Thursday, May 8, 2014

May 8th: One year since my life changed

It was one year ago today that God started me on a journey.  It was a normal day like any other: I was in Knoxville, TN but no longer a student.  A few days prior, I announced my resignation from the Biochemistry PhD Graduate Program.  I wasn't admitted to any of the Education PhD programs I applied to, so I was just hanging out waiting for my lease to expire so I could move home.  I had dreams of lazy days laying by the pool, but The Lord shouted NO!  

Back home in Pittsburgh, my mom hadn't been feeling well with a headache for two days.  She normally had headaches so we didn't think anything was majorly wrong.  Since she was complaining of  such pain, my sister eventually convinced her to go to the ER.  Once there, our lives would change forever.  My mom was suffering from a subarachnoid hemorrhage due to an aneurysm on her intercommunicating arteries.  Basically the aneurysm (sack of blood) was leaking onto her brain.  This is really bad!! God carefully crafted our body for the brain to have severe protection.  Our blood is keep in vessels for a reason, it shouldn't touch anything else!  Blood touching our precious brain cells causes them to die.  

I was 500 miles away from home and I started to panic.  What if I didn't make it home soon enough?  What were my last words to my mom or her last to me?  Most importantly how was I going to get home?  I rented a car and packed up as much of my stuff as I could.  My cat and I started on the journey home around midnight because I couldn't wait til morning like my family advised me.  Her surgery to stop the bleeding was scheduled for the early afternoon of May 9th and I wanted to be there.

Those 8 or 9 hours to drive home were some of the trying moments throughout this whole year.  I sobbed and prayed the entire way.  Simultaneously questioning God and asking for His comfort.  By the time I got home it was time to go to the hospital to wait out the surgery.  Brain surgery is a 12 hour ordeal: there's prep, meticulous surgery, and recovery.  We didn't make it to the hospital in time to see her and I was devastated but didn't show it because I wanted to seem strong in front of my sister, aunt and grandma (my dad's mom and sister, who were by our side the entire time).  I should've let them comfort me but I let my pride get in the way and shallowed the pain.  

If you have every waited for someone to go through a long surgery you can understand the mix of emotions, adrenaline and exhaustion.  After about 9 or 10 hours in the general waiting room, we were informed she was out of surgery.  The wonderful Neurosurgeon stopped the bleeding with three minuscule titanium clips.  Most people don't survive bleeding aneurysms because they burst open and the blood rushes out but my mom only had a leaking one, so the damage wasn't as severe.

Then we moved up to the Neuro ICU waiting room.  By this time is was 10pm and all I wanted was to see my mummy.  Finally a nice nurse let us back to see her after we saw glimpses of her hooked up to what seemed like 20 different tubes and wires.  I was in shock when we finally got to see her.  She wasn't responding well after the anesthesia and wasn't waking up.  She was hooked up to the ventilator which made her breathing robotic and jerky.  Her face was so swollen from the surgery, her eyes couldn't open.

All I could feel in that moment was dread, I was going to lose my mother.  I cried out to The Lord for the strength to get through each second those days after the surgery.  I would call the Neuro ICU nurses  three times before I went to bed just so I could know if she was still alive.  I cried myself to sleep each and every night.  The Lord whispered to me in those times, "Let me hold you my child."  I fell asleep in the arms of my Savior so many nights during this last year and I will treasure those moments.  I continue to rest in His presence because He gives peace to my restless and anxious heart.

For the first week, we would receive calls in the middle of the night from the nurses for permission to go into emergency surgery if the pressure on her brain didn't subside.  Eventually she did have the surgery because the pressure was too high, lucky during the day.  That was the surgery that tested my faith because the nurses informed us she might not make it.  Every time she laid flat, her lungs collapsed.  By the grace of God, she made it through.  Each day she improved a millimeter at a time.

She eventually was able to breath on her own about 16 days after her first surgery and taken of the ventilator, but she still wasn't awake.  Her autonomic nervous system was working: breathing and digesting, however she wasn't there.  It was like her body was awake but her soul wasn't.  I wonder if during those months she was resting in the presence of God because there is no one else who could have brought her through this ordeal.  Slowly she did wake up, opening her eyes and responding to our voices.  It wasn't until July that she could remember and say our names.

She went to an inpatient rehab center where she learned how to walk, talk and eat again.  She is weak on her right side from the bleeding on her left side of the brain (remember the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and vice versa).  She was in and out of a nursing home and the rehab center during the replacement of the bone flap that was removed a week after the original surgery to relieve the brain pressure.  FINALLY on October 25th, 2013, SHE CAME HOME!  She was in the hospital, rehab center and nursing home for a total of 171 days.

I quit my summer job and cared for her.  She has improved each and every day, gaining back all her strength and skills.  She is walking with a only quad cane and is mobile around the house.  She is retiring from work but her new life is just starting.  I remind her every day how our new life is a blessing because it is nice and slow paced.  We spend so much time together and I love it.  After all the years of living at college and only coming home for short visits, I finally feel at peace living in one place and with those I love.  

Without God, I'm not sure who I would be today.  Every day I relied on His strength and patience as my mom improved.  We would focus on the positives and not feel as if this was the worst.  It could've have been way worse.  God also has provided me with an amazing support system: my friends and family.  My sister and I have grown up and so much closer this past year.  We have handled situations that I never could have imagined and without her by my side it would be even harder.  My aunt and grandma came with us to every hospital visit, supporting us and my mom the entire time.

Our little family has grown so much stronger and closer to The Lord throughout the entire trial.  I love where we have been taken on this journey and I thank God each day for everyone in my life because I realize how it can change in a moment.  There were days when I never thought I would be able to see my mom again let alone take another photo with her.  We never took pictures during her whole hospital stay and some days I regret it because I want to show her how far she has come but most days I am relieved because I don't have to have those images haunt me anymore than they already do.  But now I document everything!!!

Christmas 2013

Easter 2014

So my advice to everyone is to cherish each moment with your loved ones and thank The Lord for His provision and strength.


1 comment:

  1. This is great Amanda! :) You and your sister are wonderful examples of love and sacrifice! Your Mom amazes me!