Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Doctor a Day

Even though I returned to work on November 17, 2008 completely full-time, there were a lot of therapy appointments thrown in throughout each week. I began a couple weeks after returning to Colorado. At my workplace we had a Health and Wellness department with a small gym to work out in plus services from a massage therapist twice a week and a physical therapist three times a week. So, I started with physical therapy in the office 2-3 times weekly.

This therapy was completely different than any of the therapy I had been doing either at the hospital/rehab hospital or the home therapy in California. While those sessions entailed me doing the majority of the physical work, this therapy was all manipulation of muscles, nerves and/or scar tissue. While it was working on softening those areas, it really wasn't strengthening my muscles or toughening me up to walk more, better or stronger.

For several weeks, this was the treatment I was receiving. Don't get me wrong, it didn't hurt me to have this type of therapy; it just didn't help the way I thought it should. Simultaneously, I was seeing a chiropractor who was working with me several times a week to ensure my upper back and arms along with my neck were doing well and not straining. Being on the walker was more of a "leaning forward" walking motion which could add strains in other areas of the body. The physical therapist was a not fan of chiropractors and made it plain that she didn't agree it would help. She thought it was doing more harm than anything else. So, it was a catch-22 situation for me. I knew the chiropractor was doing great things for me, and I was torn.

Needless to say, I was having all kinds of appointments throughout the week, including massages, which kept me very busy and tired after a full day of work. Every once in awhile, my therapist would throw in something new like taking the stairs or learning how to get in and out of the driver's seat of my car. After all, mom was going to have to go home to California and I would need to get myself around to appointments and work and fun stuff with friends. I also had the dermatologist to see as I was still weaning off the steroids from my allergic reaction in September.

While I was working and going through appointments at work, mom was setting up my place and cleaning the old place so I could get the deposit back. She did such a great job cleaning and filling nail holes in the walls that I got my entire deposit back with a note that said they had never seen a place so clean once someone had vacated the premises. Go mom! Can we hire you out?

Mom did a wonderful job of decorating too. My new place was now more of a home than an apartment (and it still is to this day).

A few days before Christmas, mom and I flew home to California so we could be with the family for the holiday. It hadn't been too but a few weeks since we had moved me back, but it was good to see the family and spend the holiday with them. The only thing that went wrong was I broke a tooth. I had broken this tooth back in 2005 before I had gone to Thailand on a missions trip. I had a root canal and a temporary crown put on. The temporary crown wasn't meant to last more than a couple weeks until I had returned from my missions trip. But I had made it last a few years. Now I was going to have to take care of this on the fly when we got back to Colorado. Bummer.

Christmas was a lot of fun with the family though. We had everyone over to our house, including some neighbors who didn't have other family to visit for Christmas and a friend on mine and her husband. This has become a tradition for us to have this Christmas party at our house over the years now. Soon, it would all be over and we'd be back to Colorado soon. I love Christmas! Not just because it is a time t spend with family and friends, but because it allows us an opportunity to share our faith with those family and friends and celebrate our Lord.

We have a lot of fun at our house at Christmas. Mom out does herself every year.

After cleaning up and putting everything away, mom and I head back to Colorado.

Next..."Losing Wisdom."

"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:12-13

Are there family traditions you have for Christmas? How does your family celebrate our Lord?

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Full-Time Position

Receiving my 5 year certificate of service.
After moving from one apartment to another apartment for three and a half days, going back to work was a little refreshing. Everyone was so happy to see me. It made me feel as though I really matter to these people I called co-workers and friends. While I had been out on medical leave, I surpassed the milestone of working for the non-profit ministry for five years. When you achieve that milestone, and every five years thereafter, you receive a certificate of achievement. The day I got back to the office, I was presented my certificate and a card from my department of congratulations. I was nice to be recognized for the time I had put into the ministry.

One other person in my department was being celebrated for having achieved a milestone in their service with the ministry as well. We both received our certificates and we celebrated with a cake for breakfast that morning during our normal morning devotional.

There was not much work that happened that first day back with all of the well-wishers that trickled through the department that day. But, the rest of the week felt as though life was back to normal. I walked with my walker all over the ministry for meetings and lunch and snacks, still meeting with people that were happy to see me back on the office and doing well.

Mom would drive me to work and drop me off at the front door to our building in the morning. She would come back at the end of the day to pick me up and take me home or to any appointments I may have. It was nice to be back in the swing of things as it had been before, just with a different walk now. All my days were worked as full-time days. I never went back as part-time. Praise the Lord!

Next..."A Doctor a Day."

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." Psalm 107:1

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Move Across Town

So, mom and I had a wonderful meal at Harry's Roadhouse. I just ordered French Toast, while mom ordered the Blue Corn Waffle with bacon. We were so excited to be eating there. When our breakfast arrived, mom told the server that we still needed her side of bacon. She got a very funny look from the server as she walked back into the kitchen to grab a side of bacon for her. After digging into her waffle, mom found out that the bacon was cooked inside. No wonder she was getting funny looks from our server. Of course, now fully embarrassed, mom and I both ate the extra side of bacon!

We completely enjoyed our time at Harry's and knew that we would be back any time we traveled through Santa Fe again. For now, we were headed back to Colorado Springs. As we set forth on our last leg of the journey home, we called the family to let them know we were on the road again (hearing a little Willie Nelson in the background).

As we drove through the hills between Santa Fe and Las Vegas, NM, mom and I got the surprise of our lives (again)! The snow had fallen overnight so the roads were wet with some patches of snow here and there. We had to use the windshield wipers once again to clear the spray and splatters from other vehicles. As the day before, all-of-a-sudden the wiper on my side of the car started flailing about with each swipe of the blades. NOT AGAIN!!! We thought we left the ordeal with the Indians behind us. But, no. They struck again.

Mom and I didn't have a safe place to pull off the road, so we waited until we had an exit. The first place to pull off was not until Las Vegas. We found our way to the nearest gas station and pulled in. Mom got out and did her best to get that wiper secured. We were definitely going to have someone look at these wipers as soon as we got to Colorado Springs! I wasn't going to continue driving this way without being sure they were affixed properly.

After getting back on the road, my grandparents called. My grandfather had gotten a great deal for me to move to a ground level apartment. There was going to be a lot of fast working to get me packed up and moved right away. I started making phone calls while my mom was driving. I started with calling all my friends to see if they could help me move over the weekend. I then called the new apartment complex to find out what we needed to do for my moving in and signing the papers. We were going to call them again when we got to town and arrange to meet that afternoon. I called my work to see if they could get a bunch of boxes for us to start packing. I called utilities, cable and phone companies to start the process of changing addresses right away. I couldn't believe how everything was coming together so fast and easy! This was for sure the hand of the Lord at work for me. I had been pretty nervous about moving back to a third floor apartment, but God was working this out in first class style.

By the time mom and I reached the Colorado border, I had everything lined up to begin moving Saturday morning. I had people from work, church and elsewhere that were all going to meet us at 9am and get me moved. I also had friends stacking boxes at a co-workers desk so he could bring them to my place on his way home. Still, I was completely amazed at how God was working this all out.

It was just passed lunch time as crossed into Colorado. A few more hours and we would be back home putting the finishing touches on getting me packed and moved out so I wouldn't have to deal with stairs (they were the least practiced in therapy). Mom and I didn't stop for lunch so we would be sure to get to the new apartment and sign all of the papers to be able to get the keys and start moving a few things on our own Friday. That gave us tonight and all day tomorrow to pack as much as we could and get the big things moved on Saturday while I had all the muscles employed for the day.

