Finding Thankfulness In Your Life
I don’t know about you, but somedays life is hard. Whether you are dealing with:
- financial struggles
- health issues
- illness for yourself or a family member
- job loss
- housing issues
- food insecurity
- and the list goes on.
Life is not always a bed of roses. Instead you might think all you have is a bowl of thorns.
Barry and I have had our struggles recently come up and slap us in the face. Although we have not found our solutions, or had our stress miraculously taken care of, we are coping. One day at a time, one step at a time. Isn’t that all any of us can do?
Near Death Situation
Recently we had to deal with the death of Barry’s sister. She was a young 64 years of age and in less than 2 weeks of diagnosis of the “C” word, she was gone. It was fast, yet painful.
Even at that time, Barry and I started reflecting on the shortness of life. None of us know when our time is up. As a result, there are many more things that need to be looked at. Things that move us beyond the mere materialism of day to day.
Take the horrific hurricanes that have occurred recently in the Caribbean. Whole islands wiped out of every home and structure. Yet the loss of human life is minimal, and people rejoice. They have lost absolutely everything, yet they have life!
Like a lot of families, Barry and I struggle with an ongoing health issue. It is something that for the bulk of our 18 years together we have suffered with. In silence mostly, until recently. You see, at the age of 40, Barry started to have seizures. He’s now 58.
But the worst one so far, happened very recently. It almost cost his life. Further reinforcing the notion of the shortness and precious nature of life. More precious than material items and possessions.
I realize that the medical profession has new words for this, however, I’m using the terms with which many of you may be more familiar. Barry will have grand-mal seizures from time to time. His are primarily triggered by sleep disturbance and stress. Therefore, his daily danger zone is 4:30 am to about 8 am. They may occur as often as every 3 weeks, or every 3 months, and even once, he went 7 years seizure free.
Recently though, he stopped breathing….
Crying Out To God
Barry has seizures typically while he is still sleeping, or upon getting up in the morning. Often, they will happen after he has gone to the bathroom early in the morning. Unfortunately, this also means he falls within the bathroom. It is a tiny bathroom with a 4 foot tub and only 3 feet over to the toilet. And with the door and the wall, there is only 2 feet, basically the width of the door.
Many times, I’ve had to force the door open to access him, causing him more harm with the door. Over the years, I had expressed my desire that we remove the door, but Barry always said no. However, now the door is off, and hopefully staying off.
It was 4:30 am and I heard Barry get up to go to the bathroom. Having to be a light sleeper to assist Barry if needed, I laid in bed, praying for him. I asked God to protect him, as I knew that this was his morning danger zone.
I heard him flush the toilet, and then it happened. The cry, the crash.
I rushed and pushed as hard as I could on the door, and once again scraped his legs.
He was upside down on his head in the tub. Jammed into the one corner. His body jerked violently. And then, suddenly, it stopped. He stopped breathing.
No, my eyes were imagining this, right? But, my hand on the center of his back confirmed it, his chest was not moving up and down with breathing.
Like I said, he was jammed in the corner. I pulled and tugged at his shoulder, trying desperately to see his face, but he was jammed tight.
God, help me, Oh God, help me!
As I yelled this out—I was able to get enough leverage to pull his head up slightly. Oh, God! No! He’s blue! Help me!
I took a few steps back into the bedroom and grabbed the phone and dialed 911.
While talking with the dispatcher, and working with sheer adrenaline, I yanked and pulled on Barry until I pretty much half turn flipped his entire body. I managed to get him unjammed from the corner, so I could straighten out his neck. I didn’t even stop to think if his neck might be broken, I was thinking of him not breathing.
You see, the way he landed had his full body weight on his shoulders forcing his head tight against his chest. Cutting off his airflow.
I managed to do this super human body flipping of a man almost 300 lbs in the 4 foot tub. All while giving detailed instructions how to get to our house to the 911 dispatcher.
How did I do that? Only by the grace of God!
But Barry still wasn’t breathing. His body was still stiff from the seizure. While talking to the 911 dispatcher, I was massaging his throat and his chin and trying to force his teeth to stop clenching. Anything to get those muscles to relax in the hopes that his breathing would resume.
