Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

In addition to honestly being quite busy- and we're having a new baby, so I've been spending a lot of time alternately lethargically laying on the couch or trying to keep up my house and laundry- I've been putting this post off because it really was the worst day, at least near the top. But I do want to  capture everything and then maybe I can use this blog as I've always dreamed I'd blog, for recipes and crafting, cute picture of my (TWO babies) and maybe a book review or two.

Early on Mother's day this year, Brian called me, which was as much of a gift as he could give.

Hello? Hey baby. I was wondering if you could bring me a Vannil-la Llllatte.

I said I would, as soon as I could get there. 

No rush, I know you have things to do.

My mom was just getting home, as she had went to visit my brother's grave, early, and she brought flowers for me and chocolates. It was a sweet as could be.

We left early, meeting Mum and Dad Wilson at the hospital to do church with Brian. I stopped at Dutch Bros and got Brian his requested latte. Free drinks for the ladies, so me and Mom got drinks too.

Brian was happy to see us (and his coffee) and eager to get outside.  He also got the okay to take his first shower, so I was going to help him with that, but he said he wanted to go outside first and then shower later.

We had a lovely church service down on the beautiful patio at the hospital. Brian had a few things he wanted to add, but couldn't think of the verses or the certain version of a song he had hoped to sing. He kept looking to me, but I wasn't sure which one he was thinking of, since all he could offer was "It's by Page CXVI." They sing a lot of different versions of hymns.  It was frustrating sometimes because I couldn't read his mind like he wanted me to and things were so jumbled that he couldn't get out enough clues for me to guess what he was thinking.

We had company all day, and around lunch time Liv and I went and picked up some Thai food from me and Brian's favorite take out place down the road. Brian was still having a hard time chewing so the take out was for me and since it was mother's day I let myself have a treat.

We had first went there when I was still working, belly swollen with Elliot, and too tired to cook, it was "right on the way home."  It was so good we went again, later that week. When Elliot was days old and needed to be readmitted to the hospital, and we were sent out to get dinner, that's where we went. Tears leaking because I'd just left my tiny baby in the hands of strangers and it already felt so naked and strange without him and my body was still firey with the pain of having him. And here, more comfort food. It strangely felt right to go when Brian was left at the hospital, celebrating being a Mother. I couldn't help but remember the sweet card Brian had picked out and the sweet words he had written in it to me, the peony bush I had all but begged for AND an orchid the year before. I knew all the words were true this year and I read them again.

That evening, Trenton made his famous Creme Brulee- I've yet to have a restaurant compare- it's a perfect blend of cream and sugar, exactly toasted to a burnt sweetness. Brian ate two bowls with someone's help, and he needed all the calories he could get! At the same time, we hadn't really eaten dinner so my Mom went and got Burgerville with her aunt and uncle. The waiting room was packed and Brian wanted to (again) go down stairs. Once he signed the voucher to go out side (usually reserved for smokers, but Brian just wanted fresh air) he was downstairs as much as he could. I think maybe because it was something he had control of, and of course the hospital room wasn't too interesting.

Upstairs in the waiting room lobby, I fed Elliot little pieces of hamburger bun and patty, cutting it small and he toddled from one couch to the other as he ate. He'd had a cold, and coughed while he swallowed once and couldn't recover. I thought he was choking so I snatched him up and held him upside down over the trash can and then sink, pounding his back with the heel of my hand, trying to remember if that was the right thing to do for the Heimlich on babies.  He coughed and coughed, and couldn't seem to get it up or down.  I gave him water and that didn't help, tried nursing and that didn't help, he just kept coughing and crying. I thought maybe if we went outside it would help cool him off, since he loves being outside.

As we got there, we met my mom and aunt and uncle who had went to dessert after delivering dinner, as well as a hoard of people already down with Brian, I can't even picture who it all was, brothers and friends and cousins, I think. My mom picked up Elliot from the stroller and he stopped crying almost immediately, which was a little relieving, but he relaxed and his face went kind of gray. I was explaining to her about the choking and I couldn't tell if it was the fluorescent light or if he really did look funny.  After a whole day of being passed around and crawling at the hospital he was down to his jeans and a onsie. Matt was right there, and rubbed Elliot's foot which went white and then gray.

He doesn't look right.

I again explained the choking and suggested again the lighting, but Matt said it again.

He looks funny.

Well. Let's bring him upstairs and check his oxygen levels, I said, planning on using the machine in Brian's room.  Again, thankful I knew my way around those rooms and machines.

I was happy we had so many visitors, and Brian was thriving on all of the attention, but I also felt tired and weary and looking back maybe it was too much. As we headed upstairs we met Phil heading out, he hugged me and must have saw as much on my face because he mentioned it. I said it was okay, I was okay and I'd see him tomorrow.

When we got to Brian's room it was me and my mom and Gwen there, and Elliot's oxygen levels were in the low 70s.  That kind of worried me because they should be 90s minimum. Knowing the nurses had just changed shift and were busy checking on their patients I found the charge nurse and asked if she could please take a listen to Elliot's lungs and maybe we could decide what to do from there.  She listened and said maybe we could have someone bring his inhaler but she would probably walk down to the ER.

I looked to my mom and then Gwen, hoping someone else would tell me what to do, wishing Brian could listen to him and tell me what he thought. I'm the one usually freaking out and he's the one rationally thinking things through. They both looked at me, You're the mom. You make the call.  Their eyes said the same thing. I looked at Elliot, who was lying still on my mom's shoulder.

Let's take him over there. We've already maxed out our insurance, so it can't hurt. 

The charge nurse called the ER charge and told her we were on our way down, and I tried to gather my wits about me as we went down.

They took us right in, I'm guessing the phone call helped facilitate, and Elliot's oxygen levels were still really low.  At his one year check up his pediatrician had said he sounded like a "kid who could wheeze" though he couldn't diagnose him with Asthma until he was having an attack or listened to him while he WAS wheezing. Remembering that, I thought he was maybe having an asthma attack, and maybe it was a good thing so we could get a firm diagnosis. They ordered and then did a chest x-ray, putting the film between me and Elliot but letting me hold him the whole time.

He was crying a lot and I was holding oxygen to his face which he didn't love, but helped keep his levels up. He finally relaxed and slept in my arms when the Doctor came in and said that the chest x-ray showed Elliot had something in his lung, and they'd have to transport to OHSU or Emanuel.  The OR at Southwest was not equipped for pediatrics so we needed to go to a hospital that was so outfitted. I nodded my head, saying I had no preference, and somehow we decided on Randall Emanuel children's hospital. I remember feeling again, far away, wondering how we were there, wondering how long they'd keep Elliot. He left, to arrange transport and I collapsed.

Mom, Put it on facebook. I need people to pray. I handed her my phone and cried. Almost exactly two weeks later and we were back in the ER. My heart vacillated between my two guys. If they wanted to keep Elliot even a few days, I knew I physically couldn't be in two places at once. I wanted to be there for Brian, to tuck him in, to be there in the morning, to help his brain remember things, to jog it, to help him feel more normal, to shield him from people who may be unkind. I wanted to help him take his shower and go to the bathroom and get dressed, so no one else would have to do it. I wanted to take him for walks and see how his eyes would get clearer and maybe tomorrow would be the day he would come back to me. And now this. I couldn't leave Elliot with anyone else, even Grandma or Nana, he needed his Mama in a strange hospital, with strangers poking him and prodding. I was weary in every way, my arms ached from holding Elliot so straight and still, my head ached from being awake so long, my heart ached from the worry of the last two weeks, the loneliness of Brian's indifference and there was nothing I could do about any of it.

My cousin Katie came down to bring our diaper bag and my two mamas wrapped their arms around me and Elliot and Katie and they prayed so hard and real and sweetly that I felt I could keep going when they finished. when we opened our eyes the sweetest red haired nurse, eyes pools of kindness squeezed my leg, asking what church we went to and that she was praying for us, too.

See, the body of Christ. Everywhere. In action.

I realized I had to go the bathroom, bad, and didn't want to be stranded when the transport got there, so I handed Elliot to Gwen who climbed into the bed and I went to the bathroom, using a paper towel with cold water on it to wash my face and try to calm my puffy eyes.

Katie left and I took Elliot back while Gwen went to get our car seat (for when they discharged Elliot,) check on Brian and tell him what was happening and call Phil. She and my Mom were going to drive my car while I rode in the ambulance with Elliot.  She got back right before the transport got there and reported that Brian said,
That's okay, Mom, you go with them. I'm going to sleep.

It helped and made things seem worse. It showed how much Brian wasn't there with me. Normally, he would be right there, worried and annoyed he couldn't be there. It did help that he wasn't fretting and that he was resting, which would help him get better. The  best night nurse did say to keep them updated if Brian asked they could tell him.

