Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Kindness of a Stranger

I don't remember her name. I barely remember what she looked like. All I remember of her was that she had blonde hair and a kind face. That's it; no more, no less. But what she did for me will last a lifetime, and dare I say that it will last into eternity.

I'm talking about the kindness of a NICU nurse during a time when my life was falling apart. Shortly after my second son was born, he experienced a Grade IV intraventricular brain hemorrhage and was transferred to Seattle Children's Hospital in their neonatal intensive care unit. He stayed there for nearly two weeks, after which we were told that nothing more could be done for him and that we should take him home to enjoy our remaining time with him.

During his NICU stay, this caring nurse took it upon herself to do something for me for which I did not have the skills, the presence of mind, or the foresight to do - she started a baby scrapbook for my son. I only remember snippets of our conversations:

     "His milestones will look alot different."
     "Scrapbooking is my hobby."

I don't know how long she had been working in the NICU or how many babies she had seen who had experienced this type of brain hemorrhage. (For the record, most babies who experience a Grade IV brain hemorrhage are preemies, and their prognosis is not good. My son was not a preemie. Go figure.) I also remember her saying that she had four patients to take care of, my son being one of them. Four. Holy Toledo that is alot of responsibility. I don't know the conditions of the other babies, but I do know that being in the NICU is never a good thing. I don't even remember if she started a scrapbook for the other babies.

All I know is that without this nurse's kindness and initiative, I would not have these precious mementos. The green blanket that you see in the picture is one that I ordered from Land's End a couple of days after he was born. I ordered it because I had done the same for my oldest son. I ordered it because in case he died, I wanted something real, something tangible that reminded me of him.

Thanks to this nurse and her kindness and generosity, I have: a newborn picture, gold footprints, a lock of newborn hair. Certainly this woman went above and beyond the call of duty. Most nurses would not do this in their spare time, but they do so many other things. I've had nurses who have: cleaned up my barf, wiped up my blood, put their arm around me to comfort me.

Has every nurse that I've encountered been exceptional? No. Some were rude, some were mediocre, and some were annoying. Maybe they were having an off day when I encountered them. Or maybe they were just annoying. This woman clearly was exceptional.

To my nurse friends: I want to encourage you to realize that the comfort and the care that you give does make a difference. A kind word and a hug goes a long way. In fact, it can be life changing.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sola Scriptura

OK, so I'm a day late as usual. It is my intention to post one of the Five Solas (or Solae) of the Reformation with an accompanying Scripture verse every Friday of October. The first one, Sola Scriptura, is being posted on Saturday just because I forgot.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Value of OT - I Stand Corrected

So, if I'm honest, I would say that OT (occupational therapy) is a waste of time. At the very least, I would say, "It can't hurt, but I don't think it helps." Well, I think I might want to tone down my opinion just a bit.

You see, my youngest son had OT during the early intervention years. He still has OT at school to help build strength in his fingers in order to use a Brailler. My oldest son has OT to help with writing. In each case it seemed as though progress took years; even then in the case of my oldest son, it didn't seem to help as his writing is still barely legible. Progress did happen, but I wasn't convinced that it was a result of OT.

I have OT to rebuild strength in my arm and hand. Last month, I was sent home from the OT's office with a rubber band, an exercise band, and a list of exercises to perform. I thought, "Seriously?" Nevertheless, I resolved to do the exercises because 1) deep down I'm a good girl and do what I'm told - HAHAHA, just kidding! I do what I'm told when I agree, or when it suits me but that's a moral failing and I digress; and 2) there was no way that I could start with lifting weights. In my last post I noted that my left hand strength using a dynamometer was 2 PSI (pounds or pound-force per square inch). I went to my OT appointment today, and it was 5 PSI - more than double what it was last time! The OT exercises are working, albeit slowly (from my perspective). The fingers on my left hand can curl a little bit more into a fist. It's not a very strong fist, and I still can't squeeze or flex. However, I am building strength.

