Monday, November 30, 2009

LOTR movie marathon

The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy are some of my favorite movies of all time. It's been a couple of years since I've watched the movies, so my younger sister Chandra and I decided to watch them while she was on Thanksgiving break from school. We watched the first movie on Thanksgiving night with our friends Laura and Nate. We pulled the recliners from the living room into my room, and although it was crowded we had a lot of fun watching the movie together.

Channie and I finished watching the trilogy last night. We watched all three movies this past weekend which is quite an accomplishment since the three movies are 11 hours combined! I have such good memories of working at the movie theater when these movies came out. These movies were very popular, so the movie theater buzzed with excitement when these movies were first released.

After I finished watching the trilogy again last night I was trying to think which of the movies is my favorite. I like them for different reasons, so it's hard to pick my favorite. I love the first one because the scenery is so pretty. When I first saw the movie in the theater back in 2001, I remember feeling very disappointed when the movie ended. Although the movie was over, the story wasn't over and I learned that I would have to wait two more years for the third movie to be released so that I could find out how the story ended.

The second movie is probably my favorite because of the fond memories that are attached to it. I was working as a manager at the movie theater when this movie came out at the end of 2002. I saw the movie in the theater three times, not to mention seeing the end of the movie dozens of times. (We'd have to clean up the auditoriums where the movies were shown, so we would often catch the last few minutes of the movies while we prepared to clean up.) I have a lot of the lines in this movie memorized; especially the lines at the end of the movie.

Of the three movies the one I'm least familiar with is last movie. I was so looking forward to seeing this movie. It was scheduled to be released in December of 2003 and I could not wait. Long story short, I was in the ICU when the movie was released and I couldn't see it. I was so disappointed! All of my friends went to see it, but I had to wait five months for it to come out on DVD before I could see it. That was pure torture! I was so excited when I finally was able to see it. I thought it was wonderfully done, and it was so nice to find out how the story ended.

Since then I've listened to the Lord of the Rings books on CD. I think I prefer the movies, though, because they make more sense to me than the books. It's probably because I'm kind of simpleminded, but I just feel like I miss a lot of the details and get confused easily when I'm just relying on the books. It doesn't help that the vernacular of those books is so much different than the way we speak today. Anyway, this was a fun part of my Thanksgiving weekend. I love how movies make for such good passtimes!

Black Friday

I recently wrote about my Thanksgiving holiday, but now I will fill in the rest of the details about my Thanksgiving weekend. My sister Chandra and I went out shopping on Black Friday. We didn't get up in the wee hours of the morning; we waited to go out until 11 am. We started by going to Target . The parking lot was packed, so I feared that the store would be a madhouse. It was definitely busier than it usually is when I'm there, but it actually wasn't too crazy, all things considered.

After that we went to Michael's. I was specifically looking for a nice picture frame for my Starry Night puzzle that finally got finished. I found what I was looking for and I think the puzzle will look really nice in the frame I got.

Then I went to Famous Footwear because I've been looking for a pair of black shoes. I found a pair that I really liked, but it was hard for Chandra to put them on my feet, so I sadly put them back ;) Luckily I found another pair of shoes that were very similar to the first pair, but they fit on my feet a lot easier (probably because they were size 6 1/2 -- one size too big).

Chandra and I were about shopped out by this time since it had been about four hours, but we decided to go to Wal-Mart on the way home since it is newly rebuilt and I wanted to see it. I didn't find anything I wanted buy at Wal-Mart, but I loved the new store because it was very wheelchair friendly! (There were no curbs in the front, so I didn't have to look for a cut out on the sidewalk. Also, the floors inside the store were so smooth and not as rough to roll over as most are.)

Chandra and I were gone for about five hours, but we had a lot of fun shopping together.

Friday, November 27, 2009

It's finally finished!

In the summer of 2001 I bought a jigsaw puzzle of the Vincent van Gogh painting Starry Night. The puzzle has a shimmery/metallic look to it, and I thought it looked really neat, so I bought it. I tried putting it together, but it was a really difficult puzzle, so I gave up on it and put it away. The puzzle has been on my mind for the past eight years, and I've really wanted to get it put together so that I could glue it together and frame it.