The transport team was the EMT driver, a respiratory therapist and a nurse- in case things went south while transporting they could help. They had a stuffed dog for Elliot and stickers and little tricks but Elliot would have none of it and cried and cried, especially when he had to strapped into the little car seat by a stranger, out of my arms. We walked back to the ambulance bay, and could feel the eyes of people in the hall way. They were glad to not be me, and I could tell. I would be, too.

As I walked under the huge awning and they wheeled Elliot's stretcher/car seat into the back I could see my mom and Gwen and I waved to them and got in the front seat.

I wanted to sit quietly, and I could hear Elliot crying all the way across the river and just before Emanuel; but the driver made conversation which was a distraction and probably better. He said he had heard Brian's ambulance drive by when I told him what time and he couldn't believe our circumstances- neither could I- but I could honestly tell him I was at peace with Brian, and only happy this whole thing with Elliot had happened at the hospital. I might not have brought him in if we were at home. You never know.

When we got to Emanuel, I tried staying out of Elliot's sight since he had stopped crying, but as they turned the last corner and wheeled him into the ER room, he saw me and the waterworks started up again.  Not long after they got report they let me have him after checking his IV site that had been inserted at Southwest, and left us alone. The Nurse there was great, doing baby sign and distracting him with a whole bag of tricks while the blood pressure was checked.

There was a bit of a mix up about which "Peace Health" we were coming from so the Doctor or Anesthesiologist thought they had 20 more minutes since St. Johns is even farther north, so they weren't quite ready for us. That was okay, because it gave our Moms time to get there and the ENT Doc came in and explained the procedure and had me sign consent. He was very thorough with his explanation of how minor it was and how probably the worst that could happen was a sore throat. I think he expected me to be freaking out a bit more- though my eyes had to have been red and swollen still- but I had just signed consent for not one, but two brain surgeries. This really was minor, Elliot really was going to make it, and was in the best place to be if he were to try to "not make it."  The strange part was how little I was actually worried for Elliot's physical well being. I was just worried sick about how the next few days would look and driving PAST Brian's hospital to go to Elliot's and what would happen.  However, in the same speech, the doctor said we could go home as soon as Elliot woke up.

We can go home?

Or you can get some rest here and discharge in the morning, he said misunderstanding my question, up to you. 

After that, I felt great. We were going to be fine. They were going to let us go home! We could all go see Brian tomorrow!  A huge weight lifted off and by the time my mom and Gwen found us I was doing much better.

They kept me on the stretcher holding Elliot as the wheeled us to the OR and waiting room.  We made Elliot balloons out of rubber gloves and he had fun batting them around. He was feeling better, too.   The anesthesiologist met us, telling us how CUTE Elliot was. (Duh, I said) and gave him the medicine right there in my arms. I handed him off and he cried a tiny bit but stopped almost instantly as it took effect and we were shown to the waiting room.

It was in the bowels of the hospital and I was so thankful that's "all" we were there for, imagining the hundreds of thousands of parents who had sat vigil in that same waiting room, anxiously watching the screen as it automatically showed the patient numbers moving from pre op, to OR to recovery, unsure of what the doctor would say when he or she emerged. I remember I thumbed through Latina People (severe lack of magazines) and we bought some snacks from the vending machine. Cheetos and Pepsi, midnight snack of waiting room champions.

It was only maybe 30-45 minutes in which time I called Brian's wonderful nurse, Steve, and updated him, and then the doctor was back.
They didn't find a thing.

I could hardly believe my ears, but I was so relieved it was all almost over and they let me go back into recovery, where my tiny boy lay sleepily waking up. He was pretty happy to see me, and I was pretty happy to see him and we were soon wheeled up to the recovery floor.

The walls were covered in this lovely wooden paneling and life size outlines of frolicking lambs were softly illuminating the hallways. It was soothing, and calming and I couldn't help but if you were a little child, scared and in pain that the gentle lighting and lambs would make you feel a tiny bit better. The room was wide and spacious, a couch, rocking chair, hospital bed crib, bathroom, all tastefully decorated and the nurse was casually dressed and pretty.  Her baby was a month older than Elliot so she was especially enamored.  They offered to let me sleep over, but that seemed silly since someone would have to drive home that night- there were three grown ups and one couch- so we decided we would discharge home as soon as they let us.

We got down to the parking lot and I took my contacts which had suddenly turned leaden and sandy in my eyes and threw them in the garbage. It was almost time for new ones anyway. We buckled our sleepy guy in his seat and Gwen drove us home. I know she talked the whole way, probably to stay awake it was 2 or 3 in the morning, but I can't think of one thing she said. I was asleep almost before we hit the freeway.  She "accidentally" drove us straight to my house so she took my car home, promising to pick us up sometime the next day.

Just sleep in, and take your time.

And that was that. I brushed my teeth, carried my precious boy upstairs, deposited him on Brian's side of the bed and lay down next to him.  I marveled at the events of the last few hours, of God's goodness, and the turns my life had been taking. I didn't marvel too long because I was fast asleep before long.

Happy Mother's Day.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Mr. Wilson Wakes Up.

When we had left Brian the happy night before, we debated if he would need a "Brian-sitter" since he hadn't really been alone in the ICU and was getting more awake and active.  In the end, we decided a little reluctantly to see how he did alone and play it by ear.

Playing by ear resulted in Mr. Wilson waking up around four in the morning. He pulled out the dubhoff feeding tube Marisyl had meticulously placed the day before, removed his cervical collar (neck brace for the fracture there) and said, "I want to go home."

His escape efforts were rewarded with a hospital paid CNA sitter to make sure he would keep his collar on and not pull anything else. They called me early to keep me in the loop and again, I got there as soon as I could, already awake hearing one of the marvelous work crews that got busy doing things that neither I nor Brian would be able to.  That day was a landscaping crew who mulched our flower beds and dug a trench to the garden to lay a sprinkler system there.

I found him sound asleep and the night shift gal had stayed over two hours until I got there. I thanked her profusely and sent her on her way. I wanted to be involved in Brian's care and if I was there already it didn't make sense for them to be paying someone to sit with us.  The charge nurse and I agreed they'd provide a night sitter and we'd be the day time sitter.

Brian slept and slept and they sent him down for another CT of his head, thinking maybe he had another bleed or something going on since he wouldn't be roused.  Of course, they told me this later so I didn't even worry or fret about it, thinking his sleepiness was "normal," still working off the cocktail of drugs he'd been given in the last few days.

It was stable!

Mid morning Brian walked to the door with PT and then worked with OT, writing a chicken scratch version of "B-R-I-A-N" (woo hoo, that parts there!) and doing some other pattern/sequence work.  It was so simple, matching A-1 B-2 C-3 D-4 but after the D and 4, he skipped a letter and couldn't get it to match up.  It made my heart squeeze seeing that.

Before he woke up I would tell myself that he was just asleep.  That he would wake up and be himself, that there wouldn't be anything different and if we could just get him to wake up everything would be okay.

I was quickly learning what everyone meant by this being a marathon and not a sprint. I could see how hard the simple worksheet was for him, and it made me realize to a small degree how much work we had ahead of us.  In some ways I would just focus on what we were doing that day, what Brian was doing and not think about the next day or weeks or months to come. Today was enough.

One of the evenings on the seventh floor one of our beloved Trauma PAs, Liz, had sat our family down and kind of gave us a lecture about what we could expect with a brain injured family member.  I remember wincing as her words hit my ears, and my self shirking back, not wanting to experience what she predicted.

We don't know how his brain has been affected and won't know until he wakes up and begins to recover.  We do say that at 24 months there will be no more measurable recovery.  You are as good as you will get around then.  Brian might be very impulsive and not think things through- which will be very dangerous at home, you'll have to watch him all the time.  Brian will experience mood swings, go from happy to sad to furiously angry, he might take it out on you, Rosa, or the rest of you. It's not Brian, it's the injury. He will have no control of those as his emotions wake up and you'll need to be understanding and patient.  He might be back at work in 12-18 months, but of course we don't know.  Take care of yourselves, you'll need it. 

I remember nodding, I know some about Brain Injuries having taken care of a few here and there. I knew that they can be unsafe and in a hurry about things. And I knew that it would be awhile before my sweetheart would be back to himself and then to me. And I wanted to run away.

Of course I wouldn't. I wanted to, but I wanted to be there, more. Like contractions when laboring for a new baby; at the time, in the middle of them you want them to end, to be over, to be anywhere else, to escape. But you muscle through, as best you can. No one else can do the work for you, and the quicker you go through it, the faster it's over with one of life's sweetest treasures in your arms.

I wasn't laboring for a new baby, but for my husband.

So I inwardly shook my shirking self and told her to get a grip, and for goodness sake: buck up.