We got to the new apartment office just before 4pm. We signed all of the papers and got the keys in record time. By 4:30 we were opening my new apartment and looking at the space we had to work with. This place was twice the size of where I was now, and was not much more in rent. What a blessing this entire move was turning out to be. Plus, it was within two miles of work. As we entered my new apartment, one of the maintenance men were there installing a brand new washer and dryer. Another blessing! No more dragging a laundry basket to the local laundromat or friends house. I would be able to do laundry anytime without bugging anyone else.

Mom and I left my new place and headed to get something to eat. We grabbed some fast food and made t back to the old apartment. We had a load of boxes waiting for us at the front door and a few more inside. Mom got the car unloaded of things that we needed for the night, we ate dinner and began throwing whatever we could into boxes from my entertainment center and bookshelves. We made such a mess, but we didn't have long to get as much done as we could.

Friday came and we had made only a dent in the one-bedroom place. But, we were trying our best to get it all accomplished. We had to take a break though to go find a moving truck big enough to handle all my furniture. We headed for U-Haul and tried to get a mid-sized reserved for the next day, but it was a small one or a large one, no in-between. So we took our chances on the big one. We'd go first thing Saturday morning and pick it up. Back to the old place we went putting most things in boxes and some thing just in the car.

Mom took a run or two to the new place with clothing and stuff that didn't need to go in boxes, while I stayed and tried to put small things from the bedroom bookshelves in boxes. I found all kinds of things. When mom returned, I dressed up in some of the things I found to break up the seriousness of getting this all put together. So, here I am sitting in my wheelchair in my old bedroom with red reindeer antlers on my head. We had a good laugh and moved right back into packing up.

Saturday came and we left to go get the U-Haul truck. It took much longer than we thought it would take and a few people were already at the old place waiting for us. (I'm not allowed to tell you about the drive back to the apartment, but let's just say there was an entire street corner involved with the big truck.)  We made it back to the apartment and started putting people to work with getting the major furniture loaded. A couple of the ladies had already started packing up the kitchen, so we let them continue with that. Mom started helping the guys order the major furniture to best utilize space while I sat and helped anyone decide what to do next.

By 11:30 we had most of the apartment packed and loaded into the truck. The guys were waiting for a few last minute boxes from the kitchen and bedroom before closing up and heading to the new place. We got that all buttoned up and everyone had directions to the new place. One guy offered to drive the truck and mom GLADLY gave up that job. Only problem was that someone who had already left had the keys to the truck with them, so we were stuck. After calling the guy that had the keys and him racing back with them, mom and I had the guy follow us with the truck.

We finally got to the new place and got everyone started with bringing in boxes and furniture. It was super quick and they had everything in its place. Mom and I had sandwiches, chips and soda ready at the new apartment to feed everyone and as soon as they had finished unloading everything we all sat around and ate together. The job was done with a few minor things mom and I could handle later. I still had two weeks left in the old place to get it emptied out and cleaned up before the final inspection. The only thing left to do at the new place was to get everything unpacked and decorated as this was now my home for awhile.

Mom and I had our fill of moving by the time everyone left. But we still had a few things to do at the old place before night-fall, and we wanted to make sure we slept at my new place that night. So we went back to the old place and gathered another car full of things and called it a day. We started getting some things together to take showers and changes of clothes, got some dinner and settled in for the night. Tomorrow was another day before I started back to work on Monday.

Sunday was a little more of the same. Unpacking boxes and putting things away in the kitchen, bathrooms and bedroom. The living room and front bedroom could wait a little while longer. We did what we could and rested a little to prepare for the week ahead. After all, it was going to be my first full day of work since August. Bring it on!

Next..."A Full-Time Position."

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Heading Back to Colorado Part 3

Me with all the Guy Fieri and Triple D stuff
at Brandy's Restaurant in Flagstaff.
Mom and I got up and ready to go. Mom re-packed the car with our night bags and we checked out of the hotel. We headed to Brandy's for breakfast and had a great meal. They have a wonderful Chai Latte, that I wish I had here in Colorado all the time. Brandy's was hard for us to find the first time we came through. But, once we found it we were hooked. Brandy's is one of the places we saw on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri (DDD or Triple D) years ago. Mom and I like to try places he has been if we pass through a town and we can remember we wanted to try a place there. We always tell them we are there because we saw it on Triple D. Brandy's was no exception.

After breakfast, mom and I stopped at Starbucks on the way back to I-40. We always fill up with coffee and use the restroom before hitting the road after our meal. We managed to get all the coffee we wanted and also a couple more snacks for the road. As we left Starbucks for the interstate, we stopped to fill up the car again, and we were then back on the road. This time we didn't do any site seeing as we had hit all of those places on the way to California. We just kept running down the road (hearing a little Eagles song in my head, "Well, I'm running down the road Tryin' to loosen my load...Take it easy, Take it easy...").

We passed through all of the towns in Arizona and crossed into New Mexico before stopping again. We stopped in Gallup to fill up the car and also use the restroom again. We also stopped at the Walmart in town because we were in desperate need of windshield wipers. Since it was November, there was rain and some small flurries of snow along the road, windshield wipers were a much needed item now that we were in a place where winter prevailed. We found the right wiper blades for my car and were outside trying to put them on, when we were approached by an American Indian who was willing to help. While mom was working with him on her side of the car, I was on my side trying to remove the wiper. Another American Indian came up and asked to help too. So, with the weird angle I was trying to work at, I gladly let him help.

After 15 minutes of these Indians trying to get them changed out, they finally had success (or so we thought). Mom got me in the car and one of the Indians asked me for money for helping us. And here I thought they were just trying to be nice to these ladies when they really had an agenda to get money from us. Little did I know that mom had already given the other Indian money and he had taken off. Mom and I tried to explain that we gave his friend money for helping, but he said they were not friends. So what kind of scam was this that they were playing? Mom wouldn't give up and give him more money (and rightfully so) but this guy was not taking no for an answer. I had already locked my door and the back passenger door as mom was going around to the other side to get in. This guy started trying to open my door to talk to me (or was that what he was really doing), but I wouldn't let him in. I rolled the window down very little and told him he had to go, we didn't have any more money to give. He wasn't very happy with us and was getting agitated. His speech was not easy to understand ad he was beginning to get belligerent. Good gracious, we did what we could at the time and we didn't ask for his help, he and the other guy had offered. We were getting scared by this point and drove as quickly to the interstate as we could getting out of this town. It took a while of being on the road before we felt calmed down.

A couple of hours after our encounter with the Indians (and settled nerves), the rain got a little heavier several miles outside Albuquerque and mom turned the windshield wipers up to a more frequent cadence. Everything seemed to be fine for a while when all-of-a-sudden the wiper on mom's side of the car came unhinged and started flailing around the windshield with each swipe of the arm. It scared us both so bad we were paralyzed in our seats (and for the driver to be paralyzed while on a highway in the rain, that is not a good or safe thing). When we gained our composure and our hearts stopped pounding so hard, we got a good laugh out of the whole thing. We pulled off the road in Albuquerque and mom attempted to fix the wiper. All I could do at this point was shake my head in disbelief at what had just happened and offer a few snickers here and there while rolling my eyes, too. Mom got back in car rolling her eyes and shaking her head in disbelief as well and we set off for the 45 minute drive to Santa Fe.

We have now vowed to never accept help from anyone in Gallup again, especially Indians!

