Wednesday, October 22, 2014
I have been avoiding posting like the plague for the last week. I feel like I’m pulled in so many different directions. I have a friend who lost a son a couple of years ago, her only child, and her cousin was sharing with me that the grief had torn the parents apart. One parent will not show any emotion and the other cannot stop displaying the raging agony she’s feeling. The mother went on a stop-by shopping trip with the cousin and when they walked into the large chain store, Christmas music was playing and, as had been their custom since childhood, the girls broke out into a silly dance that they had choreographed as children. They reached a point where they were supposed to spin around and clap hands after the turn. Cousin spun and suddenly faced the horrified eyes of the mother who froze for a second, took a step back and then headed out the door. The mother had accidently fallen into normal life and it terrified her. Back in the car, sobbing, she kept apologizing to the cousin who tried to reassure her that it was alright to laugh again. But the mother felt, and still feels, that to go on living and enjoying life is a betrayal to her little boy who was only in his twenties when he died.
I’m relating to that mother…only it’s Honey that’s on my mind. He’s so bored and frustrated but I’m being ministered to when I sing on the Praise Team, or finish a project, or talk to my grandson, and have the energy to keep moving. I feel guilty that I can stand and walk and eat what I will and go where I want to and nothing stands in my way. I’m not suffering, he is. I have silly little arthritis pain that I can work through, he can’t turn himself over and has started crying out if I move his leg too fast. I feel shame that I leave him in the care of people I don’t trust, but he never says anything bad about any of them. I’m lonely for my mornings with him, and for my Sunday afternoons, and for our drives, and bickering, and disagreements, and for the adventures he took me on. And there’s where the pain is for me. We are not connected, but he is the center of my days. I do not belong to him and yet I am chained to him...He makes me laugh, he encourages me, he brags on me, he teases and provokes and ignores me and now I can’t do a thing to pull him away from this deteriorated body and back into our life. I’ve finally set a routine but it’s too different from the way we liked life. I get up about 4:30 am, dress, go to his house, do chores and talk to the cats, head for work, finish the day and pick up his mail on my way to the hospital. If I hit traffic I don’t get to have as much time with him. I try to stay a couple of hours and head home to get ready for the next day. I am stranded. There is no time unless it is stolen and then I feel guilt for taking it from where ever it comes.
People have asked what they can do to help. I don’t know. I have no organization. I have no plan. I have no idea of what needs to be accomplished and what has to be done seems frivolous. If I laugh people say I’m slap happy from lack of sleep, if I cry I’m told to trust in the Lord, if I make a statement that is not emotion based I’m in defense mode, and if I say a better day is coming…then I’m in denial. I weigh my words on the scales of what response can I handle in the here and now.
Honey is in his own cycle. He has dialysis every other day. That means that he is attached to the big box for 3-5 hours at a time. It makes noise. It is intrusive. He is approached by strangers who push buttons that turn his bed into a chair and he is told to sit for 2 hours. He is not repositioned and can’t lean or pull himself for comfort and pushes the call light to ask for help. No one comes. He calls out when he hears voices passing in the hall, but no one responds. Sometimes he is shown mercy and a staff member will come and recreate his bed position, but always with scolding that the doctor says he is to stay up for 2 hours and needs to push himself to do just that. He is in the hands of people with power to do as they please who have been taught repeatedly that they can only do what they can do and to let the rest go. Nursing staff members work on 12 hour shifts that last 2-3 days at a time. He gets excellent care for one brief period and then falls into the hands of the inept or uncaring. Night time comes and he is alone to his thinking. This once busy, attentive man lies and tries to calm the rolling thoughts that shoulder into his mind. He has no guarantee that he will heal, he has no time line, he has no information, he has no plan of action. Honey has reminded me often that a funeral is not the end of the story. Life goes on and people forget that those who remain still need to be remembered. So, Honey has always made a point to visit families or call even after the potato salad has been put away. He misses his friends. He misses his cats, and he misses himself.
