Friday, August 23, 2019

Overnight

On the afternoon we left our house to "run to the ER", the picture in the IG/FB post was 3 or 4 small vines, wrapping around the bottom of this fencing. When we came home one week ago, the vines had completely covered the entire length of fence multiple times over, grown into the siding on the house and out into the shrubbery in front of the house. Although we were gone for quite some time, the amount of growth and change was remarkable. The vines were so tangled and intertwined that I had to cut the vines from both sides just to free them to be pulled out. These things often seem to take over, overnight. 

Reality is though, the multiplication and growth was happening continuously.  It was overlooked until "suddenly" it had taken over.  Many things in our lives often happen this way... missing a few days of our quiet time, our fitness, our commitment to a healthy lifestyle, our rest, our relationships, our routine and seemingly, suddenly, things are a mess! If we're not careful, the new routine takes over with such ease that we don't even realize the change until it too late for a quick fix. 

Sometimes, it's intentionally choosing other things that entangles us, but sometimes, it's just life that can creep up on you. The cardiac event leading to Mark's surgery, happened just this way.  Sure there were several symptoms along the way, but honestly, we didn't even see them as such.  Anything unusual was brushed off as a side effect of the stress he was under. The first day of July there was a definite "event" that happened and although I was deeply concerned and asked him if we could just find an urgent care (it was our "date day" for our anniversary which had been the day prior), he shrugged it off and said he would just try to rest a bit and see what happened. I chalked it up to an stress brought on by an unexpected message from earlier that day and tried not to worry about it. A little time passed and he said he was feeling better. This event or episode happened again a few nights later and then again once we were home and we decided to have it checked out at the emergency room. After a pricey overnight stay with an echocardiogram & nuclear stress test, the doc on his case gave him a shady answer about the test results, but sent him home to follow-up with his cardiologist. He was placed on a heart monitor for a 30-day observation. We began taking inventory of some things that were symptoms of a problem but we had not even realized it. In fact, we went all the way back to March with one of these episodes.... Less than a week after the heart monitor appointment, we were back in the ER. His heart rate had been high all day and he had felt terrible. He completed his work responsibilities for the day before allowing himself to go home to rest. But rest didn't bring the results we hoped for and his heart rate continued to climb into the 130s while laying down. He felt the company "watching" his heart monitor would call if there was an issue and since they hadn't he kept trying to rest. Finally he had enough and he was probably annoyed at my asking if we could go to the ER so we made arrangements for the kiddos and headed to Gainseville. 

There are so many facets of this trial that allowed more vines to quickly grow and could have lulled us into complacency, but God was so faithful in giving us the right questions to ask and sending the medical professionals we needed at just the right moment. The ER doc tried to convince us that this was stress or a panic attack but thanks to a cardiologist that happened to stop by the ER and just dropped in to see Mark, they decided to keep him overnight for observation again. Total deja vu from just 10 days prior but he went along with it and this time, planned for a heart cath the following day. 

The cath showed 6 blockages. SIX. Three of which were 100% blocked. Our story could end here and God would receive so much glory for keeping him to this point!  I know blockage placement plays a huge role, but there are folks that don't make it with one 100% blockage. Crazy to think that the ER doctor had shrugged his symptoms off as stress, the attending doc less than two weeks prior guessed that what they were seeing was his "normal", in their words, and that the two main tests they had run did not show a major marker of such a serious issue!! 

I'll share more of our hospital stay later, but for now, just know we are home, seeking quiet, rest and healing as well as making up for missed time with our kids. Every day, I give him two IV antibiotics through his picc line. Home health comes about twice a week to check on him. We have multiple doctor's appointments in the coming days to watch his progress in healing from the heart surgery as well as keep a close eye on the abscess. The goal is to do all we can to keep this infection under control and prayerfully shrinking so that there will not be another surgery in the future. We want to be aware of every little vine that may try to shoot up overnight and get rid of everything that doesn't line up with God's purpose and plan for our lives. If you've whispered even one prayer for us, we are overwhelmingly grateful. For all the blessings that so many have given to us during this time, we call on Heaven to multiply that back to you. We also hope that our story will encourage you to assess the vines growing around your life and keep them in check. God gives us the strength to do what seems impossible when we strive to do it in His strength, not our own! 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Clarity

So I know I've thrown up several posts the past day or two that may seem like every single diagnosis has been given to us, so I want to hopefully give some clarity on where we are and how to be unified in prayer with us over the coming days. It's a bit long, so if you just want to know where we are now or how we are praying, then skip to the last three paragraphs ;)

When we came in through the ER Sunday, the initial thought was pneumonia.  Any major surgery comes with a risk for pneumonia, especially a surgery in the chest cavity and the fact that they had to go back to the OR and open him a second time causing more soreness and a decrease in his ability to work his lungs really well. Add the fever and the fact that Mark's lungs were junky prior to surgery, it was a pretty obvious diagnosis, or so we thought. Then, because of the severity of the fever and the results of the x-ray and initial CT scan, then said it was likely sepsis and a milder case of pneumonia. Antibiotics were hung immediately and have been going almost around the clock since Sunday. 