We arrived in Santa Fe that evening still having no idea how to navigate around town and its outskirts. After checking into our hotel, we tried to find a place for dinner I wanted to try called Blue Corn Cafe. My Sprint phone had a navigation system which I was using to locate this place. It took us back across the Interstate and away from civilization. It was just short of being dark and we found ourselves wondering if we were ever going to find this place. We come close to an area that was a little more well lit. The closer we got, we started to see signs not to pick up hitchhikers and to keep your doors locked. Where in the world were we? Finally, when we found a place we could turn around, we realized we were at the state correctional facility. I really didn't think that mom or I were interested in eating at the cafeteria of this state run facility, even if the food were good. It was just not a place we thought we would like to spend ANY time.

Sprint navigation page.
Mom was completely beside herself and could not turn the car around fast enough heading back the way we came. By the time we got back to the other side of the Interstate, mom was just ready to stop at any place we knew the food was going to be okay. Neither one of us was willing to find the Blue Corn Cafe at this point using my phones navigation.

We stopped at Outback Steakhouse and calmed our nerves at the first table we could get. Mom told me she refused to allow me to use the navigation feature on my phone ever again. I didn't have any problem agreeing with her on this one!

By the time dinner was finished, we were laughing about being at the state correctional facility and knew we couldn't tell anyone about this, especially not my dad. We headed back to the hotel to settle in for the evening. At the traffic light just before our hotel, I looked to the right just seeing what was around. I started laughing hysterically and pointing in the direction of a couple of buildings and a small strip mall. Mom was trying to figure out what was so funny. Then she saw it. The Blue Corn Cafe in the parking lot behind out hotel! That stupid navigation!!!

We got to our room at the hotel and were ready to crash for the night after all we had been through that day. We called the family to let them know we were settled in and would call when we left the next morning. Mom took a shower and then we sacked out for the rest of the night.

Me waiting for breakfast at Harry's Roadhouse.
What an ordeal. This day was way too crazy. New Mexico was turing out to be a dangerous place for us just to drive through!

Mom and I got ourselves together, packed the car and found a place to eat breakfast. We really love to watch the Food Network show Triple D. Guy Fieri had reviewed several places in Santa Fe  but we wanted to head to the one we saw some great food from called Harry's Roadhouse (mom was really eager to try their Blue Corn Waffle with Bacon).

Next..."A Move Across Town."

"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." Isaiah 26:3

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Heading Back to Colorado Part 2

After breakfast and repacking the car, mom and I headed for the nearest Starbucks we could find. We had to have coffee for the car ride, it was imperative for both of us. The day was already beginning to warm up, even though it was November, so I opted for an iced coffee. After delaying our departure from town by 45 minutes, we were back on the road and headed through town and toward Boulder City.

We made our way down Tropicana Ave. past the airport and UNLV through the housing district. We were as far from I-15 as I had ever been in Vegas. Most of my trips had been down Las Vegas Blvd with all of the major hotel chains called, "The Strip." I had driven through several times coming and going to Colorado before. I had even been to town for two weddings (my grandparents being one). We travelled down the road to I-515 and headed toward Henderson and Boulder City.

I-515 ended at the south end of Henderson and dumped on state hwy 93 to Boulder City. We passed through Boulder City and past the turn off for Lake Mead. We were heading to The Hoover Dam. Neither mom not I had ever been to the dam and we were both excited to check it out. We found a turn off with a great view of Lake Mead and stopped for a quick picture. Then we headed to the entrance for the dam. The rangers were checking each vehicle for explosives to protect the dam. Mom and I got really worried that they were going to make us unpack the entire car to check it.

The ranger came to the door and asked a few questions looking in the back the entire time. We knew he was wondering how he was going to check for explosives in this vehicle where you could hardly see any open space. The whole time I was praying he would take us a no threat and let us go through without having to unpack the entire car. It would take mom another several hours to put it back together if he did. I really think that having mom (a blond) driving, he felt we were of little to no risk and graciously let us through after learning we were coming back from my cancer surgery. We told him we were taking life by the horns and doing things we never would have done before, like seeing part of our country's national parks.

We slowly drove through following all the other visitors to the parking structure built for the slew of visitors passing through each year. Mom and I grabbed our purses and cameras and headed out to see this engineering wonder. We did a few things such as the observation deck and walking across the dam and back. We took pictures at prime spots like everyone else and acted like true tourists. Once we had done our due, mom and I headed for the car and continued driving eastbound across the dam. Half way across, you enter into Arizona. So we continued our trek toward Colorado.

Mom and I had a few snacks in the car with us, so we kept moving toward Flagstaff for our next night's sleep. We got to Kingman and filled the car up. We took another little detour through Williams to see the fun little gateway to the Grand Canyon and made our way to our favorite hotel in Flagstaff. We got ourselves checked in and headed into town to find a place for dinner as it was dark now.

Dinner was less than memorable, but that was okay. We just wanted to get in bed, get some good sleep and head to our favorite breakfast spot in the morning, Brandy's. Getting out of Flagstaff was always a chore for us because Brandy's was off the beaten path and we back tracked to the Starbucks down the road from our hotel before filling the car with fuel and getting back on the road. Tomorrow was another day and we were having a good time together already.

Next...Heading Back to Colorado Part 3."

Sometimes a song can put things into perspective when dealing with the issues of life. Live Like You Were Dyin' is one of those songs for me. You can view all the lyrics online, but here are the few that really speak to me:

”I went skydiving
I went rocky mountain climbing
I went two point seven seconds
on a bull named Fu Man Chu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin'”
And he said,
“Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin'

Like tomorrow was a gift
And ya got eternity
to think about what to do with it
What did you do with it?
What did I do with it?
What would I do with it?

This doesn't mean I think that you should go out and do things you would never do (as in sin), but it means to think about what is most important in life and don't take it for granted. Make the most of each day you have. Tell the people in your life you love them. Take that vacation you have always wanted to take but were waiting for the "right time" to take it. And, get closer to the God who made you, gave you life and knows you better than you know yourself.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"If It Weren't For..."

I digress again as this is heavy on my heart:

Tonight, I am torn internally. While I write about my journey four years ago, I was at a place of faith where I knew that God was right there with me and that He was guiding everything which was going on. It was easy that time to put my trust in Him fully and not lose site of my faith in the process. I felt His presence with me from day one.

I walk a much different life now.

Things for me are so much different four years later. Without giving a lot away from the journey, my struggles are now daily and extremely intense. The struggles I face feel more real than before and sometimes life seems futile. And I have to say that this time God doesn't make a lot of sense to me, which is why I am now reading When God Doesn't Make Sense by Dr. James Dobson. I find that I can identify with what he talks about through the first part of my journey. We don't know why God chooses to heal some and not others. We can't box Him in and say it has to be a certain way or we don't believe either. At least I can't. But it does't change the fact that I don't understand why now is so drastically different for me than before; why my struggles are so intense and seem to test my faith and trust in Him even deeper. I now have asked, "Why me?"

Scripture says:

"Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always." 1 Chronicles 16:11

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." Philippians 4:6

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I have found myself explaining to people how I feel most recently saying, "If it weren't for the pain, I would be doing good (or great)." Dr. Dobson talks about this in chapter 3 "God Makes Sense Even When He Doesn't Make Sense."He relays the story of Martha and Mary calling on Jesus to come and heal their brother Lazarus and their lack of questioning Him when he didn't come until after Lazarus was in the tomb for several days. They didn't ask Him "Why?" He didn't come when they called for Him. Mary said, "...if you had been here, my brother wouldn't have died..."

