Sunday, January 3, 2010

Trials of Fire

So, I'm still alive. Most of the people who read this blog are already in the know with what has been going on with me the past 5 months. But there are those who don't. My apologies to those who do know because I'm going to do a recap for those who don't.

First, before I start in on the bad stuff, it should be mentioned that we were able to take a wonderful vacation to Yellowstone in August. It was the first family vacation we have been able to go on that wasn't a reunion of some type. I have pictures to share, but I'm not on my computer right now, so I'll do that in another post.

Also, Corey and I celebrated 10 years of marriage on August 19th. I can't believe we've been married for a decade. But at the same time, it seems as though we've always been in each other's lives.

Now for what has seemed to wipe me off the face of the planet.

On August 20th -- one day after celebrating my anniversary -- I suffered a spinal cord injury. I had inflammation across a section of my spinal cord, that was caused by an infection of the herpes simplex virus. That's right. Cold sores caused a spinal cord injury in me that the doctors call Transverse Myelitis.

I woke up that morning perfectly fine. I got breakfast for the children, and then sat down at the computer to get some work done for church. I had been sitting there about 30 minutes before I decided to get up and start getting the kitchen cleaned up for the morning. It was then that I noticed my legs had gone to sleep. I walked around for a minute thinking that they'd come out of it, but they didn't. I woke Corey up to tell him I couldn't feel my legs. He thought they'd work their way out of it too. We started walking around again. Half and hour later, I could feel it getting worse, and we went to the emergency room. Four hours later, I was a dead weight.

I spent a week at Ogden Regional Hospital, where I had seven MRI's and a spinal tap. I was tested for stroke and MS. At one time, we thought I had Guillan Barre Syndrome, before we had a final diagnosis.

At that point, I was transfered to the inpatient rehabilitation center at the University of Utah Hospital. I spent 5 weeks there doing intensive physical and occupational therapy. At one point, my sight was affected, and if we hadn't caught it in time, I may have lost it. Thank goodness, we caught it. We were able to reverse the affects, and now, it's as if nothing was ever wrong with my eyes. Unfortunately, part of being paralyzed from the waist down, often times means that you lose control of your bodily functions as well. That has been true for me. This may be too much information, and I'm sorry for that. My bowel function is slowly starting to return, but I still have some issues. I am able to urinate, but only a very little bit. I am having to catheterize myself, intermittently for the rest.

During the time I was in the hospital the hardest part was being so far away from my family. Ethan started kindergarten while I was in the hospital. I wasn't able to be there to take pictures, take him to school on his first day, and be his support. I will never get that back. Despite, all I've lost, that is what hurts the very most. That, and other things like it, such as missing most of Johnathan's soccer season.

The entire time I was in the hospital, I told everyone -- doctors, nurses, therapists -- anyone who would listen, that I would be home by October 15th to celebrate his birthday, even if I had to sneak me and my wheelchair out of the hospital and wheel myself to Ogden. I came home on October 8th -- a week before Ethan turned 6.

I did some therapy at home for the first few weeks, and since then have been doing outpatient therapy three days a week. I am using a walker, but have a wheelchair rental that I use because I lack the stamina to be on my feet doing all the things I, as a mother, need to be doing all day. I hope that day is coming. At therapy, I am working on using crutches. I think distance and stamina will likely come last.

I have had to relearn how to do some things around the home. It's taken some major brainstorming. I am getting stronger every day. I only wish the process were faster.

As you can probably imagine, we have had some terrible expenses with this whole thing. In the beginning, I was using ankle braces when I walked because my ankles are week and they would roll. Those braces cost us $700. That was only 50%! That just gives an idea of the expenses we have been looking at.

This has been a terrible ordeal. But as trials will do, if we let them, we have gained a lot from this as well.

That first day I lost the feeling in my legs, the very moment I knew I was in trouble, I asked Corey for a blessing. I have remained very close to my Heavenly Father ever since. I think that without Him, this trial would have done me in. But I have felt Him near through my every prayer, as well as with every tear. Being so far from my family, I had plenty of opportunity to feel lonely. But I never did. Because I have felt His presence at every step.