Monday & Tuesday, fevers continued to be persistent and still pretty high which made the doctors question that the diagnosis of pneumonia and sepsis could be causing all the symptoms he was having at the time & not responding in a typical manner to the antibiotics. In the meantime, chest x-rays were being taken every day and labs drawn every 8 or so hours. They also felt the need to check for blood clots in his legs. Late Tuesday evening I noticed drainage from the top of Mark's chest incision. In fact, it worried me because it was mixed with blood, but if you know Mark, those things don't sit well with him so I didn't say anything, but did watch it, and even got up and looked at it during the night. The next morning, I noticed more coming from the surgical site and mentioned it to Mark. Shortly after this, the NP came in and we told her about the drainage, so she proceeded to see what she could get out of it. I'll just leave that there... poor Mark!  

Wednesday, the CT (cardio-thoracic) surgical team called in the Infectious Disease doctors to join the case and see if they had suggestions that could help us all get to the bottom of this. After they visited on Wednesday afternoon, a more detailed CT scan was ordered for that night. The first one on Sunday was looking specifically at the lungs, for pneumonia and blood clots, but this next one was for the entire abdomen and chest cavity. 

Thursday morning started by finding out that the blood clot test revealed a small clot that they will watch, but it is not in the deep vein, which is a very good thing. They also talked about their concern for the portions of both lower lungs that are basically collapsed and need to be worked to prevent from pneumonia. Then the NP for the CT team came in and gave us the results of the CT which definitely threw us. She said a mass of fluid had been found under his sternum which would likely mean a trip to the OR. In an attempt to process and understand what this would entail I asked, "do you mean like major surgery?" To which she responded, well it won't be like we're working on his heart..." Again, not what I wanted to hear, but I then understood she meant to open his chest for a third time. Our minds & hearts were reeling. All we could do was cry and pray. Mark said, please get people praying. And you did. And we can't express our gratitude. We had several hours of heaviness and emotion, but the peace of God truly came and filled our room, our hearts our minds. Just before lunch time, the CT surgeon came in with the NP as promised and we anxiously listened to every word he said, but there was a lot going on in the room. They began setting up for a bedside procedure to pull fluid from his chest to send off for a 48 hour culture. This was an absolute answer to prayer in that moment. Taking time to figure out what's in there as well as just time to process through prayer what could be, was what we needed. (Friday morning we were told they may wait for a 5-day culture before making a decision on surgery)

Later Thursday, the Infectious Doctor (ID) came back to visit and shared her thoughts and spent time just sitting with us and answering questions. We are thankful for the time she spent with us. So here's where things are... the fluid that was collected is from quite a large mass behind the sternum and was sent to the lab for cultures. The problem lies in that fact that he has been on strong antibiotics for 5 days already and the likelihood of something growing is slim. This is a septic infection that is responding to the antibiotics as it should. The problem is that this is basically an abscess and like an abscess in the mouth or on your skin, antibiotics will lessen or remove symptoms while you are taking them, but when the antibiotics end, the infection returns and you're back where you started. Typically, the entire abscess has to be removed to fully clear the problem and her greatest concern is that if it remains the bone itself could become infected causing far greater problems. We asked for another CT at the end of the culture time frame, just to see what things look like before making a surgical decision & she agreed that would likely be warranted. The CT surgical team has not had the same thought process on treatment as the ID team, so this is something they will have to discuss over the next couple of days. We are praying they will be on exactly the same page with the best treatment for Mark, because it will be God's plan, not just their education that leads them to his treatment!

We are asking God to supernaturally remove the fluid/mass/abscess. We are thankful they did not rush him into surgery and as much as we DO NOT want another surgery, we even more want to go home and stay home.  We do not want to go home just to have the infection rage again and us end up having to come back. Here's how we are praying and we ask that you join us in a unified prayer: 
God, we know that in an instant you spoke and everything we see came into existence, so we know that you don't need time, but for Your glory, would you supernaturally remove this fluid in the waiting. Whether the culture shows growth or not, let the CT scan show the mass gone. Let it baffle every person that lays eyes on the scans. Give us opportunity to share of your love and power at work in our lives! Please strengthen and encourage Mark as we wait. Help us take captive every thought that doesn't line up with healing and the hope of Heaven. Fill us with the mind of Christ. Give us rest in our minds and bodies. Healing for the blood clot. Healing for the lungs that are not wanting to function as your created them to do. Healing for every point of pain from the surgeries. Healing for our emotions. And blessing on every person that has called out our names in prayer, prepared a meal, loved on our babies or given to help us through this time. In the powerful, name of Jesus. AMEN!

