Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Birth Story of God's Faithfulness Part Ten

I remember when I walked into my house full of family and friends.........I remember how the tears fell.........I remember how sweet it was to FINALLY hold my sweet newborn daughter and to know I was home.  I was where I was meant to be and where my calling is.  I have long felt that my home is the mission field the Lord put me in, and I am so grateful to be given the privilege of serving the Lord in that sphere.  
  Although I was home I was far from being well, but at this point just being home was enough!!!   We prayed for the Lord's mercies and that my health would be restored.  It has been a long process, but I have come a long ways with no setbacks.  

During the first weeks after returning home I had several doctor's appointments, blood tests, and a strict regiment of medicine.  I also had to rest a great deal and pace myself.  My body was very weak and it took time to rebuild strength.  For a good while I still slept in the recliner, and I remember taking a daily nap there and listening to my playlist of hymns and sacred music that I had played in the hospital.  Even through my recovery at home the Lord continued to use those songs to minister peace to me just as He had in the hospital.  
  I remember dear friends coming over and swinging with me on our porch swing and keeping me company.
  That helped so much just to be able to take my mind off of my health concerns and fellowship with my sisters in Christ.  We did have some stresses for awhile not knowing if we were really out of the woods or if I would go back into more serious illness.  It took some time for my white blood cell count to stabilize which was unnerving, but eventually the numbers came out right and all blood tests ceased.
  Once I was home there were things that would dawn on me and I would realize how much I had missed of Ella Ruth's birth and first weeks.  For one I never knew when her cord fell off, and another thing is I did not even hear her birth stats until I got home and looked them up.  It just wasn't something I was thinking about when I was struggling for life in the hospital.  Things like that would pop up, and I would grieve once again for what had been lost.  I grieved not even knowing when she was born because I was asleep, I grieved being separated from her for weeks after her birth, I grieved not being able to take her home from the hospital and all the firsts I missed.  I also grieved that she had grown and was not as tiny when I finally was reunited with her.......I felt like I had missed her tiniest first days of life.  Another big one for me was that I had to give up on nursing my sweet baby.  After nursing all of my other babies I was brokenhearted to have to lay this down.   I had tried to pump off and on when I was well enough, but my milk never fully came in.  I had several doctors tell me I should not nurse.  They said my body was so depleted of nutrients and strength that it would not be prudent to take the tiny bit of nutrients I might possess and give that to my baby.  They said that my baby and my other children needed a healthy mother more than Ella Ruth needed to nurse.  This was so hard for me and I tried but finally gave it up.  One of my sweet friends told me she thought I should surrender this to the Lord and do what was best for my own recovery.  I talked to my husband who also felt better with me focusing on regaining my health for the good of our whole family.  It was hard but I decided this was probably best, so Ella Ruth has been our first exclusively bottle fed baby.  Even so the Lord blessed us through friends and family who shared frozen breast milk during her infancy.  That was so sweet of the Lord to provide that as it made this Mama's heart feel better about things.
  I continued to take my meds and rest.  The rest was possible as friends continued to rotate through our house to help with the chores and the children.  We had daily help for weeks after I returned home and these people were all driving long distances to help us.  It is something we will never forget.

The day came when my strong antibiotic, designed specifically for c-diff, ran out.  It was exciting and scary all at the same time as I wondered if I would relapse.  

How grateful I am that there has been no relapse of c-diff.  That is HUGE as c-diff has a high rate of recurrence.  The Lord is so good and faithful.  

Big Brother Adores Ella Ruth!

With time I have grown stronger and resumed all of my normal activities.  I am grateful for how the Lord has lifted me up out of the pit and given me back so many blessings.  I am thankful that I had the opportunity to feel the Lord carry me through such suffering and make His faithfulness so evident to me.  I am grateful that I know as Corrie Ten Boom said, "There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still."