I have been reminded of the goodness of people. I have such a wonderful ward family, awesome friends, and my family is fantastic. I already knew this, but I have marveled at the proof that I have seen since the moment word was out that I was in the hospital. There are many, many people who have fasted, prayed, put my name (and my family's names) in the temple, visited, watched our children, helped with housework, sent meals, sent cards and letters, called on the phone, I could go on.

My marriage has been strengthened. And I have been reminded and amazed at what a truly wonderful man I have married. For six weeks, he continued his schooling and took care of our three children -- one of whom has some special needs. He did an amazing job with them. And he has been so patient and attentive since I've been home. I can hear his concern for me in his voice. And through all of his stress this semester, he finished it with a 4.0! He is amazing!

I have also had some serious strengthening in my testimony of tithing. I will be the first to admit that paying tithing has always been difficult for us. Never enough for us to lose our recommends over it, but enough that I really wanted to get out of that mindset of "we HAVE to pay our tithing", and instead approach it as "we WANT to pay our tithing". At the beginning of 2009, I made several resolutions. The only one that I kept was that we would pay our tithing as soon as paychecks came in, without question. I never did it with the intention of receiving anything in return. I simply wanted to make it a habit, and then make it something that just felt good to do.

A week after I was admitted to the hospital, Corey was laid off. We were staring some big expenses straight in the face, with no job to pay them with. We also had three children who still needed to be cared for, and Christmas wouldn't be that far away once I came home. We didn't know how we were going to do it. And yet, things have worked out. Some of our bills have been taken over by family members out of the kindness of their hearts, and not because we've asked them to. The bishop was sure to remind us that if we needed help financially, that we only needed to ask. We haven't needed to ask so far, because we've reaped blessings in other ways. We have had family, friends, and even strangers who have as gifts, given us $50 here, $100 there. Our family was even adopted by a group of friends -- most of them don't even know us -- for Christmas. The blessings have been phenomenal. Somehow, I know that the Lord is keeping His promise that if we have faith and keep His commandments, we will be blessed.

At the University of Utah Hospital, there is a small branch that meets in the chapel for 30 minutes every Sunday morning. The people who put the program together week after week are called from surrounding wards and branches to be a part of and serve in this branch. They also visit those staying the hospital who are in need throughout the week. I went to this branch every week during my stay. After a very difficult week of therapy, health issues, and missing my family and friends, it lifted me up and prepared me for the week ahead.

One week, one of the sisters gave a talk about trials of fire. I don't remember her exact words, but the message has stayed with me ever since. My faith through this whole thing has been sorely tested. It has truly been the most difficult trial of my life. I see it as a trial of fire. Because through it's fires, my faith has been reshaped and made stronger. I don't know if I will ever walk unassisted again. But I have faith that through the Lord, anything is possible. I also know that He will never set me up for failure. That means, that even if I do spend the rest of my life using a wheelchair much of the time, or am never able to walk without assistance again, I will still be able to succeed in my life, and be happy.

It's no secret to anyone who knows me well that music speaks to me -- often when nothing else will. There was a piano in the common room of the rehab center, so the first Sunday I went to the hospital branch, I asked to borrow a hymn book. I would be heard singing or humming almost daily, and it was often hymns I was singing because they kept me going. There were many hymns that touched me and continue to touch me during this trial. But, I would like to close this post by sharing the words of the first two verses of my very favorite.

Be still, my soul: The Lord is on they side;
With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In ev'ry change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: Thy best, thy heav'nly Friend
Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: Thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: The waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.


Ruby said...

Jayme, I had no idea! I cried through your whole post. I'm so sorry you've had such a hard time. And all because of a cold sore causing virus?? Did you have a cold sore at the time?

Jayme said...

No I didn't have a cold sore at the time. It was very bizarre. I never knew before that you could suffer a spinal cord injury just sitting at a computer desk for a little while. I was tested for everything under the sun. Remember how I mentioned going to Yellowstone the week before? Well, one of the things they thought could have caused it was West Nile Virus or some other type of encephalitis. But I couldn't for the life of me remember having a mosquito bite. But after many tests, herpes simplex was the only thing that tested positive.

SarahAnne said...

Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Your faith is so strong, and you've strengthened my testimony tonight. Thank you.