I love jigsaw puzzles because they remind me of my dad. He loved putting puzzles together and he would glue them together and glued them to our garage wall. I also love art, so this puzzle was especially neat to me since it is my favorite painting. I got the puzzle out again this past summer and my brother-in-law Gordon worked on it when he visited in July. My sister Chandra has been working on it since then, but the progress has been very slow going since the puzzle is so difficult. Long story short, after five months, Chandra and my friends Laura and Nate finally got the puzzle finished yesterday. I'm so excited!

Here are some pictures of Chandra, Laura and Nate while they were working on the puzzle yesterday.
And the finished product!

Thanksgiving 2009

Yesterday was Thanksgiving and it was a great day. None of my family was able to come into town, but we invited a few friends over for dinner. My mom invited her friend Paul, and I invited my friends Laura and Nate. We had a relaxing day and enjoyed hanging out together. Chandra and I have been wanting to watch the Lord of the Rings movies again recently, so the four of us watched The Fellowship of the Ring after dinner.

Here's a picture of my friends and me (and my younger sister Chandra).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The road to recovery

After my accident there were so many things that I had to “re-learn.” Actually, it was learning how to do things in a different way. I wasn't able to speak after the accident and I had to mouth all of my words. As you can imagine, this was extremely frustrating most of the time when people couldn't understand what I was trying to say.

One thing that helped me speak was an electrolarnyx. This is a small device (cylindrical and about 7 inches tall) that provides a voice when you are trying to speak. When it is pressed against the neck of someone who is trying to talk, it catches the vibrations your voice box is making, and it produces a low, mechanical sound that amplifies what you're trying to say. (It's really difficult explaining this to someone who doesn't know how it works, so it's probably confusing.) I loved the electrolarnyx because when my friends and family held it against my neck I could actually communicate with them! The only downside would be when the battery ran out and we had to charge it. I was back at square one when it was charging.

Another thing I had to learn how to do again was swallow so that I could eat and drink. I'm not sure of the exact medical/technical reason it was so difficult to swallow now, but my muscles used for swallowing may have been slightly paralyzed, or at the very least, they were extremely weak from several weeks of not using them. Before I was allowed to eat and drink anything, I had to go through several swallow studies with a speech pathologist. This wasn't a pleasant procedure. The speech pathologist inserted a lubed up fiber-optic camera in one side of my nose and fed it down the back of my nasal passage until it got to my throat. This camera was hooked up to a TV monitor so that the speech pathologist could watch me swallow and make sure everything was going down my esophagus, and not entering my airway. The speech pathologist had me eat blue applesauce (the blue dye made the applesauce more visible) and then he would watch to make sure I could swallow it correctly.

As I reflect, it's hard to remember why it was so difficult to swallow and what it felt like, but it was difficult, and I could only eat soft things, like popsicles, Jell-O, pudding, etc. I had to undergo three or four of these awful swallow studies with the fiber-optic camera down my nose and I hated every one because it was terribly uncomfortable, not to mention the fact that I've always hated applesauce. However, this was a necessary means to an end, because it meant that I was swallowing well enough to be able to start eating again. (It was neat to see the inside of my throat, vocal cords, trachea and things like that.)

The first "real" thing I ate after strengthening my ability to swallow again was the hospital's spaghetti and meatballs. I've never been a huge fan of spaghetti, but it tasted so good! I remember not eating much of it, though, because my stomach filled up so quickly, and slowly chewing and swallowing was a lot more tedious and time-consuming. Sometimes I'd get bored/tired of eating, so I'd just quit. I wasn't eating much at all at first, so I was still receiving supplemental feedings via my feeding tube.

About two months later when I was in rehab, I actually got to the point where I was able to eat well enough that I decided I didn't need to rely on my feeding tube anymore. This was my goal all along so I could have my feeding tube removed before going home. I wasn't exactly sure how the procedure of having my feeding tube removed would work, since it had been surgically implanted, but I found out it was a really simple procedurethey just yank it out! One of the nurses wrapped the feeding tube (which stuck out of my body about 12 inches) around her hand. She braced herself by putting her other hand on my abdomen, and then she pulled it out on one, two, three! There was a stopper on the feeding tube on the inside of my body which held it in place (it was about the circumference of a quarter). It hurt pretty badly having it pulled out like that, but the burst of pain was over relatively quickly, so it was worth it to be able to ditch the feeding tube. Eating on my own was another step towards more independence.