After Brian had worked with OT, I helped him take a bath and changed his gown and the sheets on the bed.  I was so grateful for that time with him, to be able to physically do something as if by changing his sheets I was getting him better faster. Of course I wasn't, but it was better than sitting idly by.  It was the first time he was awake enough and with it to chat, so we had a lovely visit.  I (again) going over the accident, who was here and there and what was going on. I asked him if he knew what had happened and he said: My brain is all messed up.

He could tell something was scrambled.

The whole time he was up in the chair he would keep reminding me how hungry he was and he wanted a "Vannnillla En-Shure." It's hard to convey the slow, slurred cadence his speech held, but it reminded me of a person that maybe has cerebral palsy or something.  Our Trauma team that day said Brian could have as many Ensures as he wanted after he passed his swallow evaluation.

We kept him in the chair till Elliot got there with his Nana and Grandma and Brian again tried reaching him saying, Hey Buddy

Photo: I keep a close watch on this heart of mine, I keep my eyes wide open all the time. I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when each day is through
Yes, I'll admit that I'm a fool for you
Because you're mine, I walk the line. love you babe.

Brian passed his swallow eval with the qualifier the liquids were thick and begged to eat: everything.  He told his dad a hamburger sounded delicious, cereal "perfect" and ate two bowls of thickened cream of mushroom soup, licking his lips and exclaiming how delicious it was.  There was nothing more disgusting sounding than the greyish lukewarm goo I spooned into his mouth, but he loved it. (He still can't believe he happily ate it.) 

We lay him down for the afternoon and he slept alot, as he would be wont to do in the days to come. "I'm done with you now," he would say, or "I'm going to sleep."

The next morning I got there early and joked about us watching Twilight. Since we haven't participated in the vampire craze, I knew he was off when he sweetly agreed that it "sounded nice." Since Saturday was a big work day at our house I planned on not being home really at all. For one thing, it seemed awkward to be there "bossing" people around to work on our shop/yard/garden and for another, I of course wanted to be with Brian.

We spent the day quietly, as most of our close family and friends were at our house working hard. I again helped him take a bath and we chatted a few times, but he mostly rested which is what he needed. He also walked to the door which tired him out.

I made plans to take our Moms out for dinner in celebration of Mother's Day since I obviously hadn't thought about cards or gifts for them, but they had both been so supportive and all around awesome.  It was kind of fun to plan to do something else and get away from the hospital when it was still daylight. We went to Who Song and Larry's on the waterfront and our waitress was as sweet as can be, giving us dessert on the house after learning about Brian's injury.  When he's well again and you come in, I'll give you dessert again, in celebration.

Photo: We are so blessed by our two Mamas every day of the year, but we have leaned extra heavily on them this week! Thank you Jesus! Happy Mothers Day!

When we got back to the hospital, some good friends were visiting and Brian remembered where we had been in our Bible Study before the accident, recalling Paul being in prison and some of the specific verses.  We had some good laughs as Brian also remembered Sandy talking about "sand paper people" (you know, those people who rub you the wrong way but you have to live with them?) he assured her she wasn't one of his. He also asked for that Spanish food... Hornitos? We figured out he was asking for Doritos but didn't think he could have them since the fractures in his mouth still made eating a painful process.
 He reminded me of that nursery rhyme about the girl with the curl down her forehead, but Brian's was when he was tired, he was very very tired and when he was awake, he was wide wide awake! It was as if he knew he had been asleep for almost a week and he wanted to express all the thoughts that had been locked inside. He would launch hour long monologs, waxing poetic on any and all subjects, often loosing his train of thought or not knowing the word for things and would need help remembering. His speech, like I said, was slow and sleepy, it definitely reminded me that it wasn't my Brian, but I was still so happy to hear him expressing himself after his week of silence and knowing that he really was in there.

We left him with plans to return and do a private church service with just our parents.  When I got home I could hardly believe my eyes.  The outside of our house and lawn were immaculate. Not a blade of grass was out of place.  The moon was bright and I could see the gutters had been cleaned, the flowerbeds weeded and a garden painstakingly planted. Not to mention the work that had been done on our shop, electrical wiring put in, things that I didn't even know to look for had been lovingly cared for and tended to. I went to bed, amazed again at God's goodness itself and then the ways it had been shown to us by His people.
Here's what I wrote in my journal that night:

"Eucharisto always precedes the miracle." (Ann Voskamp)  This last week as I have counted gifts through one of the most emotionally draining, heart rending and exhausting weeks of my life, I have found that God is already there, and you can rejoice in the midst of suffering, because He is good. Here's my list of gifts today: 
1.Little fat brown boy smiling and happy to wake up, at home and with Mama 
2. Brian so happy to see me first thing 
3. Napping on the couch and listening to my beloved breathe- sweetest sound 
4. When we went walking once he hugged me twice, AND started calling me Dear again
 5.Dinner to celebrate my two Mama's with Elliot- dessert on the house, thanks to our sweet waitress 6. Brian's slow and sleepy voice, wanting to share his thoughts after a week of silence
 7. Sweet visits with friends from near and far 
8. Jesus being so present and near 
9.Balmy summer air
 10.Our house and shop and yard: perfectly tidy, filling my heart with gratitude.

God is already where you are, and you can rejoice in your suffering, because He is good.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Penthouse Suite, Communication and a Good Night Kiss

As would become our custom while my mom was here, I again went in as early as I could while still getting a decent amount of sleep, and she would give Elliot a chance to be in his own environment before having to go to the hospital. I really wanted Elliot to be there as little as he HAD to be, but also spend some time with me, his Mama, and see his Papa though as of yet he hadn't. 

  The ICU rules said 12, even immediate family, for both the visiting child's health and the patients.  If something were to happen and the patient need resuscitation or emergent help it would be easier if there weren't children under foot and having to deal with a scary situation. The ICU is also home to a lot of "super bugs" and it made sense not to expose the little guys to that.

As we hung out in Brian's room, him mostly asleep, I caught up on email and facebook, the messages continued to pour in, and I relished reading every one. In the first few days I quickly realized it would be impossible for me to personally reply to every message or email, which I still wish I could have.  They really meant so. much. 

Brian was responding a lot more and even communicating though his voice was still really quiet and whisper like. Our sister Rachel stopped by meeting Grandma Gwen who was watching her boy Henry and we showed Brian a picture of himself- we were unable to procure a mirror that would reach his face since the collar prevented him too much movement. He grimaced to see himself, and I again explained what had happened and his injuries.

My aunt Karen came and visited until Elliot got there with Nana, Grandma, Lana and Henry.  She then took him for the day with plans for him to come back that evening with other friends. He did a lot of car hopping as well as people hopping! Praising God for Elliot's patience through everything! 

We spent another day camped out in the waiting room, relinquishing the private room for another family.  It was strange to think about other families who had been there for days watching US be the newbies and hear all the news, the doctors coming in and shutting the doors to have a conference and the faces emerging, drawn and resigned. Having worked there, I recognized the bereavement package the family emerged with. It was so hard to watch them walk past us to the elevator, their shoulders slumped, pain tangible. At the time, I don't think I realized how close we had come to getting the green booklet ourselves. 

The trauma doctors came by on their daily rounds and dangled the possibility of transferring to the floor and out of the Intensive Care Unit. They were concerned where to send him because the floor that usually takes head/neck/spine traumas was the seventh floor, Brian's home floor.  His coworkers would be taking care of him, and they wanted to respect Brian's privacy and make sure he was comfortable with that. I asked him several time, rephrasing several times to make sure he understood and every time he said he would go there. I agreed, they're the best at what they do, and I would rather go to a floor that knows best how to care for Brian's injuries than to a different floor for privacy. I assured Brian I would be his CNA and that it would just be Nursing care he would get there. I wouldn't want MY coworkers helping me bathe! 

 Brian worked with OT- standing up, even- and asked me to help him brush his teeth. I had been pretty vigilant with the teeth brushing, being a bit of a fanatic myself, but it was good for Brian to take the initiative. Before we were married I had made Brian promise if I were ever in a wreck or a position where I couldn't do it myself that he would come brush my teeth and wash my hair. He said he would, and I agreed to marry him. And repaid the promise. 

That afternoon, when spending time with Trenton and his Mum, Brian was trying very hard to get something across.  He finally rubbed his stomach and got eat out with his voice. They rang the nurse and he got to "eat" an ice chip and try a drink of water. Both made him cough and cough, and the nurse surmised he wasn't QUITE ready to eat real food or even be evaluated by speech therapy. I think the concern was a combination of having been asleep for five days, and intubated, his throat may have "forgotten" how to swallow, and on the other side of the coin, that it's impossible to know if that part of his brain was injured in the fall: maybe he didn't know how to swallow any more.

