Tag Archive | hope

Afterglow

Now it has been 7 months since my “reboot”.  God has been amazing! I’m sure you’re thinking, “she writes that every time!” It seems to me that I know God is omnipotent and omnipresent. My human brain cannot fathom some of the miracles I have seen! It could be a cultural concept – keeping God in a box. I am as normal as I ever have been, whatever that means! I am determined not to forget what miracle God has done for my family. This weekend, we celebrated community and life with our wonderful friends who happen to be neighbors, about 35 of them! One of the neighborhood contact points for September’s traumatic event told us how he wanted news, but knew that was NOT our priority. He was patient, but had to respond every few hours to emails and texts from others inquiring if there was any update. This was my first time to hear his side.  He was talking about how amazing my healing has been. I went from critical with not much chance, to I will live but what brain function will be lost, to walking, to leaving the hospital and flying home the next day. A rare outcome for someone with all the medical issues I had. God is faithful and I know He has more planned. I heard song lyrics: “the best is not done, the best is yet to come.” That is how life is with Abba, Jehovah Rapha, Elohim, our Heavenly Father. When it seems you are in a dry place, remember God has a “waiting room” for you while He is getting things prepared for His plan.

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Scripture: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit” John 12:24

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“What has happened to me?”

The fog in my head starts clearing. My husband and daughters are constantly with me. My brother, his wife and my sister are nearby. My BFF and her husband have been at the hospital too. I struggle with their names sometimes. Thank God that is temporary! I start asking B questions: Me: “Where were we vacationing?” B: “We weren’t vacationing together. You started out at your sister’s.” Me: “That’s right. Then I went to BFF J’s and on to Yosemite.” Some details are still jumbled. Slowly, I remember hiking with K and N; stopping to rest before the summit; deciding to turn back down-trail. Why won’t they let me drink anything? The realization that 3 days have passed and I don’t have any memories of them strikes me, befuddles me.

This is what I have been told:

I hiked 2 miles down-trail (from 7300 ft. to 6100 ft.) without getting lost or falling! Along the way, I became quite nauseous and began vomiting. I was texting with K and B. I even had cell service to call them! Cell service is spotty at best in Yosemite. When K and N caught up to me, K asked if he should get help and I told him yes. First, he tried to use his phone to dial 911. It didn’t have reception. Then, he used my phone and it worked! God is watching over us! I told K my passcode and how to access my health app in my smart phone. It has my medical information (and can be accessed from a locked screen-BE SURE TO PUT YOUR INFO IN YOUR PHONE!).

The Yosemite Search and Rescue Team, including an EMT and canine team, were returning from searching for another hiker and happened to be less than 30 minutes away from us. The average response time is between 3 and 4 HOURS! Again, God is taking care of the situation! During their assessment, I was able to answer their questions correctly. (I do not remember any of this!) Initial diagnosis: High Altitude Sickness. The EMT asked that a Paramedic be sent up to help. The plan was to give me anti-altitude sickness medication (I didn’t know there was such a thing.), spend the night on the mountain, and get me feeling well enough to hike down the rest of the way. The Rescue Team told K and N to hike back to the valley. They didn’t want 3 people to rescue.

The Paramedic arrived with more equipment. After his assessment, he called the Doctor at the Yosemite Clinic. The Doctor thinks that I am dehydrated and have hypothermia. IV treatment of fluids begins. Sometime after that, I began quickly deteriorating. I started counting in German and I was confused. I don’t speak German, but I can count to 3 in German. Further assessment: she’s deteriorating rapidly and it is critical to get her to a hospital for treatment. The Rescue Team had to request a special one-wheeled litter to take me down the mountain.

The Doctor and Medical Staff didn’t really understand why I was getting worse. The litter team was about half-way to me when it occurred to the Doctor that I could have hyponatremia – all the electrolyte levels bottomed out. Treatment is hypertonic solution given by IV. He sends a Rescue Team member with a bag to catch the litter. These guys are the fastest hikers on the planet!