I can see a lot of Mary in me as I walk this new path. I don't see Martha hurrying about to "do" things, I see myself as Mary was, at the feet of Jesus. I tell Him, "If only You would take the pain..." I don't have to know "why" this is happening to me on this side heaven, I just wish "If it weren't for the pain, I would be doing good."

Thanks for taking this trip with me today. We'll get back to the journey tomorrow.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Heading Back to Colorado Part 1

Mom and I were on our way out of town now. We headed toward Las Vegas and the MGM Grand for the evening. We had missed lunch, so we pulled of the 215 freeway at Foothill Blvd which is also part of the original route 66. We stopped at the In-n-Out Burger we found and each got a burger and shared french fries. We wanted to make sure that we were able to have dinner when we got to Vegas. We were only going to be there for a short time and had to decide where we were going to eat so we could have a plan in place and get to bed at a reasonable hour. Too bad we weren't going to be there for 2 nights, maybe we could have seen a show. I've never been there to see one of there shows. How fun would that have been?

Mom and I finished eating our burgers and got back on the road fairly quickly. We made it over the Cajon Pass and through the Apple Valley before making it to Barstow. Barstow was the city where you either turned off and headed toward Arizona or kept going toward Las Vegas. Usually we stopped for fuel and a coffee in Barstow no matter if we were coming into California or leaving, and today was no different. Barstow was always extremely windy and hot, which make mom cranky because the wind is so bad there. It is the high desert and wind does happen!

We got back on the I-15 and headed past the turnoff for Arizona. We came to a little truckers town off the interstate called Baker. Baker is known for its larger-than-life digital thermometer  seen from the interstate. Near the thermometer is a Bob's Big Boy restaurant. My family went to Bob's for many years as I was growing up. It was a place mom and I went for lunch after church or for an early dinner quite frequently while dad was working. The locations near where I grew up had all closed years before I left California. And, even though I didn't want to ruin my dinner in las Vegas, I got a burger and shared it with mom. It was so good! Just like I had remembered, only smaller. Or, was it that I was bigger? Who knows. I was good either way.

Across the street from Bob's and the thermometer is a Greek food place. If you have watched Triple D (Diner's, Drive-In's and Dives) with Guy Fieri on the Food Network, you may have seen this place featured on one of those episodes. There were a lot of crazy white Greek statues and the blue color from their national flag all over the place. But, we'll talk about that more another time. For now, just know that we got back on the interstate and headed toward Vegas again. We were only a couple of hours away at this point and it was late afternoon.

Not long after mom and I cross the state line into Nevada, we stopped at the Outlets looking for one specific item mom had missed before leaving California. We looked for a couple of stores and couldn't find any other place that we wanted to go into to. But we did find the item that mom was looking for. I was in my transport chair instead of using the walker. We didn't know how much walking I was going to be doing, so it was a good idea to just use the chair. After walking the entire outer part of the Outlets, we decided to keep moving on to Vegas.

We finally made it to our hotel and got ourselves parked in the structure behind the hotel. We got everything we were going to need for the night out of the car and either loaded on top of my transport chair, or mom was carrying it while I followed closely using my walker. We found the check-in counter and mom got us registered. By the time we got to our room, mom and I were really ready for bed and not a night out for dinner. But, we got ourselves ready and found our way to the various hotel restaurants to see what looked the best. We were so tired, neither of us could really decide what we wanted or where to go. We ended up going to one of the restaurants run by the hotel itself called MGM Grand Buffet. Nothing spectacular, we just ordered off the main menu since it was a little later than we had planned to be there. It got us fed and back to the room for the night.

Laying down in the bed that night never felt so good. I slid into the sheets and fell to sleep. Mom and I got up the next morning and slowly made our way to the same restaurant for breakfast. We did our due, went back to the room and packed everything up. We headed back out with me guiding our way through the city to our next destination.

Next..."Heading Back to Colorado Part 2."

"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."
Psalm 139:7-10

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Making Plans

Sarah (left)
The moment I began to let my few friends know that I was going to be coming back to Colorado shortly, the more real it became. Since June, God had been with me and my family through what most people would have felt their entire life crushed by, cancer. With the exception of our family vacation and my brief return to work before surgery, our world had been consumed by doctor appointments, therapy sessions, insurance calls and hospitals. The peace that I personally felt as such a part of my everyday life could have only come from the Lord being right there with me. That peace was nothing I could concoct on my own.

The friends I called and texted were Sarah, Laurie and Vicki. Vicki had been in contact with my mom throughout the surgery and stint in the hospitals. Mom had been emailing updates on my condition and prayer requests for specific situations to Vicki directly. Vicki was my contact point for anyone else at work to know how I was doing. She sent out great emails to a mass group I had created of people who had requested to be notified so they could be praying. Vicki was great at getting these out for people to know what was going on. Laurie was another co-worker of mine and sat right next to Vicki. We were like the Three Musketeers at work. Where one was, the others were sure to be near. And then there is Sarah. Sarah and I have know each other for several years from going to church together. She was and still is such a great friend. I have watched her children grow up.

All three of the girls were excited I would be coming back. I asked they keep it between the three of them for now until I knew the exact date I would be back. I was so happy of the possibility of going home soon, but to leave my dad and grandparents was going to be tough. They had been such a support system over the past months, and I was going to miss them all.

So, the weekend came and went like a blur. Monday started with physical therapy again with Dr. Christian. We talked about the perspective time frame for leaving for Colorado and he stepped up our session. He was ramping up to send me on my way. So again my session was a complete "drench-fest" with my cool down in the pool. Later that morning, mom and I went to see Dr. Faraday and talked with him about leaving soon. He was on board with  me finishing out my three appointments (counting today) and setting me free to go back. It was exciting that it was all coming together.

So mom, dad and I talked about it and felt that the following week would be best for mom and I to begin our trek to arrive in time for me to be back to work by the 17th. We had our departure date set. Now we had a lot of work to make it happen. We had many details to discuss when we got back as I lived in a third floor apartment and wasn't going to be able to stay there very long, I was going to have to find a new place once we got back. Many other details were going to have to be tackled one-by-one as we could get to them; doctors, therapy, etc. We talked with my grandparents and let them know what we had decided and when we were leaving. Everyone was happy that I was well enough to head back, but sad as that meant that we were not going to be a 15 minute drive away any longer.

Mom found an absolutely fabulous deal on a hotel in Vegas (MGM), so we booked our first night there so we could break our trip back up into small chunks as not to make it too hard on me. Even though Vegas was not on the southern route home, we had a route in mind that would still get us back on the southern route after leaving Vegas. I wasn't fond of traveling through Utah, so we tried to make our trip go through Arizona and New Mexico is possible. I had a good sense of navigating us throughout the mountains and the desert, so mom trusted my plan for the trip home.

The consignment chair for recovery.
Mom and I met with our grandparents for one last "happy hour" dinner at The Claim Jumper the night before we were set to leave. We had fun and laughed and joked. We talked my grandfather into taking a look at apartments for rent that might be on the first floor as we drove back. That gave him something to research, and he LOVES to research stuff on the computer, this was a great fit for him. Grandma was going to follow our progress on the map. She loved to figure out where we were and where we might be by a certain time of day, so that had her occupied for a few days. Dad was the only one that didn't have a job to do while we were gone. He was perfectly content with watching Fox News, working in the yards (front and back) and listening to Leo LaPorte the Tech Guy on the radio.

