What I Have to Celebrate This Christmas – Part II

Mama & Lil Man

If you have not read Part One, please take time to scroll on down and read it before reading Part Two … Part One sets a scene for all posts to follow …

Now … Part II

It didn’t take long, after bringing Stasha and Lil Man home to realize that we had more than an addition to our family in Lil Man … we soon realized he was truly sent from Heaven above to bless our home and our hearts. I knew before ever taking him home that he was going to be an exceptionally good baby and I wasn’t surprised when my thoughts were soon confirmed. Even as a totally dependent newborn infant he was so easy to care for. He rarely ever cried … and when he did you could be assured that he was either wet or hungry. He wasn’t a fussy baby at all and he had the sweetest temperament. In fact it was almost scary at how easy it was to care for him and keep him happy. He loved to cuddle (and still does!) and when he wasn’t sleeping he was very alert to his surroundings. We never experienced colic, spit-ups, tummy aches, etc… that you expect with newborns … Never so much as diaper rash.

It didn’t take long to realize that Lil Man was stealing the hearts of everyone he came in contact with. I myself never realized that I could love someone so much nor did I realize that this little gift from God would soon become a driving factor in my family.

Just a bit of background history … I have a sister who is 13 months older than me. We never really got along when we were growing up and it only got worse in our adult years. She had her standards and demands … I had mine … and our life cultures just did not mesh. It got to a point where we only communicated with each other when it was absolutely impossible to avoid it. Holidays or family get together’ s were impossible. I pretty much hated the site of her … and she hated the site of me so it was best that we do what we had to do and then go our separate ways. This caused a serious strain on our Mom’s happiness as well. … Anywho … it took a lot of years and a lot of growing up for Glenda and I to realize that we’d wasted a lot of time and that we both had missed out on the good years of our kids growing up … we both finally realized that it was time to put our differences aside and be the sisters God meant for us to be. She and I have spent the past couple of years making up for those years we lost. It has been a blessing for both of us … AND for our Mom.

Back to the story … In November of 1997 Mama fought one of the toughest fights for survival she had ever faced. She was diagnosed with rocky mountain spotted fever and given only a matter of time to live. The doctors had suggested that we call the family and let them all know how serious she was. (This was one of those times when Glenda and I had to tolerate each other) Fortunately about 14 days after the diagnosis she walked out of the hospital, but not before this horrid infection had taken its toll. As time progressed she suffered the worse of extended side effects both from RMSF and from the medications she was given to treat it. Between the summer of 1998 and the summer of 2006 Mama struggled with a wide variety of medical ailments. Everything from multiple cases of pneumonia which severely weakened her respiratory system, to A-Fib which left her extremely tired all the time, to rheumatoid arthritis that affected every joint in her body. It was during late 2005, early 2006 that Glenda and I put our differences aside and began to bond our families together. OH the support she was for me when I found out Stasha was pregnant … this in itself was a huge turning point in our lives as sisters.

During the summer of 2006 extreme medical intervention became evident with Mama. In August of 2006 Mama had her first knee replacement, 5 weeks later the other knee replacement. Lil Man was born in January, 2007 and for a few weeks Mama seemed to be in the best of health. In February things took a turn for the worse. She had to have out-patient shoulder surgery and after the surgery she had a problem with keeping her oxygen saturation at a safe level. She was on portable oxygen for other respiratory ailments and since Glenda is a Paramedic the doctors in Atlanta who did the shoulder surgery allowed her to come home with instructions to see her doctor here if the O2 saturation did not improve after all of the anesthesia had worn off. We thought maybe her asthma was rearing its ugly head so we called her doctor who treats the asthma and allergies to schedule an appointment with him. He of course wanted to see her right away so my brother-n-law, Dean, headed to Waynesville with her. When he got her to the doctor’s office she was seriously struggling to breath and her O2 saturation had dropped to an extremely dangerous level and her heart was not tolerating the respiratory stuff thus causing her to experience continuous A-Fib. This doctor increased the amount of O2 she was on and gave Dean Instructions to not stop along the way and to take her directly to the ER at Mission Hospital in Asheville where her Pulmonary Specialist would be waiting on them. Mama spent the next 16 days in the Owen Heart Tower at Mission being treated for an unknown lung condition. During these 16 days she had two lung biopsies, several CT scans, but no real diagnosis. Each time they took her down for a biopsy the doctor would gently tell us that there was a chance she would not be coming back or that she may come back on a ventilator with the possibility that she would never come off the vent. Praises to the Lord above this never happened. Her three doctors in Asheville, (Rheumatologist, Cardiologist, and Pulmonologist) finally all sat down together and started a brain-storm session to try and figure out what was going on. While combing through her list of medications, it seems as if a light came on and at the same time all three doctors said “Amarodione Toxicity”. It is believed that this was the culprit and further research by all three doctors determined that all of the symptoms Mama was suffering from at this particular time were caused by her body’s rejection of the Amarodione that she was taking for the arthritis. This drug was stopped and Mama started to improve … slowly … but improving. We knew it would be a long time before she was back to ‘normal’.

Time passed and Mama started feeling much better, looking better, and we thought she was out of the woods. She kept saying … “All I want is to feel good enough to play with the baby and to be able to pick him up and love on him”. By this point, with the loss of the Amarodione for the arthritis, her joints were taking a beating from Arthur. She finally started a treatment with Orencia which did wonders for her but she still had the ailing shoulder … and the A-Fib which was no longer under control … (can you see things going south again?)

