Wednesday, July 30, 2008

South Africa (I wrote this July 30th)

Here's a link to pics from our trip. Things are leveling out for us, Stephen is feeling great and has been exercising a lot more, in effort to really strengthen his heart muscle. My dearest friend Anna is visiting from Hungary, where she currently teaches English in a Hungarian elementary school, and we have been having so much with her over the past week +. It's like having a sister staying with me, slumber parties every night :)! Our good friend Tori is getting married this weekend, so we've been busy with planning and hosting showers (we hosted a couples shower this past wknd, we have the bachlorette party & shower afterwards on Fri nt, then Sat bridal luncheon, rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, Sun the wedding!!!)...but it's all fun stuff. More on that later.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Our whirlwind...

Well, I'm back. And you won't believe what all has happened over the past week when I tell you. No, I'm really serious. You won't believe it (I still don't). Let's start with last Tuesday, two days after we returned. In addition to both of us feeling completely reverse-culture shocked, Stephen sensed a nagging pain in the back of his calf and had felt it since we returned from South Africa Sunday evening. So at about 4:30pm I called my overly knowledgeable, RN, should-of-been-a-doctor, mother and she suggested we get to the ER immediately because this pain could be evidence of a blood clot. So, we go to the ER nearest to us. As soon as those automatic glass doors open I see gobs of people... An amputee moaning loudly as he crutches himself around the lobby, a young "brotha" clenching his side as he's laid out on a stretcher, a young pregnant woman looking as if she's going to toss her cookies.... and I just freeze. I can't bring myself to physically enter this nightmare. So, I call Stephen on his cell phone. Yes, he looks at me crazily standing 100 feet from him, watching through the glass as he fills out his ER paperwork, but he realizes I can't physically make it inside. I tell him to scope it out further and make sure no one is actively vomiting (I have this "super ick button" for vomit). He assures me it's okay, no one's throwing up, and to come inside. Stiff as a board, I enter the God-awful, misery holding tank. One hour goes by, nothing. One and half hours go by, nothing. Two hours. I approach the woman at the desk and say "Uhh, don't you think a blood clot is pretty serious?" to which she responds, "Oh dear. You think he has a blood clot?" I'm livid. I ask to speak to a nurse. The nurse then orders a sonogram and tells us it will take another three to four hours to be transferred to the sonogram department. Well, we promptly collect our things, I dodge the pelting rain and fetch the car, and we head to what we now affectionately call "our best kept secret", the ER at the new Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano (20 min from downtown Dallas where we live & where the first hospital was located). We are seen immediately and the sonogram is in process with 50 mins after arrival. It's like Morton's versus Waffle House. Results from the sonogram and blood test arrive about an hour & a half later and both show no clotting, thank God. We go home, 12:30am, and fall fast asleep. It's all good. Then Friday comes.

The pain in Stephen's calf won't go away, he calls his primary care doctor just to get a second opinion. The doctor tells him to drop everything and get back to the ER. Ooh K. We both leave work, head to our best kept secret, and they perform the same tests all over again and results remain the same---no clotting, thank God. As we head back home, looking forward to a night of total rest, an aspiring young actress erratically trying to make it across six lanes of traffic (uhh, I know. you don't have to say it. i know.) side swipes Stephen's car, with me following directly behind him. Great. So in 103 degree (81% humidity) heat we wait. again. The cop arrives. The tow truck arrives. And after giving statements, we accompany Bill (our tow truck driver) in turning the car into the dealership for repairs. Okay, all is well (well, not really as we're both exhausted and have fuses as short as a tic tac). Then we get home. Turn on my car only to discover gas equally streaming out of two spouts near my rear passenger tire. Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?! Okay fine, it's just a car. Invite Bill over, take it to the dealership, this can easily be fixed. Every thing's okay. But then 6am Monday arrives.