Now that everyone had their stuff to do, mom and I got ready with all our stuff to leave the next day. In the morning mom began to prepare the car with all of our belongings and the new chair that we had bought for me to sit in at the house. I was going to need this new chair at my place too, because there was nowhere for me to sit when we got back to Colorado. Dad helped mom get the chair in the car and she continued to work on getting the car packed just right. Mom had a knack for packing the car so that we could to the things we needed during the trip in the daytime, we could get the stuff we needed for the hotel stay from the back in the evening, an then repack it again each morning. There were so many things to take back with us that the chair caused a lot of packing issues, so it took a lot longer for her to pack it than we had thought it would take. Our time frame for leaving we way off by now and we were not going to get to Vegas before dark. So, we had to adjust our plans slightly in getting out of town.

My grandparents came to the the house to say goodbye one last time. Mom was a little frazzled since it was taking so long to pack the car. She did her best to keep her emotions at bay, but it was just too much for her. She and I finally got ourselves in the car and we were off, 2-3 hours later than planned. But, God knew we needed that extra time for some reason. As we drove away, mom was drying her eyes. We prayed for safety and a good time together on our trip just before hitting the freeway. We knew that without the Lord guiding us, anything could happen. We were off now on November 10th.

Next, "Heading Back to Colorado Part 1."

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" Jeremiah 29:11

Do you and/or your family pray for the Lord to protect you on long trips? Do you had any stories of how He protected you from harm while on a trip?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Getting Better All the Time

Having the PICC line removed was such a wonderful feeling. There would be no more end caps swinging and smacking my arm as I rolled around the house or down the halls of the hospital to meet with Dr. Femino. There would be no more continuous tucking of the IV line and end caps under the mesh sleeve which was used to cover them from other peoples view and to aid in keeping them clean. There would be no more sudden pulling or catching of the lines and end caps while I lay in bed watching television or tried to roll on my side will I slept. There would be no more trouble with those things, and I couldn't have been happier. (PICC stands for Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter, which basically means that a small, flexible tube is inserted through my vein in the arm around the bicep until it reaches a larger vein near the heart for medications to be administered for longer terms. A PICC line allows a patient to not have multiple IV's run through their hands or wrists as those veins can get tired and wear out easier. PICC's allow for longer term care.)

Dr. Richard Faraday
It had been four days since Sarah had taken out the PICC line and I was getting ready to have my appointments with both Dr. Zand and Dr. Faraday. Dr. Faraday is a part of St. Joseph Hospital in Orange County, which was one of the rehab facilities my parents had visited as a potential place for me to get my in-patient therapy. My dad had not been part of these appointments we had been having with the doctors, and so he decided to stay home so he wouldn't ask a lot of questions to try to get caught up with my treatments.

Mom and I met with Dr. Faraday first at his private practice office off site from St. Jo's. During my time with the daptomycin antibiotic and the prednisone steroid, I had been checking my blood sugars and documenting them for Dr. Faraday. If there were elevations in any of the days, he would be concerned if it were dietary or if it were the steroids causing the lift in the numbers. I could explain my dietary intake over the week if he needed.

However, Dr. Faraday was pleased with the numbers of my blood sugars and decided it was no longer necessary to monitor them. He searched the rashes mostly found on my legs at this time. He could see that the steroids were taking affect and doing exactly what he wanted them to do, reverse the affects of the allergy and put me back to health again. He was very happy with the progress and gave me a game plan for weening me off the steroids by the end of the year. He also lowered the dosage of the steroid  from 30mg to 20mg. He felt good about where we were heading. He wanted to schedule a few more appointments over the next two weeks, but he was fairly confident that I would be able to return to Colorado and my job soon if I could find dermatologist to manage my care until the end of the steroid course. Mom and I were more than pleased to hear this news as it meant I was getting better, and vowed we would find someone before we got back to Colorado to continue my treatment.

Dr. Alex Zand
We scheduled our next few appointments with Dr. Faraday's office assistant and left for Dr. Zand's office just around the block. Parking was a complete nightmare. His office is in the building adjacent to the Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) and shares their parking structure. After several times around the block, mom finally let me out at the front door of the building and I went up to his office.

There were at least 10 other patients and their family or friends in the waiting room when I arrived. I went to the front desk to check-in and signed the check-in form as instructed by the sign sitting on the counter in a plastic stand. Mom finally came in about 10 minutes later. I was still sitting there waiting to be called. After several people had been called back, including people that had arrived after me, mom went to the front desk to inquire about how long it would be before I was to be seen. She was asked a bunch of questions by the lady behind the desk, and finally was told I needed to complete ALL their paperwork. "WHAT? You had got to be kidding me? Why couldn't they tell me that before instead of me sitting here for 20 minutes? I could have been done with it by now." In my opinion, this was an annoying staff and poorly run office. I was not happy about their lack of service, but Dr. Zand was such a nice man, I decided it wasn't worth getting upset and overlooked their lack.

I had a slew of papers to fill out and mom helping me with getting insurance cards out, reading numbers for me and then putting them all back; I was getting through this load of papers they had given me. When I finished, mom was kind enough to take them back up to the front for me. I think she was more worried that I would say something inappropriate to one of the staff and was trying to run interference, not only for me but for them too. So far, I had been in this doctors office for 45 minutes and hadn't even been to the patient rooms yet.

Finally after close to an hour, it was my turn. My name was called and I was taken to fairly large room in the back. All my vitals were taken as is the case with most doctors office visits for me these days. The intern who was brought in to my room to take vitals was very nice and pleasant to speak with. The nurse he was assisting was less friendly and was not a pleasure to be around. Several minutes went by and Dr. Zand finally came into the room. He talked with mom and I for several minutes before taking a look at the rashes on my legs, which were the only remaining part to show for my allergic reaction. It wasn't long sitting there talking and being examined that Dr. Zand decided that he was satisfied with the treatment I was receiving from Dr. Faraday and he recommended I complete my treatments as instructed. Dr. Zand said his goodbye giving me a letter stating I was released to go back to work.

Cool! I was released by Dr. Zand. I would finish my next three appointments with Dr. Faraday and maybe be able to go back home to Colorado.

My workplace, Focus on the Family (2008)
Work had been nice and understanding about my being out on medical leave. The certified nurse in the health office at work who had been my contact for my time off was beginning to send emails and call the house and cell phones notifying me that time was running out on my medical leave allotted and I would need to have a plan in place to return or resign my position. So, this was a breath of fresh air for me to know that I was nearing the end of my treatments and would possibly be returning to work within the time frame for me to not have to make the decision to resign my position. Pretty much a load off my shoulders and a blessing from heaven for sure.

Mom and I called dad when we were back on the road and let him know we had been detained because of the doctors office staff, but we were heading back home now. It was well after lunch by the time mom and I got back to the house that we just had a couple of snacks as not to ruin our upcoming family dinner. While mom prepared dinner, I sat and talked with dad about what each of the doctors had to say and asked his opinion of when mom and I should start heading back to Colorado comfortably if Dr. Faraday released me as well. Based on my conversations with the nurse at work, I had to return to work by November 17th in order to keep my job. That was also my dads birthday and I was torn with staying longer to celebrate with him or to head back and keep my job. Today was October 30, 2008, and I had just 18 days until my work had to begin again, or else.

