On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.


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Hobbling but Grateful

Let’s say you’re a mom and you’ve just had knee surgery–your second surgery in four months. Let’s also say you have a thoughtful friend who sends you a bouquet from Edible Arrangements. What do you think your children will do?

If you guessed that they will immediately fight over who gets to eat the chocolate-covered fruit and suck the helium out of the balloons, then you must also be a parent.

There are definitely more serious problems to have than my example. And Schuyler, thank you from the bottom of my heart. The chocolate-covered salted caramel slices are definitely aiding my recovery.

Instead I would like to acknowledge that I am forever indebted to three families who graciously made tissue donations in their times of grief. To each of them I would like to offer my profound gratitude.

In July of this year, I received two donor bone grafts to close up significant holes in my right femur and tibia. When I had my ACL repaired at the age of 18, my surgeon used titanium screws that loosened over time and created tunnels that couldn’t hold a new graft.

Yesterday my surgeon used two pieces of my own hamstrings plus an additional piece of donor tissue to construct a new ACL for my right knee. Apparently I have dainty hamstrings that aren’t large enough to create a graft on their own.

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I wasn’t awake to hear the explanation of why there’s purple thread in my knee, but you can see the dissolving screw on the left side of my ACL graft.

As my knee heals and strengthens over the next year, this graft will allow me to return to running, coaching soccer, and being an active participant in my children’s shenanigans. I know this may sound trivial to those of you who think running is bad for one’s knees or who don’t wonder why I just don’t give up running.

If, however, you understand that regular physical exercise is an important component of emotional health, then you probably understand why I’m not ready to retire at the age of 42. If you’ve also ever experienced the frustration and helplessness that comes from anxiety and/or depression, then you know that exercise is a tool to combat these afflictions.

While I wish that I weren’t intimately acquainted with anxiety, I refuse to let it rule my life. Running is just one of the ways that I find calm and balance. Returning to running shape, therefore, is important to me, and I am thankful that there are kind-hearted people who are willing to help me reach my goal.

And for a lack of anything more profound to write, I hope that I am honoring the lives of these three individuals by being a good steward of their gracious gifts to me.

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Speechless

G is super nervous about starting a new school tomorrow; after all, it’s been 7 ½ years since I dropped her off for school outside of the house. Apparently everything I say to her just makes her feel worse. For example, I asked her to make her lunch and to put away her laundry after dinner tonight. I’m horrible like that.

She got into bed early with 2 of S’s Harry Potter books, and I gently suggested that she try reading the psalms instead. After all, I pointed out, King David wrote many of them when he was feeling stressed and anxious.

“Why was he feeling anxious?” G wanted to know.

“Well, he was being chased by a crazy king who wanted to kill him.” (See, Pastor Rob, I’ve been listening to your sermons about David and Saul.)

“Yeah, but Mom, he didn’t have to go to a new school. I don’t think he even went to school.”

“You’re right, but he faced an 8-foot tall giant when everyone else was too scared.”

“Mom, what’s so hard about that?”

That’s when I said good night to my fiercely stubborn child. What do you do with a 12-year-old who thinks she’s ready to take on the world but doesn’t have a clue how to do so?

Nothing. There are no words I can say to her tonight to convince her she’s going to be okay. There are just the silent prayers that I lift up in short sentences throughout the day for her.

 


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Out of My Hands

I like being in control. There. I wrote that sentence.

There is only so much in my life, however, that I can control. I can run a household, but I can’t decide when it’s a convenient time for my husband to deploy. (Nope, the Marine Corps is completely uninterested in my opinion.) I can make the best lesson plans and order exciting curricula, but I can’t rewire the way that G’s brain pays attention. I can log 100 miles a month and swallow my Zoloft, but anxiety still rears its ugly head from time to time.

I also have no control over S’s insulin pump. I learned that yesterday morning when S came home from swim practice and announced that she had an alarm message on her pump. After two attempts to rewind and reload the insulin cartridge, I concluded that the pump had broken and that S needed to go back to injections while Animas shipped us a new pump.

Let me rewind for a minute. S was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 3 years old. She spent Easter weekend in a children’s hospital while Ryan and I learned how to inject insulin, check blood sugar, count carbohydrates, and do the job that her pancreas was supposed to do. For a full year we administered three types of insulin at three different times a day; we carefully counted and fed her the same number of carbs at the same time each day. It was exhausting and scary. On top of this, I was in my first year of homeschooling G, and H was still nursing. By the grace of God, we all survived that first year with diabetes.

I forgot to mention, however, that S was always hungry and that she was still struggling to gain weight. We made the decision to put S on an insulin pump. Of course, it had to be a pink insulin pump, and she had to agree to wear it. We found a pink pump, and I ordered a pump waistpack in zebra fabric so that my little horse lover could safely carry her pump. A month after starting pump therapy, S had gained three pounds and grown a full inch; her hemoglobin A1c also dropped a full point. The best part was that she could eat whenever she wanted. We still followed a diabetic diet, but she was thriving again at the age of 4.

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S on her very first day with her insulin pump. So little and so much pink!

She’s been wearing a pump for five years now. While this isn’t the first time that something on the pump has malfunctioned, this is the first time that we’ve had to remove her completely from the pump. Guess what. I’m totally out of practice when it comes to remembering how to give injections and how Lantus, a slow-acting insulin, and Novolog, a fast-acting insulin, interplay. It turns out that I’m not a good substitute pancreas when I can’t use a pump.

Until yesterday, I failed to realize just how important S’s insulin pump is. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this pump literally keeps our daughter alive. (That’s another scary sentence to write.) Did I feel out of control? Yes. Did I try to shove my anxiety back to a dark corner? Yes again. Was I thankful that Ryan was home from water survival training? Absolutely. Did this unexpected experience drive me to my knees? You bet it did.

This morning S woke up with a blood sugar of 352. That’s after spending a good chunk of yesterday in the 40s and 50s. As an added bonus, she was spilling ketones this morning, so I made my third phone call to the emergency operator at Georgetown University Hospital. But here’s what I did first: I prayed over S. I asked that God would protect her from these crazy numbers and that He would grant me wisdom in knowing how to take care of her. I asked a faithful group of friends to pray with me, too. Right before I took H to swim practice, we prayed that her new insulin pump would arrive this morning instead of later today. I said those prayers in faith because I had exhausted everything I knew how to do on my own. I said those prayers because crying in frustration and snapping at Ryan wasn’t making me feel any better. I prayed because God always hears our prayers, and faith means believing that God will accomplish what we cannot.

An hour later G and S arrived for the second swim practice, and they brought good news with them. S had drunk enough water to flush out her ketones and a big brown UPS truck had delivered a new pump. Amazing. The whole experience lasted 24 hours. S survived, God is still in control, and I have to admit that He is much better at being in charge than I am.

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S knows how to accessorize: goggles, swim cap, and pump!

Speaking of situations that are beyond my control, I’d like to ask a favor of my readers. I have a niece and nephew whom I have not met. I have not met them because they are currently living in the Democratic Republic of Congo. My brother- and sister-in-law have completed all the necessary steps to bring home their children; however, the DRC’s government has suspended exit permits for legally adopted children. Nearly 800 children are waiting to join permanent families; tragically 10 children have died from malaria and malnutrition–preventable diseases–while waiting for their exit permits. I realize that 800 children is not a large number, but each of these children is special to their families. Would you sign this petition to request that the Obama administration contacts DRC President Kabila before the African Leaders Summit in early August? It’s a small act, but it just might be enough to bring two children home.