Friday, November 30, 2007

Ruminations and Reflections

I received the following in a note from a friend this morning:
"Four weeks ago, you and your family were thrust into a new and unexpected course, and today, David is home. Hope you both will be able to reflect on that wonder today, and look ahead to more expectations of recovery."
Yes, I have been doing some reflecting today. It seems like a century ago that Jacob was waking me up saying, "Mommy, Daddy fell down and he can't get up," but it has been exactly four weeks to the day. We have come so far.

It's unfortunate that it can often take something like this to jar us out of our routine and to cause us to look at the bigger picture.

I've been thinking a lot about TIME, what it is, how it works, how it feels.

I think earlier in life I would have wished to be able to see what was ahead. As a 42-year old with some life experience, I'm very glad we can't see the future. I'm thankful that God gives us our lives second by second, and that as things happen, things we would never have thought we could handle, God gives us the grace in that moment to deal with it.

Throughout this experience I can't help but think back to our wedding day, and not for reasons you might expect. What my mind keeps going back to is David's dad (who performed the ceremony) - how he was somewhat taken aback by our choice of scripture for the message. I remember him expressing during the ceremony itself how surprised he had been by our choice and what a challenge it had been to come up with a wedding message to go with that scripture.

Our passage was Psalm 34:1-10.

I guess he was surprised both because it was not a "traditional" wedding text, but also because although it contains a lot of joy, those verses also contain a lot of pain and struggle - a seemingly strange thing to be talking about on a wedding day. What Dad ended up doing was to weave that passage with John Bunyan's story Pilgrim's Progress and to talk about what a journey life is - a journey composed of many elements, some easy, some hard, some joyful, some painful, some clear, some confusing. He ended by admonishing us to "Taste and see that the Lord is good," that with God we would make the journey well, and that "happy is the 'couple' that takes their refuge in Him."

During this experience particularly, even 20 years after that message was given, it has come to mind for me and for David, and we have commented on how particularly appropriate that passage has been to our life together.

All lives have ups and downs, and we've certainly had ours - on the down side my four year struggle with deep depression, losing two babies to miscarriage, diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, David's stroke and issues with his heart - on the up side (so much that I can't list it!) loving friends and family, 3 WONDERFUL boys, jobs that not only provide financially but are also sources of joy and pleasure to both of us, opportunity to travel, twenty years of happy marriage, ETC!

Our lives are so rich! We have so much to be thankful for, especially for our faithful God who has made the journey with us in the good times and in the bad, who has been our refuge, and who so wisely gives us our lives, not all at once, but moment by moment and who gives the grace for each moment.

David and I had no idea what lay ahead when we chose that scripture as our wedding text. We just thought it sounded nice, that's all. But God knew.

Those are my thoughts today in this time of reflection when, because of current circumstances, our vision seems broader and life as a whole seems spread out before our eyes in a way that it typically is not.

Psalm 34:1-10

I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.

My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.

Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.

This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.

The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Time

Time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once.

- John Archibald Wheeler (b. 1911)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

HOMECOMING!

DAVID IS HOME!!

For the first time in 4 weeks he once again LIVES in our house. Looking back, the time away seems both long and short. In talking with a friend last night, when I said David had been gone 4 weeks he said, "Has it been 4 weeks?! It seemed like about 2." Yet I know David is probably aware of exactly how many HOURS it has been! For me and the boys it has been both, because it's been hard to have Dad gone, which made it long, but it's also been WAY busier than usual, which has made time fly.

What the near future holds in store is continued physical therapy for David especially involving work on his fine motor skills, adjustment to home life, and a visit from David's brother Dan who will be flying in on Sunday and staying until Friday. We are so grateful that Dan is going to do this. He'll be flying in from Baltimore and then flying back for just a couple of days before moving to Singapore! We're so glad he has this space of time in which he is willing and able to be with us. His presence here will be very helpful to us in making the adjustment to David being home (and while the boys and I are yet finishing out our semesters).

In the somewhat more distant future there will be some sort of medical intervention to repair the defect(s?) in his heart. We understand that that will not happen for 2 to 4 months, because he needs to be fully recovered from his stroke before surgery. The Coumadin should keep him from having another stroke in the meantime. In one sense it is a good thing we have time before that is going to happen, because we continue to get conflicting reports from doctors. The cardiologist left a phone message yesterday that was different from what he had told us in the office 3 days ago which was different from what he told us in the hospital, all of which was different from what the neurologist told us. Now that David is no longer an inpatient at English Oaks we are free to make an appointment with his primary care physician in order to get some of this interpreted and clarified for us. We will also be making a call to UCSF to do some further exploration on our own.

We still have a journey ahead, but stage one of the journey is complete, and we wish to thank all of you for prayers, well-wishes, cards, visits, and help during David's hospitalization. All of these things have been so very helpful to David and to our whole family.

THANK YOU!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lessons in Pictures

Today I spent time with David learning his PT routine and what we need to be aware of as he returns home. Here are a couple of pictures of his exercises:

David is particularly proud of the following exercise. He was talking today about when he first came to English Oaks this was absolutely impossible for him both because he could not balance at all and because he just could not get his brain to tell his body how to do this.

He's made such great progress, and being there today I now know why. When he doesn't do his exercises right, they beat him with a cane! ;-)

Speaking of canes, he has graduated to using one!

Here is David in what has been home for the 3 weeks since he left the hospital.

As I was walking the halls of English Oaks today I realized I will never visit a convalescent hospital again with the same vision I'd had in the past. It feels like home away from home. It has a whole different sense to it.

As well as getting a record of David's exercises in pictures, we gained information today about what the transition to home will be like. One of the other things we learned about was how to ensure safety at home for him to shower. We talked about other details such as driving. David was disappointed to learn it will be a while before he should try driving. He's not getting full feedback (proprioception) on his left side yet, and even though we have not seen any cognitive impairment the PT said that there probably is some impairment of higher order thinking, just because of what he's been through (in terms of the "trauma" of the situation, I guess), such as ability to realize a car is merging to his left while noticing what is happening ahead in traffic.

Along the same lines they just want him to adjust to being home again before he took on any other "big" things - stating that we should all expect that to be a hard adjustment. We will have lived apart for 4 weeks when he comes home, and he is coming home in a different condition than he was in on November 1. Family life has gone on and found a new normal. David's life has been totally removed from home and very focused on his health and recovery in an environment geared only for that. The PT's said that everyone they see after the fact has told them how hard it is to adjust to going home, so, while we're VERY excited that he's coming home, David and I have both been put on alert that it is probably going to be a hard adjustment. They said it will mostly be in the little things.

We had a small taste of that a few days ago when David was out on a pass for a while and spent some time at home. He wanted to oversee the online banking but could not get his left hand to work on the keyboard. That and some other computer related things that used to work so naturally and now do not became very frustrating for him. So I can see how having been in a specialized environment for so long where he has certain expectations of himself and then shifting to home where he has always been healthy and totally able will be frustrating for him, and I imagine he'll find many things like that that he used to take for granted and will now discover are a barrier. I'm sure it will be the same in terms of the flow of life for all of us. This has been hard, but we've adjusted to it, so all of us will be repatterning.

I saw an inspirational poster on the way out of English Oaks today, and it seemed very appropriate, so I will end with that.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday Update - Cardio, PT, Etc.

In his call to me this morning, David let me know his occupational therapy session was more than 3 hours long, and as we got off the phone he said he was just leaving again, this time for physical therapy. They are really working him hard, and we are both glad for that! Tomorrow I'm supposed to go in with a digitial camera to take pictures of the specifics of his therapy so that when he is discharged later this week he and I can SEE and remember at home specifics of what he is to be doing - what all the exercises are and how exactly to place his foot, his leg, his arm, etc.

David's appointment with his cardiologist was 5 hours ago now, but it's taken me this long to figure out what to say. I guess the best way to put it is that we went in with expectations of what we might find out, and we basically have no information. All I can say is that if I wasn't clear on how serious this was before I am now, because the doctor repeated more times than I can count that David had been on his death bed, that another stroke would kill him, that every breath he takes now is an extra gift from God, and that we are so lucky he got the "clot-busting" drug on time or he would now be hemiplegic. This we knew already. Yes, we understand the severity of it. What do we do now?

