Thursday, 31 March 2016

Rend Collective Concert...

Candace and I had the privilege of attending a Rend Collective concert in Evansville earlier this month. Rend Collective are an Irish Christian folk/rock/worship band, and one of their more well-known songs is My Lighthouse. We really enjoyed this fun band's music!

 The band plays a huge range of musical instruments.
 It was such a fun evening!

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Candace's Story: Part Two

Here's the second installment of Candace's story. Part One is below this post. Disclaimer: the details were not spared!

Part Two

Everyone slept soundly for several hours. Suddenly I awoke and instantly realized that I was hemorrhaging. I woke Murray and calmly but urgently told him, “Go get Mom, I'm bleeding badly.” He rushed downstairs and came back with Mom hot on his heels. I told her to call for an ambulance. Neither she nor Murray understood at that point how much I was bleeding. I hadn't used the word “hemorrhage” with them. Mom asked if I was sure I needed an ambulance or if one of them could just drive me to the hospital. I knew that time was precious and I couldn't spend it explaining what I knew was happening. I said, “Hand me the phone.” Mom punched in 911, hit send, and handed me the phone. 

The next while is a bit of a blur, but I maintained consciousness up until Dr McCarthy put a mask on me in the OR and told me to take 3 deep breaths. While waiting for the ambulance, I felt the familiar rush of warmth through my body – my clue that I was seconds away from passing out. I threw my feet in the air as high as I could and sternly told myself to keep it together. I prayed and prayed. Mom saw what was happening and held my feet up for me, sending Murray to grab a cold, wet washcloth for my head. I closed my eyes and prayed. I had a sense of peace, but also a sense of urgency. I kept my eyes closed and took deep breaths and prayed that Mom and Murray would also maintain consciousness. (Neither of them are very fond of the sight of blood and here I was with blood pouring out of me, completely helpless.) I prayed for the ambulance to hurry up. They arrived promptly – I'm sure it wasn't more than 5-10 minutes, but it seemed like such a long time. Mom stayed by my side and phoned Dad. Murray rushed downstairs and turned the lights on, unlocked the door, and put our dog Rusty outside on his chain so that he wouldn't be underfoot when the ambulance arrived. 

I recognized both EMTs. I answered their questions correctly. Nick took my blood pressure and announced that it was not compatible with life. (If memory serves me correctly, he said it was 60s/40s. That's insanely low, and I knew that, but didn't let myself dwell on it too much.) Mom let out a soft wail in the background. I prayed even harder for her to be okay. I think she sat down on the floor and Alex talked to her from my side. They started an IV in each arm – the most painful sticks I've ever had due to my low blood pressure. Nick originally called for a helicopter, but decided it would be faster to drive me via ambulance to Daviess Community Hospital – the hospital where I work. He called for help from the volunteer first responders to get me down the narrow stairway. I remember my dad giving me a kiss as we stopped for a moment downstairs. I thanked Mom and Murray and told them they had done an awesome job.

I sang and prayed and recited Psalm 23 in the back of the ambulance. I was in so much pain, and so cold, and I knew things were bad, but I still had that sense of peace. As I was thinking of different songs to sing, a few “funeral songs” came to mind and I said aloud, “No, I'm not even going there” and tried hard to think of different songs. This happened more than once, but I refused to even entertain the thought of dying. The song that I remember singing was “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing.” Nick prayed with me as we flew down I-69. I kept track of each turn we made and therefore had a general idea of where we were. I listened to Nick on the radio with the hospital's ER. He was originally told to start dopamine. Then they radioed back immediately and said never mind, just keep fluids going wide open, they would have blood ready and waiting for me. I think I had a liter bolus going in each arm. Not sure...I didn't have my contacts in, and my glasses were still on the bedside table at home, so I couldn't really see much. 

Jessica was the first nurse I saw upon arrival to the ER. It was right at shift change, so she wasn't there long before giving over to Joan. I was quickly surrounded by nurses and lab techs. Nurses were starting the blood transfusion and attempting to start IVs and lab techs were drawing what little blood they could get from me for lab work. I was placed in trendelenburg and denied pain medication until my BP was stable. I yelled out a lot from the pain – it felt like labor all over again, and from the needles. We joked later that I looked like an IV drug user when they had finished with me. 

Murray and Dad arrived shortly after I did. My Aunt Hazel and Pastor Carmen followed soon after. Carmen had already sent a phone tree message, waking the entire Bethel church family to lift me up in prayer. Murray brought my phone and I had him text a few people for me to ask them to start praying. There were others that also came to the hospital that I didn't even know of until later. They brought coffee and food and sat and prayed and supported my family. 

