Surviving God’s Woodshed

Recovery Reflections

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Thinking back on how our year has gone since being dismissed from Hartford Hospital, I realized that I hadn’t really reported in any detail what we have been doing, and how Lea has been progressing. Lea has continued to grow stronger as the weeks and months passed by so quickly. We made a couple of short overnight motor trips in the spring and early summer months. We had to stay in motels overnight so she could get some really good restful sleep, though our purpose was to test her endurance and prepare for a longer trip to visit friends and relatives in Missouri. She has a large family including lots of great neices and nephews, and they live about five or six hours from our home.

That early travel required careful preparations to ensure that all needed medications and other medical needs were readily available, and that contingency plans were in place in case of emergency. Even the white noise machine we had used in the hospital to mask ambient noise, became an important item to help her rest well.

Travel of any kind was dangerous because of her open wound, which continued to drain through the fistula until March 11, 60 days after discharge from the hospital, at which time it seemed to dry up, and caused no further problems. This was truly an answer to prayer for healing, and could have been cause of much more internal infections and possibly even placement of a drain in her abdomen. (Praise God for His healing mercy!)

The skin over the abdominal incision was very thin, and could be ruptured by the slightest blow or impact of the type that might be caused by a seat belt during a vehicular accident. I was even nervous about taking her shopping, since an accidental bumping of her shopping cart could force the handle into her stomach. A rupture would most likely be fatal.

But, we were able to resume a somewhat normal routine of daily shopping trips, initially to help Lea get some exercise. She actually could walk for about an hour while holding onto a shopping cart. But, when she suddenly reached her limit, she just couldn’t go any more. The shopping trip came to an end, and she had to go home to bed for a restorative nap. This part of the routine, however, did a great deal to help her get her mind working better, as she eventually began to regain the ability to plan meals again, and grew strong enough to handle pots and pans.

By July Lea was feeling well enough to make that first visit to Missouri. Plans were made for the five hour drive to her sister, Kathy’s, home, and to stay for two weeks, so she would be able to recover well enough to make the five hour return trip. Much to everyone’s surprise, she seemed to be able to do much more physical activity there at her sister’s than she had been able to accomplish at home. She enjoyed being with her sister’s children and grandchildren, nieces, nephews, brothers and their families, and friends from the years she had lived in that area of Missouri.

She was anxious to be involved in family activities, so she spent a great deal more time out of bed than she had previously, and actually was able to leave me behind while she went with her sister to run errands. I was quite comfortable that Kathy could care for Lea properly, and that she understood Lea’s special needs, so I was actually able to get some much appreciated free time for myself. In fact, we enjoyed ourselves so well, we extended our stay by another week, until we ran out of medicine, and then returned to Indiana.

Over the summer months following Lea’s discharge from the hospital, we grew much closer than we had ever been, as she had to rely on me for her care and protection.  I dedicated myself to taking good care of someone who is so important to God that she would be used to help Him move so mightily through the lives touched during her illness and recovery. We had housing provided to us near the medical facilities she needed, and placed our bed & breakfast on the market, realizing that we had moved beyond the time in our life that we were going to be able to maintain and operate it.

We had to release so much of what had been important to us in past, and set our sights on what the Lord was setting before us in the coming months and years. We were moving from our huge 12-room bed & breakfast to a comfortable 4-room house which had no room for the bulky Victorian furniture and furnishings we had accumulated. We were able to pass those on to friends and family members who had use for them. We retained very little, but found that our lifestyle had changed so significantly that we needed very little.

As Lea continued to grow in strength over the summer months, we made a return trip to Missouri, and then in the fall traveled to Hawaii to visit our family. She had really been missing our granddaughters, and wanted to spend some quality time with them. We also felt the trip would give Lea a great environment to do some real restorative healing. We had been in contact with Dr Mah by email, and he had agreed to do the surgery to close Lea’s abdomen the following February if she was healthy enough at that time. He had instructed me to send him some close-up photos of the operative area so he could make a decision about the procedure to use. He also was planning to consult a plastic surgeon to talk about the closure.

