I’m sitting next to my husband’s hospital bed, this morning, and I am rejoicing! God is so incredibly good and throughout this entire experience, has been so incredibly present — opening doors, paving the way, protecting us — I’m feeling blessed and grateful. I’ve had several people look at me like I’m crazy when I talk about the last six months that way; and I don’t generally get too personal on this blog, but things are going to be changing for our family, and thus for my blog. I decided there’s no better time to give you a glimpse into what that will mean and why I am so certain of the Lord’s presence in our situation.
First of all, it stinks to be sick. It stinks like crazy to be sick, long-term. I get that. But, I also get that no matter what the world and circumstances can throw at us, we have all we need to overcome and persevere; and we are DEFINITELY not doing it alone. Choosing peace IS an option. Just because it isn’t the easiest one, doesn’t eliminate it as a choice and just because we might momentarily give in to fear, anxiety or a full-on pity-party, it doesn’t mean we’ve lost our faith or that that perfect peace can’t be regained. We can choose it, again. Even if we step out of the light, our Lord and Savior is there to welcome us, when we choose to step back in. I have been a personal witness to that truth more times than I could count over the last six months.
David woke up on the 4th of July, unable to get out of bed or stand on his own. As he has had a herniated disc, in the past, my first inclination was to get him straight to our chiropractor. My daughters and I had been trying to get him in there for months, but he stubbornly resisted and so, though I knew he was in pain, I was grateful that it was the impetus to nudge him into a healthier choice and getting him back into the habit of maintaining his health, in that way. My sixteen-year-old son and I basically carried him back and forth to the car, those first days and weeks, going to chiropractor appointments and getting what turned out to be another herniated disc treated. Can you imagine being thankful for a herniated disc? Not knowing the path and plan God is using to work to His perfect end, makes it easy not to be, in the heat of the moment. I can sit here, today, and tell you I’m so indescribably grateful for the help and protection it provided my husband. I was NOT as patient and understanding in the middle of the problem, but still I can say I was thankful for the great care and the knowledge of our chiropractor.
After a couple weeks, David began improving and seemed to be able to bear more of his own weight when he stood or walked. We could see some great progress and were very encouraged. Then, like flipping off a light switch, he began to regress, but the pain was coming from a new area — his hip. Our chiropractor continued to work, maintaining and improving his spine, even doing an MRI of the herniated area, to make sure he wasn’t missing something; but finally recommended we visit our medical doctor when the hip pain continued to increase. He felt like we needed a full-on x-ray of the hip.
Wouldn’t you know our family physician of more than 20 years, was retiring right at that time, so we saw several different doctors over the course of some very UNproductive and unhelpful appointments and still never got an x-ray. Since we weren’t getting help there, our chiropractor suggested a physical therapist and we tried that. He said he would gladly work with David, but not until the hip was cleared and told us to see our physician for a hip x-ray. lol We tried one more time and ended up with a very young, very I-know-what-your-problem-is doctor, who wasn’t much interested in listening to us. He gave David a steroid injection in the offending hip joint and sent us home.
David’s pain was excruciating and the injection had only magnified it. I drove straight back to our chiropractor and when he opened the door to the exam room, I asked if he would x-ray David’s hip. He dropped everything and did that for us. Within a few minutes he had called me into his office, showed me the x-rays (rolled them up and gave them to me, actually), coaching me in exactly what to say when we got to the emergency room. He was certain David had a bone infection (A huge portion of the ball of his hip was gone and the surface of it, as well as the socket it fit into, was jagged and uneven, leaving bone jammed against bone, with no insulating space or cartilage. No wonder he was in pain!) and also certain that I would need all the information I could have, since they weren’t likely to take the word of a chiropractor or just me. He was correct on that score, but without the very clear and excellent x-rays he had taken, I am certain they would have just sent us home, as with previous visits. Praise God for the herniated disc that took us to him and a chiropractor who was willing to listen and take action. The hospital took their own x-rays, of course, after looking at the ones I brought in. They diagnosed David with avascular necrosis or a bone infection (Imagine that! 🙂 ) and referred us to an orthopedic surgeon for an appointment, the next morning.
