Thursday, March 29, 2012

Marching Onward

     Imagine yourself being on a battlefield most of your life.  You feel the pain of the war surrounding you almost your entire life, but depending on how close you are to the front line depends on how much of a toll it takes on you.  All of a sudden a few strong healthy individuals purposely make a bold move to the front line, and you decide to lock arms and do whatever it takes to win the war.  You know it could be brutal, but you really are pretty naive at just how ugly it could get.  You get knocked down over and over and over again, and each time you just have to muster up the energy to get up and go at it again.  You rely on the rest of your team to keep fighting it with you, and you just know you can't wave the white flag of defeat.  There's too much at stake.  Eventually eight of the most excruciating months of your life have gone by, and you finally can see a hint of progress.  By now you feel so wasted . . . so spent . . . and you feel like you've been shot at way too many times, and now you're just lying flat on the ground, and your heart is broken in a million pieces and scattered all around you.  You look at not only the pieces of your heart but the shattered remnants of everyone else's as well, and you have no idea what it will take to put all those pieces back together or if they can even be put back together.  You wonder if it will be worth the effort or if you'll spend the rest of your life fighting the same battle you've fought your entire life and it will all be for naught. 

     What makes this battle totally unique from most, though, is that you're not fighting AGAINST anyone, even though they perceive that you are.  You're actually fighting FOR someone.  All you're trying to do is show them how sweet and rich life could be.  You just want the BEST for them, but they can't see that.  They just see you as the enemy, but really you just want EVERYONE to be able to walk off the battlefield and never go back.  You don't want your kids and grandkids to have to live on this battlefield.  You try to reason that freedom could be found if the help you're offering would be gladly accepted.  They just don't see it that way though.  Mentally, they just . . . don't . . . get . . . it . . . because they can't.  Instead, they attack you mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually, and you know you shouldn't let it bother you because you are the healthy one, but it does.  You long for life to be different.  You long for solutions.  You long for the war to be over. 

     This, my friends, is what it's like to be on the battleground with a loved one with a mental illness. 

     This is where I've been. 

     I've been on the front line fighting against mental illness.  Not against the person but against the illness and its devastating ripple effects.  It's taken a toll on me as well as the others who are on the front line with me.  Thankfully, by God's grace, we all have many other aspects of our lives that bring us much joy, but this has had a way of sucking the life right out of us on so many occasions.  We're not through the war, but at least we've finally entered phase two.

     Some of you have been on the battlefield supporting us for a long time already, and we will be forever grateful.  Some of you are glad to finally have an explanation but just can't fathom what I'm talking about.  (Be thankful.)  Some of you can relate to the pain because you've been in a similar place and the pain I've described is all too familiar.  Maybe you're exhausted too and just can't figure out how to get up and get going. 

     It is only by the grace of God that I can find the energy to even think about getting up off the ground and keep marching forward.  This war against mental illness is far from over; it's only just begun.  But He's given me a slight glimmer of hope, and I need to act on it.  It's tempting to just keep this idea to myself so there is no accountability factor involved, but the Lord already prompted me to open my mouth to the rest of the front line, and one other person has already made the same commitment.  There is definitely strength in numbers. 

     Because of that, I'm writing this today and being extremely vulnerable.  Let's face it.  We need some additional prayer warriors, obviously to help the one with the mental illness, but also just to even help the front line get up off the ground and find new strength for the days ahead.  Bottom line is there is just a whole lot of healing that needs to happen, and we can't do it on our own.  We need a whole army of prayer warriors to fight this war to completion.  Would you consider being one of those prayer warriors?

     Our commitment that we've made is to spend 30 minutes a day walking and praying at least five days a week for as long as phase two is underway, which could be up to three months.  I'm not asking that this be everyone's prayer focus for the entire 30 minutes, but if we could be lifted up to God at least part of that time, it would be so appreciated.

     Imagine being able to say this war is over.  Imagine a miracle.  Imagine being able to give GOD the glory.

     This is what keeps me marching onward. 

