Monday, April 2, 2018
I'm grateful to know how hard it can be to stand. I'm grateful to know what it feels like to have my body process food for the first time in weeks. I'm grateful to know what it's like to set and, amazingly, reach seemingly small goals: to take a breath, to take a step, to take a drink, to push a button. I'm grateful for Mitch. I'm grateful that he found a way to visit me every day despite the pain he felt. I'm grateful for the lift his presence and smile brought me. I'm grateful that he saw me at my worst and somehow saw my best. I'm grateful that he knows how hard those steps were, having walked them just before me. I'm grateful for his family accepting me and loving me so easily.
I'm grateful to know pain, to know the relief of less pain, and the miracle of no pain. I'm grateful to see the way that my life has been so carefully guided. I'm grateful to realize that despite my oh-so-many shortcomings, I matter. I'm grateful to know with an absolute certainty that if I matter then you matter, this world matters, life matters.
I'm grateful for the miracle of bearing a child. Sometimes I wonder that the mangled mass inside of me could somehow still give me a beautiful and amazing girl.
I often wonder at the strength of those who've survived traumatic experiences when they say—if I could go back, I'd do it again. And yet somehow I find myself echoing that sentiment. The extreme pain, fear and uncertainty have shaped the life I've led in every facet. Since then, every spring that I've seen slowly creep its' way into the world—the green of new life, the blossoms of trees, the sweetness in the air—I marvel that I didn't miss it. This year I could see it from a window, walk among it, sit quietly with it and share it with my daughter, husband, parents, siblings, friends and every other person whose heart revels in the glory of life renewing around us.
Today I remember the pain and the fear. I remember the uncertainty that I faced. I remember facing death, my death, and somehow knowing that even if that was my nest step that it would be ok. Today I rejoice that it wasn't! I rejoice that I woke up each time to face the pain and the fear and the uncertainty and somehow kept on. I rejoice that I trusted in those around me and in a loving Heavenly Father who know so much more than me. I rejoice that every day I get to be me: an imperfect, silly, shy, loving, short, singing, reading, more-happy-than-not, me.
Thank you for ten years.
Friday, June 18, 2010
This week was an absolutely crazy one that did not go at all how we planned!
We were awakened Monday morning by a phone call from Chrissy informing us that Mike was in the hospital having his appendix removed! Mitch spent a lot of class time fixing flights for him so that he hopefully can join us next week. I tried to put together a mini concert program for Chrissy on Thursday when she would be coming to class. After that we finished cleaning our apartment, put more money on the cell phone and air card and packed.
We got up early and headed for the airport. We arrived in Beijing and booked a hotel for the night. As we were checking in we received a phone call from Chrissy saying that due to mechanical issues with the plane and the Tokyo curfew she was stranded in Portland until the next morning. Unfortunately the flight they’d booked her for from Tokyo to Beijing put her arriving too late for us to catch the flight that we’d booked back to Hohhot. So she found a slightly earlier flight and we changed our tickets to Wednesday night instead of Wednesday morning. We found a Subway for lunch and then met up with with Serge and Nova (who happened to be in Beijing for the week visiting Serge) and they took us to the Silk Street Pearl Market. We made some unplanned purchases and I got to enjoy seeing Mitch stretch his bargaining muscles. After that we treated Nova and Serge to dinner at TGYFriday’s which was quite tasty. It was good to test them out on mostly American food. They should be able to survive if they actually do get to come visit us next year.
We returned to Subway for lunch again and then headed to a long street in Beijing for some more souvenir shopping with Nova and Serge and while enjoying some gelato we discovered that Chrissy had not been allowed on the earlier flight to Beijing. So we called Hannah teacher and told her that we wouldn’t be back for class Thursday morning and changed our flights once more to Thursday evening. We waited for her flight to arrive at the Beijing airport but after circling for an hour they had to head back to Japan because of severe thunderstorms. Mitch and I had already put a deposit down on a five star hotel to try and treat Chrissy special so we headed there for the night. It was such a rip-off.
We left the hotel early that morning and began our camp out in the airport. Her flight was scheduled to arrive at noon and at noon they said the new arrival time was 2:40. When her plane finally landed at 3:32 we could hardly believe it! It took another hour for her to make it out to us and while we waited we received the message that our flight to Hohhot had been canceled. In fact all flights from the airport were canceled the the people freaked out! The crowd of people at Air China counter made the front page. After discussing the pros and cons of trying to take a train out instead, then finding out that they were completely booked as well we headed back to the hotel for another night. My amazing husband got us a flight for 10:55 AM which we thought would get us back with plenty of time to get ready for Ann’s wedding which she’d asked us to perform at. And with a surprisingly awake Chrissy we hotel hopped until we were satisfied. We also got to treat her to her first Chinese meal which was actually quite like the first meal that Mitch and I had in Beijing. Oh that famous Peking duck!
