#TellHisStory: Angels Among Us

tellhisstory-badgeI have told this story numerous times.  I have also actually written about it, but was never quite satisfied with it.  Not to mention I have lost the original draft as I copied it from one computer to the next to a disc I must have misplaced from one move or another.

So when I came across #TellHisStory on the blog of Jennifer Dukes Lee, I knew that it was time, I now had the ending to this story.

It was late one Wednesday night in October 1999.  I had just put my four-year-old twins to bed, and I was in the kitchen cleaning up when the phone rang.  It stopped me dead in my tracks, I just knew it was one of those calls that would define this moment in time.  As much as I dreaded it, I had to answer it.  It was my sister.  She tried to sound calm and casual, but as the oldest, there was no easy way to relay the following message to her youngest sibling:

“Hey Carrie…it’s Debbie.  Mom wanted me to call you to let you know that Dad is in the hospital, he had a heart attack.  He’s ok for now, but they have to run some tests on him.”  I asked some questions and found out more about the situation.  Him and my mom were just both here babysitting for me on Sunday.  Come to find out, he more than likely had a heart attack while he was here and just took an aspirin and went home.  My sister and I tried to make light of the fact that he was researching his symptoms on the Internet, and still going to work each day.  But by Wednesday, my mom said that he was looking a little gray, and instead of going to work, he went to the clinic, and they immediately admitted him to the hospital.  My sister ended the call, by letting me know she would keep me posted.  Surprisingly, I slept ok that night.  It was the next day that reality came crashing down.

With two four year olds, I stayed busy.  But my mind kept wandering to the land of what ifs?  I was a wreck all day, periodically wiping tears from my eyes as I thought of my mom being alone if something were to happen to my dad.  They did everything together.  During the day I had gotten word that they would be doing an angioplasty on Friday.  By Thursday night, I was exhausted with worry and as I lay in bed all I could do was pray, and the Lord met me right there with an awesome vision and peace that passes all understanding.  The Lord showed me a vision of my dad lying in his hospital bed, and I saw on each side of him, these beautiful angels.  I couldn’t see their faces; they had their backs to me and were facing my dad.  They had these soft, feathery, white wings and long flowing white robes.  Their hair was long and golden, but for some reason I knew they were male.  They each had a hand on my dad’s chest, as he lay there with a peaceful expression on his face.  As fast and clear as the vision appeared, it vanished abruptly like turning off the TV.  But I had a smile on my face and a peace knowing that whatever would happen tomorrow, it would be ok.

The next morning I received a call from my brother.  He’s the second oldest.  As a teenager, he clashed with my dad on several occasions.  It wasn’t until my brother became a father himself that him and my dad shared a mutual respect for each other.  One would never suspect the turbulent relationship they had as he was growing up.  My brother is an awesome dad, he’s a tall guy standing 6’ 3” and is covered in tattoos, that’s what he does, he’s a tattoo artist.  He was with my mom as they did the angioplasty.  He called to let me know, that they were unable to do it, because my dad’s arteries were so blocked, they had to schedule an emergency open-heart surgery.  My mom and brother actually saw how badly blocked the arteries were.  My mom wanted all of us kids there at the hospital.  I could hear in his voice how serious this was and that he was a little shook-up.  Even after this call, the vision was still fresh in my mind, and the peace still enveloped me like a favorite blanket.  I couldn’t say that I knew the outcome for sure, I just knew that God was in control of the situation.

We all gathered at the hospital with my mom.  My other brother who lives the farthest away was also there.  When I got to the hospital, I was able to see my dad before the surgery.  As I walked into his room, I got the chills, because it was just like my vision.  He was in good spirits and greeted me with a lighthearted, “what are you doing here?”  I wasn’t a daddy’s girl.  That was our thing, he gave me a hard time whenever I would call to talk to my mom or stop by for a visit.  Once we left his room, we sat in the waiting room for 11 hours.  A nurse took the whole family into a room and explained the surgery step by step.  At some point we knew that machines were the only thing keeping my dad alive…well not the only thing.  I was reminded of God’s awesomeness and how He created these bodies.  But through modern technology, and the wisdom God imparts to the doctors, mere humans are able to repair His creation.

