Saturday, December 22

An Unexpected Christmas Blessing

As Soccer Dad (or Travel Man, as his signature now reads) mentioned, I was under the weather. (Such an understatement!) Let's start with Tuesday morning.

Soccer Dad was scheduled for a root canal at 9:00. I already had been awakened at around 5:00 or so with stomach pains, but I pushed through them and went with Soccer Dad and the girls to the dentist. I expected to feel better by afternoon, but I couldn't drink my coffee at all, and any time I tried to eat anything, I felt pains in my abdomen. So I waited. We went home and I went back to bed for a while until I finally asked Soccer Dad to look up "appendicitis" on Web MD. We went to the ER when I realized I had a lot of the symptoms. The ER doc wasn't thrilled with the Web MD thing ("If you think you need a doctor, don't wait - just get to one!"). I was given an IV, zophran and phenegran (oooh ... just like the ol' pregnancy days!), and I waited for them to do a sonogram while the hospital ran blood tests. They did not come up with whatever markers show up in your blood when you have problems with your appendix, so they did a sonogram of my gall bladder. In the meantime, friends of ours came and fetched our girls for us, in case I had to be there a long time or was going to be admitted or have surgery. I hadn't even said goodbye!

When all was said and done, they estimated that I had stomach problems - maybe an ulcer or very bad GERD (which I kind of doubted, since I had no problems with heartburn) - and gave me three prescriptions to take home with me, and directions to try clear liquids for a while. We went home, Soccer Dad and I, and he left me snoozing on the couch while he went to McDonald's and ate dinner with the girls and our friends' family before returning. I was still having pains, still didn't desire much to eat or drink, and was generally feeling kind of crappy all over. After a while, everyone went to bed.

About 1:00 a.m., everything got much, much worse. I started vomiting. Every. Twenty. Minutes. Suddenly, that "I-had-a-tubal-I'm-not-pregnant" comment seemed not very certain. God can do anything, including mending that mess in there. By 5:00 a.m., Soccer Dad was on the phone with the ER again, asking if I should go back in.

Upstairs he trooped after ordering me to put clothes on so we could leave, while I dry-heaved every few minutes. I heard him awaken the children and I could hear their sleepy footsteps in and out of the bathroom and hallway. I did. not. care. I wanted it to just stop. I was really, really miserable. I thought about the nearly 20 minute drive to the hospital. I thought about how every bump along the way hurt so badly. I thought about how lights were making my nausea and vomiting worse. I kept hoping I'd wake up and it would all be a bad dream.

Soccer Dad came back, put my sneakers on my feet (I couldn't bend over), and helped me into a coat and into the car. The girls had all sorts of assorted things stuffed into a backpack, and we were off to the ER again.

I was whisked back to a room (my wonderful husband requested private, knowing how awful any extra stimulation is for me when I'm sick like that), and by the time I saw Soccer Dad again, our friends had already been to pick up the girls for the day.

We checked my blood work (once the zophran took effect again) and checked to see if I was pregnant, just in case, because I was about to have my first CT-scan. I managed to get 2/3 of the awful drink down, the nurses (oh! the wonderful nurses!) helped me stave away the nausea long enough to keep it down, and a doctor came in to announce that I had ...

an intestinal blockage?

Seems that my small intestines were kind of sticking and twisting up on themselves in one spot. "How can that happen?" I asked.

Well, if you've ever had abdominal surgery, sometimes the scar tissue can cause problems like this. It's very possible that your tubal ligation has caused scar tissue that is affecting your intestines, and they are now bunched up.

Oh, sweet. Yet another reason to regret that decision. Penance, I thought - it's a penance.

Now I have to say right here that already, I'd been offering up my pain and suffering. Not too long ago, I finally understood what was meant by "offer it up," and I wanted to do that. I wanted to, but I couldn't seem to remember. So I asked my guardian angel to please remind me, when I was in pain, to offer up my sufferings. Sometimes - most of the time, really - I do it for the poor souls of Purgatory, and especially for those who have no one to pray for them. Sometimes, I'll do it for a family member or friend who is ill or suffering - like my aunt. For the first time, though, I asked to make it for my own offenses. I tell you: I was afraid I was going to die. I told Soccer Dad the first trip to the ER that if I was to have surgery, he was to first call the priest and then call the family. I wanted Anointing of the Sick if I was going under the knife.

