Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Bucket List: Complete!

When I experienced the total solar eclipse back in 2017, I was blown away with how amazing it was, and it exceeded my expectations, since I didn't really know what to expect. I felt so lucky and blessed to live right smack dab in the path of totality. With all of the excitement and eclipse news coverage in 2017, I learned there would be another total solar eclipse that would pass very close to where I live on April 8, 2024. That date stuck in my mindit was easy to remember, because that's the day my good friend Lacee would turn 40and I was determined to be in the path of totality so I could experience that celestial phenomenon for a second time. I told my mom that seeing the total solar eclipse on 4/8/24 was the ONLY thing on my bucket list, and that I could die a happy woman after seeing it. (Sure, there are tons of things I would like to do, but with my limitations, most of them are not feasible. Plus, I am a happy, content person, and I don't have a lot of wild, "bucket list"-type dreams.)

Yesterday was the day! Days prior I began praying, asking Heavenly Father to please help the weather conditions be favorable for optimal eclipse viewing, and He answered! There were minimal clouds, and none that obstructed our view of the eclipse. Back in 2017, totality lasted for a maximum of 2 minutes and 25 seconds, but this time totality lasted for a maximum of 4 minutes and 10 seconds. I didn't want to drive all the way south to Jackson or Cape Girardeau, Missouri, so we settled on Ste. Genevieve. We have a friend that lives there, and she was gracious enough to allow my mom, my sister Chandra and her kids and me to come watch the eclipse with them.

I seeeriously underestimated the amount of traffic there would be! My mom and I wanted to follow Chandra down to our friends house (since we've never been there before), so we planned to leave for Chandra's house about 11:30 AM. (The first contact of the eclipse began at 12:45 PM, and totality was at 2 PM.) One of my friends let me know before 8:30 AM that traffic on the highway was crawling, so my mom and I left for Chandra's house at 10:15 AM (instead of 11:30). It usually takes us 15 minutes to get down to Chan's place, but it took us an hour! After she loaded her kids in her van, it took us another 45 minutes to drive less than half a mile just to get back on the highway. 😕 I was starting to wonder if we would even make it to Ste. Genevieve on time. Thankfully, the traffic really picked up once we got out of Jefferson County. The traffic was still heavy, but we were at least moving along at a speed of about 50 miles an hour, instead of sitting in gridlock.

Totality was AMAZING!  There are really no words to describe the phenomenon. But spectacular, breathtaking, awe-inspiring, and out of this world are just some of the words I can think of to describe the eclipse. It's something you see and feel. The sky definitely got darker this time, as opposed to 2017, and I could feel the temperature drop. I was almost chilly in my long-sleeved shirt when the sun was completely eclipsed by the moon. The 2 minutes and 44 seconds of totality flew by! Something that surprised me during both eclipses is just how bright the sky gets as soon as there is the tiniest sliver of unobstructed sun after the moon moves enough to let sunshine out again.

I was so grateful everything worked out so I could go. I was so happy to be able to experience the eclipse with Chandra's kids. I know Rosie won't remember it, as she is not even 18 months yet, but hopefully Christian (8) and Ruby (6) will remember it. I made sure to take a picture with them to help them remember this special, supernatural event long after the details start to get fuzzy in their minds.

I just reclined my wheelchair and enjoyed the show!
My friend snapped these pictures for me on her cell phone:

One of the best parts of the eclipse was that it was a fun event to unify and bring people together. That was special, especially since [some] people in the world seem to have gotten so mean, nasty and divisive in the past 15-20 years. I just want people to be happy and to get along, even if they disagree on different political and social issues.

Another happy thing related to the eclipse was getting to reconnect with two friends that I dearly love. Nate came to town to see the eclipse, and he and our friend Laura came over to visit with my mom, Chandra and me. We had a great time reminiscing about all the fun times we've shared over the past 15+ years that we've been a part of each other's lives. 

A huge shout out and THANK YOU to my amazing mom for making this dream of mine come true and for driving FIVE hours round-trip in traffic that was very slow. It took us about two hours to crawl home with all of the other eclipse watchers that were heading home.