I guess we wait to consult with the surgeon (who has not yet gotten back to this cardiologist although a CD of the tests regarding this "very serious situation" was sent to him 2 weeks ago).

I waited awhile with posting today so as not to let my frustration come through; I'm afraid it is anyway. We were expecting a lot from this visit, and after all was said and done, I'm not even sure why we were there.

In terms of grad work and teaching, I am in the final stretch. The good news is that it will be over soon, and I (and we) will have this pressure relieved. The bad news is all the work I actually have to do before reaching the finish line. I know that looking back I'll be very glad that David insisted I finish; it's been a very difficult semester, and it would be (for both me and my family) disheartening in the extreme to begin all over - so much so that I may have decided against going back. Right now it is really doing me in to try to finish, even though I know I'll be glad in retrospect.

Hmm . . . that sounds so negative. It has been a frustrating day, but it's just a bump in the road. OVERALL things are positive, and we continue to feel confident of complete recovery. We just do still have quite a long road ahead, and we were hoping to move a little further along it today than we got to.

All I want for Christmas is my hubby home and very low-key times together as family, a very quiet Christmas season.

Chance/Providence

I came across the following quote last night, and the second line struck me - speaks to me of how, although we do not understand events as they occur in life, that God's hand is guiding through it all.
All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee;
All Chance, Direction, which thou canst not see;
All Discord, Harmony not understood . . .

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

PICTURES!!

Mom and Dad stopped by today with pictures of David's outings, so I thought I'd put some up. The first is of Thanksgiving at Great-grandpa's house - quite a full house at that. (We're in the far right of the picture; you can just see the top of David's head behind Jacob. Great-grandpa is near the back in the blue plaid shirt.) The others are from two weekends ago at Caleb's soccer tournament. (I'm trying to remember what kind of fish story Frank was telling us :-)
Enjoy!

Friday, November 23, 2007

For Now

I am going to give a run-down on how things stand, and then I'll probably wait to post again until Monday after the cardiology appointment.

DAVID CAN WIGGLE HIS TOES!!

This morning David was really aware of how much better he is doing this week than last week - can really tell the difference as he does his therapy.

He's making GREAT progress, but he cannot yet fully perform that most essential of life skills: card shuffling. He's also still "wired" funny. When he yawns his left foot involuntarily flexes really hard.

The plan is for him to remain in English Oaks until November 29.

It's hard for him and for us to have him away from home, but he is getting GREAT physical therapy there, and we know the early days and weeks after a stroke are so important in terms of what he will regain. Miraculously, our insurance has agreed to allow David to continue to go to English Oaks for his outpatient therapy for 3 further week after he is discharged. Apparently this request is almost NEVER granted, because our insurance does not contract with English Oaks for that. Thank you for prayers regarding this. They have been answered! This ensures him continuity of care and the high quality care he's been getting all along. YEA!!

We are learning so many different things through this experience. Yesterday, while we had David out for Thanksgiving, we took him for a walk, and we just about dumped him out of the wheelchair twice! (Sorry Dave!) There are some lovely sloped curbs that had recently been put in on the street corners to make them more accessible. We thought we could just roll up them head-on. We learned pretty quickly that even the little bump that is there can cause trouble and that we had to back David up over those. We became really alert to our path, because some sides of the street had sidewalks and some did not, some had sloped curbs and some did not, some had bushes growing out very far over the sidewalk. Our eyes are just a little more open now to lots of things.

David loved getting to be outside - even if it was a precarious adventure! The walk was great, and we ended up laughing almost the whole way. Caleb was a particularly scary driver (all the boys wanted a turn pushing Dad), and we've decided Caleb needs to go to wheelchair driver's training before he gets another turn or David will end up with more to recover from than a stroke!

How wonderfully fitting that the first time David was able to be back in church and out with extended family was on Thanksgiving Day!! It was a particularly beautiful service. Afterwards we were able to have dinner with extended family at my grandfather's house.

Dad brought to our attention an article about stroke from a recent Business Week magazine that reminded us again of how everything that has needed to go right for us in this whole situation has gone right. (I'm thinking now especially of David being in ER in time to get tPA.) I'll close with that and report in on the cardiology appointment Monday.
. . . stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability, costing the US $63 billion each year. Despite this huge disease burden there is only one stroke drug available, Genentech's tPA, approved in 1987. TPA is effective, however, only if given within three hours of the event; just 5% of stroke victims make it to the hospital on time . . . . It can take emergency room doctors n hour or more to figure out which type of stroke it is [hemorrhagic or ischemic] before they can administer tPA, which works only for ischemic strokes. All the while, 2 million brain cells are dying every minute that the brain is deprived of oxygen.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving

Although (or perhaps because) we're going through a difficult time, we are even more mindful of our blessings than usual. Of the hundreds and hundreds of things we are thankful for, here are just a few:

Life (deeply thankful!)

Love of friends and family

Medical technology

English Oaks Convalescent Hospital

Four-hour passes from English Oaks Convalescent Hospital

The beauty of the outdoors

Brass music

Good food

Friends who are able to get out of bed early :-)

Hot showers

AND

A God who loves us down to our toes!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Significant


I do have more details about talks with doctors - another one today, but I want to hold off on that and share an interchange David and I had over the weekend.

As we were talking this weekend, David brought up the fact that his left foot remains stubbornly unwilling to the restoration he is experiencing in the rest of his left side - can't move that foot - can't wiggle those toes. He then grabbed a devotional booklet,"Our Daily Bread," and read to me from the November 13 page. It said:
In a commencement address to a graduating class at Miami University, columnist George Will gave some statistics that help to diminish our sense of self-importance. He pointed out that “the sun around which Earth orbits is one of perhaps 400 billion stars in the Milky Way, which is a piddling galaxy next door to nothing much.” He added, “There are perhaps 40 billion galaxies in the still-unfolding universe. If all the stars in the universe were only the size of the head of a pin, they still would fill Miami’s Orange Bowl to overflowing more than 3 billion times.”

There is a plus side to all that overwhelming data. The God who created and sustains our star-studded cosmos in its incomprehensible vastness loves us. And He doesn’t just love the human race as an entity of multiplied billions. He loves us individually. What Paul exclaims to be true about himself is true about each of us in all our insignificance: Christ “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Astronomically, we are insignificant. But we are the beloved objects of God’s care. While we have no reason for pride, we are inexpressibly grateful to the Lord whose love for us personally is revealed at Calvary’s cross.

by Vernon Grounds
David was struck by the facts there - the immensity of creation - and wanted to share that with me. When he had finished reading it to me, he said, "Isn't that amazing?! We are so insignificant, and yet God cares about every detail of our lives, even about my toes wiggling."

Hmm . . .

Well, it's nearly 2am, and I should be in bed trying to sleep, but I think I hit a point of critical mass today and really need to do some readjusting to make this work.

A friend caught me up short saying to me, "Your life ISN'T normal right now, so stop acting like it is!"

I guess I don't know how else to act, but it became clear today that I need to figure it out. I've been trying so hard to keep things normal for the boys, but my friend is absolutely right: life ISN'T normal right now.

I'll try to fill in more details in a future post, but David had a surpising result at his neurology appointment today. His neurologist does not want him to have heart surgery. (Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be there to ask why or what risk he might be concerned about - my absence at an appointment is not something that will happen again the future - part of the readjustment that needs to happen.) This outcome was surprising to us, because the cardiologist has made it abundantly clear all along how necessary the heart surgery is - stating that although it is a bummer David had to have a stroke and has to go through the work to regain function on his left side that it was a blessing because it brought to light this heart defect that is the real problem and that needs to be fixed before something "really bad" happens.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Prayer Request

A lot of work is being done today interacting with insurance to determine the course of David's rehab for the near future. Changes are in store, and we are praying for insurance to be willing to provide for David to be able to get the best physical therapy he can in order to get back his full function. What we are hoping for is that once he is discharged from English Oaks that he will be able to return THERE on an outpatient basis (and there are lots of reasons for that - quality of care, continuity of care, advice of his current physical therapists, etc.). From what we understand at this point the chance of that is slim to none, but his therapists and he are making calls today to advocate for this. Please pray that whatever the outcome is it will be in David's best interest in terms of full recovery.