In talking things through with him, dad made it clear he wanted us to go back to Colorado and for me to keep my job. So that was what we were going to do. At my next appointment with Dr. Faraday in a few days, I would let him know about the decision I had to make and see if he was going to release me from his care in time to return for work or if I would be staying much longer than I had anticipated or even hoped. After finishing my talk with dad just as his favorite news talk shows were about to begin, I felt a wave of peace flow from my head down to my toes and I knew, without a doubt, everything was going to work out just fine.

With the minor set-backs we had experienced with the infection and the allergic reaction to Vancomycin, blessings were beginning to replace disappointments one-by-one every few days. It was incredibly refreshing to know that after everything my family and I had experienced and what we had endured for these past two months, God was now turning around for the good. His timing is nothing we can predict. But we still need to have the faith to know He is there for us and will take care of us, even if no one else is.

While dad and I were finishing talking, mom was cooking dinner and my grandparents stopped by the house. My grandparents would usually stop by my parents as they were on their way home from Costco shopping or medical appointments at City of Hope. My grandfather would always come in say hello to dad and I after they first arrived, then go back to into the kitchen and talk with mom while she cooked. Grandma usually just stayed in the kitchen with mom until they were close to going home, then she would come into the doorway of the den, say hello/goodbye and maybe give me a hug before heading back to the kitchen to leave. This was the routine they were known for because dad was always watching Fox News during the dinner hours and didn't want to talk, so they took the hint and left him alone. Mom was always really good about filling my grandparents in on the conversations with the doctors since they couldn't talk with me in the den while my dad was watching Fox. That was okay, because he was the most informed in the family about what was going on in the world and the world of politics.

I was going to have another physical therapy session in the morning, so I would be talking with Dr. Christian about the potential plans to leave and see what he thought about our proposed schedule. If all the doctors were on board, I would be back to work on Monday, November 17th. I could hardly wait to let me friends know once I knew for sure. But, I started texting them and calling anyhow, as I could hardly contain myself.

Next..."Making Plans."

"The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His people with peace."
Psalm 29:11

Has there been a time when you felt the peace of God come over you during trouble and you knew the Lord was going to work everything out? Share that moment with us here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


For weeks it seemed as though my journey was to continually be confined to the hospital. I spent so many days in the hospital bed and going through the once daily walking routine. I thought that was just about the extent of it and nothing more. Once in the rehab hospital, time seemed to speed up and things started happening. "Uneventful" was not a word I would be using since I was transferred to rehab. Every couple of days a new challenge arose that tested my faith or an obstacle was removed from my way and I was off running this marathon of life. I could only choose to thank God for that happening. I would have to say the pivotal moment when the everyday occurrences of this journey turned into bursts of obstacles and successes was the day I had the wound vac removed and was told the brace was no longer needed.

While that day brought on a sense of boldness within me, there was still such a long way to go and fear still lingered at the surface of my emotions. Out of rehab and at home at my parents, the nurse set me up with managing my own antibiotic administration. She followed me for 2 days before letting me loose to manage my days until the final dose. Then, there was the appointment with Dr. Femino. How well did that go?! I was extremely happy with the progress and release from his care for 6 months. And, as always since surgery, I enjoyed seeing Dr. Femino and conversing with him.

Now to add more onto my plate while being at home, I was to be set up with an in-home physical therapist. Okay, so we're going to do more walking here at the house. What I am going to do, walk up and down the hall? I can do that on my own. What do I need an in-home therapist for? What exactly are they going to do to help me?

Since I had come home on a Friday, the therapist called over the weekend and set-up an appointment to come to the house on Monday. He showed up about 30 minutes late, driving a late model BMW (at least it wasn't a hummer like Sarah). He carried his cell phone and keys with him and a few papers on the first day. He had a deep penetrating voice. It seemed that no matter what he might try to do, he could never get his voice to a whisper, it just boomed as he spoke. He and I talked for a short time about my surgery before he was ready to get started with my therapy.

Dr. Christian M. Chipouras, DPT
His name was Dr. Christian Chipouras. He was originally from New Jersey and had moved to California to get started in the therapy business. As we strolled down the long hallway of my parents house toward the den, he asked to see what the kitchen was like. He was looking for places within the house that he could do the training with me, and he was looking for places I could do stuff on my own as well.

He decided that the kitchen was going to be the best place for us work-out. I was going to be able to use the walker at times, hold onto the counter for other times and have enough room to practice certain moves with my legs. He started me out by doing calf raises in the corner of the kitchen where I had enough room to move and was able to hold on to the counter. After calf raises, we moved into knee bends. He had a lot of instruction for me on those. He needed me to have a straight back and not lean forward, which would defeat the purpose of the exercise. He followed the knee bends up with adductor movements of the right leg (it was where you move your leg out to the side and back-to-center. Having only walked for nearly two months, I was already exhausted and dripping wet.

We had one more exercise to do. He was having me concentrate on walking with heal-to-toe movements. In the shortest part of the kitchen, he had me take a step out in front of myself with my right (surgery) leg placing my weight on the heal. Then, slowly I was to bring my good leg forward and pivot (or propel) off of my right toes and then back again. I had to do this over and over again to retrain my brain to walk normally.

So, if all this wasn't enough for the very first day of therapy, he then had me take the walker outside and walk our neighborhood. This guy was totally crazy, and killing me off! Walking through the neighborhood proved to be exceptionally challenging. While in the hospital and in rehab, I had completely smooth surfaces to roll along on. Here at home, I had cracks in the sidewalk, the natural breaks between pads of concrete on the sidewalks, dips for driveways, uneven pads of concrete, debris on the sidewalk, etc. You name it, every obstacle you could imagine was right there ready to take me out. Many times the wheels on the walker would get caught on a rock and stop the walker from moving forward. That would launch me into walker and against the round metal frame until I could back up and manually move the walker away from the pebble which felt like a boulder. Again, I was dripping wet with beads pouring down my face and into my glasses. It was not a pretty sight.

Then, we would come back into the house in time for him to pick up his car keys and cell phone, set up the next appointment in two days and race out the door to his next patient. Mom and I would change me from my therapy clothes into my bathing suit and I would go to the backyard to cool off in the pool. This was another form of therapy for me, floating in the cold pool for an hour. This schedule of therapy would last for three more weeks. But the good thing was that Sunday was coming and I was going to have my final dose of antibiotic!

My PICC line for IV's
Sarah came late in the afternoon on that Sunday. She had a bunch of paperwork to complete as I finished up my last round of Daptomycin.  I an't tell you how glad I was that I was going to have this PICC line removed from my arm after this too. Sarah asked how everything went, if there were any problems, if I felt comfortable, etc. She completed all of the paperwork necessary for my release from her care and I signed them. As soon as all that was complete, it was time for her to take the PICC  line out. It took a couple of minutes for her to prepare everything to take it out and sterilize my arm so that the opening wouldn't get an infection. After she had removed the PICC line and disposed of it, she gave us instructions on how to dispose of all of the resources left from hanging the IV on a pole, extra alcohol swabs, latex gloves, etc. Since she did a lot of traveling to different patients, she had a need for the IV pole, so we sent it with her. All the rest of the stuff we just hung onto for now. There was nothing else for her to do so she packed up and she was out the door within an hour.

It seemed a little anti-climatic when Sarah left. My dad had gotten back from his business trip and the three of us all looked at each other really not knowing what to do with ourselves at this point. I had a couple of appointments lined up with the infectious disease doctor and the rehab doctor. I was hoping they would release me soon so I knew what to tell work about my return to Colorado. but, we would see what they said soon enough.

Next..."Getting Better All the Time."

