Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Update Wednesday morning 2/29

Yesterday was one of those days in which I would have loved to just cloud up and rain tears most of the day long---I just didn't have the energy!  It wasn't a bad day, just not a stellar one.  And most of that opinion is my own; the neuro-psych doc and physical therapist probably would not agree.  Maybe it was the near-constant travelling back and forth to school, PT, and neuro-psych.  Maybe it was because the sky was gray and cloudy and spitting rain.  Maybe it's just the fact that I turned older by a whole year (actually just a few gradual hours.....but it felt like longer!), and I wished to wallow in self-imposed misery for a brief time.  At any rate, by the end of the day......and quite a few muttered prayers for forgiveness and spirits had improved.

Dale attended home room, followed by "study hall" in my classroom with his favorite!  Yeah, right.  Anyway, we worked on several speech worksheets and some Brain Quest cards before we had to leave for PT.  Upon arriving at the PT office, we were informed that we were not on the schedule.  Somehow, due to someone else's mistake (I'm sure }:-(  'cause it couldn't have been mine!), I thought we had an appointment.  Unfortunately, Group Health did not.  Praise the Lord, it all worked out because, just as the receptionist realized the problem, the PT assistant we see semi-regularly had a cancellation.  So Dale was able to do PT for half an hour---which is better than none at all.  Plus, I didn't feel as if I had paid the $1 parking fee for nothing.  I know---$1 doesn't sound like much, but when you think about how many times we go to PT each month, it adds up!  We left PT earlier than I thought we would due to the shortened appointment available, and headed home for lunch.

About 1:10 p.m., Dale and I got back in the van to go to his neuro-psych appointment.  We had not gotten one minute down the road when I realized I had left my book at home.  I really did not want to spend the next couple of hours twiddling my thumbs while Dale and Dr. Crain finished up the testing, so I turned around and drove back to my house, calling Katie and asking her to please bring my book out to the van.  (She had stayed home with Ashley, who had been throwing up all night.  Ashley was the lone holdout amongst our children who had not gotten ill from the nasty sickness the girls brought home last week.  That seemed to only give the bacteria longer in which to formulate a plan of attack on her system!  She stayed home with nausea and a stomachache all Tuesday.  Even on Wednesday, Ashley was only in school half a day due to her continued upset stomach.  Poor thing!)  With book in hand---or in the seat beside me, at least---I headed back toward the doctor's office.  Once we arrived, things went smoothly.  Dale and the doctor settled into the last bit of testing, and I sat outside reading.  Surprisingly enough, they wrapped things up early, finishing before 4:00 p.m.  Dr. Crain seemed pleased with Dale's responses and went so far as to give us his "unofficial" findings.  He said Dale did better in some areas than he had expected.  That was good to hear.  He also explained that Dale's primary processes are intact and functioning; this means that he doesn't have to work as hard to do things or to think as some other TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) patients.  Dale's secondary processes are where the first problems rear their heads, things such as not thinking before speaking and not over-explaining something.  Dale's third level of processing is inhibited by the problems in the secondary level, but Dr. Crain seemed to think that Dale should be able to continue to improve and heal as time goes on.  Again, these are his personal doctoral opinions, not the full official results of the assessments.  Still, I was pleased by this report, finding more ways to thank God for what He has done so far in Dale's life.  We go back in three weeks to discuss the full findings and look at options for school and such.

We finally arrived home about 5:00 p.m.  Every conceivable complaint was churning in my thoughts:  I was hungry and tired; I wanted nothing more than to sit down and never move again; dinner wasn't ready yet; I had a headache; I wasn't wearing my favorite outfit; I didn't have a birthday cake; etc.  Basically, I just wanted to wallow in my self-imposed misery for a while.  My husband invited me along to his interview for a second, much-needed job at Burger King.  He had been applying everywhere, and BK was the first to call him back.  He said we might pick up a sandwich afterwards to celebrate my birthday.  I figured going out would relieve me from my own undesirable company.  I wandered around Rite Aid (in the shared parking lot) for about twenty minutes before going over to BK.  Chad was just finishing up his interview, so we met at the counter to place our orders.  While we were ordering, the manager who interviewed Chad came up to tell him that he was officially hired but at a different location (no problem).  When he realized we were ordering something to eat, he waved off my husband who was reaching for his wallet and said, "Put your money away.  This one's on me."  What a wonderful blessing that was!  That man had no idea just how close I was to tears at that point, due to his simple kindness, but God knew what was in my undeserving yet grateful heart.  Here I had been grouchy and complaining, steeped in self-pity, and God still put it in that manager's head to buy our food.  What a compassionate, loving, wonderful Lord we have!  Chad and I finished our meal, stopped at Wal-Mart and picked up a cake mix and frosting tub, then went home and made me a birthday cake!  As I said, the evening ended on a good note.......chocolate!

I've been reading back and forth in my devotions about the children of Israel and their seeming constant disobedience of God's very explicitly stated laws.  It is so easy to be judgmental of their behavior, because of course I would never do anything like that.  And yet, I fight every day the desire to gripe and complain, to go my own way, to make my own decisions, to live a Christless life while proclaiming to be a Christian.  God's Word tells us repeatedly of God's longsuffering toward us and His ever-renewed mercies.  Yet I still find myself thinking, "This is the time that He turns His back on me.  This is the time that He cannot forgive."  This is worldly thinking, fleshly thinking; this is me attributing to our gracious Father my own personal feelings and beliefs.  God is compassionate toward our sinful state and always willing to forgive and strengthen us---if we but ask.  We take one small step toward His righteousness and find ourselves enfolded in His loving arms.  And this process is performed just as often as we desire it........again and again, hour by hour, day by day.  God's love and mercy are everlasting; we will never come to the end of either of them.  Praise be unto God for giving us life and breath and comfort and love and forgiveness and continual mercies!

