So, this time last week, I was standing out on my front porch waiting on my two boys to get home from high school.
Before they could even get out of the car, I greeted them with a warm and friendly cry of: “NONE of the clothes are right! ALL OF THE CLOTHES ARE WRONG!”
They looked at me with that look of, “Our mom has gone crazy, and we have no idea what to do right now.”
I broke out into a hysterical fit of laugh-crying and couldn’t stop for several minutes. I pulled myself together and begged them to please, please, please just watch their sister so I could go to the mall. I had been trying to find something to wear to our 30th high school reunion, and apparently, every single item of clothing in my overstuffed closet was completely wrong.
Why, oh why, are these jeans adding 30 years to my face? Why does this shirt seem to be reflecting light onto all of my wrinkles?! What is going on with all of these clothes?!?
Obviously, the clothes weren’t really the source of my nervous meltdown at that moment. It’s actually been a very crazy couple of months around here. I’ve been working a lot more than usual, and just trying to hold things together with the usual stress of getting into a new fall routine with four very active kids.
I had been half dreading, half excited about our high school reunion for… oh, about 19 years and 364 days since I went to our 10-year reunion. (JUST KIDDING!) I was very excited to see some friends I haven’t seen for a long time. At the same time, I was scared silly that it might kind of feel like… you know… HIGH SCHOOL!
I also seem to get very anxious these days any time I have to leave the comfort of my home-cooked food for more than a day. Two weeks ago, we went to Des Moines to celebrate my brother’s 50th birthday. It was super fun to be with my siblings, parents, nieces and nephews for the weekend. But I also got pretty sick from eating on the road, and then that makes me discouraged that my life has taken this turn that makes it so stinkin’ hard to just … EAT!
Anyway, the high school reunion turned out really great. I found a cute shirt and a pair of jeans to wear, and quite frankly, no one cared in the slightest about the clothes. I was afraid I wouldn’t recognize anyone or they wouldn’t recognize me. Instead, most people looked pretty much the same, and it was so fun to see how warm, friendly and nice everyone was. I was worried I wouldn’t know what to say to people I hadn’t seen in 30 years, but it actually felt very natural to just pick up right where we were.
Since my husband and I both grew up in the same small town in southern Illinois, we also got to drive by our old homes, the high school and some of our favorite hang out spots. (We weren’t actually friends in high school, so we have separate, but overlapping memories.) Everything was much smaller than how we remembered it to be, but it was super fun to see. Anyway, confronting all of my fears of returning to high school turned out to be quite therapeutic. I pretty much felt like I could run a marathon or climb a mountain or something after that.
As soon as we returned from our five-hour drive home, I had about 10 minutes to spare before I needed to go shoot some family photos for a friend. A few years ago, I started taking photos for people, and it kind of got out of control. I decided it would be better for my stress level to just say “no” when people asked me to shoot photos. But several people have asked me lately if I could take photos for them, and I just decided to say “yes” to a few people. It was really fun to get out with my camera for an hour.
The weather was absolutely perfect. The park we chose was gorgeous. The lighting was amazing. And my subjects could not have been any more beautiful.
On Monday, we went on our annual #forcedfamilyfun trip to the corn maze for Columbus Day. A few of the kids brought friends along, and it was really nice to just spend time together.
Now, I have one more really intense, crazy week at work to finish a bunch of stuff that has to happen by next weekend. After that, I’m finally going to clean my house and catch up on about 30 loads of laundry.
Thankfully, I have several new outfits to wear because I bought a few “spare” outfits, just in case I got to the reunion and whatever I brought to wear made me look too fat, or too thin, or too old, or too high school-ish. You know. It’s always best to pack five outfits for a one-night trip. Just in case.
Have a great weekend!
CapableDad was almost ready for surgery. We had talked to nurses and the doctor’s assistant who reviewed his medical history, got his IV in place and recorded his blood pressure. All that was left was a visit from the anesthesiologist.
She was a female doctor who was probably close to 60. She explained to us that she was going to give CapableDad some pain medication in his IV and then she would insert a needle into his neck to administer a pain block to his right shoulder.
She rubbed her hand along the side of his neck to show us the area where she would insert the needle.
