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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Plow in Hope

   The days on the calendar continue to pass by.  I close my eyes at night wishing that all of my children were asleep in their beds.  It never occurred to be before what a treasure it is to have all of your family sleeping under the same roof.  I ached to have all of us together at the same time.  No need for a beach vacation, or a condo in the mountains.  All of us saying goodnight and going to bed in our own beds is a luxury I will never take for granted again.  I sleep and dream of baseball fields and running errands with my kids in the car, the door opening and closing hundreds of times a day with dirty boys running in and out leaving it open, the sound of kids outside my window jumping on the trampoline and wrestling, I dream of normalcy. I open my eyes to my new normal.  My body is tired, I know I must get up and get my two young boys dressed to drop them off with whoever will be caring for them today.  I forget who it is, so I check the calendar my church friends made for me.  I dress my cutie pies Cade who is 4 and Rhett who is eighteen months, and get a bag ready for them.  I put snacks and sunscreen in the bag and a change of clothes.  I drive them to my neighbors house that is scheduled to watch them today. I am so thankful for her.  I kiss them on the head and tell them to take care of each other.  I drive to the hospital and wonder how Travis did through the night.  I didn't receive any phone calls, so I'm hoping it was uneventful.  My mind shifts to the hospital and I wonder what the day will bring.
     I park and walk in the hospital and notice some children throwing pennies in the fountain, and making wishes.  They are throwing them in and getting them back out to throw in again.  They are making a mess of their clothes,  their mom lets them play anyway.  I'm guessing that she is soaking in their smiles and laughter and fun.  It’s refreshing to see healthy children that CAN play.  I remember when taking time to play was part of our life.
I am now at my other home, my other neighborhood, with my other set of friends.  I see one of my new friends holding her baby boy who has spinal meningitis. She has the same tired look that I do. She has been here for three months, he is nine months old. She updates me on how he is doing, and shows me his new feeding tube. He sleeps on her chest while we chat, and his rosy cheeks remind me of Rhett's.  I can’t remember the last time I held my little one while he slept. I miss my own baby.  I can smell the cafeteria food and can tell what is on the menu without looking, it is still hard for me to eat.  I have always loved to eat, food has always been a comfort and a pleasure of mine, I'm hoping someday it will be again.
I walk in Travis' room, his skin still looks so tan, even though it hasn't seen the sun for months.  I stop for a moment to take in how beautiful he is.  He is sleeping, so I sit beside him and listen to the hum of the machines. He seems so peaceful.  It's still baseball season and I wish he was at bat, and I was yelling C'mon! BASE HIT!!!
     My mind takes me back to the bleachers when another boy from an opposing team was at bat, who had never had a hit before. I assumed he would strike out again, like every other time, but his bat somehow hit the ball.  It rolled out to the pitchers mound who scooped it up and made an easy toss to the first baseman, Travis.  He missed the ball and it hit the dug out. Travis ran to get it, and fumbled the ball.  I had never seen him make too many errors on first, certainly not two in the same play.  The boy made it to first.  He was thrown out easily at second, but he returned to the dug out with a huge smile on his face. The first baseman had a little grin on his too.
     Travis had always been a star athlete, but that day on the bleachers I was given a glimpse of his heart.
He has always been such a great athlete, and gifted musician, learning has always come easy to him.  I know that has changed, he will have to work hard for his body and mind to respond now.  I don't think things will come easy to him anymore in life.  This is a new chapter, one I hadn’t planned on reading, or living.   It’s almost like someone else’s life, a book I am not familiar with.  I know that there is something that has not changed, and that is Travis’ heart. I know his heart is brave, full of love and faith.   I believe that is what will get him through this new road that he now has to take in life.   Neal A. Maxwell spoke in our churches worldwide conference this past Sunday.  He reminded each of us to "Plow in Hope" as Paul taught.  I felt like he was speaking directly to me about Travis.  Before our path in life was obvious, we could see which way to go, what to do next.  Now we don't know what tomorrow will bring, or what the next step will be, or even how to handle the different situations that arise each day.   Like the Corinthians, we will have to have hope as we plow along on our way, taking one step at a time, putting one foot in front of the other. Having faith in the Giver of all hope, and the healing power that comes from the Great Physician, Jesus Christ.  I wonder if my heart has what it takes to walk down this new road with my son.  Plowing is hard.
     Travis wakes up and when I speak to him,  he tries to turn his head towards my voice and smiles.  There is nothing better than that smile.  The nurses come in and talk to me about giving him stimulants to wake him up during the day, so he can be more alert, and do more therapy.  He is still on sedatives to help him rest, they are weaning him off those.  The doctors also spoke to me about giving him some muscle relaxers to keep his ankles from being too tense, and constantly flexed.
This all seems counter productive to me, muscle relaxers, sedatives and stimulants?  I voice my concerns, and they just look at me like perhaps I'm crazy.  I wonder if they are not used to patient's families questioning the doctors orders?  I look at them like perhaps they are crazy. Maybe we all are. 
The nurses get Travis up and dressed.  The therapists come in with a giant chair that goes from horizontal to vertical. They move him from his bed and strap him in, then begin to turn the chair upright.  They release the straps from his head, and he can only hold his head upright for about three minutes, and then it is collapses, its too much for him. He looks like a newborn bobbing his head, trying to find the strength to keep it up.  I wish again I was cheering for a base hit, but I am so happy he is beginning to be able to have more strength and control each day.  It's better than a base hit.  He likes to hold my mom's hand, and squeezes it often to let her know he understands.  They strap his head back in, and his heart rate and blood pressure starts to go up.  They are trying to figure out if being upright is causing it.  I tell him to pray and let Heavenly Father know what is bothering him, or if he is in pain.  I try to make him comfortable, and take his shoes and socks off.  I realize they were tied too tight by the nurse.  He squeezes my Mom's hand, and his blood pressure and heart rate go back to normal.
He is worn out by dinner time, and my Mom and I help the nurses get him ready for bed.  He is asleep when we leave.  We say a prayer by his bedside, and I kiss him on the forehead before I leave.  My Mom will stay with him tonight.  I am so thankful for her.  She is another angel walking this road with us.  She gives me comfort, and I know Travis loves her to be close to him.
I drive the hour drive home and go to pick up my little ones.  They come running out to greet me.  I notice they are both bright red and sunburned.  My friend who has been watching them, is Polynesian, and her children all have beautiful brown skin.  She feels terrible.  It never occurred to her how fast my blue eyed blondes would sunburn.  She didn't think to apply the sunscreen I had put in the bag.  I feel terrible, I should have put it on before I left. I should have mentioned it. We go home and get bathed and PJ's on.  By this time there are blisters all over my boys cheeks and noses. Their little faces are starting to swell.   I feel so awful about leaving them.    They fall asleep together.  I sit on my bed, and the next thing I know It's time to wake up and start over.  I look on the calendar to see who will be taking care of Cade and Rhett today.  I make a mental note to put sunscreen before we leave.  I go their beds, they are still sleeping peacefully together.  I notice the blisters are gone.  I can see a few freckles have popped out, but their skin is no longer bright red. It's not red at all.  The tiredness I woke up with slips away and is replaced with a warmth that wraps around me.  I realize that while I am away with the one, He is watching over and caring for my ninety-nine.  I know that I am not walking this path alone.  I am thankful for the Masters touch that is helping Travis get a little stronger each day, and the tender mercies He gives to each of us along the way while we try our best to plow in hope.