I Corinthians 15: 57  "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Update Saturday afternoon 2/25

Well, you win some, you lose some, as the saying goes.  Our sports teams didn't get to the championship game during the tournament, so that was disappointing.  And, because the games went longer than expected, they didn't even get to stay to watch that final game.  They had to get on the road in order to get back to church on time.  Even that didn't happen.......they got held up in the pass, having to stop to put chains on the tires because of the snow.  Katie called me about 5:00 p.m. and told me they would be late getting to church Wednesday night because of the hold-up.  I overheard someone relating Preacher's response to the news:  he said, "Well, I won't start preaching before 7:30.  Make sure you're here by then."  They did even better, arriving just about 7:15 p.m.  Most of them chose to file up the stairs into the balcony, but a few ventured down the aisle to their usual seats up front.  We parents were very glad to get them home safe and sound, though discouraged because both teams blew their chances of getting to the championship game.  Preacher, however, who attended the tournament with them (just came home earlier!), commended them from the pulpit on their solid Christian spirits and held-in-check tempers.  He said that, even though they did not win the Christian character award, he believed they had done a great job showing themselves of Christ's mind and would reward them with a day off school!  We received a note from the office yesterday stating that this coming Friday, school would be cancelled in honor of the sports teams' performance.  YES!!!

Even though they did not come home with the trophy, they did bring something else home:  food poisoning.  Yep, according to some sources, one of the hotels at which some of the teams stayed had an outbreak of food poisoning on the weekend before the teams got there, and, apparently, the bacteria was not fully cleaned away before the tournament banquet was held there a couple of days later.  Amanda had told me that one of the teams was really sick during the tournament, but I just felt sympathetic and thought nothing else of it---until Katie complained as soon as we got home after Wednesday night church that her stomach hurt really badly.  She said it felt tight, and she thought she might throw up.  I told her to get some water and a couple of Tums and, if she didn't throw up in the next half-hour, to just go to bed.  Ashley, my ten-year-old, was also saying she thought she might throw up, but she didn't go on the trip; I figured she just had a tummy ache and sent her to bed.  I never got a chance to ask Amanda how she felt since she literally walked in the door after church, dragged her suitcase upstairs behind her, and fell into bed.  Somewhere around 1:30 in the morning, Chad and I were awakened by the sound of some poor soul puking their guts out.  (Pardon the expression, but it is quite graphic, isn't it?)  I jumped out of bed and rushed down the hall, thinking Katie or Ashley was sick, but it turned out to be Amanda.  She had vomiting and diarrhea, causing her to be absolutely miserable.  She finished---for the time being---and we both headed back for bed, only to be awakened again around 4:00 a.m. by the sounds of Katie in the throes of agony.  She had been sleeping and so had not been aware (heavy sleeper!) that she was about to be sick.  As a result, her floor and blankets were the recipients of her illness.  That was the end of my night's sleep.  I found myself going up and down the stairs, gathering bowls of hot, soapy water to scrub the floor, disinfecting sprays, air fresheners (!), paper towels, trash can liners without holes, etc.  Once Katie got cleaned up, I sent her downstairs to the couch to finish sleeping if she could, and then I finished scrubbing her floor before starting the washing machine.  Amanda got up more during the night to be sick, but Katie was able to sleep.  When morning officially started (school time), I only awakened Ashley---who was fine---and Emily to get ready for school.  The older girls couldn't go, of course, and I wasn't willing to leave them for hours at a stretch to be with Dale in school, so I opted not to take him to school Thursday and let him sleep in.

When I dropped the younger girls off, I found out that more of our sports teams and chaperones/coaches were ill now.  As of the end of school yesterday, as many as a dozen of our people who had gone on the trip were down with this terrible sickness.  And it gets worse:  Dale and Emily began throwing up yesterday!  I had taken Dale to school on Friday along with all his sisters (Katie still wasn't 100%, but I felt like she should try to go to school); we could only be at school until SP at 11:00.  Dale had mentioned a couple of times that his stomach felt a little bad, just often enough that I decided to bring an extra trash can with liner in the car to SP "just in case."  We wound up starting SP late because Dale had to go to the bathroom once we got there.  Finally, we were able to settle down and let Dale work at therapy.  I had told Lisa, SP therapist, that Dale had mentioned not feeling quite well, and she seemed okay with trying to have a normal session anyway.  He had been working steadily for about half an hour when a strange look crossed his face.  His eyes widened and he put his hand up to his mouth.  I leaped out of my chair, grabbed the nearby (lined) trash can, and held it under his chin......just in time.  The poor guy was so sick; of all the members of my family, the guys (Dad and Dale) hate throwing up the most.  Lisa was so nice about it, not getting flustered at all.  She got Dale a washcloth to wipe his face and some water to wash the nasty taste out of his mouth.  And that was the end of SP!  Once I got Dale in the car, I called the school and told them I was coming to pick up Katie; it was on my way home, and I knew she was miserable to begin with.  As it turns out, that was a good idea; she still was battling diarrhea.  I picked up Emily as well, which may not have been as good an idea.  It gave her more time to be exposed to Dale's germs!  Dale continued vomiting every hour or so for the next several hours until his stomach had emptied itself of all possible substance.  Amanda came home from school not feeling well again, so she pretty much slept the rest of the day.  Chad and went grocery shopping before dinner; when we got home, Katie informed us that Emily said her tummy hurt.  Within ten minutes of our arrival home, Emily was throwing up.  This did not help Dale much at all; he's one of those people that can't hear or see someone vomiting without doing the same himself.  His illness tapered off toward nightfall; about 8:15 I gave him some crackers to see how his stomach handled those.  He kept them down for an hour before expelling them.  Once he was finished, he felt some better, so I gave him his meds with water, made sure he used the bathroom, and settled him for the night.  (Praise the Lord, Dale did not actually throw up any of his meds!)  My habit is to keep sick children downstairs with me until I am sure they are better, so I let Dale sleep in the easy chair all night.  Emily scared me, though.  She couldn't keep anything down---not even a few sips of water---all night; she threw up with regularity until about 4:00 this morning.  I was seriously worried she might be getting dehydrated, but she seems to be all right now.  Even today, her tummy has hurt; she slept quite a lot and finally decided she was hungry enough to eat some dinner.  Someone a while back gave us some Pedialyte drinks, so I have had Dale and Emily drinking those.  Amanda seems to be all right now; Katie's stomach is still unhappy; no one else has gotten sick yet.  We are crossing our fingers!!!

