Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Trish #13

We are now well into the third week of our adventure. Today, the doctors did an MRI that they hope will determine why Trish still cannot swallow. Her inability to swallow is what prohibits them from removing the ventilator, so this is a crucial piece of information. Tomorrow they will use this information to either remove the ventilator altogether or do a tracheotomy. I appreciate your prayers for us tomorrow that God's perfect will be done for her in this matter.

Trish spends a lot of time sleeping. That is to be expected for any sort of neurological illness. However, when Trish briefly wakes, she is usually very aware, thank God. Yesterday, during one of these times, my daughter asked her if she would like to write. She nodded "yes." So Tiffany gave her a marker and the little whiteboard we had purchased for that very purpose. She tried but she could only make a small squiggly line. This evening however, as she was trying to communicate with her sister, Lisa, she suddenly made a writing motion in the air. I got her the little whiteboard. This time she took the marker and in a messy but understandable script, wrote on the whiteboard, "cup of tea!!!!"

You can bet when that tube comes out tomorrow -- I will have good cup of tea ready for her, if the doctors permit.

When I have the presence of mind, I am trying to learn all I can about Subarachnoid Hemorrhage. That is the technical name for what happened to Trish. I have discovered that a very high percentage of people who suffer from this catastrophic illness, die immediately or in the days following the initial rupture of the aneurysm. However, I have also discovered that the chances for survival rise dramatically once the first two weeks have passed. After that, the medical staff focus upon recovery. That is where we are now in Trish's illness.

Doctors assign grades to an aneurysm such as the one Trish experienced (1-4). The grade indicates the level of danger that the aneurysm poses to the life of a pateint and the quality of their health should they recover. The doctors gave Trish's aneurysm a #3, a very serious hemmhorage. When the aneurysm fully ruptured, Trish stopped breathing entirely. Had she not been at the hospital when this happned, she would most certainly not be alive today. When Trish stopped breathing, the hospital personnel moved quickly into action. They gave her oxygen and did other emergency interventions that kept her brain from being much less traumatized that it would have been otherwise. Those emergency procedures have made our hope for a full recovery reasonable. Trish and I are both trained therapists.

We have spent considerable time and energy studying the human brain and nervous system. We have studied the various disorders and the treatments available for them. Lately, I had begun to believe that perhaps I had allowed myself to get diverted from my pastoral calling becasue of my intrest in this field. A few weeks ago, I said to Trish, "Why should I be so interested in issues like stroke rehab and the like, I 'll never work in that field!"

It appears that God, knowing what I did not, has been preparing us for this very moment of our journey.

I read a wonderful book a few years ago called A Prayer For Owen Meany. It was a weird book, in a way. After I read it it haunted me for months. (It was a good haunting though!) Basically, the novel was about how God prepares people their entire lives for important moments to come. It explores why people develop interests, take courses, read books and have conversations that move them toward preparation for things they must face at some point but which they might have never imagined on their own. (This is a real biblical notion, of course. Just think of Joseph in the Old Testament!)

Anyway, I was telling my friend, Mark Buckley the other day that I am one of the few pastors I know who is obsessed about mental health. For years I have been reading literature about brain and psychological studies -- even in my spare time. For a long time now, Trish and I have turned to that subject nearly every day. Now we will experience first hand how God heals brains and what we can do to facilitate that healing.

Well, I conclude with some prayers. One, a prayer of thanksgiving for the beautiful moment today in which Trish wrote a complete thought -- with her characteristic humor and intensity. Another prayer is for tomorrow that Trish be spared the need for a tracheotomy; that she will be able to function fully without the ventilator. And finally, another prayer, this one of gratitude for the powerful support of so many caring people all over this nation.

And a request: please keep praying, this battle is not yet won.

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