Saturday, July 1, 2017

Light at the End of the Long Dark Tunnel

Most of these thoughts are based on the notes from a talk I gave in May. I want to write frankly about a topic that I have become passionate about.

"Life is beautiful"

In college I had a friend and roommate named Matt. He would get up every month in front of our Christian congregation and during a brief thought, he'd grab the pulpit with both hands, grin from ear to ear and beyond, and exclaim, "Brothers and sisters, life is beautiful". He did it when life was easy and when life was hard.

"He Loves You No Matter What"

I will echo Matt's thought, "Life is beautiful". I think that often we have no clue just how much God loves us. He loves us when we are sick or healthy, when we are sad or happy. When we have good hair days and bad. When our clothes fit just right and even when they don't. He loves you no matter the language you speak, the clothes you wear or don't wear. Most importantly, He loves you the same when you keep his commandments or not. His love for you never changes. It is always there. Infinite. Eternal. Only equaled by our own divine potential.

Life is a Test

Because of His eternal love He understands that life needs to be hard. This life is a grand test after all, to see where we want to end up. Ultimately, we will go where we are most comfortable, be it in the presence of God or far from it because no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God.

So in this great test of ours is it any wonder that we experience trials? Job loss? Death? Bullying? Illnesses of the body. Illnesses of the mind. Illnesses of the heart.

It is of the illnesses of the mind and heart I want to address as clearly as I can.

"You Don't Deserve This"

You don't deserve this. This is not some horrible punishment or curse that came upon you. God is not punishing you. He is purifying you. He loves you. Jesus Christ understands perfectly what you are going through, that Man of Sorrow, acquainted with Grief. He suffered all sin. He suffered all sorrow. He did what He did because Christ knew you would need him today. You would need someone to understand. So when you need someone to lean on, lean on Him.

"There is Always Hope"

I am here to tell you that there is hope. There is always hope. I have seen miracles happen. What was once pain and darkness was lifted in a moment to become peace, and light. There is always hope. Recognize the miracles in your life. Sometimes God calms the storm. Sometimes God helps us weather the storm. We can't command God any more than an ant could compel us. And if your miracle seemingly never comes. Then endure it well. The Savior Himself asked for the bitter cup to be taken from Him, yet He partook. This may be your Gethsemane, your Golgotha, but it will end and peace will fill your heart again.

Accept the Miracle You Need

If you struggle with depression, anxiety, or some other mental illness, get medical help. Who are you to say that medical advances in this field are not the very miracle that God has prepared for you? When Naaman, mighty man of valor, captain of the hosts of Syria, and leper, sought healing, the message came to bathe in the River Jordan. He almost didn't because of the simplicity of the task. After all, how could some great miracle happen by so simple a solution? Luckily for him he listened to a friend's advice. He went and bathed in the simple waters and received his mighty miracle.

So pray and plead for miracles but accept the medical help you need. It is a lie of the Devil that a mental illness means you are somehow broken, somehow less of a person. It is a lie of the Enemy of Life that you should be ashamed, that perhaps by getting some exercise, by reading a self-help book, by some forced smiles and positive thinking you will be alright. We can no more expect to cure depression with simple positive thinking than we can expect to cure cancer with the same. There is no shame in getting help. So do it. It may save your life.

If you had a broken leg, no one would expect you to run a marathon. If you have depression and anxiety, take off the plate the things that matter least so you have the health to handle the things that matter most. Then rest your body and your mind as best you may. There is a strong correlation between sleep and sanity.

"Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask"

To those that may not be currently suffering from mental illness. I plead with you to have compassion on them. To those of you who may be the caregivers. I pray you will have patience.

This darkness of the mind heightens stress, negativity, and those suffering with such an illness may lash out at you in anger. They may lay the blame of all the troubles of the world at your very feet. I pray you are able to discern the truth, that they are sick and that you can make a difference. But before you can make a difference you need to, just like every flight attendant has ever said, "put on your own oxygen mask". Make sure you are doing what you need to to remain healthy of body and mind so when your loved one yells at you and so adeptly points out all your flaws, that you respond not with anger, but with humility and with love. It is always far more important that they know you love them than they know you are right. I pray God will strengthen your shoulders to bear the burdens placed upon them.

"The Light Will Shine Again"

I know that there is a God, that He is our Heavenly Father, and that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to suffer for all our sins and sorrow. I know that God is at all times our loving Father in Heaven. That He loves us no matter what. God will never give up on you.

I know there is always hope and that the long dark night of our trials will end. Death is not the end. The light will shine again in our lives and hearts.

