Monday, January 4, 2010

A Birthday Fit for a Queen

It appears that people don't often celebrate their birthdays in Intensive Care. As I arrived today, the fabulous chefs and helpers who work with St. Anthony's food service delivered Mom's meal, a special piece of apple pie (her first, ever!) and sang "Happy Birthday" to her.

She loved it.

She was absolutely thrilled with the surprise book from everyone...and said that "Wow! This is way better than not being in the hospital!" :)

Letters and notes are still coming in, so if you'd like to include yours, you can still email it! :)

Not quite what Mom expected, but a gift nonetheless. We found out what has been going on. At least partially. No name for it yet.

Simply put - Mom has an autoimmune disease that is incorrectly identifying her lungs as the enemy. Her body has targeted her lung tissue, which was previously healthy, and has been attempting to destroy it. As her white blood cell counts rose (meaning her body was fighting what it perceived as the enemy), her lungs were under attack - which made it harder and harder to breathe.

It is believed that she may have it for the rest of her life.

We do not yet know the specific cause, beyond the bacteria in her lungs. What began as pneumonia with a staph infection became an autoimmune disease within a period of 2 weeks.

The damage so far to her lungs from the bacteria and her own body will most likely be permanent.

I'll be very honest - yesterday was an exceptionally tough day for all of us. Her oxygen had dropped dangerously low two nights in a row without explanation. Mom was on the CPAP machine, a heavy duty ventilator helping her breathe. It intensely blew oxygen into her mouth, which made her look a little like she was driving down the road at 60 MPH with her head out the window, mouth wide open.

She tried to speak, but was unable to. She had to write things down.

Mom and I have always 'talked things out'. About anything. And everything. When I left for college 14 years ago, Mike actually called me at school to complain that "Mom keeps wanting to have talks about feelings. I don't do that. I'm not you. Call her now."

And now, I never realized how much I took simple conversation for granted.

I held both her hands, and tears started falling.

Then I was sobbing, holding onto her, and she just rubbed my hair for what felt like an eternity.

Because we simply didn't know what was going to happen.

I prayed for Our Lady to hold her in all the heavenly ways that we cannot, and asked the Lord to guide her docs to the answer. We felt so much comfort knowing that our prayers were echoed in so many other hearts of our friends and family.

I left the hospital exhausted, wanting only to hold Thomas while being held by Jonathan.

Dad came to the hospital for a dinner date with Mom.

Mom kept breathing.

Right now, we have a lot of tentatives. Current tentative plan? 7-10 more days in the hospital. As Mom gets stronger, she will move from the ICU to the 'normal' hospital. Tentatively by Friday.

Tentatively, the prognosis is for 2-3 months at home, on oxygen to help her breathe.

Tentatively, she will not be able to jog or walk long distances...perhaps for 6-12 months.

As she gains strength and her ability to breathe on her own again, she will be able to speak and hold conversations for longer than a paragraph or two.

It's serious, but controllable.

Mom, especially. We all feel at peace.

I had called a dear, longtime friend of Mom's last week to ask her to add Mom to her prayer chain. Bernadette's response? "Honey, I already did that this morning." :) A faith-filled, humble and Godly woman, she speaks to Mom's heart and soul.

When I called her this morning with Mom's diagnosis, she said simply, "Our prayer group is praying the Rosary right now for your mother. You must not worry, she is in God's hands. This is part of his plan."

She came in with a relic of the true cross. She placed the cross over Mom's lungs, and prayed for Mom to be remembered by our Lord. Not to ask for our own intentions, but to "simply ask the Lord to remember Karol". An awesome difference in how the intention was offered.

Bernadette spoke to Mom about the importance of not making plans on her time, but trusting God's direction and hand in this. That good health is a gift from God, and He is asking her to trust Him with hers. She knows how difficult it will be for Mom to slow down to the speed required to fully heal. Difficult, but necessary.

We talked about how this is a new chapter. A new year. A new gift of life. And it may be remarkably different from years past.

Our family has been exceptionally grateful for your support and prayers and love.

I have started a Caring Bridge site for Mom to help her communicate with everyone as she focuses on recovery + the road ahead. Please visit the site here:


Unknown said...

Love you, Shelley. Love your mom, too. We're all praying. I know God is listening.

I've been talking to my mom a lot, and I know she's asking her friends upstairs to take good care of her friend Karol.

God bless.

Anonymous said...

Dear Shelley-I am so sorry to hear of your mom's medical problems. What a blessing you must be to her. Her grandchildren are beautiful! I was always so impressed by your parents deep faith and commitment to walk with the Lord. Can you imagine to go through this crisis without faith? I too will pray for her healing. May the Lord bless and keep you and shine His face upon Karol. Brenda Heim

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