My dad came out of that surgery and recovered in record time.  He also changed his lifestyle and ate healthier and exercised.  He rode his bike, played tennis, and golf, and walked in numerous 5K walks, always placing in the top three for his age group.  He also went on to be a volunteer at the hospital with the Mended Hearts program, where he was able to talk to families as their loved ones faced the same surgery he recovered from.  He was two months shy of his 60th birthday when he had his surgery.  His mother also had a heart attack at 60, but unfortunately, she passed away.

While I was visiting with my dad as he was recovering, I told him about my vision, just to see if he happened to see the angels.  He didn’t.  But he did tell me that the night before the surgery, he just said, “Lord, it’s in your hands now.”  Which was ironic for my dad to be so brief, since he loved to talk.  But he knew that was all he could do.

Fast forward 13 years later and its another October evening, 2012.  It feels like déjà vu, but it’s not…oh how I wish it were.  My sister has made another call, this time she ends it with, “Carrie…it doesn’t look good.”  Later that night, she calls back and tells us that my dad had passed away.

We get through the blur of the days leading up to the funeral.  We gain strength from each other as we sit through the full military burial, which is always beautiful, yet emotional.  My dad was in the army and very active with the Veterans.  We all still miss him everyday.  I’m reminded of little things out of the blue that let me know grieving is a bit of a process.  Even now, as I am able to finish this story, the tears are flowing, but they are healing me.  God has revived this story within me, to remind me of that vision I had.  That vision wasn’t meant just for that day 13 years ago.  God wants me to draw hope and strength from it today.  I have no doubt that those two angels were there to welcome my dad and were glad to see him.  I am also sure that they are present among us in my families’ lives, though we don’t see them, as we all deal with our grief in our own way.  I know those same angels must be walking alongside my mom each day as she is able to go on with her life, and have a lot of good days.  Especially those days when we share memories of my dad that can only make us laugh.  I realize now why this story was never written completely…because it wasn’t finished until now.

Through the Tunnel

I haven’t blogged in awhile, but hopefully I can get back to it more.  I’ve wanted posts on here to be positive as well as informative, so that is one of the reasons for my absence.  I have been dealing with some health issues in my life, and am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and have some answers for my crisis.

I believe it really started last November.  There wasn’t one particular day, but looking back, that’s where it seems to have started.  I started feeling really down and just worn out and with my desire for sleep all the time, or having trouble staying asleep, I knew I was depressed.  I started dreading going anywhere, so I didn’t go out.  Around the holidays, I stayed home.  On Thanksgiving Day, Cook took the kids to my mom’s while I stayed home by myself.  I knew there was something really wrong.  In my mind I struggled with the thought of being depressed.  I thought I needed to pray more and fight against the enemy.  But I was praying, I just didn’t have the physical strength to fight.  I’m sure a lot of you have heard one time or another in church that Christians (saints) have no business being depressed.  It’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t always apply.  It’s comments like that, that makes the struggle even harder for a person who is physically weak not necessarily spiritually weak.  This is where I found myself and stopped beating myself up and continued to pray, and asked God to give me some answers.  During this time, along with not wanting to go anywhere, I would have such anxiety when I knew I had to go some place.  Cook would grocery shop for me, or he would have to go with me.  I stopped driving anywhere.  I stopped getting my B12 shot because I just couldn’t think about going to get it in spite of knowing it would help me feel better.  I stopped going to church.  Just the typical day to day stresses as well as the new stresses that the recession has added to many families, mine included, made me feel worse.  Each day I just pretty much existed.  I know when people talk about depression, in the worst cases people cannot even do simple tasks.  That was not the case with me, I was able to carry on my daily tasks, so that gave me hope.  But there were days that I would just cry for no reason. 