So I was lying on the table, asking God to use my suffering to make up for my own sins and faults. And then I found out that it was most likely one of my most-regretted decisions that caused my pain and suffering.

The doctor explained that there were two options, and they wanted to try the least-invasive first. They could operate - laproscopicly - and try to repair the scar tissue and untwist the intestines. But they could also give me an NG tube - through my nose, down my throat, and into my stomach - and relieve the pressure behind the knot in hopes that it would just un-twist itself. (Our friends who watched our girls had their friend - a gastro-intestinal specialist! - talk to me. He said it's like when you make balloon animals. The balloon stays twisted because of the pressure on both sides of the twist, but if you remove the air, the balloon returns to its normal shape by untwisting itself. He seemed a bit shocked when I asked if he thought I had a giraffe or a doggie.) So, anyway ... I opted for the no-surgery route. The doctors said that they'd come back and do that right there, in the room. anesthesia?

Nope. Be right back.

Back came the nurse, the intern doctor, and an EMT who had been helping with my IVs and such. And they gave me a cup of water with a straw. "Drink hard - guzzle - when you feel like you must swallow." Okay, I can do that.

The nurse sprayed a numbing agent in my throat to help ease the tube down and slathered the end of the thing in a lidocane gel. I was already a little nervous because the tube had a circumference like a Ticonderoga number 2 pencil. And the end of the tube was hard. The nurse started to stick that giant tube up my nose, and it HURT!!!!!!! I backed up.

"WHOA!" I yelled. "That HURTS! Holy cow!" (Yes, that was about as bad as my language was. Thank God.)

Really, there was nothing we could do about that. Soccer Dad came to hold my hand (I think to keep me from shoving them all away - I was starting to think that surgery sounded very good), and ... well, let's leave it to say they got it in. Soccer Dad was there, and he can tell you: you don't want to know the details.

Soccer Dad, when talking to my mother that night, said to her, "You know how when your spouse suffers, you often pray, 'God, give it to me instead'? Yeah, this is one time I thought, 'Thank God it's not me!'" To which I replied (via notepad), "And for once I thought, 'I wish it was him instead!!'"

Yes, I was able to talk, but it hurt. A lot. It pressed on the inside of my nose when I spoke, rubbed against my vocal chords, and just ... hurt. So I wrote nearly everything down, since no one was fluent enough in sign language to understand me.

And that was when we decided to ask how long the tube needed to stay in. And found out the answer was at least 24 hours.

Yes, indeed, surgery would be nice. Too late now.

Still, I wanted to offer it up. So I did. It was interesting, because I thought of something I'd read about Mother Teresa in Columbia magazine. She was discussing with a bishop her dark night experiences, wondering about them with him, when he suggested that she offer up those sufferings as a gift to God. She was delighted! He said she'd perked right up and was happy to be able to give that back, that she from then on considered all of her crosses as gifts from God that she could offer back to Him. And I held on to that thought and tried very, very hard to do the same.

Mind you, I am no saint. I wasn't always successful at offering it up with love. When my night nurse came on and insisted that I not write things down - "I want you to talk to me" - I wrote angrily after she left the room, "How about we shove a tube through HER vocal chords and see how she likes to talk??!!??" This, only a few hours after receiving the Anointing of the Sick. (We still weren't sure I wouldn't need surgery the next day, so Father came by and gave me the Anointing - sans Communion - on Wednesday afternoon.)

But Soccer Dad had brought our prayer book to me, and I opened it up and prayed and prayed. I made my Morning Offerings. I prayed the Angelus. I even prayed Evening Prayers. And, in a moment that I know God helped me with, I prayed the following prayers.


Merciful Lord of life, I lift up my heart to You in my suffering and ask for Your comforting help. I know that You would withhold the thorns of this life if I could attain eternal life without them. So I throw myself on Your mercy, resigning myself to this suffering. Grant me the grace to bear it and to offer it in union with Your sufferings. No matter what suffering may come my way, let me trust in You.