     Wanna join us?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Along For The Ride

     Waking up to an alarm clock is too brutal for me.  It makes me just want to slap the snooze button and fall right back to sleep.  After going through a season of my life where the snooze button was hit a little too often every morning and I had my husband sucked into the same nasty habit, I learned that if I moved the alarm clock to a place across the room and out of my reach, at least that snooze button wasn't as much of a temptation.  However, it still wasn't effective because it was far too easy to just crawl back into bed a couple more times.  Finally there came a day when the realization was made that the best way for me to wake up in the morning was to music on the radio.  It can't be too loud and annoying nor can it be too soft that it goes unnoticed, but music that just gently starts stirring my mind for the day is the best solution.  Ideally it would be coming from a Christian radio station, but unfortunately, my radio will only reliably pick up a certain country station from its location in our bedroom.  That works. 

     Usually the song or news that I wake up to has little impact on my day, but there was one particular morning awhile back that's still lingering in my mind. 

"Fifty miles to go and she was running low on faith and gasoline. 
It'd been a long hard year." 

     Those were the first words I remember hearing on the morning of Harris's surgery.  I remember rolling over and thinking about those words coming out of Carrie Underwood's mouth.  Oh, it's been a long hard year, alright, and I'm definitely running low on faith and gasoline.  You see, at that moment in time, we'd been through one of the toughest seasons of our lives on so many fronts, and it did feel as though we were on the last 50-mile stretch.  My faith had never been shaken to the core like it had been in the last few months, and we were heading into a Christmas season with a husband and father who wouldn't be working.  It felt like we were living on fumes and that the nearest gas station was a long ways away.  More lyrics . . .

"Jesus, take the wheel.  Take it from my hands. 
Cause I can't do this on my own." 

     Are you kidding me?  Jesus has been in the driver's seat of my life for a very long time, and I'm very happy to have him there, but instead of sitting there beside Him and enjoying the ride, I feel as though I've been kicked out to ride in the dark trailer for a while.  And truthfully, I don't even feel as though I'm in the trailer anymore.  It feels more like I've been booted out of the trailer, grabbed a rope on the way out, and was just left to desperately hang onto it while trucking down a very rocky road.

"Jesus, take the wheel."

     Oh, how I wish He would hear my faint cries for help and stop this rig long enough to pick me up and hold me in His arms and place me back into the back seat where I'm a whole lot more comfortable.  Heal me of these bumps and bruises, Lord, and mend my very weary heart. 

"Jesus, take the wheel."

     Eventually I drug myself out of bed and moved on with my day.  I knew I had to be the strong one because my husband was about to endure surgery that would weaken him for a few weeks.  All responsibility for this family was about to become mine for a while, and our faith in God to sustain us was the only thing that would be getting us through the next month of our lives.  Thankfully I was still hanging on by a thread. 

     Nearly seven weeks have now passed by since that memorable morning, and only by the grace of God have we survived.  Was it easy?  No.  Did He reveal Himself to us occasionally and did we feel His presence throughout the process?  Yes.  Thankfully.  He knew we needed some glimpses of His goodness.  Were there some rough moments in the last seven weeks?  Absolutely, there were.  There was one particular night that I just wept and wept in my bed over a situation I was in with my family.  There were at least a couple other nights I cried on Harris's shoulder because the pressures were so overwhelming.  Not only did I want Christmas with our family to be as normal as possible but I wanted so much for our children to know how very much I loved them and, more importantly, I wanted them to know and recognize the love of Jesus in a special way.  Every time I'd try and think through how to make that all happen, I'd run up against some roadblocks either mentally, physically, or financially, and it was very draining for me.  If my fall season hadn't been so intense, I would have tried to plan for Christmas a little earlier than usual, but that wasn't meant to happen.  I hope to never find myself again in a position where I'm doing the bulk of my shopping two days before the presents are to be opened.  I will admit that the joy of the season was hard to find this year, and even on Christmas Eve, when things were not as picture perfect as I wanted them to be, everything within me wanted to just tell my family we were staying home from our church's candlelight service.  I just wasn't feeling the Christmas spirit, and I about made the fateful decision that my preparations were more important. 