Shift report, that period of time when the staff from the day gives information to the staff who will work the night, or vice versa, often happens in the hall by his door. They overlook his ability to hear while they discuss his condition, his planned care, his reaction to medication, and his personality. They talk, and if I’m there in the evening, I listen too. We are not objects. We are humans who happen to be in this particular season of life without any idea of how long we will tarry here. They do not mean to be cruel or detached, but they are. They always stress the phrase, “He’s a no code”. For some, this is a summation of our world today. There is no hope, there are orders not to resuscitate, there is no reason to pay attention. Stay in the walls of the Church and sing the songs and read the lesson and go to Cracker Barrel for lunch and smile and shake hands and come back next week, ya’ll where we’ll do it again. But that’s not what we were commanded to do. I did not become a nurse to leave humanity behind and care for empty shelled bodies. I did not become a Christian to isolate myself and pick and choose my blessings and leave my responsibility to serve behind. The service men I work with often tout proudly “leave no man behind”. We Christians don’t seem to share that determination. We are at war with principalities that discourage and threaten our families and we often shrug sermons off that would lead us to a more involved lifestyle declaring that we just don’t have time.
I don’t have time. I don’t have time to go to Honey. I have fields to cut, plants to get in, leaves to rake, a sister who needs companionship, a baby to see, chores to complete, paintings that need attention, and animals that need tending to, and parties that are skipped, and on, and on, and on. But priority dictates first things first. We’re running out of time. What has priority for us? I love to shop for crafts and art supplies and canvases and plants a now nothing seems important. I keep losing things. I keep looking for time. The Lord is coming back and I’m still worried about the insignificant things in my life when I should be focused on Honey and the needs of others and I just can’t find time. Today I get the call from him that begs me to do something…he’s asks for pain med (Tylenol) for over 3 hours, but his doppler feeding tube has come out again. I call the nurse who's taking care of him and she says that she's waiting for the doctor to call back. Three hours?GIVE HIM A SHOT!!! But she doesn't have an order for one. So go get the unit manager and get some back up and get the man something for pain. He doesn't ask for much, and only when he really needs something. So ..TAKE CARE OF HIM!!!! I'm angry, frustrated and scared and sick of systems that do not function and I'm worried about this when I should be worried about praying and witnessing and reading the Word. So help me, in the midst of all this if that Tom L didn't preach on forgiveness last Sunday and hang me over the coals. Forgive???Is there a difference between forgiving and tolerating and ignoring ???Again I'm back to the point of saying "Lord?" and Beloveds ...THIS is why I have avoided posting for the last week. I'm not stable enough to make sense. So...over look the negative, hang on to the positive and know that God really does love us...and everything will be all right.
Sunday, October 12, 2014
Not a good day for Honey. Very ill. God is good.
Saturday, October 11, 2014
Spent the afternoon with Honey. The routine is slowly being established. A man came to look at my barn and see if it can be refurbished or not. I took the dog to the vet. A friend met me at Honey's and we cleared all of the sticks and branches out of the yard...she was smarter than me, wearing high boots to wade through the lake of water standing all over his yard in the lower spots and hidden in the grass. She gave me the sad news that a mutual friend had passed away and I had time to get home, clean up, and then attend the funeral. I left the service and headed for the Hospital. One of the conversations I passed tonight was between a tall father and a pretty little girl who was holding a bottle of pop in each hand. He was telling her that she might have to share her soft drink with her mother who might have an upset tummy. The little girl was informing him that Mommy had something to drink in her room and wouldn't need her Sprite. Daddy was still talking when the door closed behind me.
These solo trips to and from Louisville have really brought advice from John Lowry to the front of my mind. "Pay attention. Look at color, shapes, patterns and really pay attention." The leaves are starting to change, many fields have been harvested and there are rows of stubble or tall grass all along the side of the road, and many people have already decorated for Fall. What I seem to be paying attention to most is the expression on the faces I pass. At the hospital people are tired and anxious and huddle in groups or walk quickly down passageways to get to rooms or out of the building. Staff is usually disconnected, tired after shifts or hurrying to get in to their stations to clock in on time.