I don’t’ know how long it took to get the litter to our location. It was about 2 a.m. (PDT) when we got to the valley floor where an ambulance was waiting. After one IV bag of hypertonic solution, I was still getting worse. The ambulance had an analyzer that could confirm the diagnosis, but the system failed to analyze two samples. Decision was made to give me a second hypertonic bag. It was a 30 minute ambulance ride to the helipad. In the ambulance, my lungs were checked: oxygen levels below normal, crackling sounds in lower lungs, labored breathing, fluid in the lungs. At the helipad, the Life Flight crew decided to intubate me prior to loading me onto the helicopter. Once in the helicopter, there would not be sufficient space to perform the procedure especially on a choppy flight. I aspirated. As I hear the story, I begin understanding the seriousness of my situation.

By the time we reach Doctors Medical Center, I was exhibiting evidence of more fluid in my lungs. I had pulmonary and cerebral edema; after 2 bags of hypertonic sodium count was 120 – normal range 136-145; potassium depleted; water intoxication; high altitude sickness. No wonder there were 7 IV’s with 9 bags pumping me full of medication! My body needed time to recover and I was put into a medically induced coma. That was early Thursday, September 17, 2015.

Now, it’s Saturday, September 19, 2015. I am beginning to comprehend my predicament. Thankfully, my restraints are gone. My arms look like someone’s punching bag with tubes connecting to IV’s. I’m being poked and prodded every few hours whether I need it or not. The oxygen mask is bothering my nose. I keep moving it. The nurse decides that is OK as long as it stays near my nose. Later, another nurse will change it to the candela, which is not much more comfortable! Someone on the medical staff tells me that I seem very calm about the circumstances. God gave me peace throughout the experience.

The Respiratory Therapist visits. She wants to check my swallow. Why? I’ve been swallowing for many years. I don’t understand. She knows that cerebral edema can cause multiple issues with normal things like swallowing, talking, memory and thinking, walking, eating, etc and that after intubation I might have trouble swallowing. She brings a cup with ice chips and a spoon. Of course, I am not allowed to do it myself – probably a good thing considering I drank too much water! The ice is cold and wet on my tongue, truly wonderful. I swallow and begin coughing. She pulls the cup back and says “That’s all for now.” My brain is screaming “NO, I want a drink!” Instead, I just say “Kill joy.” My family chuckles and is SO relieved to hear this because it means my personality is still intact! Later, we try again and I am allowed to have “thick” liquids. Isn’t that an oxymoron?

The Physical Therapist arrives to see if I have balance and strength to stand. She puts a leather belt around my waist. It’s a multi-function belt: it keeps the gown closed – THANK YOU! – and gives her a hand-hold to steady me. On Sunday, they bring a wheel chair. With B by my side, I push it to the elevator; go down and out to the patio. It’s the first time I’ve been outside. It was a lot of work. My body was weak and my vision blurred, distorted. Another hurdle, I am walking with assistance! I’m given a walker.

I leave NCCU and head for an inpatient wing. WHOOT! I’m moving up in the world! Maybe, I can blow this popsicle stand soon. Just a few more hurdles: swallowing and eating, walking without assistance, etc. I am motivated to go home at this point.

My daughter sits with me. I run my fingers through my hair over and over. She asks, several times, if I have a headache. Headache is common with cerebral edema. I tell her that I don’t have a headache. But I still run my fingers through my hair…more later.

My swallow is improving and my walk getting steadier. Monday the Physical Therapist has me walking with wing without assistance! I still need someone near when I get out of bed for any reason. Hallelujah! I get to shower!!! After a sweaty hike and 5 days at the hospital, you can imagine how I feel about a shower.

Shower finished. I’m given comb and brush. That’s when I look in a mirror and realize my bangs have been CHOPPED, not just cut. Now I understand why I kept messing with my hair. I knew it didn’t feel right. Apparently, I had been taped to a back board for stability. When they went to remove the tape, about 4” of my bangs were cut with the tape. Ever had 1/2″ bangs? It looked like a bad mullet gone horribly wrong!