     But thankfully in my weakness, they were strong.  As I was upstairs in my room pondering that decision, they were all busy getting dressed up and ready to go.  I walked out of my bedroom in my bathrobe, ready to suggest not going, but there they were, getting their shoes on, and I knew right then that God was in control, not me.  He was carrying me.  He had stopped the rig long enough to just pick me up and place me back in the truck, knowing that was the best thing for me.  He was ready to start the healing process in me, and I needed to let Him.  All I could think about during that beautiful Christmas Eve service was that I just about missed it.  I just about missed my chance to sit next to Him and be in His presence.  I just about missed my chance of letting all that beautiful music wash over me.  I just about missed my chance of standing beside my husband who had just made his first visit back to church since his surgery.  I just about missed my chance to look down the row and see my family worshiping.  There they all were, standing in the glow of candlelight, and at the end of our family was Jenny, and then her family was standing in that same row on the other side of her.  It was a beautiful sight.  It was the perfect transition between a long hard year and the start of a fresh new one. 

     We came home that night and enjoyed celebrating Christmas with our family, even though dinner wasn't on the table till 8 instead of 6 like I wanted.  More time-related gifts were given this year, and they were very graciously accepted.  Even cherished!  Christmas break has come and gone, and we've shared lots and lots of time together as a family making memories.  Oh, how I love and treasure this family that God has given me.  The kids are all back in school, and Harris has been working again for two weeks already.  He's been rejuvenated, and he's more excited than ever to start fresh in 2012 as a healthy man.  God has used this down time in his life to stir up some desired changes in his life, and his enthusiasm has been trickling down to all of us.  God has also used this down time to refresh me and prepare my heart for a new year.  Oh, how I have needed it.  His grace has been sufficient, and his steadfast faithfulness remains. 

     This family is looking ahead towards 2012 with great anticipation!  We have goals in place and are looking forward to some grand adventures!  We know that life inevitably allows us to encounter some bumps in the road, but we know who is at the wheel to continually guide us.  We know that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and we are just thankful that we are all back in the cab.  It's a really good place to be.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011!

Hey, everybody!  Hello from all of us!
     Jacki is definitely a gifted writer and always does our Christmas letter.  Webster defines “gifted” as having natural ability, talented, of superior intelligence, yada, yada.  Since I possess none of this, it totally befuddles me how she pops off with the fact that I should write the letter this year.  Since I don’t have a man cave I can retreat to and seriously think about what it is I haven’t done, I guess I should have been heating the garage in order to keep me out of sight and out of Christmas letter detail.  I’m spending a little extra time this season around the house recovering from colon surgery for the second time this year, so I guess she figured I could do this.  Time to teach her a lesson to not be so cavalier with such a sacred endeavor, so here goes the neighborhood. 
     That being said, make no mistake, we were extremely blessed this year.  The first quarter of the year was pretty quiet except for winter and lots of snow . . . buttloads of snow.  Webster doesn’t define “buttload,” but from someone who thinks snow is a four-letter word, a buttload means snowfall 2x/week usually ending up piled up to my keister.  I’m 6’1”.  It always provokes feelings of anxiety when I realize I’m too Dutch (practical) to go buy a snow blower.  In the first place, my garage won’t hold another thing, and second, what kind of a load on society can’t shovel his own driveway to stay in shape.  Now that it’s in season, I can go pay premium price for a snow blower.  Go figure. 

     April and May led to colon resection surgery for me.  For those of you up on your anatomy, you know what a wreck that is.  I was clueless, and all I knew was that your colon is involved in getting your groceries from here to there.  Your colon is 2.5cm, and my colon had a 4.5cm mass.  I think I even impressed my gastroenterologist.  And you think your shower drain is slow!  If you do the math on a 2.5cm colon with a 4.5cm mass, you understand why my family accused my eye color of changing.  April:  mass removed, four days in hospital, benign, noncancerous.  Thank you, Jesus.  May:  scar tissue strictured my colon shut down to .5cm, another seven days in the hospital.  Webster defines “shut” as to prevent entrance to or exit from.  They were able to put a stent in my colon with a colonoscope, thus preventing a second surgery.  I lost 30 pounds in a month and a week.  All that was left of me was lips and tennis shoes. 