Going to New Moon

Last night I went to the movies to see New Moon with my younger sister Chandra and three of my friends. I went to the movie theater in Arnold where I used to work. I haven't seen a movie there since before my accident, so it was fun to be in my old theater again. My friend Lacee's brother works there, so he let us in for free. (That was nice since movies are $9 now!)

Chandra and I watched Twilight this past weekend so that I could refresh my memory for New Moon. (And also so that Chandra could see Twilight for the first time -- she hasn't ever read the books, either.) I watched Twilight earlier this year when it came out on DVD, and I thought it was alright. It definitely wasn't as good as the book (movies rarely are) and there were a lot of things about the movie that I didn't like. That being said, I liked Twilight so much better the second time around. Since my expectations weren't as high, I didn't feel disappointed after I watched it like I did the first time. We also watched all of the special features on the DVD which were actually pretty cool, in my opinion.

I'd heard from a lot of people that New Moon was really good, or at least a lot better than Twilight, so I was very excited to see it. It was really good! I'm not that hard to please when it comes to movies, so I don't critically pick them apart the way a lot of people do. I just went to the movie with the expectation of being entertained, and I was.

After the movie, Chandra took me to Target so that I could do a little Christmas shopping and get a few things that I needed. It was fun -- I love shopping, especially at Target! I was hungry on the way home since I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, and Chandra was really hungry too, so we picked up some McDonalds on the way home. I can't remember the last time I've had McDonalds, so it was really good. I know a lot of people don't like McDonalds, but I dearly love it! Big Macs are so good! All in all, yesterday was a great day!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What I was feeling at the time

Although I was fully aware of my condition, I wasn't fully able to comprehend how it would impact the rest of my life. This was a blessing because I think I would've been completely overwhelmed if I'd known then just how drastically different my life would be. One thing I remember thinking was, "Am I really never going to shower again?" Of course, this was the least of my problems, but it was hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I would never shower again.

I also realized my nursing career was over before it had ever really begun. I was now the patient! Although it had taken me a while to decide what I wanted to study in college and "what I wanted to be when I grew up," I was completely committed to being a nurse.

My ultimate dream was to be a wife and a mother. It's not a glamorous dream, exactly, but it's what I'd always wanted most out of life, and I assumed I would have it. I didn't think anything would ever get in the way of that dream, either. In my mind it was just a given. [The loss of this dream didn't really sink in until the following May when my sister Sharon was in town visiting. She had two girls at the time and when I saw her mothering her own children, I started to cry because I could see in front of me what I'd never have. Although I was devastated at the time, this is something I have accepted, and it really doesn't bother me anymore. It's given me a lot of empathy for any woman who can't have children, or who has fertility problems.]

If I can't have children of my own, truly the next best thing is being an aunt. I dearly love my nieces and nephews, and I'm so glad to have them as part of my life. All of my sisters understand the importance of families, and they are all on their way to having relatively large families.

Even though I knew my "normal" life was over, and I would forever be disabled, I was still happy and still in good spirits everyday. The nurses in the ICU were wonderful and they took such good care of me. My sister Sharon said that I had the ability to charm anyone who was around me long enough. I'm not sure if this was the case or not, but the nurses genuinely seemed to like me and enjoy taking care of me. The feelings were very mutual, because I enjoyed the nurses just as much as they seemed to enjoy me.

The thing I enjoyed most at this time were the visits from my family and friends. The outpouring of love from my friends was overwhelming and it truly sustained me at a time when I definitely needed extra support. I had a steady stream of visitors and I was never left alone. Visiting hours started at 11 AM, and I watched the clock and expectantly awaited the arrival of my mom each day. My face would light up with a smile when she walked into my room and it was wonderful to have her near me, even if we were only watching TV or sitting side by side. My mom would leave for home every afternoon around 4 PM because she still had responsibilities at home to take care of; most importantly, still being "Mom" to my two younger sisters, Laura and Chandra. I never liked it when Mom left, but I knew it was important that she have time to take care of her other responsibilities.

