Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dreaming of Aiden

I have a confession to make.

For the last three and a half years, I have been dreaming.  Not day-dreams.  Night dreams.  Vivid, hard-to-pull-away-from dreams.

It started with dreaming about a tiny baby boy with soft blond fuzz on his head and ordinary blue eyes.  A softly rounded face, a perfect chin and a rose-bud mouth.  The first dream had no sound.

A few months later, I dreamt about a bigger baby boy.  More blond fuzz.  Blue eyes crinkling at the corners when he smiled.  A dimple in his left cheek.  A soft, warm, typical baby boy.

A few months later, I dreamt of him again.  He was sitting up, and would rock forward to his hands and knees and crawl.  I dreamt of him many nights in a row.  It was in these dreams that I started hearing sounds.  His gurgly laughter and his squeals.  My own voice, calling him Aiden.

A few months later, I watched him walk in my dream.  I called his name, and he toddled toward me.  And then he simply vanished.  I woke with tears in my eyes and a tight ache in my chest, and what seemed almost like left-over warmth in my arms.

I went over a year without dreaming of him at all.  I would have forgotten if I hadn't written it here, in posts I never published.

Then it went back to the intermittent, random dreams for about a year.  Lately, it's gotten more frequent.

In these dreams, I've watched him grow physically.  I've interacted with him.  And he's shown all the signs of a child without parents.  A child without attachments, without hope, without a home.  In my last dream, my husband and I went to see him in an orphanage.  He was there among beautiful babies.  A lanky 3.5 year old, laying in a bed with a blank face.  Large blue eyes with no expression, that dimpled left cheek and perfect chin.  Freckles splashed across his nose and cheeks.  His hair was sandy blond, coarse and cut shaggily.  We played with him, and at first he seemed so normal.  As the day (dream) progressed, he showed more and more of the signs, and my heart broke more and more.  This one had tears streaming when I awoke, and a heart that ached.  And the name of this made-up child rolling through my head.  Aiden.  It means little fire, in case you wondered.

I have no idea what it's all about.  None at all.  It's certainly not a wish of mine for ANY child to be that way - to hurt, and cry, and struggle, and grow to need intervention more desperately each day.  I have never intended to name any child of mine Aiden, so it's not a sub-conscious fulfillment of a name I fear I'll never get to use (trust me, I have those dreams too, but they aren't like this one).  I don't work with kids with attachment disorder anymore, so it's not a work life carry-over.  In fact, I have known two children with the disorder that were younger than age 8, ever.  They were both African, and I had no special feelings for them, so it's not because of THEM. 

Maybe it's frustrated maternal instinct.  Maybe I feel like my children (or the hopes I have for them and of them) are slipping away and  coming apart.  Maybe it's a real child that will some day come into our lives.  Maybe I'm just a weirdo who has a set of serial dreams that depict an accurate progression of time and development, that aren't based on anything at all.

Just curious.  I get a lot of good feed-back from you guys.  I'm curious what you all will have to say.  As always, if you want your comment/question to remain private, just say so and I won't hit "publish."

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Monday, February 21, 2011

It's Not Me - It's Him

It seems like most of the time, life involves trying to prove something to someone.  There are tests, requirements, standards which must be met or exceeded.  We go to first grade and our efforts begin to be graded - not based on our actual abilities, but on the way our performance adheres to certain standards. 

Truth is, it's exhausting.  And it contaminates our thinking and beliefs regarding our God.  At least, it contaminates mine, and I've seen the contamination in the words and actions of so many others that I've lost count.  Maybe it doesn't impact you.  Maybe it doesn't carry over into your faith, into the one thing that will matter for eternity.

It seems like we look at our lives, and see the short-comings, and think either one of two things:

 -"I have to try hard, do more, be better, or I will never make heaven and God will never accept me."
 -"I cannot possibly succeed, cannot possibly be good enough... I've already messed up so much, what is the point of even attempting to do any better?"

Okay.  I know what a lot of you are saying:  "No, it's not that black and white."

And you are right.  It isn't that clear-cut.  At least not on the surface.  We rationalize.  We tell ourselves we aren't being extreme so it must be right.  Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?