It seems as though I have spoken of nothing else but this illness today, but, frankly, that has rather consumed our time these past few days!  Please pray for everyone who has been in contact with this illness to be whole and healthy soon, so that they will be well, their families will be well, and life can return to normal once again.

Matthew 7: 7 - 8  "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Update Wednesday afternoon 2/22

It is so vital that we choose to praise God for every thing that happens in our lives, both good and not-so-good.  As human beings, we have it in our nature to look at all the negative events that will and do occur and question God as to why He allows such trouble in our lives when we are only trying to do right and live for Him.  We must deliberately think with the mind of Christ and force ourselves to look at all the positive things and events.  Sure, bad things happen to good people, and none of us is exempt from this.  But, I believe that if we sincerely look, we will find God's fingerprints all over our lives.  It's not easy; we want to think that, just because we are Christians and just because we are God's children, we will live a life of ease and never have any problems.  The truth is......we are sinners living imperfect lives in an already corrupt and dying world.  ANY good thing that we have comes straight from God above.  James 1: 17 tells us that---but we don't always choose to believe it.  We think we deserve some kind of handout from God, as if we are doing Him a favor by living right and He owes us.  Our God created the entire universe; He parted the Red Sea so that the Israelites walked across on dry ground; He made the sun and moon stand still; He created our bodies in such an intricate way that man still does not understand all about our own selves!  And yet, He chooses to love us and care for us.  He catches all our tears in a bottle.  He hears us when we utter the simplest prayer.  What right have we to expect anything from Him when He has done so much for us?  So He doesn't give us the figure we desire; so He doesn't give us perfect health; so He doesn't give us the coveted job with the big salary; so He doesn't answer our prayer in the way we most desire.  He doesn't have to explain Himself to us or do what we say.  He is God, and He knows what is best.  He is God, and His plans are always perfect.  He is God, and that settles it.

My two older girls have been gone since Sunday night on a sports trip.  The Presidents' Day Tournament has always been a BIG event that closes out our volleyball and basketball seasons.  Our teams travel over the mountains to the Pasco area to play several Christian schools; they leave after the evening service on Sunday and (hopefully) return just before the evening service on Wednesday.  There have been a few years when traffic or weather have prevented the teams from making the service on time, but our pastor always allows them to slip in the back and listen to whatever part of the service is left.  This year, the mountain passes have already been hit with lots of snow---avalanche worry---and now there is incessant rainfall to think about as well---flooding worry.  There's a whole lot of worrying going on!  Not really, but we do pray for their safe return each time they are away.  Our pastor has always said that, if the teams win the tournament or bring home the Christian character award, we will get a day off school.  So far, that hasn't happened.  :-(  But there's always hope for next year!  Preacher emphasized to our teams (and the coaches/chaperones) that maintaining a good testimony is of more importance than winning......but it would be nice to do both!

Dale finished up his Stanford Achievement Test yesterday afternoon.  All told, it took him five days to complete the test---roughly twice as long as the rest of his class.  However, it really seemed to me that he understood everything and answered the questions as well as any other 7th grader; he just had difficulty concentrating for long periods and had to take frequent breaks.  We'll get the results back with the rest of the school's test results and see then how well he performed.

Yesterday morning, Dale got to do the first half of the neuro-psych evaluation testing.  (He was scheduled to do the first half last week, you remember, but could not because of the seizure.)  Dr. Crain seemed pleased with Dale's ability to hang in there and keep thinking.  I could not be in the room during the testing as that would throw Dale off some, but, from what I could hear, Dale was relaxed and doing his best.  We have another appointment next Tuesday afternoon to do the second half of the testing; I voiced concern that Dale might be more tired at that time of the day rather than the first-thing-in-the-morning appointment he had just had, and the doctor replied that, if he noticed that Dale was not performing up to par, he would scratch that session and plan another.  I am trying not to attach too much importance to these tests---Stanford or neuro-psych---because I know God is the One Who is healing Dale, but I am curious to know how well Dale can do on these types of tests.  Ultimately, full healing is in God's hands, and these doctor/therapy appointments are merely tools He is using to fulfill His own plan for Dale.

Speaking of therapy, this morning in PT (at the unearthly hour of 8:30 a.m.!!!), Dale walked down a whole flight of stairs.  The therapist was in front of him, holding one of his hands for assistance, and I was behind, ready to support if needed.  Dale was very fearful, looking at the many steps he would have to take before he was through.  We encouraged him to focus on the next step, not the whole flight.......literally, take one step at a time!  ;-)  Down the first three steps, Dale was very shaky and had to fall/sit down on the step behind him.  Across a small landing and down the next seven steps, he was shaky but stayed on his feet for the most part.  Then, he started to get the hang of it!  She told him, "Step down with your right leg but keep the left leg strong."  Once Dale realized it was his left leg that was causing the problem, he was able to focus on keeping that leg strong while he stepped down with the other.  And he did it!  He made it all the way down---twenty-one steps and three landings later, we were on the next floor!  Praise the Lord!  This was such a confidence builder for Dale, proving to himself that, even though something is challenging or scary, he could do it.  I really believe that getting past this shakiness and leg buckling is the key that will unlock the door to his future.  Once he can move about freely without fear, nothing will stop him.  He'll be out running up and down the basketball court before we know it!  What a wonderful day that will be!

***Stinker Alert!***Yesterday, I was talking to Dale about this morning's early PT appointment.  I said how I don't like having to get up earlier to get ready for school earlier to drop the girls off at a friend's house so she can take them to school on time so that we could get to PT on time.  Dale didn't seem to like the early-hour appointment either because, after hearing me out, there seemed to be only one option to his mind.  He began chanting to himself, "Have a seizure.  Have a seizure.  Have a seizure."  The knucklehead!!!  I almost strangled him in mock anger!  :-)  He, of course, was very proud of himself that he had gotten a rise out of me and continued to chuckle for the next few minutes, the silly goat.