In the evenings is when my friends would take over. Most of my friends were in school and/or working, so they would visit me in the evenings. The visits from my friends made it bearable to be without my mom. (It would've been a lot harder for me to say goodbye to my mom every afternoon if I knew I was going to be alone all evening.) Spending time with my friends made me feel "normal" at a time when my life was quite the contrary. You are only allowed two visitors at a time in the ICU, but after the nurses got to know me and my family and friends, I was able to bend the rules and have a roomful of visitors. Friends and family made all the difference.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Something to celebrate

I had a get together this past Friday evening with 10 of my friends to celebrate the sixth anniversary of my car accident. I like to do something special each year to celebrate being alive. We didn't do much, basically just talked and hung out, but it was great to be with my friends. My mom made a chocolate turtle cheesecake and it was really yummy! We also spent an hour writing Christmas cards to soldiers who were deployed to Iraq last week.

Here are some pictures from Friday night:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The aftermath

The day after my accident I was transferred to Barnes Jewish Hospital so that I could get the level of care I needed. (St. Anthony's Hospital where I was at, is only a level II trauma hospital, and I needed to be in a trauma I facility.) I was taken to Barnes in a helicopter and the doctor caring for me insisted that a nurse ride along in the helicopter with me to hold my head the entire time. My neck was that unstable, and even the slightest bump could have killed me or made my injury even worse.

I stayed in the ICU at Barnes for the next seven weeks and this started my road to recovery. So much happened, but I will just hit the highlights.

My neck was stabilized on November 19, two days after my accident. Dr. Riew, the surgeon that did my stabilization, was the best cervical spine surgeon in the world, and he only works on the cervical vertebrae in the neck. The surgery was only supposed to take four hours, but it ended up taking eight. After the surgery, the surgeon told my mom that he had never seen a person who's neck was so badly broken who was still alive. After my neck had been stabilized, I was put in a halo vest that I would have to wear for the next six weeks so that my neck could heal properly. (The halo was attached to my skull with four large screws.)
This is a halo vest
Since my neck was broken at the C2 level, I wasn't able to breathe on my own anymore. A tracheotomy performed a few days after my neck stabilization surgery. (A tracheotomy is when a tube is surgically implanted in your trachea, or windpipe.) A feeding tube was also surgically inserted in my stomach since I couldn't swallow food and water anymore.

I was kept in a drug-induced coma for about a week after my accident, but then the doctors started waking me up from time to time so that my family and friends could talk to me. One of the questions I get asked most often is what I thought when I woke up for the first time and I realized I couldn't move. Since I was really drugged up, I don't have one clear, defining memory where I remember waking up to find out the shocking news that I was completely paralyzed. However, when I was lucid enough to have coherent thoughts, I was fully aware of what had happened to me. It's hard to explain, but it's as if I had learned what had happened to me in my unconscious state, and I'd processed it and accepted it. I was just so happy to be alive that that is what mattered to me the most, even though I was paralyzed. I was also so relieved when I found out the accident wasn't my fault. I think it would've been/would be a lot harder to deal with if I'd done this to myself by causing the accident.

As the days went on, the doctors stopped giving me the drugs that would keep me sedated, and I began to learn more about what had happened to me and what my condition entailed. I loved hearing the details of the accident and everything that followed. I asked people the same questions over and over again, and I was just so amazed at what had happened to me. Up to this point in my life, I'd never broken a bone or even had stitches, so being a badly injured patient in the hospital was a completely new experience for me.

Here are a few thoughts about Thanksgiving 2003: My mom had originally planned to spend Thanksgiving in Texas that year with my oldest sister Miriam and her family. My younger sisters were going to be going with my mom, too, but I decided to stay home so that I could work. However, everyone's plans changed when I had my accident. My situation was very tenuous, and at first the doctors weren't even sure I would make it, so all of my family came home to St. Louis. Thanksgiving was just 10 days after my accident, so all of my sisters and their families were home for Thanksgiving, even though none of them had planned to be.