 My boys open their blue eyes with a smile.  I get them dressed and put on sunscreen.  I drop them off and drive away with a little more hope in my heart to face the day.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Reality, Queen Lamoni, and a smile

   Travis continued to breathe on his own.  It was so nice to see his face without a big tube in the middle of it.  He still was barely opening his eyes, not focusing on anything in particular. The swelling in his brain had gone down.  The half of his skull they had removed was still off,  his head was sunken in where they had surgically removed his skull. He would have to have a surgery at some point to reconstruct and reattach his skull.  He did not look at us or respond when we spoke to him.  The team of doctors had some good news for us.  All of Travis' infections, including the spinal meningitis had been responding very well to the medications.  They were ready to move him out of ICU and on to the neurological trauma unit.

   He had a new room with a new team of nurses that would care for all of the patients in the unit instead of one patient.  It made me a little nervous, but also it felt like Travis was making some steps towards getting better instead of worse.

   We continued to pray for some kind of response from Travis, but there was nothing other than a slight opening of his eyes.  Dr. Brockmeyer had told me that first night that if Travis lived, and if he came out of a coma he would be in a vegetative state, because of the severity of the damage to his brain.  I didn't like that word "vegetative" that sounded like my garden I had at home. Not my boy who stole bases and hit home runs and taught his little brother Cade to ride his bike with no training wheels.  I needed to accept reality.  But what was reality?  When I was alone, and when I prayed I would have a peaceful feeling that would come over me, and I would feel so assured that Travis was going to live, and he would continue to heal.  I wasn't quite sure if the impressions I had were divine inspiration or if they were my own desires and emotions talking to me.  I trusted Travis' doctors and had so much respect for them. They had saved his life. They had years of experience with head trauma, they were some of the best neurosurgeons in the country.

    The Doctor's started to have meetings with me to make a plan for Travis' continued recovery.  He eventually would need to go home, or live in a long term skilled nursing facility.  So far he had not made enough progress to qualify for intense rehab.  We needed to put in ramps and lifts and elevators in our home to make it handicap accessible for a wheelchair if he was ever going to come home again.
I wanted to believe that Travis would walk out of the hospital and not need all of this, but at this point he couldn't even look at me.  It would cost thousands of dollars to get our home (that we were renting) handicap accessible.  Our money tree was becoming pretty bare at this point and we didn't have thousands of dollars to put towards something that we may or may not need.

   I couldn't sleep one night and came in to sit by Travis. It was just the two of us in the room. It was quiet and I could hear the clock ticking and the beeps of monitors in nearby rooms.  I looked out the window and a heavy snow was silently falling and covering the outside with a blanket of white.   I wished I had answers and knew what to do.  We needed to move forward in some way.  I knew my husband was overburdened with all of the financial responsibility this had brought, while also trying to take care of everything at home with out me.    I picked up a few books that friends had dropped by.  Two of those books were the Bible and The Book of Mormon.  I thumbed through them both. The page fell open to a story in the Book of Alma about a queen whose husband was unconscious.  She was being told by many that he was dead and she needed to bury him. She was confused as to what to do.  A prophet by the name of Ammon told her that he was alive, but that he "sleepeth with God"  She had to decide whom she believed.  She had to make a decision to trust the voice in her own heart, or the voices of others that told her otherwise.  I knew at that moment I had the same decision to make that a Lamonite Queen had to make thousands of years ago.  I suppose it is a decision we all have to make at some point in our lives.  I decided at that moment that I would trust the still small voice that spoke to my soul, and not doubt.
   I told the doctors the next day that we would not be starting construction on elevators and lifts and ramps at this time.  They were frustrated with me. They felt sorry for me for being in denial. I was ok with that.  They were just trying doing their job, and I was doing mine.