"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." Psalm 51:10-12 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Here A Staple, There A Staple, Everywhere A Staple Staple...

Me with John and Jane White.
While in the rehab hospital and dealing with the effects of the Vancomycin allergic reaction, my parents and I felt compiled to have someone pray over me. We were not sure, at the time, what was going on with my body and felt it was a great idea to have one of our close family friends lay hands on me. Our long-time friend John White, president of Firefighter For Christ, was not available to come, so my mom and dad weren't sure who else to call on. John and his wife Jane have been friends of our family since the early 70's. John was a co-worker of my dad's when he first started on the fire department and was instrumental in my father coming to Christ. To this day, the Whites are dear friends of ours and continue to pray for me as I walk through this journey.

Roger and Meredith "Mer" Greear.
Years before I left California for Colorado, I had gone to a church with a large family whose patriarch, Roger Greear, is an ordained minister and president of River of Life Prison Ministries. I was still in contact with their family and they lived not far from where I was rehabbing. Roger was more than happy to come to the rehab hospital and pray over me. It was wonderful to have Roger come, even while his wife, Mer, was home ill herself. My family was so grateful for his time, prayers and friendship over the years. Not long after Roger came to pray, was when my doctor called in the infectious disease doctor and we had a path to recovery.

After arriving at my parents house, we received a call from an in-home nurse who was to train us in how to self-administer my IV and monitor my blood sugars for Dr. Faraday as part of my recovery. She would be arriving the next day to meet with us for an evaluation and to train us. The next morning, mom and I were greeted by a lady in her mid-50's who was no more than 5' 5" and drove a huge Hummer. This nurse was Sarah and she was, in moms terms, "A hoot."

Sarah was a very sweet lady with a strong, take charge personality. She came in the house each day armed with a rolling satchel filled with paperwork for following my case, latex gloves, syringes of saline, alcohol swabs and numerous other items for starting IVs. She said she had learned a long time ago not to try to carry it all and risk hurting her shoulders. Once we got started that first day, she was a great teacher. After the first time showing me how to prep, attach and start my IV, I was able to do it without missing a step the next time. So, this was now my job to get the IV started each day.

After having been at my parents home four days, mom and I made the trip back to City of Hope to have my staples removed in the outpatient clinic. Like all other times of going to see Dr. Femino in the clinic, we were taken to one of the smaller rooms to wait. This room was one that didn't have a window but was on the side of the building with all the windows. As usual, we waited a short time before Dr. and Helen came in.

Dr. Femino was genuinely happy to see us. He took a good look at all of the places my rashes were and went over what treatment Dr. Faraday was taking with me to counter act my reaction. We had a great conversation and he was pleased to see that everything was looking good. Then he examined the incision from my surgery and felt that it was doing great and thought the staples could be removed. My incision from surgery was very long. It extended from up the side of the hip closer to the waistline, down through the crease where your torso and leg meet and then completely across my private area. Some of the staples across this incision were beginning to itch, so it was timely that Dr. Femino agreed they needed to be removed.

So, Dr. Femino asked Helen, his nurse, to go ahead and remove all of the remaining staples and complete all the discharge paperwork and set me up for follow-up with him in six months. He noted that I had lymphedema, swelling of the leg because of lymphatic fluid. Since it was a Tuesday, the guy who created my wonderful plastic contraption I was finally rid of, Tim, was consulting in the clinic and Dr. Femino suggested Helen set us up with him to get a customized compression stocking to reduce the swelling. Helen complied with all of Dr. Femino's requests and we systematically completed the list through meeting with Tim.

Helen had become a person with whom mom, dad and I connected with spiritually. Helen shares our faith and from the beginning was praying for me and my family. Helen reassured me prior to surgery that she would be in the operating room and would be praying for me the entire time. I'm sure her prayers over me on the operating table allowed the surgery to go so well. Each time we have the pleasure of going to see Dr. Femino, we also look forward to seeing Helen and sharing updates of our lives in those brief moments, family pictures and all.

Sample of compression
stocking style.
In order to see Time, I was moved to another room. This time it was in the front corner with windows. It took about 30 minutes before Tim came in to this new room. Tim took all kinds of measurements just like before when we had the brace made. It was a short time with Tim. He had one compression stocking that matched my specifications and he would need to order another stocking for me to swap out every other day while the other was being washed.

Tim gave us a brief lesson on how to put the stocking on and all of the work it was going to take each time. The stocking was so tight (in order to move the fluid up the leg and through the duct it was supposed to travel through) that it took several minutes for us to work it completely to the top of the hip and wrap around the opposite hip to hold it in place. What an ordeal. But it was finished and mom and I were able to go back home.


"When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them." Luke 4:40

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" Philippians 1:3-6

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Car, A Walker and A Ride Home

Over the two weeks I was at the rehab facility, I worked with the Occupational Therapist, Lisa, to make sure that I had enough strength in my arms, was mentally alert and had the hand-eye coordination the hospital required for my discharge. I worked with the Physical Therapist, Mohammad, gaining strength, balance and coordination both with walking and standing in place for longer periods of time. What we hadn't really worked too much on was stairs, and that was something we were going to have to do since I lived on a third floor apartment back in Colorado.

So, during one of my sessions in our last few days in rehab and with a room filled with patients and us not being able to get to the mock stairs to practice, we headed for the buildings stairwell to the second floor. Lisa had pretty much finished everything she could with me where Occupational Therapy was concerned, so the stairs were something she thought we could do to still fill our required therapy time. I practiced going up to the second floor and then back down to the first floor again. It was quite a chore to handle all at once and not in small increments, but I was soon going home to my parents house and needed to ramp up fairly quickly. If I was going to learn this from professionals, now was the time.

I exerted so much energy trying this many stairs at once (and a lack of ventilation), I was drenched in sweat. I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts with socks and tennis shoes. My shorts were made of the same material as the t-shirt, so they kept sticking to my legs as I made my way up and down the stairwell. Every once in a while, I had to stop and pull the shorts down as they were clinging to my thighs like a scared cat clings to a tree branch as someone tries to pull it down to safety.

If going home wasn't enough, my dad was also getting ready to leave for a business trip. Mom was a little apprehensive about taking me back to their house by ourselves, so the therapists practiced a few things with us so her nerves would be lessened. It was very helpful for all of us; dad would know what to do when he returned and mom and I would feel a little more comfortable going to the house without dad being there for extra support. These daily therapy sessions had become such a part of my life for the past weeks, we were not sure how to handle it when we got back to my parents. This change in routine was sure to set me back some, at least that's what I was thinking.

Part of the rehab's discharge strategy was to make sure that our home was set up with all the things that would aid us in making my life just as normal as it was within the halls of the hospital and rehab, not to mention as closely as possible to before surgery. We sat in my room with the coordinator for discharges. She had a list of items usually requested by patents and families for re-entry into home life that was several pages long. It was quite overwhelming so we asked for time to review the list and make our choices. We sat and talked about what we thought I might need to become as independent as I could, and we had a few items we thought would be best. Lisa, the occupational therapist, came in to see us between patients. She made some suggestions based on her experience and knowing my specific situation. We took it into consideration and made our decisions, utilizing some of Lisa's suggestions as well. When the coordinator came back and we provided our choices, she asked about a few other things that were not on the list that we hadn't discussed. It really took us back talking about hospital beds and wheelchairs not thinking in the direction of mobility outside the home, but we made our decisions knowing that we could always get other things later. And, we did have to get other things as we found out by trial and (major) error.

