It’s taken me forever to get back not just time, but also the will to blog.  But I definitely owe a download post to y’all.  And my apologies for my near-utter silence.  So here’s my attempt to explain as best as possible.  Thank you so much to all of you for being so patient and waiting for me.

The Five with Grandma and Granddad - May 2013 - 001{The five youngest siblings and Grandma and Granddad, circa 2013}

As I’m sure you all know from the chocolate post I scheduled to publish, I went down to California originally for two weeks to help my grandfather while my grandma had mitral valve repair surgery.  Granddad is nearly blind and deaf, so we all kind of had in our minds that most of my responsibilities would be helping him with his daily activities, doing laundry for him, making dinners, and then whenever we felt like visiting Grandma in the hospital, scheduling an Uber to take us both down there.

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Well, it turned out very different than any of us expected.  Grandma had two strokes while in surgery and it changed everyone’s lives forever, especially Grandma’s.   In those first days, she needed a breathing tube, she could barely move at all, she couldn’t eat, talk or even open her eyes, and her only way of communicating was by squeezing with her right hand.

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It was the absolute scariest and hardest thing I’ve experienced to date, and still remains so.  And I’m still convinced that the ICU Family Waiting Room is quite possibly the worst and most frightening place on planet earth.  Make that the entire ICU ward.  The grief, tragedy and wretchedness there is palpable, swirling and intertwining with your own pain to sink despair and depression deeper into your soul.

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There was quite a while where none of us knew if Grandma was even going to make it.  My mom flew down to be there, and we extended my stay by two weeks (for a total of a month).  Gradually, as she made it out of the danger of life-and-death, we began to see just how much recovery she had.  There are so many different facets to each of the strokes, different aspects that presented set-backs and areas of challenge…too many to go into the minutiae of every single detail and victory and struggle.  But she has made excellent, phenomenal progress from when she first came out of surgery.  She went from ICU, to telemetry (a step down in the hospital from ICU…or a step up, depending on your perspective).  There they finally removed the rest of the tubes and the monitoring that was keeping her in the hospital.

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Most of the time in the hospital though, she was having therapy (physical, occupational and speech), and improving.  She was released from the hospital to a skilled nursing facility, where she would receive more therapy, preparing her for a move to a more intense type of therapy facility called acute rehab, where they would work her all day with only about a half hour break between therapy sessions.  But she had to be strong enough to handle that kind of intensity.  When I left right before Thanksgiving, she was about to be released to the acute rehab facility and her progress was going pretty well.  One of the biggest impacts on her life is that, due to one of the strokes, she has what’s called left neglect, where the brain basically ignores that there is such a thing as a left side of anything.  Some people with more severe afflictions of left neglect don’t acknowledge the left side of the room, so if you walk to that side, it’s like you’ve completely gone from the room.  Thankfully, she is not that extreme, and she’s able both physically and mentally to look to the left (though she couldn’t at first).  Still, it also means that her brain doesn’t listen to her commands to move her left side.  So nothing is happening in her left leg and arm, though her core strength has improved greatly (which doesn’t seem that big a deal until you realize that your core helps you do pretty much everything, like sitting up, even while assisted…the greater core stability also helps with transferring her from wheelchair to bed, vice versa, etc.).  [Edit: after I wrote this, I received a text saying that she has moved her left leg down several times (though she doesn’t feel it) and yesterday, she started having uncontrollable spasms in the left leg – the first signs that the brain is reconnecting and that leg is waking up!! 🎉🎆  This is huge news!!]

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She is able to feed herself almost completely, provided someone sets it up for her and stands by for two-handed tasks, like cutting anything or scraping down the sides of a bowl so she can get the last few bites.  As of when I left, reading was still extremely difficult, since the left neglect also means she doesn’t readily see the left side of the page and oftentimes doesn’t track back to the beginning of the line, but instead starts a few words in and has to be reminded to look to the left.  The good news, though, is that, when prompted, she is able to find the left.

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But it’s hard to see that one of her favorite hobbies (reading) is so taxing for her.  Not to mention the heartbreaking thoughts that plague us all…how she will never walk again, how many of her old favorite past-times are out of her reach…she was an extremely active, go-go-go type person, as anyone who met her can testify, and she was always wanting to be doing something, whether playing a game, going shopping, or fielding a project to help someone else.  So that makes it even more painful to see her so dependent and not able to take on the things we know she’s dying to.

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Mom and Abbie flew down about a week ago to continue lending any help we can offer to the family down there, especially as Grandma is due to come home today (🎊🎇), so having them there while she’s settling in and getting into a new groove will be huge.

IMG_0058{Me while Grandma was in ICU}

This has been, as I said before, one of the worst and most difficult things in my life, and much of the time, I struggle with a lack of faith, an insidious bitterness that this should be happening to her, deep depression, and a confused, questioning spirit.  It’s such a roller coaster, it’s hope springing anew one day, and then plummeting back down the next day.  Many tears have been and will be cried; it’s the most complicated and inexplicable kind of grief I’ve ever experienced.  In the midst of this all, there are some bright spots.  In spite of my questioning and failing faith, there have been times when God felt very near to me or my family.  Obviously, He was there all the time, but sometimes, He made His presence very clear, drawing near and comforting me when I needed it most.  Still, there are times when everything seems so empty, stuck in routine or beyond overwhelming, and I am left wondering, “God, where are you??  I need you!!”  If I really think about it, I can see His hand working throughout the situation.  For one thing, another one of those bright spots I was talking about is the change in the relationships of our family as a whole.  We’ve grown together, bonds have been strengthened, and people I wondered if they really cared about me have shown me that they truly love me deeply.  It has been amazing, and honestly, our relationships won’t ever be the same (in a good way).  Vulnerability is a wonderful thing, my friends. Don’t shy away from it just because it feels uncomfortable or awkward.  It literally can change your life, making it so much deeper and richer.  Yes, with vulnerability comes pain, but it also comes with great joy. <- I can’t even believe it’s me saying this…seeing as this is an issue I’ve been struggling with for the last several years!!

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So this complicated situation goes on, bringing with it both joy and pain.  Who knows where we will all be when it ends, but one thing is for sure: God will be there with us.  And our family will have made the journey together.

 

P.S.  I have a bunch of food pictures from the trip that I really want to compile into one epic eats post, so I am really hoping that I can share that with you sometime soon!

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2 thoughts on “Life Lately – Bitter(sweet) Tragedy

    1. Aw, thanks; you’re so sweet!! You know me…I’ll want to see it all! And you’re better than me, because, per my usual, I kept forgetting to take pictures till after. Or at least halfway through eating. 😉

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