 -"I know He forgave me for lying yesterday, but today I did it again.  I'm out of chances."
 -"I am worthless."
 -"I won't actually make it to heaven."
 -"I cannot continue this way.  I am done."
 -"I can't do this.  What is the point of even trying?"
 -"I know this is wrong, but I am already condemned so why does it matter?"
 -"I give up."
 -"I will never win."
 -"I am captive."
 -"I am not really saved.  If I was, I wouldn't really (insert the thing you battle most)."
 -"I have to do (insert ideal that you hold in your mind and/or heart) so that I can be accepted by Him."

I don't know.  Maybe the emails, the questions, the comments that I have received represent a dramatic minority of those who trust Christ for their salvation.  I doubt it though. 

Read Colossians 2, verses 11-14 with me:

Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve.  It's not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws.  No, you're already in - insiders - not through some secretive initiation right but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin.  If it's an initiation ritual you're after, you've already been through it by being baptised.  Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as He did Christ.  When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God.  God brought you alive - right along with Christ!  Think of it!  All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant cancelled and nailed to Christ's cross.

Look at these words.  Just look.  Do you know what they mean?

They mean it isn't up to you to earn salvation.  You don't have to earn your way into favor with God.  There isn't a test or a set of standards that you have to conform to before He will love you, before you can become part of His kingdom.  It's already been taken care of.

It isn't you.  It's Him.

**Disclaimer: I am not suggesting, not even remotely, that sin in our lives does not need to be addressed.  Our actions and thoughts are to conform with the Word of God, and we are to try our hardest to make that happen.  What I am saying is that our failure to be perfect isn't what we're going to be judged or charged by.  The thing that will determine our guilt or innocence for eternity is Him and what He did.  Not us and what we did.**

But what about those things that consume us?  What about the sin that we vow every day to never repeat, and then the next day, it happens again?  What about the thoughts we can't seem to capture.  The intentions that are not pure, the fear, the anger, the hurt? 

What do we do with the things that our adversary, the devil, has stacked against us?

Colossians 2:15:
God disarmed the principalities and powers that were ranged against us and made a bold display and public example of them, in triumphing over them in Him and in the cross.

Did you catch that?  The devil, and his minions, those powers and principalities that are out to destroy us, have lost their ammunition.  They are disarmed.  No war can be won if one side is armed and the other is not. 

But wait.  Yes, this says the other side is disarmed but if we have no weapons, then how can we win?

Read Ephesians 6:17
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

The principalities and powers get disarmed, and we get a sword.  Seems like we will win.  It may take us a while to figure out how to actually use the sword.  We might not remember we even have it sometimes.  But we do.  We are armed; they (it, he, etc.) are not.

We win. 

The fight is hard.  We take hits.  We fall down.  We fall short.  Our technique is flawed and our courage sometimes fails.  We may wave our white flags and we may fall to our knees, believing we are defeated.  It can hurt, it can be overwhelming, it can be terrible and frightening sometimes. 

But He (Jesus) said to me, "My grace, my favor and loving-kindness and mercy is enough for you; it is sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully (successfully and with strength).  For my strength and power are made perfect, fulfilled, and completed, and show themselves most effective in your weakness.
(2 Corinthians 12:7a)

He can handle our weakness.  He planned for it.  He paid for it.  It's already been dealt with.  Those areas where we simply can not, He can.

It's not us.  It is Him.

So what do we have to do about it?  What's is expected of us in response?

Hebrews 4:14-16 answers that:

Now that we know what we have - Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God - let's not let it slip through our fingers.  We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.  He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all - all but the sin.  So let's walk right up to Him and get what He is so ready to give.  Take the mercy, accept the help.

I'm running out of steam for tonight.  So I leave you with this final statement:

Yes, I believe we are required to act upon what He did.  I believe our faith isn't truly faith without actions to back it up.  I believe we should live the best lives we can and strive to be free of sin.  But I also believe that when we stand before God Himself, the thing that matters most isn't going to be us, but Him.

Because it's not me.  It's Him.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Colossians 3:1

Since, then, I have been raised with Christ, I set my heart on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  I set my mind on things above, not on earthly things.  For I died, and my life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is my life, appears, then I will also appear with Him in glory.

I remind myself of this today.  Today, I am not the only one missing a child.  I am not the only one who knows my child is in heaven, but does not know the color of his eyes or the texture of his hair.

I have a friend who is missing his child today, too.