Here is my testimony, "He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock making my steps secure."  - Psalm 40:2

  Thank you so much for reading and listening to me share my heart and testimony.  My prayer is that anyone reading this story will be encouraged by the greatness and love of Jesus Christ.  Although I could write on and on about all that transpired during this time, I think it is probably time to draw this long series of posts to an end.  Perhaps there will be other posts where I will refer to this time in our lives and lessons I learned through it all.  The Lord has been gracious and we give Him all the praise and glory.  We are forever grateful for everyone who prayed and helped carry us through by meeting practical needs in our lives. Thank you also to all who have encouraged me through this series of posts.  It has been sweet to hear from people as I have written and posted these.  To God be the glory; great things He has done!  

I leave you with another song from my playlist.  Be blessed!  

"He Is Worthy!"

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Birth Story of God's Faithfulness Part 9


In the last post I was describing one of the hardest days Matt and I experienced in the hospital.  That day of the Sigmoidoscopy showed us just how desperately needy we were before the Lord.  As I was rolled back to my room I was experiencing a huge rush of fear and heartache.  I had just heard my GI doctor explaining to another doctor by phone how severe my situation was.  In recovery the nurses tried to reassure me as I lay there crying and explaining that I had seven children at home with one of them being my newborn baby.  I remember the moment when I tried to adjust myself in the bed only to be made painfully aware of how the procedure had caused increased soreness in my abdomen.  I already had pain from the caesarean, but when the probing was done it left me feeling as though I had been cut open again.  I remember this one nurse who tried to encourage me as she wheeled me down the hall and situated me back in my room.  She stood over my bed trying to exhort me to guard my thoughts and trust God.  I so appreciated all that she was saying, but it was one of those moments when I wanted everyone to disappear so that I could be alone with Matt and talk about all that had just happened.  I just felt overwhelmed and like I had to be able to converse with Matt alone.  It was then that one of the best nurses of my whole hospital stay sensed the need Matt and I had to be left alone and thus she cleared out the room for us.  At this point I told Matt of my fears based on what I had heard the doctor saying as I was waking up from the anesthesia.  He also was able to share with me what the doctor told him.  Matt and I cried out to the Lord for His mercies as we did many times during this whole ordeal.  Matt tried to be strong for me, but he was falling apart inside.  In review the doctor told Matt that I was a very sick woman, that my colon had been decimated by the c-diff, and that my body was breaking down on multiple levels.  I had the immune system of an HIV patient.  He was calling for a special IV diet and no food by mouth as he wanted my colon to have a complete rest.  He was also calling for changes in my medicine, and we were going to give it a few days to see if I would improve.  If I did not start improving then he said I would have to have my colon removed or it could burst leading to death.  It was very clear to us both that there was nothing in all the world either of us could do to bring about the outcome we so desired.  This was totally in the Lord's hands.  One of my favorite quotes from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been, "Anything that makes me need God is a blessing." Well, this was something that definitely made us need God.  There was nothing we could do but follow the doctor's plan, pray and wait to see what would happen.
  The next morning a surgeon was sent to my room.  He introduced himself to me explaining that if my colon had to be removed that he would be the one to do the surgery.  He was very nice, but it was hard to talk about this possibility.  I remember breaking down in tears and telling him how I have seven children and asking how I would be able to be the mother I want to be and lead a normal life if my colon were removed.  He tried to encourage me, but honestly his best case scenarios were not too encouraging.  As I was processing this I was wondering if I would ever be able to go to church or leave the house to run errands, etc.   I visited with him two or three times over a few days, and Matt and I let him know we were always happy to see him in my room but that we did not want to meet him in the operating room.  ;)
  Soon after the Sigmoidoscopy I was given the Picc Line that I described in an earlier post.  This was stressful having it inserted but brought much relief for the rest of my hospital stay.  Since it had two ports I could have meds in one port and blood withdrawn with the other.  It was nice to be done with all the needles that I had previously endured.