   The days were long and Travis was breathing and maintaining his weight.  His brain pressures and other vital signs were stable.  He had color back in his face and skin.  However physically he was like a wet noodle if you tried to sit him up or move him.  A new born baby had more control over their body than he did at this point.

   The physical therapy team came in all together to work with Travis.  They stretched and bent all of his limbs and joints.  There was about five of them.  Jed and I happened to be there together and sat off to the back of the room and watched.  One of the therapist climbed on the bed and got close to Travis' face and raised her voice somewhat and commanded: TRAVIS!!! LOOK AT ME!!!, another one said  TRAVIS!!! SQUEEZE MY HAND!!!, another spoke in a desperate voice, TRAVIS!!! BLINK IF YOU CAN HEAR ME!!!  nothing.  It was almost  heated in the room, the tension and lack of response was thick and the air seemed heavy and hard to breathe. The room was silent and sad.  I don't remember what my husband said, but he quietly said something that was funny, and a little bit inappropriate I think.  Travis laughed. HE LAUGHED!!!!!!!!  We all broke out into tears and applause and hoorays!! It was the best sound I had ever heard.  Jed said a few more funny things, and Travis would smile each time.  I remembered the first time he smiled at me as a sweet tiny newborn.  I decided that the second first smile he gave me a decade later was even more precious than the first.

    We were so excited to give the good news of his laughter, he began to have many visitors.  I loved watching him smile when the people he loved came to see him.  I knew we had a long road of recovery and a hard path to walk down.  I couldn't see what the future held, but Travis taught me that no matter how bad it gets, if we can find something to smile about, we can make it through anything.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Count Your Blessings, Name Them One by One...

     Travis' brain pressures continued to stabilize, as well as his other vital signs.  The antibiotics were working, and his spinal meningitis was getting better.  His fever was gone. The C-diff bacteria infection was beginning to improve.   He was still in a coma.  He was still on a ventilator. He still had severe damage to his brain.  He wasn't exactly out of the woods,  but the first time since he came into the hospital, things were getting better instead of worse.

      The exhaustion of hospital life began to take it's toll on all of us physically.  We were tired. Our small children were feeling the absence not only of their big brother, but also the absence of their Mom.  Jed and I decided it was time for me to come home some from the hospital.  I was afraid to leave Travis, but I felt confident with his  nurses and they promised me they would call if there was the tiniest change or concern.

     My husband dropped my car off so I would be able to come home in the evenings and go back to the hospital early in the mornings.  We had different friends and family that volunteered to stay with Travis every night that we weren't there.  The time had come for me to get in my car and drive home.  It seems like a simple thing, but I felt like I had been abducted by aliens and living in another universe so very far away from my own.  I got in my car and drove out of the hospital parking lot, and immediately tears began to flow.  I felt like I couldn't breathe, like an elephant was sitting on my chest.  I had to pull over, I couldn't see because of the tears and I didn't think I could focus on the road well enough to drive.  I considered going back into the hospital and postponing going home.  I closed my eyes and said a prayer, it was more like a few words in my mind "help me. please."  As I sat in the dark parking lot, feeling like I was stuck in a cave that I couldn't find my way out of, a song came into my mind that I have heard and sang in church all of my life.  "Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings. See what God has done."  My racing heart began to slow down.  My flood of tears reduced to a stream of tears and I could breathe.  I thought to myself "OK, I can do this."  I put my car in drive and headed down the canyon to our home about 45 minutes away.  The song again came in my mind.  "When upon life's billow's your are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged thinking all is lost, count your many blessings name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done." The thought occurred to me to literally count my blessings.  I started try and think of blessings, it seemed like life my life had turned into a giant storm and I had no control over anything anymore.  Our son was barely hanging onto life.  Our family unit had been separated.   I was physically exhausted.  My husband Jed had to go back to work, in spite of how exhausted physically and emotionally we were. The rent was still due. We still had car payments, we still had student loans to pay and groceries to buy.  It didn't help that the medical bills were mounting into the hundreds of thousands of dollars at this point. I didn't know what the future held for us.  I didn't know how long our son would live, or what the future might look like for him, if he did.   The song continued to play in my mind "Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, and you will be singing as the days go by."  Blessings...I tried to shift my focus and think of some. It seemed when I tried to think of blessings only darkness came to mind. I thought a little prayer in my mind..."please help me remember my blessings"  1. I am thankful Travis is alive.  2. I am thankful for my husband 3. I am thankful our other children are healthy.  4.  I am thankful for the small triumphs Travis has made so far.  5. I am thankful for the nurses Travis has caring for him.  As I began to list my blessings in my mind a shift began to take place inside of me.  I became calm again.  I could breathe and didn't feel like an elephant was smashing my chest.  I could think clearly,  I felt warm inside, I felt loved, my love for my family and our friends seemed to radiate through my body.  My mind and heart seemed to transform from darkness and despair to being filled with light and hope.

     This became a ritual for me each night as I would drive home. As soon as I would drive out of the parking lot I would start to count my blessings. In the beginning I would be finished counting after a short time, but with each drive home more and more blessings flowed into my mind that I had been given.  I remember one night in particular I pulled up into my driveway after a long day at the hospital with tears flowing down my face.  I had counted blessings all the way home and this time I had tears of joy, and love overflowing because I felt so loved and blessed.  The 45 minute drive was no longer enough time to name all that I had to be thankful for.