Dr Frances came very quickly and ordered a CT scan to be done so he could see if the bleeding was contained in my uterus before he took me to surgery. His plan was to put a balloon in and stop the bleeding long enough to stabilize me and send me to a bigger hospital in Evansville. The balloon worked long enough for him to tell Murray and my dad that it had worked, but while he was still talking to them, a nurse came to tell him that it had started again. They opened my incision from the c-section with intentions of doing a hysterectomy. It was then that they found the source of the bleeding – my left uterine artery. They ligated the artery and still thought long and hard about doing a hysterectomy. The decision was made to save my uterus. 

When the nurse came to tell Murray that they would be doing a hysterectomy, she was teary-eyed and started with, “We were unable to stop the bleeding.” Murray's heart sank as he thought the next words were going to be that I had died. Thankfully she was just telling him about the impending hysterectomy which never had to be done! Many people were praying specifically “Stop the bleeding and save the uterus.” Those were then the exact words that Shawna used to tell Murray and my family - “They were able to stop the bleeding and save the uterus.”

The next few days were tough. I had to spend extra time on the ventilator. They extubated me in PACU, but I couldn't maintain on my own, so they had to re-intubate me and keep the machine breathing for me until that evening. I remember that – being awake in PACU and realizing I was intubated. It was the worst feeling ever. I felt like I was suffocating, but couldn't talk. I thrashed my head around and fought it, biting at the tube. It was the only thing I remember until I was extubated at 6:20pm and my sweet nurse Lourdes kept telling me to take deep breaths. I kept thinking, “I am breathing! What are you talking about?” I only fully woke up at around 11:00pm.

I was moved to the Ob floor the next day where I received the best care imaginable. The nurses were so gentle and compassionate and they listened to me and spent time with me. I ended up needing two more units of blood on Thursday as my hemoglobin had dropped back down in the 6 range. My nurse Erica sat down and had a talk with me on Thursday to help talk me out of my funk. I was so depressed and angry that my hemoglobin had dropped again, causing me to be very weak and tired. I wouldn't make eye contact with anyone. I just laid there and stewed in my misery. I was frustrated that I had taken a step backward instead of continually improving. 

Mom stayed in the hospital room next to me and cared for Riaan. A friend provided us with some of her own breastmilk that she had pumped for her baby but didn't need. What an answer to prayer that was – I was praying and asking for someone's name to come to mind so that I could ask them to provide breastmilk. She had been praying for someone's name to come to mind so that she could offer to share hers. I know God had that all planned out before this even happened. 

The next 5-6 weeks were not easy by any means. We were discharged from the hospital on Sunday, December 20. We went and stayed with Mom and Dad until the 24th when we went home to be our own little family for Christmas. What a huge blessing to have family close by. I don't know what we would have done without them. Murray was struggling with a cold and was trying to get better without making Riaan or me sick. I couldn't do much of anything without help. It took a long while to get my milk supply back up to where it needed to be for our growing baby. I had excruciating back pain, not to mention the pain from my incision. I had a nasty cough, too – I tried to cough up all that phlegm and not get pneumonia from being intubated, but it felt like my incision was ripping open each time I coughed.

Through all of this, God proved himself faithful. I struggled for a while with “survivor's guilt.” Why was I born in a country where we have access to proper health care? What about all those women in the countries I mentioned before who would have been dead multiple times by now and would not have a living baby to hold? There were so many things... I had an emergency c-section when Riaan was stuck in my birth canal. Otherwise, he would have died and I could have either had a fistula or died. I was given blood in a timely manner – both right after giving birth, and a week later when I hemorrhaged. It was clean and had been tested, and there was plenty readily available. When I called for an ambulance, they were there in a few short minutes, no questions asked. The ER was ready for me. I had a clean room, everyone worked together. The OR was ready for me. It was clean and well-stocked. Everyone caring for me was knowledgeable and caring and did what they were supposed to do to ensure I lived. 

Why am I making such a big deal about clean facilities, available blood, and quick ambulance service? I've seen with my own eyes the conditions of some hospitals in other countries. I've seen how poorly staffed they can be – one nurse for an entire ward at a hospital I visited in Sierra Leone. Seriously. I saw no other nurses or staff around. When we lived in the rural Eastern Cape province of South Africa, we saw the struggle the hospital had with the ambulance service not being reliable. Sometimes the ambulance would arrive within an hour, sometimes they would show up the next day! When blood is needed, they send someone to the nearest city – an hour's drive one way – to get the blood because they don't have the facility to maintain their own supply. 

I truly am blessed and am so thankful for the prayer warriors who lifted us up when we needed it most. My great-aunt told me at church, with tears in her eyes, “You have no idea how many prayers were prayed for you. You'll just never know.” So I say thank you. I know there were literally friends across the globe praying, including the very nurses and doctors caring for me. There were people I have never met who were praying. There were also people who gave to us financially that we never expected it from. My heart is full. 