I'm going to channel my inner Matt. "Brothers and Sisters, Life. Is. Beautiful." God lives. God loves you. Don't believe Satan's lies. Have hope. Have compassion. We can conquer this. Let's do it together. Because no matter how lost you may feel, we are never alone.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Confessions of An HG Husband: The Darkness Does Pass

I believe in Angels.

No, not the kind with wings that have super powers and fight demons with super powers.  I believe in those awesome beings who do God's work, spread joy, peace, love, comfort and support upon the face of this earth. 

In the hour of need.

I've shared before how when my wife was pregnant with our daughter and had hyperemesis gavidarum the first time around I had H1N1 (swine flu, remember that?), my son had it and Carrie had HG.  While on the way to the hospital, wondering how I was going to take care of everything an angel came to our rescue.  Right then a woman from our church called my cell and asked if we needed anything.  She took my son and cared for him so I could spend hours and hours in the hospital with Carrie.

That was just one of the tiny miracles I experienced during the pregnancy of our first daughter.  During the pregnancy with our second daughter there have been many more miracles.

Meals have poured in.  Frozen meals I can thaw and cook when I need something.  Hot meals, chicken noodle soup, enchiladas, prime rib, chicken and rice casserole and more.  We have had a neighbor clear the sidewalk with a shovel, we have had another clear the driveway with a snow blower. 

There have been moments when I needed to try and get some sleep between Carrie's IV's, working graves and caring for kids.  Angels without complaint or question gladly took my little Lydia so I could rest.

During the bitterly horrible pregnancy there were so many angels to lift us up.  My Mom would take Lydia for the day and get Tyler out the door to school.  Often she was in obvious pain but did it anyway.  We later learned she had a condition that can be extremely painful when it flares up.

My Mother-in-law shouldered so much.  She practically became the kids' mother during the worst of the hyperemesis.  I look back now and I don't think I would have been able to mentally handle it all without the help of my two moms.  For some people "I don't think I would have been able to handle it" is an expressive saying.  For me, it was a harsh and cruel reality.  Angels saved me.

What is an angel if not a messenger from the Divine?  What better messenger than the one that lifts, strengthens those who are too weak to go it alone or comforts someone even though they can't fix the problem.

The Brightest Star

During Christmas time the women's organization at my church asked if I would narrate a story for their Christmas party.  Of course I would.  I practiced and sob that I am, couldn't make it through the story without crying.  It was so silly.  It was just a little book.  In the story an old man without a family travels to Bethlehem, he encounters Joseph and the pregnant Mary.  He also can't find a room in an inn, he can't find food, he is cold and alone.  Yet bit by bit, through the kindness and sacrifice of strangers, he is fed, comforted and eventually finds shelter in an already occupied manger.  There he becomes one of the first to hold the Christ Child.  I guess I wept because in some way I felt like that man.  I knew where I was headed.  I knew the journey would end but I couldn't do it on my own.  I hated that I couldn't do it on my own.  I felt like I should have been able to.  I shouldn't have been so weak.  I should have been able to handle it all just fine.  But reality is harsh and it is wise to see our own limitations and reading that little story gave me hope.  For me that silly little book and the story it told were a miracle.  A message God needed me to hear and understand.

Somehow during that actual program I managed to read the story for the first time without crying.

The Miracle of Prayer

Through the months that Carrie lay in bed suffering we felt lifted up by the love of others.  I know that at one time there were people praying for us on at lest four continents.  There is such a unifying power in such a prayer.  I cannot prove anything tangible but I tell you I felt it and those prayers lifted me up.  In those moments when Carrie would utter a whisper-plea to me, to anyone and to Heaven, "please, please, please" I found strength in knowing her pleas were not alone.

The Miracle That Has Blessed Our Life

I don't get much sleep these days because our little princess thinks she should be up until 4AM.  It's not hard to hold her close and count the blessings instead of sheep.  She is beautiful.  She is healthy.  She is ours.

I've been thinking about this battle with HG.  It could have killed my beautiful Carrie.  But it didn't.

I love my Carrie for having the courage to survive HG again, for knowing what she faced and being willing to get pregnant again when we felt like there was one more princess waiting for us in heaven.

Someone asked me on my blog how my wife could put me through this.  The question shocked me, but only because this is something we decided together, this is something we wanted together, this is something we survived together and this is something that has brought us closer.  Closer to each other and closer to the incredible people around us.

We don't shy away from hard things just because they might be difficult.  We do them because we knew our lives will be changed for the better, forever.  Our baby Kate is living proof of that.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Confessions of a HG Husband: When Will This End?

I call every week to get Carrie's order from our favorite take-out place.  No, not chinese, pizza or anything else so tasty.  I get drinks delivered.  They come in 1 liter bags, 10 mL syringes and small vials filled with phenergram and vitamins.  The pharmacist knows me by voice.  She knows my bizarre sleeping schedule.  I don't even know my sleeping schedule.