O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I come to ask You for the gift of restored health that I may serve You more faithfully and love You more sincerely. I want to be well if it is You will and redounds to Your glory.

If on the other hand it is You will that my sickness continue, I want to bear it with patience. If in Your divine wisdom I am to be restored to health and strength, I will strive to show my gratitude by a constant and faithful service rendered to You, my loving Savior and Redeemer, and my God.

And, as I got to the "If on the other hand..." part, I paused only a moment. Then I prayed it. And, even more miraculous, I meant it. And that alone was a huge blessing.

Thursday morning, Soccer Dad came back - still without the girls. We didn't want them to see me with that NG tube because it was scary. What came out was yucky and that was scary enough that even I didn't want to see it. I wouldn't even look at myself in the mirror when I washed my hands in my room. So our friends offered to keep them overnight. I thank God for them. When I think of what a huge help they were to us, it makes me cry with joy. I don't know what we would have done without them. After spending the morning with me, Soccer Dad went to have lunch at our friends' house with the girls.

While he was gone, the doctor came in and pulled the tube! I thanked him profusely and reveled in the simple pleasure of being able to turn my head and body without gagging on a tube in my throat. I called Soccer Dad and told him to come back with the girls after lunch - I had pretty much not seen them since Tuesday morning, when I mostly ignored them because of the pain in my abdomen. And I had the best-tasting Popsicle I'd ever had! Yummy, red, double Popsicle. mmmmmmm...

Then, lying in that bed with my door closed, I praised and thanked God for His blessing. I asked Him to please let this be healing, but I was also ready for the doctor to tell me I needed surgery. I just thanked Him again and again. I asked for Him to bless the doctors and nurses. I mostly rambled on and on to Him about how happy I was and how thankful I was. And then I heard a choir roaming the hallways singing Christmas hymns.

O, come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!

O, come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem!

Come and behold Him, born the King of angels!

I cried for sheer joy.

The doctor wanted me to stay one more night to be sure the plumbing was all working properly, and I was still limited to sips of clear liquids for the time being, but I was free of the horrible tube! When my family arrived, we called our parents and our friends to update them on what was happening. And I went easy on the liquids and waited for good news from the doctor the next day.

Yes, Friday morning I was released. And I had eggs and toast for lunch and fish sticks for dinner. (I have no diet restrictions, but I'll be on the lookout for symptoms this time.) I have about a 25% chance of this happening again, but there is nothing I can do to prevent it. Not a thing. Talk about having to learn to trust God! I just will continue to pray and ask for His mercy with this, that I am able to stay healthy.

And you know what? The whole experience has been a very big blessing. All of it. I was able to pray more and read more of my Bible. (I finally finished 1 Samuel!) I was able to be still. I had to listen instead of talk. When I was going to talk, I had to be sure that I was really sure I wanted those words to come out of my mouth, because it sure was going to hurt to say them. I had to be sure that when I wrote something down, I wanted those words read.

Blessings. All of them.

Thank God for His blessings.

Another thing, though. As I was leaving, I looked around at the Christmas decorations. I wished everyone merry Christmas and thanked my nurses. And I watched as people streamed in through the doors with Christmas presents in hand. And I realized something.

I was going home for Christmas. Others were not.

If you can't visit the people in the hospital on Christmas, please remember them in your prayers. Because that room can be a cold and scary place when you're alone in it. And some of those people don't know that they've got angels with them, that God is with them. They just feel - alone. Pray for those people, especially, that they will feel the joy of Christmas.

O, come let us adore Him!

O, come let us adore Him!

O, come let us adore Him - Christ the Lord!

[ps: Thank you all who prayed for me!]


Barb, sfo said...

WOW!! Take it easy. Glad you are feeling better!

Stacey said...

Awww, I'm sorry, that sucks!! I hope everything's better soon.

Lindsay said...

I'm so glad your story ended well, Christine! I struggle with offering up my suffering, too. I want some of that grace for myself! I have a devotion to the Holy Souls, though, so I know God has plans for my prayers and suffering (and it does seem like they come quite often--I'm only 21 and I have knee pain that may be arthritis).

On a mostly unrelated note, I just picked up my read-the-whole-Bible plan as well; I'm on 2 Samuel. :)

Who are your heros?


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