Sunday, June 12, 2016

Thank you!

It's time for a guest post.  Though I'm not too far removed from the regular author, I(Darin) felt like it was time for me to give an update and some much deserved thanks to so many people after what our family has gone through over the last few weeks.

Twenty one days seems like a long time ago, when my head seemed to explode with what was easily the most extreme pain I've ever felt in my lifetime.  Trying to be strong that Sunday evening in front of Jonna who was rightfully freaking out, I did my best to convince her that my headache seemed to be subsiding slowly about 20 minutes after it had started.  I don't think she was very convinced since I was at the same time trying to keep from throwing up and insisting that she turn off all the lights that I could see.  I was sort of writhing around on our bed while hearing her talking on the phone to a great medical doctor friend of ours in Pretoria.  Fortunately Pete was able to convince Jonna that she needed to make the decision of whether to take me into the hospital or not, and she made the right call.  I was stubbornly considering the inconvenience of driving 40 minutes to the closest good hospital, finding someone to come watch our kids since it was already past 10pm on a Sunday night, thinking about things I had to do the next day, etc.

In the back of my mind, I also was thinking about whether this hospital that we ended up at would be able to deal with whatever my problem was.  You see, we don't have any medical insurance here in South Africa.  It was a decision we've made because of our ages, the health and ages of our kids, and the relatively cheap cost of basic medical services around where we live.  But Pete made Jonna aware that if we went to a private hospital that night, they would require at least $10,000+ of a deposit before they would admit me, knowing that brain surgery was a possibility.  Going to the free government hospital was our only option and I wasn't so excited about that.  I'd been there multiple times with kids from Tshepo ya Bana, and I can't say that the care was bad, but the lines were hours long and I had heard some sketchy stories from people about being there.

The next few hours were a blur for me as our friend Andrew from down the road so graciously ran over to stay with Tyson and Jori for the night.  I don't even remember if I said "hi" or "thank you" to him when we were leaving the house as I could hardly walk and was shivering and was trying to carry a bucket to vomit in while riding to Pretoria.

Jonna had never driven to Steve Biko Hospital before and she doesn't do much driving around Pretoria on her own in general.  So the trip there consisted of me laying flat in the passenger seat, popping my head up occasionally to get my bearings on where we were so I could give directions.  I don't remember getting from the car to "Casualty"(ER), but I do remember laying down on the cold metal seats and shivering uncontrollably.  Someone put a jacket of some sort on top of me but it didn't help.  Pete's wife Wanda deserves more thanks than I can ever give her for meeting us at the hospital that night.  With her medical knowledge from helping Pete at his practice, her speaking Afrikaans with the gals doing the processing of patients which sped up the process, and her sitting up with Jonna ALL night in waiting room, she was a star!  It was rough for Jonna to sit there for hours in between updates, but having a lap to lay her head on and someone to pray with her meant so much to her and to me the next day when Jonna relayed the story.

One of my first recollections upon waking up Monday morning, still in the very full ER ward, was hearing what sounded like water running/spilling on the floor beside and behind me.  I tilted my head back and saw a man tied to his hospital bed, relieving himself (in a nice arc I might add!) right onto the floor in between his bed and the neighbor's.  Jonna told me later that this guy was roaming around the waiting room for a lot of the previous night, stripping his clothes off to varying degrees of nakedness.  Seeing and hearing him made me realize my bladder was also way too full but I was in no state to make my way to the bathroom.  Jonna was there to check on me then and she called over a sister(nurse) who so gracefully(?) exposed me to my first catheter experience.

Most of the next 9 days were the same after being moved up to the 4th floor into a room with 5 other patients with differing brain injuries.  One 60ish year old gentleman next to me had been in the hospital for 2 months waiting to have a brain tumor operated on.  He had been moving around between the ICU and our ward as his health changed.  He finally got to have surgery on my third or fourth day there and I didn't get a chance to hear how he turned out because he went to a different room after surgery.  A 15 year old boy replaced that gentleman, who funny enough, I recognized as being a student at a school for kids with cerebral palsy, where Fetsi from Tshepo ya Bana went.  It was nice to have some younger blood around as this kid was pretty active.  He was always happy and moving around.  He was there to possibly have a shunt replaced as he suffered from hydrocephalus.  The meals were actually pretty good, though they were always on the cold side of lukewarm by the time they got to us.  My appetite wasn't very large, so I usually only ate about half of my plate.

The one thing that I still cannot figure out from the hospital routine is why we were woken up at 4:30 sharp EVERY morning to all the lights being turned on in our room.  The sisters would come in and start handing out meds and getting the tubs of water filled for each person for their daily sponge bath...AT 4:30 IN THE MORNING!!  I declined the sponge baths and usually tried to fall back asleep after taking my meds and I'd get myself a tub of water at a more reasonable hour and do my own bathing.  

Besides those I already mentioned, I have to thank several friends who came to sit with me during visiting hours.  Another thing I don't understand is why daily visiting hours are only from 2:30-4pm and 7-8pm.  That applies even to toddlers who have to stay in the hospital without their parents.  Anyway, though I sometimes was quite tired and didn't make for good company, I did enjoy getting visits from Pastor Riaan, friends from church and Take Action friends and who brought me some nice snacks and gave me some much needed time with familiar people.

A couple days before I was discharged, my headaches had completely cleared up, but they were being replaced with quite severe lower back pain.  I assume this was from lying in a hospital bed for 22+ hours a day for a week and a half.  The sisters would give me meds for the pain, but it wasn't enough most of the time.  I was so sick of the hospital though that I didn't want to make too big a deal of it in case they would want to keep me longer to deal with that.  For almost a week after I was back home, I'd have it several times a day where I would be walking around the house and I'd get such a severe cramp/spasm in my lower back that I'd have to grab onto something to avoid falling down.  In some instances, I'd have to go down to my knees as my legs gave out.  So stubbornly, after much prompting from friends, I experienced another first in my life...visiting a chiropractor.  I can now say that I wish I had gone in sooner as after some cracking and snapping of my neck and back, the spasms are gone.  I still have some pain in one leg occasionally, but that is getting better daily.

I know that the 10 days I was away from home was tough on Jonna and I want to thank her for holding everything together so well while traveling back and forth to Pretoria and making sure the kids had a relatively normal time without their dad.  She was also blessed with some meals from our small group and I know that helped immensely as she was often too tired to think about cooking.  I don't know what would have been the outcome if she hadn't made me go into the hospital that Sunday night, but I don't think I would have turned out so good had she listened to me instead of making the decision she did.  Having her sit by my bed when she could be there was so refreshing and meant more to me than she knows.

There were hundreds of people around the world praying constantly for me and our family and I want to thank you for that.  Hearing from a lot of you, reading messages and emails and feeling the support was overwhelming.  I know Jonna has said it multiple times already, but THANK YOU again!

A couple days after I was admitted, I heard that approximately 30% of people who have a brain bleed like I did don't make it alive to the hospital.  At the age of 38, coming that close to dying wasn't something that had ever entered my mind.  I know that I still haven't processed it fully, but I am thankful that God gave me the opportunity to come home healthy again to my family and to continue our ministry here in South Africa.

We don't know the cause of the bleeding, something that really bothers me if I'm being honest, and we probably never will.  I go back for a checkup in a few weeks and hope to speak to the doctors more at that time about possible reasons and things I could maybe do to avoid something like this happening again.  But I know that God uses experiences both good and bad to advance His kingdom, a lot of times without explanation.  I'm thankful to have the assurance that He is watching over me and my family at all times.  

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