 I go anywhere and do anything to help the love of my life feel better.  Target.  Walmart.  Cafe Rio.  Jamba Juice.  Kneaders.  Pizza.  Indian Food.  Make a shepherds pie.  Go to that other grocery store.  Pickles.  A specific kind of ice cream.  That store doesn't sell the yogurt she likes, go to the other store.  I'm not complaining, not at all, because as least she is eating, at least she is drinking, at least the retching is mostly over.

She's doing okay.  By okay I mean, she's not throwing up, she's not asking to be put out of her misery.  She talks, sometimes we even chat.  She had a rough week though.  There were a few days when she refused to eat, "I just want to feel better".

Sunday mornings have to be the worst part of the week.  I try to get my Carrie medicine, get the kids fed and dressed and myself at least decently dressed all before church starts.  There was this one Sunday the kids didn't fight, they didn't destroy their rooms in the few minutes it took to give Carrie her medicine and they didn't dump breakfast out all over the kitchen.  Tyler got himself dressed.  Lydia didn't argue about the cloths I put on her and I somehow had a clean, unwrinkled white shirt.  We were only 2 minutes late.  I was saying prayers of gratitude the rest of the day.

She wanted to be well by Thanksgiving.  She wasn't.  She wanted to go to Thanksgiving dinner with us.  She wasn't well enough.  Instead, I gave her medicine, I got the kids ready, and left my beautiful, pregnant wife home alone on Thanksgiving.  I bought a turkey.  I offered to make it for her.  She said no.  It is still sitting in the deep freezer.  I ditched her and brought her left-overs.  I'm a real prince aren't I?

Like I said, Carrie was hoping to be well by Thanksgiving, I was thinking more along the lines of Christmas or New Years.  The reality is, we have NO IDEA.  The only sure thing is that it will at least end sometime around May because that is when baby is due.

Seriously, when will this end?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bottoms Up: Confessions of an HG Husband

8:25 AM

Home from work.  I've been up since 5PM the day before.  I give my children hugs and kisses.  Tyler leaves for school minutes later.  Lydia goes with her Grandma.  I start Carrie's morning IV.  I mix phenergan with saline in a syringe.  Push 10 ml of saline solution through her PICC.  Now the phenergan for the next 5 minutes.  I go slow.  Careful.  It's over.  Time for 10 ml more of saline.  Then the IV.  I make her food.  I eat.  I wait.  

10:00 AM

I check her IV.  Half has drained into her body.  She's cold.  I cover her with more blankets and kiss her softly.  She closes her eyes.  I wait.  

10:30 AM

I check her IV.  Is it finished?  Almost.  I wait and watch.  She is sleeping now.  She's not in pain.  She's not nauseous.  She's peaceful.  It will come back when she wakes up.  The IV is finished.  I clamp her PICC and unscrew the IV tubing.  I wipe down the end of the PICC with alcohol.  I push more saline and heparin now.  I try not to wake her, to let her sleep, to let her be peaceful.  I fail.  She sits up.  She throws up.  She doesn't want me near.  She doesn't want me to hold her hair.  She doesn't want me to be grossed out.  I leave the room.  I try not to think about all the things I can't do.  I distract myself.  Food?  Cleaning up the IV and medicine?  Reading through material "try this if you have morning sickness".  She's finished.  I return to help her sleep.  I try to get her food.  I know she needs her energy.  I make plates, syran wrap them so they keep and save.  I ask if she needs anything.  She lays down.  I tuck her in.  I leave her alone so I can sleep.

10:45 AM

I lay down.  A couch, Tyler's bed, the floor.  It doesn't matter.  I sleep.

1:00 PM

I'm awake.  Carrie's still sleeping.  I get ready.  The kids are coming.  Tyler from school, Lydia from grandma's house.  

2:00 PM

The kids are home.  I give Carrie medicine.  I push more saline.  I push more phenergan.  Again I go slow, careful.  Push, 1.. 2... 3.. 4.. 5.. 6.. 7.. 8.. 9.. 10... push.  Just a little at a time.  More saline and more heparin, more questions of "can I get you anything?"  The medicine makes her loopy.  The medicine makes her drowsy.  She sleeps.  

3:00 PM

I take the kids to the park.  They are happy to run around.  They are happy to get out.  I take my camera.  Carrie will want to see this.  Lydia runs.  She falls down.  She calls for me and I scoop her up.  I kiss it better.  She smiles.  She wants a drink.  Tyler runs straight for the merry-go-round.  He hops on.  It goes fast.  He lifts his legs up and starts to fly.  Lydia wants to swing.  "Higher Dada."  Tyler runs around.  His arms are out.  I know he is an airplane.  He runs so fast.  He goes back to the merry-go-round.  "Faster," he calls.  Lydia is done with the swing.  "Help me Dada". I lift her up so she can go down the slide.  Again.  Again.  Two more times.  She explores.  Tyler spins in circles.  I capture what I can with my camera.  Carrie will want to see this.  

