THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD!
My oldest Daughter, Lindsay, plays softball and I have been known to traverse entire fields of grass to be able to see her play. I realize that when some people look at me they may think, “She can’t do much of anything.” But how wrong they are. I feel like I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 Doesn’t that sound familiar? I look at my life as a tightrope stretch across Niagara Falls. At 6 A.M. when our day begins, it starts with a short prayer, something like this: “Lord, help me get through this day.” I feel like I can get across the tightrope with no problems. I would probably be fine if the world would stay outside and not bother me, but that doesn’t happen.
I explained to a Pastor once how I felt like I was walking on a tightrope and people kept pushing me off with their comments or demands. For example, Hubby says, “I don’t feel well, I have a headache this morning.” Oldest daughter, “I still have to finish my homework,” and I’m thinking, why didn’t you do that last night? Youngest daughter, “I don’t want to wear this outfit or have my hair combed.” The Pastor replied, “When you feel yourself falling from the tightrope, let Jesus carry you across.” So, that’s what I do now, and it plays like music in my ears. But at times the music stops, and I can feel the swirling, foaming waters creeping up on me, and I know it is time to say to the Lord, I’m falling off. You need to take me across. My advice to all wives and mothers who I’m sure face similar situations…don’t even let your feet get wet before you call on Him.
One of the harder ventures I attempted was in the fall of 1994, when my youngest daughter, Brittany played soccer. It was up to me to arrange for a ride for the two of us and to be there one hour before the game started. Not only was she to be completely outfitted with pads, cleats and hair tied back in a neat pony tail, but I had to be dressed too, and that’s no easy task! On one of the fields that the parents had to watch from was a steep, grassy embankment. My friend, who drove us there, asked with a puzzled expression on her face, “Bev, how are you going to maneuver your way up there?” Don’t worry, I said, this chair can climb mountains. One of the parents, who attended Crossroads, said that he would help push me up the hill. I explained that he couldn’t push but I could sure use a strong hand steering it or I might end up on the 50 yard line and I knew they didn’t want me to play! I turned on my “little engine” music and told myself, I can do this. I can, I can, I can! I prayed before I started. Prayed that the music in my head would not stop, and it didn’t! God’s will is in my little engine, and that is what truly takes me where He wants me to go. I was so grateful to be up on the embankment, safely, that I didn’t want the game to be over because then, I would have to figure out how to get back down again! OK. Lord, we got up here, now we need to get back down to the van to be able to go home.
PLANS CHANGE…BUT I GOT A PRIZE
The last women’s retreat that I attended was in San Marcos in May of 1995, in a beautiful setting by a lake. My sister had agreed to pick me up and take me there as Greg was going to be busy doing softball with Lindsay. So Greg got me up and dressed and in my chair by 6:00 in the morning. There just seemed to be a small problem. Every time I tried to swallow, it felt like my throat was on fire. I didn’t say anything to Greg, because, if I did, I know he would say that I shouldn’t go. I was so looking forward to the retreat and hearing the speakers that were scheduled and I had been praying so hard to be able to go, that I wasn’t going to let a little sore throat stop me.
My sister and I were finally on our way south, in my van, and it was about an hour to our destination. Lindsay had put on my makeup and fixed my hair so on the outside I looked fine. If I could just control the fire in my throat, I would be OK. I figured that I had about an hour in which to pray during our drive, and that was a long time! (Surely that would give the Lord time to fix me!) We arrived in time for the first session and it was such a blessing to be able to hear the inspirational speakers that I was very glad I had made the effort to be there. The problem came when they stopped speaking! Several friends would come over to talk to me and when I tried to respond to them, the fire would flare up again. My nurse, thank God, also attends my church and was there at the retreat. I asked Barbara to find her and see if she would mind looking at my throat. I hated to bother her, but she took one look at me and said, “You need to see a doctor.” But first there was the luncheon to attend, and since we had come that far, it would be a shame not to eat lunch. Of course my sister told me that if she had known how sick I was she would never have brought be in the first place. I thought to myself, well, why do you think I didn’t say anything. I wanted to be there.
The luncheon was more difficult that I had anticipated. The main problem was that they served real food! I was to the point where it hurt to even swallow water! At least my sister was able to eat her lunch and I was able to swallow a few bites of yogurt and some fruit. They also had a raffle drawing during the luncheon and I won a prize. Afterwards, Barbara called the local Kaiser and arranged for me to be seen by a doctor. It seemed that the only outings I had been having lately were to the doctors office!
