moment for me, to see him eat. The ennui he’d woken up with from his morning snooze fell away, his eyes perked up, and he eagerly ate several fries and more chicken. I started breaking them in half, because he kept trying to devour them whole.

I think lunch was a turning point for William. He stopped fighting his tubes altogether. We gave him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at dinner time, and he ate it like a starving man. I offered him chocolate milk, and he smiled again, showing his pearly whites. After supper, he reached over and slid back into the arm brace they’d given him to protect the tubing in his arm. The nurse laughed. Usually, the little ones want to escape from those, but I guess William decided he was going to cooperate.

The upside to getting more than a few hours’ sleep was that I got some of my “normal” brain function back. All the external decisions and phone calls I’d been avoiding became something I could consider and contemplate. I called Pastor Gaines back, and Mr. Coombs. I sent out my first email in days, thanking Julie for arranging the details of my mom’s flight on Wednesday. I thought forward a few weeks and was finally able to give somebody an answer about the length of my little sister’s stay to help me in May. I also started to remember my other children.

Anna Kathryn has been praying for William. Her prayers have always been creative and long, and aimed at those she loves, “Dear Jesus, please take care of Uncle Matt catching the bad guys in Afghanistan, and please help me obey, and thank you for Daddy going to work so we can buy food, in Jesus name…” She told her daddy that she’d been praying for William to get all better. She told him that she saw William on television, and asked, “why did he have a tube in his nose?” John told her it was to put food in his tummy. “That’s gross,” she replied. Then, “Daddy, why do you have that blue bracelet?” To let him see William. “Why can’t I see William? I miss him.”

Saturday night, John brought the kids downtown. Crystal, the child life specialist, said she could let them see William for a few minutes, as long as she accompanied them into ICU. The age limit is normally 12 and up. She sat them down on the marble floor in the hallway and showed them a doll with a tracheostomy. She showed them pictures of the ICU, and where they would wash their hands, and the curtain William was behind. They saw pictures of the computers and cords attached to him, and pictures of William himself. Crystal answered Anna Kathryn’s questions. Stephen pointed to every picture with great interest.

I sat with them in the hall while John waited with William. The day before, I had showed William a picture of Stephen that Mr. Ken and Mrs. Nebra brought him. He had taken it in both hands and pressed it to his face. Much later, he let us tape it back up, and proudly pointed it out to visitors who came by. John said, “William, do you want to see Anna Kathryn and Stephen?” William broke into a huge smile. Then his face scrunched up and, overwhelmed, he began to cry. He didn’t stop crying until they walked up to his bed. I picked up Stephen and set him in the crib with his brother. Stephen picked up each car and train he found in the bed, and placed it on William’s lap, “Here you go!” He patted William’s head several times. Twice, he leaned over to kiss him. William was beside himself. He showed Stephen the picture he had of his brother taped to his bed. Anna Kathryn asked a lot of questions. Crystal took a picture of all of us and printed it right there. Each of my children wanted it for themselves, so she printed off four of them—one for John and I.

I went back to Omie and Papa Bill’s house with the kids to kiss them goodnight for the first time since Tuesday. Stephen sat in my lap with his head on my shoulder, as though he had just released the weight of the world. It was the first time anyone had seen any form of stress on him from the week’s events. Anna Kathryn cried for her brother, and worried over her daddy. I promised her that she would see Daddy when she woke up, and he would take her to church. She wasn’t so sure; maybe he would get up too early and eat his breakfast and go before she woke up. I assured her I that would tell Daddy to wait.

After stopping by the house to set out the kids’ clothes for church and to grab a quick shower, I went back downtown to trade places with John. William was still awake. He had cried again when his siblings left. It was nearly 1 AM. I stayed by his side until he fell asleep. When he cracked his eyes open from time to time and saw me, he closed them again and slept some more. It was probably the most sleep he’s gotten since he arrived in ICU. They sent me out of the unit at shift change, and when I staggered back in at 8 AM, bleary eyed and waiting for the cold coffee I found in the pot to kick in, he saw me and smiled. I climbed up in his bed the way Stephen had the night before, and sat with my arms tucked around my shins. He was delighted with me, and showed me his family picture, ate the two crackers he’d clutched all night, and devoured a banana. We played with his trains, read some books, and watched a nursery hymns music video together. He was animated. The nurses stopped in groups of two when they passed our station, just to watch his delighted face. If he caught them watching him, he blinked his eyes and stuck his lip out. Oh, yes. My boy is back.

Dr. MacDonald came to see him this morning. He’s ready to give William his own room, and tomorrow he will start to train us on how to care for the trache. He told me to make sure I get plenty of people trained, so that the burden is not on just John and me to care for William. I feel like I’m at the end of a long tunnel. I don’t care what happens when I come out the other end; it can only get better from here.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. Psalm 23:4a

1 comment:

Choate Family said...

Thank you for the sweet update. What a precious perspective and a grateful heart!