Today he sees his neurologist to talk about his future in terms of a number of things including possible seizure activity and whether or not (or when) he will be able to drive again. So our focus yet this week is entirely neurological (rehab and info), but next week it will shift as he sees his cardiologist for the first time since leaving Memorial Hospital and will be talking about further testing and heart surgery.

Monday, November 19, 2007

CLASS WILL MEET TUES. NOV. 20

Motivation! :-)

Ironically, although he had been training for months, David had just registered (and paid) for the marathon a few days before his stroke. He called today to see if he could get a refund (I'm thinking having had a stroke is a pretty good excuse!). They won't refund his money, but they will put it towards his registration for next year's marathon. That certainly gives him something to shoot for - and knowing that he's already paid for it will give David extra motivation to be there running it when the time comes!

Ch-Ch-Changes

Yesterday was such a blessing to all of us. It gave us such joy and such respite to help us keep moving forward.

David's mom had flown in 48 hours after David's stroke and was here for 2 weeks; she flew home yesterday morning. We could not have made it without her. She kept this household running, was constantly washing dishes, doing laundry, doing yardwork, grocery shopping, picking up. I am convinced she can do more in one morning than I can in a three month period of time!! Seriously!! She was also constantly on call for transportation needs (a really big deal with 3 kids at two different schools, with lots of actvities and so on) and to free me up to be where I needed to be without even having to think about anything else. THANKS MOM!

On the home front, Mom has gotten us past those early days of shock and uncertainty. Having her gone is going to be a big change, but we are now on much more solid ground to take it from here. We'll see how it goes.

We had not shared this, but I think it's probably an appropriate time to "go public." I'm sure I won't express this well, and I'm not sure I even want to, in fact it's a little scary to do so, but it feels like I should - so here goes:

What has happened in our lives recently would have been a HUGE jolt and change anyway, but there is an extra dimension that most people don't know. A number of years back we had an experience that was just as life-changing, maybe more so, but it was NOT one we felt free to share widely at the time - or since. Due to medication I was on for an autoimmune disorder, I was plunged into a very severe depression that lasted for 4 years (March 1999-January 2003) - until we finally found a doctor who could correctly diagnose and treat me. That experience altered our lives significantly and permanently. At that time David took on EVERYTHING in terms of caring for our children, our home, our yard, continuing his full time work, caring for me, and all else. I have been well for nearly 5 years and am in no danger of relapse, but the roles had been what they were for so long, and we were both so comfortable with them that they never entirely shifted back. David continued to keep up much of what he had been doing, getting the kids off to school, grocery shopping, doing the laundry, making dinner, paying the bills, ETC! Things have not been anywere near 50/50 around here in terms of household roles for nearly a decade, but that has worked for ALL of us. The kids were used to that routine; David was comfortable with it (I think he didn't want to give some of it up again, because he had everything running like clockwork and took pride in that!); and it has allowed me to work AND pursue graduate studies, which benefits our family too but in a different way. That's just all been our norm for a very long time. It's just how we have come to operate. We've now experienced TOTAL role-reversal, and because of that this has been even more of a jolt to all of us than it otherwise would have been.

So we've been in some pretty deep waters not just this once but twice (yet such different experiences!).

I also have a rare sleep disorder that, in addition to what I've shared above, causes our family to operate differently from "normal" anyway (if there is such a thing as normal) in terms of schedule and roles.

I know with God's help and with the support of those around us all will be well with our whole family as we move forward. I am learning something I was never capable of before, and that is taking it one day at a time - one hour at a time. An image of Peter walking on water keeps coming to mind. When he took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the waves he began to sink. If I look even half a day ahead, I begin to sink, so I have to pull myself back and just look at the next hour - not looking at all of what has to be done in terms of finishing the semester, but what needs to be done next only, which thing has highest priority - not looking at all of what needs to be done at home, but what needs to be done just right now - and while keeping both of those in mind, keeping that at the back and keeping David and the boys in the front - with God's help balancing it and keeping perspective.

I do feel like I'm walking uphill, but I don't feel like I'm drowning, and it's only by God's grace and the support of those around us that that is the case.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wonderful Oasis of Normalcy

Before writing anything else, I need to thank the "web" (as David termed it) of people who helped us to have the very special day we had today, our wonderful oasis of normalcy. THANK YOU!!

David was able to get another 4 hour pass which allowed him to get outside again today and to watch more of Caleb's soccer tournament (see pictures below). He was also able in that time to stop home for a while in between games - his first time HOME in 17 days.

Although we had to eat very quickly, we were able to sit around the table together for a Sunday noon meal. That was so awesome!! I don't know how to describe how wonderful it was to once again have something so normal - a meal together, all five of us, around our table - happen again.

We could not have experienced what we did today without help with food and transportation and other things that we were helped with. Four hours is a short time, but because of the help we received we were able to maximize it!

Caleb's team came in fourth (today's games were 3-0 and 0-4). David got a really special surprise that caught him entirely off guard when the team presented him with the tournament ball with all their names signed on it. Cool. That will be a great memory of this team, this season and of these two special days where David finally got to enjoy the outdoors and taste some freedom again.

Because of the help we were given, I also had opportunity to do something that is really special to me personally, which I would not otherwise have had time for, because I would have had to be transporting David back to English Oaks and getting our kids home instead.

The absolute highlight of my year every year is to participate in the local oratorio society's presentation of Handel's Messiah. I had missed the first two weeks of practice and was afraid I might miss it altogether this year. It is always so meaningful for me to be part of that - touches me deeply. I was so glad to be able to be part of practice this afternoon and am hoping that I will be able to continue with it and be part of the presentation on December 2.

Just being at practice today was one of the most deeply calming and "centering" things I have experienced since David's stroke. Singing Handel's Messiah with many other voices speaks to my spirit like nothing else. Also, we practice and perform in a church that is very special to me - the church my parents were married in, the church I was baptized in, the church my great-grandparents attended, the church of my childhood. Just being there gives me a sense of peace. I remember as a child impressing into my mind the patterns on the stained glass windows, and I remember standing with my eyes closed during the postlude to feel the vibration of the organ music. It was then and remains for me today an especially sacred place.

JUST FOR FUN!

For those of you who knew me and my church pals back in the day I decided to just keep scanning photos while I was at it and put this up for you to see how many of us you can identify. These were the Sunday School pictures of my age group from 1971. If you didn't/don't know this group, feel free to just get a kick out of the church attire children were wearing back then (gotta love the bow-tie)!


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Break Out!!

We got to break David out of his captivity for 4 hours this afternoon so he could watch part of Caleb's soccer tournament. It was great for all of us to be able to be together in this way, and it was especially wonderful for David, who kept commenting on how beautiful the sky looked!



Thursday, November 15, 2007

Marathon

I am going to post tonight because I got to see David in the midst of a full physical therapy workout today and want to share a bit about that - a pretty amazing thing, I think.

I can now verify that it is harder than the training he was doing for a marathon. When he was done his limbs were very shaky. David is willing to work hard, and they are working him hard, and we are both grateful for that.

I saw too how much trust he has to have in his physical therapists as they ask him to do things that may cause him to fall down given his lack of balance and lack of sense of where his left limbs are if he is not looking at them. Towards the end of the session he totally lost his balance - probably in large part due to fatigue, and the therapist caught David's full weight.

I'm amazed at what the physical therapists are able to bring forth from David and how alert they have to be all the time that they are in the right position to make a catch like that if necessary.

Although I understand it intellectually, I am amazed that although David's left leg and left arm are fine in and of themselves, and although he's used them all his life, the fact that that part of his brain lost blood flow for a time has had the impact it has. I understand it intellectually, but it FEELS like he should just be able to look in the mirror, see his movements, remember what he's done all his life, and just go, "Oh yeah, I remember, here I go." It's amazing that in a moment of time all that was lost and has to be regained.

I am confident he will regain everything, and it's a beautiful thing to watch take place, but at the same time it is a hard thing to watch.

I think right now both he and I in our own spheres need prayers for patience, endurance and strength. I had said yesterday that I felt I was hitting my stride; I think I spoke too soon, because I "tripped" again last night and this morning. Although I am finally able to comprehend my studies I am also finding how far behind I am and how much must be done in the next few weeks. Last night and today I have felt completely overwhelmed by it. Both David and I feel I need to finish, but it meant yesterday that I did not get to visit him at all, and that was hard.