“Ohhhh, he has a niiiiiice neck,” she said with a big smile. She felt his neck again. “Yes. He has a very nice neck.”
She looked at me and laughed. “Oh, we’re all vampires,” she said jokingly.
After she left the room, my husband and I both cracked up. It seemed like her laugh was just a little too sinister. Could it be that she really WAS a vampire?
And if not, can you imagine a male doctor making the same remark about a female patient? I’m not sure my husband would have thought it was funny if the tables were turned.
After the surgery, CapableDad said he couldn’t remember a thing about having a needle injected in his neck. He couldn’t even remember counting to 10. He said the anesthesiologist told him to lie down on something like a bean bag chair and said, “This isn’t going to be very com…fort…a……”
And that was it.
I was in the waiting room by then, but I think I know the exact moment the needle went in. I felt a sudden pain in my back. It was the unmistakable pain right in the spot where my epidural went in for each of my four C-sections. Although I have felt that pain once in a while during the last 11 years since our first child was born, I haven’t felt it in more than a year.
I have had that pain in my back almost constantly since CapableDad’s surgery last Thursday. I’ve also been ridiculously tired. While his super-powered pain medication often gives him extra energy, it seems that with each pill he takes, my grogginess grows.
What was going on with my extreme exhaustion and this pain in the back? I looked on the Internet for answers, and that’s when I came up with one possible explanation.
It’s a scientific fact (studied by scientists and PROVEN by medical professionals) that when someone you love goes through an extremely painful situation, you can also feel their pain. It happens most often to a husband during his wife’s pregnancy. You’ve probably seen those guys who grow a gut as large as their wife’s pregnant belly? Sometimes they have fantom labor pains, too.
They even have a name for it. Couvade Syndrome. That must be it. I diagnosed myself with this medical condition. I would need to take frequent naps, eat extra chocolate and take hot baths. That would be my only hope for a cure.
But as I thought about it more, I realized there could be another possible cause.
My husband has been in so much pain that he’s only tried to take a shower one time. His shoulder is still covered in Sharpie marker where the doctor mapped out a diagram of his muscle structure on the outside of his arm. Just below that is the initial of the doctor and the anesthesiologist who both left their tattoos to make sure they operated on the correct side of his body.
Maybe she WAS a vampire after all. Or maybe it was voodoo. Was it just a coincidence that I felt that sharp pain at about the same moment she would have injected the needle in his neck? Could there be more to the fact I’ve been fighting illness and fatigue since we got home from the hospital?
I realized I needed to get rid of her markings.
I carefully took rubbing alcohol and a cotton ball and did my best to wipe away her initials still there in Sharpie marker.
My back is feeling better already.
Or maybe I just need a nap.
Today is Day 3 after Capable Dad’s surgery. We both woke up feeling worse for wear.
His shoulder is in immense pain. His back hurts from trying to sleep upright. His head is foggy from so much pain medication.
I woke up with a sore throat, runny nose and stuffed up head.
I also woke up so thankful for the people handling my Sunday morning responsibilities at church this morning. I looked at the clock and added an hour for the time change and realized there was no way we could have made it on time. I was so glad for the freedom to sleep this morning.
While I overslept, the boys were helping their dad fill up the ice machine that pumps freezing cold water into his ice pack. The 7-year-old has been busy all morning practicing her hand stand walk overs in the family room. And the 2-year-old runs around in circles singing a medley of her favorite songs: “Twinkle-star! Twinkle-star! I love Barney! I love Barney! Jesus Me!”
The most difficult part of yesterday was helping CapableDad do the physical therapy he is supposed to do at home before he goes back to his second torture session on Monday. We have a pulley system that hangs over the top of the door. He straps the injured arm to one handle and the goal is to pull it up to a 90-degree angle. He doesn’t move his arm at all the rest of the day, so the shock of doing this exercise is great.
He’s only supposed to do it for three minutes. We are both extremely relieved when he makes it that long. It’s really hard to watch him in so much pain as he slowly move his arm up and down again. But he’s a trouper and determined to do his exercises.
