Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer Daze

Hello from the latest hospital room! This is seriously getting to be way too common of an occurrence and one I'm ready to stop for a while. That being said, if I was 30 years younger, I think I would have liked being a nurse...maybe.  If we're friends on Facebook, then you already know most of what I'm going to tell you. If not, here's the latest from Tiffany's surgery today.

She had her thyroid removed which took about two hours. They sent the whole thing to pathology where they'll check it out and she'll find out in a week or so whether the suspicious cells were actually cancer. If not, she's done except for being on medication the rest of her life. If it was cancer, there's more to be done, but it's not as bad as other cancer treatments are. Hopefully that won't be the case.

Tiffany has been drug sensitive her whole life and that knowledge has helped today with the types and amounts of drugs that were used both in surgery and afterward. Even so, she still struggled with some pretty bad nausea most of the afternoon. That's better now and she's taking pain medicaton orally now so the trick is trying to get enough food in her stomach to keep her from getting sick past a throat that is not happy about anything coming near it. Now we wait because only time will improve things. Hopefully tomorrow afternoon will see us heading back to her apartment where she can truly begin to rest and recover.

In the whole fifteen minutes she was resting a little while ago, I was thinking about how when you're in a hospital room, the outside world becomes foreign to you and you function in an alternate universe. It's July, I'm in Florida, and it's hot outside.

But I'm sitting in jeans and a long sleeve shirt over a t-shirt with a blanket nearby because it's cold in this room to keep Tiffany from getting sick as easily. And I'm OK with that because this is one of my babies and I would do anything to make life easier for them if it's within my ability to do so. That's what being a Mom is. And as I was thinking about all of that, this picture flashed through the memory banks of my brain.

It was taken at a 4th of July church picnic when she was around 6 years old and it epitomizes summertime to me. How has time gone by that quickly and where did it go?

There's not really an answer to that question, so I'm going to close this out and attempt to sleep a few hours here and there in an interesting looking reclining chair. Well, in between Tiffany's vital signs being re-checked at midnight, another dose of pain medication being given, more blood drawn sometime near dawn to check calcium and hormone levels and possibly a bathroom trip or two thrown in with her IV cart going along for the ride. OK, so maybe it'll only be a few minutes here and there. Meanwhile, you all enjoy summertime for us the next few days until we're back in commission.

"There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart." ~Celia Thaxter

Saturday, July 16, 2011

On To The Next Thing

It would appear that our two week respite from normal life (do we have a normal life??) has come to an end. Hamp's been back to work this week and the doctor this morning told him things looked great. With a couple of weeks of cardiac rehab so he can be monitored, he'll be back to his regular routine...sort of.

Gone for the most part is the southern tendency to have food smothered and covered. While we probably were at about the 60% ratio of eating well, it was the other 40% that tried to kill him. The last two weeks have found us eating LOTS of veggies and fruits, eating fish more often, reading labels on "food" items only to discover most things actually don't qualify, and drinking enough water to float a small boat, or at least a rubber ducky or two.

Yes, we know that deprivation leads to rebellion so we're being aware of that too, but the reality is that we choose and act on what's important to us. Our days are numbered and we can't add or subtract from what God has given us, but I believe our chooser can determine to a degree what those days might look like. So thanks in advance for your support of keeping us around a little longer. :)

What's next for us? It's late and I need to go to bed so I won't take time now to go into details, but I'll give you an outline so you can be praying for us and maybe try to keep up with us. Good luck!

~We leave tomorrow in two vehicles to drive to GA for the weekend. Hamp's family is quite ready to see him with their own eyes and my mother is celebrating her 80th birthday on Sunday.

~Hamp will head back to TN on Sunday after the celebration and on Monday morning I will head south to FL because...

~Tiffany is having surgery to remove her thyroid. It was discovered somewhat accidentally that she has two nodules growing on it and after biopsies and a second opinion, the doctors agreed that complete removal was the best decision. That means she'll be on medication the rest of her life which she is not a fan of, but it's necessary. She's never had surgery before and is a bit apprehensive about being put to sleep. She'll be in the hospital a night or two, so I'll probably be reprising my "sleep in a chair, if at all" role that I played in December with my Mom.