I think David and I are going to be spurring each other on as we each have our separate marathons to run - both of which are very different from the one we thought would be happening this time of year!

In one of the cards we received today, a Henri Nouwen quote was written in, and it is something I want to hold onto:
That is the great conversion in our life: to recognize and believe that the many unexpected events are not just disturbing interruptions of our projects, but the way God molds our hearts and prepares us for His return.
I think it's important for us to hold that perspective, that we not see this as a disturbing interruption of our projects but rather a way in which we are being molded by God - and to allow God to do that molding and to "be still" and be aware of what He is doing in our lives through this.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New Normal (for now)

It feels as of this morning that we have settled into our new normal. I know that will shift again Sunday as David's mom flies back to MI and the boys and I figure out how to pick up all the slack of what she has been doing so consistently and automatically (dishes, laundry, etc.). Her visit has really allowed us to get our feet on the ground so that next week we will be able to take that step up.

The last two days had been very hard for me, but I feel I've hit my stride again this morning. For the first time since David's stroke on November 2, I find myself able to do my assigned readings with a degree of comprehension. Last night I was in panic mode, because my computer gave up the ghost - poor timing - really poor timing! My computer is like my right arm - need it for my teaching, my studies, connections (like this blog). My brother just left the house having loaned me his laptop and set it all up for me. YEA Tim! YOU ROCK!!

We are so thankful for people standing in the gap for us in so many ways like this.

I've printed out the comments you've left on the blog and taken them to David. As he was reading through them he said they were bringing him to tears (good tears!). They've been such a support and encouragement to me as well.

David had a very special event this morning. The men from his Bible study came to English Oaks at 6am to continue their regular study at their regular time in a place where he can be too. They told him they'll be willing to come back next week and the week after and whatever it takes. That small, faithful group has been such a source of encouragement and support and joy to him over the years - so wonderful that that piece of normalcy in his life can continue for him.

At least for the next few days I think (I hope!) we are going to be rolling along without much change, so I will probably not be updating as often - but certainly will post if there is any change or any news. (Now that I can study, I think I'd better put in a pretty concerted effort to catch up!)

What we know about the future so far is that David will see his cardiologist in town on Monday, November 26. At that time we'll talk about the testing he will need in the Bay Area and will be talking more about his future in terms of heart surgery.

Caleb (10) has his soccer tournament this weekend. David is hoping that he can get a 4-hour pass to get out and watch Caleb play and support him as he finishes his season. (And I'm sure David will feel he's gone to Heaven just being able to sit outside at a park or field!) Hopefully that will be able to come about. I'm hoping too we'll be able to get a pass for him to leave for a while to come to Thanksgiving at my grandpa's house.
Since I probably will not be posting as often in upcoming days I am going to let this one get a bit longer by expressing a thought I've had - AND linking to pictures! :-) When David had his TIA in January I did some research. I found that a first-time TIA can be a warning that a major stroke will occur within the next 6 months to a year. That was quite worrisome, but David recovered so immediately and so well from that (was back to work the next day, I think), that our fears soon went away, and we both chalked it up to a fluke.

We celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary this past June and had a wonderful trip to Cancun (click here to see pictures). It was unlike anything we had ever done before - and a really special experience. At that time there was yet a nagging little fear that something might happen to him while we were out of the country. Thankfully, it did not, and once that time had passed both David and I moved on, not really giving his TIA a second thought. Well, of course, now he has had that major stroke, and the TIA was, in fact, a warning. I am now even MORE grateful for the time we were able to have together celebrating 20 years of marriage - having the health then to enjoy all the opportunities there - snorkeling together, sailing together, exploring Mayan ruins together, kayaking, swimming, beach volleyball, boating . . .

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Timeline News

Well, I wrote yesterday that the cushion of shock is wearing off a bit and reality is coming through, but it's not fully real yet either, partly because we keep getting new reality to wrap our minds around.

The assumption when David went into English Oaks is that he would be there for a week for rehab; that sounded really long. The therapist who worked with him this morning told him it would need to be three weeks. SO, at this point I think David is really going to need prayer for his spirits to remain high. He was hoping to come home straight from the hospital and have a PT come to the house. He accepted the fact that he had to go to a rehab facility. Now he has to adjust to a stay three times as long as he had orginally thought.

Although my head is processing this and understanding it, my heart has continued to FEEL that he is just gone for a long weekend. I need to fully internalize, head and heart, that he's not just coming home real soon. My heart just isn't there yet.

CLASS WILL MEET TUES. NOV. 13

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday News

It has been an eventful day. The morning seemed to get off to a slow start for David. He was SO eager to get started with physical therapy ASAP! When I came in to visit him at 10:30 he was disappointed that he had only been sitting in his room - commented he may as well be home.

Very soon after, though, the occupational therapist came in and evaluated him and also taught him lots of exercises he could do on his own.

(He is worried if he is doing them when visitors come that they are going to think he is crazy and that the stroke HAS affected his brain!)

He was disappointed to be told by the occupational therapist that he was not allowed to use his walker on his own and would have to call for nurse assistance even to go from his bed to the bathroom with the walker (something he had been allowed to do in the hospital). The therapist felt he was not safe and could trip since he still really has no movement in that foot and is experiencing such ataxia with his left leg.

Later in the day he was also visited and evaluated by the physical therapist and was given a workout by him as well. David liked his report much better, because this therapist gave David the go-ahead to use his walker. David's spirits soared once more!

He had lots of visits today, all of which he appreciated very much! There was a funny moment too where 3 men were visiting him. One was standing, one was on the bed, one was sitting in David's wheelchair, and David was sitting in a regular chair. The nurse looked around and said, "Who's the patient?!" Unfortunately it didn't occur to David until tonight that he should have pointed to the guy in the wheelchair or on the bed and then snuck out!!!!

He says the food is good - that's always a plus!

I had posted more - expressing where I'm at - suffice it to say I think the shock which had cushioned me a bit from the reality of this seems to be beginning to wear off. I appreciate the prayers that are being said for me as I care for David and as I try to keep all the many home fires burning as best I can.

Strangely enough, about two weeks before this happened, my blog post was the following:

“If you aren't in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”

T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

I'm thinking now maybe I would have been fine not knowing!!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

David's Sunday and Contact Info

We have David all settled in now at English Oaks. It is good to see him in his own clothes rather than a hospital gown. That in itself seems to make a world of difference. It was also a glorious experience for him to get to be outside as he exited the hospital and then as he entered English Oaks. He is such an outside person. If he is inside at home too long he has to open all the windows, or he has to get outside and walk or run, so for him to have been inside for 10 days straight was a marathon in and of itself!!

Our focus today was getting him settled in, so we didn't get a chance to check it all out, but I hear there is a courtyard, so I'm sure he'll be able to get outside a bit while there. That will be great. From what I understand he will be getting 2 hours of therapy 2 to 3 times a day - sounds pretty grueling, but he is ready to work and very motivated. He is also very disciplined, so I eagerly look forward to seeing his day-to-day progress.

If you are in the area and would like to visit, his room is 225. His phone number, directly to him, is (209) 573-7576. He also has a "prayer pager" that we were just given today through our church. If you are praying for him and would like him to know he has been prayed for, you can dial 654-8500. Then, after the beeps, enter the number 419, and then hang up. He will get the page and then see the number 419, which is a reminder of Philippians 4:19
"And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

DAVID HAS MOVED!

David is now at English Oaks Convalescent Hospital.

- more info later -

Sunday Morning David Update

David and I are both overwhelmed with gratitude. When I spoke with him on the phone last night he said how much he desired to be able to say thank you to EVERYONE who is helping us, whether it be by supportive comments, prayers, good wishes, visits, meals, help around our home, colleagues filling the gap for him at work, the support of my colleagues and administrators and professors, offers to be available to help in a variety of ways, and every other way in which we are being blessed and upheld.

Sometimes in life in general it is easy to be cynical with what we hear on the news or other things we may see. For us right now it is impossible to be cynical. We are being prayed for and thought of and wished well from nearby and all around the world. There are well wishes sent as comments to this blog from people nearby and far away - not only across the US but as far away as Norway, Australia, and Singapore. They are coming from people we interact with everyday and from people we have not seen in years and from people we (or I) have not met or from my two friends that I've "met" virtually but have never seen. It feels like the whole world is rallying behind us in so many ways, well-wishes, prayers and practical help (food, laundry, shopping, transportation, etc.). This is the kind of stuff that should be on the news - not just all the sad stories of violence and cruelty.