We made it to the airport in plenty of time and with just a minor gate change everything seemed to be going somewhat smoother. That is until we found out that Ann’s wedding was supposed to start at 1. Our flight was schedule to land at 12:05 and even being one minute early wasn’t going to help much. We flew back to our apartment and frantically threw on semi-decent clothes. I splashed on some make-up and Mitch uploaded my karaoke track of “Someone Like You” to my iPod. We didn’t grab his viola because Ann said that they had a violin there for him to use (who knew that Ann’s idea of a VIOLIN was actually a PIANO). Despite our hurrying we were about 45 minutes late and the whole ceremony was over (although having been to another wedding this wasn’t such a big deal). We were shuffled onstage to give them flowers and to say a few words (which no one else could understand and really seemed like it was just an excuse for Ann to show off that she can speak english so well with the Americans). After a desperate attempt to get the iPod hooked into the sound system I took the stage. Now in the Chinese culture, when it comes time to sing at weddings it is an absolute MUST that everyone hear everything so well that if the first ten rows have to go deaf because of the volume, well that’s just a sacrifice that they’d better be willing to make. The piercing quality of the soloists is actually pretty amazing. I had a headache within the first five minutes. Well, anyways, it being my turn and I, knowing how to pull the microphone away from my mouth a little when going for the high belt notes, prepared to give the inattentive crowd the best performance I could. The tech guy was very concerned about my performance. I kept pulling the microphone away and the sound was just not completely blowing people out of their seats so he kept increasing the volume! So I kept pulling the mic away and he kept turning it up! The feedback became an almost constant companion! I did get applauded after the first verse, second verse, halfway through the last chorus and twice during the last line. Oh, and I got handed a bouquet of flowers right before the dramatic key chain (I was half expecting that thought--it’s fairly traditional to do that here). We couldn’t quite stomach staying there for all the rest of the nothing that was going to take place so we claimed that Chrissy needed a rest and booked it out of there.
So here we are! Chirssy is in Hohhot and the week is almost over!
We've been having a little trouble with our VPN lately so I haven't been able to post for a while. I'm going to post my journal entry about our big Children's Day concert as a little catch-up!
We finally had our first (and only) concert out here in China!!
We were asked back in March if we would be able to perform two of the songs that we’ve been teaching the kids for this concert. We had very eagerly agreed (especially because we had thought we’d be doing several concerts while we were here). We decided to sing the “Show Me the Way” that Mitch had arranged and “Seize the Day” from Newsies. With three months to prepare two songs it wasn’t any surprise that come the end of May we all felt very comfortable with the music. These past few days were spent rehearsing in the concert hall and it was nice to have the whole choir sing together instead of how it normally is in class half at a time. It was an interesting process trying to communicate with everyone involved in the process. We communicated best with a teacher named Hannah because she speaks Russian very well. So when we wanted mics turned up or whatever Mitch would speak to Hannah. Unfortunately her native language is Mongolian and her Chinese is just as pathetic as ours is so then she would have to talk to someone else who understood Mongolian and Chinese and then he would finally tell the tech guy what we wanted!
After a full day of rehearsals we received a phone call from Hannah who sounded very stressed out. It turned out that because some important political people were coming they were trying to request that the concert be only one hour long. Now I had just been thinking about what a nice length this concert was at one hour and thirty minutes. Most of the other concerts that we’ve been to here have stretched on to the three hour mark. So at the last minute they were going to try and cut some numbers. This was no easy task. Every number in the program except choir pieces and the two dance numbers were songs that the kids had actually auditioned with to be put in the concert. They had worked so hard and now Hannah was having to cut several of them. She asked us to pick one of our songs to cut. While not a happy decision it was a fairly simple one. We chose to cut “Seize the Day” the song I was conducting. We had several reasons but the main one was that “Show Me the Way” had soloists in it one of whom had broken his foot several weeks earlier and had come from the hospital just so that he could be there to sing his solo. Despite my understanding of the situation I was still upset. We have been in China for almost a year now and this was going to be our only chance to be onstage with these kids and show what we’ve been working on! Fortunately I have a wonderfully persistent and persuasive husband. He convinced them to keep my song in for the dress rehearsal and then if after that it was still too long then they could cut it. They didn’t cut it!