     As I began the process coming back from all of this, my brother and I were in the process of buying rental houses, all here local and all of which needed rehab work.  Who knew it was better to shut off the breaker BEFORE rewiring a new outlet rather than vaporizing a tool with a bright flash of light like you just got your picture taken? 
     July was some R&R with our tractor club’s annual tractor ride around central Iowa.  There were about 200 tractors.  Two-day ride.  Very nice weather. 

Farmers are religious about our John Deeres and coffee time.  I was in the food line when my phone rang that my pickup caught fire in front of my house.  If you know anything about me, you know I do what I can to take care of my vehicles and take a very proactive approach to any hint of problems.  10:00 a.m. on Friday out of the blue, the pig decided to combust under the hood, and before the smoke cleared, it looked like it had been murdered right there.  If you’ve ever had a truck and found out how handy they are or just like riding higher than dragging your backside on the pavement low in a car, then you understand that truck was a part of my family.  A faulty cruise control switch, former recall before I owned it, was probably the culprit.  4x4 extended cab, 200,000 miles, ’97 model, liability only, seemed like the thing to do at the time.  Had just purchased new Nerf bars less than a year ago, God bless ‘em.  Hindsight’s 20-20, right?  This was the vehicle Haley was driving, so we mourned over it together.  Rest in peace, Hank Jr.

     We had the camper out three times this year in July, due to sheer determination, and then again over Labor Day.  We were still working on houses burning the candle on both ends and in the middle.  You get the kind of year we’re having.  We’re still not done. 
     Heath is now a senior at Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa, majoring in accounting, doing extremely well, and is very involved with a cute little gal named Jenny we think an awful lot of.  She is a nursing student, doing well, and lives two blocks away.  Kind of sounds like Jacki and I back in the day (2 miles).  We were all pretty stoked for him to be able to drive again on June 9.  He’s now been seizure free for a year, and he got a great report from Iowa City in November.  No change in size of brain tumor and supposed to get tested again next year.  Way to go, Idaho!  Love you so much, buddy!


     Haley is a freshman at Ashford where Heath goes, but she is living on campus while Heath is living at home and commuting.  She comes home and graces us with her presence and her laundry on the weekends though.  She actually had a science class with Heath first semester, and they are quite competitive.  Haley got to go to Cancun for spring break with a very close-knit group of high school buddies, and she dreams of when and how she can go to Africa again.  She graduated high school last December, we spoiled her with a big party in May, and she’s been working her butt off to save money for taking care of Jacki and me when we get older, I guess, because she doesn’t spend her money on much except  her Roth IRA.  She is a stellar student, and I love you, babe. 

     Kelsey is our tenacious swimmer.  She’s in her sophomore year of high school and gets herself to those 0:dark:30 a.m. practices with her school permit.  She ran the Bix (local 7-mile race) this summer.  A friend of hers invited her to spend a week on a houseboat on Lake Powell in Arizona.  I couldn’t have been more jealous, the skunk.  She seems to have more determination and competitive spirit than all the rest of us put together.  She detasseled corn this summer and is looking forward to a chorus/orchestra trip to New York over spring break.  She’s also beginning fundraisers for her trip to France this summer with her French class.  She’s like the Energizer bunny.  I love you and am so proud of you!

     Keaton’s going through a stage where he knows he’s the youngest, but that doesn’t mean he’s happy about it.  He’s our 6th grader built like a football player, but they don’t offer that in 6th grade.  He’s the most naturally gifted of us all musically and switched from cello to the double bass.  He’s becoming an accomplished pianist.  He’s very gifted in advanced math classes and will be completing 6th, 7th, and 8th grade math all in 6th grade.  You know how some people just ooze talent?  That would be him.  He takes after his mother – stinker.  I love you, buddy.  You make a father proud! 