The next time a total solar eclipse will be visible from the United States won't be until August 2044, and that one will just barely hit the US (only Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota will see it). I sure hope I am dead by then! Sure, I will only be 60, but my desire is to die young!

Friday, November 17, 2023

November 17, 2003: 20 Years Later

Today is the 20th anniversary of the car accident that changed my life. (To read more about my accident, click here.) I have been anticipating this anniversary for years. I was just 19 years old at the time of my accident, so I have now been paralyzed longer than I was able-bodied. That's crazy to think about. Sometimes I still can't believe this is my life… I never would have imagined that my life would turn out this way. 

The first few years after my accident were very difficult for both my mom and for me, as we both learned how to navigate our new life. We both experienced a lot of loss and went through a grieving process. It was hard having to let go of most of my dreams and the plans I had made for my life, while everyone else I knew was still moving forward with their normal lives. I would never want to go back and relive those first few post-accident years again! As difficult as it was, with the help of family, a few good friends, and my faith in God and His plan, I was able to make my way through the aftermath of the most difficult thing I'd ever experienced. 

I've always maintained that breaking my neck was the worst thing to happen to me physically, but the best thing to happen to me spiritually. I guess you could say that what broke me physically healed me spiritually. I'm ashamed to admit this, but God was not the number one priority in my life prior to me becoming paralyzed. I was letting other things like school, work, and friends take priority in my life, and I wasn't making as much time for my relationship with God as I should have. There is nothing like almost dying to give you a good wake-up call to force you to examine your life and think about what is most important. While I would have never wanted to go through everything I have, I'm grateful for the opportunity to make spiritual progress that I wouldn't have made (or made as soon) without going through this trial.  The things I've gained outweigh the things I've lost.

Here is a quote that expresses my feelings about why God allows difficult things to happen to us:

Our Heavenly Father, who gives us so much to delight in, also knows that we learn and grow and become stronger as we face and survive the trials through which we must pass. 
Thomas S. Monson 

Even though my life is very physically challenging, and I've experienced a lot of disappointment, loss and frustration in the last 20 years, my quiet, simple life is still pretty great. I'm grateful to be alive and to have more time on earth to continue to grow and improve. I'm grateful to have more time with my amazing mom and my wonderful sisters. I'm so glad that my 27 nieces and nephews actually get to know me, instead of me just being a name and a photograph of their aunt that died in an accident long ago. I'm grateful for the wonderful friends I've made in the last 20 years that I wouldn't have met if my life had ended years ago. So even though this isn't the life I imagined, I'll take it!

Finally, a verse from one of the apostle Paul's letters to the Corinthians: 

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NLT) 

Monday, January 2, 2023

2022: The Highs and the Lows

I thought I would make an update, even though I "retired" from blogging several years ago. I get emails from random strangers every now and then from people that used to follow my blog, and they tell me how much they miss it. That always makes me feel a little guilty, but I just felt like I said everything that needed to be said, so I hung up my blogging hat! Anyway, here is an update with the highs and lows from the year:

2022 started off on a rough note because I got sick the last few days of 2021, and I actually had to have my mom take me to the Emergency Department in the middle of the night. The good thing about going to the hospital in the middle of the night was that we didn't have to wait in the waiting room (even though it was pretty busy for 3 AM), but the bad thing was that we got NO sleep that night! The long story short was that I had a double whammy: influenza and pneumonia. I was having trouble getting a deep enough breath, hence the reason why we went to the ED in the middle of the night. I absolutely hate being in the hospital for a multitude of reasons, so spending six days in the hospital wasn't the way I wanted to bring in the new year. I had to be on oxygen for several days to keep my O2 saturation above 90. I kept having setbacks that prevented me from being well enough to go home, and they thought I would have to go home on oxygen. On Friday night, January 7, I feel like I was miraculously healed, and when I woke up on Saturday, I finally felt well enough to go home.