THANK YOU!

We did see the cardiologist yesterday. He let us know that he wants David to go to UCSF for further testing. We are pleased with how thorough Dr. Pohwani is being. He told us (as best I can re-express it) that there is something else going on with David's heart that the hole does not explain and that he is not able to figure out - something about "communication" from the left atrium to the left ventricle (?), that there may be another defect between the atria that he has been unable to detect, that something is "wrong" (I have no idea what that means) with the blood in the right ventrical. I'm sure I, as a non-medical person, have just made a mess of what he said, but that is what remains in my mind of that conversation.

So, once we are able to get the appointment we are off to the Bay Area. Then all the pictures will be sent to the cardiac surgeon in Sacramento in order that decisions can be made about surgery.
Dr. Pohwani continues to tell us how lucky we are. He repeated yesterday that another stroke would be fatal but that the Coumadin would keep that from happening. He also said that, although a stroke is not a good thing to have and takes time to recover from that David was very lucky to have had this stroke, that at this point it is possible to correct what is wrong with his heart. Had he not had the stroke the right side of his heart would have continued to grow and cause a "big problem" later (also not sure what he means by "big problem" - and didn't ask; this one's big enough for me!). He said that if the right side of David's heart had continued to grow undetected this would be irreperable. Because of his stroke it was caught in time to fix it.
So even the difficult things (like his stroke) are things to be thankful for!!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

David to Stay at Memorial

HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY: David was able to stand up and give me a real hug today. That is the first time in 9 days. Wow! That felt GOOD!

For those of you in the area wanting to visit David, he is still in Memorial. He won't be moving to English Oaks today. I think I'll wait until I see it happen before I talk about a move again. His blood levels are still too low (with regard to the Coumadin), so they want to keep him in the hospital until that is where they want it to be.

Wow - I'm glowing! A hug from my hubby! Yea!!

Middle of Night Prayer Request

I'm writing this at 3:30am CA time. I've been trying to take my insomnia in stride and not to complain or even write about it much - keeping my focus on David, but I'm at a breaking point, and I am putting up the white flag and calling out for lots of prayer for this. If I'm going to be who I need to be for David and the boys and not wind up in the hospital myself, I need to get some sleep.

I had had a life-long struggle with insomnia (literally since todllerhood), but somehow it resolved itself a year ago in June, but since David's stroke a week ago I have not had one full night of rest. In fact, many nights have been 2 hours only. Tonight I slept from 11:30pm to 1:00am, and I don't think I'm going to get anymore. I was exhausted when I went to bed and thought I would sleep well. I am going to crash and burn really soon if this doesn't turn around.

I've been fighting a sore throat and feverishness since Monday. I've tried to get back into my studies, but I am too tired to read or focus. I do realize I'm under stress, but I'm not consciously worried or fearful. I completely expect that, although this will be a long journey, that David will make a full recovery. I feel David is in good hands and so are the boys and I. We are certainly surrounded by love, care, tangible help and all manner of support. It seems that given all that confidence combined with my level of tiredness I should now be able to sleep, but I cannot.

Friday, November 09, 2007

David Update Friday Night

I just got a call this evening that there is a bed for David at English Oaks Convalescent Hospital, so he will be transferred there from Memorial tomorrow. They estimate that he will be there for a week.

I got to see David's physical therapy workout today. I was so glad to be there to see his progress and to hear about all the exercises so that I can help him remember them later too. He is working very hard to regain all his motion and strength. SO, he's still in full "training mode;" it's just that it is for a different marathon. It's amazing to see how mentally exhausting it is to try to train new pathways in the brain. For most of the exercises he has to do 10 reps, but they take such focused attention that he cannot count to ten while doing them; someone else has to count for him.

We're certainly learning a lot about how the brain works. Although I've known all my life that my brain controls such things, it feels like when I move my leg it is my leg that is doing everything.

How can I specifically describe his progress? He was able to use the walker on his own today for a short distance (i.e. to get to the bathroom). He is able to rise to a standing position from a chair and support himself. He is getting more and more strength and motion every day, and we can even see progress over the course of a single day - amazing! He still cannot move his left foot or toes. He is getting more sensation, but it still is not "normal," and he can't really describe what it's like. There is still no feedback getting to his brain from his limbs to tell him they are moving. If he closes his eyes while moving his arm he has no idea where his hand will be when he opens his eyes. It seems he's been rewired or something. When he yawns his left hand and leg rise. When he tries to do something with his left leg, depending on what he is trying to do, either his right leg or his left arm will move. It kind of reminds me of an old cartoon where when the light switch was flipped on the faucet came on, and when the spigot was closed the garage door went up, and when and when the door was put down the lights went on and . . . It's just not wired the way it used to be. It's amazing to see the PT at work - how he can tap on a specific part of David's leg to get him to move it in a way David was not able to by a verbal command only. That simple touch sends a message to the brain to get it to do what it needs to do.

As I watch him learn to walk again I find my emotions are so confused that I don't know how to describe them. On the one hand I'm THRILLED with how quickly he's making progress, on the other hand it is very difficult to see my so recently strong and athletic husband getting around in a way I didn't anticipate would happen until we were in our 90's.

I received a sweet email earlier today letting me know that a "good cry" would eventually be coming and not to be surprised when it happens - that I need to let it all out and just cry. I haven't done that yet, and it's bothered me a bit that I haven't, because it does seem like the natural response. I'm guessing that it is because our lives have remained in such flux with all the changes with David that things are stable enough yet for that to happen - ER then ICU then a room on fourth floor, then three days of testing, then a room in telemetry, tomorrow over to the convalescent hospital. That man gets around!

I realized today that although my head knows what is going on I beleive the feeling in my heart is that David is away for a long weekend trip, and he's just left me in charge here for a few days. I think when my head and my heart finally connect that "good cry" will come.

I'm not sure when we'll hear more from the cardiologist about a consultation with a cardiac surgeon. I sure hope that happens tomorrow before he leaves the hospital.

The boys continue to do well, although the news was just broken to them yesterday that we won't be taking our annual camping trip to Pismo Beach over Thanksgiving weekend. Anthony and Jacob get it. For 10-year old Caleb it is a bit harder; he is quite disappointed and asks about it every so often during the day hoping to get a different answer.

I hope I can come up with some sort of good special activity for them for one of the days of Thanksgiving break. They've really been troopers through all of this. Thank you for your prayers for them and all of us.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Short Update on David

- not much to share tonight -

- just that we now know he will be in Memorial for 2 to 3 more days (for sure), because they want to get his Coumadin (blood-thinner) levels correct before they send him to rehab. I was sure hoping Mom would still be here when he got home to help me care for him. Again, we need to take one day at a time - having no idea yet about so many things.

I'm not sure when we will be consulting with the cardio surgeon from Sacramento, but we are sure praying that the surgery can be done using catheterization rather than open heart. That would really be a wonderful blessing for things to work out in that way.

Thank you to all of you for your prayers and comments and kind words and good wishes. They mean so much to us!! We feel so loved and supported, and that is a real boost at this time!

Thurs. Afternoon David Update

I'm being naughty. I'm procrastinating on doing my homework and am blogging instead.

I have a statistics lab due in less than half an hour, but this is the first time I have looked at my homework since David had a stroke, and it looks to me like it is written in Coptic. It seems like something from centuries ago and worlds away. I can't seem to get my brain to go in that direction at all. Even when I am not thinking consciously about our situation my mind must just be working on it. I have never made such mistakes in teaching as I have made this week. In the past no matter what is going on in my life, I have been able to teach - to teach clearly, confidently and well. I've always been able to either compartmentalize or multitask. This is just a whole different ballgame.

Thankfully I have a bright group of students who catch me when I make an error, and we fix it, and we move on. I'm thankful for how gracious my students have been.

On Friday night, the night of David's stroke, I was up all night wanting to DO something. I wrote my professors and told them I would most likely not be finishing out the semester and was not sure about my future in the grad program. Basically I was clearing my plate in order to be totally available to David and the boys. When I told David in ICU the next day, he was appalled and said, "Don't you dare! You've put too much into this!" So, I am going to try to continue. I hope I can get my ability to focus and to perform well in classrooms both as teacher and as student. If I can just get a couple of good nights of sleep in, I think I can.