As we were waiting in the lobby, one of the social workers I knew from my employment walked by and stopped to check in on us. She explained that she thought all employees automatically qualified for short and long term disability after the hospital merger, instead of having to opt in like before. I had wondered how I would find out if Brian had checked that box on the benefit form last November.  Stacy promised to look into it and get back to us... and it was so!  I could only sigh with relief! God was so good!  She could find that out because she had the same benefits, and Brian worked there, again, I was so thankful we were at Southwest, and that it was automatic!  It wasn't his whole salary, but it was something. I couldn't even imagine how the bills would pile up and I knew I would be willing to go back to work if I needed to, but hadn't even thought that far ahead.

After we were all sure Brian understood what we were asking and what he was saying, we got the okay to move up the 7th floor and the best view in the world.  Marisyl was there again, and she got everything ready for the transfer, but we waited for a bed to open up and didn't actually end up transferring until late in the afternoon. She didn't mind, since Brian was doing so well and she'd been there now four days in a row.  Before we left, she inserted a nasogastric feeding tube, going into his nose and down to his stomach to give him some nutrition. His last real meal had been Friday night, since we were going out for breakfast, and it was now Thursday.  No wonder he was so hungry! He had also lost quite a bit of weight, down to 120 and they were worried about his recovery if he couldn't regain it by eating regular foods. 

   Some of my ex-coworkers had been floated to help transport patients and it was crazy to see them after almost a year off, and they were so sweet in helping scoot Brian over to the seventh floor bed and carry buckets of stuff upstairs.

Where we were met graciously and taken the best care of. We got the room with the best view, and here's the best thing: We were shed of the volunteer wardens and Elliot could go into the room.

 As soon as he was settled and everything in place, I went to the waiting room and got Elliot from my Mom, and we three went back. 

 "Look, Elliot," I said. "Papa has owie. Poor Papa, has an owie!"

 Elliot signed "pain" and then "pain" again with "more," seeming to understand his Papa had a really bad owie, and more than I thought he would. Brian tried to reach out and pet him, and his mouth worked to get the words out  
"Hey, Buddy."  
 I hadn't thought to worry if Brian would know Elliot or not. 
Of course he would. But when Brian did know him, relief filled my every pore. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus.
Photo: Yay! The whole family together for the first time since Saturday morning!!

We tried to keep the number of people in his room to a minimum, and our nephews, Ethan and Espen, were pretty pumped to be able to go finally see one of their favorite people, thought disappointed to find the waiting room to look almost exactly the same. They were really intrigued with the staples on Brian's head, a little apprehensive but also curious. 

We spent the evening taking turns going back and forth visiting Brian and finally packing up the waiting room. There were bags of food, Elliot's stroller, diaper bag and car seat which got a lot of mileage being brought from car to hospital to different car to hospital and back to my car. We had our little laptop, our big camera, my backpack of snacks and guestbook, paperwork that seemed to grow daily- Brian's leave of absence paper work and checks I hadn't deposited. We would pack it all up and make a mass exodus to the cars, usually myself, my mom, Elliot, Mum and Dad Wilson and Lana, with a few stragglers. 

That night I went back alone to say good night, and told Brian I was going to bring Elliot home for the night, and he nodded, saying, "Have a good night." and then.

He puckered right up. 

It was the sweetest kiss I have ever had. Even the first one, on our wedding day couldn't compare. It went from my lips straight to my heart and settled there, making it swell and swell till I felt I would burst with its wonder. 
As we walked to our cars, the air was balmy and warm, Elliot was solid and sweet in my arms, my Mom was there and the sweetest in laws a girl could have, and the magic of my first kiss in a week still lingered.  My heart felt so light and happy, I let out a woop.

And it felt so good, I did it again, and me and Elliot and my Mama went wooping with happiness, twirling with joy like crazy people in the warm evening. 

I was so happy. 

God is so good! He had already done so much! I couldn't wait to see what He would do next.

Every evening when I got home, I would get the mail, sort out the piles, cards, junk, bills, carefully recording people's gifts and recapping the day for Brian, when he wakes up. I usually put some laundry going, and tried to tidy things up a little bit. I would have a little snack, lay Elliot down and drag myself to bed around eleven. 

Thinking back, I see that was all I could manage. It didn't feel hard, but I couldn't do anything but go straight to the hospital and come straight home. Anything else made me feel panicky- what if I missed something with Brian? And I was on autopilot a lot of the time, doing what I needed to and little else. They were sorting through my sweet sweet great grand parents house and I so badly wanted to go there, to see it, to help, pick out a treasure to remember them by for myself, but every day I would tell myself: I could go on my way to the hospital, but the next morning the need to get to the hospital and see Brian was too great and I could only go straight to the hospital and see him. 


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Alive in Christ, Breathing Alone, and a White King Tut

Wednesday morning, May 8,  I woke up with a smile on my face.

For one thing, we had been pretty much been guaranteed that Brian would be taken off the ventilator which was an exhilarating thought.

For another: My mom was already in the air, winging her way west to us.  

I remember after I had Elliot, exhausted emotionally and reeling from an especially hard delivery, I would tell myself, Everything is going to be okay when Mom gets here. If I can just hold things together till she gets here, everything will be fine. And it was. She was as in love with our little newborn as we were, and she made breakfast, lunch and dinners, would bathe Elliot and dress him while whispering sweet nothings in his ears while I tackled the momentous task of simply showering.

It was different this time, I wanted her there, more for Elliot's sake and with that my peace of mind, knowing his Nana would be there with him, taking him on walks and reading books and doing baby sign. If there is anyone in this world I would defer Elliot's care to it would be her.  But I felt okay emotionally, and wondered if I would collapse on her, even if I felt okay.

The night before we had a bit of trouble finding someone to stay with Brian. I wanted to make sure they didn't need to restrain him and I was willing to find people to stay over, however, we had a 2 hour window between 6 and 8am  that was uncovered. Including the ventilator-which he SHOULD NOT pull out, he also had a central line- leading to the vein near his heart- another IV site, a foley catheter and neck collar. A determined patient can do a lot of damage in a short time! Brian's good friend Brandon came in "on his way" to work and sat with him. 

I drove in to the hospital early, as Gwen and Lana had Elliot, wanting to be there when the Trauma Doctors rounded and, if possible, speak on Brian's behalf to convince them to extubate. I knew it would be a long hard day if he was again, awake, and wanting the tube out.

I made it in time, and Marisyl was there again, her bright smile and musical accent a welcome sight and sound. She explained that she had turned the ventilator down to "almost nothing" and showed me how to read the numbers- it could see how much of the breathing work Brian was doing by himself and how much of the time his lungs were "riding" the vent. It was so weird to think of my young, healthy husband's body getting "lazy" and not knowing how to breathe for itself. He was doing pretty well, but still not 100%.  I talked to him, and told him about his injury as he kept touching the collar.
At first I thought he was tugging at it and after a few times of me saying (as I would to Elliot,) "No, no, Honey, don't pull on that" and him giving me the stink eye I realized he was trying to figure out why he was in a collar he was so familiar with. I explained his injuries as simply and gently as I could and told him how great he was doing and how happy we were to see his eyes.  I read to him what I had been reading that morning, changing the adverbs to fit from me to him.

Always be full of the joy in the Lord. I say it again-rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do, remember- the Lord is coming soon! Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and Thank Him for all He has done.  Then, you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your heart and mind as you live in Christ Jesus, and now, dearest one, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable and right and pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise... And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches which have been given to us  in CHRIST JESUS. Philippians 4:4-9,19

It made me teary to read "as you live in Christ Jesus" as I felt so keenly how close Brian had been to death.  God wasn't done with him on earth, and we truly are living in Christ Jesus, how else can one live? In Him, we live and move and have our being.

One thing that I found interesting about being in a coma was that Brian definitely had "sleep" and "awake" times.  There were periods of time where he was more responsive and would open his eyes readily and other times where it was almost impossible to rouse him.

Before I had been there an hour, the Respiratory Therapist came in to turn the vent down even more and measure his breathing and see how he would do before they actually extubated. The trauma docs came in shortly after and I was happy to see Cassandra Sappington, one of the PAs that I knew from before and Brian works with her husband.  She said, "Oh! I do know you!"  It made me feel better that even though Liz, who had been following us closely wasn't there it was Cassie who had an equally personal relationship with both of us.

Brian woke up when he was hollered at a few times, grudgingly going through the trial of tests normal to an assessment: "Open your eyes, Look to the Left, Look to the right, Squeeze my fingers, Push up on my hands with your feet, Can you give me a thumbs up?"

They were worried with how drowsy he still was, and I was glad Andy had sedated him so he could rest the night before. Cassie asked him if he'd like the tube out and he nodded as well as held up his one finger "yes" signal.  She expressed her concern about the depth of his breathing which was in the 600s on the vent, saying they might have to come back later in the afternoon after he'd have a chance to wake up more.

At that news, I saw a look of steely determination cross Brian's face and I saw him gathered every ounce of strength in his weakened body.  On his next breath, the numbers shot up to over twice that to a 1300.

Cassie and Dr. Dulabon laughed and they agreed they would extubate, since the patient was so determined.