I don't remember all that much about Thanksgiving Day 2003, but I do remember all of my sisters being in the hospital with me, and someone had the idea of taking a family picture. I remember trying to smile for the first picture. It took so long to take the picture and it also took so much effort to try and smile that after the first picture I just laid there. I remember thinking, "No one's going to care whether I'm smiling or not." Here's the picture:

The only thing I wanted for dinner on Thanksgiving was a grape popsicle because I was so incredibly thirsty! However, I wasn't able to eat or drink anything since I couldn't swallow. (I'm not sure of the exact reason, but my muscles used for swallowing were very weak.) I also couldn't speak at all, not even a whisper. I could mouth words, but everybody found it difficult to read my lips, which was quite frustrating.
This picture is a picture of me wearing the halo vest that helped my neck heal in the right position. One of the nurses was wearing a Christmas hat and she put it on my head. One of the other nurses took a picture of me wearing it.
In this picture, the halo vest had been removed, and I was now wearing a hard cervical collar around my neck. 

I love looking back on these pictures because I can see just how far I've come since then.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

November 17, 2003: part two

My mom arrived at the hospital around 4 PM, nearly four hours after my accident. My mom later remarked that she's probably the only mother in history to arrive at the emergency room with four chaplains! (Her friend Paul, in addition to the three chaplains she was working with that day for her school practicum that drove her to St. Anthony's Hospital so that she wouldn't have to drive herself.)

There was a police officer waiting for my mom so he could fill her in on the accident and everything that had happened. Then my mom saw the emergency room doctor and he told her about my injuries. My younger sisters, Laura and Chandra, were already at the hospital because the school secretary had driven them there. Mom, Laura and Chandra all went back to to see me in the room where I was being held. My mom noticed that I was hooked up to all sorts of tubes and different machines and that my neck was extremely swollen, but my face was totally unmarred. (It's amazing that all of my injuries were internal; I didn't have any superficial injuries, like cuts or scrapes.)

Later in the waiting room, my mom noticed that a large and ever-growing crowd of my friends from school and work, in addition to some of our friends from church, began to gather to keep vigil. Only family members were allowed to see me, but our friends came anyway. Every time the doctor would come out into the waiting room to update my mom on my status, a hush would fall over my group of friends as they strained their ears to hear what the doctor was saying. After a few times of this, my mom would motion for my friends to come closer so that they could hear what the doctor was saying so she wouldn't have to try and repeat it. "No sign of movement" was one of the only things my mom remembered the doctor saying.

My bishop and one of his counselors arrived that evening and they were allowed to see me to administer a priesthood blessing. My mom doesn't remember any of the words that were said in the blessing, but she did notice a small tear in my eye after the blessing was over. Although I didn't appear conscious, I'd obviously heard the blessing.

As the evening dragged on, most of my friends left for the evening. Around 11 PM my mom decided to go home to "not sleep" as she told the nurse. Although it was hard for her to leave me, she knew that she would need her strength. She came into my room one last time to see me. Although I appeared unconscious, I would wake up with a wild look in my eyes when people would loudly call my name. My mom didn't know if I could hear her or not, but she tried explaining the situation to me. "You were in a car accident. It was not your fault. You're in the hospital and the doctors are doing all they can for you." Mom also let me know her feelings. "You can't move and the doctors say that it's probably permanent. If you want to go to heaven with Dad, that's okay, but if you want to stay here I'll be here for you every step of the way and do all I can for you." After this my mom and my sisters said a prayer before leaving the hospital for the night. My mom asked Heavenly Father that my dad would be allowed to watch over me through the night. (I don't remember this, but the next day when my mom saw me she asked me if my dad had been there and I blinked my eyes to indicate "yes.")

November 17 was nearly over. So much had happened. I'd woken up that morning thinking it would be an ordinary day, but it ended up so differently. My life had drastically changed in a split second and it would never be the same. My old life was over and a new one was just beginning.

Happy anniversary to me!