Stephen says, "Honey, are you awake?!" Say no more to me. Three times since we've been married he's said "Honey, are you awake?!" and that means either A) you can't breath because your esophagus has folded over your windpipe or B) your heart is beating 200+ beats a min. It was "B". His heart was beating 200+ beats a min (as opposed to his resting heart rate of 65-70). Immediately we call 911 and the ambulance is there in 5 mins flat. We hop onto the ambulance and begin sticking heart pads all over his chest. (Side note, Stephen is like the opposite of a drama King, so when he furrows his eye brows in pain or says something hurts, I know he's really serious [and to be perfectly transparent it freaks the newlywed crap out of me] ). So after a super fast ride in the back of the ambulance (a place I've never been) to Waffle House we rush to room D53 and about ten nurses, doctors, & techs stick stuff in him and on him and ask a million frantic questions, of which I answered most them. Then no more than fifteen minutes later the doctor says, "It's Atrial Fibrillation." To which I responded, "Oh sh#@." I'm not much of a cursor, but I know that A-Fib is in no way superficial, like his previous heart condition SVT (supra-ventricular tachycardia). (and because of my lady-like response, the nurse thought that I myself was a nurse, familiar with the potential severity of A-Fib). They injected him with drugs to slow the heart, but his heart naturally converted to a normal sinus rhythm before the drugs took effect, thank God. After almost 12 hours in D53, four EKGs & too many IV's, the doctors discharged Stephen with two new prescriptions & the same initial diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation (which is lay man terms is a condition in which part of the heart quivers instead of contracting regularly).

Since Monday, today is the first day we feel gravity again. It's almost like we boarded a roller coaster three and a half weeks ago and today we're cautiously undoing our seat belts to get off the ride. Attempting to regain our equilibrium. There have been questions circling in my head "Why won't this chaos stop?" "God will you show me your power being perfected in our weakness? I'm not totally seeing it." But then the Holy Spirit gently reminds me He's in all of this, he never left or took a nap. Stephen is alive & healthy. And God is working deeply in my heart and Stephen's. He also reminds me, the latter will be better than the former. He has a hope and a future for us.

On a practical note, this wasn't a blood clot (the previous symptoms & two ER trips were sheer coincidence) and Stephen will be seeing his cardiologist soon to discuss long-term treatment. The cardiologists consulted Stephen's primary cardiologist (the one who performed the procedure on his heart back in January) and they all agreed on the two medications prescribed. While in the ER they assured me that this is rarely fatal, it's completely treatable through regular medication (which I'm never ever fond of), and regular check-ups. They told me there's nothing to worry about. Though I half way believed them, I still feel too young to have to think about my husband taking pills & monitoring his heart rate. I still feel fragile, in and out of weepy eyes, and in need of a God I trust. And I would ask you to please pray with us for Stephen's healing. This may be a thorn in his side, but I still ask God for healing. I still ask God for the faith to trust him to do anything, be it to develop perseverance, character & deep hope in our hearts, no matter the outcome; or to miraculously heal my husband today. I want faith for us to trust Him throughout the entire process, no matter how long that may be.

Thank you for making it to the end of this long blog. I wish you were a hug away (but I sure appreciate the "virtual hugs" [Jess;)]).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Reverse Culture Shock

I'm really having trouble getting "here". After only having been gone a couple of weeks, I still feel like a small piece of me is with my Themba baby (the little one I mentioned in previous entry). Everything here feels so insignificant. I almost feel depressed. Every trip makes me feel further and further away from the American dream. Not that I don't appreciate the lavish comforts America greeted me with---I feel oddly grateful for indoor ac & heating, Starbucks, my electric dryer, & big clean grocery stores---but more than that, I want my life to count. I don't want to lose the nagging suspicion that people are dying without Love in so many parts of the world, and the fact that I can impact a small corner of that world. I don't want to numb away the awkward, painful conviction to sacrifice for hurting babies by buying new designer jeans and drinking my double tall iced soy latte. I want to spend my life loving a tiny seemingly minuscule fraction of the world. I want to spend my life. God show me how.

I think this is what's called reverse culture shock. I think I'm in the "irritability and hostility" stage. But don't worry, I don't bite. More from my happy self later....

(Oh and I did miss everyone:).

Friday, July 4, 2008

Better late than never :)

Here is just a small small window into our time here. (Seriously, Stephen has taken hundreds of pictures.) I don't have the time to sit and write how my heart has been impacted by all that we've seen, but I will find that time once we get home. We have spent time with: Zimbawian refugees, HIV positive men, women & children (caring for one HIV baby, pic above, for just a few short hours had the most profound impact on me, out of everything we've done), the local church here (very cool to see how deeply they're involved in all that we've seen, so so cool), and we'll share more details later.

This has been a great trip for us and more specfically our marriage. We feel like we've grown in our leadership together more in the last seven days than we have in our entire year of marriage. Thank you for those of you who have prayed for us on that point. Also, thank you for praying for our team's health NO ONE HAS BEEN SICK!!! I have never before been on a trip where someone didn't have some sort of sickness (be it travelers runs or bronchitus). Thank you Lord for hearing our prayers!!!

We leave here tomorrow night, be back in the States late Sunday. Write more later....