Within days of our arrival in Hawaii, Lea missed a step, fell, and broke her right hip. We had used the kitchen in Link’s house to prepare some lunch, and decided to do some cleanup. I was mopping the hardwood kitchen floor, and she was standing at the counter watching me, when she wondered out loud if they had any kind of polish or sealer for the floor. She walked off, without her cane, and went to the utility closet, across the room, and up one step.

She rummaged through the closet and found something she thought might work, and she turned around, while reading the directions on the back of the bottle, and started walking back to the kitchen.  She was so involved in reading that label she forgot about the step. The next thing I heard was a lot of loud banging and a dull thud as she flung her arm at the wall in an effort to catch herself, only to fall onto a heavy wooden end table, and landing on the solid rock tiled floor.

I didn’t immediatley know what had happened, but knew it couldn’t be anything good. I threw the mop away from me and ran out of the kitchen to find her laying on her right side on the floor. She was in a state of shock, very pale, and I was terribly fearful that she might have ruptured her abdomen. I placed my hands on her stomach and called out, loudly, to God, pleading with Him to protect her internal organs from harm, and to restore any damage that might have been done to them.

Then I started tending to her needs, tearfully praying out loud. I elevated her feet onto a pillow, placed a bath towel over her as a cover, and put a cool cloth on her forehead. We talked. I asked her where she hurt, and prepared ice packs for those areas. Her right arm was banged up pretty badly, and she thought she had pulled her groin muscle. She said her abdomen did not hurt, and she didn’t think she had any real damage other than the pulled muscle or tendon in her groin. She did not want to go to the hospital.

I had her lay there on the floor for several minutes until the color started to return to her face, and she was pretty sure that she was okay. I gave her an additional Dilaudid to reduce her pain, and when I thought it had kicked in sufficiently, I carried her down a flight of stairs and helped her into bed. She was able to sleep for a couple of hours and get over the initial trauma of the accident. When she awoke, she tried to stand, but experienced significant pain in her right groin. We went to the hospital.

Funny story about the hospital: There is a decorative lava rock wall along the highway at the intersection where the hospital is located, which has the name of the hospital on it, and the sign had been pointed out to us in the past as the hospital. Immediately behind that sign is a grouping of single story yellow buildings that resemble a 1950s era mainland motel. This location is on one of the Big Island’s narrow, barely shouldered, two-lane highways, and “old Hawaii” in appearance. We thought those buildings were the hospital, and had images of dirt floors and chickens running loose in the operating rooms in mind. Those buildings are actually a poorly maintained apartment complex. No wonder Lea didn’t want to have to go to the hospital!

As it turns out, the hospital is actually some distance up the hill from the highway, and while it is a small, two story, 1970s era building, it was staffed by some very compassionate caregivers, and we were taken quickly to the emergency room, then to X-ray, where I was solicited to help the technician position Lea for the necessary images to be taken. The X-rays clearly showed a definite fracture between the ball of the hip bone and the femur. Surgery was scheduled for the next morning.

This was a very disappointing setback in the healing process, and would necessarily delay the closing of her abdomen and then later replacement of her right knee. Our plans to return to the mainland in January had to be scuttled, and we once again were reminded that we are not in control, and merely pawns in the Lord’s plan. We submitted to His will for us, and prayed for direction.

We had begun attending Sunday services at a mainland church near our new home in Noblesville as soon as Lea was able to sit for an hour at a time. She still wasn’t able to stand easily, due to the pain, so I would help her rise at appropriate times, and then she would hold on to the pew in front of us as we joined in singing praise songs to our Father. She would eventually wear out, of course, and would just have to remain seated, but she enjoyed participating in the worship, and I got a great deal of direction from the sermons over the next several weeks. The pastor was teaching from Hebrews 11 & 12, which deals with running a lifelong race in the faith, and how the Father disciplines His children to teach them important lessons.

These chapters helped me put into perspective what had happened to Lea and me over the past several months, and helped me better understand the lessons that I should take from the experience. When we went to Hawaii, we attended Living Stones Church, where our Hawaii family is so active. We loved this church’s atmosphere and location, and loved the church family. We had attended services here in previous visits, and admired the minister and leadership. And, the very first service we attended, the sermon touched on Hebrews 11 & 12! Talk about handwriting on the wall! It was just another little nudge to remind me to keep moving along the path to preparing my testimony.

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