      The time had come to wean Travis off of the ventilator and see if he could breathe on his own.  I arrived at the hospital early, our family and a whole host of prayer warriors had been fasting and praying for Travis that his body would be able to breathe on it's own.  I knew if he didn't get off of that breathing machine sooner than later, it was likely that he would never come off.  I knew we had been given so many miracles, but wasn't sure exactly what the Lord had in mind for Travis.  The medical team had began weaning Travis off of all of the coma inducing meds, and it showed that his lungs were functioning somewhat on their own, but not completely.  Jed and I had prepared ourselves for whatever the outcome might be.  I had seen the hand of the Lord in every  detail of this entire ordeal, and knew He would not leave us alone this time.  I also knew His will and plan is not always the same as mine.  Today would reveal a little more of His plan for Travis.

     The ventilator was removed and Travis began to breathe on his own.  His lungs were weak, but he was breathing without any medical help. He didn't move,  he didn't respond.  His eyes opened just a little bit, almost like a newborn baby that wasn't quite ready to open his eyes and view the world just yet.

      We had been given another miracle to add to our list of blessings.  I knew that day, whether

Travis took a breath or not, we were loved.  I was loved. I knew our prayers had been heard. I knew that the baby born to Mary in Bethlehem thousands of years ago had touched my life.  I wasn't there when the wise men came to the stable bearing gifts.  I didn't walk with Him as he walked the streets of Galilee and Jerusalem.  However, the promise he made to all mankind many millennia ago, he has kept.  He has not left me comfortless,  I have never been alone.  He has lightened my burdens when I thought they were too hard to bear. 

     "So amid the conflict whether great or small, Do not be discouraged, God is over all;  Count your many blessings,  angel's will attend, Help and comfort give you to your journey's end."

Saturday, November 2, 2013

What's wrong with hard?

     The days, nights and weeks seemed to all run together into one endless blur.  It was hard to keep track of time when there was no longer routine or schedule in our lives.  Travis' was still on a ventilator, still on a long list of meds to keep him in an induced coma, still having high fevers, still had spinal meningitis, his C-diff symptoms were still keeping his nurses on their toes 24-7. Actually it was two nurses whom each stayed with him 12 hours each.  Seven a.m. to seven p.m.  Christy in the day time, and Audrey in the night hours.  Sometimes they would come in early to be with Travis, both of them would stay late to make sure everything was done for him before they left.  They would call on their days off to check on him.  I don't think I could have handpicked two better nurses in the world to care for Travis. I think Christy was  somewhere in her fifties, she had dark brown hair, and eyes to match.  She would make sure that every inch of Travis body was clean and that he was as comfortable as possible. There was not a detail she left unattended.  Audrey was in her twenties with blonde hair and blue eyes and was always cheerful and smiling. She was someone Travis would have liked to hang out with.  She was upbeat and seemed to adore Travis.  It seemed like she could tell his personality even though she had never interacted with him other than while he was unconscious.  I grew to love each of these women and trusted them immensely with our sons care. 
     We were in an isolated room in the PICU because of the infectious nature of what Travis had now.  We had to wear gowns, gloves and masks at all times in the room with him. I missed being home so much.  I missed our daily routines.  I missed reading stories to my kids.  I missed making dinner.  I missed hearing my boys wrestling and running through the house.  I missed seeing my little boys in their PJ's and messy hair in the mornings.  I missed hearing about my husband's day at work.  I missed eating dinner with him.  I missed putting my cold feet on him at night.  I missed our life.

     The ladies from my church and neighborhood became an army of angels that took care of every detail of our family's life.  They managed all of the things in our home. They took over my job.   They arranged meals for my family every night.  Ladies took turns doing our laundry and cleaning our home.  They organized a calendar for childcare and gave me a copy so I would know who had our children each day.  The men did our yard work and when it snowed they shoveled that too.    I don't have words for how appreciative we are for all of those angels that stepped into our lives and cared for us.  They will never be forgotten, and have taught me what it really means to be a disciple of Christ.

     Travis had a constant stream of medical teams, physicians and medical students throughout the day and night coming in his room.  It was a teaching hospital and one night a group came in and they pulled up the images of Travis' cat scan on a large screen.  They were pointing out the extensive damage that was there.  Almost the entire left side of his brain was damaged with some damage also to his frontal lobe and some to the right side, and some shearing had also occurred.  The magnitude of the amount of damage his brain had suffered suddenly became a reality to me.   The nurses who loved Travis so much had been telling me that he would not likely be able to do much more than he was currently doing in a coma.  The doctors continued to confirm these same prognosis.  The amount of damage that was caused to his brain from the impact of the accident was severe.  They told us once his fevers stayed below 101 and if they could get the bacteria in his blood to stop growing, and his brain and blood pressures to stabilize, they could start weaning him off of the meds and see if his lungs could breath on their own once again. We would see if he would wake up.