We learned at physical therapy that Day 7 is when the human body starts laying down scar tissue like crazy. Once in place, the scar tissue is as strong as bone, so it will be very difficult to regain movement if it settles. The goal is to get as much movement back as possible before the scar tissue forms.
After three minutes of physical therapy, we get the ice and pain killers ready. The physical and mental exhaustion set in, and he’s usually knocked out for a while.
Overall, we are so thankful. This week is supposed to include some 70-degree weather. We have been so blessed by people helping us out in every way. Thank you so much to everyone who has asked about us, brought a meal, sent a text or said a prayer. We appreciate it!
It feels like I’ve been trying to get on my blog for weeks to update all that has been happening in our lives. Despite the fact I’m fighting a cold and should go take a nap right now, I’m finally forcing myself to sit down and write about some of the events of the past few days. I don’t want to forget the details, and this is the one way I will be able to look back and remember.
Thursday was the day we had been anticipating for months. My husband has been living with some very serious pain in his right shoulder after an accident that actually occurred around Thanksgiving. At first, he tried to ignore the pain, but by the beginning of January, he couldn’t take it anymore.
It took several trips to different doctors, X-rays and an MRI to determine that he had torn his labrum, which is the cartilage that attaches the arm to the shoulder. He also tore his rotator cuff, which are the muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder.
He was referred to an orthopedic surgeon who handles many injury cases for major sports teams in the Chicago area. We would have to wait more than a month to get in for surgery. We sometimes doubted the decision to stick with this doctor because the wait was so long and he was in so much pain. But that turned out to be one of our first small miracles.
After the surgery on Thursday afternoon, the doctor and his assistant called me from the waiting room to explain what had happened during surgery. After he saw my husband’s muscles and injury from the inside, he decided to totally change his plan. The doctor realized that it was going to be very difficult for my husband to regain his range of motion with the original plan to stitch the labrum to the bone.
Instead, he decided to move the tendon that attaches the bicep to the bone. By doing this, the bicep would no longer tug on the torn labrum, causing so much pain.
He also filed away part of the inside of the shoulder bone and a bone spur that had formed. This was all very confusing to me, but he assured me the end result would be a much better recovery. While the other surgery had a very good chance of leaving him stiff and making it difficult to resume his love for biking, this approach should give him the ability to recover completely.
So, we both feel like finding a doctor who could make a call like that during surgery and look out for his best interest and lifestyle was one of our small miracles!
Another small miracles actually came two months before the injury. My husband was offered a new job almost out of the blue. He wasn’t looking to switch companies. But we were attracted to the change by two things: better health insurance and a better lifestyle.
At his old company, it would have been very difficult to take the time off that he will need for his recovery. We are also so thankful for much better health insurance that will cover a lot more of his surgery and physical therapy. He is expected to need PT three times a week for three to six months. Looking back at when he started at this new job in October, we would have never imagined how much we would need these benefits!
The last few days have been packed full of unexpected blessings. I’ve been blown away by all of the people from our church who have been showing up with meals and calling and texting us to see how they can help. I didn’t really think I would need much help since I wasn’t the one having surgery. But taking care of my husband, as well as our four kids, has been harder than I anticipated. I have been exhausted the past few days. We are so, so thankful for everyone who has helped us in any way.
I could probably go on and on, but I will wrap up by saying our last unexpected blessing has been the gift of laughter. In an odd way, we have really enjoyed the past few days. I have been able to stop thinking about all of my other responsibilities and just focus on my husband and taking care of him.
From the time we went on our “date” to the hospital for surgery, we have been cracking each other up. I hope I will find time to write about some of the funny things that have happened the past few days.
I guess I should mention one other small miracle — that is the miracle of the way God created the human body with the ability to recover from a surgery like this. The doctor is very serious about physical therapy and he scheduled my husband’s first session the day after surgery.
It was kind of shocking to think that he could go from having his bicep reattached one day to lifting his arm the next. He has to keep his arm completely immobilized and he is in a ton of pain just normally. We could barely believe that the therapist wanted him to move it all over the place!
The PT is very difficult. It’s exhausting for him to sit and lift his arm a few times using a pulley. But it’s also amazing to see him regain a little strength.