Finally one Sunday morning as Cook took the kids to church, I watched them pull away and began to cry.  I knew I had to find answers, this was so unlike me.  I got on the Internet, I don’t know what I searched for but I found this site: www.womentowomen.com I found my answers!!  These are the main points that hit home:

  • What many women don’t realize is that the Pill actually has higher amounts of synthetic hormones than HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) – up to twice as much, depending on the brand.  Even the low-dose pills have 35 mcg of estrogen combined with a progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone), slightly higher than an average HRT prescription.  Article – “Birth Control Pills in Perimenopause”
  • The Pill also chews up B vitamins, including folic acid, and many other nutrients, leaving the body at serious risk for nutritional deficiency.  Studies have shown (and our own patient monitoring backs this up) that women on the Pill are deficient in B vitamins. Article – “Birth Control Pills in Perimenopause”
  • Symptoms of perimenopause can begin as early as 10-15 years before menses completely stop.  Women in their late 30’s, 40’s and early 50’s may transition in and out of a perimenopausal state many times before they finally enter menopause. Article – “Perimenopause – The Beginning of Hormonal Change”
  • Yet fuzzy thinking and an inability to multitask can definitely be traced to your physical state, as can increased anxiety, fatigue, depression and drastic mood swings.  If you have irregular periods, heavy bleeding, hot flashes, sleep disruption, headaches, dry eyes, vaginal changes, hair loss, weight gain, loss of libido or extreme emotional distress, you may be relieved to know that these are all common signs of perimenopause.  Article – “Perimenopause – The Beginning of Hormonal Change”
  • Birth control pills cause high triglycerides. www.webmd.com

It was probably when I was about 39 that I started asking my Gynecologist about coming off the birth control pill.  She assured me that I could stay on it until menopause.  So being that I was used to the pill, I continued to stay on it.  This site states “A conventional practitioner may simply pick an age (typically 50) and move you then from BCP’s (Birth Control Pills) directly to HRT.  This is a convenient way of keeping your appointment time to a minimum.”  I also researched the pill I was on.  I had switched to the Yaz birth control pill in September the same year I found the B12 deficiency.  In my research, I found that Yaz was just put on the market that year.  I also found many women on a forum talking about the symptoms they were having while on Yaz, including depression, anxiety and fatigue.  After finding this info, Cook and I discussed it and decided to take steps in getting me better.  The first step was to stop taking Yaz.  The doctor’s at www.womentowomen.com state “It is true that just dropping BCP’s “cold turkey” will usually result in some very unpleasant symptoms.”  I was fully aware of this, but I knew I had to get off the pill, nothing could be worse than what I was dealing with.  I haven’t experienced any unpleasant symptoms being off the pill.  One thing I have noticed is that I have more acne break-outs, nothing too major though.

What really bothered me about all this is I was regularly seeing three different doctors: my regular doctor, an Oncology Specialist that my regular doctor referred me to, and my Gynecologist.  All of them knew I was on the pill and getting B12 shots.  The Specialist was the only one that actually said he didn’t like the idea of me being on the pill.  He was seeing me for macrocytosis, which means your red blood cells are enlarged.  After dozens of blood tests and a bone marrow aspiration (ouch!) he found no serious reason for the condition and summed it up as an isolated case.  In doing my research I just wondered why didn’t any of these doctors put 2 and 2 together and make the connection to the B12 deficiency and the birth control pill?