It was a little disturbing and a little gross to watch the extubation, but I wanted to be there as they checked his airway and pulled the long tube from his lungs and... out! He coughed and coughed which was "good" and he continued to all day, spitting out the mucus that had collected on the tube for four days.

It was so awesome to see his beautiful face without the tube tugging on his bottom lip and the straps further distorting his already swollen cheeks. I was concerned about his lips being chapped since he's a little of a chap stick guy in regular life, not to mention in the dry hospital with his mouth being held open for days.
 Photo: The most handsome guy I know is now breathing like us! (almost) so proud of my strong gutsy guy! Praise with us the God of Grace! Pray for Brian emotionally, physically, mentally and of course spiritually. You are all the bomb diggitty! Couldn't do with out you!

My mom and our friend Renee, who had picked her up from the airport, came straight there while I was back with Brian.  It was so wonderful to hug her and look in her eyes and I think she was glad to see I really was okay and be able to "talk" to Brian and say hello. She was so sweet to him and he was really happy to see her, in his sleepy way.

That evening, I expressed my desire to shave Brian's hair and get him all cleaned up. The cervical collar and pads had been on since Saturday and were covered in blood and sweat and spit, and I hadn't had a chance to give him a real bath. He gave me everything I would need and said he'd try to get the hair shaved before morning. I cleaned him up, even brushing his teeth and trying my hardest to get the blood out of his bangs.  Carmelle came by after work and came back to see us. While she was there she offered to help the night nurse, Jack, to maintain C-Spine precautions while I changed the sheets and while he could get to the back of Brian's hair and switch out the collar pads.  He thought that was a novel idea while we were all there, so that's what we did.

I winced as the hair came off, knowing how Brian had loved his hair longer, and remembering how I had planned to leave it when it was half shaved, thinking he'd like a say in it got shaved or not, and that he might get a kick out of the punk rocker look. But this, this had to go. there was about a two inch wide swath of hair around his whole head that had been trapped under the C-collar or missed by the OR barbers. There was a shaved circle where the first surgery had been preformed and then as the incision went at a right angle toward the neck another patch of hair was gone. It was like a very bad marriage of mohawk and monk.

And to my surprise- and contrary to Brian's earlier explanations about his oddly shaped head- he looked so HANDSOME! With his high cheekbones and the C-Collar holding his head up high he reminded me of a regal Egyptian.

His voice when he tried to talk was barely above a whisper, having a bit of a sore throat from the tube and over all weakness, but he did talk and some of it was his normal, witty remarks and it made us all giddy with delight to hear. 

Here's a list of Day Five Highlights I wrote in Brian's guestbook.

2.Waking up... slowly.
3. Spending more quality time with you
4. My mom came!
5. You sat up on the edge of the bed with Occupational Therapy!!
6.You are "figuring out" what happened though I wonder if you remember what I say.
7.You nod and shake your head "no"
8.You said, "weeeeellll" (a famous Brianism from before) after I asked if suctioning felt better
9.You mocked Carmelle saying, "Oh My" In a very derisive tone
10.you gave me quite an eyebrow raise when I asked if you knew I was your wife. In my mind, I could hear your voice saying, "Dear...!"
11.Clean DeRoyal, bath, teeth brushed, sheets changed and
13. Jesus has given me so much peace
14.I am so happy to serve you
15.I am longing for you to call me dear or

... He has done exceeding abundantly above anything we can think or ask. xoxo

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Blessings all Mine with Ten Thousand Beside

I've now gotten you through the first (and in someways worst) part of things, and I think continuing on in a chronological day by day litany might get boring. Sometimes the days dragged and not much happened for me, so if they were boring then, over a month ago, they'll still be boring now.

I'll leave out some parts and maybe just share what sticks out in my mind.

One highlight actually happened on Monday, but it seemed like another whole day and didn't notice until I was looking back in my notes. (My memory is not quite as good as I had you all thinking it was.)  Since I have it handy, I'll copy what I had written to Brian that evening.

Day 3 May 6, 2013

...It's so unreal to think my sweet sweet LOVE is unconscious in the ICU and you aren't just around the corner.  I keep wanting to talk to you, tell you and ask you things and listen to your smooth as honey voice. Really miss you, BFF.

We let you rest this afternoon, and Chandra Urban came to sing and play guitar with us... I KNEW you would love to hear that.  (She was out in the Lobby though, and I don't think you could hear where your room is.)  It was SO peaceful and refreshing. You have an AWESOME haircut, Babe, and I love you so so much. You are loved by so many and prayed for by even more. xoxo

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father, There is no shadow of turning with thee.  Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not, as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, BLESSINGS ALL MINE, WITH TEN THOUSAND BESIDE! 

Great is Thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed, thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me. <3

I have always loved that old Hymn and the words really resonated.  How could anyone walk such a path without His own dear presence, cheering and guiding?   Without friends and family encouraging and telling you ways He has provided strength for the day, hope for tomorrow in their lives? I can't imagine, and know that it was God alone Who gave me the courage and fortitude to keep on keeping on, doing what I needed to and what Elliot and Brian needed me to do.

I'm better friends with Chani's brother and his wife, but we're friends too. She had texted asking if she could come serenade and it was a beautiful gift. She has this full rich and beautiful voice that reach down to your toes and give you goosebumps.  We sat in the Lobby and sang one worship song after hymn, and the music really did restore my soul. There was a guy waiting to go into the ICU to see someone, he was standing near the phone you have to use if the volunteers are gone and he stayed waiting the whole time, listening.  Like I've said, people have such amazing gifts and are so creative with their giving. Thank you, Chani!

That night Brian's cousin Kirsten had written in his guestbook, "I can hear your voice singing along with us-because I know you would be." She hit the nail on the head, and I could hear him too.

The next morning I got a call from the hospital as I ate breakfast, and because of the call yesterday I answered with trepidation.  Please Lord, not another surgery. Let it be good news!

And it was.

Please come sit with Brian, who is waking up and getting wiggly.  So wiggly, in fact, they would need to restrain him if we weren't there to be with him.  I didn't want him to wake up confused and restrained so I told Marisyl we'd be there as soon as we could. We again threw things together and raced to the hospital.  

I think it was Sunday night that they had turned the sedation down.  Brian had opened his eyes and the wide open panic in them was gut wrenching. I couldn't imagine waking up, intubated and not knowing where you are or what was happening. We tried talking to him, but then it got worse. He started throwing up, and we were asked to leave while the nurse tried to get the suction turned on and get the vomit out. He hadn't really been awake after, because the other time they tried to turn the sedation down his blood pressure had jumped and they turned it back on.  But this was different! He was waking up!

Maybe he would talk to us today.

I spent most of the morning back with Brian, holding his hand and telling him where he was and that I was there. He squeezed my hand and his Mama's hand, which of course made her day- both of our days!  He would open his eyes when we talked to him and it was so exciting.  There was talk of getting the tube out, but those plans never materialized since he was still pretty sedated by 3.  The trauma docs don't like to extubate too late in the day in case things go south and they need to reinsert.
We had a lot of company that day, people stopping in on their lunch breaks or if they were in the area and some of my dear girl friends. We had family supper that night in the waiting room, chef salad, which was delicious after all the fast food and snacks we'd been eating.  (Thanks Elva!) Oh, and she even brought Gluten free Cupcakes: a true treat!

That evening, brother Matt and Liv got trapped back in Brian's room during shift change- no going in or out from 7-8pm, and when Liv came back she was all smiles. Brian was so interactive! Matt told him his feeding tube was mashed potatoes and Brian rolled his eyes.  He then "begged" them to take the ventilator out, clasping his hands and imploring them with his eyes.  I of course hurried back, hoping for something. 

When I got to his room, he was more awake and using one finger for "yes" and two for "no" communicating very emphatically that he most certainly DID want that tube out.   It was the same viking like night nurse, and she was so sweet in explaining that we should probably sedate him so he wasn't so frantic and frustrated and could rest.  If he was up all night he would be too drowsy to get the tube out the next day when the trauma doctors would round. We could convince them at that time to extubate right then and there if his lungs were clear and he was able to prove he was awake enough to remember to breathe.  Brian was so bummed to hear that, and he wouldn't even look at me (agreeing with Andy) but turned instead to his beloved big brother, again pleading with his hands  and eyes.  I'm guessing he thought I was no help and maybe Matt would knock me and Andy out and take it out himself? He's got a lot of faith in you, Matt.

I left shortly after Andy administered the Versed and Brian visibly relaxed and fell asleep.

I went home feeling down right giddy. We really were on the right track! It didn't matter what tomorrow would hold, or what had happened yesterday.  Today had been a good day, and that was enough.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done Philippians 4:6

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Monday Morning Heartbreak and Mostly Good News

I had slept very little on Saturday night and I knew I needed as much rest as I could if this grueling experience would drag on as long as predicted. 

