Friday, July 25, 2008

Windows to the Soul

Yesterday my brother opened his eyes! He has been on two sedation medications since he's been in, but yesterday they took him off of one of them. His eyes had been open for several hours, but he had not responded to any of the nurses stimulation. That is, until he heard my sisters voice, then he looked directly at her. What a thrill! She called me and I'm sure I broke speed records getting up there! Most of the time he was not focusing on anything in particular, but several times while we were talking to him there was a flicker of recognition. Or his brows would furrow in annoyance when one of the many machines he is hooked up to would start beeping. Or when we were talking to him about his kids, he would get a concerned look on his face. Once he looked like he was trying to smile, and another time he looked like he wanted to say something, but it's hard to talk with a huge tube in your throat! I swear we even saw his eyes tear up when we were talking to him. I was giddy with emotion. As I sat and stared into his beautiful, brown eyes this scripture came to mind,

"The light of the body is the eye."

The eyes truly are the windows to the soul, and it was a beautiful experience to peek in and see that his soul is still there.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Death is all around us...

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog you know that this past week has been very interesting for me. But you don’t know the half of it. Another event that has occurred this week is why I have given this post the title it has. Let me explain.

Five years ago on July 15, my mother passed away. Four years ago on July 17, my father-in-law passed away. This week on July 15 my brother was admitted to the hospital and was hardly expected to make it through the day. And just this past Saturday, on July 19 my grandfather passed away.

So you see, I have been contemplating death a lot lately. And I have also been contemplating why the Lord does things like this. It just seems so uncanny that it all happened this week. Another interesting “coincidence” is that on Sunday in Relief Society the lesson was on death...

One of the questions asked was, “As you think of loved ones who have died or who may soon die, what gospel truths bring you comfort?” As I contemplated that I thought of my mother. I thought of my brother. As my sister and I stood by my brother's bedside on that first frightening day we wondered aloud where my mother was, and even as we wondered we knew the answer. She was right there of course. This was her son, her firstborn. Where else would she be? My answer to the question is that I am grateful for the gospel truth of the sealing power that binds families together forever. Even though she is gone from this life, my mother is still my mother and will always be my mother and no one can take her away. My mother has accomplished more through her death in bringing about a better life for her children. Her presence has been felt many times by different members of our family in their times of need. She is still living and so is my father-in-law and so is my grandpa. And I am eternally grateful for that comforting truth.

Yes, death is all around us, but so is life. Eternal life.

Tender Mercies

The days have all run together. It’s been a week since Roger was hospitalized and I don’t know where the time has gone. So many things have happened. So many ups and downs. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster ride for sure!

The official diagnosis is Tularemia, or more commonly “rabbit fever”. It was transmitted to him through a tick bite he received on the 4th of July weekend. While Tularemia is rare, only 200 cases per year, it is highly dangerous, it takes only one organism to cause the disease. If he had gone in within a few days of feeling symptoms, he would have been on antibiotics for a couple of weeks and probably would have been fine.

They have given him antibiotics for the Tularemia and have been able to contain it; however it is all the after effects that he is dealing with now. As a result of it running unchecked in his body he contracted sepsis, which is essentially blood poisoning. He has gone into respitory failure and his kidneys have stopped functioning. The Tularemia has also caused ischemia to occur in some of his fingertips, but the real danger lies in it spreading to his heart; in order to keep that from happening he may have to have the affected ones amputated. They have drawn marks on his fingers to check the progress. He also has some internal bleeding which they are not sure of the cause. He is under sedation right now and on a ventilator and is also receiving dialysis.

It all sounds very dire, but the doctors feel that since he is young (43) and relatively healthy that his chances are good for recovering. The main thing that needs to happen is for his lungs to begin working on their own. The ventilator is taking every breath for him and it is also keeping pressure in his lungs in order to keep them from collapsing. When he was first admitted they had him on 100% oxygen and the pressure level (PEEP) was 20. He is now down to 35% oxygen and the PEEP level is 16. It is the PEEP level that needs to go down to below a 6-8 before they will be able to take him off the ventilator. Most of his recovery depends upon him being able to breathe on his own. His body cannot get the oxygen he needs to his blood and certain organs until he starts to be in control of his breathing.

While his kidneys are still not functioning, there is an 85-90% chance that they will reverse themselves and he will be fine. Years down the road he may have some problems with them, but the doctors say that most of the time, in cases like this, people fully recover their kidney function. He will be kept on dialysis until he is able to begin breathing on his own and his kidneys begin to function again.

He is very bloated as they have to keep a certain amount of fluid in his body in order for his organs to receive the oxygen they need. While it is very uncomfortable, it is not dangerous to him. We were worried that it was what had caused the ischemia, but the doctor reassured us that was not the case. We are hopeful that because the Tularemia has been contained that the ischemia will stop progressing.

