In recent days, I've seen glimpses of the old me. Enough to make me wonder how the old me got so lost in the noise of life. Have you ever felt that way? As if life was so noisy that you just got lost in the chaos of it all. It's been a year now since I began to slip away from me in earnest. So much was happening all at once that it was impossible to keep up. Life became a dance that involved doing the literal next thing. I did not think 2 days or 2 steps ahead. My focus could only stretch as far as the very next thing. Laundry? Meal? Schoolwork? Hospital? Life existed in those 4 planes. If it was a good day, I might think of another chore. If not, just those 4.
I supposed it began with the falls. First me. Then, my sister without whose help I could not have completed basic daily necessities of life. Don't you think the timing of that is just plain freaky? I know. I'm a good Reformed Presbyterian, so I should say Providential and not freaky. I start walking on the 22nd, could drive on the 29th, and she falls and breaks her arm on Christmas Day. She could no longer drive me to physical therapy the exact week that I could start driving again? I don't care who you are. That is just plain freaky.
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We had looked forward to Jeff's visit home the last week of March since his mid-March visit had been absorbed by our GI scourge. He had arrived home about 9p on Thursday and was in the ER by 3p on Friday. We watched monitors, the nurses and I. Waiting, watching for any sign that his blood pressure was going to take a nose dive. He had a fever of 104F. His white blood cell count had skyrocketed signaling infection. He was barely responding to anything but pain. He had a map drawn in permanent marker outlining the area of his leg affected by cellulitis.
Miraculously, the exponential march up, down, and around his calf slowed to a creeping crawl. By dark that night, only a few lacy spots had barely slipped under the marker to the skin outside. His sleep became more restful and the fever began to edge back down.
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When I say 'miraculously' now, I know the use of the world is no exaggeration. Jane shared her story with us in the 1st few weeks of the fraidy cat launch. Now, I've seen segment on Rachel Ray's TV show, of all things, about sepsis. If I think about what I know long enough, I have survivor's guilt. We did nothing out of the ordinary when Jeff got sick. We just got to a doctor faster. The medical staff there realized the danger he was in and acted accordingly. Miraculous.
By the morning after admission, his fever was down to 101F. The infection on the calf had clearly halted its conquering march across his leg. His White blood cell count dropped to 17,000 – down 50% from admission.
I'm not the only one who was learning to live 1 step at a time. Jeff kept getting knocked down only to get up and go again. Every time he walked out the door to head back to his new home, I slipped away from me a little more. I had gone numb from waiting to be reunited as a family. As his fever cleared and sepsis tucked its tail and ran, he looked up from the hospital bed and said, “We are through trying to rent the house. I won't try to rent it again.”
I sat stunned and shook my head a bit as if to knock down cobwebs in my brain. I was exhausted from sleeping on the recliner from you-know-where in his room. Intermittent snatches of sleep had left me dazed and confused without his springing this announcement. “What...what do you mean? Why not? We've already talked to the management company about taking it over. Don't you want me to call them to reschedule now that you are on the mend?”
“I've done the math. There are only 4 of us. We tried to rent it last fall – you fell and broke your leg. We tried to contract with a property firm to rent it for us, I end up in the hospital with cellulitis and sepsis. I don't need to try a 3rd time to see which one of the boys has what happen. We can't take the medical bills we have now. I'm sure not adding more.” In the moment, we laughed. A little. It just wasn't funny, but what else could you do? So, we laughed.
He left for France. April in Paris....no place for a fraidy cat like me. He much preferred Poland over France. Didn't even take a picture in France. His voice was devoid of emotion every time we talked. He finally owned up to homesickness. In all our years of marriage, I had never heard him so miserable while away from home. Didn't help any that he needed to use that information about the closest medical facility during his stay. The doctor was kind and efficient and seemed stunned at Jeff's medical history. We were used to that reaction. How can anyone who looks so 'good' be ill as often and to the degree he is? No one seems to have an answer. Not even in France.
He got home in May. Just in time for my Dad's 83rd birthday. He missed my mom's. She had turned 80. Before he left again to return to Tennessee, he mentioned off-offhandedly that he had developed a generalized itching sensation that came and went.
Over the years since 1999, folks have often remarked we reminded them of Job. I'd shake my head in horror. No. Trouble is relative, and our trouble is relatively mild by comparison. I did not know that cellulitis and sepsis would be the gift that kept on giving nor that the mystery would take weeks to solve. I would never have guessed that I would finally see Job almost in the flesh before this new crook in the road was straight.
Job 2: 4-10 (NIV)
4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
6 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”
7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”
10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”