This is a marathon, not a sprint.

I finally wised up and turned both my 4G and wi fi off so if the hospital needed to contact me they could but my facebook app could not interrupt my sleep.  I woke sometime in the wee hours, (my fault, not Elliot's, even, since he was having his very first sleepover with Grandpa and Grandma) and my mind went over and over the last 48 hours.  A verse kept floating through and I finally looked it up.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 2  Corinthians 4:16

It was exactly what I needed, I went back to sleep, at peace, waking exactly 7 hours from when I had first laid down.  

I went down stairs, finding Lana asleep on the couch. She sat up groggily as I put my tennis shoes on and told her I was going out for some fresh air and exercise. 

The sky was brilliant blue and the shining sun felt wonderfully hot on my shoulders. I ran to the end of the road, my tennis shoes slapping the ground, my lungs burning until I could go no further. I slowed and continued walking, there I ran into my great-great-Uncle Don, who is in his 80s and runs 7-10 miles a day. He stopped when he recognized me and we had a sweet little visit there on 151st street. He encouraged me and told me how they were praying: Don himself had a skull fracture in the 1980s and had to learn to do everything all over. It felt a little like talking to his big brother, my great Grandfather, and it was so sweet to meet up with him there, thank you, Jesus.  After I left him I started running again.  

If Uncle Don can run and he's over 80, I can run my measly 1.75 miles! 

As I ran, I envisioned my worries lifting off my back, praying that God would truly take them away.   I thought about all the good things God had done and was doing in our lives.  I counted the day as pure joy, I counted my lungs taking in air, our sweet sweet baby boy, being so good and patient, I thought about how God could have taken Brian but didn't, how it was so wonderful that I had worked at the hospital Brian was in for three years- it was almost like home to me, I felt so comfortable there-How God is truly sovereign and that the strange nesting cleaning binge I went on the night before the accident was to put my mind at rest when we spent all our time at the hospital (Not because I was about to leave on vacation, as I had supposed it was.) I thought about how glorious it was that I was not pregnant as we had hoped I would be. I felt so joyful taking in the familiar horses in their pastures and hearing the birds chirping, anticipating waking Brian up that day. I so looked forward to seeing his beautiful blue eyes. Would he know me? Would I see his sweet smile? I didn't know, but I couldn't wait to see what God would do that day.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

I got  home to find Lana puttering around and for the first time in days I ate a full meal, thoroughly enjoying a bowl of oatmeal.  We chatted casually, she making plans to run some errands and deciding on dropping me off for some "alone" time with Brian. I put some clothes in the laundry and was sitting quietly at the table, taking a proverbial breath before leap when the phone rang.

This is Jason, I'm one of the PAs working with Dr. Nemecek. They did a STAT CT this morning and the hematoma on the opposite side has started bleeding. We want to take him to the OR as soon as possible, and need you to come in to sign consent. 

Oh Wow. Okay. I was just finishing things up here, I can leave right now. 

We threw ourselves together, the black journal we used as guestbook, the mini laptop and charger, cell phone charger and snacks, Elliot's clothes all got dumped into a handbag and as Lana drove as fast as we dared, I called and texted. Brian's parents, my parents, our siblings, a few close friends and Facebook. I needed those prayers.   Matt Redman's 10000 Reasons came on the radio and I turned it up. 

Bless the Lord, O my soul/ O my soul/Worship His holy name/Sing like never before/O my soul/I'll worship Your holy name /The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning/It's time to sing Your song again/Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me/Let me be singing when the evening comes

The news of the surgery jolted me more than the first time. 

 We were supposed to work on waking him up! He already had a surgery! Please God, be with Brian. Please God, be with the surgeons, Give me strength. Though our bodies are dying every day You are making us new. Please God do that it Brian today.

Lana left me at the front of the hospital and I carried my gear upstairs and left the majority of it in the waiting room.

Hello, I'm the wife of the patient of 5114. I'd like to go see him. And I need to sign some surgery consent.

The volunteer gatekeeper of the ICU gave me a sticker labeling me and ICU family member  and went to see if  it was okay with Brian's nurse for me to go back.  It was such a strange feeling to ask a stranger to go see my husband, the decision entirely up to them.  When the "warden" returned, I went back, walking the long distance with quick steps. 

I found Brian's nurse, Marisyl, a pretty dark woman sorting out his "spaghetti" IV lines in preparation to send him down to surgery. She explained how he had a decreased response to his neuro checks especially on one side, so she sent him for a STAT CT scan which had showed the bleeding.  She got him as ready as she could without the PA coming and also said she wanted to switch out the bed before or after he got back from surgery.  She left for a bit to check on her other patient.

I put the Hans Zimmer Pandora station playing on Brian's baby laptop and pulled the chair up as close as I could to the bed, wanting to be as close as possible. I missed him, and that was only the third morning. I laced his stiff and puffy fingers through mine, and lay my head on the bed next to him. I willed him to lift his hand, to touch my head with all my might, but there was nothing. I poured out my heart to him, telling me how empty our bed was, how quiet our house was in the evenings, how Elliot missed him, how I just wanted to see his beautiful eyes, how I missed his gentle voice, how scared I was of losing him, how much I loved him and how I prayed for him with every breath. I told him how wonderful people were being to us and that my mom was coming on Wednesday. My tears fell on our hands and I wanted him to comfort me with all my heart, but he wasn't there. I told him about the Bible verse coming in the night and so I read that aloud to him and I promise he squeezed my hand at the words.    

 You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.
7We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
8We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
11Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you.
13But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.
16That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4.

The PA came in then and I signed the consent, and left them to switch Brian to his different bed.  People had come to the waiting room while I was back and we visited and said hello.  I still hadn't seen my brother, Troy, since the accident, and I had texted him to let him know Brian was going for another surgery.  Shortly after he appeared off the elevator all work boots and construction worker clothes holding two Iris. 

Where did you get these?
I dunno, some house off Hawthorne.
It was so sweet that he had thought of the flowers (poor lady's garden on Hawthorne Boulevard!) and walked off the job to be there. I later learned our sister had called and told him to get there! I rushed to get him back in time to see Brian before he left, and we were just in the nick of time.  He was just rounding the corner to the elevators, so we were able to stop him and Troy say a quick hello.  It was a strange moment when I recognized one of the OR Techs, whose name was also Brian, incidentally.  I could see in his eyes that he wished it wasn't our family, and it wasn't my Brian he was wheeling down. He promised to take good care of Brian, and they were gone. 
We kept our vigil in the waiting room, and made more small talk.  Several church ladies stopped by and they were a welcome encouragement and distraction.  Brian's parents came around then with Elliot.  He had woken them up very early and they were really tired.

An hour later or so the same Neurosurgeon reappeared looking grave.  He smiled when he saw me. 
Brian is still very injured. But I think we got the cause of the bleed. There was a tear in the sagittal sinus, which is a vein along the back of the brain on the dura.  It bled a lot, which is common, I had my colleague's thumb on it holding pressure, we added a local coagulant and got a lot of the other blood out.  I also placed a few sutures which seem to be holding. He's getting a couple of units of blood, and we'll keep a close eye on things.  In fact, he's going straight to CT before he comes here.  His haircut just got worse. But things went as well as can be expected. 
I shook  his hand, took his card and he was gone. 
One person I loved seeing through everything was my sister in law, Liv. She was 8 months pregnant and I had anticipated helping her with her two boys through the last few months of her pregnancy. As it turned out, she took Elliot a few days and I was more of a hindrance than help.  I loved seeing all of our family (don't be hurt, family) but I loved Liv's belly.  I was so excited to meet our nephew or niece (at that time they didn't know) and feeling her round firm belly reminded me of good things and sweet babies.  It gave me hope for our family and I would especially look forward to going to the hospital to meet the newest Wilson and imagine how happy our family would be.  
All three of our nephews and of course Elliot kept everyone entertained and distracted. Lana got to spend a lot of time with them. We really felt what we were missing out on with her in Pasco, we don't get to have her a part of our daily life.  It was such a treat to have her around during everything! I also knew Brian would love to see her if he were at all cognizant. She's one of his favorite people. 
As we sat around and took turns walking around with the boys, we saw Brian being wheeled down the side hall toward the patient elevators to CT.  He had a small patch of bangs that had not been butchered by the OR barbers and it turned up in a perfect rooster tail and bounced as he went. I couldn't help but laugh. It was funny. I hadn't yet seen the forewarned terrible haircut in person, but I could tell from yards away that it was indeed bad. 
The trauma PA from the day before came and found us as we crowded the anteroom and lobby. 
This is the first time since Brian's been here that I have only good news.  The CTs have shown the bleeding to have stabilized, and we found the source! I haven't detected any permanent damage to the brain, though of course it's too early to tell, but that's a good sign. His vitals and labs are good. We are finally on the upward slope. 
A kind smile and she was off, and I was smiling too. 
We went back to be with Brian after shift change and I met his night nurse, tall, blond and viking like. She was straight and to the point which is exactly what I needed. We had a concise visit about my expectations and theirs. AKA, I needed to tell them when I was there as they are waaaaayyyy too busy to check if any family is out in the waiting room, and  I was welcome to be back with Brian as much as I liked. In fact, as he woke up and started squirming they hoped I would be there more. 
It was hard to articulate my desire to not be in the way or be an obnoxious family member (I'd worked in health care too long; I knew they existed) but also be involved. 