All in all it was a great evening. The kids did a great job and had a good time. Both Mitch and I had a wonderfully feeling of accomplishment. It was so great to get to perform with these wonderful and talented kids. Apparently we shook hands with the President of Inner Mongolia that night but for me the highlight of the evening was being onstage with those kids! I will miss them when we come home.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
For all of you who may have forgotten today marks the two year anniversary of the closest I’ve ever come to dying! And that’s pretty exciting! It’s kind of amazing how one moment can change your life so much. I wouldn’t be sitting on a couch next to my husband in our apartment in China right now if a 16 year old boy hadn’t fallen asleep behind the wheel two years ago. As this day has been approaching I’ve been wondering how best to celebrate it. Last year I went to Tucanos with a lot of my favorite people and I ate a lot of food. I thought that was appropriate seeing as how I’d spent 5 1/2 weeks NOT eating food.
I spent the morning rereading the earliest posts of this blog remembering the challenges, the successes and failures of those long weeks. The support of family and friends and the gratefulness to an amazing group of doctors and nurses who spend their lives trying to save others. I considered trying to write some beautiful, emotional and inspirational something about it all but who am I kidding? As I read I realized that while my wonderful father kept very faithful and detailed updates my point of view doesn’t surface for quite sometime. And for those of you who have heard the stories of what was going on in my mind you know that it was quite entertaining. So I thought for my two year anniversary of not dying I would write down what I thought was going on during those first few days.
Note: Most of what I’m about to write did NOT in actuality happen. These are hallucinations. But I must say that at the time they were more real than I would have thought hallucinations could be.
The first few memories are just fragments. I remember my father telling me that I had been in a car accident and that Mitch was here. What my mind didn’t figure out was that Mitch had been in the accident with me and was actually in the hospital as a patient. I just thought that as my new boyfriend of course he was here. Thus my first few memories include Mitch trying to be with me even though he wasn’t supposed to which meant that he had to keep hiding. I remember him riding the top of the CT machine (the part that spins)
*Random insert! I just wanted to say that I had to stop writing this quite suddenly when a pipe in our bathroom exploded and water started gushing into our home like a fire hose had gone haywire! By the time Mitch got it turned off our apartment was flooded and so was the stairwell and the first floor! So we just spent the last hour mopping up the floor (yet AGAIN) while the doorman put in a new pipe connection. Yea Chinese plumbing!*
and he was hiding under my bed squeezing my calves for reassurance. Unfortunately he would squeeze just hard enough to make it hurt so I tried showing him that it hurt by pulling my legs up away from him but that proved to be physically impossible and so I indicated to my dad with my eyes that Mitch was under my bed. My dad pulled him out from there quite angrily and escorted him from the room and I immediately felt really guilty because the squeezing continued without Mitch and I realized that he was probably getting a nasty chewing-out without anything being his fault. Now I also thought I was in Hawaii. At some point some doctor named Mark came in and my dad told me that he was here. We happen to have some close friends of the family who live in Hawaii and the dad’s name is Mark and he’s a doctor. I spent a lot of my time in a huge water tank doing underwater lung therapy and of course it makes perfect sense that Hawaii would be the lead in this kind of technology right? It was very interesting therapy. Two therapists were hooked into these machines that would rotate them in a large circle by their ankles. They would take turns holding on to me and then trading me off so that I was flowing around in a huge figure eight. I spent hours doing this. Swirling around and around and around and around....the only really odd thing was that one side of the tank was actually the side of the building and it was all glass windows which looked out onto a public beach. While every once in a while I kind of enjoyed the view mostly this concerned me because I was always completely naked during the therapy. My best friend Courtney was so kind as to hold up her yellow sarong from her bathing suit so that the ever-good-intentioned yet out-of-line Mitch couldn’t get quite as good of a look as he would have liked. When I realized I was in the Provo hospital I remembering wondering how I could have missed the flight back from Hawaii. It’s a pretty long flight and I wondered how I had slept through the whole thing.
Now comes the long, complicated and a little freaky part.