Not being able to get the doctor recommended for a procedure seems like a bad thing, but as with everything in God’s plan, His ways make our own seem absurd, in hindsight. The orthopedic surgeon that we met with, instead, has been patient, compassionate and incredibly skilled. He took the time to know our personal situation as a single-income, homeschooling family and while providing the most conservative and wonderful care for David, was acutely aware of the insurance, family leave and disability criteria that needed to be taken care of, as well. David had surgery on August 26 to debride (say like dee-breed) his femur and hip of the staph infection that had been eroding them away. During his stay we witnessed another of God’s mercies, when it was determined that he had a responsive strain of staph and not MRSA. What a great blessing and relief that was! His stay was a little longer than expected, because he developed a severe afibrillation during surgery that is now being controlled with medication. The last day that we were at the hospital, I was trained to administer his IV antibiotics, because those would continue for four weeks at home. To be allowed to do that, instead of paying for home health care, was yet more Divine protection. God provided, again.
Originally, the prognosis was that David would have to be infection-free for 6 to 12 months, before his hip could be replaced. He had already been off work for a little over 2 months and had about three and a half months of short-term disability left. When that ran out, the company he has worked for, for a little over 23 years, said that he would be terminated, meaning we would lose our insurance and income, long before his hip could be replaced. That came as a blow, but we were so focused on getting him healthy, we just kept plugging along and trusting God to put things together in the way that was right for our family. He was having blood tests every 30 days to be sure there were no signs of infection. He also began doing physical therapy, to strengthen the muscles in his legs, so that they would hold his bone in place better, even if the hip couldn’t. It went well and he got stronger and stronger.
In August, just before his surgery, we also realized that the 40% disability payments would not come close to covering our normal expenses and the mounting hospital and doctor bills. We decided to try and mortgage our house. That doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people, I know, but we have been debt-free for going on 10 years, now, and having to make the decision to do that so we would have cash to get by on, while he continued out of work, and I could continue homeschooling our kids, was HUGE to us. Just asking to do it was HUGE. When we finally decided that was what we should do, we discovered that it’s not so simple if you’re on disability. Any possible loan would be considered against the small disability income, not his typical income. Even if I were to get a job, the income would not be considered since it would not have been at least a one-year work history, plus if I were working, I wouldn’t be available to provide his care. We pretty much ran into walls with every mortgage option, being turned down time after time, and were beginning to go ahead and look at jobs for me, when our banker called with a special loan option that could work for us. Using David’s disability checks and the small income I had from the blog, last year, on the application, we squeaked by with just enough monthly income to qualify for a small line of credit, using our house as collateral. It would be enough to get us by for at least 6 months. The fact that we had been turned down for every option and then the bank called, out of the blue, to tell us about this option, could only have been the hand of God.
We set about the business of living and getting David healthy. We did IV antibiotics, at home, three times a day for 4 weeks. He started physical therapy and after several weeks, grew stronger than before his injury. Strengthening his leg muscles helped to hold his femur in place, since the ball of his hip wasn’t there to do it and that allowed him to have somewhat less pain. After another month, he was no longer using the walker, graduating to crutches, and doing well as long as he didn’t put any weight on his left leg. After another month, he began using a cane and felt so much more “normal”. The good news is that at the beginning of November, our orthopedic surgeon told us that all of David’s blood work since the time of his surgery had come back free of infection and that if he continued that way, his hip replacement surgery could be moved up to right after Christmas, instead of having to wait until March or April. What a miracle!!! Not only had God protected him from colds, flu and bronchitis that were going on all around us, (even in our own home), he would be back on his feet, months earlier than anticipated and the surgery would happen before the end of the year, meaning we would not have to repay all our insurance deductibles!