That is the medical side of things. On a spiritual note, the Lord has been in our midst throughout this ordeal. Yesterday as I was contemplating the events of the past few days this scripture came to mind:

But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith. (1 Nephi 1:20)

On Monday our family decided to do another fast for Roger. We gathered together at the hospital so that we could talk to the doctor and get a more detailed analysis of his condition. Since both waiting rooms were full the nurse took us back to the family meeting room in the ICU. The doctor met us there and answered our questions and gave us the information we needed. He then left the room and we were able to discuss what we needed to focus on in our fasting and prayer. We then knelt in a family prayer in his behalf. After the prayer we discussed who would give him a priesthood blessing and made that decision. We were just getting ready to leave when the nurse came back and was very surprised to find us still there. The doctor was supposed to escort us out after he was done, but he had not. I was grateful for that little tender mercy that the Lord showed to us in giving us a private place to gather and plead for the life of our brother. The nurse also allowed us all to go into the room while he was given the blessing, another tender mercy, because only two people are allowed into his room at one time.

Another tender mercy is the fact that I was able to be here at this time. I have felt that the Lord wanted me here to be with my family during this time. Usually in the summer we take our annual trip to British Columbia to go fishing. This year I wanted to visit my family and also go visit the church history sites. A couple of weeks before our trip we decided to cancel the church history tour because of expenses and decided instead to just stay in Oklahoma the whole time. I had been planning on going to Indiana for a week to visit a friend and also my father who lives in Wisconsin, but I got sick so I had put off the trip for a few days. I was sick for two days. On the day that Roger went to the hospital I was feeling better so that I was able to go into his room during those first very frightening hours. Funny little circumstances that kept me here where I needed to be. There have been other, more personal experiences that I have had wherein I know that the Lord is working in this family to bring us closer and to have the opportunity to exercise our faith together on behalf of our brother.

There’s so much that I wish to express, but feel that I need to keep in my heart. My prayer is that my brother will be able to recover and to have the capacity left in his body to fulfill the mission that I know he has still on this earth. I know that the Lord is near and Roger is receiving the spiritual strength that he needs. I pray that I will be able to see him awake before I leave. Please keep him in your prayers, and thank you again for your kind and supportive words.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Good News!

Thank you for your prayers and uplifting words of support and encouragement. Roger (my brother) is improving. Since he's been in the hospital he has had to have 100% oxygen given to him on a ventilator that was also doing every breath for him. Last night he improved significantly so that today they were able to to take his oxygen input down to 80 percent! His blood pressure had been very low but has now returned to normal, so they have been able to take him off the blood pressure medication which means a reduction in the fluids they were having to give him that were bloating his body. He's still on dailysis for his kidneys, but it's only a temporary thing until his kidneys can begin to function on their own.

I have the most awesome family who have all pulled together for him. There are nine of us all together, six boys and three girls. One brother flew in from Alaska to be here and another flew from San Diego with his wife and thier 9 day old baby (she's a beauty!) to be here. We all fasted for him yesterday. I am blessed to be here with them and to witness the pulling together of our faith in his behalf. We know that our prayers are being heard.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Challenging Event

Funny how my last post was on challenging events that can take over your life. I don't have a lot of time to say what I'd really like to say because my vacation has made quite the detour. My big brother is in the hospital in critical condition. He has an infection that has caused sepsis. Last night he was touch and go and was only given a 50/50 chance of making it through the night...but he did, bless his heart. While he is still in very critical condition, the doctor said that she felt the prognosis was better today. We know the Lord is at work here as we have felt his presence many times throughout this ordeal. We believe in miracles and are fasting and praying that his life will be spared. Please think of us and pray for us at this time.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Real Living

"Sadness, disappointment, and severe challenges are events in life, not life itself. I do not minimize how hard some of these events are. They can extend over a long period of time, but they should not be allowed to become the confining center of everything you do...No matter how difficult something you or a loved one faces, it should not take over your life and be the center of all your interest. Challenges are growth experiences, temporary scenes to be played out on the background of a pleasant life." Richard G. Scott, Ensign, May 1996

Isn't this a great quote? It's something I've been thinking a lot about lately. Too many times I have allowed events to take over while I am hovering somewhere over the top looking at my life being played out and not feeling like a participant.

That's all I have to say...just wanted to share the quote!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Summertime...and the livin' is easy!

Well, once we got to the destination that is.

Have you ever tried to drive across the country with 8 persons, 6 of whom are your kids, stuffed in a car for three days of 12+ hour driving? It is not for the faint of heart!

But now we are here and my kids are connecting with cousins, some of whom they have not seen for over 5 years. It's a slumber party every night! Fortunately I have lots of family here in the midwest, so we can disperse ourselves around and not make anyone too crazy!

We'll be vacationing for about a month, so my blogging life will be sporadic at best, but I'll be checking in when I can.

Hope you all are having an easy livin' summer!