Today is a Tuesday, and it's March 15 – exactly 3 months from when I hemorrhaged. I even sat down to start writing this today at about 5:30am. At 5:30am 3 months ago, I was waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Such interesting timing... I'm now back to working full time, I've got a healthy, happy baby, and a loving husband and family. There are so many loving people in our lives who poured out to us in ways I haven't even mentioned here. You know who you are – THANK YOU!

Candace's Story: Part One

Back on January 8th, I alluded to Candace's story and the trials we went through during our son's arrival. Well, I'm happy to say Candace is ready to share her story today. But please note this disclaimer: the details were not spared! So with that said, it's over to Candace.

When we served with Mercy Ships, I met some ladies with VVF (also referred to as obstetric fistulas) for the first time – VVF stands for vesicovaginal fistula. A fistula is a passage or hole that has formed. A vaginal fistula that opens into the urinary tract is called a vesicovaginal fistula. These fistulas can also open into the rectum, colon, or small bowel.

From WebMD: In developing countries where women have no health care nearby, vaginal fistulas are much more common. After days of pushing a baby that does not fit through the birth canal, very young mothers can have severe vaginal, bladder, or rectal damage, sometimes causing fistulas. 
In the countries where Mercy Ships serves, there are many, many women who are forced out of their homes due to fistulas. They leak urine and/or feces and, besides the smell, they are thought to have a curse or are being punished by the gods for unfaithfulness to their husbands. But it's not that at all! In December, after giving birth to our son, I realized how blessed I was to be in a developed country with a skilled, caring, competent Ob-Gyn caring for me in a hospital with a clean, functional, well-equipped operating room with a team of excellent nurses and anesthesia providers. So many women do not have ready, affordable access to a trained doctor. If I had been in one of those countries we served – Sierra Leone, Togo, Ghana, Guinea, etc. – I could be either a VVF patient waiting for corrective surgery, or I could be dead. Either way, my baby would not have survived. Here's my story.

Part One

When I went into labor with Riaan, I was waiting for a.) my water to break, or b.) my contractions to continue steadily at 3-5 minutes before I went to the hospital. Neither of those things happened, but I began bleeding. I had been texting a friend who has given birth 5 times herself and is also a trained doula. She and I both felt that I needed to go quickly to the hospital. Upon arrival, I was only 2 cm dilated. (I was really hoping for at least 3 or 4. I mean, come on! I had already been having contractions for 24 hours.) The only reason they kept me overnight was due to the bleeding, but there didn't seem to be a logical reasoning for it. Riaan was doing fantastic, and my lab work looked great. It didn't seem to be my placenta, but they wanted to observe me just in case.

Fast forward to the next morning, Monday, December 7... Dr Frances broke my water when I was at 8-9 cm and I began pushing when fully dilated. I pushed and pushed but didn't seem to be progressing well, so my nurse Marietta had me lay on one side, then the other, to continue pushing. Still not much progress. She could see Riaan's headful of hair, but that was it. After two hours of pushing, Dr Frances came and tried suction. No luck. He told me I could either push for a half hour longer to see if I could give birth naturally, (but he wasn't optimistic) and then go for a c-section, or just go straight for a c-section right then and there. Either way, Riaan was doing awesome in there, but he needed to be born. I cried from sheer exhaustion and a bit of frustration and disappointment that all that pain and pushing didn't work, but decided that if he wasn't optimistic, then there was no way I was putting myself through another half hour of pushing. The room was quickly filled with OR nurses and the nurse anesthesiologist to prep me for surgery.

The c-section went very well, and our healthy baby boy was born. I was so tired and also drowsy from the medication, that I could hardly keep my eyes open and was disappointed that I wasn't more awake and excited about Riaan's arrival. But Murray's excitement was enough for both of us. :) I slept during most of my time in the recovery room, and was only allowed to “hold” Riaan with very close supervision. He was laid next to me because I was too weak and sleepy to really hold him. Thankfully, he was very content. He had his eyes open and was taking everything in while sucking on his beautiful little hands. I heard my parents, sister, and nephew Lincoln in the background meeting Riaan, but didn't even roll over to look at them. 

Two hours after surgery, I was wheeled to my post-partum room. By then I was a bit more awake and could finally hold my precious baby boy! He nursed amazingly well for the first time. Then I suddenly felt very hot and nauseated. I passed Riaan to my mom as quickly as I could, then she handed me an emesis bag. I said, “Never mind, I'm gonna pass out.” The next thing I knew, I was waking up to at least four nurses surrounding my bed. I had puked on myself and had also bled a lot. They did some lab work and found that my hemoglobin had dropped significantly. I received 2 units of blood that evening.