The doctor took one look at my throat and put me on a massive dose of penicillin. Barbara bought cough drops to help soothe my throat and soon we were headed back home. We listened to a tape of one of the speakers on the way and I was still very glad we had been able to attend. Besides, I still had my prize.
After arriving home, I came to the quick conclusion that I don’t do SICK very well. I had told my home health aide recently that I may be paralyzed from the neck down, but sometimes it felt like I was the busiest sick person in town. I just don’t have time to be sick! Finally, after about three days of swallowing soft foods, it didn’t seem like torture anymore. The penicillin, as it turned out, along with all the other medication I was taking, was causing another problem. Food was tasting terrible to me. Even the chocolate, that I dearly loved, tasted bad and I had a very bad taste in my mouth. I also had a furry coating on my tongue. The doctor, who had given me the penicillin, had said to go see my own physician as soon as I had finished taking all of the prescription. So, as soon as it was all gone, we arranged to see my own doctor. We packed the girls off to school and Greg and I set off for the day. We were hoping it wouldn’t take too long with the doctor, because we wanted to catch a movie before the first child would come home from school. Unfortunately, the day did not quite turn out the way we had anticipated.
LET’S MAKE ANOTHER DEAL!
Upon arrival, for my appointment, the doctor and the nurse both noticed that I was much weaker since they had seen me last. Especially my voice. She told us that she thought that our next decision would be to have a tracheotomy and to be put on a ventilator. She went on to say that if we made that decision, I would need either 24-hour skilled nursing care at home or to be placed in a skilled nursing care facility. I thought about it for a bit and said, wait just a darned minute. I only came in here to find out why my tongue was in such bad shape and why food tasted so terrible. She said, “Oh you have a brown, furry tongue!” I thought, I know what I have, just tell me how to get rid of it. She said, “Don’t worry about that. It will go away. Now let’s get back to the real issue.”
I felt like I had walked into a Monte Hall game show. She had said what was behind door number one and door number two and I didn’t like either one of those. Now I was waiting to hear what was behind door number three! She said, “I’m sure you have both already thought through this,” and I’m thinking no, it never crossed my mind. She wanted to do a breathing test and check my blood gasses and as soon as she left the room to prepare for these tests, I took one look at Greg and the floodgates opened up. Greg just told me to calm down and that I didn’t have to many any big decisions today. Needless to say, the movie was out!
I promptly flunked the first breathing test. The man patiently tried to explain how to operate the tube properly. I felt like yelling, I know how I’m supposed to do it…BUT I JUST CAN’T! He left to tell my doctor and I promptly started crying again. I had always thought of myself as a good student and I had never flunked a test in my life. When my doctor came back into the room, I’d had enough time to think a little and I asked her, how could I operate my sip and puff chair if I had a tracheotomy done? She kindly said that she had never heard of anyone being able to operate a chair after having that procedure. So i’m thinking, you mean to tell me that I wouldn’t be able to use my chair?! Thanks but no thanks! I looked over at Greg and his eyes told me to calm down, but I didn’t want to calm down. Oh, Lord, please help me through this one! My doctor must have noticed my panic and said that she felt as though she had blindsided me with all of this. She suggested that we go home and think about it, discuss it and make a decision. I was thinking that was a very appropriate comment. I did feel blindsided and my mind was going around in circles. Door number three was no chair! Well I was going to choose door number four (which I often do anyway), turn it over to the Lord and pray about it.
Then the doctor came back in and said we were in luck because they could do all the blood gas tests right there and we wouldn’t have to go to another department. I asked if he would please draw the blood for the tests from my left arm. (That arm has been numb from below the shoulder down to the fingers since the first operation!) He asked if he could turn my arm over aid I said, sure, but if you don’t mind, I’m going to leave for awhile. I closed my eyes and I began to sing “Jesus Loves Me.” I think I can sing that song faster than anyone in town. I remember, after singing several choruses in my mind, he said, “Now you’ll feel a little stick!” I came back long enough to think, oh no I won’t! After a while, he said, “Your blood looks nice and red!” I thought, oh good. I still have blood at least! When it was all over, he asked Greg, who has no aversion to needles and can actually watch, to press on the injection site with a cotton ball. So Greg came over and started pressing to arm. He asked me if he was pressing too hard. I reminded him that he was pressing on my left arm and we both started to laugh. It was getting late and we had been through a lot, so I said, will you take me to Coco’s for a hot fudge sundae?