Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Critical Care Birthdays

Tara’s 12th birthday was June 4 (Friday). I had not done any birthday shopping before going into the hospital, but after I knew I was going to be there for a few days (which actually turned into 4 weeks), I knew just what I wanted to give her as a gift. We had been trying to plan a party for months because we knew it would be hard to plan with a new baby. For some reason, I could not wrap my brain around what I could do to make this birthday special. We had several ideas, but none of them would “gel” with me. I am convinced that everything happens for a reason, and if things do not go as planned, there is a reason for that, too. Who would have thought that the birthday party was going to end up just the 4 of us (without Maddie) in CCU? I do not have pictures of this little party. Steve (or my sweet sis-in-law, Mary Beth) was able to locate the gift I wanted to give (a stuffed white horse) in the gift shop of the hospital! We also gave her a cell phone and a few other insignificant items, I think! My nurse for the evening offered to go get us some ice cream from the pantry to add to the festivities. Tara was so sweet and so appreciative in the midst of the total change of expectations.
Before the party, I had started getting more desperate in my breathing. I had gone from the simple nasal cannula tube to an oxygen mask on Thursday night. Friday morning, the IV team came and inserted a PICC line in my arm. Then my care givers decided I needed to be in CCU. After the little party, my breathing continued to get more laborious. It seems they attached a bag to my mask, and I remember sitting up in the bed gasping for breath. I do not remember anything after that. I have no recollection of the next 2 weeks of my life.
Apparently, as the chemo attacked the cancer, and the tumors started the dying process, it greatly increased the distress in my lungs. Friday night, my oncologist (Dr. Ronald Alvarez) had a restless night. He said he couldn’t get me off his mind. He came up to the hospital unusually early Saturday morning, and was coming in just when drastic action needed to be taken. He ordered to have me intubated, and he called a pulmonologist to come on the case. Dr. Roney came quickly. They called code blue on me, and a remarkable medical staff came to my aid. Every vital organ struggled under the strain. They started pushing medications through my PICC line. The doctors told Steve that the PICC line saved my life—providing a means to get the medicine quickly into my system.
The condition of my heart called for medicine that, once it is started, has to be taken for the rest of your life. The internal medicine doctor told Steve that my kidneys looked like they belonged to someone who had run a marathon without a drink of water; and it would take weeks to get them back in shape. I had to receive shots of insulin. It is no surprise that my bone marrow took a drastic hit—that’s par for the course with chemotherapy.
Word spread quickly to my friends and a flood of prayers reached the throne of grace. God allowed me to visit the “brink” for a little while. My dear husband and girls were near despair, but God was holding them close to His great heart as well. The love, words of encouragement, prayers and support were a lifeline, but Steve still says that was probably the lowest point in his life. Katelyn (my 16 year old) was fully aware of my condition, and yet she allowed God to comfort her and speak to her through His Word. She has precious promises from that period of time. Tara did not know for awhile what was happening. When she found out, the 3 of them leaned on each other and God wrapped His loving arms around them.
God saw fit to bring healing to my body. In less than 3 days after starting the heart medicine, the nurse had me weaned completely off! God touched my kidneys within days. When I started to improve, the sugar condition got better as well. The bone marrow took a little longer to recover, and the chemo routine had to be postponed for a few days. Once we were able to get back on track, we stayed on track until the last dose in September. What a mighty God we serve!
The next Saturday, when things had settled down a little bit, my friend Penny and Tara’s aunts Mary Beth and Kimmy put on a great birthday party for her. They got her an absolutely adorable cake, Tara got some birthday money, and she and her friends got to go to the mall and spend it all in one place!!