The smells are there too. There's a café that promises a daily special and delivery service all over town. The odor of heavy grease hits hallway down the passage and lingers out the exit door. Passing the inner emergency room entrance pungent cleaners and sterilizing agents fill the lungs and in just a few more yards that scent is replaced with the hint of cinnamon hiding behind the doors of the cafeteria on the opposite side of the elevator hall.
I pass Honey's oldest daughter in the hall. She plans to head for church and we compare notes on what we need to get for Honey's comfort. She'll look for something that he can play DVDs on so that he can watch the Gaither's while he's sitting up in the chair and I plan to bring him a fleece blanket to wrap up on dialysis days. The machine cools the blood as it washes it and puts it back in the body and it causes extreme chilling to the system. Honey had 5 folded thermo blankets on top of him and was still shivering and asking for more cover. I also want to get copies of church services. He needs to hear the encouragement of the Word. I was able to contact the nursing manager and tell her that I was impressed with the care I'd seen for the last 2 days. I want to speak words of encouragement as much as words of scolding. People need to hear when they're doing something right.
God sent us a messenger tonight. Her name was Diane and she was a fireball. She came into the room announcing "I'm working on staying saved today, yes I am!". She looked after Honey and talked the whole time. She talked about salvation, trusting God, learning to wait on His healing. She said that the woman we heard singing in the hall the other night was called 'Sissy' and she sings all the time. Sissy was healed from addiction to cocaine 20 years ago and has been singing ever since then. Diane put her hand on Honey's hand and looked him straight in the eye. She told him that God's healing was not just about touching his body, but it was also about healing in the family at large. She talked of extended blessings that come when a person is trapped in sickness that causes the whole family to come together. We talked of Daniel, and the Hebrew children and how God did not keep them from the trouble...He just went with them into the trouble. She testified and I praised the Lord.
Honey had a lot of trouble staying awake today. Diane told me that when she came in at 7am he was trying to climb out of bed and told her that he had to exercise. He'd been up in the cardio chair for over 2 hours...and I found out that the bed is so they can keep accurate weights on him for the dialysis. She said that it was clear that his spirit and determination was fighting to make his body recover.
Everyday is a new day and this has been a ride I wish I'd never had to get on. But there is a reason for each challenge and there is a Father Who knows exactly where we are in every situation. He knows my name and is in the room with Honey when I can't be there. I will trust Him. He has never failed me yet. Praise His Holy Name
Friday, October 10, 2014
If you ever think that you have no power to make a difference, consider this. We are told in Philippians to “mark them which so walk”. In the Word it was referring to staying close to the teachings of the Lord in order to influence others as well as to be cautious about whom you allow to influence you. In any field, any career, any aspect of life…this adage can be implemented as a guideline for living. We are marked by our attitudes, reactions and even lack of action by the people who watch us. What we say and do and how we go about our daily business can either bless or hinder the people around us far more than we seem to pay attention to.
For the last week I have observed questionably disconcerting care that Honey has received and I’ve been praying for a glimmer of hope that his needs would be addressed and that he would not face more delays in physical therapy or medical issues. I walked into a room full of staff last night who were working as a team to get him moved from one bed to another. I don’t know what the difference in structural advantage was …but someone somewhere decided that he needed the ‘new’ bed. The move was not a smooth one and one nurse literally climbed up on the head of the new bed, standing over Honey’s head, in order to get leverage and another male nurse climbed up on the bottom of the old bed to lift up while two other nurses, Honey’s youngest daughter and I pulled and pushed the entire mattress to its new home. The two jumped down and the dance began to get the discarded furniture out of the room and the new into place. The staff was not loud, but they did banter and tease with Honey and worked to put him at ease and let him know that he was safe. It took a few minutes, but he was not harmed and relaxed once everyone got out of the way. The male nurse, tough looking and efficient, double checked all of the tubes and connections Honey is hooked up to and didn’t leave until everything was in place. The lights were on all over the room and even though it is a clinical setting, it just looked less threatening . His personal items were in reach and neatly arranged and all the extra things, like body wedges, emergency equipment, and straps for PT had been put into drawers and closets for easy access but out of the way. I could see that nurse checking the “Room Free of Clutter” box on his nightly charting.