My cousin texted her favorite verse, Exodus 14:14 to me last night. It is one of my favorites as well and one that I use often with my children. "The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still!"  This is true clarity. Recognizing there is a battle, but relinquishing control to the One who holds the universe in His hands! Whatever battle you may be facing today is not outside the realm of His control - but only when you release your control over it. Situations like we are in right now cause us to feel totally helpless and out of control but can also help us readily see His ability, because we literally have to sit in an 8x10 room and wait. Everyday life can be tougher though. We want control. We want to fix situations or make them happen on our time frame... Whatever bump, hill or mountain you are facing - stop, be still and let God fight the battle for you. He will strengthen your frame to stand up to the "life" that flies your way, while He fights the battle! Be encouraged, Friends! 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

What a response...

I would guess that if you're reading this, it's because you've heard that Mark is back in the hospital. Let me tell you, we are truly humbled at so many people praying with and for us, checking in through social media and phone. It is a true blessing to be connected to so many wonderful people! 

It is tough to keep everyone "up to date" so to speak and although we prefer to keep health situations private, I'm going to share with you all that's going on right now. We know the power of two or three agreeing and we have that already, but we need to take it to another level. We are speaking to these situations with the authority of Christ living in us and would love for you to join us in this. 

I know I still haven't really shared what brought us here to begin with, and I will, but some other time. Saturday night Mark started feeling really awful. He spiked a fever and we were up about every 10-15 minutes for almost the entire night. I really wanted to take him to the ER when I got the first 103.1 temp, but he declined. The next day, Sunday, was Trenton's birthday and Mark was worried about ruining the plans we had for him in celebration of this special day. He tried to be a tough guy and held out until candles were blown out and presents were opened. I know that deep down he was hoping for some vast improvement, but when I checked his temp at this point it was well over 102. We arrived at the ER around 4p Sunday afternoon and they quickly moved him to Trauma 7. Things moved quickly, hard questions were asked...hard for me to hear, but I knew the seriousness of the situation. Labs, blood cultures, x-ray & CT scan were all done in record time. The ER doctor said after his first brief exam and a temp of 103 again, "he will 1000% be admitted". He then put his hand on my shoulder and said, "thanks for bringing him in". 

He is currently in ICU in the cardiac area. His surgeon saw us mid-morning Monday and said, "The diagnosis, for now, is pneumonia and sepsis. But to be totally honest, I don't fully know what we're dealing with, because the labs & x-ray finding don't fully match up. We will figure this out though." He's had many lab sticks, more x-ray, tests for blood clots in his legs & help from respiratory therapy. We do know there is fluid around his heart, more than should be a week post-open heart surgery. There is also fluid around his lungs and very decreased lung sounds, similar to a partially collapsed lung on his left side, and some findings consistent with pneumonia. Two broad, yet strong IV antibiotics have been being pumped alternately, almost around the clock, since we came in. His fever is not quite as high, but he is not responding to these antibiotics like you typically would. He also received a blood transfusion yesterday and may get another today. He is weak and irritable. If you've been around him very long, you've probably heard the phrase, "I'm over it!" hahahaha, and he is definitely  over all of this. He mostly feels like sleeping and is having a tough time staying awake. Any noise or talking are not his friends - it's like every sound is amplified, so I try to speak very softly. I'm also using extra measures to cut down on germs. LOTS of hand-washing and hand sanitizer as well as not really leaving his room much to minimize my exposure to germs in the hospital.

A few days ago, I started reading Joel. I don't always read through all the "extras" that my Bible has in introducing a new book of the Bible...just depends on what I'm studying at the moment. I'm still early in my digging into this book because, well sleep deprivation, ain't no joke!  ;)  I can thankfully say that Monday night (the night I'm writing this) I slept from about 12:30 until about 3:30, straight! It was heavenly! But back to Jesus...Joel prophesied to the Israelites in the middle of a catastrophe that threatened their very existence on the earth. Here is Joel, and just like today, there are two very polar perspectives on suffering and they are not dependent on the setting, just on the mindset of the sufferers. When the pressure is turned up and struggles loom larger than life, we usually respond one of two ways...and honestly I don't like the extremes, but I find it true in most any situation:
      1. We turn to God and are brought into a deeper more intimate, even new, relationship with Him. Here we learn more about His character and discover new facets of His ability and love. 
or 
      2. We turn away. We blame Him or others for the situation we have found ourselves in and if we're not careful, we doubt His existence. 

It's a hard reality to accept that if, in the midst of chaos or hell on earth, we are not entering a new relationship with Him, it's likely we have turned away.  We can soften this or we can face it head on. Mark & I (and our families) are facing each moment of this incredibly difficult time in our lives as growth, new relationship and opportunity for God to doing big, new things in and through us! It doesn't matter if your "suffering" is big to someone else or not, if it is difficult for you, then God cares and it's an opportunity for growth! 

I will declare that God is Jehovah Rapha. That God is in control. That God has not and will not abandon us. That God did not bring this suffering on Mark, but that He sure can work through it. That we will walk out of this in a new season of relationship with Him, with a deeper love & respect for each other, with more grace, gentleness & time for our children, and with a greater passion & purpose in our ministry! 

Thank you for praying!!   

Didn't Know How to LOVE

What a downer title, I KNOW...  Especially 2 flippin' days before Valentine's Day, right?   I am completely undone tonight thou...