We packed everything back up to carry it home, knowing we would only do it all over again tomorrow. 

But that was tomorrow.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Night Watch and Another Day's Vigil

Breathing sighs of relief, we brushed our teeth and I dragged myself to bed, laying Elliot down next to me in the bed that was too big; Brian's empty pillow glaring at me and making me once again accept our new reality. Normally we've been making Elliot sleep in his crib, our bed had been feeling cramped with him thrashing around between us, but I needed someone- especially him close. I hugged him close, hearing his sweet breath and in my mind I could hear the steady woosh woosh of the ventilator as it breathed for the other man I loved.
I was exhausted beyond belief, and still a little shocked. I should have slept for hours, but I couldn't. After updating facebook:

Last CT was stable, Praise the Lord!

It was after midnight that I read some scripture and finally drifted off to sleep fitfully.

It wasn't nightmares, exactly, nor worry, just an uneasy awareness that something was wrong, that my life really had been flipped upside down, that my bed really was empty.

I woke up around 3, head pounding, hungry, thirsty, bile in my throat. I went downstairs to make some toast, chew some tums and take an advil or two. Julie sleeping on the couch heard me rustling and she woke to see if I was okay. I reassured her I was fine, just awake.

I called Annie, Brian's nurse to hear for myself that the ventilator still wooshed and my husband still breathed. She assured me he was fine and urged me to rest. I thanked her and went upstairs to resume my tossing and turning.

My phone buzzed almost nonstop that night. It was wonderful and frustrating to hear the vibrations. Smart phones are marvelous inventions, but the instant updates were too intrusive. Though I was awake, I would check. At 3 it was our Scandinavian friends, “We're praying for you!” At six I could hear our friends and family on the east coast waking up and checking in. A true around the clock prayer vigil.

I finally dragged myself out of bed around 8, happy it was daylight and I could stop pretending to sleep . I fed Elliot and got him dressed and ready to go to church with Julie. I dressed myself with some care, thinking, If Brian wakes up today, I want to look nice. He didn't. But it made me feel better I didn't look as haggard and weary as I felt, though I didn't wear any makeup, not wanting to look like Frankenstein's bride with mascara down my cheeks. I felt fragile and the tears were already at the surface.

Dad and Mom Wilson came and fetched me and we went straight to the hospital instead of for breakfast like planned. The thought of bacon and eggs made me feel like throwing up, so we got a smoothie on the way. I really wanted to be there early to set up church for Brian, but the hospital's internet provider blocks youtube which our church had just switched to.

We said hello, and I squeezed his hand, telling him how happy I was to see him that day. The three of us alternated turns with him and then I lay down to rest in the private waiting room while they took a turn and Phil read some scripture to Brian. I lay there sleeping in fits and this time it was Gwen's phone that kept ringing: I should have told her to take it.

I heard quiet voices talking and it was my friends Patricia and Carissa who had brought lunch from church. It was so wonderful to see friendly faces and I muscled something down, since they had brought it. We had been texting the day before and I had told Patricia, a little tongue in cheek, that I was mad about not being able to lay out in the sunshine. She asked if I wanted her to bottle it and I said YES. She brought a yellow smiley face balloon tied to a water bottle of.... sunshine! It was so cute and cheery and made me smile. I'm assuming the sunshine was lemonade.

Friends and family filtered in all day and I soon had a smoothie, two coffee drinks, a passion tea lemonade and a blended coffee drink lined up on the window sill. Once I realized I was barely a third through my first one and that was making my stomach turn I started passing them out. Elliot was in his glory, drinking smoothies and lemonades, eating all manner of treats.
It was so good to hold his little body close, and he would climb down and creep along the chairs to the next person or treat or fascinating thing. One of the biggest blessings through everything was how well Elliot coped. Better than me, I think! From the very first day till now he would so easily go to the next person and the next place, a little tired but okay. I'm sure it was a combination of his natural good nature, people's prayers and another of God's graces.

The ICU nurses really recommended limiting visitors and midway through the day we kind of stopped going back. For one thing, Brian was really boring. I say that as a joke, but it's true. He just lay there, and after awhile I would run out of things to tell him without his participation. And for another thing, he really just needed to rest.

It was so good to have so much company at the hospital. Honestly, if you came and I didn't get to see you or say so, I appreciate to the bottom of my toes. It helped pass the time, distract me and it was so good to visit and feel a little normal. To this day, if you haven't searched us out, we haven't seen you, so the little socialization I've had have been the people who have made effort. Before the accident I wouldn't have or didn't go visit people at the hospital, thinking they need some time and space, but I think I will stop in on people, even if it's not my immediate family.

The waiting room was mounded with food, snacks and goodies and it was so thoughtful of people to bring it. I've been continually amazed at how thoughtful and creative people are with their giving. WE have been blessed by you.

Towards the afternoon, I felt myself getting more and more tired, and my reserves running very thin. I tried to lay down and rest but the bile I felt the night before came back and I didn't have any tums. The outer waiting room exploded with people as the last service of church was finished. I kind of hid out and let Phil and Gwen play host and thank people for coming.

My friend Carmelle came and talked to me, asking me to be honest and tell her to butt out if she was being too involved. It was too much, the thought of doing so when she had been nothing but help, and thinking of navigating the medical side without her help too scary. I cried and she felt terrible since that had been the first time I had broken down. I buried my face in her shirt and blubbered while frantically trying to get it together because if I didn't stop, maybe I wouldn't or couldn't.

Sweet Becca, a friend who works in the other building of the hospital had procured some tums for me and I chewed a handful while trying to mop my face up.
People cleared out of the waiting room and I went back to see Brian again. He was the same, just resting. I peered into his face, hoping to see some glimmer of himself there, willing him to open his eyes, to talk to me and maybe smile. I picked up his normally thin hand, it was puffy and swollen from IV fluids- I counted 6 IV pumps of different things going in- and I thought to myself how even his hands were different. I was glad we had taken his wedding band off in the ED at Carmelle's thoughtful suggestion and I turned it around and around my thumb. The hospital ID band even seemed tight, but when I mentioned it to the nurse she thought it looked fine.She also mentioned maybe tomorrow they would turn the sedation down and work on helping Brian to wake up. woohoo!

Realizing there was little I could do there, I leaned up on tiptoe, straining to reach around the puffy air mattress and bed rail to kiss the one inch square of uninjured, uncovered skin on his face, right next to his nose.

Goodnight, dear, I'll see you first thing in the morning. I love you so much.

And I left my husband in the hands of another strange woman for the second night.

Lana decided to stay down for the week and not return to the Tricities with Marcus, so she agreed to stay with me for the night until my mom could possibly come. Elliot went home to sleep with Grandma and Grandpa, and Lana needed to get her clothes. I asked our sweet friend Becca if she could drop me off home on her way from work so Lana could go get her things. She agreed, but needed to go get her lunch bag and stuff from her floor, so I sat on a bench out front.

As I waited for her, I thought about how I missed talking to Brian. I missed his easy gentle voice and how he always knows the right thing to say, how he would know what all the technical terms mean, have opinions on medications he was getting and when our mortgage was due, what our best options in general were, and encourage me from the very soul. And he was silent that day. The worry, the emotion, the aching in my heart spilled out.

I became that person.

The stranger that no one makes eye contact with because they're crying their heart out on a bench in public place, all the most important affects in a backpack beside them.

Please, God, make this better. Please, God, fix our life. Please God, Please God, Please God.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day One, Take Two.