     We’re teaching our kids that you have to win at something.  Winning gets you respect.  Respect gets you influence.  Influence gets you leadership, and with leadership you change the world.  Heaven knows it needs it. 

     Jacki is the glue that’s held this circus together this year as always.  She’s involved with women’s ministries at church and leads a Bible study, but our “small group” from church is our family.  There is no higher calling, and no one could do it better or with more grace.  I married up big-time, and with all the stress our family has been through this year, you are first-class.  It brings a major lump to my throat to think how blessed I am to be married to you for 27 years this January. 

     On November 30 we did hand-to-hand combat with my colon for the second time this year, and that added another seven days of hospitalization to my resume.  We knew the stent would have to come out and that I’d have to have another resection surgery.  Those bowel preps are a blast (pun intended).  If you’ve ever seen the movie “Dumb and Dumber,” turbo lax, you know what I mean.  Webster defines turbo as “driven by a turbine powered by exhaust gas.”  If that hurts your head, just think of it as “before quick.”  I didn’t dare turn my back on myself.  I just didn’t trust it, if you know what I mean . . . yeah, serious repercussions, man.  Hello!  Recovery is going well so far.  I’m supposed to be out of the office for four to six weeks.  Today marks a week and a half, and I had a family to my house for an appointment yesterday.  Nobody accused me of being smart . . . yeah, probably won’t do that again for a while.  Narcotic painkillers give me bad dreams . . . bad, man . . . funerals for living people, “Red Solo Cup” (Toby Keith country song), etc. 

     Well, if you haven’t fallen asleep yet, I need to close this.  Bathroom calling.  Raising a family with your values is the highest calling but just not always the most urgent!

     Listen, if you have your health, be thankful.  If all your children are around your table over the holidays, be thankful.  If you have a pickup to put on the end of your key, be thankful.  Make 2012 your year.  Go win at something.  From all of us to all of you, have a blessed Christmas and a happy new year.  Proverbs 3:5-6

Friday, December 9, 2011

We're Alive and Well!

     Daily updates were easy when I spent the majority of my time at the hospital.  Now you'd think I was busy catching up at home or something after being there seven days! 

     Monday morning we were given no indication of when we could expect Harris to be discharged from the hospital.  A little more progress needed to be seen first, and because Harris was still only eating a glorified "liquid" diet (meaning things like cream of mushroom soup, cottage cheese, and pudding), we really didn't expect him to go home anytime sooner than Wednesday.  When I called him Tuesday morning to check in before leaving the house, I was shocked to learn that one of our doctor's associates had been in to see him and that she thought he was ready to go home.  She told Harris, though, that the doctor would be in by noon, and then he would make the final judgment call. 

     I think Harris was just as shocked as I was and somewhat concerned with whether or not he was really ready.  Obviously home sounds better than staying in the hospital, but when you're still eating only a few spoonfuls of food a day and you're feeling very full and bloated, you really wonder if it's a wise choice.  He had been running a low temp the previous two nights, and the nurse was slightly concerned about that, so all in all, we just wanted to make sure going home would be the right thing to do. 

     It became a race against time for me to get done what I needed to get done at home and then beat the doctor to the hospital room so we could make a joint decision. 

     When I got to the room, I was surprised to see the bed empty and the IV pole standing there all alone and detached from my husband.  He was not in the room, so I went out and discovered that he was taking a walk all by himself.  I decided he must be feeling better, and maybe going home was a great decision . . . until he got back in the room and shared with me just how bloated and full he still felt.  He rested a little and then took a shower, and then we waited and waited for the doctor to come.  Finally around 1:30, the RN appeared and told us that she had discharge papers and that the doctor had decided that if his associate thought Harris was ready, then he was okay with it too.  Surprise again. 

     We all decided to go ahead and follow through with it but asked if we could wait just a little bit longer to actually leave.  Our company was having a very important conference call at 2 p.m. that we really wanted to be a part of if at all possible, so we agreed to just call her whenever we were done with that. 