  At this point we were in the waiting game to see if my body would respond to the medications and the nutrition.  We were so blessed to have massive prayer support.  People were praying from many different churches, states, and I even heard of ladies in Mexico praying for me.  I remember Matt praying with me and reading Scripture and others coming and reading me Scripture and praying.  
  I guess I had previously had this false notion that maybe if I ever had a hospital stay it would be a time of rest and maybe reading.  When I look back at those days it seems that all I did was a cycle of taking medicine, blood tests, ultrasounds, cat scans, X-rays, talk to doctors, etc.  I don't know where the days went.  I was too weak to even want to read or be on the computer. 
  One morning a man came in my room early in the morning with an ultrasound machine.  It was a rude awakening to the day and hard to endure.  He was pressing hard on my abdomen and really hurting me.  Right after a caesarean is not a grand time to have an ultrasound in this area.  I did not know it at the time, but my infectious disease doctor had seen something on my liver and was having it checked out.  My memory of that ultrasound is just being in so much pain and feeling like I couldn't take it.  
  Following that another infectious disease doctor brought up the fact that this other doctor had a concern about liver cancer.  She said she was not concerned.  I could not understand why one doctor was and the other was not.  I remember the morning when the doctor who was concerned came into my room and discussed the matter with me.  At this point I was not only concerned about c-diff and whether I would keep my colon, but now all of that was overshadowed by the fear of liver cancer.  This infections disease doctor rattled on about the possibility of cancer like it was no big deal.  He said we would get it checked out later after I was discharged from the hospital.  I told him that I had just had my seventh child and that I did not need to carry this concern home with me.  I asked him if he could please schedule an MRI for me that day.  I waited hoping a nurse would come and get me for an MRI, but that did not happen until bedtime.  Just as I was ready to wind down the day a nurse came for me and wheeled me to radiation.  I had previously had an MRI, so it was not totally new territory for me but I felt so claustrophobic.  I was really trying with all of my might to cooperate and be totally still, but even breathing made the pictures fuzzy.  I prayed for help, but when the MRI was over the lady taking the images said that they were fuzzy.  I just prayed for the Lord's mercies and for a good report.  The Lord answered that prayer as I received the joyful news the very next morning that the spot on my liver was not cancer.  This was a HUGE relief to me.
  As the days progressed my body began responding to the c-diff medication and I began stabilizing some.  When I was finally able to eat something again I was first given clear liquids, then full liquids, and then a heart healthy diet.  Being able to eat again was so refreshing, but once I was put on a heart healthy diet I was in a conundrum.  I would call the kitchen and ask for something like a potato, and it would be refused because of the salt content.  The things I thought would be gentle on my stomach were being refused because the doctor had ordered a heart healthy diet.  I asked what I could eat and one thing suggested was a hamburger.  I am still baffled over that.  Everyone knows beef if hard to digest, so why could I eat the hard to digest food but not a soft potato???  Sometimes things like that get so mixed up in the hospital.  Due to this confusion I continued to be mostly on the liquid diet until I was released.  When I got home I had to be very careful with what I ate as my stomach was still very sick and needed time to heal.  

  I began walking around the hospital with my IV pole just to rebuild strength.  It is amazing how fast your muscles begin to atrophy when you are laying around for weeks.  I was very weak, so the slow walking in the hallway was needed for me to regain strength.  
  My children sent me many "I Love You" pictures while I was in the hospital.  Matt would arrive in the morning and often had another card for me.  He would hang them on my wall, and some of the cards moved from room to room with me.  These cards would sometimes make me cry as I missed my children so badly.  Matt would also send me pictures or videos that made me long to be back home with my family.  

    Towards the end of my stay I became very antsy to get home to my family.  The day that I was discharged I waited into the afternoon for the doctor who would give the yes or no to my home going home that day.  When she finally walked in and said she would discharge me I was so happy!  Her main concern was that I would walk back into my house and resume my normal activities too soon.  She said I had to find help and that I needed to expect that a full recovery could take months.  There was also a real concern about a relapse of c-diff which is very common.  I agreed to follow doctor's orders and take it easy at home.  I could not get out of there fast enough.  I was going home to my family and to hold my Ella Ruth again!!! 
I remember how everything outside looked so much more beautiful than what I normally take the time to notice.  After being in the hospital for so long I saw beauty in everything around me.  