OK, now about David - not much new to relate. We are learning to nod our head and smile and then entirely disregard everything we are told about when he is going to be discharged and to where he is going to be discharged. Yesterday and today we've been hearing he was being discharged (perhaps home) TODAY. Now we hear he is "definitely" going to a rehab facility, and that it might be today (I doubt it at this point in the day) or within the next 2 to 3 days.

So, we continue to play a waiting game.

After the heart cath last night David had to lie still for 4 hours, and that was painful on his back, but he is doing well today and is happy he gets to eat (yea! no tests today!). He looks good. When I went to visit him he was sitting up in a chair. He is in a much smaller older room now, which is kind of a bummer - can't see the clock, can't see a window - but if that's the worst of it, that's not too bad. I am eager for his sake, though, for him to be discharged to a bigger, brighter place where he can work more on his physical therapy and just keep moving up!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

CLASS WILL MEET NOV. 8

Heart Cath Results

David finally had his heart catheterization tonight, and I finally got to speak with his cardiologist in person.

The procedure went well, and David is SO happy to be able to eat again!

I sort of don't know how to go about writing this post. I'll just do my best to say what the doctor told me. David will definitely need heart surgery. Dr. Pohwani, his cardiologist, wants to refer us to a surgeon in Sacramento. He is hoping the hole in David's heart will be able to be patched through a catheterization process rather than through open heart surgery. This surgeon will consult with us and let us know if David is a good candidate for this or not. If not, then he will have open heart surgery instead.

I was asking a LOT of questions, and I think the doctor thought I was resistant to surgery (which wasn't the case - I just really wanted to know the details especially after having been told by someone else earlier that there could be a problem with patching his heart because the right side is bigger than the left - as I was writing about in my last post). Anyway, the doctor looked me in the eye and said, "If he has another stroke, he will die."

I reassured the doctor very quickly that I was not resistant to surgery but that I just wanted to understand as fully as I could.

He told us we were very lucky. We are lucky we had warnings, because they could have been fatal rather than being warnings. He also told us we were very lucky that he received tPA in ER, that this was a "true stroke, a major stroke." Dr. Pohwani said that if David had not received the tPA he would have been left permanently paralyzed on his left side.

David will be in a different room at Memorial tomorrow morning and early afternoon (on second floor in telemetry), and then he will be transferred to a rehab facility. He will be put on Coumadin rather than the Aggrenox he is on now as a blood thinner.

We are sure learning to live one day at a time. I have no idea how long he will be in rehab. I have no idea how long it will be before surgery. A few days ago I was told it would be a couple of months before surgery so he could get his strength back, but tonight Dr. Pohwani was talking about getting him in "as soon as possible." I don't know what that means - maybe "as soon as possible" IS a few months; I don't know. At the time of the surgery, if he is able to have the cath type he will be in the hospital in Sacramento for about 5 days with that. I really don't know what the time frame is, but it looks like a rather long road ahead, yet we are finding ourselves able to take it one day at a time.

I was really impressed with Dr. Pohwani. David was not supposed to have been his patient, but for some reason he ended up doing David's first test. He told me tonight he wanted to stay with this case because it really scared him. He told me David is only one year older than he is. He seems to really identify with David. I'm really grateful for the personal interest Dr. Pohwani has taken in David's case.

I'm not sure what he meant, but Dr. Pohwani said this has really been on his mind, and he's been puzzling over it for two days trying to understand what is going on with David, which is why he ran so many tests. I'm just so thankful he was so very, very thorough.

I truly do believe that David will recover fully. I am very confident about that. The one thing that is fearful for me right now is that for 5 to 7 days before his surgery he will have to be taken off the Coumadin in order for his blood to clot regularly again. That window of time scares me after having heard the doctor say tonight that another stroke would kill him. I think for those 5 to 7 days I won't be able to sleep at all but will be wanting to watch over David all the time. I don't even know if that is a rational fear or not, but it is the only fear I'm feeling right now - that window of time.

I'm so grateful for the technology that is available - that they are able to send a "camera" right into David's heart to see what is going on. I'm also so grateful for the medication tPA. I'm grateful too for all the well-trained medical personnel who have been working with David.

Wednesday Afternoon David Update

I finally had a chance to talk with one of the doctors today. He explained a bit, and I'm not sure I have it all straight, but I'll share what I have (any medical friends of mine reading this, feel free to correct me or enlighten me further, please).

It seems that the hole in his heart IS the significant problem afterall, and that that has something to do with the right side of his heart being enlarged. Typically the left side is larger (thicker), because it pumps blood to the whole body, and the right side pumps only to the lungs. (We're learning so much!). The lungs act to filter small clots.

There is a change in direction of flow of blood within David's heart that has made his right side work harder and thus become bigger. The way the doctor put it today, the right side finally said, "Enough!" and shifted some back to the left, and that's when the stroke happened.

They're continuing to run tests on his heart not so much to figure out the cause but to figure out where to go from here. His body has adjusted to his heart being this way, and, although the hole is a problem, just going in and patching it might be a BIGGER problem.

He is regaining more and more movement as each day goes by. He is now able to raise his arm above his head, so he has shoulder movement. I saw improvement today in his ability to grasp with his left hand - could do it yesterday but not as well as today. His knee has a lot of movement, but often not well controlled. He still has no movement in his foot.

I was there today when PT came and got him up using the walker, and was pleased to see he went a few feet further than Sunday night. They also had him doing some exercises in bed to work on balance and strength. They are very impressed with his progress.

On the down side, because of that work the headache he had finally gotten rid of came back, and he's been feeling really miserable all afternoon because of that. In this whole ordeal it's been the headaches that have bothered him most. They're quite intense, and it bothers him that they keep him from being himself.

Originally the heart cath was going to be yesterday afternoon, then this morning, then at noon today, now we hear it is to be early evening. We are so eager to hear the report and to know a little more clearly what the future holds.

In my next post I'll try to share some of the small miracles we are seeing everyday in the way God is orchestrating things in our lives. Some really cool things happened today, but I'm too tired to share the stories well now. I'll be sure to get them up soon.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tues. Night Update on David

When I visited David tonight I asked him if there was anything he'd like me to post here, and he said, "Thank you to everyone."

There is very little new to report. His neurologist came by today and said he is pleased with David's progress.

We do not yet have news on David's cardio CT scan today. David thinks the cardiologist is waiting until after the heart catheterization tomorrow in order to consider both tests before expressing the results. All we know about the CT scan is that they got good, clear pictures. It sounds like the heart cath won't be done until afternoon tomorrow, so I'm not sure when we will hear the results.
PS I've been told a couple of times in recent days that people are appreciating seeing pictures. This may be overkill, but if you'd like to see more pictures, click here. There are 20 or more pictures here of our life together that I put up in celebration of our 20th anniversary this year. If you do decide to check them out, I hope you enjoy them or at least get a laugh out of the 80's styles in some of them!

Tuesday Morning Update (UPDATED)

I am posting from work today - my first day back. I was gapping out a bit in my teaching (for instance saying terms correctly but spelling them wrong - I just said to them, "Do as I say, not as I do!"), but it was good to be here and I think will help get to that "new normal" that we need to reach.

As well as the (angiogram) CT scan of the arteries around his heart today he will be having a heart catheterization tomorrow.

He saw his cardiologist this morning, and from what David told me I feel really good about this doctor. He was not the one who was supposed to have done the first test on his heart, but now that he has he has said to David, "I'm ON this one. I wasn't going to be, but since I did the first test I'm going to see it through." He expressed that he was "quite concerned" (and when I write that I mean it in a good way - that he is taking this very seriously and determined to get to the bottom of it). Apparently whatever is going on with David's heart is quite unusual and they just don't have a clear idea of what is happening, so he is just going to keep running tests until they do. We continue to be so thankful for the persistence of the doctors who have been working with David in trying to determine what is happening. (An update to this is that a friend who is a nurse came by this morning and said this was the cardiologist her husband had, and she said that he is really good and will pursue this all the way, so that encourages us even more.)

The cardiologist said that if heart surgery needs to be done it will happen in a couple of months and that David needs to regain strength before going through surgery.

