The Journey Continues

Good Morning, Dears,

It’s a beautiful, early Fall morning.  We do hope this finds you doing well and enjoying the first days of the change of seasons.  We’ve had quite a bit of rain here in the past 24 hours and anyone who knows anything about Fall color in these parts says it’s going to be beautiful this year.  Usually around the 2nd and 3rd week of October is the prettiest and I am looking forward to it.

So many people are praying for us and more are asking for details. If you haven’t read the post prior to this one, please do because rather than repeat what I’ve said there, I’m going to move on.

After the Lumbar Puncture last week, Michael continued to have headaches which is a normal and expected aftereffect from the procedure.  Then, on Friday afternoon he noticed that he was having some trouble holding onto an instrument with his left hand.  He told me Friday night that he could pet Polly but he couldn’t feel her fur.  However, again, our new and ever-changing normal didn’t alert him at all that these could be symptoms of a stroke.  He has experienced much in the way of joint and muscle aches, pains and stiffness and also has muscle and joint pain in that shoulder which the doctors told him was most likely related to chemo he had earlier this year. However, this sensation in his hand and headache continued into Saturday morning.  Around 6:45 a.m. he went to lay down on the bed.  I was walking out of the bedroom and heard a thud, wheeled around to see that he was no longer on the bed and discovered him on the floor having a seizure.

He was taken by ambulance to Johnson City Medical Center where he had a second seizure and then a decision was made to airlift him to Vanderbilt.  Jon, Tim and I took off shortly after by car and arrived a couple of hours after he did.

Many tests were done and we learned the following morning that he had a stroke.  It was a different kind of stroke; a ‘venus’ stroke, meaning it happened in a vein, which is far less common.  The doctors were concerned that the clot that had caused the stroke could bleed into his brain, so, they moved him to the Neurology ICU.  Turns out, incidentally, he got the best and largest room in the entire floor!  Thanks, God!

Several teams of people became involved in Michael’s care, which always seems to happen.  We had the Neurology team ( a first), his Stem Cell Doctors, and the Infectious Disease team as well.  Now, let me tell you, these are some brilliant folks and we were privileged to meet some of them.  And, as has happened always at Vanderbilt, he received excellent care.

And, also as always, Michael was not normal.  If you have read the book, you know that I say several times how I wished he could just have been boring.  Nope; not this time either!  There are a few reasons I say that, but rather than go into all those details, just trust me on this one.

By day 2, tests revealed that things seemed to be progressing nicely.  CT scans showed no additional bleeding from the clot.  He had been started on blood thinners by Saturday night, and anti-seizure meds as well.  The million dollar question for everyone was why the clot happened and why it happened where it did.  Even as of now, no one seems to know for sure.  I continued to ask the question related to my own personal theory which was could it have been the lumbar puncture?  Early on the answers I got were negative, but, I kept asking.  Then, yesterday, the Neurology team came in and had done some homework and found reported cases of exactly that.  Those cases are rare, but, they have been reported, and, as I reminded them, nothing with Michael has been normal which did at least get some smiles.

Some other possible reasons floating out there are the fact that transplant patients have a small number of higher risk for clotting and stroke than the general population.  Another theory is that it is possible his donor had a genetic propensity for clotting and stroke.  The bottom line is that, regardless of the cause, the treatment would still be the same.

By Monday, they had decreased the frequency of monitoring Michael.  He was in good spirits, he wasn’t having any further complications.  That was a blessing.  By yesterday, his left hand had showed some very marginal improvement and no further symptoms had occurred.  I think everyone was a bit amazed by how well he was doing; enough so that they said we could go home, and  I was amazed by that.  Everyone was also very pleased and perhaps even a bit surprised, that all the tests and scans that were done turned out negative, including all the ones from the Lumbar Puncture.  Woohoo, God!  A couple of the people involved have read the book, and they didn’t seem quite as surprised as the rest.

So, we left Vanderbilt yesterday around 6 and made it home in just over 4 hours with me driving at night which I don’t like, in intermittent rain, which I REALLY don’t like and long distance which is normally difficult for me.  However, we prayed before we started; many folks joined us, and God kept me alert and gave me a peace the entire way home.  We only stopped once for gas and didn’t stop to eat.  I drove; Michael slept,  and we made it.

I said so often on the Caring Bridge blog how we realized that our lives have changed.  Once again, we are in that place where things aren’t the same as they were even a week ago.  We don’t know exactly what the future holds for Michael, but, we do know a few things that will have to be different, the biggest one of which is that he is not going to be able to drive for awhile.  That’s going to be very hard for him (and for me for that matter!), and, until his hand has fully recovered, he won’t be able to work, and that is if it fully recovers, and even then, he may not be able to.  That is a hard place to be, and those lifestyle changes and adjustments for the future are going to take him time to process.

It’s so hard to change, isn’t it?  I must admit that last Saturday morning was scary.  I had never seen anyone have a stroke before.  I just kept praying over him and kept talking to him.  I contacted Tim and Jon kept me on the phone until the ambulance arrived.  Both of them were such an incredible help and blessing to me at that time, as they always are.

Lately, the Lord keeps taking me to Psalm 1.  Now, I know why:

Psalm 1

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

I have put an emphasis in italics of the verses that have so ministered to me in the last couple of weeks and how this Psalm did so in the past few days.  I love the Fernando Ortega song that is based on this Psalm.

What, however, does it mean to ‘prosper’ in v. 3?  Does it mean that if we simply believe in God that we can have anything and everything we want?  I really like the way Pritchard defines that:

“They prosper in the sense that no matter what happens, they find strength for the day and hope in the midst of the hardest difficulties. They bring forth godly fruit in good times and bad times. Why? Because they are planted deep in the good soil and their roots reach out to the water of the Word of God. Finding constant nourishment therein, they can face whatever life throws at them.”

This isn’t a material or worldly prosperity, it’s a spiritul one.  And that has such rich application for us right now.  We all have choices in life, especially when it comes to viewing our present circumstances.  We can choose to dwell in all the difficulties we are faced with.  For Michael, it would be what he can’t do, what he has to do; what he feels like has been taken from him.  Or, we can choose to dwell on the things we can be thankful for.  For us those things are the fact that this was such a small stroke and his recovery, while not over yet, has progressed rapidly.  I am so very thankful that Michael didn’t lose cognitive ability.  He’s alive; He can look at me, talk to me, and give me a kiss.  He can walk around.  One has only to walk around the ward of the hospital floor we were on and look in the rooms to see how very blessed we are.

And, even so, once again, our Lord has been merciful and gracious towards us.  The doctors, once again, are amazed at Michael.  For him to have gone through yet another complication, survived, and have the ability to move on is nothing short of another one of God’s miracles.

Right before we got to Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon, Jon and Tim ran into the Starbucks just down the street from the hospital.  As I sat in the car, I noticed a small flock of birds busy flittering about.  I rolled down my window and enjoyed the show, and, as I did, the old hymn “His Eye is on the Sparrow” came to my mind and I found myself softly singing it.  I love that hymn.  “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me”.  God was indeed watching and watching over Michael through all of this.  We are so grateful for the ‘could have been worse but wasn’t’, once again.

We would covet your prayers as Michael adjusts to these new changes and restrictions, and wisdom for the decisions he and we must make for the future.  Please also pray for healing for Michael.  He still has the headaches and is very tired.

As always, you are in our hearts, ever near and ever dear.

With love,

Michael and Jan

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