As I sit here in this dark and lonely hotel room in Gainesville on this Thanksgiving Eve, I'm grateful that I'm snuggled between two of my youngest littles and have my oldest "little" in the bed beside us. As I reflect on the fact that Thanksgiving is tomorrow and the stress placed on our lives since my husbands surgery took place yesterday morning, I'm reaching, digging, and fighting like mad to remember the many things that we have to be grateful for this year. As I remember those things, my heart wants to inevitably question God and cry at his feet asking..."How much more will you continue to lay on us in this lifetime?" But then...I'm propelled to our beautiful home back in Naples where this new sign (2 weeks new) hangs on our great room wall. It reads..."Thank you God for the strength to handle the crazy." If that isn't ever so poignant right now, I don't know what is. Ironically, the other sign that sits closely next to this new sign is the black one that you see on top of our hutch there. It reads P-R-A-Y. Four small letters that spell out such a powerful instruction. Pray. Just pray! That I am.
I'll start with the good news first. Brent's surgery went better than expected. The surgeon called from the O.R. with great news yesterday. He had been able to reach the tumor, get it all, and confirmed his initial thoughts that it indeed was benign. Praise God - hallelujah! He said that the team was sewing Brent up but that they were able to get all of the tumor without damaging or having to clip any of his nerves. Thus meaning that there was no paralysis, no motor damage, and no sensory damage. Another praise God - hallelujah! Brent was in recovery for about 3.5 hours following the surgery before we were able to see him. When I did see him for the first time, he looked and sounded great. He was pretty alert when he was awake and was making sense with his words. I was on cloud nine feeling like the worst part was over and that he had conquered it all like a champ. Our elation quickly turned to panic through the night last night though as Brent became violently ill due to the anesthesia, the additional medicines he was taking and the fact that he hadn't had any food since 24 hours earlier. There was also question of whether he could turn to his side or not. The doc had told him that he had to lay flat on his back following the surgery due to the fact that they had penetrated his spinal cord, removed fluid, added fluid back, patched the entry area, etc. They explained it like patching a hole in a tire. If you sit up or lift your head following the patching of a spinal cord area, gravity can rush from your brain down to that patch area in his back and burst the corrections they had just made. In turn, he'd have spinal fluid leaking into his body which would not leave him with a fun outcome. We were told he couldn't lift his head for 24 hours at first. As of today, he was since told that he couldn't lift his head or get out of that bed until Friday afternoon. Four full days of bed rest = pure torture for anyone let alone someone like him who is tough to keep down. Brent had violent vomiting throughout the night last night and into this morning. On top of that, he had the night nurse from hell who basically left him to fend for himself while puking his guts up. You see...when you can't lift your head, you have to vomit out the side of your mouth by simply turning your head and then letting it run down your face, neck, into your sheets, and ultimately under your back. Without help...one can feel like their drowning in their own vomit because of the choking from not being able to lift their head. As you can imagine, this created panic attack like symptoms for Brent as he had to endure this all night long and into this morning. By sunrise, his Mom was in the hallway in tears to the point where an unfamiliar nurse saw what was going on and pulled her aside. Debbie filled her in on the nights events and how it seemed as though Brent had been left to fend for himself since the surgery due to his night nurse and her lack of help or compassion. Within an hour, Brent had a new nurse, a nurse manager, and a handful of additional staff that were there in the blink of an eye to help him. They assured him things would be different from that point on and they have been. The nurses since then have been incredibly nice and for the most part very attentive.
The problem is...Brent is still very weak. He's not himself. He's in lots of pain. He's exhausted from no sleep. He's hungry, cranky, and very uncomfortable (as you can imagine). It's extremely tough, as his wife, to see your big, strong, tough husband lying there in pain and helpless. You want to take it all away for them but there is just nothing you can do. You're relying on the nurses, doctors, and the great creator - God - most of all - to pull him through this. Brent has now spiked a light fever and there is worry of pneumonia due to the laying he has to do, the vomiting of fluids, and the low grade temp. Good things can take a negative turn quickly in life, can't they? We were originally thinking Brent would get to come home on Sunday of this week but the doc is now saying it will most likely be on Monday.
To top the story off even more, the tumor apparently threw the doctors a curve ball. The surgeon once again confirmed today that pathology team determined it was for sure benign. However, they revealed that the tumor isn't the type tumor they initially thought it was. It's supposedly a very rare tumor that the surgeon has only seen 4 or 5 times in his entire career. It is also unfortunately a tumor that can mean a rare illness for the carrier. We won't know for sure until sometime after Monday but they are testing the tumor to find out if it is definitely from this line of illness or not. If so, the only thing I know at this point is that Brent will need to undergo consistent MRI's for the rest of his life because these type of tumors can pop up in your lungs, brain, kidneys, etc. at any given moment. WOW! Not something we were expecting or wanting to hear at this point. I can't even remember the name of this rare illness at this moment because my brain is mush. Again, I'm hoping we learn more early this week. My prayer is that it isn't what they are suggesting it is. My prayer is that they are wrong. Pray. Like the sign says...just P-R-A-Y.