What’s this? I get real food to eat? YES!! No more thickened juice! Can I go home yet? I’m told most patients would need a stay at a rehabilitation hospital, before going home. What will this mean for me? I’m in California, but I live in Texas. My husband has stayed by my side each night. He can’t have me in CA for weeks and work in TX. Thankfully, God has this too. I am discharged Tuesday and approved to fly home Wednesday. No rehab stay and no long-term medication!

Our Primary Care Physician checks me out. Lungs are clearing and I’m gaining strength. My vision should clear in a few weeks, but it doesn’t. I had hemorrhaging behind both eyes. The left eye has not healed, but should be healed by the end of January. Currently, I am back to my workout routines and my vision is greatly improved. My healing has been nothing short of miraculous!

Maybe you’re thinking this is a horrible story. Well, it isn’t. It is a story of how God orchestrated each segment for good. I believe it was Jesus carrying me the 2 miles down trail and responding to the Rescue Team. The Search and Rescue Team including the EMT being so close to my location is another piece of the miracle. Those in my family, who didn’t/don’t believe in miracles, witnessed one! If you still don’t believe, I will believe for you! While all the chaos was going on in California, our neighbors, friends, and church connected. Most didn’t know each other prior to my illness. They gathered together in our driveway to pray for me, B and our family. They activated pray circles at many churches. One e-mail became forwarded to others who then sent a person to visit with us at the hospital! People we didn’t know praying for us! We have counted over 50 different churches praying for us – that’s just the ones we know of first hand!! These wonderful friends organized 2 weeks of meals for us! We were welcomed home with a poster signed by those attending the prayer vigil. What a blessing to know these wonderful people!

I had asked God to show me His goodness in this world. Be careful what you ask of God!! I would not have chosen this path, but God is using it to reach out to others, to bring together community and family, to share His love and goodness in this world.

Our God’s not dead! He is very much alive!

Romans 8:28    And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

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“I’m where?”

So, back to Yosemite. I’m sitting on a rock resting, contemplating what my next step will be. It felt good to sit down. I decided to change my socks for the hike down trail. After about 30 minutes, I was feeling a little better. I text K to tell him that I would start down trail. That is the last thing I remember: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 around noon (California time). I woke up with a white-coated doctor asking me “Do you know where you are?” I knew I was in a hospital, but not the city or state. That was sometime on Saturday, September 19, 2015. My room was full of familiar faces: B and my kids; K and J, and my sister R just outside the door. I was quite confused and couldn’t remember everyone’s name. My hands were restrained to keep me from pulling out the various IV’s in my arms (and the intubation tubing when it was in). Apparently, I had been combative while in my medically induced coma. As I became more lucid, the doctor asked more questions: Doctor: “Do you remember what happened?” Me: “No.” Doctor: “what year is it?” Me: “2001”. Doctor: “Do you know who this is?” Me: “I know I should know the name, but I can’t remember it.” B had to fill in some of the gaps for me. Since he was right there with me, I thought we had been vacationing together. He explained that I was vacationing without him, and I began to remember seeing my sister R and BFF J before going to Yosemite. I asked him, “Am I really this sick?” He said, “Yes.” I could tell he was thanking God I was alive, awake and speaking. I looked down at my bound arms. I think there were 5 IV’s in my arms at that point. (I was told there were 7 IV’s with 9 bags of drugs when I arrived at the ER.) Both my arms were bruised from shoulder to wrist. Not little bump bruises, but deep “that’s gotta hurt” colorful bruises. No wonder I wanted to yank out the IV’s! I promised not to pull out the tubes, and my daughter told the nurse that the family would keep me calm. The nurse removed the restraints. I was still unsure of how I got to the hospital, why I needed to be in the Neuro Critical Care Unit, or why I couldn’t have anything to drink. I had many questions swarming my brain, but my body wanted to sleep.

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Houston, She Has a Problem!