Honey told us that he had been up in a chair for 2-3 hours during the day, that his antibiotic was discontinued, and that a doctor had been in and changed or discontinued other medications. His potassium was elevated on the morning labs (always drawn after dialysis to determine when the next treatment will be) and his feeding had been changed. He was fully alert and aware of what was going on and could tell us his care plan through today. When a patient tells a family “I don’t know” when they ask “what did they say” …it might just be that no one has taken time to talk to that patient in their speed of comprehension and using words that make sense to the person. I can talk to the staff using terminology that is common to medical workers ..but I cannot use those phrases to explain to my patients what the doctor is planning for them. I have to communicate in their realm. Last night, it was obvious that during the day people had taken time to slow down, inform him, and communicate with him in a manner that was clear to him. While in the room, we all noticed just how quite the hallway was after everyone had left. The unit has been filled with clamoring, loud talking, banging of carts, and just intrusively chaotic noise most of the week, but last night it was still and calm. We could hear voices interacting occasionally, but very pleasantly and controlled. A female staffer went by and we could make out the words she was singing, something like ”what can make me whole again, nothing but the blood of Jesus”. That sound lilted into the room and every one of us began to smile. When I had come down the gauntlet to his room many people had nodded or somehow acknowledged my passing. Lights were on in almost every room and staff was not congregating behind the walls of the nest. There was an atmosphere of confidence there, of focus, of attention. I did not feel a high stress level or a rushed, ‘gotta get out of here’ going on. Just that calm.
To me that’s the epitome of being in the job and not just on the job. We Christians can talk the talk and say that we want to offer peace to a troubled world, but if we are not at peace in our own hearts then we have nothing to offer but words. If I don’t live my faith daily, I have no faith. I’m pretending. I have enough professional experience to pass a joint commission survey, but once those inspectors leave my office, my patients know the real story. And that’s us in the church…when a person commits their heart totally to the Word, the Word becomes ALIVE in their actions and words…it’s who they are, it’s what they do, it’s how they live. I want to be alive in my relationship to Christ and I want that life to be evident The staff on duty last night was an integrated body of workers that used their skills and relationships together as a team to literally create an atmosphere of healing where despair had lived the day before. Attitude does make the difference. People react to whatever attitude is presented when they meet you. When the Word tells us to think on good things, it’s not a Pollyanna dream world…it’s keeping the important things first and setting aside the bickering and hostility and combining talents to make a difference in our personal worlds. I was talking with a community member today and we were considering just how many churches we have in the same county. We’re all saved by the same blood from the same Christ who hung on a cross and the only thing that keeps us from being one body is our human natures that put carpeting and opinions over the commission God gave to His Bride. My grandson says, ‘Get over it’, and whether it’s the shifts that take care of Honey or the local church that is supposed to be taking the Word to the soul sick community, we need to ‘get over’ our personal interests and just do the job. God has bigger and better things in store if we would just follow His lead.
Honey was awake, tired, but calm and seemed more content. Before we left, we gathered around the new bed, joined hands and put the cards on Honey’s lap so that we could pray for unity, for a hedge of protection, for the rehab staff, for each other, for the church, and of course for Honey’s kidney to restore as well as so much more. Jesus has healed amputations, withered hands and legs, blind eyes, deaf ears, and raised the dead. This is a small thing for him. I was so tired two nights ago…and then last night I saw again….But God!!!
Wednesday, October 08, 2014
I cannot tell the church what Sunday meant to me, to Honey and to his family. Last night the oldest daughter was taking pictures of the giant card and reading the notes that had been written on it. This may be a small thing to some people, but in this situation it is the small cloud in the distance coming with rain, and the rain is the anointing provided by the prayers of the Saints.