~An eye doctor appointment last week confirmed that I am now the bearer of two cataracts that will be have to be removed sometime this fall. I am not a fan of getting older, although the alternative keeps it a desirable option most of the time.

~Last but not least, I leave you with my soapbox topic for the day. My car, a Toyota Camry, started making a clunking sound in the steering column that I could not only feel, but hear. It's been doing it a while and had gotten more pronounced so before heading out solo for 11 hours, I wanted to have it checked out. The problem was a part in the steering shaft and after giving them our extended warranty information, I thought everything was going to be taken care of. Wrong! The warranty company refused to pay for the repair because it had not "mechanically failed" yet.  The problem I was having is documented on their Technical Service Bulletin that goes out to the dealers letting them know that potential service repairs don't qualify with the initial reporting problem if they're on that list.

The service technician went to bat for us with the warranty company and went so far as to have his supervisor talk to one of theirs, only to receive that same answer. According to them, the problem wasn't likely to cause a mechanical failure and if it did, they would then fix it. But here's the kicker - should that have happened, my steering would lock and the car would not be able to be turned to the left or right. Can you imagine what disaster might result if that happened going 75 miles an hour down an interstate?

We made the expensive decision to go ahead and repair it but I am armed with information (and a blog) to contact Toyota and express my complaint. I found it amazing that a company who in the not so distant past was dealing with terrible PR over stuck gas pedals that were causing accidents and even deaths was taking something potentially as dangerous so lightly.

By the way, the warranty company (that our current dealer doesn't even use anymore) is Fidelity Warranty Services, Inc. out of Deerfield Beach, FL...just in case you were wondering.

I need to end on a more positive note so here you go:

As the first half of the baseball season ended, the Braves were one win away from reaching 10,000 wins as a franchise.

And tonight, July 15, 2011, they won again! Congratulations to the Braves and for what I think will be a very special second half of the season.

Thanks for reading and I'll be updating as I can from various places in the south. And next time, I promise I'll have pictures!

Monday, July 11, 2011


Well, I certainly didn't see that one coming! Who would have thought that a mere week ago I would have been bringing Hamp home from a hospital stay necessitated by a heart attack? As you can imagine, life has pretty much been on hold until this morning. He headed back to work for hopefully shorter days this week until he sees the doctor on Friday.

The only restriction he's really had was to take it easy so the incision in the groin area where they did the heart cath can heal. He was able to work from home some and we all caught up on the rest that was missed in the last week.

A lot of things have gone through my mind in the last nine days and it will probably take me some time to process before I'll be able to share them with you. But there was something I had already been pondering and everything that happened has magnified the significance of it. I'm not sure I'll be able to rein in my popcorn thoughts, but I'll give it a try.

For background, you need to know that I love the book/movie series "Anne of Green Gables".

Anne unexpectedly finds herself in a loving home after being orphaned, where she speaks often and usually without thinking as she lives life to the fullest. The bane of her existence is her red hair and those unfortunate enough to comment on it in teasing find that out quickly. Yet, the very characteristics one thinks of when seeing a redhead are the ones that make her uniquely Anne...with an "e".

When Marilla decides she can stay at Green Gables, she informs Anne that she must say her prayers that night before she goes to bed. Anne promptly replies that she doesn't say any prayers and give the following explanation:

"People who haven't red hair don't know what trouble is. Mrs. Thomas told me that God made my hair red on purpose and I've never cared about Him since."

Whether I see it in print or in the movie, I always laugh at the immature reasoning of this precocious child. But then I was reading some more in "To Be Told" by Dan Allender, and I realized I'm just like Anne. Consider these words:

"Do you ever feel that you're stuck, just going through the motions, not hearing from God, and not feeling any passion about your life? It's easy to land there if you're not listening to your story...Your story has power in your own life, and it has power and meaning to bring to others. I want your story to stir me, draw me to tears, compel me to ask hard questions. I want to enter your heartache and join you in the hope of redemption. But your story can't do these things if you can't tell it. You can't tell your story until you know it. And you can't truly know it without owning your part in writing it. And you won't write a really glorious story until you've wrestled with the Author who has already written long chapters of your life, many of them not to your liking."