Because of the hole in his heart the doctor asked him if he had ever been diagnosed with a heart murmur. David has not, and this doctor said he did not hear a murmur either and thought that was strange.

David rested very well last night. The headache is coming better and better under control, and he has learned some tricks from the PT and nurses about how to adjust his position in bed (e.g. to slip his right foot under his left leg in order to move it), so he is able to make himself more comfortable on his own, which is a tremendous blessing to him.

We appreciate your continued prayers so much. Right now our major focus is the desire that these tests will point to something conclusive and that whatever the case is that there will be able to be appropriate medical intervention that will fully correct it. On a less serious note, I would like to request prayer that I will have strength and wellness. I woke up this morning with a pretty bad sore throat - would really like that to go away so I can do what I need to do for my family and so that I don't pass anything on to David.

Monday, November 05, 2007

David update Monday Night

I just returned from my evening visit with David and want to share my "rainbow experience" - sunshine and rain - tears of joy and tears of sorrow mixed.

Tonight for the first time I got to see David up and using a walker. The nurse supported him on one side, and I supported him on the other. David went about 15 feet and then turned around and came back.

It was so fantastic to see him up - hence the tears of joy! He is really making progress! It was also hard to SEE the reality of his weakness.

While he is in bed it is less evident because his right and left legs look the same, and his right and left arm look the same, so it LOOKS like he can use them both. Seeing him using a walker and working so hard to walk a round trip of 30 feet with two people supporting him really makes his weakness evident - hence the tears of sorrow.

Four days ago he went out and ran 3 miles - one of his shorter days on his marathon training schedule. I can't help but make the comparison between where he was so few days ago and where he is now, but he is taking it totally in stride :-)

(and he would appreciate that pun)

I have still not heard a single word of complaint or of worry. He is a strong man in every sense of the word. I know he will strive as hard at physical therapy as he had been with his marathon training - a shift in level but not in expenditure of effort! And I'm sure his hard work will pay off.

No further testing was able to be done today, so we are hoping he will get in for those early tomorrow morning and that we will have more significant news about what caused this and (hopefully) how to prevent it in the future.

I'd been doing SO well, but I really hit the wall today. I'm feeling a bit like I have a cold coming on - achy, sore-throatish, and I'm very tired. I think even when I am sleeping I continue to remain alert. I just can't get to a point where I'm rested at all. I think a big part of my difficulty today was because it was our first weekday. The reality of needing to keep up with life hit home. I realized I have not prepared to teach tomorrow. I feel like I've been in a different universe for the last few days, and now I have to turn my focus back to certain responsibilities.

Just as David ran 3 miles last Thursday and took that for granted as easy, I went to work last Thursday and took it for granted as easy. It looks a little daunting right now - my focus is so divided. I'm sure once a few more days have passed and the boys and I get used to a new "normal" that we too will hit our stride.

Ongoing thanks for all the support and love you are showering us with in so many ways! We feel so cared for!

Here are some of my favorite pictures of David. They are the ones I have up on my dresser, because being a Daddy is so much of who he is. (Can you tell which boy is which?)

post-test update

- real quick:

David made it through the test with no discomfort. Yea!

The test results were not what we were hoping for. They do show a small hole between chambers in his heart, but apparently they had seen that back in January and don't consider it to be the source of the problem. They did find that the right side of his heart is enlarged, and it should not be in a person his age. They don't have an explanation for it.

Because of the results they are scheduling him for more testing this afternoon - an external echo - and at some point a cardiac CT scan to check the arteries around his heart.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sunday night update

Q&A:

1) Many have asked about visiting, and I hadn't known what to say. David enjoys visits so much, yet he has struggled with a constant headache for more than 36 hours, which has also triggered nausea, so he feels pretty icky and tired from that (all of which he hides pretty well). I saw him late tonight and asked him what would be best for him. He told me how uplifting the visits have been and that while people are there he is so distracted from his headache that he feels free of it. Also, as of this evening he is being given a more powerful medication for his headache, and it is doing the job better without making him groggy - with the headache under control, so is the nausea. So please do visit! He has really felt encouraged and surrounded by love and has had his spirit lifted through the visits of loving friends and family and pastors.

2) I've had questions about how the boys are doing. So far so good - in fact, better than good. David and I were both worried early on (see end of original post), but I think David's positive attitude and sense of humor are helping the boys to know that Dad's still Dad and has just suffered a setback and will be back to his regular old self as time goes by. Their trust in God is strong, and I think it is growing through this experience. They too know the support is there from friends and family just as David and I do, and I think they are able to rest in that (even if they wouldn't be able to put it in those words). They are so happy to see Grandma!! Caleb sure thought it was cool to get to spend the day with Uncle Tim Saturday. Our routine is changing daily as we find our way in a new pattern (wow - hard to believe it hasn't even been 72 hours yet - almost seems like a few months since Friday morning!), but they are rolling with the punches and rising to the occasion.

3) I've been asked how I'm doing - actually shockingly well - so well that I'm almost worried that I'm not doing worse (if that makes sense). To some degree it still doesn't seem entirely real, and I think that helps. I am tired. I'm having trouble sleeping, and that makes it hard; I want to be rested and strong for David and the boys. I'm not kept awake so much by worry as just by having a sense of needing to be alert I guess - alert for what I'm not sure, a change in David? A need my kids have that I don't anticipate? I find it's almost like my brain has been rewired, though. I CANNOT think more than one day ahead, and that is so not like me. I'm always planned FAR in advance. My mom asked me last night what plans were for dinner Wednesday, and it seemed like she had asked what the weather forecast was for planet Jupiter or something. Wednesday seems that far away. Tomorrow we begin our first school week with all its routines, and I think it's going to take a couple of days to get a feel for it, but I am confident it will come together well.

I need to add to that: I would NOT be doing well at all were I not surrounded by such love and support from so many. There is no way I could handle this alone, no way. I would be falling apart entirely.

As to prayer, right now we are giving thanks for new medication that is giving David relief from that persistent headache and nausea, and, as he anticipates having the internal echocardiogram tomorrow (for which he will be fully sedated) we pray that will go well and that it will give answers as to what has caused David's stroke and also his TIA earlier in the year - and information as to how to prevent this from happening again in the future.
PS I have a few favorite pictures of David I hope to put up tomorrow with my update. I've been reflecting on how significantly life has changed so quickly. Two weeks ago we were hiking as a family at our favorite spot in the foothills (see pictures). We enjoyed the day but had no idea how special it was; it was easy to take for granted. Although we are confident we will hike together again like that we don't yet know when. That's a rather strange sensation.

David update Sunday morning

Mom arrived safely. It is SO good to have her here. I'm so grateful, and I know it was good for both her and David to get to SEE each other.

David is looking much better this morning than he did last night. Apparently the headache and nausea he was experiencing is to be expected as blood flow returns and the brain experiences some element of swelling. He still has the headache, but they are better able to manage it for him today than they were last night.

He was moved out of ICU this morning. He has a private room.

We have recognized another thing to add to our list of blessings and that is that the stroke occurred in a place in the brain that did not affect his personality or cognition. He is so himself - so positive - taking it all in stride. This would be so much harder were he not able to be who he is.

He is gaining more ability to move. He still cannot tell what movement he is making if he is not looking at his limb, but he can now almost touch his hand to his face, and he was nowhere near being able to do that last night. So we are encouraged by the progress.

We are also encouraged that this is being pursued so aggressively. Tomorrow he will have that internal echocardiogram, and if that does not show enough for them to discern the cause they will send him to the Bay Area (UCSF?) to have more extensive testing done.

We are so thankful for all the love that has been and is being showed to us and for all the prayers being lifted up. We feel so supported!

David

Wow. I don't know what to say about today.

It feels like a year instead of a day. When the nurse and I mentioned David's "fall" as having taken place yesterday, he said, "It was only yesterday?"

I'm not even sure how to report on him today.

Last night - the end of day one - we had seen improvement that, although I didn't dare let myself THINK it, my heart was FEELING I would walk in today and find him on his feet ready to go home (yeah, silly, I know). I found him this morning to be no better, but also no worse - still in very good spiritis, looking bright-eyed.

By late afternoon he was sluggish and slower of speech - just seemed really tired. He looked like a totally different person from whom I had seen that morning. He was also complaining of a headache - which scared me. I guess people who've had a stroke can have a headache that is just a normal headache like anybody else, but I couldn't help but be concerned, especially since he looked so worn out and so different from the morning.