      I would sit by Travis' bed most of the day and night.  The clock had ticked late into the hours of the night and  I started to think back to the piano recital he had performed just a few  days before his accident. It seemed like a lifetime ago.  I remember him complaining that the piece he was learning (Pachelbel's Canon) was SO hard, he didn't think he could do it.  I told him to just keep practicing and eventually he would get it.  He continued to complain, and finally I asked him "What's wrong with hard Travis?"  I told him we could do hard things.  He had help if he needed it, he had learned other hard things and it's ok to struggle for a while with something. Hard is o.k.  I had this conversation with him on other occasions and had asked the same question to my other kids at different times.  What's wrong with hard? I would ask.  They knew that meant they had to keep trying.  They knew that meant I wasn't going to let them off the hook and would have to stick with it.  I would always reassure them that I would help them however I could, they didn't have to do whatever the challenge was by themselves.   I was thinking about how I wished I could take this away from Travis this time.  I looked at his perfect tan little body and emotion overcame me.  I began to weep and wished with everything that I had, that I could take it away, or switch places with him and do it for him.
       I started to think about another perfect body that I had read and studied about since I was a child.  I thought of our Savior Jesus Christ's body.  I thought about how he was criticized and his body was tortured.  How he was falsely accused and made to go with out food and water.  I thought of his back being beaten and the bloody stripes his enemies left behind.  I thought of the large nails that were  pounded into his hands and feet.  The thorn of crowns that would dig deep into his scalp,  as he thirsted and was offered only vinegar to drink.
      I began to weep even more.  Suddenly a new perspective came to me that I had not previously considered.  I had always thought and pondered the sacrifice that Jesus Christ had made for mankind.  It had never occurred to me how hard it might have been for our Heavenly Father,  to watch his perfect  Firstborn Son suffer.  I thought of the agony it must have been to have His only begotten Son asking Him to remove the bitter cup...not my will but thine. 
      Through my sobs and tears I began to pray and ask God how such a thing could be done?  How can I sit by and watch the suffering? How could He have watched His Son suffer and not take it away?   I heard the words come into my mind  "What's wrong with hard?"  "You too can do hard things." "I will not leave you comfortless,  I will not leave you alone"  I had an overwhelming feeling of warmth and peace wrap around me.  I felt a sense of love from above that I had never experienced before.  The scripture "For God so loved the world that He sent His only Begotten Son" had a new meaning to me.  I realized  what a sacrifice it was for Him to give mankind this gift and to watch His Son suffer and die, so that we could all live.  I realized I was not alone, and Travis was not alone.  I knew the road ahead would be a hard one.  I didn't know exactly what the road would be like, but in my heart I knew there would be one.  However hard it might be,  I was thankful to be allowed to walk down that road.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Angels bring tidings of comfort and joy, campers, and yellow towels.

     The days began to turn into weeks at our stay at Primary Children's Hospital.  My days became routine and usually started with a shower in the morning in the common bathroom of the PICU waiting room. I didn't really mind the shower. It was the towels that bothered me.  They were course and felt a little bit like sand paper. They were all white and they had the same smell that Travis' sheets and blankets in his hospital bed had. All of the linens in the hospital had the same smell.  It's not a particularly bad smell, but it made me nauseous. I had never said this out loud to anyone, but I hated those towels.   Mostly my clothes were brought to me by my husband, or sometimes one of my brothers would gather some things and bring a bag.  I remember chuckling to myself as I pulled out of the bag my daily clothing of Travis' Houston Rockets t-shirts, and a pair of mens Texas Longhorn sweatpants.  My wardrobe wasn't exactly on the high priority list, at least it was comfortable and clean.  Another one of my neighbors one morning went to my house and gathered some make-up and brought it to me.  She said she was so worried about how awful I must have felt with no make-up with me at the hospital.  I thanked her for thinking of me and thought to myself make-up had not crossed my mind once.  Looking back, I can imagine what a sight I must have been.  I have very thick frizzy hair that gets really big and crazy when it's not had lots of products and hair tools working on it.  I can imagine between my wardrobe selections, my all natural no make up face, and my Diana Ross hair style, maybe I  should have taken the make up gesture a little more seriously.

     I would try and eat whatever someone brought me, I didn't actually feel hungry and couldn't remember most of the time if I had eaten or not.  I have always been a lover of food, and my husband would bring me different things from my favorite restaurants in town, hoping my appetite and ability to eat would return. I still had such a hard time chewing and swallowing food.  It seemed foreign to me, like my body had just forgotten how to do something that it has always done. I would try each day, and would feel guilty not eating the food that he went to so much effort to bring me.

     We would have visitors come everyday. Some from our neighborhood, some from church, family, longtime friends.  I could tell how hard it was for people to walk in and see Travis for the first time. You could see the shock and overwhelming sadness on their faces  when they would walk in.  I loved for them to come.  It brought so much peace and comfort to know so many people cared and were thinking about us and praying for Travis and our family.

     Travis' vitals and brain pressures had become stabilized  but he still was in a coma, still had spinal meningitis and c-diff and all of the complications and symptoms that go along with those issues and his injured brain.  He had been quarantined in a private room because the infections he had were contagious.  He had so many teams of doctors I began to lose count.  There was the pediatric neuro team, the infectious disease team, the physical therapy team, a nutrition team,  a respiratory team, and a child life team. They would have meetings every day to discuss the game plan and make sure everyone was on the same page.  It was all exhausting.  I still couldn't sleep and I know I was physically run down. It was hard for me to leave Travis' side and when I would go into the room they had for me, the pillows and blankets had that same hospital towel smell.  I would feel sick. I didn't mention this to anyone, I didn't want to add worry to our loved ones that were already brimming over with worry about Travis.  I desperately wanted to sleep and began to privately add to my prayers for Travis, that I would be able to find a way to get some sleep.