Thank you again for your continued support and prayers.  You have made this journey a little easier just by being here with us.  God bless each of you every day!

Isaiah 40: 31  "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."  Amen and amen.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Update Friday afternoon 2/17

As I'm sure you experience in your own lives, we have had quite a few ups and downs this week.  The ups have helped us praise God and be encouraged, while the downs have done their part to lower our spirits and make us seek God's face even more.  How does the song put it?  "That's life."  What a blessing to have our Heavenly Father to turn to in times of great despair and times of wondrous triumph.

Dale's school schedule has been interrupted this week because he is taking the Stanford Achievement Test by himself at home.  We decided to work at home on the test because the noise level at school can get pretty intense!  He has been working steadily on it all week, making progress almost every day.  It seems to take him at least twice as long as recommended to finish any one section, but, since I expected this, I have been able to plan for that.  I am encouraged to note that Dale seems to be understanding everything just fine; of course, he gets some answers wrong, but that, too, is to be expected.  I am not helping him any more than he would be helped if he were in a classroom setting; the only help I am allowed to give him (as with any student) is to read the question/answers to him, hoping the extra reading will make the answer click into place.  His taking of the test has been interrupted by therapy trips and meals........oh, and a seizure.

Tuesday morning, just a week-and-a-half after his "partial seizure" while taking a walk with Dad, Dale was extremely shaky.  He managed to get ready for the day, but trying to walk down the stairs proved too much for his brain to handle.  His legs kept buckling underneath him, causing him to have to sit down quickly on the step above him.  We had almost reached the bottom of the first flight of stairs when Dale's leg again buckled.  This time, however, he couldn't seem to find purchase on the step behind him.  I tried lowering him to the landing where he would be "safe", but his brain glitched and he went into a full seizure.  This one lasted just as long as others previously (about 30 - 45 seconds) and was accompanied by posturing (arms stiffening out straight, wrists/fingers bending painfully) and rapid eye blinking.  The only difference between this seizure with the medication and others before the meds is that Dale was aware of what was going on but was powerless to do anything about it.  As soon as his muscles stopped their extreme tensing and his breathing returned to normal (yes, his breathing is restricted like an athlete's would be while doing extreme exercise), Dale began crying loudly.  At first he couldn't even hear me speak to him because he was crying so hard.  After he began to calm, I asked him if he could hear me; he said he could and had all along.  He said his vision blacked out some and he couldn't move his arms or legs.  I reminded him that this had happened before and that his ability to move would return, and, soon enough, it did.  We tried sitting him up, but he was rather limp :-) and unable to hold the sitting position.  Dale seemed completely exhausted by this seizure and lay passively on the floor of the landing while his sisters and I tried to figure out how to carry him downstairs to the couch.  Believe me---this is one of those things men do better than women!  We kept dissolving into giggles each time we attempted to grasp Dale's various appendages and pick him up.  Finally, I decided it was in Dale's best interest (and ours!) to just leave him there on the landing with a pillow and blanket while I ran the girls (who were now tardy) to school.  We put up the child safety gate right beside his head to nullify any possibility of him rolling down the second flight of stairs.  (I found out when I got back home that we had not left room for our dog, Peanut, to crawl under the gate and get to Dale.  I guess she whined a bit, then gave up and went back downstairs to curl up on the couch and wait for my return.)  Dale was fine there, even falling asleep for a bit while waiting for me.

After I returned, I helped Dale walk down the rest of the stairs and be seated on the couch.  I then put in a call to the neuro-psych doctor's office because Dale was supposed to start the neuro-psych evaluation testing that morning.  The doctor was in a meeting, but he took my call and assured me that we could put off the testing for another, seizure-free morning.  He made sure to ask if Dale was all right or if we needed any help; I assured him that Dale was fine now, just very tired.  So Dale and I spent the morning watching TV together and eating lunch before heading for PT that afternoon.  Dale did fine in PT, continuing his pattern of giving his best effort when he needs to most!

Wednesday was another day of testing, relieved only by short breaks and meals before calling it quits about 3:00 p.m.  I help conduct Buttons and Bows twice a month after school on Wednesdays, and this was one of those days.  My co-worker's daughter was very sick, so she dropped off her supplies and headed home.  Thankfully, the girls were not any more boisterous and crazy than usual, so we had a good time.  Church that evening was interesting, mainly because I was verrrrryyy tired and had to keep fidgeting to stay awake!  When you sit on the front pew as we do, you have no option but to keep awake the entire service.  It's rather obvious when you don't!!!  My youngest daughter, Emily, can get away with falling asleep during the preaching, but it would be really bad if I did!  We all went to bed shortly after arriving home that night from church.

We called the neurologist on Tuesday to report Dale's latest seizure and other developments, but we did not hear back from the doctor until Thursday.  Chad and I both believe that the seizures are merely a symptom of the bigger problem of brain misfires.  It seems like sometimes Dale's brain works just fine, and sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes when he tries to lift his leg to climb the stairs, his leg lifts and he steps up; the brain sent the right cue and the body responded.  Sometimes, however, his leg jerks for no reason; the brain sent a signal that wasn't needed.  Dale's body responds to the miscue, and, if this happens while he is already trying to do something (walk, climb stairs, sit down), he gets thrown off by the miscue and usually stumbles or falls.  We were hoping the neurologist had some magic potion that would help Dale's brain make the proper connections, but apparently he doesn't.  He helped us to see, though, that Dale has improved so much since his accident that we should be thankful for what we have gotten back so far.  And we are---please don't think we are in any way ungrateful.  We just want more for Dale than shakiness and spasmodic jerking and needing assistance the rest of his life.  And, yes, we have been pounding Heaven's gates with our requests, night and day.  I thank God for the miracle of our boy, and I welcome and cheer each new step of progress we can chart.  But I truly believe that God has more for Dale than shaking and falling; I believe God is continuing to heal Dale and making him into what He desires our son to be.  I don't want to presume to know God's plans or designs, but I don't think God will leave Dale like this.......unsteady, falling, unsure, scared, crying after a seizure.  I can't wait to see the finished product that will be God's work in our son; I'd just like to press "fast forward" to the end!  And maybe that's what God is trying to teach me through this:  I need to wait on Him.  I've read my Bible more, prayed more, and sought God's desires more since Dale's accident than I have in a long time.  If nothing else (and we know there is much "else" that has occurred), God has gotten my attention; He has had a daughter return to Him because of His hand in our lives and on our son.