     Right smack in the middle of it, our doctor appeared.  Ugh!  Rotten timing!  Harris had been dozing throughout the call, and I had been trying to take all kinds of notes.  Now he needed to wake up and try and converse with the doctor about the wisdom of going home, and I was trying to listen to them but still pay attention to what was being said on the call.  Looking back, maybe we should have asked the doctor to come back when we were finished, but the reality is that we didn't know when that would be, we didn't want to inconvenience him, and we didn't care to sit around and wait again either.  The decision to go home had been made, and there was really nothing keeping us from moving forward other than a bit of fear and trepidation.  Ultimately, it boiled down to the fact that we were just moving from 24/7 skilled nursing care to 24/7 Jacki care.  If we had challenges at home, we certainly knew the number to call for help. 

     Tuesday night was rough.  He felt pretty miserable because he was still so bloated.  We questioned whether or not we had done the right thing.  We questioned his lack of appetite.  We questioned which option of painkiller would be the best.  He was reminded that they affect his sense of smell and make him ultrasensitive, and he was annoyed by all our normal household smells.  He was reminded that they give him horrible nightmares.  He opted to sleep in the recliner in the basement and discovered just how dry it is down there.  All in all, he just felt "mighty low," in his words. 

     We discovered that the old heating pad tucked away in a cupboard was just the trick to helping him feel better.  By Wednesday afternoon already, he was doing a ton better than the day before because the bloated feeling was starting to disappear.  He even asked for a can of chicken noodle soup and ate quite a bit of it, which was a major accomplishment.  His brother Bryce had brought a trailer to the QC, so he parked the semi in front of the house and came in for a visit, and that really boosted Harris's spirits.  We have spent a lot of our time just talking together about everything under the sun, but he sure appreciates hearing from others as well.  He made a few brief phone calls that day, but his voice is still hoarse, so that can tire him out. 

     The TV gets really old really fast, so I found an old Cathedrals CD to pop in and just let that play quietly in the background Wednesday evening.  That sparked a whole new type of healing for him, and we have found music to be a lifesaver!  He can enjoy it while just laying on the couch or sit with a computer and pull up videos to watch.  It's been extremely good medicine for the soul, and we've seen it bring out his very tender side.  He's been the most gracious and loving patient I could ever ask for, and the kids and I have been so blessed by all his compliments and messages of love being delivered face to face or via text. 

     Thankfully he lives with his office manager, and a lot of our work can be done from home.  Yesterday we spent our afternoon tending a few office things, and it was good to see him mentally engage himself on a couple of phone calls.  He even set it up for a client to come by the house tomorrow to sign something, so that just assures me that he is making good progress.  When he had all the complications in April/May, he could hardly think or talk business for several weeks.  The fact that he can have his head in it this much already gives us both much hope that things are going in the right direction.

     All in all, he's doing as well as can be expected.  His appetite is gaining every day, and he's feeling a little bit better all the time.  Very slow but steady.  That's why he needs to be recuperating for 4-6 weeks.  The best part is that he's not experiencing any cramping or gas pains like he did the last time, so we're really hoping that he's healing properly this time.  We know this is a long process, and we just have to be patient.  His worst challenge right now is that he isn't sleeping well at night.  Last night he took ibuprofen instead of a prescribed painkiller, and he was still wide awake already at 2:30.  The rest of the night was very restless for him, but he's sleeping peacefully now. 
     On just another side note, it was a year ago last night that Heath had his last seizure, and it happened the same night he had his last final for that semester.  He and Haley have had the rare opportunity to be in a college science class together, and they are taking that last final today.  We have no reason to believe that he'd have another seizure, but let's just say that those kids are certainly in our thoughts and prayers today.  It's been a long stressful week for them.  If you're reading this and would be willing to say a little prayer for them, that would be great. 

