Friday, February 14, 2014

Part Two: A Love Story

I am dragging my feet as I write the Part Two of Dave's story. Here's Part One if you missed it.  Surely, a year's time would make it easier. And most definitely knowing God was and still is in control gives me peace. In the weeks leading up to the one year anniversary I was having a bit of tough time, but by God's grace, I do feel that peace this morning.

I last left off with us heading to the doors of the Science Museum to leave last Valentine's Day. Dave had just told me he felt light-headed. As we reached the doors, Dave didn't understand the building manager telling him to use the other door. I'm pushing the stroller, trying to grab Dave's arm and frantically trying to recall the contents of my purse. Do I have a snack for what I thought was him having low blood sugar?

As soon as we step outside, Dave stumbles back towards the glass doors while making erratic movements with his arms. I started asking him what's going on and even at one point before he fell down asked if he was joking around. I'm frantically grabbing things from my purse, the first being a candy cane from Christmas and a granola bar. All the while I start beating on the glass window for help.  Some people come rushing out including the building manager named Bill who stayed with me the entire time.

After Bill came to help, one of the first ladies to come through the doors had to be about eight or nine months pregnant. I later found out her name was Dee Dee and she was visiting from California. Dee Dee was a paramedic. She immediately said to stop giving him anything to eat and to roll Dave on his side. He was having a seizure. Someone called 911 while Bill helped me hold Dave on his side. My hunny is pretty strong to say the least. I just kept praying and talking to Dave because at times he would close his eyes. Another sweet lady scooped up Gavin as he was crying so hard and eventually he and Ava were taken back inside. I can't tell you how grateful I am to these kind strangers who helped me and our kids. I'm not sure who did it, but someone gave Gavin a stuffed Stegosaurus that he named Petty.

The ambulance workers arrived and started working on Dave. They asked me a ton of questions and all the while Dave kept fighting with them. He did not like being constrained but he couldn't communicate at this point except to try to pull away from everyone. One of the hardest parts was having to tell them which hospital to take Dave to and not be able to go with him. I had to get our kiddos for I couldn't just leave them. God is so good for so many reasons but 1) Dave was not driving when this happened. We were walking to our car to leave. and 2) For those of you not familiar with the Houston area, the Science Museum is literally blocks away from the nationally known medical center. I could actually see the Med Center from the steps of the Museum.

So many visuals come flooding back. That along with the knowledge of God's goodness has left me sitting here in a pile of tears as I write this. As soon as I could, I rushed back to the kids and Dee Dee helped me load them up in the car. Even though the hospital was only a few blocks away, I was a nervous wreck but knew I had to hold it together for Gavin. Thankfully Ava was too young to understand anything that went on. I had already called Dave's parents and called mine as I was on my way.

We found our way to the hospital parking lot. I loaded up the kids in the stroller and practically ran until I came to a large outside staircase. I remember thinking, "How in the world am I going to get this stroller up there?" At that point a lady in scrubs came out the door at the top and asked if I needed help. She helped me carry the stroller up all those stairs and then took me right to Dave's ER room. I couldn't have told you what door or elevator or hallway we took. Seriously, God sent her my way at the exact time I needed her.

About the time I got to Dave's room, my father-law and brother-in-law met me. They had already left work and when my mother-in-law called them, my brother-in-law was able to take the exit he needed right then, right to the hospital. I answered another hundred questions from the ER staff and at that point knew for sure that Dave had suffered a seizure and had another on the way to the hospital. At that point they told me they were going to intubate him to protect his airways. They had also given him medicine to prevent more seizures.

I am so thankful for our family - my parents, my in-laws, and my brother-in-law. My in-laws were with me  throughout all of this; my parents took such awesome care of our kids and my brother-in-law was there to do anything from move car seats to go on food runs.

Eventually they moved Dave to ICU. We didn't know what was causing his seizures. We hadn't been out of the country recently or camping, so until blood work and spinal tap results came back, Dave was under quarantine. Anyone who went into the ICU ward had to suit up from head to toe as he was quarantined. Dave of course, had his clothes cut off him and his watch, wedding ring, and everything else removed. But before I saw the one thing that was left on, I already had this phrase firmly planted in my mind, "God is in control." The one thing he was allowed to keep on, was his rubber bracelet that said, "God loves you. Always has and always will." What a testament to every single nurse that had to check his hospital wristband throughout his stay.

Dave did have some paralysis of his left side due to the seizure but thankfully he fully recovered his movements while in the hospital. For a couple of days, Dave had to have several procedures done from MRIs to CT scans and even a couple of failed spinal taps before one was successful.   He also had a fever and had to be sedated at first.