How can we help but praise Him for His wonderful works?  How can we help but give thanks for all He does and is?  Who else but our mighty God is powerful enough to hold back the sea as it tried to claim my son's life?  Who else but our God is able to cradle Dale in His arms, holding onto him until the rescue team located him, while at the same time enveloping Chad and I in His loving arms, giving us strength beyond our human abilities and grace to help in time of need?  Who else indeed but the Lord of hosts, the God of the universe, the Giver of life Himself, the Creator of the miraculous machines we call our bodies?  And Who else can make the reconnections of the miniscule firing pins of Dale's brain pathways to enable him to grow and develop and mature to full service for Him?  If God be for us, who can be against us?

Psalm 20: 7  "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses:  but we will remember the name of the LORD our God."

Psalm 28: 7  "The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped:  therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise Him."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Update Saturday morning 2/11

I apologize for being incommunicado since Sunday's post.  I have been down sick for a couple of days......down less than I wished, sick longer than I wanted!  Let me catch you up on events in the Ostrander family's realm:

This past week our school has been taking the Stanford Achievement Tests.  The normally-combined 1st/2nd grades split so that each grade's tests could be administered separately; plus, the 2nd grade has an extra booklet that they do.  As a result, my :-( spare classroom was taken over by the 1st grade for their test.  Dale and I moved into the teachers' lounge to do our usual speech worksheets and stuff.  We decided after the first day that we did not need to stay at school for the usual length of time because Dale actually was working far beyond our regularly scheduled time of 50 minutes.  We worked in that room for about an hour-and-a-half and then opted to go home.  The upper classes did not start their SATs until Wednesday, but we went home early on both Monday and Tuesday; once home, we took a looooong walk around the neighborhood (at least 40 minutes) before relaxing in our house.  Tuesday afternoon, Dale had PT scheduled at 1:30.  We left the house about five minutes early so we could stop and get some gas.  Unfortunately, we wound up cancelling PT because.......

We were in a minor car accident at the gas station!!!  This is the first (hopefully ONLY) car accident I have ever had, and, of course, the only car accident Dale has ever been in.  The gas station has two lines of pumps that are accessible from both sides of each line.  I had been pulled up to the middle pump of the inside of the pump line closest to the building.  When I finished, I pulled around the car in front of me (at the first pump) and proceeded to make a U-turn (right) around the other line of pumps so that I could use the other exit from which I could turn left onto the main street.  Still following me?  I had gotten my vehicle about half-way in front of that other line of pumps when a young woman accelerated straight forward from the outside of that line of pumps---directly into my front right wheel!  I didn't see her coming until a second before the impact.  I slammed on my brakes and said, "No, no, no!"  But, as you can imagine, it was too late; she had already hit my van.  Needless to say, we were all shaken up a bit.  She and I both climbed out of our poor vehicles to assess the damage and exchange information.  I called Chad to tell him what happened and make sure I was following all the proper procedures.  He advised me to call the police even though we were on private property when the collision took place because she had initially told me that she had no insurance.  I put in the call to the police who said they would not come out (private property clause) unless someone was injured or under the influence (neither).  When I got off the phone, she said that she did have insurance; she thought it had lapsed because she had not yet received the new papers (I think).  Anyway, we exchanged all information possible besides SSNs, and I dialed my insurance agency's number.  Thankfully, just as she was about to pull away---she had to go to work---I remembered to get her license plate number.  I talked to USAA for a while, making my statement and getting their help and advice.  Originally, I thought I might could drive my van home, but, when my friend pulled up, she nixed that idea.  There is barely any body damage to my van; the impact seems to have been fully on the tire.  There is a tiny dent by the wheel well and a couple of paint transfers; the major damage was originally assessed by everyone at the scene as a bent/broken axle, but it turned out to be a broken strut.  Whew!  Her headlight or fog lamp (I put lamb!!) broke, and she had to remove her front bumper in order to drive as it was bent waaaay down.  After the call to the insurance company, I made a quick call to PT to tell them what happened and why we wouldn't be there.  And, of course, I called my husband back several times to keep him updated on things.  (He had also advised me to take pictures of both vehicles with my phone camera; when I relayed this to the young woman, she decided to do the same.)

To top things off, my cell phone battery was dying!  I had no idea it had only one bar of power left when I left the house.  After phoning my husband 3x, USAA 2x (I had to call back for towing, after all), my wonderful friend Novella who dropped everything to come help,  PT, my husband again (!), and taking pictures of our cars, my battery died.  Thank God for Novella!  She not only came when I called.......she gave me a hug which I desperately needed; she helped me to smile again; she gave her opinion that I shouldn't drive my van (I called her to simply follow me home in case there was another problem); she waited with me for almost an hour until the tow truck arrived (who had been trying to reach me, leaving messages on my dead cell phone!); she related the accidents she has been involved in, making me realize things could have been MUCH worse; she texted another friend of ours to ask her to pick up her/my children if we didn't make it in time (tow truck delays); she drove Dale and I to school to get our children as the final bell was about to ring; she arranged for someone else to drop her kids off at her house and stay with them for the short time it would take for her to run us home; she took all of us home (duh); and she brought our girls home after school on Wednesday and Thursday as well.  Yes, she was and is a God-send!