I spent the rest of January and all of February recuperating and hiding out. I didn't go anywhere! COVID was raging, and I did not want to take any chances of getting sick again and landing back in the hospital. 

In March I decided to seek out an ENT that specializes in trachs to try and get help for a problem that started around 2018. Around that time, I'd started noticing air leaking out of the stoma, or hole, in my neck that my trach goes in. The problem grew worse and worse over the past few years, and it really started impacting my life in a negative way. I could breathe okay and I wasn't short of breath; however, so much air was leaking out around my trach that it was making it even more difficult for me to speak than it already is, since the air was leaking out my stoma instead of going up through my vocal cords. (I haven't been able to speak "normally" since my accident, and it can be really difficult to hear me since I speak so softly.) 

I found a wonderful ENT that I really like, and she seemed very knowledgeable. Again, the short story is that there hasn't been an easy fix for this problem. My doctor doesn't really know WHY I started having this problem after having a trach for so long with no issues. I had surgery in April, May, and July to try and fix the issue. During my first surgery in April, my doctor did a bronchoscopy after I was sedated, and she found a stenosis (narrowing) of my airway, so she didn't continue with the surgery. Instead, I had to go get a CT scan of my neck, so she could determine what was causing the stenosis. I went back and had surgery again in May to open up my airway. My doctor thought that would fix the problem, and I was so hopeful. However, the air leak problem returned a week after the surgery after the swelling went down. I went back for more surgery in July, and this time my doctor did a stomaplasty to make the opening in my neck a little smaller. As with the surgery in May, one week post-surgery the problem returned. My doctor has also done some treatments in her office where she removes my trach and uses a needle to inject "filler" into the tissue inside my stoma to plump it up so that the air can't escape. This has helped somewhat, but it isn't permanent, and it reabsorbs and loses its effectiveness. Is it too much to hope for a permanent fix?! Not being able to speak loud enough to be heard is a handicap in and of itself. This issue is still ongoing.

Several of my sisters and their families came to visit over the summer, and that's always something I greatly look forward to. My 19-year-old niece, Kate, stayed with my mom and me for two months over the summer during her break from college. She made some money, my mom and I had extra help and companionship, so it was a win-win all the way around. With Kate around, she and my sister Chandra were able to stay with me and take care of me so my mom could take a couple of trips. She went to go see my grandma in Minnesota in June, which was wonderful, since my mom hadn't been able to go see her since 2019 with all of the COVID restrictions at the retirement community where my grandma lives. My mom was also able to go to Texas in July to be there for my oldest niece's wedding.

In August, I had surgery again to remove some kidney stones. I've had problems with kidney stones ever since I became paralyzed, and I always dread having surgery to remove them because it's frequently complicated. But it's a necessary thing, so I went into it hoping for the best. I've gotten some bad infections after kidney stone-removal surgery in the past, so I asked my doctor if I could stay overnight and have 24-hours of IV antibiotics, just to cut down on the chance of me getting a post-op infection. The surgery went great, and I was moved to my room. Long story short, my blood pressure plummeted and they couldn't get it to stabilize, so I had to spend two days in the ICU. I did get a post-op infection, just as I feared. I was in the hospital a total of seven days, and I had to get a central line so I could finish my 14-day course of IV antibiotics at home. Have I mentioned how much I hate being in the hospital?! The beds are incredibly uncomfortable, I don't have all of the things that make me more comfortable and my life easier, the food is not good, and it's just SO boring! Fortunately, my mom always stays with me the entire time. Nurses do not have the time or know-how to take care of someone that needs as much care as I do.

While I was in the hospital, my grandma from Minnesota was feeling poorly. She went through a lot of tests, and she was ultimately diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She died exactly three weeks later. She was 93 and she lived an amazing life, and my grandpa died in 2019, so it was her time to go. Still, we all miss her very much. My sister Sharon came up from MS in October so she could help our sister Chandra take care of me, while my mom and her husband David went to my grandma's memorial service. The three of us sisters had fun together, and I'm so glad Sharon could come so my mom could go celebrate my grandma's life with the rest of our family.