The next day, things looked good. My bleeding appeared normal, and I was finally allowed out of bed. I was terribly sore and pretty weak. My catheter was removed, but I was unable to urinate for about 6 hours afterward. The nurse got permission to straight cath me because I was in so much pain from needing to pee and being unable to. Very early the next morning, maybe 2:00 am, I was able to pee on my own. What a relief! (It's amazing the things that I took for granted up to this point.)

When my day shift nurse came in, I told her there was a clot in the toilet that she needed to see. I recall thinking it was the size of a baseball. She came out and told me in no uncertain terms that I would not be going home that day, even though it would be 48 hours since giving birth. I asked her if it was normal to pass large clots like that. She laughed and joked with me that nothing about my delivery and recovery so far had been normal.

Thursday rolled around and I felt good and we were released to go home! Those were some very difficult days. The lack of sleep, the pain of my incision, the painful swelling in my feet and ankles (they were huge!), the newness of this sweet little baby who needed me 24/7... The crying that started anywhere from 10:00pm to midnight and lasted for 2-4 hours regardless of what we did or how we held him... Learning all about this new baby - his ways of telling me when he was tired or hungry, the way he preferred to be held, his sweet face with those big eyes... The incredible amount of food I ate around the clock to hush my growling stomach. (Breastfeeding definitely made me far hungrier than pregnancy ever had!) Murray was so helpful! But he couldn't nurse Riaan for me, and he couldn't sleep for me. I had a few meltdowns. My mom kept telling me that if we needed her to come over, even if it was in the wee hours of the morning, to call her and she would hold him while he cried and try giving him a bottle if needed so we could get some sleep. I was stubborn. I didn't want to bother her, and I also was uncertain why he was crying. Was I doing something wrong? What if he stopped crying as soon as I called her?

Tuesday, December 15, I called Mom at about 2:30am. Riaan had been screaming for hours and I was in tears. I hadn't been to bed at all that night. I had just laid down when Riaan started crying and he hadn't stopped. As soon as I hung up from calling Mom, Riaan pooped loudly and the crying stopped. It had been another belly ache and he finally had relief. I called Mom back, but she didn't answer. I sent her a text to let her know she didn't need to come. She returned my call a few minutes later and said she was already up and ready so she would come anyway in case his crying began again. I sit here now with tears in my eyes at what a blessing that was. None of us had any clue what was about to happen. Mom came over and settled in on the couch with Riaan in his rock-and-play next to her. We made sure a bottle of formula was handy – I really wanted to breastfeed exclusively, but at this point, sleep was more important, and I had already given him one bottle of formula on Sunday when he had been nursing basically non-stop for hours and hours and didn't seem to be getting anything. I grabbed a snack and headed upstairs to bed. 

Part two will continue shortly.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

East Side Park...

We've been blessed with a really mild winter - with some absolutely beautiful weekends. We went and walked around the East Side Park in Washington after church one Sunday in February. There's a lovely lake and lots of fun things to do here. It was a really relaxing way to spend some family time!

 Entrance to the East Side Park.
 Watch out for ducks crossing!
 Selfie of the two of us.
 Candace pushing our little man.
 He enjoyed his first trip to the park!
 Beautiful lake!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Brown County State Park...

Candace and I drove through Brown County State Park and Yellowwood State Forest on our way back home. Brown County State Park is Indiana's largest state park and the scenery resembles the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. There is also a really tall fire tower perched atop the highest ridge in southern Indiana. Candace climbed all the way to the top!

 One of the entrances to Brown County State Park.
 The North Lookout tower in the State Park.
 Looking down at Candace below.
 View over the rolling hills, ridges and valleys.
 Prevent forest fires!
 The 1930s-era fire tower.
 Information sign.
 View looking down towards me.
 View over the trees.
 More rolling hills in the distance.
 Driving to Yellowwood State Forest we drove past this sad-looking bridge.
 It's just a frame now.
 Yellowwood State Forest.
 Yellowwood Lake.
 Canada Geese on the lake.
 Driving home we saw this cool cloud - somewhat reminiscent of a tornado!

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Brown County Covered Bridges...

After spending the Saturday in Nashville, Candace and I went and explored the two covered bridges in the area on Sunday morning, 7th February. The first one we visited was Bean Blossom Covered Bridge and it is about ten minutes north of Nashville. It dates from 1880 and is in a rural area of Brown County.

The second covered bridge we visited was Ramp Creek Covered Bridge, a two-lane covered bridge that is only one of four in the whole United States. It is also the oldest covered bridge in Indiana, being built back in 1838. It is located just outside of Nashville at one of the entrances to Brown County State Park.

 Driving north out of Nashville.
 Heading towards Bean Blossom Covered Bridge.
 Bean Blossom Covered Bridge.
 Ramp Creek Covered Bridge.
 Inside Ramp Creek Covered Bridge.
A closer view of Ramp Creek Covered Bridge.