Once we got to school Tuesday afternoon, I got out to gather all of our combined children.  Amanda and her class were standing on the front sidewalk, waiting for the bell to officially free them.  I walked straight up to her and wrapped my arms around her.  It took her about .0001 second to realize something was wrong.  I told her what happened and that we were all right and yet now we had a deductible to pay and somehow the van had to be fixed and our insurance didn't cover a rental car.......and so on and so forth.  My second daughter, Katie, came up in time to hear most of the conversation and put her arms around me as well.  Our church's "Holy Spirit" (our pastor's wife) came up behind me, enveloped  the three of us in her arms and began lamenting aloud, "I wish we had a God in Heaven Who could take care of us.  I wish we had Someone Who could handle all of this for us!"  Of course, this made me laugh a bit as I realized that was exactly how I was acting---as if God was somehow powerless in this situation (as I felt), as if He was unable to do anything to work all things for good, as if He was in Heaven wringing His hands in despair.  I tried defending myself by saying, "I already prayed!"  But even my own words condemned me.  "I already prayed" as if one time would do it.  Really?  I only need say a few words at one moment to God and He is supposed to move Heaven and earth to do my will?  I admitted she was right; she squeezed me and told me she loved me.  And then I began praying again, allowing my requests to God to run in a continuous pattern, while I talked with others and gathered my children and headed for home.  One of my college Bible professors used to tell us, "You shouldn't have a prayer time.  You should have a prayer life."  He was soooo right!

And life continues, as it always will despite good days we want to hold onto forever or bad days we wish would end quickly.  We actually had no therapy scheduled for Wednesday, so Dale slept in a bit.  About 10:00 Dale and I went for a walk around the neighborhood.  He had already begun to slip back into shakiness, so his legs buckled a bit.  Since there was a light rain falling, his seat got damp each time he had to sit on the sidewalk.  When we got back inside, he changed and we built Legos together.  As the day progressed, I developed more and more of a severe head cold.  One nostril stuffed up, then I began to cough, followed by a scratchy throat, and several bouts of sneezing.  By the time Chad got home after work, I was fairly miserable.  I still went to church Wednesday evening, but I cannot honestly tell you what the sermon was about other than the title:  Get Over It.  Ironic, huh?

Thursday, again, Dale slept in.  (I had to get up to get the girls ready for school.  Feel sorry for me?)  I had gone to bed the night before with a headache and woke up Thursday morning with the same cold and a fierce migraine.  Taking some migraine medicine helped a bit, but I decided to absolve myself of all responsibility that day.  I did not take Dale for a walk (it was raining much harder anyway); I did not do laundry; I did not update the blog; I did not even go upstairs.  I had to call and cancel PT because we didn't have the van back yet.  The only activity I was involved in was going to pick up the newly-repaired van from the shop.  (They had originally told us that they would get to it whenever they could, possibly next week.  Two days later, it's done!  Praise the Lord!)  When we got back home, I lay down (about 4:00 p.m.) to sleep, not waking up until my husband got back from the store around 6:00 or so.  Amazingly, he expected me to get up and fix dinner!  Don't worry---I'm laughing!  He has had to listen to me say, "Why did you fix that?  I was going to use it for ______ later" too many times.  I guess he decided he'd rather risk my being upset over having to fix dinner while seriously under the weather than have me upset because he used something for dinner that I was saving.  The poor man!!!  At any rate, I was actually feeling a bit better, so the older girls and I made dinner together.

Friday was business as usual.  We all went to school in the morning, and then Dale and I went to SP at 11:00.  We returned home for lunch and rest (I was still feeling rather sick).  I received a phone call from USAA, needing to ask a few more questions about the accident.  After speaking with the adjustor for several minutes and giving him a chance to review the claim with the additional information I then provided, he gave me good news.  USAA does not see me at fault for the accident!!!  While this does not affect how Geico (her insurance) sees the situation, at least my insurance rates will not go up as a result.  WOW!  What an answer to prayer.  Also, USAA said that, if Geico accepts fault for their driver, we will be reimbursed the entire $694 cost of repairs to our van.  If not, USAA will reimburse us the $194 over our $500 deductible.  This is good news as well.  I did receive a phone call from Geico as well on Friday afternoon, asking me to give a statement and asking me additional questions about the accident.  Each time I spoke, I tried to be honest and clear, not wanting to paint her in a bad light or me in a good light.  Having said that, I know my tongue's ability to get tied in knots, so I did my best and had to deliberately leave the results in God's hands.  From my perspective, the most important thing is that my husband believes me not at fault.  Second most important is that USAA believes me not at fault and will reimburse us at least $194.  If Geico accepts their driver at fault, we will get it all back.  Whether we do or not, it's in God's hands.  We have our van back again; it only needs realignment now.  We are (kind of) back to normal.  I'm just not sure I'll be able to use that gas station again........and it's the most convenient!  We'll see.  :-)

Praising God through all things whether good or bad, easy or hard, sick or well, up or down, in the body or out of the body, we will continue serving Him.  He is worthy and we are blessed.

Jude 1: 20 - 21  "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,  Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Update Sunday afternoon 2/5

We have much for which to be thankful on this day.  It has been six full months since Dale's drowning at Cranberry Beach, WA, and our God has, indeed, shown Himself mighty and powerful to save.  First, He saved Dale from the waters; then He saved him from permament brain damage; and even now He is still saving Dale from a life of fear and confusion.  Chad and I wish to express our thanks and gratitude to everyone who has followed our son's miraculous healing and continued progress in prayers, in tears, in support.  You have all meant more to this family than we can ever hope to tell.  God bless each of you.