My second step was to begin the B12 again.  I decided to try it in pill form.  I did this in the past and realized now that it wasn’t effective since I was still on the pill, it was kinda like pouring water through a funnel.  So I started with a Sublingual B12 pill from Walgreen’s.  Sublingual means “under the tongue” the B12 is absorbed into the blood stream through the vein under your tongue.  These particular pills seem to dissolve too fast.  They helped me feel a little better.  My original plan was to get the TriVita Sublingual B12.  I recently found that they now have a Super Sublingual B12, and those are the ones that I bought, and they have made a significant difference.  I’m sleeping better, my mind isn’t all fuzzy, and I am actually going places again and driving.  I still have some bad days, but I am taking small steps one at a time to regain my health and get back to the way I used to be.  I haven’t been to the doctor yet (that has to do with the not going places thingy) but when I do, I will discuss all this information with them.  I also plan to have my hormone levels checked as well.  Through this I have found that hormonal imbalance wreaks havoc on our bodies, and it doesn’t have to.

This is my journey.  This blog is not to suggest anything to anyone, but to inform.  As women we are all different and our bodies react differently.  As women we tend to suffer in silence as we try to “keep it all together” and not admit we are overwhelmed or depressed.  I just wanted you to know that if you have been feeling like I have been, you are not alone.  These are starting points for you to talk to your doctor about.  We know when we just don’t feel right, don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Check out the web site I mentioned, it has a lot of good information, and will help you in finding the questions to ask your doctor.  Take time to take care of yourself, so that you can be the healthy wife, mother, sister, and daughter that your family deserves.

www.womentowomen.com

www.trivita.com

National Epilepsy Awareness Month

purpleribbonSince it is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, I asked my niece, Jessica, to provide me with some information about epilepsy, and I found her article very informative.

This article was originally printed in
“The Shavings” Calumet College of St. Joseph’s school newspaper in November of 2006,
written by Jessica Lund.

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month.  Currently, epilepsy affects over 2.5 million people worldwide.  This month marks the 39th anniversary of this occasion.

Epilepsy Awareness Month is personally important to me because I was diagnosed with epilepsy in December 2003.  Up until I was diagnosed, I had no clue what the disease was or how it was treated.

I think it is beneficial to educate people on this disorder because, in some cases, it can be contracted later in life.  You aren’t born with it.

Epilepsy isn’t a mental illness.  It’s due to abnormalities in the electrical activity of the brain.  People who have seizures can go through long periods of time in which the electrical activity in the brain is normal and seizures do not occur.

During a seizure, a person may feel, think, act or even move differently.  This is due to the fact that a seizure can temporarily disturb parts of the brain’s functions, including consciousness, memory and even movement.  Seizures can be caused by brain tumors, head injuries, alcohol abuse, family history or problems during birth.  If seizures occur often and need to be controlled with anti-seizure medication, then usually one is put under numerous tests to determine if they are epileptic.

The many effects seizures cause are body tremors, blank-staring, brief unconsciousness, the biting of one’s tongue, or loss of bladder control.  Usually a person can be pulled out of a seizure within minutes.  Either talking to the victim or laying them down are the first things you should do in order to pull an epileptic out of a seizure spell.

Epilepsy goes back to the year 400 B.C.  The Greek doctor Hippocrates wrote the first known book on the disorder.  In the Bible, epilepsy is referred to as the “scared disease”.  During the Middle Ages, people thought of epileptics as demonic and often tried to kill them by means of saving them.  Thus began the association of epilepsy and witchcraft.

It wasn’t until the 19th century that scientists began to discover treatments by medication, which is the leading source of controlling seizure activity for epileptics.  I take about 2500 milligrams of medication per day to control my seizures.  I’m one of the lucky ones that have only suffered seizures at night while sleeping.  I think I’d live with more fear if my seizures could occur at any given time of the day.  Thanks to my medication, I can go about three months without suffereing a seizure.

Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Dickens, Beethoven, Julius Caesar, Thomas Edison, Napoleon, and Leonardo da Vinci, were among the famous people diagnosed with epilepsy.  When looking over that list, I always think that I’m in good company.  After all Van Gogh is my favorite artist of all time.

For more information on epilepsy or how to support Epilepsy Awareness Month, go to www.epilepsyfoundation.org …Because if we are better educated on topics such as these, then maybe one day we can find a cure.