By the second day, they were able to take him off sedation and off the breathing machine. Several of our friends from our Sunday School class wanted to come up to the hospital but not knowing what Dave had, I just couldn't bare risking someone else catching it. However, one of our pastors and his wife came up just minutes after they got Dave off the ventilator. I was rushing out of ICU to tell our family as removing the ventilator had been a hard process after some failed attempts. I think I surprised our pastor when he saw the big smile on my face! Along with Pastor Greg we had another sweet pastor friend of ours willing to suit up in the quarantine unit so that he could pray with us.

It wasn't until the third day, that a med student asked Dave who I was that he whispered my name. And oh what a feeling that was! Up until then, he had not been very responsive. Later on that day he was able to squeeze my hand. Finally, during the morning rounds of the fourth day in ICU, the doctor told us Dave probably had viral meningitis. Most of the time when a person contracts this, they will have a bad headache, fever or stiff neck, but there is also the case where a person can have a seizure as the first sign as it was in Dave's case.

By the fifth day, Dave was moved out of ICU into a regular room, but by then we could tell he was in a lot of pain especially his back and head. Physical therapy came to help because Dave literally had to gain his strength and ability to brush his teeth, walk, and eat.  Thankfully learning the abilities was a fairly quick process but getting through the back pain is even sometimes still an issue today. We think he may have pulled his back muscles during the time of the seizures.  We were also concerned that his headaches were a result of several failed spinal taps.

We both got a boost the next day when my parents brought Gavin and Ava to the hospital. Oh how I had missed those two. I remember thinking that Ava had grown so much in just a few short days.  Gavin was really leery about coming in the room at first because he was concerned his daddy was still bleeding. He had seen blood on Dave's face at the museum because he had bitten his tongue during the seizure. Once we reassured him there was no blood, he was excited to show Dave the card he made for him.

 Below is a picture of Dave two days later when he was being discharged from the hospital. He has that wonderful smile that first attracted me to him. I have to say it was a little bittersweet going home not really knowing what to expect, but the best birthday present I could have ever received. That and our moms had picked up at our house, decorated for my birthday and left us sweet flowers.
Dave was going to have a long road of recovering. He wasn't himself mentally for a little while. I think that had to do with the healing his brain was undergoing from the infection. And, he was in so much pain from his back. Every little bump on the way home was excruciating.  To go through something like this with your best friend and they not remember any of it is so surreal.

Sometimes I add the Proverbs of the day to my Bible reading as I had started for the month of February during that time. But this go around I decided to read the corresponding Psalms as well. On February 18, Psalm 18: 1-6 says:

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
    and I am saved from my enemies.
The cords of death encompassed me;
    the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
    the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord;
    to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
    and my cry to him reached his ears.

How awesome is our God! What an encouragement that was to me during Dave's hospital stay. The last two verses of the Psalm read (49-50):

For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,
    and sing to your name.
50 Great salvation he brings to his king,
    and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
    to David and his offspring forever.

I know Dave is not the David mentioned here, but how sweet to know that God showed His steadfast love to us.

Dave ended up doing three months of physical therapy. We also found out that Texas law would not let Dave drive for six months from the date of his seizure. Our kids were such troopers. They would go with us early to Dave's therapy. I would either take them to the park or to Chick Fil A. Then we would all make the hour drive to Dave's work and drop him off before heading home. In the afternoon, the three of us would pile back up in the car to meet my father-in-law. We would spend about five hours in the car Monday through Thursday, but the kids were really so good as long as we had plenty of books and snacks. After Dave's therapy ended in May, my father-in-law picked Dave up in the mornings and we would meet him again in the afternoon. What a blessing that was to us!

 (The day after Dave came home.)

Last Valentine's Day, a popular song kept playing in my head and it truly summed up God's gracious love for us. I remember just weeping when I heard it on the radio driving home from the hospital.

Higher than the mountains that I face
Stronger than the power of the grave
Constant through the trial and the change
One thing… Remains

Your love never fails, never gives up
Never runs out on me

On and on and on and on it goes
It overwhelms and satisfies my soul
And I never, ever, have to be afraid
One thing remains

In death, In life, I’m confident and
covered by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid, there’s nothing that can
separate my heart from Your great love...

I have listened to this song countless times, but it wasn't until several months after Dave's illness that one phrase stuck out and it was like a kick in the gut. We were singing the song in church and the part that says, "In death, in life, I'm confident and covered by the power of Your great love." You see, even if God had chosen that Dave's life would have come to an end on that day, I am confident that God covers us by His great love.  He paid my debt and that is the greatest expression of love I could ever receive.

And here we are, one year later on Valentines Day. By God's grace He has fully restored and we are together- all four of us.