Dale has been increasingly shaky over the last week.  This is nothing new; usually he will have a seizure, then spend a few days nice and steady, and then slowly the shakiness comes back.  Yesterday, while my husband and Dale were out for a walk, Dale had what he calls a "half-seizure."  Chad was assisting Dale somewhat during the walk, but we have both been certain that Dale simply needs to "get over" his fear of falling and strike out in faith.  Yesterday, we were both taught a vital lesson:  to listen to our son when he speaks!  We have been telling Dale to make his brain boss his body, tell his legs to stop shaking, tell his feet where to step next.  Dale told us that he is trying to tell his legs what to do but that they are not responding.  To us, it looked like Dale was just unwilling to try hard, that all he needed to do was make it happen.  Chad was doing this again on the walk, telling Dale to make his legs obey him.  Dale's leg had buckled under him; Chad was supporting Dale while saying, "Dale, stand up.  Just stand up!"  Dale tried so hard to obey his father that he had a seizure.......but this one was much different than the others.  Dale was awake and aware the whole time!  Chad said the episode lasted only about 15-20 seconds (much shorter than the others); he got Dale down onto the sidewalk and called me.  Since he and Dale were only walking around our neighborhood, I was able to find them easily.  I pulled up to the curb to hear Dale crying at the top of his lungs.  I assumed that this seizure was like the others and that Dale was unaware of what he was doing.  I began trying to calm him down and assure him that Mom and Dad were here and he would be all right.  To my surprise, Dale began talking to me!  He said, "The reason I'm crying is I'm scared.  I think I'm dying!"  I was shocked to hear him speak, but I had to push aside that feeling and hasten to tell my son that he was not dying, that this had all happened before.  He was terrified.  Chad hoisted Dale up, but Dale could not even get his feet under him.  He began crying again, saying, "Why won't my legs work?"  We quickly realized that, even though Dale was awake for this seizure, he was having the same effects as before:  limp limbs, inability to move of his own accord, etc.  Chad was able to get Dale into the van---no small feat as Dale is no lightweight!---and we drove home.  Chad then carried Dale in and laid him on the couch where we were able to make him comfortable so he could rest.  Dale was still fearful and confused because his movement was restricted, although, by the time we got back to the house, he had regained movement in his arms.  Leg movement followed soon after, relieving Dale considerably.  We were able to explain to Dale that all of his symptoms had occurred before but that he had always been asleep through them and so did not know.  After talking further with Dale, asking him questions, we were surprised to discover that he had, indeed, remained conscious and aware during the entire episode.  He did not suffer the usual "blackout" and so could see and hear everything going on around him.  He explained that he was trying to do what Dad said (stand up properly) but that his legs simply would not obey his brain.  This helped us realize that we should have listened more closely to what Dale had been saying all along.  He has been trying to get his body to respond correctly; it just doesn't want to sometimes.  We had Dale rest on the couch for a good bit afterwards, but he never fell asleep---something he usually had no choice but to do.  I teased Dale, saying that, once he was rested, he needed to get up and finish that walk since Dad had carried him into the house and all.  He grinned, knowing full well an empty threat when he heard one!

The rest of the day passed in a leisurely fashion.  Dale got a bath as usual Saturday night, and we were able to practice some new techniques that make him feel more secure in the tub.  He maneuvers himself so that he is able to get up on his knees before standing up after his bath.  This makes him feel more in control and less likely to fall or feel like he might fall.  Also, for the first time since his accident, Dale was able to do 99% of the bathing by himself!  Again, we are establishing habits and routines that will help him at some point be able to bathe on his own (I'm sure he doesn't want Mom present by the bathtub for the rest of his life!).  Dale even was willing to bend his knees and lower his upper body into the water in order to rinse his hair.  All of these things sound like something a mother might go through while teaching her four- or five-year old how to bathe, but, in many ways, that is precisely what we are doing with Dale.  He is having to relearn many things even still, six months later.  Reteaching how to brush his teeth, how to bathe, how to use the toilet and clean himself, how to dress......each step must be taught and then reinforced daily until they, once again, become habit.

This morning, to my pleased surprise, Dale buttoned his whole shirt by himself!  He has had especial trouble with buttons because his fingers will shake so much sometimes that buttoning is almost impossible.  Usually I just automatically button his shirt.  Today, we were talking when Dale reached for the first button and began trying to get it into that small buttonhole.  I noticed this but just kept talking, and, before he even realized it, he had gotten the first one done!  It took him about four tries, but he did it.  He then began on the second one but got tired and asked for my help.  Again, normally I would just do it for him, but this time I said, "No, Dale.  You go ahead and keep trying."  He grimaced but attacked the button again.  Steadily he made his way down the shirt, needing four to six tries on each button before accomplishing the task.  When he got to the end, I called his dad into the room and presented to him Dale's success.  Chad was suitably impressed, and Dale was pleased with himself.  Of course, this means that I will be less hands-on with the buttons and allow Dale to try more before offering help.

Thank You, Lord, for all You do, but especially, thank You, Lord, for healing my son.  Dale has come so far in these past six months.  When I think back to that day in August when we were unsure if Dale would survive or just go on home to Heaven and compare his prognosis then to what he can do now, I am amazed at our Lord's unspeakable power and might.  He alone was able to show the water rescue team where Dale was; He alone was able to wake Dale up and have him speak; He alone has been able to so heal Dale's brain that speech is no longer a problem; He alone has the ability to reestablish those needed connections to allow Dale freedom of movement once again.  Our God is able and willing to do wonderful works in our lives.  We must be willing to allow Him to lead us "through the valley of the shadow of death" in order for His glorious light to illuminate our path.  Thank You, my Father, for leading us.  May we always follow You closely and trust in Your will.

Psalm 119: 105  "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Update Wednesday morning 2/1

