Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Dry Parts of the Shore

Sometimes if feels like the tide just won't stop coming.
So we sigh, and pick up our buckets, and shift a little up the shore,
only to have the waves soon reach our toes again.
The tide that threatens to pull us out if we stay frozen.

I'll never forget the first time I got swept.

The doctor said my blood clot was large.
The biggest he'd ever seen.
But, I had a newborn baby.
But, I was only 36.
But, I really wasn't ready...

They said it could be fatal, and suddenly their eyes looked at me different.
As I called my family to tell them they needed to come,
I looked at a picture of my four daughters.
Before long, as they whisked me away to the hospital, I prayed,
"Please, God. Let me be back to raise them."

At that time, while I was terror stricken,
the doctors implanted a metal filter in my main vein leading to my lungs to prevent any clots from breaking off and traveling there to kill me.
I remember being awake as they threaded a tiny metal basket down through my neck, through my heart, down into my abdomen.
A safety net, they told me.

Until I formed another clot above it,

And that clot became fear in the form of my own body.

The months after that were beyond harrowing.

I was scared to be alone in case I collapsed and the kids were left alone.
I was scared to drive, for fear that they clot would travel, and kill me, and I'd cause an accident in the process.
I was literally scared to move.

I had talks with the girls about how much I loved them.
They needed to always know.
Talks with Justin about if he was faced with raising them alone.
Please be gentle. Please surround them with loving women. Please remind them of me.

Fitting everything you want to say in is even harder than it sounds.

Constant appointments, several ambulance rides, blood tests, genetics testing,
all to later find that the reason I'd gotten the clot in the first place was because of a cluster of events including a genetic condition called Factor V Leiden.
My body, once triggered to clot, would have a difficult time shutting off that process.
A chain effect.

But, even though that was the most terrible time in my life,
through God's grace, I recovered.
Slowly, and timidly. Nervous to put my toes back in the water.

The girls grew. I was grateful to be there to watch it, and never took it for granted.
Time marched on, but never far from the "What ifs" of if it ever happened again.

The fear has stifled. Imprisoned. Taunted.
It has whispered to me in dark rooms, and been my alarm clock many mornings.

I had just started getting counseling for what my therapist thought was PTSD from it, when suddenly, a month ago, completely out of the blue and four years almost to the day,
I felt that familiar pain again, and the panic returned.
Surely it was just anxiety. Surely I just needed to breathe deeper.
Calm my thoughts.
But, unable to let it go, I called the doctor, and almost collapsed when after an ultrasound they told me I had a clot once again.
The room spun, I rung my hands, I can barely remember leaving that place.
HOW could this be my path again?
God, didn't I suffer enough?

And the waves were up to my waist.

Fear had returned with his ugly face to whisper, "See. I told you so. You'll never be able to get away. I own you."

But as fear tried once again to take over, God's voice reminded me that what Satan lays out for evil, God re-weaves for good.

Now I've had weeks of tests, blood work, and appointments.
Back to the same seat in the clinic waiting room that still somehow feels warm from when I left.

The doctor, in order to verify there was no further clotting up higher, ordered a CT scan. He said "just to be sure."
I went, and I shook,
and tears dripped into my ears as I lay there on my back being prepped.
I prayed in that tube staring up at the light painted to look like a beautiful sky.
As if a painted cherry blossom and a cloud was going to calm me.

I was done soon enough, and I went home.
And then I waited.
And waited.
And waited.
A week went by with no word.
Surely that was good news, right?
Surely they would have contacted me by now if something was there they weren't expecting.

By this Friday I was praying a prayer of thanks as I pulled into my mom's group at church.
Thankful for the grace of each new day. Thankful for what was obviously good.
But then I got the message.

The CT scan results had not showed any further clotting, but incidentally
had seen fluid around my heart.
A note said I needed to call my cardiologist right away.
The message said, "Try not to worry."
It should have also said, "Definitely do NOT Google."
But of course I did,
and the findings were so SCARY that the water around me looked like mud.

There are many reasons one could develop fluid around their heart, and many different levels.
You could have a small effusion, caused by a virus, or illness,
You could have a medium sized one caused from trauma or autoimmune issue, or, in the worst scenario, you could have a large effusion that could be life threatening, and often had a very high mortality rate, caused from cancer, or bleeding from the heart.
Surely mine was a small, then, I told myself.
I felt OK.
They would have called me to come in right away if it were more serious, right?

I spent my weekend in on/off fear. Crying often. Laughing some. Thinking constantly.
The waves slowly moving up further, and
Now around my neck.