Sure enough … the A-Fib, which is an irregular heart rhythm where basically the lower chamber of her heart was beating correctly but the upper chamber or top part of her heart would sit and quiver for a period of time before deciding it wanted to beat correctly for a while. Left untreated this could cause blood clots to form and when/if the upper chamber were to convert to a normal rhythm the blood clots could be thrown into the lungs or out into the body and … well … death could occur. The normal treatment is a pill you take everyday, or in Mama’s case, several times a day and blood thinners to prevent the clots. When all else fail then they turn to a pacemaker. She had been on blood thinners for a LONG time already and she was on max doses of Cardizem which was supposed to help maintain a steady heart rhythm. It was no longer doing what it was supposed to do so Mama’s heart wasn’t supplying her body with blood as it should. Mama was getting forgetful and ‘bitter’ for lack of a better word. She wasn’t herself by any means. The only time anyone found favor with Mama was when Lil Ma was there. It’s like he was the only reason she was fighting to go on. Regardless of how bad she felt, a few minutes with Lil Man did wonders for her demeanor.

One Sunday afternoon in early July Mama got out of her chair to go to the bathroom and fell down the steps between the living room and dining room in Glenda’s house. It was only a couple of steps but enough to wind her up back in the hospital for a couple of days. Mama didn’t remember getting out of her chair, nor did she remember falling. This fall set off a chain of events … The doctors determined that the A-Fib was causing enough reduction in blood flow for her to not be able to remember things and to pass out when standing up or moving quickly. They decided it was time for a pacemaker so the surgery was scheduled on July 30.

Before this surgery we ended up taking her back to the orthopedic specialist in Atlanta who had done her shoulder surgery in February. She was suffering extreme shoulder pain all the time now since the fall. He X-rayed the shoulder and AMAZING … he found that as a result of the fall the humerus head was not only fractured but it was also dislocated. He was ready to schedule her for shoulder replacement surgery the next day … UNTIL he found out she was scheduled for pacemaker surgery. When he realized the severity of the A-Fib he said we would have to postpone this surgery until the pacemaker surgery was done and she had been cleared by that surgeon to have the shoulder done. Until then high doses of pain medication, a pain patch, and prayer for toleration of the shoulder pain was all that could be done.

July 30th at 7am Mama was prepped for pacemaker surgery. Just me, her and Brian (same Brian as the one in Part I) … a long day … and a lot of waiting!! Once she came out of surgery and started waking up it was amazing. Her color was better, she felt good, and most importantly her heart was beating normally and her O2 saturation was excellent. Another hurdle crossed … only one more to go … and we had to wait 4 weeks for that one …

Within a week of the pacemaker surgery Mama was a new person. While she couldn’t do a whole lot she said she felt like a million dollars. Again she kept saying that hopefully someday she would feel human again and be able to play with Lil Man. It seemed that every fight and struggle was relieved by the time she spent with him and her biggest hope or desire was to be able to play with him and truly enjoy her great grandson.

Four weeks passed and things were going fairly well. Glenda and I both felt that we were well on our way to getting back the Mama we remembered before her health started to fail. Once Mama was cleared for her shoulder replacement Glenda and I took her and headed back to Atlanta, not really knowing what to expect. Mama had the surgery … she did fantastic … and less than 24 hours later … we were able to bring her home. While she was in pain … it was a different kind of pain … not the pain she was use to but a pain that she knew, and we knew, would pass as time passed and she healed. Six weeks … Six weeks of keeping her shoulder and arm in a sling, not being able to do much of anything, BUT the pain was getting less and less … Mama’s demeanor was getting better … and her desire to take on the role of Great Grandma was growing more and more everyday. At her six week post shoulder replacement surgery the surgeon was absolutely amazed at how well Mama was doing. He told us that of the five replacements he had done the same day he did Mama’s she was by far doing better than any of the others and her recovery was on a much higher level than any of the others. Therapy was started and will continue for about a year in order to regain full range of motion as well as strength.

The final hurdle was to get her off all the strong narcotic pain medications. She wasn’t full blown addicted to them but she had been on them for such a long time we knew it was going to be difficult for her to stop taking them. We made sure that she had a lot of time spent with Lil Man. I pretty much put aside anything I had to do or wanted to do and spent every free moment I could with her and made sure that Lil Man was with us so she could enjoy him as much as she wanted to. We soon realized that the more she was with him the less any of the pain meds were needed and the happier she was with herself and with everyone around her. It became a quick tradition to visit with Mama at Glenda’s house 2 to 3 afternoons during the week as well as Church on Wednesday nights, and to wake up early on Saturday mornings, finish up any house work that needed to be done, then head out to spend the day visiting with Mama and/or doing anything she wanted or needed to do. The key here was her spending all the time she could with Lil Man … not to mention that this was also giving me and Glenda time to bond and time for our family to heal. God was working his magic!

What drove Mama to keep fighting? While some say it’s just her nature to fight and win … we believe that it was Lil Man she was fighting for. That precious little boy is like her light shining in a darkened room … he’s her will and desire to continue fighting to be the best she can be … AND not a day passes that she doesn’t thank God for sending Lil Man to our family.

In watching everything my Mama has been through the past year or so I now believe that I’m starting to get my answer to the question Why? I believe that in his time God started to reveal to me Why he sent Lil Man to us when he did and Why he chose Stasha to deliver this precious little Angel to us. At this point I still had a few unanswered questions … but time would reveal even more answers …

Stay tuned for Part III …

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