Today is the sixth anniversary of my car accident. I definitely don't look at this day as a day of sadness. I look at it as a day of celebration. I celebrate because I'm alive, especially considering that I should have died in my accident. I celebrate because I'm healthy, especially for someone who is as disabled as I am. I celebrate because I'm happythe happiest I've ever been.

I definitely consider November 17 to be my "second birthday." I survived on the day that I nearly died. Not only did I survive, but I feel like I've triumphed in the face of adversity. Physically speaking, my car accident was the worst thing that's ever happened to me, but spiritually, mentally and emotionally it's been the best thing to ever happen to me. I truly mean that. I feel like I'm such a better person than I used to be. I have better priorities, more empathy and compassion towards others, and a better perspective on life. For these reasons I can honestly say that I would never take back my accident if given the choice. The things I've gained far outweigh the things I've lost.

I love talking about my accident and my experiences. I love it when people ask me questions, although, usually people don't feel comfortable asking. That's why I've enjoyed talking about myself on my blog so I can answer some FAQs. It's a way I can share things about myself with people, without them having to feel uncomfortable asking. If you're ever curious about me and my life, please ask!

Friday night out

Last Friday night I went out to dinner with my younger sister Chandra and her boyfriend James. My other younger sister Laura and her husband Brett met us at the restaurant, so there were five of us total. I was technically the "fifth wheel," but we all had lots of fun together, so it didn't feel that way at all.

I chose the restaurant -- O'Charley's. I went there for the first time on my Mom's birthday in October, and I've been wanting to go back ever since. I just ordered an appetizer so that I would have room for dessert. O'Charley's has an awesome chocolate cake that I got last time and I knew that I wanted it again! It's five thin layers of chocolate cake with a layer of fudgy chocolate between each layer of cake. It was so good!

You might be wondering why I'm writing about something as simple as going out to dinner, but I have to admit that I am really proud of myself for going out to a crowded restaurant on a Friday evening. After my accident I hated going out into public. There really wasn't one reason in particular, but I just didn't like the feeling of being in the way or being that "person" that everyone looked at and pitied... "I'm sure glad that's not me." I still have a lot of those same feelings, but I don't let them hold me back as much as I used to. I've come a long way in the past few years because going out to a crowded restaurant is something I never would have done a few years ago.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

November 17, 2003: part one

November 17, 2003 started out an ordinary day, but it would end up anything other than ordinary. My nursing class was already involved in clinicals (that's where you go to a hospital or nursing home to practice your skills) and I woke up before 5 AM so I could be at the nursing home I was assigned to by 6 AM. For the next six hours I worked at the nursing home learning the finer points about taking care of the different needs of the residents at the nursing home. My classmates and I were released from clinicals about noon, and then I was off to tackle the rest of my very busy day.

I would head home to change out of my white student nurse uniform, and then I would go to school to take my Dosage Calculations final. After this I would go to St. John's Hospital for the physical each new employee was required to get. (I'd just gotten a new job at the hospital as a patient care tech so that I could gain experience.) Finally, I would head to the movie theater where I worked as an assistant manager to work from about 5 PM to 1 AM. These were my plans, anyway, but I wouldn't even make it home.

Leaving the nursing home was the last thing I remembered that day, and would be the last thing I remembered for quite some time. (The rest of the events that happened that day have been told to me by my family and friends.) When I got to the intersection of 21 and 141 I was stopped at a red light and was the first car in line. When the light turned green, I started to make a left-hand turn onto 141. As I did this, a car going perpendicular to mine ran a red light and T-boned my car on the driver's side. That car was going approximately 50 mph, and it struck my car with so much force that I was immediately knocked unconscious. The force of the impact caused my head to swing to the right, breaking my neck at the second cervical (C2) vertebrae. It also collapsed my left lung, ruptured my spleen, dislocated my pelvis, broke several of my ribs on the left side of my body and caused severe internal bleeding. 911 was called by someone that witnessed the accident, and it was reported that I arrived at St. Anthony's Hospital in South County, MO, six minutes after the call to 911 was made. With my neck broken at the C2 level, I was no longer able to use my diaphragm muscle which is used for breathing, so it was a good thing that the paramedics arrived so quickly so that I could be intubated and put on a ventilator.