     I also began to miss my two younger boys Cade, and Rhett. They were four and 15 months at the time.  I was used to being with them every part of the day, and I missed them so much it hurt.  My friends at church and my neighbors had organized a group of ladies to babysit for them everyday and they would give me the calendar to let me know where they were.  I missed taking care of them and giving them their baths and reading to them. I missed putting them to bed and their little hands in mine. I missed our family being under the same roof so much.  I remember thinking, I would be happy living in a tent if it meant we could all be together under one roof.  I realized during those moments, that is what Heaven is to me.  Our family being together.

     I would email daily usually an update about Travis. People from all over the country and even a few not in our country,  from all different faiths sent me messages of encouragement and told me they were praying for Travis.  Some people even told me because of Travis they started praying again after years, and others visited their church again for the first time in years.  I couldn't believe the army of people who had banned together to pray for our family.  I was always moved to tears every time I would read the emails.

    People brought us many things that were so appreciated, food, books, bottled water, soothing cd's, gift cards, gas cards, so many things I couldn't list them all.  One day a dear friend of mine, Pamela McCoy came by to visit.  She brought me a gift and handed to me in a large Dillard's bag.  She said "you may think this is a silly gift, but I thought it might come in handy."  In the bag was One large plush  yellow  towel and several matching hand towels and wash cloths.  She said, "Don't worry, they are clean, I took them home and washed them , and even added some Downy fabric softener"   Tears began to roll down my face.  I took the soft towels out and breathed in that downy fresh scent.  She could have brought me a bag of gold and it wouldn't have meant more to me than those yellow towels.  I will never forget those towels, and the message of love that they were to me.  I knew that my prayers were heard.  I felt my Savior's love, I knew that He knew how much I loathed those hospital towels, even though I had never said it out loud.

      Another day a friend of ours came by the hospital and said he knew someone who had a camper.  It was small but thought some of our family that was in town might be able to use it. He brought it to the hospital parking lot and parked it. My Mom and Dad were still in town from Texas, and it was perfect for them to stay in at night. They didn't have to travel far from the hospital and they could stay close by.  One afternoon my Dad looked at me and said "Why don't you go and take a nap in the camper in the parking lot?" I had a private bed reserved for me in the hospital, and I had not really left the fourth floor much since we had been there.  I didn't want to be out of range of the hospital intercom in case they needed me for something with Travis.  My Mom said she would stay right next to Travis' bed and my Dad promised he would come and get me if anything came up.  I reluctantly agreed.  I walked outside of the hospital for the first time since we had walked into it,  and the sun seemed unusually bright.  It was still spring in Utah, and there was quite a chill in the air.  I found the camper in the parking lot and climbed in.  It had heavy blankets in it that smelled like a camp fire.  I could tell the camper had been used for camping, I could almost smell the woods inside of it.  I didn't know who the camper belonged to, but I could imagine a family in it cooking and playing games.  The warmth of the afternoon sun had made the inside of it warm and toasty.  I crawled under the big blankets, the smells reminded me of all of the camp outs my Dad had taken us on as kids. The next thing I knew I woke up and it was dark outside.  I had been in a deep sleep for hours.

      The Lord asked us to love one another.  He told us that "By this shall men know that ye are my disciples"  To this day I don't know who the camper belonged to.  I wish the owners of it knew what an answer to my prayers it was.  I will never forget the army of angels that came to our rescue in so many ways.  Most of all, I will never forget the One who sent them.

Monday, October 7, 2013

More of The Day the Angels came... through Jessica's eyes.

     I titled the first post I wrote on this blog, "The Day the Angels Came".  Travis' accident happened twelve years ago on March 20, 2000.  I gave it this title, because from the moment I received that life changing phone call, I believe that there were angels rallying around me and all of us involved.  Some of those angels were EMT's, some were friends, some were strangers, nurses and family.  From my experience, at different times I have felt that there were angels beyond the veil of my sight that were with me. I believe that our Heavenly Father uses all types of "angels" to comfort us when we are going through hard things in life.  Some are people we see everyday, some are random people we cross paths with, and some are those that are beyond this life. I believe that they are God's helpers, and whether it is a neighbor who lives next door, or a grandmother, or loved one who has passed on before us,  they are there.  They come to help and to comfort, and we are not alone.  I hope that as you read this, you will look for the angels in your life, and notice them more often.  I hope that you will find ways to be an angel to someone, and be the answer to someones prayer.

     Last week I was sitting at my youngest son Dallas' football practice when I received a message from Jessica Mellor. She is the older sister of Derek, and she was also in the car when the accident happened.  She said she had written in her journal the events of that fateful day, but had never shared them with anyone.  Since I had started this blog, and began sharing what happened she wanted to share them with me.  I sat on the sidelines of the football field and read her memories of what happened that day.  Tears poured down my face as I read her insights and perceptions of the days events.  It pierced me deep that she was just thirteen years old when this happened, and had to go through such a frightening experience.  It was hard to imagine the street, the smoke, the blood, the red lights, the sounds and the smells.  It gave me comfort to hear about all of the different angels that came to her, in her time of need.  I asked her permission to share her words with all of you, and encouraged her to share this with her family first.  I am so proud of her for being so brave now, and back then.  She was a sweet young girl, and has grown into a beautiful young women. Thank you Jessica for sharing with us.

