Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Sacred Hour

It's been a long day... long month... long couple months... Yes, quite some time has passed since my last post. So long, in fact, that when I logged into my Blogger account, it said, "Hi there! It's good to see you again!  Looking for a topic?  Get inspired or just start writing!"

All those exclamation points nearly made me turn around and leave.  I'm not in an exclamation point sort of mood.  Because, as I said, it's been a long couple months.

On October 12th, my daughter Rebekka came home from school with a "scratchy throat" and the news that one third of her class was absent that day due to the flu.  An intuitive wave of foreboding passed through me, and I remember thinking, "Uh-oh, here we go...". And boy, did we ever.

October 12th was the last day Rebekka would attend school for five weeks.  That "scratchy throat" was the onset of the H1N1 flu virus.  The next day, she spiked a fever which would be her constant companion for weeks.  A few days after that, an opportunistic strep infection moved in, bringing with it a neck-to-ankles red rash and pneumonia.  Our previously profoundly healthy daughter was going downhill fast, yet when we made a trip to the emergency room that Friday she was sent home with the advice, "Its just the flu; give her Tylenol and fluids." By Saturday night she was struggling to breathe, and in severe pain... we brought her back and this time they admitted her.

Bekka spent three days in our local hospital, and while she received good care, her condition progressively worsened.  That third day she was rushed by ambulance to Meritcare Childrens Hospital, where she would be able to receive more specialized care. Her condition was very serious by the time she arrived; to be honest, I did not even realized just how close a call it truly was until later when one of the nurses who worked on her upon her admittal, confided in me just how hard she'd been praying for Bekka while hanging her I.V.'s.... I guess at that point I was too busy praying myself, and coaxing my daughter to keep breathing.

I thank God for candid nurses.  Once we got to Meritcare, it was determined that Rebekka had a large volume of fluid on her lungs and would need a chest tube installed to drain it.  I asked how serious a procedure it was, and if they thought I needed to call my husband to come to the hospital (he was at home with our five-year-old at the time).  The doctor downplayed the gravity of the situation, but once he left, the nurse looked me in the eye and said, "Call your husband.  He needs to be here." Wow. 

That night, they drained nearly two litres of fluid from my daughter's chest cavity.  The idea that the same amount of fluid as in a two litre bottle of soda was inside the chest cavity of an eleven-year-old, crushing her heart and lungs... well, the fact she was still able to breathe at all is a testament to her strength and the power of prayer. 

Bekka gradually improved after that; she spent about a week in ICU and another week in the regular pediatric unit. At one point that brave little girl had a nasal cannula, a central line, two I.V. lines and a Foley catheter... and yet, she never complained. 

We were hearing talk of a potential discharge date, when suddenly she became very ill again, and this time it was due to high levels of antibiotics in her system shutting down her kidneys. We got her through that, and finally, on November 4th, we brought her home.  The joy!

And the fatigue!  I have a whole new respect for people who endure a family member's long hospitalization.  Its been over a month since Bekka was discharged and I'm still catching up.  Granted, we've since had the stomach flu go through our family, and now I've got a cold/flu/laryngitis thing going on and have lost my voice, and it certainly would make things easier if we all could just remain disease-free for any length of time past, say, a week. 

But no matter how exhausted I am, every day contains a sacred hour which is all mine.  In the evening after the children are in bed, I still have yet to feed my bottle calves and put my horses in the barn for the night.  Some nights, I truly dread the process of mixing up the milk replacer, struggling into my insulated coveralls, boots and jacket, and trudging out to the barn for that last set of chores.  At that point all I really want is a good book, a chair next to the fire and a hot toddie. But duty calls and I bundle up to tuck all the critters in for the night.

And once I do, I'm so glad that I did.  The calves are dumb and stinky and dumb (yes, I know I used that word twice, and it was for good reason), but they are so grateful for that warm milk.  The horses line up at the gates, anxious to get into the snug barn and out of the -20F windchill.  They know the routine, and yet every night I am amazed with how sensitive they are, how responsive to the slightest body language or flick of the lead rope as we manuever in the darkness, through the various gates and doorways into the barn. 

Once everyone is settled in, I open a couple bales of the beautiful hay that I sweated, lugged, swore and bled to get put up in the barn last summer.  It is, to me, like manna from heaven but for my stock, which somehow seems even more precious.  And in that sacred hour, while I feed calves and put horses to bed and distribute green slices of summer bounty to all who reside in my barn, a profound and overwhelming sense of gratitude overtakes me.

For my family.

For my horses.

For the ability to feed and care for them all, and well.

For a snug barn, and a warm house.

For medical miracles and those who perform them and the insurance that pays for it all.

For friends and family who call and write and share your concern to such a degree that one can never truly thank them enough for their support.

For the burgeoning bellies of the mares, and the promise of a bright future.

For Nyquil.

For lights in the barn.... and a thousand other things. 

Really, I could go on, ad infinitum... but instead I'm going to take some Nyquil and go to bed.  With gratitude.

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