He has a pretty bad skull fracture, and we're checking for bleeding on his brain.
The sentence echoed and I think to myself how Dr. Steele has kind eyes. It occured to me that we may not actually be going home that evening. Besides having Elliot, neither of us had ever stayed overnight in the hospital. And of course, that was an excruciatingly painful but a just as excruciatingly joyful experience and I was the patient. 
Brian had a seizure on his way in so he's been intubated to help him rest. 
 Skull Fracture. Intubated. Skull Fracture. Intubated. Skull Fracture. Intubated. 
Sandwiched between Brian's parents with Elliot on my lap, the words seemed to be turned on repeat in my mind. Dr. Steele kept making eye contact with them and I wondered if I look painfully young and they as if they can handle the news better. He rushed off saying he will let us know when he hears the results of the CT and if Brian will need to be rushed to the OR for a thoracic injury.
Liz Crawford, who is one of the trauma PAs we know on the floor came in. It was lovely to see a familiar face, but the surreal feeling wouldn't leave. Are we really in the ED that I've floated to countless times as family members? As Brian's family members?? Liz was the sweetest, offering to call Brian's boss for us and let her know he wouldn't be at work on Tuesday as scheduled. She casually mentioned a fracture in one of his lower neck vertebrae, C7. She explained further about the intubation, that a seizure, being one of the brain's only defense mechanisms after trauma, is quite normal and keeping him sedated would help his brain from repeating as well as help it to begin to heal. 
A woman from admitting came and I thought how macabre it was that they would come and ask billing information in the middle of a trauma, but I also knew it was better now than later. I didn't have his card but since Brian works at Southwest it was fine, she could look it up, she said.
I foolishly asked what floor he would go to from the ED and was told the Intensive Care Unit. I think at that moment the gravity of the situation sunk it a little, though I still felt this steely sort of peace.
Someone came in and asked us to move back a little since they were going to bring Brian back from the CT.  They wheeled the gurney in and though I had been prepared for the intubation, nothing could have prepared me for the swollen, bruised and bloody appearance of his face or actually seeing the tube in his mouth. The left side of his face was unrecognizable. The eye was purple with bruising and the size of a tennis ball.  A cut on his cheekbone oozed blood down the side of his face, as well as an open sore above his ear. The face was swollen as well, and his ear, which was black and blue as well, pressed into the puffiness strangely.  A trauma collar was on and I felt a little sick to my stomach but not emotional.  I felt very much the voyeur when I took pictures of Brian, but I knew he as a nurse would want to see them, when he wakes up.
 Dad and Mom Wilson had a hard time seeing their little boy that way.  I felt distant and far away, yet very present.
We're going to be okay. We're going to be okay. Please, God, keep Brian safe. Please bless Brian with peace and healing and comfort.  Please God, let us be okay.
I tried and tried getting a hold of my mom, who was in the middle of a mother daughter tea at church. Come on, Mom, you know I wouldn't call and interrupt unless it was really important. Mom, pick up! I ended up texting her and my sister Sam and that got their attention, it felt good for them to know what was going on, knowing that they would be praying like crazy.  I also posted on facebook, though the information I had was spotty at best, I know the power of prayer and I wanted as many people to be praying as possible.   Trenton and Rachel got there shortly after and Trenton cried a little when he hugged me, saying
 I'm so sorry, Rosa
I just hugged him back and said it was an accident, though I still didn't know exactly what had happened, or what in the world Brian was doing up int he tree anyway!   He gave me Brian's phone and wallet which I put in the diaper bag, thinking.  
He'll want these when he wakes up.
Dr. Steele came back and we were told that Brian had some facial fractures in addition to the skull fractures.  He also had some bleeding around his brain but they were just going to keep him sedated and do another CT at noon and another at 4pm to make sure it wasn't spreading.
We called our good nurse friend, Carmelle down to the ED from wherever she was working, CVICU, I think, to let her know what was going on.  Brian's her cousin and it really rattled her to see him and hear about his accident. Ignorance really is bliss, I suppose.   They had been joking the night before that "everyone" should go to the beach that day unless we wanted to go visit Carmelle at work.
Don't come see me in the ER, whatever you do! She had said, and there we were.
It was almost exactly 10:00 in the morning, and I remember thinking that Brian was right, when he had said, see you at ten, we just didn't know where. Also, Brian wasn't seeing me, but I was certainly seeing him.
People went in and out around noon they did the CT and then were going to transfer Brian to the ICU, so  I left him to go see Elliot, who was in the waiting room with Grandpa Phil and Uncle Trenton and his wee cousin, Henry.  He was standing up on the back of  a chair playing with wall toys set there for that purpose, unaware of the calamity that had befallen his little family or how very much his sweet little world was going to be turned upside down.  I nursed him and the gang went out to lunch, taking Elliot along.
I went up to the ICU and the waiting room there was half full of other people displaced from their ordinary lives for the waiting twilight zone of the hospital. I ate my sandwich and plugged my cell phone in, thinking it might be a long day and as it's wont to die on a regular day, one full of texts, face book messages and calls I knew it would need every ounce of power. 
I found myself totally alone for the first time that day and couldn't do much more than pray, and pray and pray. As word got out and spread, my phone buzzed almost constantly with encouragement and prayers, kind words and scripture. The love and kindness in people's prayers was tangible to me, and I felt HIS peace surround me with a lovely strength. Seriously, prayer works.
The details blur, but later in the day, Liz came and found me, saying that the bleeding on Brian's brain had spread, which was definitely not what she wanted to say, but thought they would be able to manage it medically and hopefully avoid surgery. 
As I sat with Brian in his quiet room, I tried talking to him and telling him I was there, but my attempts fell flat: he wasn't there, and it felt awkward.
Towards the afternoon, Brian wasn't responding as well to the Neuro checks the Nurse was doing hourly. (Maybe it was every 4? I don't remember for sure.) In any case, one side was diminished and they alerted the doctor.
I then met one of the Neurosurgeons working that day, Dr. Nemecek, and he asked when the accident happened and ordered a stat CT, something with the timeline not adding up and wanting a more recent scan. As it turned out, he was in the OR to do a case when the results came back.
The bleeding had spread again.
The Trauma PA came then and her usually unflappable demeanor was a little spooked.  She said Brian was one of her favorite nurses on the floor, and she wasn't going to lose him if she could help it. Dr. Nemecek was in surgery, but she had pages out to any other local Neurosurgeons if anyone else could come in and do it before Nemecek finished his case. The OR was prepped, anesthesia ready, just missing a doctor. She even said if she thought it would make anything happen any faster that she'd transfer him.
I knew it wasn't good then, and I could only nod and offer to do whatever I could, which was very little besides hold things together.  
Brian's a really good nurse. I'm treating him like he's my brother. I want him in that OR now.

I trust you, and your judgement. Do whatever you need to. And thank you. Thank you for your wonderful care, I remember saying. 

The waiting room had filled and emptied of people stopping in to see us and offer what they could.  I went down with Brian to sign the consent as the doctor was free to do the surgery. He met me at the desk, as cool as a cucumber- though would a Neurosurgeon ever get too hyper, probably not, I hypothesized. He explained what he was doing and a possible list of side affects and adverse reactions and what ifs and maybes including and not limited to death.  I signed it, knowing it was our best option, knowing that Brian's life was (and is) solely in God's hand and somehow, we were going to be okay, no matter what.

No Matter What. 

Of course, that's easy to say now, six weeks later, when everything has gone as good as humanly possible. But the peace I felt in the middle of one of my worst nightmares cannot be denied. That day was one of the "worst" scenarios I could have concocted but I never felt out of "control" (though I wasn't in control in the first place) nor did I feel as afraid or worried as I thought I would be in that situation. I felt tucked gently and closely to the Father's side and upheld by  prayer through it all.  It sounds strange, but believe me: Prayer works.

I waited with a dear sister friend. I can't remember what we talked about, just that her eyes reflected love and caring to me and she was there with me, I think I tried to eat something. The doctor came back, before we even had a chance to head down to the surgical waiting area and I felt so dumb making him track me down.

I was able to evacuate the hematoma off the dura of Brian's brain. I never saw his actual brain, so that's good.  We'll keep a close eye on the blood clots, sometimes they can shift after surgery and we may have to go in and remove it again if that's the case, but again, things are stable for now. He's resting now and  sporting a half shave. His hair will grow back: mine won't. He says, with a large hand on his bald head, and easy smile.  With a whisk of white lab coat, he's gone.

I looked over at Katie and said, I just shook the hand that was in my husbands head minutes ago.

It was a very strange moment and as much as I tried not envisioning Brian's scalp being lifted and his dura exposed to the world, the marvelous brain, swollen and jostled, but synapses still firing and ideas, memories, plans, dreams, life itself beaming underneath, I couldn't not do it. Obviously I was unsuccessful since I've typed it here.

We spent the rest of the day taking turns visiting Brian, updating family and friends and hanging out in the waiting room.

My sweet sweet friend Julie came over to sleep the night in case the 11 o'clock CT showed more bleeding- I wanted to be there when he went to surgery if he needed to, but didn't want to leave baby Elliot home with just Uncle Troy (who can sleep through everything.) 

When I got home I felt emotionally drained, sick to my stomach and bone weary. I could hardly believe I had really left my husband at the hospital under the competent, kind and skilled care of a perfect stranger.  It seemed I had been gone a month not just 12 hours, as if my comforting house should have changed as much as my life and I myself had.

After I had showered off the days grime and stress, we sat chatting in the living room when I got the call. 

Rosa?  This is Annie, from the Hospital?  We got the results back from the last CT. Everything remained stable! You get some rest, and we'll take care of Brian for you, sweetie. 

sweet relief.