Suddenly the jaw moved, and oh, the blessed sound of life! It really is like it is depicted in the movies—that gasp for air. There was never a more beautiful sound to my ears! He was now breathing.
Okay, the ambulance is on its way and will be there in another 5 minutes or so.
Keep Moving Forward
I hang up with 911 and ensure Barry is still breathing as normally as he does after a seizure.
- get dressed,
- unlock the front door,
- flip on the porch lights,
- lock up the cat,
- move boxes of donations to clear a path.
- Hurry, hurry!!
Run back in, yes, Barry is still stable.
This is only the 2nd time in the 18 years that I’ve called the ambulance. Normally I just tend to him myself. The first time was because it was the first seizure. Tests were inconclusive and meds were only prescribed before the tests. As a result of inconclusive tests, no further meds were recommended by the specialist.
Now, not having a family doctor, the specialist seeing no need for further treatment, Barry and I were left to manage on our own.
Which until this incident, we always did.
Typically, Barry is postictal for 2 hours afterwards. If he is able to stay where he’s fallen for those 2 hours, I can usually afterward get him conscious enough to help me get him into bed.
Then Barry will sleep an average of 10 hours, gets up for 2 hours, and then returns to bed until the next day. At which time, although stiff and sore, he is able to start doing light lifting tasks. Within a few days, we are back at full work loads again.
If it hadn’t been for the loss of breathing and now the awkward way I had flipped Barry in the tub, I would have continued to handle this alone.
But sometimes, even though difficult, we need to ask for help.
I couldn’t allow Barry to remain for his 2 hour postictal period in that position.
The paramedics were great—in the tiny bathroom with 3 adult men, it was even tighter. I grabbed tools so one paramedic could remove the bathroom door. Oh did I mention, that Barry was in the tub, behind the door? They were never going to able to pull him out of the tub with the door blocking him in it.
I took the door and moved it into another room—where it remains!
It took several minutes and strategies to try and figure out how to get Barry moved out safely. Due to the paramedics having to break his postictal state, Barry became what some might call “combative”. But the look of Barry’s face, showed his confusion and fear. It really was a fight/flight response that I normally don’t have to contend with. I can usually let him relax until ready to be moved. But I couldn’t leave him in the tub this time.
About 6 am Barry was settled enough to get his blood pressure checked. Barry was able to start focusing enough to answer questions. The paramedics were hesitant about leaving him at home, however, I explained that if he was only going to sleep now for 10 hours, doing that in his own bed would be more restful for him.
But I did promise that if he developed any other side effects that might indicate a concussion that I would take him to the hospital or if need be, call the paramedics again.
The Emotional Strain
Like never before, the emotional strain this time has been overwhelming. Both Barry and I are dealing with the reality of how close this was to death. Understandably, we had to take some days and pull back somewhat from ministry as we sought to minister to each other.
The sorting out of the all of the roller coasting emotions, crying, depression, and more.
But God promises a day when He will wipe away all of our tears.
It isn’t the fear about the security of Barry’s faith—it is the fear of separation from each other. You see, because of this epilepsy condition, Barry and I have been inseparable for 18 years. I don’t:
- go out with the girls,
- do luncheon clubs,
- or even guest speaking engagements.
Barry needs me. We are never very far away from each other. Even if one or the other of us is in another room of the house, after about 15 minutes we are seeking each other out.
The emotional strain of this incident, reinforced that “in sickness and health” we are fully committed to each other. But neither of us is ready for the “til death do us part” yet. We are not ready to be separated by death yet.
Thankful For Breath
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for every breath that Barry takes. Even though he ended up with a black eye, 2 chipped teeth, and a severely bruised shoulder, these are incidental compared to the breath of life. We may not be able to afford a dentist, but we have each other.
What are you thankful for this year? I’m sure that if you really search your heart and life, that you too, will discover that you are thankful for life also. Not thankful for your new car, fancy clothes, or the latest gadget. No, you are probably making a list of those loved ones and the special relationships you have.
Truly, that is what we need to be thankful for.
To be thankful to God for every breath we take.
Look around and smell the roses in your life, even if the thorns are threatening to get in the way.