From the journal of Jessica Mellor:

March 20, 2000 was like any ordinary day after school. It was a Tuesday, I was helping Naomi with a school project until it was time to go to Classic Skating. Now, I never had a deep love for roller blading like Derek and Travis did. Actually, I think they only loved it because it was a social thing. I ran home to make sure my chores and my siblings chores were all done so Dad would let us go as soon as Travis and his cousin, Crissy showed up. All the excitement made Corbin and Nicole jealous, so Dad decided to drive Corbin and Nicole to Classic Skating as soon as he finished up some things. Derek, Travis and I hopped in the blue Mitsubishi Eclipse (which, at the time was one of my dream cars!) We were so excited. Travis, being the gentlemen that he is, offered the front seat to me. I declined because I was shy, I had never met Crissy before, she was a beautiful girl, with a fantastic car and I felt much more comfortable in the back seat next to my brother. Derek put all our skates in the seat next to him, he sat in the middle and I was behind Travis. Travis chatted away as usual, adjusting the radio station to something “cool”! As we are making our way to State Street I began to have an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. For some reason, I no longer wanted to go to Classic Skating and I didn’t know why.
The light turned yellow and I felt the car accelerate a little and then slam on the brakes, when I looked up slightly scared, I saw a suburban crossing in front of us. We would have collided if Crissy hadn’t hit the brakes. Then, to surprise us all, a small white truck followed the suburban into the intersection.
It felt like a dream. A really bad dream. I smelled a smell I had never smelt before nor could I describe. My body felt rigid and heavy. I had a pain in my back and my knees. I looked around; it was foggy, like smoke, but didn’t smell like smoke. I couldn’t see anything outside to my right except darkness. I looked to my left and saw Derek. I could barely make out his eyes because his face was covered in blood. Crissy calmly got out of the car and ushered Derek and I out. I started to cry as I realized that this was real. We hit the truck and my brother was hurt badly and I did not know what kind of condition Travis was in. A man with a mustache grabbed Derek and laid him on the ground. Another man brought a blanket that looked like wool. They put it on Derek’s forehead to control the bleeding. They asked him his name and he was so hysteric he only screamed, “I don’t care!” I stood in the midst of choas. I knew I was in shock because I couldn’t cry anymore and I couldn’t focus on anything. All I knew was red; Red flashing lights, red blood, people in red and yellow. A paramedic told me I had to call my dad and tell him we were in an accident. I dialed and told him we got in a car accident under the 800 South sign. I couldn’t talk anymore. I know he was asking me questions but no words or thoughts would come. The phone was taken from my hand. A woman came to me. To this day, I still believe her to be an Angel. She told me to sit by my brother and hold his hand, be strong for him, be calm. She used her gentle hands to help me sit on the road that know had blood and antifreeze on it, but, I didn’t care. I felt peace as I sat cross-legged and held my brothers hand. She asked if she could say a prayer, I nodded. I don’t remember what she said, I only remember the peaceful feeling that we were going to be okay. The paramedics took Derek on a stretcher. A police officer asked if he could ask me a few questions. The only thing I remember saying is, where is Travis? The officer pointed towards the car where 2 Paramedics were doing something to the door. I couldn’t see him. I could only see the deflated airbag and white powder everywhere. I still did not know how Travis was. The officer asked if I was feeling okay. I told him my back and my knees hurt a little. He directed me to an ambulance. I walked on with a medic and a young man was being taped to a stretcher on the other side. I assumed he was the driver of the truck because he asked me if my brothers are okay. I don’t remember answering. I didn’t know of a surety if they were okay. I laid back and I too got taped to the stretcher. Another Medic cut my pant legs to look at my knees and then we were driving away.
I was sitting  in a hospital. I didn’t know where or how Derek and Travis were. I didn’t know where I was or my parents. My chest started to feel tight. All I remembered again, was redness. Someone came and put some stitches in my elbow and asked me pee into a cup. Again, I had no words or thoughts to form words. I just sat there. Finally, I saw a familiar face. My neighbor, Rachelle. She said she was going to take me to the other hospital where my family was.
When we arrived at the hospital I saw 2 more familiar faces. Bishop Roberts and brother Peterson. They both looked sad. They asked how I was, I don’t remember my answer or if I had one. They pointed at the red helicopter and said Travis was being flown to Primary Childrens Hospital. I remember feeling peace, I know that is a good hospital. But I also felt panic. I still did not know how he was. I walked into the hospital and saw more familiar faces. People from the ward, my grandma, aunt and uncle, I saw Corbin and Nicole. I just stood there as they all watched for my reaction. In the corner of my eye I saw another familiar face. My dad. I ran to him and hugged and we both cried. He said he didn’t know where I was for the longest time, he thought he had lost me because nobody knew where I was. Not too long after that my mom came in, and we were all able to see Derek. Derek had white bandages around his head, his face was swollen and shiny and he had a neck brace but he wore a smile as I walked in. Dad said, “See, she is okay.” All the men gave Derek a blessing as my mom and I held each other. I felt peace, I knew he would be okay, I knew I was okay, but still there was that tug… Travis. Nobody would talk to me about him. No one talked about anything to me. I felt invisible and like glass that would shatter if touched.
The next day in the hospital I sat with Derek as he played video games, he had so many visitors (most of them girls from school) but one stands out in my mind. A woman walked in, carrying a basket. She set it down and said, “I just wanted you to know that the community cares.” She turned and walked out, after my mom said Thank you. I told her, that was the woman that said a prayer with me. My mom wanted to Thank her again, we walked out in the hallway, looked both ways and walked out a little ways and she was not there.  She was gone.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