Did you catch the last few words? What does he mean that the Author has already written long chapters of my life, many of them not to my liking at all? You mean, God has written my story like this on purpose???

It was like a spotlight fell on those few words for me. I could concede that God knows everything and allows certain things to come my way with a greater plan in mind, but to believe full authorship didn't set well with me. Yet the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if God really is God, then He has to be fully Author...or He's not God at all.

And then Hamp had a heart attack. So, I'm still wrestling a bit with this one...and yet I'm not sure that I am so much any more. For a control prone person such as myself (freak is a little harsh, in my humble opinion) to accept that Someone else has everything calmly in hand makes me feel free. But I don't think I would be OK with this if I wasn't convinced the motive was out of love and care for me. So maybe the age-old question really isn't "why?" after all. Maybe it's as simple as elementary angst - do you love me? Check one, "yes" or "no"...knowing that "yes" will always be checked.

I'm pretty sure this tension is something that is going to be continued...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Thankful Hearts

I have to begin by saying a very big "Thank You" to every single one of you who have prayed for Hamp and me in the last 24+ hours. He is doing well for a heart attack patient. The blockage in the artery was complete which caused the blood flow to stop and therefore the heart attack. Once the stent was in, the flow was fine again which did reverse some of the adverse effects to the heart. Obviously your body can't go through something like that and go back to the way it was before, but it does seem that the damage was minimal. We're still waiting for test results, medication adjustments, and the follow up visit to the cardiologist in a couple of weeks before we'll probably understand the whole situation.

He was moved out of ICU late this morning and is now in his own room. As comfy as that is, he's hoping he'll get to come home tomorrow where I will become chauffeur for the rest of the week. He can pop in and out of work for a meeting here and there but can't stay. Exercise is limited until the doctor visit and we'll be watching for side effects of medications.

The outpouring of love and concern has been amazing and such an encouragement...especially to me. For you to fully understand the magnitude of it, I have to go back a couple of weeks and tell you a story.

When we found out we were moving to the Nashville area, we had several recommendations of good churches to check out. We knew it would take a while to find the place we were supposed to land and since it was summertime and regular routines are disrupted, we figured that would probably add to the time frame. We made a list and began with the church closest to us and went two weeks ago. It's in a cool location, the worship time was good, and the pastor taught well from the Bible. There was only one thing lacking. From the time we walked in the door until the time we walked out of the door, not one person spoke to us. Not one. I think two people acknowledged our presence with a nod and a half-smile, but that was it.

If you know us, you know that won't stop us from going there if that's the place God has for us. We can talk to a post if necessary and maybe we're supposed to be part of the solution to that oversight. But it was still a glaring lack especially to someone new to the area. It made us both very aware of how we've been guilty of the same thing. Don't we all gravitate to those we already know and who are familiar? It was a good lesson to be reminded of and one I hope I never forget.

And then there was today. Early this afternoon, my phone rang with a local number but I didn't have it in my phone as a contact so I had no idea who it was. When I answered it, this bubbly voice introduced herself as a friend of a friend of a friend with a cousin thrown in there somewhere too. Turns out some of the precious young ladies who were in our small group in Baltimore were together and concerned about us being here by ourselves with Hamp in the hospital. One of them had gone to college 30 minutes from where we lived and was active in her church during that time. I'm still not really sure how it all ties together but with a phone call or maybe two, we were being reached out to by a total stranger whose only connection to us was that we were part of the body of Christ with a need. I felt like our girls from Baltimore were right there with us as this voice reached out in friendship. We're meeting her tomorrow when she comes to visit us in the hospital. Isn't that awesome?? Ellis, you should be proud!! :)

I share this with you not as criticism of what wasn't done, but for the blessing of what was.  I was humbled at how what to us might be such a small thing to do can mean the world to someone else.  It's something we all need to be reminded of...and now we have been!

Lastly, even as I type this on a blog, I'm reminded just how much the world has changed.  We've all heard the criticisms of social media and how it can be addicting and replace real life, etc.  All of that is true and more.  But it has also shrunk this vast globe significantly and we've seen proof of that in the last day and a half.  We've heard from people all over the country that have been part of our lives - some from as far back as high school - all because of a status update here and there.  I embrace change like it's a porcupine and work hard to avoid it most of the time.  Again, I think I'm humbly learning how God really can and does us all things for good.