It is a secret, painful ache.  One that people don't run around talking about.

"Hey, Bob, what's up?  Me... oh, well, I'm just thinking an extra lot about my dead children today."

Right.  When is the last time someone admitted such a thing to you?

That's what I thought.

So today, rather than talk about my friend or his child, I will talk about me.  Because if you know about me, you will know about my friend.  And you will know about Suzie and Matt, and you will know about J. & C., and M. & J., and S. & J., and R. and J., and T. & E., and L. & F., and so many more - and these are just people in my life.  I am sure there are just as many in yours.

There are parents who knew their child.  Who looked into his or her eyes, who stroked his or her hair, who prayed desperately to not have to say good bye.  Parents who have stood before a tiny coffin, tears streaming. 

There are parents who have paid all the fees, filled out all the papers, been approved on every level... and who must spend the rest of their earthly lives knowing their child (or children) will never come home because for whatever reason, the adoption never came to fruition. 

There are parents who met their child briefly... tiny babies, babies too tiny for life in the world.  Babies with beautiful souls and eternal spirits and no breath.  Babies who spent minutes, hours maybe, here on earth.

There are parents who have not met their child.  Parents who knew the child was on the way, and parents who didn't.  Parents who found out later, or who knew right at the moment, that a tiny life was leaving this planet and going to "a better place."

Some of these parents have children on earth, and are told to "just be thankful for the children you do have."  As if they do not have, and never had the child or children that are already in heaven.  As if one child replaces another.

Some of these parents do not have children on earth, and are told to "just be thankful you don't have to do the work of parenting.  Be thankful you can do whatever you want."  As if raising their children would have been hurtful.  As if they didn't want to raise their child.  As if pain and sadness were what that parent really wanted.

Today, I ask you to do something with us.  With these parents who have children who don't live on earth, but live forever in heaven.  You may or may not be one of these, but that doesn't change my request. 

Picture us in heaven, with our children.  Don't worry about getting the hair color or eye shapes or smiles all right.  I suspect that in heaven, these things are not going to be so important.  Just picture us together.  See that in your heart.  And remember this togetherness, in perfection for all eternity.  Remember this is what His perfect will is. 

I leave you with this... an image generated by a just-for-fun website.  If aging were to proceed in heaven as it does on earth, our children would be four years and seven months; four years and two months; three years and nine months (twins); three years and four months; and our recent twins were due in August of this year. 

Truth is, it hurts.  It always hurts.  But when I close my eyes, and picture our family of nine walking through eternity together, it hurts less.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Chronology of an Owie

In pictures, here is what my hand has done over the last three weeks.  This is all the result of having blood drawn from one of the veins in my hand for a routine test.  It formed a clot and for whatever reason, the clot didn't dissolve.  Over time, the bacteria introduced by the blood draw multiplied and formed an abcess inside the vein.  They then spread to surrounding tissue, including my skin.  Officially, it is septic thrombophlebitis.  The two pictures that are NOT of my hand mark the start of each hospitalization.  One showing the three IV bags and PCA meds I had, one showing the goofiness of my doctor and his and my mutual friend. 

The pictures are low quality because they are all from my cell phone.

This post is brought to you in response to some requests I've gotten.

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3 Times Crazy

Third admission is behind me.  If there is a fourth, it will be in a city about two hours from here, a city filled with world-famous really good doctors.

The last admission went badly from the moment we walked in to the emergency room.  Strike that, it went badly in the hours prior, too.  Lots of anger and fear and irrational outbursting on my part.  Plus going into shock, which involved six blankets in a 70 degree building, with one of the stronger space heaters I've ever "known" blasting full-tilt in my face while I still got colder and colder and colder (my temp in the ER was under 96).  And me whining about the cold and the fact that the heater "didn't work."  And a spectacular and very mis-placed, poorly timed, and inappropriate display of anger. 

In the ER, we found out that the orthopedics doctor on call was the one that I would never let touch me, ever.  Not even with a ten-foot spaghetti noodle.  She wanted to attempt to aspirate the fluid out of every joint that was swollen, to make sure it wasn't infected.  That means nine joints on one hand.  Nuh-uh no way, not a chance.  Stab through skin and the deeper tissue that we already know is infected and full of bacteria, and into joints that may or may not be infected?  Many times over?  No way.  Especially not her.  We told her that - including the not her part.  She yelled.  Derek yelled.  The ER doc yelled.  I yelled.  She refused to call a hand specialist (she most definitely is NOT) because "they work all day and have lives, too."  The ER doc refused to call because she did.  He refused to call my regular doctor.  Refused to allow us to have a second opinion.

They took me to a room that, well... let me just say it triggered some massively bad memories.  Bad enough that I cried and vomited uncontrollably for the two hours we sat in it.  With grumbling and "harrumphing" from the nurses on the floor they then moved me to, it was off to a different floor, different unit, different room.  I refused to "make a decision" about the aspiration until after the timeline the surgeon set forth, since she had to go home because a full day of surgery awaited the next morning.  Score.  If she was in surgery, I wouldn't have HER anywhere near me with a needle, right?

Not so right.  I consented at about 10:15 PM, too late for the night and I knew it.  But that consent kept me from having to sign an AMA form.

The next morning at 6 AM, my nurse mentioned that this doctor would be in to talk to me about the aspiration and figure out when she could squeeze it into her schedule.  Ahem.  This is not what I planned.  So I told the nurse that I was refusing to see the doctor, at all.  That she could not touch me or have contact for the remainder of the stay.  The nurse said that since I was admitted under that doc, I couldn't get rid of her completely.  And I said I didn't care if she managed things from afar, so long as she didn't get near me.

They informed me later in the morning that I'd be going to interventional radiology, and the radiologist would be doing the aspiration - of one joint.  Seemed much more reasonable, but I've had needles in joints before and knew it would hurt.  Probably a lot, given the amount of inflammation.

My regular doctor came up to see me.  I was freaking out about the procedure for reasons only partly related to the procedure (this is one of those deliberate withholding of information things).  He stayed with me.  Tried to get me to squeeze his hand.  I don't squeeze hands in pain.  Especially hands of people I don't want to hurt.  The procedure itself didn't hurt terribly.  Meaning it didn't make me scream or cry or pull my arm away.  No, they didn't have it restrained in any way.  Just draped and laying on a foam thing.  The grating sound followed by a crunch was the worst, both audibly and feeling-wise.  It was when he was pushing through the joint capsule.  The capsule is very, very inflamed - it looks kind of cool on ultrasound, actually.  Fluid came back clear initially, but the bacteria in my hand are gram-negative so they don't pick up a gram stain.  The culture was taken Wednesday, and since day 5 is Sunday, won't actually be checked until Monday. 

They discharged me yesterday.  Said if the culture grows anything, then they'll call me and I'll have to be readmitted for I.V. antibiotics for a week.  Again.  Meanwhile, that joint is so big and hard and massively swollen and hot, as are the two next to it and the one above it.  The redness on my hand is accented quite well by the purple marker they used to mark the edges (which have expanded well past the marker). 
As I told my doctor when he said "just hold on a while longer, Jenn," - I am all done.  I am out of hold on.  I am out of gritting my teeth and tolerating.  I am out of being patient.  I am all done.  All done.  Maybe in the next couple days I'll get some fight back, but for today, I just don't have any left.

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Monday, February 14, 2011


Sorry to have left you all hanging.

I stayed home from the hospital for ALMOST 36 hours.  Almost.

When I was readmitted, my temp had gone from 96.8 when I was discharged to 103.9 when I showed up back in the emergency room.  Seven degrees doesn't matter much in weather but inside a human body, it's a really big deal.  Hot stuff. 

Okay, that was across the lame line.  But it made you either smirk or groan, right?

Reality is, I first mentioned my hand to a nurse at the end of December.  I had the fertility doctor check it on January 5th.

I made my first trip to urgent care on January 12th.  No labs were drawn and the only advice was "use lots of heat.  If it weren't for your leg, I'd say this wasn't infected at all.  But it looks similar to how that did, so I'm going to prescribe this particular antibiotic for you for seven days."  I dutifully soaked my hand many times a day, making sure to move it and use it and get it good and toasty.

Nine days later, on the 21st, I was back in the ER with a temp of 100.9 (normally run 96.5-96.8) and my hand looked... rough.  Bad.  Not so good.  Swollen and red and pretty sore.  I had thought I was getting the flu Wednesday night (24 hours after the last dose of antibiotics), and it proceeded to worsen along with the appearance of my hand.  That doctor said that since the first course of antibiotics worked so well (It did?  Really?  How'd I miss that?) he thought I must be one of those "rare people where seven days isn't long enough" and he was going to prescribe the exact same medicine, at the exact same dose, but this time for ten days.  He said that if the heat helped, I should continue it but it didn't really matter.