This morning before I could even call her, the phone rang.
It was my cardiologist.
Her voice sounded serious as she laid out the next steps to diagnose the whys of this new finding.
I'd need an echocardiogram and some blood work to start.
Once they figured out the reason and actual amount of fluid, they would know how to treat it.
She said she had seen the report, but would need to know more before she could know how to move forward.
And then I asked it.
Even though I didn't want to.
I asked "What size are we talking? I've been looking online."
And she said the thing I didn't even think could be.

"Well, it looks like it's large."

And now I was underneath.
The undertow was so strong.
Heels pitched above my head.

She said words after that I barely heard, other than to go to the ER if I wanted to expedite things and not wait any more days to begin being treated.

So I went.
Barely able to move my eyes side to side.
I knew from my reading that sometimes the large effusions are caused by Warfarin, which I'm on for the clot. That often in that case the fluid they are seeing is blood. That it makes it very complicated to even know how to treat because the blood thinners make the fluid dangerous to drain because you could bleed out, but to go off of my blood thinners at this point could cause wide spread clotting from the Factor V,
which could also kill me.

From the minute I got to the hospital it was clear my doctor had called ahead. I was taken in quickly, and by a half an hour later, I had had an EKG, an IV started, 11 tubes of blood taken, blood pressure cuff placed, history gone over, and a chest x-ray done.
The nurse entered and said that what they were concerned about was an enzyme indicating impending heart failure.
That I would most likely be admitted soon.
The doctor came in and repeated what the nurse had said, with the addition of indicating I'd most likely be undergoing a trans-esophageal echo, which would require sedation and was an in-patient procedure.

*Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death*

I asked to please use the bathroom, and when I closed myself in, I stood and begged God. I begged for a miracle. And then I heard it:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in all things with prayer and thanksgiving, make your requests known to God."

I was forgetting the thanksgiving.
Because isn't that just what Satan loves? To draw our eyes, and hearts away from the good that we've been granted to pull us into something that stifles?
To call from the dark bushes, "Hey! Look over here!"
With thanksgiving....
Thankful that they'd at least caught this. Thankful for a quick moving diagnosis. Thankful I knew that no matter what was about to come,
He held all of my days in HIs hands and nothing could separate me from them.

I went back to the room where my mom waited, looking concerned.
I asked her if she'd pray specifically for complete healing.
Specifically, I said,
for the issue to disappear.
Those were the words.

And then something happened.

Five minutes later,
The doctor appeared with something in his hands.
"Do you want the good news, or the bad news?" He said.
"Not the bad," I replied, covered in tape, and tubes, and monitors.
"I really don't want the bad news at all."

"Well, that's good," he said. "Because there isn't really any."

I held my breath.
What was he about to say?

He said he didn't really know how, but there appeared to have been... a typo?
That it looked like the report had eluded to a large pericardial effusion, but that for some reason there was no mention of it in the conclusion portion of the report he was seeing.
He said it should have been highlighted as the number one thing, but it wasn't even mentioned.
He thought this was strange when reading it,
so he had asked to have the scans sent to him, and he had called in the hospital radiologist to help him review them.
He said that after looking at the scans carefully, they both agreed that not only was the effusion not large,
but there was NO evidence of ANY fluid around my heart, and my heart was perfectly healthy.
I could hear the second hand tick. Silence. Could this even BE?!

Furthermore, he said, there was also no evidence of additional clotting, and my filter was still in place. I was free to go home.

A gasp above the surface.

I cried in that moment like a crazy person.
Sobbing. Laughing. Laugh sobbing.
And that went on for over an hour, as the doctor, and nurses, and techs came in to say they just couldn't believe it, and congratulations.
I heard him calling my doctors with the news.

And suddenly I was laying on the shore.
Clothes wet. Face down.
But alive, and grateful that sometimes when the tide is pushing in, it's bringing you back in with it.

Because He asks us to trust and keep our eyes fixed, and He will quiet the storm.
Because "Never fails" actually means NEVER.

God did a miracle for me today.

In my physical heart, and in the heart at my core.
The one from where my real life stems.

Two doctors had seen that report and been alarmed enough to have me admitted.

But suddenly,
There was nothing there.
The beautiful sky I was looking up at was the real one.

Because He perfects all that which concerns us.
Because the promise is that though we walk through the fire,
we will not be burned.

I lift my eyes up to the mountains.
Where does my help come from?
It comes from the maker of heaven and earth.
The maker of
hearts, and blood, and bodies.
From the maker of futures.
The maker of a plan for me,
And the one who sets my feet over and over on solid ground.

I don't know what is planned for me because of the strength I've gained through these things.
I don't know the people I'll meet who might need to hear that I've been there, too, and made it out alive, and they will too.

I don't know what lies over the dunes and out into the world beyond this ocean of trial.

What I do know is that
my faith was strengthened today after seeing that I have faced fear, and possible death multiple times,
and each time have been spared,
and ever moved up to the dry parts of the shore.