On November 7, I became an aunt for the 27th time when Chandra had her third baby: a little girl named Rosalie Rae Coleman. (Rae is my mom's middle name.) Rosie is beautiful, and we couldn't be more happy to have her in our family. On November 17, I commemorated the 19th anniversary of my car accident. I was 19 at the time, so that means I've now been paralyzed for half of my life. Crazy!

In December we enjoyed the holidays. We went over to Chandra's house after church on Christmas Day, and had a wonderful time. Sharon, her husband, and their six kids visited for five days after Christmas, and we had a blast.

2022 was a very busy year filled with way more appointments than my mom and I would've liked, but it wasn't all bad, and we feel very blessed. So long as God is on our sideand He iswe can conquer ALL things! 💖

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Stone-Free & Fully Vaccinated

 I can't believe we are already well into the month of April; 2021 is flying by! This year has been going well for me, although, I have been hospitalized twice. In February, I started having pain in my left flank, and I was pretty sure it was due to kidney stones. This isn't my first bout with stones, so I knew the signs. The pain got so bad that I actually had my mom take me to the Emergency Department on Valentine's Day. After doing a CT scan, the doctor discovered that I passed a 6mm stone from my left kidney, through the ureter, and into the bladder. No wonder I'd been in pain! I was admitted to the hospital and I stayed for two days. 

A couple of weeks later, I had a telehealth appointment with my urologist. She is a stone specialist at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, and I know I am in capable hands under her care. She told me that I had a lot of other kidney stones in my left kidney, and she needed to do surgery to remove them. (I tend to produce a lot of tiny kidney stones, the size of granules of sugar, which only grow larger if they aren't removed.) My doctor was actually taking a vacation (her first in over five years), but she squeezed me in to her already busy schedule before she left. 

My surgery was on March 12, and it was supposed to be outpatient (however, that didn't happen). The good news is that my surgery went very well, and my doctor was able to remove all of the kidney stones in one surgery (she thought she might have to do it in two surgeries). The bad news is that I always produce infectious stones, and I had a bad kidney infection that was resistant to all oral antibiotics. SO, I ended up being hospitalized for an entire week, and I had to get a PICC line in order to come home, since I was on IV antibiotics for 10 days. All's well that end well, though. Even though I never look forward to being in the hospital, and away from all of the comforts of home, there were a lot of blessings, and things could've been a lot worse. I'm very grateful to be stone-free again, but if my past track record is any indication, I'm sure this won't be my last experience with kidney stones.


I also received my two doses of the Moderna vaccine in March. I prayed and prayed about the vaccine last year, and I asked Heavenly Father to inspire the scientists working on the vaccine, and to help them know just what to do in order to create a safe and effective vaccine to protect people against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. I do believe my prayers were answered, and I truly believe that this vaccine coming about so quickly can only be described as "miraculous." I love how scientists around the world were working together with a common goal for the good of humanity. 

I'm grateful that I was able to get the vaccine, and that I didn't have to travel a far distance or have to wait in long lines. And I'm grateful I didn't have a bad reaction, either. My mom and my sister, Chandra, both felt lousy the day after the second dose, but it only lasted about 24 hours, which is a small price to pay for the protection and peace of mind having the vaccine brings.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Gratitude: Day 6

Happy Thanksgiving! I've saved the best for last on my week of gratitude posts (I skipped the first day, which is why there have only been six). There aren't sufficient words to express my profound gratitude for my Savior, Jesus Christ. Just like the sun warms and gives light and life to our planet, Jesus gives light, warmth and meaning to my life. There is no pain, sickness, disability, disease, loss, addiction or any other bad "thing" that you or I could or will ever experience that Jesus has not experienced first. He was resurrected after His crucifixion, and I know one day I will be resurrected, too! I don't know if other Christians believe this, but I know some day in the next life our spirits/souls will be reunited with our bodies, and there will be no more disabilities, diseases or imperfections. This fills me with so much hope and joy!

"He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life, and eternal life in the world to come." (– The Living Christ)

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