I'd been chalking it up since then as exhaustion finally catching up with him.

When I went in early evening he was doing the same but told me the physical therapist had been in and had him up using a walker. I don't know what that means since David is unable to even shift his position in bed when he is uncomfortable. I said, "How could they have you up with a walker when you can't move your hip?" He said, "I don't know. He just forced me to, and I did it."

This I've gotta see!

That was really good news.

When I got there later tonight to say goodnight, however, his headache was still there and worse. He'd been struggling with nausea and vomiting - and went through a rough bout with that again while I was there.

I was able to stay and help the nurses get him cleaned up, which was good for me to be able to DO something and to show David my love in that way.

He brought up his dad again at that point and said this was all making him think a lot about Dad.

I can't help but remain concerned about this prolonged headache and nausea, but he was looking quite a bit better when I left, after having a bit of general washing up too.

He had a number of MRI/MRA's run today. The tests show that the clot/damage is on the right side towards the front. They are going to run more tests to try to discover the cause of the clotting. The tests I know about specifically are having to do with his heart. I don't remember the proper terms - the first one is a sort of internal echocardiogram using a device inserted in his esophagus (I think I have that right) - they may also take a somewhat more invasive look.

They are postulating right now that his heart is "throwing off" clots, perhaps because of a hole between chambers of the heart that did not close up after birth.

As of earlier today the best case scenario we were given was that he would be in the hospital for 2 to 3 more days and then come home (and have ongoing physical therapy). If not, then he would be in the hospital for 2 to 3 more days and then be sent to a rehab facility. He was supposed to have been moved out of ICU today, but there was no bed available in the part of the hospital they need to move him to. However, with the prolonged headache and other things he was experiencing tonight, his nurse expressed that she is very glad he is still in ICU and had not been moved. Perhaps that was Providence.

What words are there to express the gratitude we feel for friends and family who are pouring love and prayers over us? As some can attest, I am having a hard time accepting help. It's so overwhelming to me what is being done for us.

It's been an amazing experience to be ministered to by people who have also been through something where their life has turned entirely upside down - so, not only are they helping tangibly but are also teaching me to even know what it is that we need and reminding me that in allowing them to help us that not only are we being blessed, but it allows them to be blessed too.

I guess part of why it is still hard is that - as many words as I've written - it still doesn't feel real, so I feel like having people help is like playing some kind of crazy game. David is never sick. He's always been so strong. Up to Thursday night he was on a regular marathon training regimine. It seems more like a "test of the emergency broadcast system" or something. It doesn't yet seem fully real.

Oh, I can't sign off without writing about the miracle that occured. Family in MI, though so far away in space, has been talking together and planning how to help. I got a call from brother Tony tonight that Mom will be hear before noon tomorrow. I can't believe it! Not only that but she is flying from Grand Rapids right into our small town airport - and that that - rather than GR to San Francisco or something more major was the most inexpensive flight. Thank you so much, family for making that possible.

David is so eager to see you, Mom!

As Dad would say, and as Pastor Glenn has reminded us: God is good. God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Update on David

I just got back from the hospital where David remains in ICU so that they can monitor him closely because of the clot dissolving drug tPA that they administered this morning. The plan is to move him to a regular hospital room tomorrow.

SHORT VERSION:

He is showing progress - more and more each time I see him today.
The boys are doing well.

LONG VERSION:

We are so thankful for all the prayers being said for him and for us, and we are so thankful for our family and friends who have been and continue to be supportive in so many tangible ways. We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and the offers of help.

I think I'm still in too much shock tonight to be looking ahead more than one day, so I'm in the strange position of not knowing what to ask for, although I'm sure we will need some help, I just don't know what it is yet. We have the wonderful news that David is showing progress, but we have no idea what recovery will look like as time goes by. Right now I find I can't think beyond tomorrow in terms of what has to happen at home and with and for the boys. It seems piano lessons, soccer, school, teaching and grad work are all part of another universe that is very, very distant - and yet next week we'll have to figure out how to manage.

Although he remains numb on his entire left side (head, chest, arm, leg), he is now able to move his fingers and hand and raise his arm from the elbow. He can also move his foot and has some control of his knee. He still cannot move using his shoulder or hip, and the movement he can do is somewhat labored - for instance, I see his right hand doing what he is trying to get his left hand to do, as if he has to use the one to figure out how to do the other. Also, when he tries to move his left leg, his left arm and hand begin to move too because he's working so hard to get his left side to do something; somehow it seems he can't distinguish between arm and leg when he tries to use his leg.

He just really doesn't have the ability to make those limbs do what he wants them to do with any ease at all. However, the fact that he IS regaining movement is GREAT, GREAT, GREAT! It was really scary this morning when hours went by and that was not happening at all.

Thank you for your prayers not only for David but for our boys. They are doing so very well. It was really good this afternoon when my parents picked them up after school and brought them to see David - good for them and good for him. David had been particularly concerned about Anthony as Anthony is the one who found him and had to call 9-1-1.

They actually had kind of a funny exchange about it tonight. David was asking Anthony how he was doing and if he had been scared this morning. As they were talking it came out that the first thing David, as he lay on the floor, said to Anthony was, "I fell down."

Um . . . reasonably obvious.

They both had a good laugh over that tonight.

Anthony admitted being scared, so it was good they were able to laugh together tonight. David was lying on his left side when he fell, and he could feel something furry with his right foot. When he asked Anthony what it was, Anthony said, "That's your leg, Dad." Anthony said that was pretty much when he knew something was really not OK with Dad. They both laughed together over that too.

David is in good spirits and very positive - his normal self in that way.

When I wrote earlier today I said he had no risk factors - and he doesn't in terms of lifestyle or age or family history. He did have a TIA earlier this year (his first and only), which was also very scary, but so different from this that I didn't even think of it when I wrote earlier.

They ran a number of tests today. We don't really know anything about prognosis or course of recovery (I'm sure glad to be using that word, though! There were periods of time this morning where I hadn't been so sure that I was going to get to use it! - nor was David so sure - he spoke of thinking that he was going to be visiting his Dad today. His dad passed away 3 years ago this past Sunday). Tomorrow they will run an MRI and an MRA, which is an MRI with dye in the veins to see what is happening with brain flow in the brain. Hopefully we will know much more at that point.

I know I'm going on and on, but I want to share a really cool story before signing off.

This morning, when David had been in ER for 2 or 3 hours, Pastor Glenn showed up and prayed with David. Just after that prayer the nurse came in and did another check to see if he could squeeze her hand. It was the first time all morning he had been able to do so. His leg remained entirely paralyzed, however. Later in the day, Pastor Wen and his wife Dawn came to visit. That was just before 1pm. They also prayed with him, and just moments after they left the room, David's foot, which he had not been able to move for 7 hours, wiggled.

What wonderful answers to prayer!

Please, Please Pray

This is the best way I know to get word out to as many people as know me/us as possible. My husband David had a stroke this morning. His left leg has remained paralyzed for the last 6 hours. His left arm is also paralyzed, although he can now squeeze the nurses' hand with his on command - although still can't tell he's doing it - can't move his wrist, arm or shoulder or feel his left side.

He is only 42 years old and has no risk factors for a stroke - no high blook pressure, no smoking, no high cholesterol - in fact, he's been training for a marathon and recently ran 17 miles. This is just very shocking to have had this happen - and very concerning.

He is lucid and in good spirits. He has retained his unique sense of humor. He's very much himself. He is able to talk - although after arriving at the hospital there were periods of time where he was slurring his words so badly he was almost incomprehensible.

This feels really strange to be sitting here writing this, but I need to ask for prayer. I also need to let him rest. He has been tested and talked to and generally been unable to be allowed to rest for 6 hours, so I needed to come home - let him rest (with me not hovering) - and let people know - and ask for prayer.

Please pray for our kids. David had no warning - just passed out. Our 15 year old Anthony found him and called 911. The ambulance came, and I left, and the kids with the help of my mom got ready and left for school. I can only imagine how hard this is for them - trying to get through their day and not knowing.

Thank you for your prayers.

(Click to see updates.)

The pictures I have up are from earlier this summer when we celebrated our 20th anniversary.