B12 Boost of Energy

I had to do get my B12 shot today. Usually older people have to get B12 shots, but a couple of years ago, my doctor found out that I was B12 deficient. This is how it happened.

I usually didn’t see a regular doctor routinely, I saw my gynecologist yearly, but that was it. Once my dad had his by-pass surgery and was diagnosed with heart disease, my siblings and I knew we needed to be tested for high cholesterol, and the things associated with heart disease by the time we were 35.  At that time my brothers and sister were that age, I had a couple of years yet. They all got tested, and had high cholesterol. I put mine off until I was 38, praying I inherited my mother’s genes. So I went in and my doctor did all kinds of blood work. In addition to my high cholesterol (242 ugh!!) She also found that I was B12 deficient. When I went in for my check-up, I did mention to her how tired I was all the time. Usually when I told people that or my gynecologist, the response would be, “You have 4 kids, you should be tired!” I would then think, yeah, they’re right. But deep down I knew this wasn’t a normal tired. I could get 9-10 hours of sleep in a night and still take a nap in the afternoon. Plus day to day tasks seemed overwhelming to me, it was like my mind was bombarded with all the things I needed to do, and then I had a hard time getting things prioritized. So I was very grateful that my doctor was able to figure this out. She suggested the B12 shots. So to start, I had to get 3 shots within 1 week and then I would get them monthly after that. So I systematically set them up for the week before my little guys 1st birthday. We were having a huge cookout since he was born on the 4th of July, inviting a bunch of people. My husband was working as a truck driver then, so he was on the road for the better part of that week. So I knew I had a lot to do, not to mention it would also be “my time of the month.” When I got the first shot, I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t remember feeling this good. By the third shot, I was unstoppable. The energy, the clarity of mind and thought, and the restful sleep I had once I got the shots was unbelievable!! My husband even noticed the difference right away. When I told him how good I was feeling, it brought me to tears. Because all those years I was having problems, I just thought it was me. It was never said to me directly, but I always felt like it was implied by different ones that I was lazy or lacked motivation. After awhile, I just started to believe I was, because there was nothing I could do to change it. Looking back, I feel this contributed to the bouts of depression I dealt with. At that time I didn’t think I was depressed, just thought I was stressed over different circumstances I was dealing with. So after talking with my husband and just being relieved that there was something physically wrong with me, he actually apologized for not getting me to a doctor sooner. We as women and moms take care of everyone and we are always the last to go to the doctor. We need to be in the best health we can be, because it affects everyone around us. Also, with our spouses, we need to urge them to see a doctor, if something doesn’t seem right. We know when something just isn’t right!! Don’t be afraid to ask questions and talk to your doctor. Keep going until you find one you like and who’ll listen. In that first check-up of mine, I talked with her about different things, and almost didn’t ask her this one last thing, I was too embarrassed, or thought I was being too vain. Even though it had been a year since I had last given birth, I just felt like my stomach seemed too big. When I wasn’t really holding it in, I felt like I looked like I was 5 months pregnant. So that’s what I told her. So she had me lay down and she had me lift up like I was doing a crunch, while she felt down the middle of my stomach. She knew right away what it was, Diastases Recti. That’s the separation between the left and right side of the rectis abdominus muscle which covers the front surface of the belly area. Multiple births and repeated pregnancies increase the risk in pregnant women. So she gave me some exercises to do, and that cleared up as well.

Every month I go in for my B12 shots. I can tell when I need one, my sleep isn’t as sound, and it takes me longer to wake up. When I just get the shot, I can sleep or take a nap, but once I wake up, I’m awake. It’s strange how something that gives you energy and alertness can also give you sound sleep. I plan to continue to get these shots, I have tried talking B12 in pill form, it just didn’t work as well as the shots. So I encourage you as a woman and a mom, if you just don’t feel good or are tired all the time, if you can, see your doctor, and ask questions, am so glad that I did!!