     Thanks again, everyone!  Your love and support of our family has been tremendous, and we appreciate every single ounce of it.  Enjoy your weekend!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Family Update

     We're nearing the end of day six of Harris's hospital stay.  Every day he shows a little more improvement, but as of this morning, there was still no real mention of when he can go home.  He's making slow but steady improvement every single day, but his body is just not ready for release yet.  He's adding a little more food to his system all the time, but it's still things such as creamy soups or puddings.  A few spoonfuls at a time is not very much, but he's been advised to not push it and let his body be his guide.  If it doesn't sound good, don't eat it.  If you feel full, stop.  It's amazing how the body knows what needs to happen.  He's still a little bloated and winded when he takes his walks, and that's part of why he's still here.  He's still on the morphine pump, and he needs to transition to oral meds when he's on more food.  The great news is that he got to take a real shower today!!!  No more baby wipes or shampoo caps for my man, and he couldn't be happier!  It's been a very slow but steady process, but evidently it is all very normal and expected.

     Throughout this whole experience, our kids have just done a phenomenal job of taking over on the homefront and meeting whatever needs arise amongst them.  When I go home at night, the house has been cleaned up and looking decent.  Cleaning got done on Saturday, laundry is under control, and some groceries were purchased.  They are greeting people who bring food and eating whatever has been provided.  They've come to visit whenever possible and bring me supper and coffee.  Their attitudes have been great, and no talk of Christmas wants has come out of their mouths.  On top of all of that, they have stayed on top of their own personal schedules and their homework, and they just make us proud.  We are so incredibly blessed!

     That doesn't mean there's not an occasional display of emotions.  The level of stress in our home for the last long while has been very high, and once in a while, they just have to get it out and talk it through with us.  Last night was one of those nights.  We had some heart-to-heart moments and shedding of tears.  Please keep them all in your prayers.  Heath and Haley both have finals all week long.  Kelsey and Keaton opted to just stay back tonight and have a night of normalcy.  I can't blame them one bit. 

     As for me, it has just been a very deliberate conscious choice to set other stressors aside for the time being and just try to strictly focus on the needs of my husband and my children.  There is nothing on this earth that I would rather do than love on my family, and I am one very blessed woman to have been given such special people to cherish. 

     Nothing real profound on my heart to share tonight.  Just a heart of thankfulness. 



Sunday, December 4, 2011

Saturday Night Love

     It started out as a very calm and peaceful night.  Our boys had other plans, but once our girls were done with their assigned tasks at home, they made their way to the hospital.  Harris was in the recliner all day, and I was all situated in a chair, so the only other seating option in our little hospital room at the time was the bed or the chair holding all the extra pillows which happened to be stuck in a corner.  The girls didn't mind cozying up on the bed together and quietly giggled over some pictures they were looking at on Facebook.   

     After a while we decided to rearrange the room, which was no small task.  We have cords everywhere in here, and every time something gets moved, it's like a little jigsaw puzzle that has to be put back together just right.  Eventually we got it all figured out. 

     While I was out of the room taking a phone call, they all decided it was time for Harris to walk.  They walked by the waiting room that I was sitting in, and they just made me smile.  Harris had a very determined look on his face, but the girls were just smiling and giggling the whole time.  I raced back to the room so I could grab my camera and take a picture, but they were too quick, so we posed at the entrance of party room 3238.  He was so happy today to get out of his hospital gown and into some real clothes!  And yes, he agreed to let me post this, which shows just a portion of his incision.  It's probably 12-13 inches long. 

     It was shortly after that that the fun and games really began.  Haley found the stethoscope that Jenny had asked for last night, so she thought she'd check out Harris's heartbeat while he was engrossed in an Indiana Jones movie.

     They thought it would be cute to take a picture of me doing what I've been doing a lot of doing.  
Thank goodness for my cell phone and my computer so I can stay connected with the outside world!

Haley attempted to do some homework in the corner, but I don't think much was accomplished. 

Kelsey and I then made Haley take a picture of us singing along to whatever song Kelsey chose for us to listen to on her iPod.  See more cords going to each of our ears.
(I was actually told to be quiet several times.)
(And yes, that's a coffee spill on my shirt.)

I'm not sure what was really going on here,
but let's just say it was getting a little rowdy in the room. 

It was Harris's idea for us to take a picture of all of us holding up our coffee mugs
and him holding up his urinal thingamabob. 