4:30 PM

It's time to go.  I chase the kids.  I warn the kids.  I hug the kids.  They come.  Lydia holds my hand.  Tyler asks questions about everything.  I answer.  He asks more things.  We see a quinceanera party.  Lydia asks, "Dada, is she a princess?"  Yes.  I ask he if she knows who my princess is.  "Lydia is and mama is."  I smile and she squeezes me tight.  "You are a prince Dada!"  She says it with such excitement.  Tyler has a stick.  He swings it.  "It sounds like a whip Dada."  He's right.  "Do you know I like sticks Dada?"  I do but we have to leave the stick at the park so other kids can play with it.  I take them to Pace's and order them small slushes.  They both order Tiger's Blood.  Tyler because he likes it and Lydia because Tyler ordered it.  

5:00 PM

We're home.  Carrie is still asleep.  I make the kids PBJ's.  It's what they wanted.  I make them eat their sandwiches before they can drink their slushes.  We chat.  I learn about school.  I learn about recess.  "And Dada did you know I can run SO FAST?"  Wow Lydia.  They finish.  

6:00 PM

They're tired.  I bathe them.  I dry them off.  I brush Lydia's hair.  I help them brush their teeth.  I trim their fingernails.  I pray with them.  I read them stories.  They snuggle on my lap.  They love me.  I scoop up Lydia.  I rock her.  I sing to her.  I lay her down.  "Dada, did you know I love you SO much!"  I love you so much Lydia.  I turn on Dada's songs for her, close the door and leave.  "Wait Dada, blow me a kiss."  I do.  She catches it and rubs it in.  She blows me a kiss.  "Catch it."  "Rub it in."  I smile and obey.  I close the door.  I talk with Tyler.  He has a lot more to say.  I give him a hug.  I kiss his forehead.  I tuck him in.  I turn on "Tyler The Wizard Boy Stories".  I open the door just right.  I turn on the correct lights.  I tell him I love him.  He loves me too.  

6:30 PM

I check on Carrie.  She needs something to eat.  "What would you like?"  She makes a face.  I bring her food.  A creamie, yogurt, my mom's homemade mac'n'cheese.  She eats.  

7:00 PM

Both kids are asleep.  They were tired.  I leave to go shopping.  Milk.  Eggs.  Juice.  Where is the Unisom?  Carrie texts.  She wants a jamba juice.  Mango a go go.  I'm relieved.  She wants food.  I rent a redbox.  An action movie.  

8:30 PM

I'm home with her jamba juice.  I get her evening IV read.  Open the needled syringe, draw out the first mutli-vitamin.  Draw out the second multi-vitamin.  Push it into the IV bag.  Draw out the phenergan.  Shake.  Push saline.  Push phenergan.  Again I go slow.  Again I count.  Five minutes.  More saline.  I connect the IV bag.  I fold laundry.  I wait.

11:00 PM

The IV is finished.  I push more saline and more heparin into her PICC.  She sleeps.  I cook a frozen meal a neighbor brought over.  I eat.  I sit to watch my movie.  I blink.  I missed much of the movie.  I'll finish it some other time.  I blink again and fall asleep.  

12:30 AM

I wake up.  I crawl into bed.  Tyler's bed.  He is sleeping on the "little matress".  We're having a "sleep over".  He's still asleep.  I turn my phone up so I can hear if Carrie calls.  She calls if she needs me.  She doesn't call.

Sometime in the night

Tyler wakes me up.  He needs to go to the bathroom.  He goes to the bathroom.  I tuck him in.  I kiss his forehead.  We go back to sleep.

I Try.

I often fail.  I'm not perfect.  

"If you are the one afflicted or a caregiver to such, try not to be overwhelmed with the size of your task. Don’t assume you can fix everything, but fix what you can. If those are only small victories, be grateful for them and be patient. Dozens of times in the scriptures, the Lord commands someone to “stand still” or “be still”—and wait.6 Patiently enduring some things is part of our mortal education."

"For caregivers, in your devoted effort to assist with another’s health, do not destroy your own. In all these things be wise. Do not run faster than you have strength.7 Whatever else you may or may not be able to provide, you can offer your prayers and you can give “love unfeigned.”8 “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; … [it] beareth all things, … hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth.”9  

I Pray.  I Plead.  I Drink It Up.

"Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead." - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland