Going under the knife

Finally the auspicious day was just around the corner. My surgery for reconstruction of the jaw was to be conducted on Sunday  11th August 2013 at 8:ooa.m. The length of the procedure was estimated to be about eight hours.

 Was I scared? Truthfully I was not. I felt that I had waited so long that mentally I was prepared for it. I was excited with anticipation. Not just because I felt I would look more like myself but also I knew it would mean that eating would be the next step. I longed to eat some real food.

 The week leading up to that day was hectic and brought with it a lot of frustration. The frustration was manifested in tantrums on my part. I lost my cool for the first time in a long time with my mother, who had been a keen support and source of strength. Under the circumstances, this was understandable. Understandable, but not excusable. Thank God for mothers’ love. They forgive and move on.

 The frustration arose mainly because of issues with the insurance company and because of administrative issues at the private hospital. There was a lot of uncertainty just days before the surgery as far as payment was concerned. The letter from the insurance company detailing that they would cover the cost and how much they would cover was prepared and was waiting on someone’s desk to be signed. Without that letter I would have to pay the full cost upfront. The fact that the Friday before the surgery was a public holiday for Eid complicated matters. The letter may have gotten out in time had it not been for that holiday.

 

It was not to be. I had to make a decision on the Thursday morning to have a manager’s cheque made out for the amount. Another complication was that my little brother wanted to use his credit card to make the payments in order to get “miles” – the bonus miles issued from the credit card company for travelers. I was in the awkward position of having to deposit the cash in his account to be transferred to his credit card account before it could be used. The problem again was the holiday. Ultimately it would turn out that even if I deposited the cheque to his account on Thursday, it was not guaranteed to be available in the credit card account. Talk about frustration.

 

The Saturday before the surgery date came and I was a bag of mixed emotions. I was anxious, could hardly wait for the surgery. I was a bit scared, unsure of what to expect. I was still worried about the payment plan. I was above all certain that the Lord was with me, as He has always been. I did my routine morning tasks: had breakfast, had a shower, double checked my bags against my list and played with the cat, Pretty. Before long it was time to head to St. Augustine to meet the plastic surgeon’s accountant and pay his fee, then off to the hospital.

 

At the hospital, there was disillusionment. Generally the thinking is that if you are paying for a service, the service would be superior to one that is free. I have to say categorically, this is not true – at least in this case. To begin, there were no records of the pre-registration which I had taken the time to do the previous Monday. On that day, the anaesthetist was scheduled to meet with me to assess my situation and any special requirements for surgery. As I had the time, I enquired about payment methods and insurance procedures. This was when I was told about and completed the pre-registration.

 

 Once that issue was resolved, by completing a registration form for the second time, I then had to contend with sorting out the payment. There was some hesitation and the clerk made some snide remarks about the insurance method complicating matters. This was annoying but what could I do? I paid the full amount as specified in the original estimate which I had received from the hospital. Then I had a little wait before being wheeled up to my room.

 

That night the anaesthetist visited me and prescribed a sleeping pill to ensure that I had a proper night’s rest. That was a really good move for my mind would have been overactive that night. By five o’clock the next morning I was up. I had a shower and put on my theatre gown and waited. My mum had spent the night with me and she also got up early. Her plan was to be with me until I went in for surgery, then she would go to a church in the vicinity. She would return later to see me, even though I most likely would have been asleep. Before eight o’clock, the plastic surgeon arrived. He came in with a most pleasant demeanor and made sure that all was well with me.

 

All too soon the time came for me to go in. As I entered the theatre area, the nurses were asking for a hammer, a saw and a drill. I thought they were joking. Boy was I wrong. Those implements were going to be used for my surgery. Could they have been more explicit just minutes before I was “put to sleep”? Well at least there was little time to think and before long I must have been anesthetized. The last noise I think I remember hearing was the sound of a drill. The next thing I remember was waking up in the high dependency unit.

 

 Unknown to me of course is that the surgery had taken a full eight hours.  The anaesthetist had brought in another doctor with an endoscope to assist in getting the tube for the anaesthsia through my nostrils into my throat. This was necessary as my passages were restricted as a result of the injuries and the wiring of the jaws.

 

  The oral maxillofacial surgeon had completed reconstruction of the jaw. He had put in titanium plates held in place by titanium screws. He had also done a hip graft which involved removing bone matter from the left hip and grafting it onto the jaw where the bone had been removed during the emergency surgery on the night of the incident.

 

 After his job was done, it was the plastic surgeon’s turn. He had to provide scaffolding for the reconstruction. There had been a deformity left in my chin where the bone had been cut. This had to be filled in for symmetry of my jaw line and to assist in minimizing the chances of infection in the bone graft. A shoulder graft was done for the scaffolding. A flap of skin from the left shoulder was rolled back and attached as a tube- like structure onto the chin. A portion of skin, about ten centimetres by fourteen centimeters, was removed from the left thigh to fill in the shoulder from where the flap was created. That flap was to remain for three weeks.

 

Two days after the surgery I was still feeling nauseous from the anaesthetic. I could not keep any food or drink down. Yet I had to take antibiotics and morphine. I was a total mess. I could not move very much, could not turn, could not walk nor talk. During the course of the second day, I refused to take any medication until I ate or drank something. I forced myself to sip some Ensure. I did this throughout the day and still only finished about one quarter of the bottle. By the end of the second day, I kept praying that this ordeal would be over. I had never felt so ill.

 

One amazing thing happened sometime that day. I was feeling awful and at my lowest, when I suddenly smelt my father (deceased about four years). Simultaneously there was a message alert on my cell phone. A message from my mentor and friend had come, wishing me all the best. This may not sound significant but when my father died, this lecturer, to whom I refer as my mentor, began sending inspirational texts to me every single day. He filled in the gap left by my father’s death and as it turns out, they were born on the same day. We had communicated maybe once or twice for this year and he was unaware that I was undergoing surgery. Coincidence, I think not.

 

By the third day my stomach settled somewhat. I still could not consume a lot but it was sufficient to allow me to be medicated. I remember at some time I stopped taking the pain medication and the doctor and nurses could not believe it. The doctor remarked that my pain threshold must be very high. He, the oral maxillofacial surgeon, urged me to start moving around. He had recommended a walker for a couple of weeks.

 

All this time, my darling son stayed with me. He fawned over me. He slept restlessly, listening for me to call out for help. He slept on a tiny cot. Any movement on my part had him alert and vigilant. His sacrifice, his strength, his love and devotion during that time, have far surpassed any expectations a parent could have. My mother also spent some time, relieving my son by the third day.

 

I began to move about a bit. It took every ounce of determination for me to get up and off the bed. I did it slowly, with deliberation. I could not slip for to do so would result in an undoing of all that I had just been through. I held on to the walker and made those first few unsteady steps. The walk to the washroom seemed to last forever. I recovered for a while on the throne. Then, again with all my effort, I made it back to the bed.

 

There was no comfort on the bed either. Sleep came out of sheer exhaustion. I moved around several times during the day and by the fourth day the doctor was in for a big surprise. On the fourth day I walked out of the washroom, while he was in the room. I walked out sans walker! Can you imagine how shocked he was? Here I was walking after only four days when they had told me it would take weeks.

 

The secret to all of these recoveries is to know your body. Knowing my physical limitations, given the weakened state I was in, and being aware of the type of surgery done, as long as I had been given the go-ahead by the doctor, I was able to move. The movements were slow and painstakingly done, but they were done. This was one of the conditions for me to be discharged… and I really wanted to get out of that place.

 

Part of the reason for wanting to get out so urgently was the odours. Apparently after the surgery, my sense of smell became so acute that I smelt everything. Every nurse had a distinctive smell from their soap or perfume or deodorant. The room itself had a distinctly unpleasant smell. Any citrus aroma induced nausea. Even when my son tried to eat in the room, much as it hurt, I had to ask him to leave the room. I could not wait to get out of there.

 

My voice was also affected for a while. It became higher pitched and quite child-like. It was difficult to understand me at first. I remember when the doctor called me four days after I was discharged. He asked to speak with me when I had answered my phone. When I identified myself, he could not believe it. He had thought it was my niece or daughter.

 

Out of all of this my body grew weaker but my mind continued to function at an admirable level. I really feel sorry for persons who depend on the doctors and nurses to care completely for them. The truth is that one has to be able to take responsibility for oneself, even in a reduced state. It could be as simple as deflecting an unnecessary CAT scan (which I was nearly accidentally sent for, immediately upon coming out of the high dependency unit) to ensuring that medication is taken in the proper way.

 

 Of course, given certain circumstances, trust has to be placed in others for a brief time, but the desired course of action is to be able to analyse and think for oneself. This cannot happen in a vacuum. There must be some background knowledge, some common sense on which to base judgments and decisions. According to Voltaire, “no problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking” and I would like to amend that to  “sustained, informed thinking.”

 

So out of all this I leave you to ponder on the following:

     1.     Learn as much as you possibly can about any medical procedure you may have to undergo.

     2.     Plan carefully for all aspects of the procedure – financial, emotional, physical.

     3.     Pray for guidance, for protection and to give thanks.

     4.     Consider the situation at hand from all angles, carefully thinking each step through.

     5.     Be alert for any diversions from what is correct. Do not assume that those assigned to do tasks are knowledgable or informed.

     6.     Seek help when you need it.

     7.     Think, think, think.

 

 

 

Facing the abyss!

depression 1Nine months after being shot in the jaw, I have now begun to experience episodes of spontaneous crying as well as emotional outbursts during quotidian routines. At first I accepted it, I recognized that at some point I should have shown some sort of heartache. However, the day I broke down in the lobby of a crowded public office, when I was asked a simple question, is the day I knew I had to seek assistance. Generally I am a together person, meaning that I manage myself well in terms of stress and stressful situations. This time the intensity of the event and the length of the episode was startling.

depression 2

 

That catalytic episode occurred on a Friday morning. I visited my doctor at the Hospital on the following Monday morning. The purpose of the visit was simply to get some official documents signed by the doctor. He was so pleased to see me and to see how much progress I had made. We discussed this for a while then I mentioned to him about the crying. He suggested that I should pay a visit to a psychiatrist and expressed regret that it was something he had not done before, given the nature of my accident. I agreed to do so based on his recommendation.

Wednesday morning I was at the psychiatric clinic. It was a strangely uplifting experience. The work ethic of the nurses and receptionists was admirable. They knew their patients by first name and appeared to genuinely have their patients’ interest at heart. My wait was short and pretty soon I was seen by a doctor. I was diagnosed with depression and post traumatic stress disorder(ptsd), I was referred to a social worker and given a prescription for the antidepressant drug, fluxetine. The social worker turned out to be a past student who really impressed me with her maturity and gentleness. I felt comfortable with her.

I started taking the drug as prescribed. Sleep came but it was full of dreams. Dreams of my past as a little girl, as a teenager, restless unremembered dreams, all types of dreams had come in those first three nights. On the third morning, I forced myself to get off the bed. I had my oats as usual, then headed straight back to bed. I did not want to do anything but sleep. I did not want to go out – but I had to go to the hospital- I did not want to see anyone. So I slept until I had just enough time to shower and get dressed to go.  All the way to the hospital I felt like screaming out loud. I repressed the feeling. Once I got started though, once I was out and doing business, I was alright. I still remained drowsy but I was able to function fairly well.

Depression evokes such a powerful image in my brain, that I have found it difficult to accept. It just crept up on me, slowly and silently it ambushed me. Fighting it off is extremely difficult but it has to be fought. Strength comes from various sources. The presence of my family, and their constant needs and talking and just being around, helps tremendously. How can I let these caring individuals undergo more worrying because of me? How can I not be part of their activities, even though I sometimes wish I could be alone and listen to myself as I analyze everything repeatedly ?  Positivity must prevail.

Another source of strength comes from friends. Few friends have remained since the shooting but the few are more than enough. If they care enough to be around me then I have to care enough to fight off this threatening cloud of darkness.  If they care enough to listen then I have to care enough to share. If they have their own problems then I have be a sounding board for them. It is a daily, no, a minutely struggle to keep my head above the swirling vortex of conflicting emotions.  As rough waters claim a drowning man who grows weaker as he fights against the tide, so too do the insidious tentacles of depression tighten as its depleted prey wrestles. How long can it last?

swirling 1

 

The struggle gets easier, the tentacles loosen by the grace of the other source of strength – the main source, God Almighty. Without Him the battle cannot be won. Every day reading the Daily Word and the relevant Bible passages not just helps but helps greatly. The stories speak directly to me. His word brings reassurance and lends a great measure of stability which enables me to face the days with a brighter outlook. The knowledge of His love, of His power and greatness renders comfort as a blanket.  The social worker talked about resilience. Yes one’s resilience level helps to determine how well one can cope in difficult times. But resilience level, without the Almighty, will be very low. Our ability to recover from formidable challenges lies not in and of ourselves but it is a gift granted by His grace.

So as this chapter unfolds the lessons revealed include:

  • Ø Be vigilant for depression comes like a snake in the grass.
  • Ø Embrace the love and fellowship of family and friends.
  • Ø Hold firm in faith, give praise and thanks and pray every day.
  • Ø The race is not given to the swift nor the strong but to those who endure to the end.

How to make a delightful bread pudding

bread pudding1Today I am taking a break from the heavy stuff. Sometimes we need to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life. What could be as simple and light as a good bread pudding. A soft, sweet mix of bread,  milk and spices. Delicious! Takes your mind off a world of worries. Worries, you say, what worries? Let me finish my slice of pudding and my cup of hot tea, but right now there can be no worries, no distractions.

It all started when my good friend had a craving for some bread pudding. I was put on the job to quench that yen. So first I called another friend who is a caterer and usually has bread ends. Too late, she had already thrown out the last set. Finally, two days later I had to make some sandwiches, so voila! bread ends and my friend got her long awaited pudding. Here is my version of that delectable dessert.

First, of course, you need bread crumbs or ends. I used the ends from one sandwich loaf, which I cut into small pieces, about an inch long. On mixing, the ends crumble anyway, to become like crumbs.  The following is a list of all the ingredients I used.

My Bread Pudding

Ends from 1 sandwich loaf

2 cups of milk

Between ¼ cup to ½ cup of granulated sugar ( sweeten to taste)

¼  tsp salt

2 tbsp margarine (softened)

2  eggs

Cinnamon and vanilla essence to taste and my special ingredient…

3 tbsp Amaretto

First blend the margarine with the bread ends. Add the sugar and salt. Scald the milk and pour into bread mixture. Allow mixture to cool. When cooled, add the slightly beaten eggs along with cinnamon, vanilla and amaretto. Mix well. Transfer to a greased baking dish and bake at  375⁰ for about half an hour. Serve with your favourite chai tea. Ahh… perfect!!

It must be an angel!

 

A soft and gentle voice calmly says to me that he is here, that all will be well and that he is seeing me as he has always seen me. That was all I needed to hear just then. I had just been playing it out in my mind – how would my brother react when he saw me, would he be able to look at me, would he chastise me? So many questions and disturbances were quelled with the assuasive tone of my elder brother’s voice. I felt at peace and was once again able to focus on keeping my senses alert as I lay fighting for my life.

 

This scene unfolded in the emergency room before I was taken for surgery. I lay stripped and covered with a thin sheet, which offered almost no warmth to my shivering body. When I heard someone say that my brother had arrived I was apprehensive, even in my diminished state. I was prepped and waiting to go for major surgery. I was scared and alone. I was doing the best I could to maintain consciousness. He could not have come at a better time or with a better attitude. He said the right thing, he brought comfort and calm to an otherwise way off kilter situation. He was the first of a few during this traumatic episode of my life. The first of a few to whom I refer as angels.

 

The next one of my angels came to me while I was on the ward. During the first week of my stay on Ward 8, I was forgotten for almost two days. I was not given medication nor any of the liquid feed which was to be my staple for the next three weeks. During the course of the second day, my mind began to wander. I now know that the correct term is that I was transcending or as I still say, I was travelling. I found myself in a pristine place, It felt as though I was up amongst the clouds and that I was drifting. There was no pain, no anger just peace. It was such a euphoric experience that I wanted to stay there forever.

 

But even as I drifted away, I returned. This continued for some time – drifting away, returning, drifting… I was unaware of anything going on around me, yet I was aware that my physical body was at the hospital. I am not sure what I may have looked like to a passerby but one vigilant nurse came to me. She leaned in very close to my ear and, with a celestial voice, asked me if everything was alright. She had somehow detected that something was wrong with me. She asked me to describe the travelling. Then she kept talking to me, telling me to come back. She apparently realized that my brain had transcended and that if I did not remain conscious then… Thankfully the doctors were able to discern that I was neglected and corrected the situation posthaste.

 

My next two angels were constantly with me, whenever they were on duty. Nurses Erica and Abby. I can never forget these two. So kind, compassionate, caring, gentle, how could they not be angels? Nurse Erica always looked after me while on duty. She would change my dressings, taking all precautions to ensure that I was in minimal distress. She would encourage me and pray with me. She favoured my friends and family. This wonderful lady was never too tired to smile with me and to make me feel good. Nurse Abby did the same but with an even greater sense of humour than I could have ever imagined. She never allowed me to feel sorry for myself. Nurse Abby loved my brothers and my mother and would make it a point to speak with them when they visited me. Both nurses anticipated my needs and    brought supplies to keep within close range for me.

 

The day for wiring my jaws shut finally came during the third week of my stay at the hospital. All went as planned. I was under general anaesthetic and as is the norm, I was left in a recovery room before being returned to the ward. I was brought out of the trance like state by the most ethereal sound I had ever heard. It could not be any ordinary human being. This was a voice sent by God. I could have cried. I was so overwhelmed by emotion. Once again I knew that my Jehovah Rapha was looking out for me. Everything about that attendant was perfect from my perspective. She also prayed for me before letting me go back to the ward. She was the final angel there at the hospital.

 

She was not the last angel though. I have come to recognize that angels are all around us. We just have to trust and believe. They come in all forms and sizes and races and personalities. All it takes is for us to appreciate the blessings in our lives for us to begin to recognize when we meet an angel. They are with us all the time. They are simple, ordinary folks doing extraordinary kindnesses. As Mother Teresa put it “we cannot all do great things but we can do small things with great love

Unplugged

Further to my last post, “Experiencing God”, I had the privilege of speaking with my friend who was waiting for me in the doctor’s office. He was able to witness most of what had actually transpired. He said the nurse told him to bring the car around to the front for me. On doing so, he came out to get me but, after five minutes had passed they could not get me up. He ran back to the car to switch off and send up the windows, he still did not lock expecting me to be ready soon.

The doctor had spent approximately the first five minutes talking to me, calling my name and rubbing my hands. To no avail. Then my friend and the nurses tried. Apparently they slapped my hand, they pulled open my eyes (but my eyes remained closed), they kept calling to me to get up. According to my friend I was preaching for almost twenty five minutes. I kept saying that I was with my Lord and that He was to take my life and do with it what He wanted. I broke down and cried, with great emotion. Mind you even though I am naturally quiet I was shouting. I could have been heard from the roadside.

At one point they left him alone with me and he said that my entire body shut down. He could see no movement. It seemed as though I had stopped breathing. I stopped talking and crying. He called the nurses who tried again to awaken me but were rebuked by me for touching me while I was in the presence of the Lord. My pulse was good and breathing had resumed ( or maybe it had never stopped). The nurses were surprised when he told them that I did not attend any church. My ranting was authentic not mundane utterings but seemed to be spiritual in nature. I kept telling them to give me five more minutes and then I will be ready.

The doctor told my friend that it was the first time I had behaved in this manner. I was usually demure. He also reminded my friend that I had been through a lot and that it was time I got it out of my system. I guess he meant that grieving would aid in healing emotionally. The only problem is that I was not grieving. I was actually in the presence of God! My doctor and his assistants would probably never believe me. They may think it was the effect of the anaesthetic. They may have dismissed many previous episodes by other patients in the same manner, trivializing a very profound incident. I await further enlightenment and will share in forthcoming posts, if there is anything to share. God bless.

A lesson in… Humility!?

humilitySo… there I was, lying in a feeble state, with my chin covered from left to right with bandages. As if that was not enough, there was an NG (nasogastric) tube hanging precariously from my nostrils and a tracheostomy protruding from my throat. The tracheostomy, as I said in a previous post, was put in to prevent my damaged tongue from slipping into my throat. The NG tube was a feeding tube, placed into my stomach via my nostrils. This tube produced a lot of discomfort. I comforted myself with the thought that there probably would not be much more with which to deal. I was wrong.

It could have been the antibiotic, as the doctors said, or it could have been due to the injury itself. Whatever the reason, there was constant dribbling and oozing from the wounds on my chin. I ran through at least one roll of paper towels during the day. What made it worse was that I could not even feel those fluid invasions on my chin. I just had to constantly wipe or pat to keep looking clean. At this point, the injuries left by the bullets to my jaw, were open wounds which left two gaping holes on both sides of my lower jaw.

One morning a nurse attending to me asked if I had looked at my wounds. To this I replied a definitive no. I was afraid, I think, to see my own reflection. As I walked from the safety of my nest, my hospital bed, to the washroom or the shower, I passed the nurses station. That was not too bad, however I also encountered numerous persons waiting either to be seen by one of the House doctors or waiting to be admitted. What was the lesson here?

I imagined what I must have looked like to these people. There I was, significantly thinner having lost at least ten pounds, dressed in an oversized nightgown and with my latest accessories- the tracheostomy, the NG and huge bandages. I felt I looked like an alien. The stares did not help. I really felt sorry for those people. I was accustomed to people looking at me, mainly because I love to smile. It was a lesson in humility for me to be in front of so many people without my hair properly combed, without my makeup, especially lipstick, and without my smile.

I began to empathize with others who are stared at because they look different. I could not even look at other people directly, except from afar. I was actually happy that words could not exit my mouth. I did not have to explain anything nor answer any questions. My acceptance of this condition surprised even me. I, who would not even go out into my yard without lipstick, I was completely devoid of any enhancements and yet it did not perturb me. What was done, was done and had to be dealt with in all humility for survival.

The truth is that I realized that staring and gaping were inevitable. Fortunately I also recognized that what I looked like now, the defects being observed did not change who I was. I could still use my brain. I could still think and reason and analyze. Being able to communicate by writing and hearing was still possible. I could feel love, anger, hurt, happiness and sadness. I could be prayed for and say my prayers silently. I was still loved and protected by the Almighty.

Knowing these truths about myself shielded me from the futility of vanity, protected me from self pity and kept me humble not belittled. I dwelt on thoughts of our Maker, I focused on “trivial” matters necessary for quotidian existence and my spirit was elevated beyond my greatest expectations.

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

On being strong

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”

     Unknown.

Birds_in_Gods_Hands

This quotation greeted me as I lay on my hospital bed. I had just opened one of the many cards and gifts sent by well-wishers. As I stared at it tears welled up in my eyes but never actually fell. I thought about the many times I had been called “strong” by people who liked and respected me and also by those who disliked me passionately. It had become somewhat of a personal trademark. At the school where I teach, I work collaboratively but due to the unfriendly atmosphere and the inability of most of the staff to unite on important issues, I tend to be a loner. Too many times I had stood up in defense of some student or put forward collective opinions about controversial topics, only to realize that I stood like a solitary cactus plant in an arid desert. This trait of standing up for matters I feel passionate about coupled with the small group of friends and being a divorcee, had led to my classification of being strong.

I always felt that perhaps I was overrated as far as strength was concerned. After all I have always been known to be quiet, unassuming and shy by those who have known me since my childhood days. But as I read that quote about strength and pensively played out the previous few weeks in my mind, I began to believe in my own God-given strength. The old saying about God not giving more than we can bear also lent confirmation to the idea of me being strong. How else could I possibly have been lying so calmly on the bed, perusing books and cards, without having shed any tears, without casting any blame, without knowing how long I would be warded and with the injuries I had sustained?

In my previous post I touched on the incident which led to my hospitalization. I was the victim of a violent crime, an attempted robbery turned into wounding with intent. I had been brutally shot resulting in my chin being shattered, my lower jaw being fractured on both sides and with wounds to my chest and shoulder. I had lost a great deal of blood during transportation ( I walked from one car to the other as we switched from my car to a nearby police vehicle). As preparations were being made for emergency surgery, my body began to go into thermal shock as I shook uncontrollably. During the surgery the decision was made to remove four teeth from my lower jaw along with part of the jaw itself and a tracheostomy had to be performed as my tongue had been injured as well and was in danger of slipping down my throat. A tracheostomy involves the insertion of a tube through an incision made in the throat through the neck. With this procedure, speech was temporarily suspended. I was kept in Intensive Care for four days then was transferred to a ward for the next  twenty four days.

It must have been strength, through the grace of God, that saw me through the time immediately after the shooting. What else could it have been that kept me from behaving deliriously? How else was it possible that instinctively I restricted unnecessary movements and histrionics which could have promoted greater blood loss and perhaps the ending of my story would have been different and would have come much sooner? The nurses, attendants and doctors were amazed as I walked into the emergency room. My friend had tried to lift me anticipating that I would be too weak to walk and, I suppose, also in an attempt to help me conserve energy. I refused, in my usual independent manner, to be lifted .

My family was told that I would be staying for at least one week in Intensive Care. My God had other plans for me. As I lay in that Unit, my mind dealt with healing my body. Stray thoughts about being afraid or of the pain or the impact of such an injury on the rest of my life were kept at bay. When given the opportunity to self administer morphine via a dose dispenser, thoughts of the addictive and other effects of morphine on the body helped keep the doses taken to a minimum, which just held off the pain. My brain was functioning on a different level. This worked in my favor and within just four days, my condition had improved sufficiently for me to be transferred to a ward.

At the ward, as soon as I could begin to move, two days after being transferred, I was able to have my first real shower. I felt so clean, so whole as I could do something for myself. Gradually as my strength slowly returned, albeit I was still extremely weak as there could be no eating, I focused on trivial matters. This was my technique for coping. I could not dwell on what was still to happen in the coming weeks or months or years. I instead planned when I would go to rinse my mouth, to have a shower, where to place my possessions and clothes to make them easily accessible. I planned by the minutes. I was fully aware of the atrophy possible when muscles are not in use and so I scheduled time to perform stretching exercises initially, then I started to walk the corridors to get in some exercise as soon as I got strong enough. I even remember doing some light weight lifting with some bottles of water!

There was never any crying. Nothing would be gained by crying. Instead I prayed, I read inspirational books and the bible and I listened to gospel music supplied by my elder brother’s mp3 player. I reflected a lot on events of the past two years but I did not allow myself to wallow in pity. I repeated John 3:16 whenever I had to undergo any sort of procedure. There was one time I remember going in for the doctor to perform a debridement, which is a medical procedure to remove dead, damaged or infected tissue. This was done in a supply room with me holding a pan below my chin to catch the runoff as the wounds were washed. At one point the doctor was cleaning off dead cells with a scalpel and he was shocked when I did not even flinch. He was so shocked that it led him to jokingly ask if I was dead. John 3:16!

Finally I was discharged after twenty eight days when the doctors had told my family that my stay would be at least four to six months. My progress constantly amazed them. Every time they gave a timeframe or said that some process would not work out or that I would not be able to do certain things, by God’s bestowed strength I was able to prove them wrong. What it came down to was that even though many people thought that I was strong before I was shot, when I was at my lowest, physically at my weakest, I actually was stronger than I ever imagined because I really had no choice but to be strong! Praise be to God.

One set of footprints….

One set of footprints....

On that auspicious day earlier this year, I cast a backward glance when my life was nearly snatched from me and there I saw one set of footprints in the sand of time. Unlike the author of the popular, stirring melody, I did not need my Lord to explain why there was only one set of footprints.

I was shot. By an uncompassionate, cold-blooded criminal who wanted to rob me of my possessions. There was no warning. It all happened in a rush. Just like in the movies – there was a loud explosive sound which initially I thought was the sound of a piece of lumber smashing into the window of the car. As my friend and driver sped off, with screeching tires, there was a volley of shots ringing out as the attacker made a desperate effort to stop us.

I gingerly raised my hand to touch my chin. What I felt instantly filled me with more fear, dread and many conflicting and unexpected thoughts. I hoped that it was only the glass splinters which had adhered to my face but as I simultaneously felt and saw the blood pouring down onto my car’s mat, I knew it was much more than that! My chin had been blown away and there was a gaping hole where it once prominently adorned my face.

Thankfully my driver spotted a police vehicle as he frantically made his way to the hospital and he had the presence of mind to stop for them to transport me instead of him. On the way to the hospital I lost a lot of blood. I sat in the back seat of the vehicle with the left side of my head propped against the back door and all the while my mind was racing. All women are vain to different extents. I was no different. The thought of how I would look terrified me. As soon as that thought tried to take root in the rich soil of my mind, which by now was in overdrive, a quiet peace gently pushed it aside. People who know me, the me before the shooting, all consider me as tending toward negative thinking. I tell you this so that the impact of that quiet push could really sink in – one set of footprints.

The thought of dying never even crossed my mind. I had no idea of the extent of my injury… and perhaps that was a good thing. As I lay in the Intensive Care Unit, probably high on morphine, I had no visions, no hallucinations but I can tell you this. My bed and its appurtenances were off limits to all negativity. There was an almost visible and tangible presence of the Lord. It was, as I like to describe it, like a force field was around my bed. I could feel it and when my family told me about the numerous persons, right at home as well as internationally, offering prayers for my well being, I was not surprised.

When in my speechless, weakened state I was left without medication and food for close to two days, I was transported to the most beautiful place I had ever seen. It was as though I was in the middle of clouds. There was no pain, no sadness, no anger. There was only peace and the feeling that I wanted to stay there forever. However it was not yet my time and from deep down in my tracheostomy ( a tube inserted in my throat to prevent my damaged tongue from slipping and which temporarily rendered me speechless), I heard a male voice saying my name repeatedly, softly at first but when I did not respond, it became louder and urgent. I was on a female ward at that time and when I finally opened my eyes there was absolutely no one close by my bed.

My Lord had lifted me and was keeping me safe. He had a purpose for me still, here on earth. My heavenly Father was not yet ready for me and it is my firm belief that He was the voice that I heard bringing me back, even though I did not want to come back after such a pristine experience. He tenderly looked over me, ensuring that I was well enough before two sets of footprints could be in the sand.

Not the end!

Today is 3rd November 2013. This is more than two years since my last post – growing to love. What I have found out during the course of previous months this year have made me realize that what I thought was the mutual end of a long and arduous journey was in reality a biased perspective.