He Calms Storms

     Primary Children's Medical Center became our home, the pediatric intensive care unit would be where we spent most of our time in our new home. The hospital was an interesting place, almost like a Universe that you didn't know existed until you accidentally fell into it's galaxy.  Sickness and pain are hard to watch in anyone, but when it's children that are suffering, and suffering children are all around you, it's life changing.  There is really not words to describe what it's like to be in a community of suffering, broken, tattered little angels everywhere.  The most delicate of those broken angels were in the PICU with Travis.  The PICU was  a long corridor with beds lining each side of the room. They were open except for a curtain that could be pulled around the patient for privacy.  I was a little surprised at how visible each child was, and how close we all were to each other.  Since our stay, they have built individual rooms, but when we were there, it was all open. There was a tangible feeling in the room, almost like it was a holy or sacred place.  Actually, exactly like it was holy and sacred.   My husband had a hard time walking in the unit.  It was almost unbearable for him to see such suffering all around us, and to be helpless.  For me, I didn't seem to notice the other children so much until Travis' brain pressure's and fever had began to stabilize somewhat.  Travis was still in a coma, still had spinal meningitis, still in very critical condition, but he was at least not getting worse.  It was then that I began to be aware of the others around us.  People that would impact me and I will remember all of my life.

     There was the three year old girl that was playing in the bathtub and slipped under the water for a little bit too long.  She too had a brain injury and was in a coma.  She had young teenage parents who elected to take her off the breathing machine,  she was expected not to make it. Her parents left and never came back.  She did make it.  She breathed on her own and her heart continued to beat with no family around her to celebrate.  The nurses all championed around her, and so did my Dad.  The nurses started asking him to come pray over this little angel each day, which he did.  When I was next to her,  I felt a peace and a warmth so strong that I loved to be near her.  She seemed to have this giant spirit in her little body.  I couldn't see anyone, but I could sense the presence of angels around her bed.  She was still there when we left.

    There was the boy next to us that came in during the night.  He was around 13 or 14 maybe with almost white hair and freckles.  He was playing in his football game and collapsed on the field.  He was brought in and it had been discovered that he was in advanced stages of leukemia.  He was also in a coma.  He was beautiful and looked like a linebacker angel with freckles lying there. I wanted to hold him. We prayed for him, his family prayed for Travis.

     There was the 14 year old girl who came in with a head injury and broken bones and punctures to her lungs.  She was playing in her front yard, when a reckless care spun out of control and hit her while she was playing.  She had a similar brain injury to Travis and I began checking on her frequently to see how she was doing.  Her sweet family also began checking on Travis frequently and we began to pray together each day for our children and the others in the hospital.  Each day she seemed to get worse, and her parents heart along with mine was breaking.  My parents had come from Texas to be with us, and they seemed to find a comforting presence in my Dad.  They would ask him to come and pray over her each day, which he did.  After several weeks, her delicate lungs gave up.  She stopped suffering, and our friends were no longer residents with us at the hospital.  There is not words to express the sadness I felt that this little angel hadn't made it.  I also didn't have a chance to say goodbye to her family before they left, and I hadn't thought to get any contact information from them.
The next couple of days I thought about them throughout the day and night and wished I could be at their daughters funeral. I was so worried about how they were doing. It was reported about on the news, and I was at least able to hear a little bit about it.  The next day I was sitting by Travis' bed listening to the sound of the ventilator and in walks her family.  They came to check on Travis, and to see how WE were doing.

     A few days later I was walking in the PICU, punching in my code to open the doors and I heard the words in my mind to "smile, and be of good cheer"  I was still sleeping less than a couple of hours a night, and still could barely eat any food. I certainly didn't feel like smiling.  I thought it was kind of an odd thought to have. Suddenly the past few weeks passed through my mind as I walked through the doors and I realized all of the small milestones Travis had made. One little miracle after another. How each time I thought I might not be able to handle it, I would be calmed, feel at peace.  I thought about all of the kindness of others that had been given to my family.  I thought about how much love I had for my husband and each of our children.  I didn't think I had the capacity to love my family more, but since the day of Travis' accident my heart grew, and I loved them a thousand times more than I did the day before.  I had a smile on my face. I went in and sat by Travis and put my hand on his.

     I noticed a young couple, with their tiny little peanut newborn were next to us.  Their brand new baby girl had a big hole in her heart and was going into surgery shortly, for the first of many operations she would have to have on her tiny little heart.  I spoke with her Mom briefly, but they left shortly after for the surgery.  Late that evening they were back with their tiny angel, and she came up to me and hugged me.  I was a little surprised. Tears began to run down her face. She explained that she had been struggling that morning and was having a hard time having any faith, she felt angry with God, wondering how he could let something so awful happen to her baby.  She told me she had prayed for help and said she heard the words in her mind to "smile and be of good cheer."  She said she thought she was crazy and didn't feel like smiling.  She said she looked up and saw me sitting next to my sons bed, holding his hand with a smile on my face.  She said immediately a warmth came over her and she felt at peace that everything was going to be o.k. She thanked me again for smiling.

     I have read the stories of Jesus since I was a little girl.  My Grandmother Sally used to tell me a story about Jesus walking on water and calming the waves in a storm.  She told me about Him walking the streets of Galilee, and healing the sick.  I didn't know that one day I would be in my own drowning storms, and sinking, at different times in my life.  I didn't know I would be desperate for that same healing balm of Gilead that was given so many years ago.  I have learned during my stay in the PICU,  that He still calms storms.


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