By God's grace I was on my way home, and the tears fell as I walked into my house where my friend Dianne handed me my little infant daughter and I was finally surrounded by my family once again.  

"Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead  me home." - John Newton

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Birth Story of God's Faithfulness Part Eight

 When I was readmitted to the hospital I started out in a normal room and at some point transitioned into the ICU.   The doctor wanted me in the IMU but it was full so I went to the ICU for a day.  I was at a point where I needed more oversight.  Nurses moved me into the Intensive Care in the middle of the night.  I remember being rolled there on my hospital bed.  Once I arrived a whole team of nurses picked up the sheet I was on and lifted me over to the larger bed in the ICU.  It was strange to have all these women hovering over me and lifting me from one bed to another as I was unable to move myself.  I stayed there throughout the night, and I remember hearing a man in a neighboring room screaming out and moaning throughout the night.  The nurses said that he had some mental issues.  The next day I heard a nurse screaming for help as this same patient had attacked her.  I was thankful to have my playlist to help block out some of that noise.  The next day Matt came and helped me all day.  He basically had to help me in and out of the bed about every thirty minutes due to the violent diarrhea I was still experiencing.

 I have been dragging my heels a bit in sharing the main contents of this post.  It is both humbling and emotional for me.  There was one particular day while I was in the hospital that Matt and I remember as being particularly horrifying.  That day struck fear in us and brought forth tears and the pouring out of our hearts to God like none other.  It was the day of the Sigmoidoscopy.  It is a touchy topic to even write about considering the extremely modest lady that I am.  I am going to swallow my pride in this post and share what happened.  I think that is part of me humbling myself so that the Lord may be glorified.
  To start with I had been in the hospital a couple of days and was not doing well.  My GI doctor came  daily, and one day he told me about this test and that he was going to need to go in and do a scope of my colon to rule out Ulcerative Colitis.  He did not have the best bedside manner and told me that he needed to make sure I did not have this terrible condition called Ulcerative Colitis that was so bad that he would not tell me what it was unless I had it.  Those words were not assuring at all, and the thought of the humbling nature of such a test was not either.  I think he could tell that I was trying to process what he had just told me, and so he told me in his blunt way that this is what he does all the time and he had to take a look.  Well, I really had no choice in the matter and so I started preparing for the test which meant starving myself so that I would not have anything in my stomach.
  I remember being wheeled into the room where the Sigmoidoscopy would take place.  I was put into a bed, and as I looked all around me I was surrounded by large computer monitors and wires strung all over the room.  I felt small placed right there in the middle of all this technological equipment with medical staff surrounding and preparing to conduct this test.  I also remember praying and thinking what if I never awoke from this test.  I believe my prayer at that moment was that all my children would repent and believe in Christ so that one day we would all be in heaven.  It is sobering to come to moments like that where you realize that you are going to be put under and you are in control of nothing at all.  Your life is in the hands of the Lord and the doctors whom you have trusted your life to.   Well, I was put to sleep and what I heard upon awaking was horrifying.  I woke up before I was wheeled to recovery, and what I heard was my GI doctor on the phone saying things like, "We have no margin for error here.  This could be a liability case.  I think he thought this was one of the worst cases he had seen.  I guess he was not expecting me to be awake yet, but these are the things I heard while coming back to consciousness.
  I was completely overwhelmed and left trying to figure out what the doctor meant by those statements.  Some nurses then wheeled me to recovery where I laid in the bed crying.  Some of the nurses asked why I was crying.  I told them how I had seven children at home and had just given birth and what I had heard the doctor say.  These nurses tried to comfort me and downplay it, but I was not to be consoled at this point.  The tears were not to be stopped.
  Meanwhile my husband had not eaten all day and was emotionally distraught.  The doctor who performed the Sigmoidoscopy found Matt and had him sit down to discuss my condition.  He told Matt that the baby had been like a cancer to my body and left me with the immune system of an HIV patient which is why so many things were breaking down in my body.  My Albumin level was the lowest he had ever seen in a person without liver failure.  Albumin is the main protein of human blood plasma.  It binds water, cations, fatty acids, hormones, and other substances.  Its main function is to regulate the colloidal osmotic pressure of blood and carry water out of the body.  There was a fear of staff infection on the skin of my legs because the skin was so inflamed.  I also had mouth thrush.  All of this was on top of c-diff which caused sever colitis.  The doctor showed Matt the pictures of the inside of my colon.  It was black, bleeding and oozing puss.  He told Matt that he dared not go very far into my colon because he was afraid he would rupture it.  He told Matt that I was in very critical condition, and that I was a very sick woman.  He also told Matt that he wanted to start some new treatments.  First he wanted to give me TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition) to help build my strength and immunity.  Second he was going to give me a special anti-inflammatory drug that is used for Ulcerative Colitis.  Third he put me on Fidaxomicin.  This is a new drug specially designed for c-diff.  The doctor told Matt that they would watch me closely over the next few days and that one of three things would happen.  Either the treatments would work and I would start improving, the treatments would not work and they would have to remove my colon, or if I did not improve and they did not remove the colon it would rupture and I might die.
  After this talk with the doctor Matt went back to my room to wait on me.  He stood there at my window shaking and trying to compose himself as he waited for me to be brought back to my room.  At the same time I was being wheeled back to my room reeling with fear and confusion and waiting for someone to explain what was be continued.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me." - Psalm 23:4