Good morning!  I have good news to report.  Dale's MRI results came back normal!  The nurse said, "It is a normal MRI of the brain."  The doctor called later and talked to my husband; he said that no "issues" showed up, nothing to indicate a cause for Dale's seizures (of which he has not had any for two weeks and a day) and, apparently, nothing to prevent Dale from continuing to improve.  The MRI that Dale had back at Doernbecher showed similar results.  I remember hearing the doctor's words after that scan.  The report was, "We don't see anything that he should not be able to recover from."  Mind you, that test was run less than a week after Dale's drowning, and already the prognosis was incredible.  What an amazing God we have Who is able to so heal the brain and cause neuro pathways to reconnect after injury!!!  I have prayed soooo much since August 5th that Dale would recover fully from this accident, that God would heal him completely, and, frankly, that the healing would be quick.  But I hastened to add that I trust Him to know what's best and what will bring Him the greatest glory, and, if He chooses to have Dale recover slowly through months---maybe years---of therapy rather than an instantaneous healing, I rest in His knowledge, His perfect will, His plan.  I still sometimes wish that, one morning when I go in to awaken my son, he will be whole......completely normal.......and wondering what the fuss is all about.  But I know my God is good.  I know that He loves me to such an unfathomable extent that He sacrificed His Son on that old rugged cross in the mere hopes that I would turn to Him for salvation.  Even then, He had no guarantee that I would serve Him willingly or faithfully.  He loves me as I am, wretched sinner though I be.  I cannot wrap my mind around God's love, committment, mercy, and grace.  He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Door.  I do not deserve to even live, much less be noticed or heard by Him......yet I know as surely as I breathe that my Father hears me when I pray and captures each tear I shed.  His will is perfect, best, and utterly worthy; I can and do trust Him with my life, my future, and those of my husband and children as well.  He will form Dale into what and who He wants him to be and will, one glorious day, present Dale to Himself as a jewel for His crown.  Until then, we watch and wait:  watch to see just how wonderful and miraculous our God is, watch to see His almighty plan unfold, watch for the moment the Bridegroom cometh; and wait on Him, as a servant waits hand and foot on a beloved master, as an excited retriever waits for the tossing of the stick, as a weary traveler waits impatiently for the long journey to be over so that he may rest.  We serve a living God, a mighty God, a just God, a true God, a faithful God, a loving God.  May we rest in Him.

Yesterday Dale saw a pediatric neuropsychologist to begin the six-month assessment.  (I am so not typing that label out ever again!)  Dr. Crain is very nice, and Dale liked him.....which is good because Dale will be working with him over two three-hour appointments to assess how well Dale is doing, how much he has progressed, what still remains to be improved upon, and how well Dale and his family are coping with the injury and resulting challenges.  Dr. Crain talked with Dale and I about an hour in his office, dividing his time between asking me questions and giving me information and asking Dale things and explaining the assessment tests to him.  He was also helpful in telling Dale why certain things are still hard for him (like walking) and giving him practical tips to use to aid his brain in commanding his body.  Basically, he told Dale to "PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!"  When Dale said that the biggest problem he has is walking because sometimes he falls, the doctor questioned him as to why he falls.  Dale responded, "My legs sometimes just give out."  Then the doctor used this illustration:  When you touch a hot stove, your fingertips send your brain information (about the temperature).  This is called "bottom up" communication.  Conversely, when you want to reach for something on the desk before you, your brain sends information to your arm (about direction).  This is called "top down" communication.  Dale's brain needs to work on the "top down" communication because his body doesn't always respond immediately or correctly to what his brain is saying or how his brain is directing it to move.  And, as with anything worth doing, the way to improve those lines of communication is to......practice.  Dale seemed to understand this explanation fairly well, although he didn't seem pleased at the doctor's suggestion that Dale help out with more chores in order to get in good practice.  But, the doctor backed up the PT and Chad and I on the issue of walking daily in order to practice making the body listen to the brain.  The doctor gave other good suggestions and ideas, but the main idea was to help Dale find ways to improve that "top down" communication and so improve his balance, walking, shaking, learning, attention span, etc.  After the office visit, I was able to schedule those two appointments for February 14th and 21st; at these appointments, Dale will be in the room, going through the assessment tests (whatever they may be) while I stay outside.  Studies have shown (and I have witnessed as a teacher) how different a child's performance level can be with a parent present as opposed to without---usually the test results drop because the child responds differently while Mom or Dad is in the room.  My first reaction was to throw up a wall of defense.  I do not like leaving my child of any age in a room alone with anyone I do not know well.  However, when I voiced this concern, the doctor was kind and understanding, offering me his credentials to examine, his work record, and listing the various security background checks he had to undergo to be licensed in the state of Washington.  He then added that I was welcome to sit on the bench in the hallway right outside the door and peek in the window every once in a while to make sure all was well.  (Initially he had said I could sit in the waiting room or go to the nearby mall.)  I appreciated his kindness and acceptance of my concerns; of course, I was the only one with those concerns.  My husband, upon hearing of this out-of-the-room stipulation, merely remarked that "Dale is 13 now; he'll be fine."  I know that!  I am not (terribly) over-protective of my children, but I can be a mother bear if I feel my children are being threatened or treated unfairly or made fun of or looked down upon or........maybe I do have a problem!!!  :-)  Truly, I'm not that bad, and I do believe Dale will be fine during these tests.  The other concern is about Dale's medication.  Usually we up the dosage on Tuesdays (only for another couple of weeks until he reaches three pills twice a day), but the only three-hour blocks the receptionist could find were both on Tuesdays!  So, after fretting stewing thinking about this half the night, I came to the brilliant conclusion that I don't technically have to up the dosage Tuesday morning.  I can actually wait until that evening or even Wednesday morning to up his medication to its final dose.  Am I not incredibly bright?  (Insert tongue in cheek!)  Sooooo, now that the logistics have all been figured out, we are all set in a couple of weeks to get Dale "checked out" mentally.

Something else the doctor said yesterday that made me know God is still working in Dale's brain:  He mentioned that, having worked in some big children's hospitals and having read many different MRI results in his career, he noticed that usually the MRI comes back normal.  If the scan results show a problem, then the doctors know what specific injury has occurred and what they can/can't do to help.  In Dale's case, the MRI came back normal but Dale still has issues ---which means his issues are not damage-related but rather working pathway-related.  These are things we can help with; these are things we can work with.  I don't understand much about the brain, and every doctor we've ever talked to has said the same thing:  With as much study of the brain as there has been, there is still so much the doctors don't understand about the way it works and connects and communicates.  BUT......I know the God Who made the brain, and I have direct access to Him at any time of the day or night.  He knows my desires for my son, and He knows what is best for Dale.  He knows what is wrong in Dale's brain and what is right.  He knows what is still injured and what is healed.  He will make "every thing beautiful in His time."  And, for this moment, that's enough for me.  I can rest.

Ecclesiastes 3: 11  "He hath made every thing beautiful in His time:  also He hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end."