Knowing that I was going to be leaving soon, the therapists suggested bringing the car to the back door of the therapy room so we could practice getting in and out of the passenger seat. After taking dad to the airport just down the road, mom brought her car for us to practice with. We quickly found out that her car was too low for me to get into and we were going to have to try something else. Thankfully, we had my Jeep with us in CA, so mom came back the next day with my car. It was the perfect height for us to work with. The therapists worked with the car for a few minutes to find the best method to teach us for my situation. Every condition requires a different method to maneuver the patient and reduce any risks of injury. And of course, my case was so different than what anyone was used to, it took some time to figure it out.

Mohammad worked out the movements and positioning in his head, would then try it himself and talk us through it by demonstrating at the same time. It took several times of trying before we were able to get into a routine for getting me in and out with as little pain and trouble as possible. Believe or not, this was a very tiring experience for both me and my mom. But, we got it for my release the next day.

For the two weeks in rehab, our family had worked extremely hard in getting me mobile and comfortable with being out and about in society again without having a therapist right there with me. It was now October 17, 2008 and I was getting ready to go home with mom, seven weeks after my initial surgery. The items we had ordered arrived and we got to make sure they were the right things. The personal items for getting my shoes on by myself and something to grab things off the floor with were all correct. The bigger items didn't arrive until later.

A new walker came later in the day. They also brought a full sized wheelchair, when we asked for a chair that could be lifted into the Jeep easily. We sent it back and said we'd find one we could use somewhere else. I wasn't wanting to wait around for them to deliver something else, I wanted to get on with being discharged from this place. I had been cooped up in hospitals for seven weeks and I was ready to get on with my life.

It still took several hours for the coordinator to finalize all of the paperwork from Dr. Zand and the insurance company. We had to agree to having a nurse come to the house to show us how to self-administer the Daptomycin IV I was still taking and to make sure I knew how to take my blood sugars at home while still on the steroids for the reaction to the other antibiotic. It seemed as though they wanted to keep me here to get a whole day paid for by the insurance company. I think I was right too, because the process that had been started at 9 am was not completed until after 6 pm. But, when that time came, I wasn't saying goodbyes to people, I was to the elevator to the underground parking to go home. I was so ready.

Mom and I made it home and my grandparents met us at the house to welcome me home. It was so incredibly wonderful to be sitting on a real couch with real home carpeting underfoot. We called my dad on his business trip to let him know we were finally home. Mom got my room ready for me and by the time my grandparents left, mom and I were both ready for bed. By 9 pm, we were both in bed for the night. Hallelujah!!!

Next..."Here A Staple, There A Staple, Everywhere A Staple Staple..."

"Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare." 
Psalm 40:5

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Rehab Do-Over....

From September 31 to October 6, 2008, my therapists, my family and I kept me walking up and down the halls of the original ward of City of Hope. Instead of having my patient gown trapped inside the "shell of discomfort", I wore an additional patient gown backwards to cover my bare assets. I always enjoyed my fashion trend as I trotted down the halls donning two gowns, a JP pinned to my inside gown and all my IV lines trailing behind with my dad rolling the IV bags and machines closely behind.

The "Brace of Constriction" or
"Shell of Discomfort" as I call it.
Getting out of the hospital bed to do my therapy each day was less cumbersome than it had been with the brace. Yet, it was still painful moving around again. My leg could move forward and backward with a little help of momentum, but there was less movement from side to side with more pain. Usually, the nurses would give me some morphine before my therapy sessions to make it more tolerable maneuvering in and out of the bed. In an effort to help me, either my parents or my therapists would pivot my lower body toward the edge of the bed while I would use all my upper body strength and pivot my shoulders toward the other side of the bed. Doing this maneuver every day reminded me of break dancers flinging their body onto the floor and spinning on their backs over and over. But, I was no break dancer and this was not a dance floor.

My first time getting out the bed was a slightly scary experience not knowing how my body would react to the new found freedom from the "brace of constriction" it had been accustomed to for these past few weeks. At first, I tried to take my steps as quickly as I had been while wearing the brace. I found that there was a sense of comfort knowing that the brace was holding my hip in place and that I would not come apart while walking with it on me. Now that it was off, I was going to have to figure this out quickly. I took several steps and found that it was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. However, I would need to focus on my hip. When I would take steps too quickly and haphazardly, my hip would slightly buckle forward causing me to have to catch myself and stand fully upright again.

I soon got the hang of it and took my time walking. It was not a sprint I had to finish quickly, it was a marathon that I was going to have to pace myself for.

October 6th came quickly and I was being transferred back to the rehab hospital in Tustin. When I arrived, they were not quite ready for me in the ward that I had been in previously. So, they took me upstairs to the brain inquiry ward. I was obviously out of place with the other patients in this area, but it was only going to be overnight or one more day I would stay up here. They got me settled in and started me on the medication routine they required for admittance. I was not a great fan of the food in this hospital, so I asked to have just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my meals.

I certainly made a splash as I started back at Tustin Rehab, I got sick from the heavy duty OTC med's they gave me the first night and then when my therapist's were getting me out to walk my blood pressure tanked big time and I almost past out in the bathroom of my patient room. So, needless to say I was not doing well when I arrived.

Mock stairs at Tustin Rehab.
After another day of being bed-bound from their med's messing with my body, I was finally getting back to things. I was transferred back to the first floor and had a room back in the ward I was in when I was here before getting the infection.

Without the brace to hold me back, the therapists were more comfortable helping me gain strength in my upper body and knowing how to do things to move around better with my lower body. They did several exercises to learn how to get in and out of bed without help, there were a lot of muscle strengthening exercises and then once things were progressing well, they taught me how to manage the stairs using a mock stairwell (as pictured to the left).

Dr. Alex Zand
Things weren't really going that great with me physically though. Walking was going great, but I would get so hot at night spiking a fever and was beginning to develop what seemed to be a heat rash on many areas of my body. Mom didn't really like the looks of what was happening, so we called the doctor in to take a look. Dr. Alex Zand was working with me again now that I was back here at the hospital. He was glad that he had sent me back to City of Hope after we had discussed everything that had happened. After taking a look, Dr. Zand thought that it would be a good idea to consult with another doctor about my condition.

Dr. Richard Faraday
Dr. Richard Faraday was brought in take a look at me. He specialized in Infectious Diseases. Great, so now they think I have some sort of disease that is going to be contagious? What else can happen to me?

After a few tests and talking with me and my parents for a while, Dr. Faraday figured that I was having an allergic reaction to the massive anti-biotic I had been taking since I had been taken back to City of Hope. When we thought about when the fever spikes began, it all started to make sense. I hadn't really shown any signs of the rashes and would only get fevers at night. We concluded that Vancomycin was the cause of my rashes now and my nightly temperature spikes for several weeks. This was going to require a few changes to my daily meds. After consulting with not only Dr. Zand but Dr. Femino, I was switched to another anti-biotic called Daptomycin and I was put on a regimen of steroids to counteract the effects of the Vancomycin.

My body was going through many changes with these meds and I was still under going all of my regular daily therapy sessions. It was a crazy time. I felt like I was one big science experiment happening at all hours of the day. Soon enough though, the nightly fever spikes had subsided and the rashes were not as itchy, but still very much there.

After only a few days in the rehab hospital, a lot had already happened with me. It seemed as though life was on a major fast forward, but time wasn't sped up all.

Next..."A Car, A Walker and A Ride Home"

"He delivers the afflicted in their affliction, And opens their ear in time of oppression." Job 36:15