 

We interrupt this story to bring you a little perspective from the man who loves me.
B is my constant support in life. Even when he thinks the idea is a little “out there”, he stands with me. It is only fitting to include him in my story – which really is OUR story.
When we first discussed the possibility of me hiking Half Dome, B was clear he wasn’t into that kind of adventure. He enjoys the outdoors and the mountains, especially sitting out with a mocha along a creek. (I think he’d rather jump out of an airplane than hike up a mountain!) He supported my desire to hike in Yosemite. Decision made. I’m going!
B encouraged me to research and get “whatever I need” for the trip. After researching equipment options, he strongly urged me to get the hiking boots first to break-in before the trip. Hiking pants, hydration type backpack, socks, rain jacket, hiking poles, hat and gloves filled the list. Considering neither one of us likes to shop, we hoped to get it done in one trip. We went to an outdoorsy type store to hit the list head-on. We found most items on the list in one store. The other items could be borrowed or purchased on the Internet.
B tells me “you turned into a training animal”! He wouldn’t even try to keep up with me. He saw I was preparing physically, nutritionally, and mentally. He had absolute confidence in my ability. He told me that this was a great trip to do with my brother K. As the date grew near, he was excited with me.
Saturday he took me to the airport and we said our “good-byes”. He didn’t know that I had hidden sticky notes and cards for him in various places and with a couple of neighbors. He would get a hand-written message from me nearly everyday while I was gone. With the last one to be delivered Thursday, September 17th. It said “see you soon”. Thankfully, he didn’t get that one until later.
We spoke each day leading up to that fateful Wednesday. We used FaceTime Monday evening; on Tuesday, we spoke briefly. I was already in Yosemite. I told him about the short hike I took, about the handful of deer that crossed the trail about 4′ in front of me, and about the rain catching me without my jacket.

 

Wednesday morning, he was on the way to his vanpool when we spoke briefly. He says that I sounded excited and happy.
During the morning, I sent texts and photos. When I called him, he told me I looked really happy in the photos. Since Texas is 2 hours ahead of California, his lunchtime came while it was mid-morning for the hike. He showed the photos to his coworkers, happy about my progress.

He told me “Right after lunch, things started going south.” That’s when he got my call, “I won’t make it to the top.” I was crying and greatly disappointed. I told him that I was dizzy and nauseous.  Thinking it was only altitude sickness, he felt I had made a good decision and I agreed. It was better to stop than to continue and have an injury result from continuing. Neither of us knew what would happen next…

 

The Hike of My Life!

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Fast forward 3.5 months…those of you following this blog may be thinking: “Did she fall off Half Dome?” “Did she break her hand and she can’t type?” or, like my gym fan club “She met her goal and is done working out.”

Thank God none of the above! I should start at the beginning…

After 3 months of training, I traveled to California. I met my brother K and his wife J, and N, my brother’s friend, in Mariposa, CA. I had been in Yosemite that day and hiked about an hour to see how I would feel. That altitude was around 4300 ft. I was feeling good about the whole trip.

We went to dinner and then off to bed early. In the morning, I posted “hike of my life today, prayers appreciated” on my Facebook page. I had no idea how prophetic that was. The weather forecast was great hiking weather – not too hot or cold, no rain. K, N and I left the hotel at 4:30 a.m. and drove the 1.5 hours to the parking lot near the trailhead. I parked my rental car. We did the obligatory last bathroom stop before donning our gear. It was around 6:10 a.m. when we started on our 18 mile (approx) round-trip hike. Off we went into the darkness, with our headlamps glowing. The temperature was cool enough for a light jacket, but it didn’t take long for my muscles to warm up.

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Early morning selfie

 

I told K and N that I would take my time, pace myself and take lots of photos.

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As the sun rose, it illuminated the mountains surrounding Yosemite Valley. (I took photos) Our backpacks had hydration packs and we drank as we trekked. We stopped about once an hour to snack. Overall, I was feeling great and enjoying the breath-taking beauty of God’s handiwork. N was in the lead, K in the middle, and I was the “caboose”. At one point, I heard K singing “It is Well with My Soul”. We used to sing together in church. So, I came in for the chorus echo. We harmonized well. It seemed we were singing for an audience of One! (Later, K told me that was his favorite part of the trip.)