We continued physical therapy, so he could become stronger and stronger, because his employer told him if he would work the last 30 days, before his hip replacement surgery, he would be reclassified as an active employee and could reapply for a second round of short-term disability, which would provide a 40% paycheck, and more importantly, protect his job for an additional 26 weeks (6 months). Amazing! They had been so negative about the chances of his keeping his job, previously, so we were ecstatic about this change of heart.
David returned to his work as a machine operator in an automotive manufacturing plant, on November 26. This proved to be the most challenging part of the experience, because it was incredibly painful and he was not able to take the prescription pain medications and still work in the plant. More evidence of God’s protection and love was showered on us, each day, as David was able to muscle through and put in an 8 hour shift. I will never forget the sacrifice he made for our family, to do that. During the third week, the plant was winding down for the holidays, with less work available and so he was able to work 4 hour shifts and have them count as a full day. In his final week back at work, he only worked two hours each day, to achieve the coveted “active” status and then was off for the Christmas/New Year’s holiday. He celebrated Christmas at home with our kids and grandkids, even playing “Grandpa Claus”, to the delight of the little ones.
So, here we are, back to where I began this story. I am sitting next to his bed in our hospital room. As I finish this post, that I began yesterday morning, he is resting quietly and has logged two full laps around the hospital perimeter with a walker. He is able to put his own body weight on his left leg, for the first time, since July 4th, and he is jubilant! The greatest fear, at this point, is that he feels so good that he will over-do; so the staff is constantly reminding him to take things slowly. In the 48 hours since his surgery, physical therapists and his surgeon have told us that he has progressed well beyond what a typical patient can do after several days of rehab, when they’ve been released from the hospital. The hip replacement went “textbook perfect” and we can do nothing more than give praise and glory to our gracious Father in heaven for his protection and intercession throughout the experience. Doctors anticipate that because of his young age and physical strength, the typical 6 month recovery will more likely be shortened to 2 and that he will be able to return to work, healthy and strong, as though none of this had ever happened. There won’t be any IV therapy at home, this time, so that will seem super simple. The nurse has just come and trained me to give him injections for his blood thinner, though, as we will need to continue that for 10 days after returning home. That’s the most technical thing we will have to do. Then life will be, sort of, back to normal. It’s such an amazing feeling to see him healthy, hopeful and smiling. God is so good!
So, though I haven’t explained my sometimes long absences, from the blog, this year; you have a better idea of where I’ve been and why. The other reason for this lengthy story is to bring you up to speed on what all this means for our family and, therefore, for the blog. My husband’s income will not absorb the new mortgage and some of the additional medical bills that will be coming after the deductibles kick in again, January 1. This means that our family will be beginning a new adventure, one that I never dreamed we would take, but one that God has paved the path for without any reservations over the past few weeks. Though we have homeschooled our children for the last 23 years, our two youngest are officially enrolled in public school for the semester beginning in January, and I will be looking for a job, outside our home, as soon as David is strong enough to get along in the house on his own. I would love to have you praying for this time of transition for us. Somehow, I think the kids will adapt more quickly than Mom. 🙂 It’s hard to imagine not having them home with me. I AM looking forward to the opportunity to enjoy a work environment and grown-up conversation, again, after 29 years at home. 🙂 Change can be good, it’s just different. My hope is to continue the blog, though I know there will be less time to do it. My intention is to fine-tune it’s content to be almost exclusively recipe and house-related, with any giveaways reflecting that theme.
I love writing this blog and I love all of you. Seriously! So many of you have become friends, though we have never physically met, and I appreciate the way you rally around and support and encourage. When I began the blog, I had no idea such a thing would be possible. What a blessing you are in my life! I know you will continue to pray for and lift up our family, as we venture into this new chapter of our lives, and I want to thank you for that. It means so much! In the meantime, I know you may see fewer posts, until I get our new routine down, but I want you to know, I’m still here. And I can’t wait to “see you around the blog”! Have a blessing-filled New Year!
Much love! ~Glenda