At the beginning of this year, an incident occurred in my life which nearly brought it to an abrupt and violent end. The details of the incident and all relevant precursory information will be forthcoming. For now I will keep the focus on what I had previously deemed as a done deal, a dead-end relationship. So, as I had been living alone, I kept several dogs for security purposes and also because I just love them. When I was left lying in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the hospital, there was no way of determining for how long I would be out of commission. The question therefore arose about who would look after my dogs.  The only answer I could provide was for my relatives to contact my “former’ friend. He was the only logical one since he had given me some of the dogs and would have some ideas to assist my relatives. I could not conceive that an ex- would be willing to assist with the care of my dogs but that is exactly what played out.

Within the next seventeen days, all the while I am lying incapacitated in the hospital, my dogs were cared for diligently.  My former friend took on the task of cleaning my yard and feeding the dogs  not just everyday but twice a day. After that time my relatives took over. I spent a total of approximately one month in the hospital. I emerged twelve pounds lighter, unable to speak and of course very weak. My dogs were traumatized by my prolonged absence and the presence of other persons tending to them. Remember I lived alone for many years and I had them for several years before this incident occurred. When I was finally able to venture back home to visit with them, they were hesitant and scared. It took several days before they came around and accepted me.

At the end of one of my visits to the dogs, my good friend and neighbour, Gillian, was driving me back home to where I was temporarily staying by relatives, when we decided to stop off at a drugstore. Before we even pulled into the car park I had spotted my ex’s car parked right in  front of the store. I could have spoken a little by this time but I chose to not say anything to Gillian. As we walked to the entrance of the store I knew that he would have seen me but I chose not to even glance in that direction. Gillian on the other hand, spotted him and waved to him at the same time exclaiming about his presence to me. I then let her know that I had already seen him. She related to me how he kept staring at me and that he did not return her greeting. I in turn had predicted what he would have done. No surprise there for me. That incident led me to believe that the conclusion of my previous post was correct. I left the store with mixed feelings and a myriad of thoughts.

The following week I decided to contact my ex to thank him for the duties he had performed during my stay at the hospital. I was still angry with him over the failed relationship and for the way he had treated some of my relatives but I knew that thanks could never be too late and… I was grateful for his invaluable assistance. I was not prepared for his response over the phone, At one point he began to cry and I initially thought that it was due to his feeling sorry for the pain he must have conceived that I would have had to endure as a result of the injury. How wrong I was! He was crying for himself, for the humiliation which he felt I had put him through as a result of the publicity associated with my incident and because he felt that I had betrayed him with someone else. i ended that call so quickly once I realised why he was crying. I was once again agitated by him and angry with myself for initiating contact. I vowed, once again, that I would have nothing to do with him.

To cut out a lot of back and forth, a lot of oscillation, I will simply say that the next few weeks saw a period of change, of renewal. We gradually learned to become friends but this time around I set limits for the relationship. I tolerated no nonsense, no attempts at manipulation or of dominating my time. Temper tantrums were dealt with immediately with definite negative consequences. If he got angry or upset then I became angrier or more upset. As far as I was concerned if he did not like me as I am or if I said or did something which he did not like then that was just his problem. I was no longer concerned with trying to please him. After this, when he began to grasp that things were not going to be as they were before our breakup, he began to make changes – small at first, then more important ones. Finally the day came when he confessed how much he loved me and me alone. He told me that it was always me and that it was still me in spite of all which had transpired and he told me that he was not aware that I had really left him in 2012. He kept thinking -even after more than nine months – that it was just like all the previous times when I left for a few weeks. He expected me to return at any time and was able to continue his routines only because he thought I would be coming back. It was so sad because those were the words I had waited twenty odd years to hear and now that they were being said I felt nothing.

The pain and hurt which I had experienced repeatedly during the course of our relationship, had re-enforced their messages to the extent that when I decided to move on last year, it was final for me. The pristine landscape of my love for this individual had been completely eroded by the harsh elements of his treatment. He was now trying to rebuild the profile of our relationship and I had already destroyed the blueprints. As I said before, I could no longer feel that love for him. The chemistry between us was no longer there and the more I tried the more this was confirmed for me. How unfortunate for us both that he waited until I almost lost my life before he realised that he could not live his own without me. I agreed to remain friends but on my terms which really means just friends. Who knew that this man who once could only find fault with me could now only see the good in me. I guess the best way to end this would be to thank God for His mercies