With that said, I must take the time to thank all of you who have texted, emailed, called, facebooked and so on with words of support, encouragement and prayer since all of this began yesterday. If you follow me on facebook, you've probably been getting the play by play on all of this as I post on my wall. I've read every single message, every single post, text and email that you guys have sent. I'm grateful for my high school girlfriends whom have stayed by my side and been just a phone call away when I needed them during this. I'm grateful for my friends from high school whom I haven't seen in years yet they have all sent heartwarming messages and prayed for Brent. I'm grateful for my Naples peeps who I've only come to know in the past 2 years since moving there from Indiana. Your friendships and your prayers during all of this are priceless. Seriously! I'm grateful for our neighbors who called all the way from Naples late tonight, leaving me messages offering to go so far as to drive up here to Gainesville and take care of our kids for us as this all plays out. I'm grateful for my photography friends, my photography vendors, people on facebook who don't even know me personally, and my ever faithful blog readers whom have also reached out and added to the power of prayer. I'm grateful for those of you who sent me emails or copies of things I had written to you or told you in your own times of trials or needs in the past. It's extremely powerful, incredibly moving, and yet oh so humbling to read words you've written to someone else during their struggles and now you can put them to good use in your own life. Several of you sent me old cards or letters I had written to you and my heart is full knowing that they left enough of an impact on you all those years ago to keep them and still have them during this trying moment now in my own life. I'm grateful for the prayer chains going around for Brent that were created by people - some of which I don't even know - yet they heard about our story from a friend of a friend and felt compelled to pray for Brent. I'm grateful for all of your churches out there who have him on their prayer lists right now. I'm grateful for all of my photography clients whom have contacted me just to say their thinking of us or to ask if we need anything at all. I'm grateful for my mother in law who stays at Brent's bedside when I have to run back and nurse my son or tend to my special needs daughter and 12 year old son. She has stayed with him through the night when I can't. I'm beyond grateful for my parents whom have been here as best they could from afar and called me or texted every two minutes to make sure I'm OK, that the kids are doing OK, to make sure that Brent is recovering as he should, or just to remind me that that they can hop a plane and come now if I need them to. And just so I don't spare anyone and in an effort to keep this post real and raw which is how I prefer life, I'm also grateful for the couple of people that Satan would prefer be my enemies whom were lead to contact me via email with their own set of prayers for Brent when they learned of the news. The enemy never succeeds in a place where God leads and by golly...God is piloting this seat. Am I scared? Heck yeah. Am I stressed? You better believe it. Am I worrying? Like a freak I am. However, with the help of all your prayers for peace and calm, I'm still continuing to put one foot in front of the other and press on for Brent. In the moments where I feel weak and want to physically crumble, I have all of you pushing me - praying for us - and lifting us up in spirit as we tackle this most recent journey.
Thank you God for the strength to handle the crazy. In times when I want to question the Lord on why...I'm remembering to instead just stop and thank him for the continued strength to handle all of this crazy. So...here I sit...praying Brent is resting back at the hospital and able to have a better night. Here I sit, watching the chests of my littles move up and down as they sleep in these hotel beds far, far, away from our home, far from our normal. Here I sit , realizing just how much I really have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. We have a new baby this year - a son who is getting ready to turn one. I have a husband who was placed in the hands of great doctors who ultimately found a tumor before it grew to create neurological issues for him. We have a surgeon who is so talented and had such skilled hands that he was able to remove that tumor on my husbands spinal cord without causing him any paralysis. I have a husband who could have been told grave news about this tumor but instead we were told it was benign and not cancerous. We have a slue of friends, family, acquaintances, business colleagues, etc. who are stomping down heavens gate with prayers of a speedy and complication free recovery as I type. Oh yes...the Thanksgiving of twenty-eleven. What a Thanksgiving it will be - even if we're in a hospital room - having to celebrate over jello and broth because of Brent's liquid diet. We really have a ton to be thankful for and I'm just incredibly grateful to have you guys as our cheering section during it all.
Thank you for being here. I wouldn't still be standing if it weren't for all of you and our BIG, HUGE, POWERFUL, GOD above. Thank you Jesus for the strength to handle the crazy.
Until the next update, just keep praying. In him, Angie
PS...Another thing I'm grateful for is the fact that Cracker Barrel is in our hotel parking lot. Even though Brent isn't able to eat, I've been able to stress eat enough for the both of us. Chicken and dumplings (being a vegetarian I just eat the dumplings), mashed potatoes, peanut butter fudge, coca-cola cake, etc. Yeap, thank you Jesus for Cracker Barrel too. :)