We didn't dare go get the nurse.  We had to use the self-timer. 
Nope, we didn't even trip over any cords!

Who says you can't have a little fun in a hospital room?!?

Hopefully the walls are soundproof. 


Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Latest, Greatest Hospital Happenings

Thursday night
     Yesterday was a long day of ups and downs. 

     The morning felt wildly successful after a couple of walks around "the block" up here on the third floor of the surgical specialty unit.  Harris was told that if he sat on the toilet and got his body in that position, the colon might start waking up a little bit more, and therefore, progress might happen a little more quickly.  To be blunt, farting is the goal.  Food cannot be attained until that feat has been accomplished, and food needs to move through successfully before he can go home. 

     By the time the doctor came in, Harris's interpretation and my interpretation of what happened on the throne were just a little bit different, and it felt as though it was a good thing for me to be here.  Harris is the voice of optimism; I'm the voice of caution.  Yes, I want him to get that popsickle just as quickly as he can, but I wasn't 100% sure his body was ready for it.  The doctor ended up okaying it, but I was skeptical.  Nevertheless, my healthy body was ready for some food of its own, so off to the cafeteria I went in search of something to eat.  It all looks pretty good down there, but it's always a little disappointing once it enters the mouth. 

     Anyway, I came back up to the room to discover that in my 30-minute absence, his catheter had been removed, which was another request of his, and a tray full of clear liquid goodies had been delivered to my man.  There he sat with his lips next to a spoon full of chicken broth, and he was happily indulging himself on the first thing he had "eaten" since Monday night.  My happiness for him was squashed by my own uneasiness of how things, in my mind, were truly progressing.  The look on my face and the words that came out of my mouth were enough to scare him into not eating anything more, and there we sat for a while trying to figure out what was the right thing to do next.  Maybe he truly was ready for some sustenance more than what the IV bag was giving him, but maybe that would irritate a freshly sewn-together colon a little too much.  I finally went out and said to the nurse, "Define passing gas."  I felt a little stupid because who really asks a question like that, but hey, when you're dealing with the whole digestive system, it's a valid question. 

     On top of that, Harris remembered at some point during his April and May hospitalizations that he was told that painkillers can prohibit the passing of gas, so yesterday afternoon he decided he'd try and push that little painkiller button a little less than what he was doing.  That decision did not serve him well.  He was in a little more pain than he had been, and he told me at one point that he didn't need to walk again the rest of the day.  The real challenge here is that we've had a little too much experience with colon issues, and it's hard to remember correctly what has to happen when and why.  It was a frustrating afternoon for both of us. 

     He had just gotten settled in for a little nap, so I slipped away to make a couple phone calls, but when I came back, Haley and his brother Vance were here.  I was afraid that he needed some rest, but the visit was just the perk in the day that we both needed.  Company is a very nice distraction.  After they left, I suggested a walk, and he decided he was ready.  The painkillers had kicked in.  We settled in for an exciting hour of the news and "Wheel of Fortune" and knew that Heath and Jenny were on their way.  He was feeling pretty good, and it felt like we had turned a corner. 

     But then some heartburn and nausea started making their ugly appearance.  The CNA put the blood pressure cuff on the bottom part of his arm by his IV for some crazy reason, and that caused a very unpleasant burning sensation in his arm for a little while.  The fun light was off for the rest of his evening, and he dozed through most of it.  He never did get up again, and we all left him sleeping very soundly at 10 p.m. 

     Today has been a much more stable, even-keeled day, but we're still awaiting the passing of more gas.  It's been a rainy, dreary Saturday afternoon, and we've definitely both had some time to snooze.  He's in the recliner, and I'm in the bed.  That's been his preferred location all day.  He's waiting on me to take him on the 4th walk of the day, and then we're going to lose the hospital gown and put on a button shirt instead!  Exciting stuff around here!!

     Thanks again, everyone, for your prayers and checking up on us.  My small group has been keeping our family fed, and we will be forever grateful.  God is good, and we are just thankful to be this far.

Friday night