My husband and I both felt very uncomfortable with the hasty exam (more just a glance than actual exam), the lack of blood work, and the lack of follow up.  Especially since at that point my hand was acting exactly the same as my leg did last year - and the doctor was acting exactly the same as the doctors did last year.  We kept insisting we were uncomfortable and the doctor got more and more irritated, until he finally offered a referral to the wound clinic.  We knew that the 48 hours until I'd be able to see them (if seen immediately) could see things go south really quickly, but at least we also knew that the wound clinic is home to a bunch of very smart, talented, experienced infectious disease doctors and surgeons.

Wound clinic called Monday morning, offering me an appointment less than 30 minutes later.  It's a 40 minute trip in this weather, minimum.  I asked for a later appointment and was put off until the next afternoon.  That night, I did not sleep.  I used heat, I tried ice, I tried compression, I took Advil, I took Zofran, I took Vicodin 7.5 (two of them).  I finally fell asleep at 7:30 A.M.  I slept until noon, and when I woke up I knew I would be admitted.  For what started out as a simple skin infection of the hand, and even Friday night, could have been handled on an outpatient basis if it had been done correctly.  But now my hand was so swollen that it looked fake.  The skin was shiny and tight and deep, dark red.  It was very hot to touch, and I could no longer move my pinkie, ring, or middle fingers.  The pinkie and outside edge of the ring finger were numb.  And I felt generally sick.  Achy, sweats, chills, fever jumping between 99 and 102.9, unable to keep anything down.  I packed some books and clean underwear and socks and a stocking cap along with my favorite pillow, and off I went to the wound clinic.  My appointment was at 2 PM, my blood was drawn and x-rays taken by 2:30, husband got there at 3:00 just in time to watch the orthopedics consult jab an insanely large, thick needle into my hand in an effort to "aspirate" the pus.  By 4:00 I was getting settled into my room and waiting for IV therapy to come get things started.  After five days of high-dose Rocephin and Vancomyacin, with a Fentanyl PCA pump and frequent IV Zofran, I was sent home with Bactrim, Vicodin, Zofran, and Neurontin for the pain in my now-damaged nerves.  I'd been seen by infectious disease, orthopedics, plain internal medicine, neurology, OT and PT, an intensivist, and about a million interns and 500,000 residents. 

I was thrilled to be going home.  Finally, healing and doing well.

I lasted from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning.

When I was readmitted, my hand was blowing back up, I now had no sensation or reflexes below the wrist in my ulnar nerve and limited sensation and reflexes in the others, and my temperature went from 101 when we left home to 103.9 when the admitting nurse took my temperature. 

More Vancomyacin and Rocephin, more Vicodin ans Neurontin, more days on the Fentanyl PCA pump, More Zofran, more doctors, and an operation to remove the abscessed vein (yes, apparently a not-quite-sterile blood draw can lead to the development of not only phlebitis and cellulitis, but also abscesses inside of your veins) and the necrotic (i.e. dead) tissue that was around it, and I was sent home.  After finding out that the infection I was fighting was directly linked with human saliva.  Eeeeewwww.  There is only one person who could have introduced the germs, and that is the technician who drew my blood in December when all of this started.  I was actually asked this past week, by one of the infectious disease doctors, if this infection was self-inflicted.  Um... no flipping way. Besides, how would I have done it?  "Excuse me, Ms. Lab Tech person, before you stab my hand with that needle, would you mind letting me lick it first?"  Seems unlikely.

Now here I am, halfway through February and two months out from the original offending blood draw, and I am struggling hard to stay out of the hospital.  Three admissions might just send me over the deep end.  Well, not so much the admissions... it's the need for the admissions and the fact that this can all be traced to one person and the fact that we aren't ever going to even be apologized to for any of it, plus the fact that I have long-term, likely permanent, damage and loss of function in a previously healthy hand.

I know, I'll let go of the anger and sadness, and I will learn ways of making my hand do what I need it to do, but right now, tonight, I am so very ticked.

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