So it was time for my first bath and for it’s healing properties I was going to have a mud bath. The nurses carefully lifted me from my bed and placed me in a metal tub and began filling it with mud. Unfortunately my body wasn’t strong enough for that and I began to have trouble breathing. They called in the respiratory doctor whose name was Amir and he leaped into the tub to save me. He was a great doctor who practiced a much more holistic approach to breathing. Instead of using any machines to help me breathe he had a hollowed out stick with two holes in it. My mouth was placed over one hole and his the other and he spent the next thirty minutes breathing for me. He was in there so long that the mud began to dry and I began to notice that a very pretty nurse seemed to be very upset. I felt really guilty when I realized that she was upset because today was her wedding day and it now might not happen because her husband to be was Amir! She was also angry because she knew that Amir had a thing for girls with blue eyes and she was afraid that he would see mine and not want to marry her anymore. I remember wishing that I could tell her not to worry because I had a boyfriend. Eventually I became stable enough for them to move me back to the bed. Except during all of the bustle of getting me out of the now dried and hardened mud I stopped breathing again! So back on my bed now Amir began to try and save my life again. This time it took so long that I began to feel really guilty about all the effort he was going through. I could see these huge welts on his arms from the force of the suction from the stick and I was just not improving. I began to wish that he would just stop. I thought that it wasn’t worth all this effort if I wasn’t going to get better. He should just let me die. It turns out that he really wasn’t willing to do that. I did basically die but he gave up his life for mine. The next thing I remember I was lying on my bed but I felt really different. When the nurses saw that I was awake they began to explain what had happened. To save me from dying Amir had given me his life. It turns out that he was a special hospital robot and when he died for me his Amir essence had gone back into the machines and walls of the hospital. His last effort had been to reproduce (which needed a human host) with me and once I produced the microchip they could begin rebuilding a new body for him and put his essence into it. As weird as that sounded I decided that it was the least I could do for him since he’d given his life up for me. Unfortunately the reproduction process was more than a little weird. Basically I had gone completely flat--like 2D. That’s why I felt like my feet and hands were brushing the floor--because they were! As I slowly puffed back up the microchips would form in my abdomen and then eject themselves through my skin when they were ready. I couldn’t ask the nurse any questions but I was really afraid that it would hurt. The essence of Amir could hear my thoughts and told me that normally it does hurt but that he would make sure that it didn’t. So all I had to do was wait. Then my parents came to see me. The nurse ran out to explain to them what was going on and I was really grateful. I could hardly imagine what it would be like to stumble upon your completely flat daughter with no idea what was going on. It helped a little--only my mother screamed and passed out when she saw me. Eventually I did puff back up, the chips ejected themselves and I was moved into the fairy tale room for the night. That’s right, fairy tale room. It was something that they had started to try and help kids stay happier in the hospital. My hospital gown was quite literally a gown. It was pink and shiny with lots of lace and I remember thinking it was a little ridiculous. Plus the nurses had to dress-up like fairy tale characters and my nurse picked a wicked old witch which at nighttime was a little scary.
That night my Aunt Peggy stayed with me. As I dozed off and on I suddenly realized that I was feeling strange. It felt a little familiar and I realized with horror that I was going flat again! As I frantically tried to remember wether or not the nurses had told me it would happen again I heard some evil laughter in my head. Basically there was another hospital robot like Amir only this one wasn’t nice and when he heard that there was a willing human host in the hospital he decided to take advantage of that. Now there has to be some kind of physical contact for the process to begin and he wasn’t in the room. It was a truly terrifying moment when I realized that there was a hand pressed up against my check and that the arm stretched all the way across the room and under the door. I tried desperately to break the connection by moving my head but I wasn’t strong enough and he hooked his finger into my mouth to keep the connection strong. I gave up and tried my best to remain calm by reminding myself that in the end everything would go back to normal. Unfortunately this time he wasn’t as nice as Amir and he didn’t bother making it painless. As I got flatter and flatter I began to feel really bad about my Aunt. She had no idea about any of this and I was really worried that when she suddenly realized her niece was going flat she would really freak out. Sure enough she did notice and she did freak out. She called the nurses in and began yelling at them, “How dare you! How dare you let her think that she is going flat! How dare you!” It took a little while for those words to sink in. How dare they let me think that? You mean I’m not going flat? I could barely understand that but it was a relief and then it really hit me. Wait, I can’t talk. How does she know that I think I’m going flat? She couldn’t know. When I understood that, I realized that EVERYTHING had been a hallucination. Talk about your world flipping upside down! It was beyond bizarre to figure out that the life that I had been living for days hadn’t been happening anywhere except in my own strange little mind! Now as I was reading my blog this morning I noted that my dad mentions my Aunt staying the night with me on April 8th so if my realization really did coincide with a visit from my Aunt Peggy then that’s what I thought was happening for the first five days.
After that I remember a lot of things that really did happen but were almost as hard to deal with as those hallucinations. Being intubated is just as bad as you imagine it to be and I’m grateful to everyone who pushed so hard to get it taken out (although THAT hurt too!). I’m grateful for all the prayers and healing thoughts on my behalf. It’s hard to explain how much I could tangibly feel their power helping me to hold on. I’m grateful for the hours and days that so many of my family and friends spent helping me start my life over. One tends to forget that a lot of things we do on a regular basis were once things that our parents did for us and when we began to do them on our own they were great accomplishments for us. So I guess my parting thought with all of you is to take a moment and look back at your life at all the amazing moments that have led you to where you are now. They could be stupid moments that weren’t your finest hour or things outside of your control. They could be the happiest moments or things you never thought you would survive. Each one woven together tells the story of your life and each one gives us the opportunity to make someone else laugh at the crazy things that morphine does to an already whacked-out brain like mine!