I agreed to join the Praise Team for the worship service, but even though I love worshiping with these gifted artists, knew that my brain was just dead in the water. We had pre service rehearsal, we talked about the arrangements, I listened and that’s about as far as it went. During both services I ruined a special arrangement on one of the songs that everyone had worked so hard on. To disappoint people you love and respect is a hard pill to swallow and I apologize for embarrassing the group with my distraction and ignorance. What was so gracious was that not one of them showed anger or contempt. They may not have been happy, but it was kind of them not to show it. The songs ministered to my soul and God let me see grace in action.
No one at the church had discussed or coordinated plans, but it seemed from the time I walked in until the last note of the last song following second service that the Lord was ministering to Honey and of course in turn to me. Two gifted song signers from church dedicated a song to him and performed a number that encouraged the body of Christ to get busy and take care of His business. I was a basket case both services. My presentations all this year have been on the church BEING the church and Honey and I strive to find ways to do things that will bring attention to Him. I often leave thank you cards with a tip in it for waitresses that tell them that Christ came to serve and that He loves them. Honey leaves notes on cars or at houses that he visits to make sure people know that he’s been thinking about them. What the church did Sunday morning…the card, the special song, the congregational prayer, and the message that was based on Isaiah 49:13-16 (“the Lord ….will have mercy upon his afflicted…..they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me”)the comments and the greetings, everything was an encouragement. A mission hearted sister came and shared that while she was ministering in Haiti, prayers were going up for Honey. Another mission leader from the church told me that his daughter, currently serving in Tunisia, sent word that they were praying for Honey. Around the states, people have continued to call, write, sent messages through texting and e-mail and social networks that God will provide. One couple, facing medical issues of their own, sent a love offering to Honey in a card last week that will be used to get his furnace serviced for winter. It wasn’t that the cash was a huge need, but in the hospital it had become a difficult maneuver for a couple of weeks to take care of routine business without access to the account and that was a blessing to be able to ‘get’erdone’ without a delay.
At the hospital, family had been able to visit and we read cards and talked of better days and once everyone had gone I pulled in a chair (I’m trying to find out if there are cameras to record my evil deeds) and put it by the bed. Honey was barely able to hold his head up. They’re keeping him upright to prevent choking now. I have opinions but will save them for another day. As far as the chairs go, I have stolen chairs several times out of the hallway from vacant spaces. I clean them with sanitizing bleach bringing them in and clean them again when I leave and put them back in their cubby hole. When I was being hurried from the area for the procedures last Saturday evening I left a chair in the room and Honey was lectured about it. So all the chairs in the hall disappeared completely. Nurse manager was in last night and asked if we needed anything and I simply asked for ‘chairs’ and told her what had happened. She nodded sympathetically, said she’d be back in a few, but when I left 2 hours later she was still MIA and no chairs were to be found. Evil visitors!!! Evil me!!!
Anyway, Sunday afternoon has always been our date day. We eat out with family or friends after church (and he insists on going to both services because he believes that the leadership ought to be available to both congregations) and then go to his house. He turns on the TV and I steal the controls, he leans back in his lounger and I pull up the oversized chair to sit beside it and, of course, a footstool since my chair doesn’t lean back…and then I sneak and turn up the AC or turn the heat down so that it’s cold in the house. I throw covers over us and in minutes we’re both snoring. I have to leave before dark…Sister is waiting and the town will talk…and we finish up the afternoon with “Call me when you get to the house and let me know you’re all right”. A hug and I’m off. Not very exciting, but as I’ve said before…it’s us. So, I watched him for a minute and finally asked if he were tired. He nodded and I told him…it’s Sunday…let’s just take a nap. I scooted over as close as I could with him so high above my chair and got him propped up on pillows and for the next hour he rested. An aide came in to turn him and once repositioned, me moving to the other side of the bed, he was back asleep minutes later. I stayed as long as possible, hated to leave and always feel these days that I might not see him again. But..God.
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