Our friends arrived this afternoon so we have company now although we're not exactly going to be out on the town.  The hope is that Hamp will make it home before they have to leave.  Thanks again for all the love and prayers - God is blessing us through you.  Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I Was Right!

When our kids were freshmen in high school, their schedule didn't allow for many choices outside of the basics since they were on the college track.  We ended up making the somewhat difficult decision to eliminate Geography so they could take keyboarding and learn how to type.  (My apologies to the many wonderful Social Studies teachers that I know!)  It's not that I thought learning about a world bigger than the state of Georgia wasn't important, but more about the fact that my mother made me take typing (as it was known in the dark ages...and on a manual typewriter even!) and it continues to be one of the most useful things I've ever learned.

Fast forward to today.  Our day began as many have recently with Hamp going to walk/jog before the day got away from him.  He hit the weight room for a few reps on some basic things and came back to the apartment to sit on the balcony and cool off.  Unbeknownst to me, he started not feeling quite right, but he came in anyway and took a shower.  I heard the water turn off and about five minutes later went back into our bedroom area to ask him about the grocery list I was creating.  I found him on the floor by the toilet awake, but uncomfortable and feeling sick.  Of course, that shocked me but I have found myself on the floor by the toilet before when things weren't going well intestinally so I didn't think a whole lot about it.  He doesn't like to be bothered when he's not well, so after making sure he was somewhat OK, I left him for about 5-10 minutes.  When I came back, nothing had changed and I decided that it was time to try and get some specifics.  As I questioned him again for a description of how he felt and what was going on, all he could really say was that he just felt sick and like he had indigestion.  At that word, the light bulb went on and I asked him if his chest felt tight.  When he said it did, I realized he was likely having a heart attack.  I then told him we were going to the emergency room and questioned whether he could ride in the car or if we needed to call an ambulance. 

Side note - health care professionals will probably and possibly rightfully so fuss at me for the decision I then made.  Since I knew where a hospital was and how to get there and that it was only five minutes away and that we live in a gated apartment complex that would take time to talk an emergency vehicle through, I opted to drive him.

When we got to the emergency room and got to the window, the girl at the desk asked what was wrong. I told her I thought my husband was having a heart attack and from that point on, things moved in hyper-speed. In the three minutes I was gone to move the car, they had gathered five or six people and they were surrounding Hamp doing their respective jobs. It was fascinating to watch their urgent, yet controlled quickness as they worked. One of them even checked on me in my chair nearby to make sure I was OK as I sat observing everything. As soon as I heard them confirm the heart attack with the EKG, I knew he would be getting a heart catheterization to try and clear the blockage. Sure enough, within a few minutes, the cardiologist arrived, the cath team arrived, and Hamp was wheeled away. I was directed to a waiting room where I was to wait for them to either complete the procedure or let me know he'd be going for surgery somewhere else.

Side note number two - turning on the light in a dark waiting room and sitting alone in a city you've lived in for four weeks and where you don't know a soul is one of the more surreal things I've done in my life so far.

As you can imagine, I had people to contact to let them know what was going on. I also realized that as hard as it is to receive those phone calls, it's just as hard to make them. Word began to get out and people began to pray. And that's when I realized I had been right all those years ago - geography can be highly overrated.

I've grieved more in the last four years over the relocation of our family in its various ways and the loss of life as I thought it would be than I have in my entire life. Yet in that waiting room this morning, I felt upheld and surrounded as if you had been there physically. In fact, before anybody even knew to be praying, God was already at work keeping me calm and Hamp at peace. When I questioned him later, he said he never felt afraid or worried during the whole process of everything that transpired.

Don't get me wrong - if I could live in the same town with our kids and our family and friends, I'd do so in a heartbeat. But that's not what God has chosen for us right now and today I learned that it's OK. He is here and you are here...because what God has joined together will never be separated.

Whenever you read this, take a minute and hug your loved ones a little tighter and if things aren't good with somebody, then make it good. You never know when your day might start off normal only to discover that it will end with a new normal in its place.