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Birth Story of God's Faithfulness Part Seven

  I was thinking that it is often true that the first child in a family receives the most in the way of baby books and things of that nature, and the subsequent children do not get nearly as much done for them.    In the case of Ella Ruth, however, she is the only baby I have birthed who is getting a whole series of blog posts written about her.  :)  Actually this is not about me or Ella Ruth, but my desire for this series is to shine the spotlight on the faithfulness of the Lord to our family during a time of crisis.  As I write these accounts I am praying that I will record just the write things that will fortify the faith of those reading.

In way of review, in the last post I was telling how Matt took me to the ER due to the severe swelling in my feet and legs.  When the nurses called me back to check my vitals my blood pressure was around 50/85, and my heart rate was around 140 bpm.  After that I was taken to a room in the ER and an ultrasound was done to rule out blood clots in my legs.  The good news was that I did not have blood clots, but the bad news was that I was being readmitted and Matt had to take Ella Ruth back home.  I tried to nurse her before she left and then Matt took her home.

The next nine days are some what of a blur in my mind.  I remember the suffering, the fear, and the pain, but remembering the details of each day chronologically is hard.  It feels like it was an endless cycle of diarrhea, tests, pain, weakness, doctor visits, fever, blood transfusions, moving from room to room, being starved, various scans, scary moments and severe heartbreak over being away from my family and my new baby.

Even as I cycled through those hardships day after day I also cycled through the great mercies of God on a daily basis.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

    his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;


 great is your faithfulness. -Lamentations 3:22-23

  The Lord was with me in my sufferings moment by moment.   I have shared how my playlist of hymns and sacred music was an ongoing friend to me throughout my stay and even during recovery after I returned home.

  I was also blessed by so many encouraging texts and Facebook messages from friends and from my husband coming to the hospital and reading Scripture to me and of course praying with me.  Also, I was getting reports of all people were doing on the home front to step in and bring food and to watch our children.  One couple from our church came over just to pray with our children.  All of these people drove long distances since we are so far out in the country.  One day I would hear about groceries being delivered, and another day I would hear about a Go Fund Me Account collecting money to help pay our bills.  I would hear about all the many people cycling through a rotation to watch our children and so many other amazing things people did for us.  It is so humbling to think about all the love and support that was poured out on us.  Here are pictures of some of the people who came to visit me, who prayed with me and read Scripture to me.  Below is my sweet friend Sarah who prayed, cried, shared her nanny with our family, brought food and groceries and more.  She is one of the sweet, godly christian sisters the Lord has blessed me to enjoy fellowship with.