Fortunately, I was very close to St. Anthony's Hospital. I was taken to have emergency surgery soon after arriving at the hospital to stop my internal bleeding. (My mom later found out from the surgeon that my internal bleeding was so severe that I would've bled to death if I'd had to wait any longer for surgery.) My bleeding was stopped and my ruptured spleen was removed.

Meanwhile, the police officers were trying to track down my mom. They went to my house and there was no answer, but they'd found the number of the movie theater on a pay stub in my purse. They called the theater and talked to my boss, Bob. He didn't know where my mom might be, but he knew where my younger sisters went to high school. The police officer called the school and asked the school secretary to notify my sisters that I had been in a car accident. She did and drove my sisters up to the hospital.

To make a long story short, my mom was finally tracked down at Barnes Jewish Hospital where she was doing her practicum for school. (Mom was in graduate school at this time getting a Master's degree in pastoral care.) Mom was in a patient's room with a woman who was sick with cervical cancer when her instructor called her out into the hall. She then told my mom that one of her daughters had been in a car accident. It was 2 PM so that meant the high school hadn't let out yet, so Mom knew that I was the one that had been in the car accident. Her instructor gave her the number of St. Anthony's Hospital and my mom made the call. The nurse that answered the phone told my mom that I had sustained a cervical fracture and that I'd already undergone emergency surgery. My mom asked the nurse, "Please, I have to know, is Heather alive?" The nurse told her that my vital signs were stable, but that I was hurt very badly, and she needed to get to the hospital right away.

Lawrence, one of the chaplains my mom was working with, decided that she wasn't in a fit state to drive, so he drove her to the hospital in her car and a couple of the other chaplains followed so that they could take Lawrence home afterward. On the drive to the hospital my mom started making the necessary phone calls. She started by calling my boss, Bob, to let him know I wouldn't be working that night, but Bob already knew since the police officer had talked to him earlier that day when he was trying to locate Mom. Mom also asked Bob to get word to my dear friend and coworker, Adam, because she knew I would want him to know what had happened. Bob told her that he already had.

Next, Mom called her friend Paul (also a chaplain) because she knew she would need the support of friends. She also called a neighbor and asked her if she could find two men from our church who could come to the hospital and give me a priesthood blessing. After the calls were complete, Mom started thinking about what the nurse had said on the phone... a cervical fracture. Initially, my mom was thinking cervical referred to the cervix, but when she actually thought about it, she realized that I had broken my neck.

More about that fateful day in my next post.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Trip to the urologist

Yesterday I went to the urologist. I had to get a few x-rays of my kidneys, ureters and bladder prior to my appointment with the doctor. Getting these x-rays never thrills me because I have to get out of my wheelchair so that I can lay on the hard x-ray table -- not comfortable, especially on the tail bone! After I got back in my chair we went to see the doctor. We had to wait 45 minutes, but once I got in to see the doctor things quickly. He pulled my x-rays up on the computer in the room and took a look. Good news: I haven't developed any new kidney stones, and the two small stones in my left kidney haven't gotten any bigger in the past six months. I know it's risky saying this, but I think I'm going to make my goal of not being hospitalized at all in 2009.

Kidney stones are inevitably going to be a problem for me, as they are for most people with spinal cord injuries. Your kidneys don't empty near as efficiently when you can't stand up, so stones form much more easily.

The reason I made the goal not to be hospitalized at all in 2009 was because I was hospitalized twice in 2007 and twice in 2008, both due to complications with kidney stones. In 2007 I had two large kidney stones (one of them was an inch and a forth long) and they were both infected. My doctor went in through my back to remove the stones and the surgery was much more difficult than he anticipated and a lot of infected stuff got stirred up in my blood in the process. I was terribly sick for the next 10 or so days. I was delirious and I wasn't responding to antibiotics.