The next phase is to continue strength-building exercises while working on coordination and dexterity. That's going to be difficult. My hand and arm movements are choppy and clumsy. Sure, I can curl my fingers a bit more, but I still can't grip anything properly. Yet. (As a side note: thank goodness I no longer drive a stick shift or I would be up a creek. Gripping the steering wheel with my left hand is challenging.) The shooting pain still hasn't gone away. Yet. Although I'm still flabbergasted and annoyed that all of this resulted from donating blood, I'm glad I had the opportunity to do so. Regardless of where I am now, I have hope that things will improve. Yes, things could be better. Things could also be much worse: I could be in a situation where I'm the one needing donated blood. So if you get anything from this post remember: there is value in OT, and don't be afraid to be generous even with your blood.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

When a Routine Blood Donation Isn't

It's good to be back after however many months it's been. I just haven't felt like blogging. It's not that I lost interest, it's just that I didn't have alot to say or share. There is something that I would like to share, however, and that's why I'm back.

Back in May, I decided to participate in a blood drive. It was one of the many service projects going on around our church that weekend, and this was one that I knew I could do. Afterall I'd done it before and it was no big deal. Just before the needle was inserted, I remember thinking, "Holy crap, that's a huge needle." It turns out that the needles used for blood donations are much larger than those used by a lab for a routine blood draw. This wasn't the case the last time I donated blood. Mind you, I'm not afraid of needles and I'm not afraid of blood and no, I've never wanted to be a nurse or a doctor because I don't want to deal with other people's blood. (How's that for a run-on sentence?)

As the needle was inserted into my skin I said, "OWWW!" A shooting pain ran down my arm, but the phlebotomist assured me that I was OK. Unfortunately, I have a high tolerance for pain, so I just tend to grin and bear it. I kept thinking, "Bleed faster, bleed faster." Afterwards, there was minimal bruising and stinging, shooting pain, but I thought nothing of it.

Over the next few days, that stinging pain didn't go away. About 10 days later over Memorial Day weekend, I noticed some weakness in my forearm and hand. I brushed it off because I had too many other things to do: upcoming graduation, anniversary, another anniversary party, vacay in Tahoe. I didn't have time to deal with it. It's quite easy to live in denial.

Finally, at the end of June, I called my doctor. She proceeded to test my finger strength by inserting a piece of paper between each of my fingers. I was to squeeze my fingers together while she tried to pull the paper away. I failed. She did several resistance tests and I failed those, too. Thinking that I might have nerve damage, she called the neurology department and it just so happened that the chief of neurology was on phone duty that day. (A total God-thing) He said to send me on over and he could squeeze me in for a consult right away. He performed many of the same resistance tests that my primary doctor did, and decided I needed to undergo a nerve function test. While in his office, I learned that he had been a regular blood donor. It was from him that I learned that at some point, blood banks switched to larger needles because they enabled faster blood collection. Nice.

Right hand
Left hand
A week later, I went back for the nerve function test. The good news is that none of my nerves were damaged. PRAISE THE LORD! The bad news is, it still doesn't explain the stinging pain and weakness in my arm and hand. The neurologist referred me to occupational therapy to try and rebuild strength. I had my first OT appointment today. She used a hydraulic hand dynomometer to measure the force of my grip. My right hand measured 80 pounds per square inch. Pretty darn good for a middle-aged gal. My left hand? Only 2 pounds. I was sent home with high tech tools such as a rubber band, an exercise band, and a list of exercises to perform each day. I go back in 3 weeks for a progress check. All of this from a seemingly routine blood draw. As you can see from the pictures, I can't fully squeeze my left hand and make a fist, nor can I flex my left arm muscles.
So what's the moral of the story? I'm not sure there is one. I guess I've learned not to assume that a routine procedure is not without risk or potential complications. Ignorance can be painful. Sometimes we just get the short end of the stick. We get shafted; we get screwed over. Yes, the shooting pain hurts. Yes, the weakness in my arm and hand is frustrating. Yes, I'm annoyed. In spite of this, I put my hope and trust in the Lord for his perfect timing and will continue to praise Him in good times and bad.

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:10


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