  There were many points of suffering during those days that really put ordinary life struggles into perspective.  I remember thinking again and again how that my most stressful and frustrating days at home are glorious compared to the suffering and uncertainty I was walking through.  All I wanted at that point was to resume my normal life and to relish the simple ordinary joys of life.  I remember thinking about life outside of the hospital.  Right outside my window was a busy freeway with cars zooming by, people rushing here and there and being caught up in the rat race life often is.  Surrounding the hospital are shopping areas and a mall, and I just thought of all the times I have been racing around with the rest of the busy crowd and not appreciating my health or the day the Lord had given me.  I thought of all the hustle and bustle going on right out side my window while I lay there penned down by cords, machines, and a body that was too weak, sick and in in too much pain to even sit up without a huge struggle.  It struck me how much we often take for granted when we are strong and healthy, and it also struck me how fragile our bodies are and how easily our health can fail us.  We truly are in our Master's hands, and every breath is a gift from Him.  Something like this really brings home the reality of how desperately needy we are before our Creator who sustains us and supplies our next breath.   
  One area of suffering I cannot forget is being starved at different times during my hospital stay.  There were times when my food was taken away and I was only allowed liquids or nothing at all.  Sometimes I could not even have water.  At one point the doctor wanted to have a nutritional IV made especially for me.  It took time to prepare that specially formulated IV, and I was left starving for a long time.  I had never experienced that kind of hunger, and it became maddening.  I had a hard time focusing on anything but my desire to eat.  This gives me a new compassion for the starving people in the world.  Here is a picture of me receiving a liquid diet after that long fast.  Broth had never tasted so delicious in all my life!  

In recounting the details of these days in the hospital it is not my desire just to state how hard it was but rather to share the struggles we faced and how the Lord met us in our despair and carried us through.  Additionally I want to share what the Lord was impressing upon my heart through these experiences.  

During these days I had no shortage of needles and medicine.  I have good veins and usually have no problem with having my blood drawn, but due to the frequency of the blood draws my veins began caving in and not cooperating.  A nurse would try to draw my blood and fail and then call for someone else to come try.  During those times I would pray quietly that the Lord would please let it work.  I became bruised from the needles, and this became just one more stress.  There was also an interesting kind of shot that was given in my belly.  That was a first for me, and I was not thrilled with it.  This shot was to prevent blood clots.  Sometimes it had a real sting and other times it wasn't too bad.  Along with all the needles there was medicine coming every few hours, and some of it was not to my liking.  One was in a drink form and tasted like I was swallowing chalk.  The worst was the protein powder I was asked to drink. It was a horrible tasting substance that was very clumpy in liquid.  I felt like I was swallowing cat food.  It just had this awful smell and texture, and I admit that by the end of my stay I wasn't always drinking that powder.  I just couldn't.  Back to the needles........I was eventually given a PICC Line (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) in my arm which was hard to insert but gave me so much relief once it was in.  The man who was called to insert the PICC Line was a big guy.....think biker type.  His size and mannerisms were a bit scary to be honest.  He came to my room and explained what he was going to do and that it would be a cinch and we would be done.  Unfortunately it was not an easy process and I was distressed.  I could taste this saline taste as he ran this tube up close to my heart, and it was not a comforting sensation. Once it was in it was great, because it had two ports so that I could have medicine given through one and blood drawn through the other.  It really offered me much relief in the end.  I'm sure I prayed through most shots and needles, and Jesus was right there with me.  As Hebrews 13:6 says, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?"  To be continued..............