Sometimes I would talk to people who weren't there, or other times I would just stare blankly into space. There was one day when I chanted, "Leave me alone!" any time anyone would try to talk to me. (Including my family and friends, and even my my own Mom!) Even when no one was talking to me I was still mouthing those same words. To make a long story short, after about 10 days of being delirious I finally "snapped out of it." All of a sudden -- about the span of one day -- I just started acting like myself again. (That might not seem like all of a sudden, but it pretty much was considering where I was coming from.)

I had absolutely no memory of the things that I said and did while I was consumed with delirium, but I do remember having nightmare after nightmare and feeling absolutely tormented. I laughed when my family and friends would tell me the things I said and did, although I knew it really wasn't a laughing matter, especially since my doctor couldn't figure out why I was delirious for so long.

When I met with my urologist for a follow-up visit a few weeks after returning home from the hospital, I asked him just how close to death I'd actually been, and he said that I was "teetering" on the edge (of life and death) and that it could have gone "either way." It was sobering to realize just how sick those kidney stones had made me.

So now, although I don't look forward to getting x-rays and seeing my urologist, I know that it's worth it so as to try and avoid kidney stones and the complications they can bring.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's that time again

I'm a nostalgic person and the simplest things can trigger memories in me. The scent of something, the taste of something, the weather, etc. November is the month that my car accident occurred in, and every November I think back to the time in my life when it changed in a big, big way. This is what what was going on in my life back in November 2003:

I was in my first semester of a two-year nursing program. I decided to do a two-year RN program, and had plans of getting my BSN later on after I was out of school and working at a hospital. (Hospitals usually pay your tuition if you are continuing your nursing education.) I loved what I was learning in nursing school and I was excited at the prospect of a career where I could help care for people. I went to school Monday through Friday, 8–4:30 PM. I usually had three or four tests a week, so I studied hard so that I could make good grades.

I was also working 30+ hours each week at the movie theater. I had a fixed schedule and I worked every Monday night, Thursday night, Friday night and some time on Saturday. Thursday nights were busy as we closed out one movie week and prepared for the next. Fridays and Saturdays were busy because that's when the new movies would come out and people would be out of work/school. Monday evenings usually weren't too busy. I'd make the employee schedule for the following week, but would usually have a little bit of time to study as I waited for all of the movies to end. (I was usually the last manager working, so it was my responsibility to shut down the projection booth after all of the movies let out. I'd also have to take the money we made that day to the bank and put it in the night deposit slot. I'd finally get home about 1 AM.

Although I loved working at the movie theater, that fall I'd started looking for a new job at a hospital as a nurse's aide so that I could gain experience and practice the things I was learning about in school. I applied at St. John's Hospital had gotten the job. As bittersweet as it would be to leave the movie theater where I'd worked for the past  years—pretty much my first and only jobI felt it was the right move to make. Sadly, I'd never be able to start this new job at the hospital, or ever work caring for others.

That's all I have time to write about today, but I look forward to writing more about my experiences in November 2003.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Catching up

I realized this morning that I haven't written anything new all week, so I need to catch up
I was feeling kind of bummed last weekend because there were a few Halloween activities that people at my religion class were taking part in, but neither of these activities were handicapped accessible, so I couldn't go to either of them. On Friday evening my younger sister Chandra took me out shopping because I was itching to get out and do something. Our friends Barbara and Nate called us while we were out and asked if they could come over and watch a movie with us. (They'd decided not to go to the activity that everyone else was participating in that night.) Nate made a batch of brownies when he arrived so that we could have brownie sundaes. My mom made hot chocolate and Nate made some homemade whipped cream to put in the hot chocolate... very yummy! I got back in my bed and we watched the movie in my room because I have a bigger TV than we have in my living room. We pulled the recliners from the living room into my room and although it was a little cramped, we had a cozy little movie night. What I thought might be a lonely Friday night actually turned out to be really fun!
I recently wrote about my friend Shellie helping me order a new laptop. It arrived earlier this week, and it looks awesome! I've started the setup process, but it's not up and running quite yet because I'm having trouble connecting to the network/internet. I really wish I knew more about computers so that I could be more self reliant in this aspect, but I'm not. I'm having a friend help me out with that, so I hope that I will be able to load all of my special software in the near future and be up and running sometime next week. I love spending money and buying new toys... so much fun!
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