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Hiking Half Dome is so popular, that the park has a lottery system set-up for the permits to hike the cable way – that is the last 400 vertical feet. It is common to see other hiking groups along the trail. There was one group of four that we passed, or vice versa, several times along the way. We would encourage each other and get going again.

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We had some fun pictures and laughing along the way.

Directional signs with mileage are posted at trail intersections. We came to the one that said “Half Dome 4.5 miles”. We were more than half-way to the summit! We can do it! We had been on the trail around 3 hours.

It must have started in the next hour or so. I began to feel dizzy, light-headed, out of breath. I attributed it to the altitude, slowed my pace, drank cold water, ate some trail mix and continued up the trail. Around 5.5 hours on the trail, just under 2 miles from the summit, I decided I needed to sit and rest for a while. I sent K and N on to the summit, telling them that I would rest and possibly start down-trail. This is when it gets interesting…

(stay tuned – more to follow)

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Obedience: An angel in disguise?

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

The other morning, I stopped at my regular Starbucks for my morning coffee. I have frequented this coffee shop on a regular basis since it opened more than five years ago. For the first time, I saw someone was washing the glass storefront. This young woman was diligently working, checking her work and moving on to the next pane. God whispered to me “give her a bottle of water”.  It seemed silly since she could ask for ice water inside and get it for free. Thankfully, I was obedient. I ordered my coffee and purchased the water.  I took the water outside to the woman and gave it to her. She turned to me with the most beautiful smile! and said “thank you”. Her smile is etched in my memory. Who is the angel here? I cannot say if I was her angel or if she was mine that morning. Is it always as simple as a bottle of water? It can be… I.E. moving a shopping cart, letting a car into your lane, helping someone with car trouble. Or, it may require more of your time and money… I.E. buying groceries for a homebound neighbor, visiting the hospital (does anyone like the hospital?), driving someone to an appointment completely out of the way. I can make it complicated. I am not always obedient. It is NOT about me, but I make it about me. It is about obedience to God’s nudging. So, try it today. Take notice of God’s nudging and be obedient. You may be someone’s angel!

 

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.” Matthew 25:40

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A Nest on Your Altar

ImageMost of our issues in life could be resolved if we discarded our own opinions, perspectives, and prejudices and simply asked God to give us His view of our problem.  The difficulty is, receiving His perspective requires following His example.  What does the Bible say about this process?  In Romans 12:1-2 [Amplified Bible], Paul exhorts us as follows:   “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].”   Apparently, in order to truly see things from God’s perspective, in order to transform the way we think, we must climb up on His altar and commit ourselves wholly to Him.  Only then can we benefit from His point of view, as He has already made the trip to the altar on our behalf (when Jesus went to the cross). 

The altar is a scary place; if we regard it as a place of dedication, it sounds noble and virtuous.   However, if we remember that the original altar in the Hebrew tabernacle was the place where flesh was burned on our behalf in order to pave the way for a relationship with the holy God who made heaven and earth, we realize that climbing up on His altar involves more than a simple dedication of ourselves to His purposes.   There is a decided risk that something will burn up and be forever consumed!

Since Jesus risked everything on the cross and laid down His life as a perfect and holy sacrifice for me, I honestly must consider it my reasonable service to offer myself to Him — but I discover, to my chagrin, that I nobly climb up on that altar, yield myself to His service, only to clamber down (at the least provocation or the faintest hint of the smell of smoke!) and forget about my initially professed devotion altogether!  I am so grateful that God is faithful to give us multiple opportunities to offer ourselves to Him and climb back up on His altar, since HE WENT FIRST! 

The psalmist in Psalm 84:1-3 speaks of the beauty of the altar:  “How lovely are Your dwelling places, O Lord of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.The bird also has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.”   May God deliver me of the fear of what might be consumed in the fire of His Presence and empower me to dwell on His altar and make my nest there!  May He thereby give me the ability to regard everything from His perspective, the perspective gained from the vantage point of the cross, the quintessential altar!