Monday, October 22, 2012

How Do You Move Forward When There's Nowhere To Go?

How do you move forward when there's nowhere else to go?  How do you tell your heart that the dream you've had your entire life has just been shattered?  What do you do when everything's gone?

This isn't going to be an optimistic post.  It's going to be raw, and honest, and painful.  I believe in honesty, and in letting my emotions go, and if it bugs you, I'm sorry, but this is my space and this is me right now.

I've been running the numbers in my head since I got to feeling better.  The average hospital stay in my area runs around $10,000/day.  I have insurance, but I have to pay $200 for the ER, $1500 for deductible, and I have this nifty Out-of-Pocket total of $2500.  I honestly don't understand the OOP, because I'm not going to be limited to a bill of $2500.

In fact, the other part of my insurance states that I'll owe 20% of the bill.  Since I was in the hospital for 5 days, that comes out to a minimum of $50,000, but probably closser to $100,000, especially when we figure in the cost of this next surgery.

This means I'll owe between $10,000-$20,000 when it's all said and done.  I MAKE 15,000 a year, but only take home $1,000 a month.  My husband doesn't have a full-time job, and right now we have an extra $400 a month that we use for food and gas and that tiny bit that goes into savings. 

If I set up payments at $200/month, it will take 5-10 years to pay off this bill.  That's assuming that I get to keep my job and that hubby gets to keep his.  We'll survive, but I'm not sure we'll do much more than that.

I don't get it.  I try to be the best person I can be.  I work hard, I volunteer, I bend over backwards to help others out.  I live a clean life--I try to serve others and live in a Christian manner.  So yeah, I'm at the point where I cry, "Why me?  How much more do I have to endure?  What have I done that's so wrong that I must constantly be ground into the dirt?  How come every.single.dream.I.have gets taken away--violently and suddenly?  How come I feel like I am being punished?  When do I get to experience the up side of life?"

I feel overly raw.  It's like there's this big cosmic battle going on and Satan and all his minions are going, "What else? What else?  Can we hurt her anymore? Huh, can we?"  There's apparently a giant neon sign in the sky that says "Ranae is not allowed to have any true happiness, ever.  She doesn't deserve it."

While I have experienced happiness, it comes in tiny spurts, and as soon as hope unfurls her leaves, she gets chopped back to the ground.  It's not pruning, it's annihalation.  Any time I start to think, "I think I'm gonna make it," I get bashed back into the ground.  Hard.

We will not be able to have a family.  Not now, and right now it looks like we never will.  I'm crying as I type, because this has been my dream since I was 8.  I've looked around all summer and kept my jealousy at bay as each IF friend I have has finally conceived and is holding her baby in her arms.  I kept thinking, "If it can happen to them, then there's hope for me, too."  Well, I'm all out of hope.  I think it got killed this time.  My dreams didn't just get put on the shelf, they got obliterated into tiny fragments of nothingness.  It's all gone.  Just like that.

In four years, I've lost my career, my baby, my fertility, my sense of worth.  This money issue means that I'm stuck here in our tiny trailer home for another 5-10 years, we won't be able to go through foster care, won't be able to adopt, won't be able to pay for any kind of fertility treatments, won't be able to do much more than just stay here and hope we can afford to repair what goes wrong with the house.  That's the 10-year plan, and by the point I've gotten everything paid off, I'm going to be too old to do foster care, or adoption, or fertility treatments.  So there, I'm done.  You've won, you've proven your point.  I get it.  I don't deserve any of those things, so you can quit breaking me into a million pieces.  

I've also lost my wedding ring since I got back from the hospital, and that has just done it for me.  I'm done.  Finished.  I will go through the motions, continue working hard because I have students who need me to work hard, continue helping others, continue participating in my family. But I'm done. 

I don't need a giant neon light to tell me that I obviously am not allowed more than fleeting happiness.  I'll do what needs to be done, but I'm keeping my heart out of it.  I'm not strong enough to go through this again.  I need to give up my childish dreams and start living in the "real world".  I need to become a cynic because being an optimist has gotten me nowhere.

I just don't know what I've done to tick off God, and I don't know how to return to a place of grace, and I feel like I deserve every.single.thing that has happened to me because somewhere along the way I have to have failed big-time. 

I've worn my heart on my sleeve my whole life.  Where do you put it when it's been broken so badly?  How do you convince your heart that dreams are for children and that reality doesn't like dreams?  How do I control the jealousy that threatens to overwhelm me---just shut off every emotion like you turn off a faucet?  How do you move forward when there's nowhere to go?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Living Again

I had to take a break after that last post.  I didn't cry (for long), but I really am going to miss my friend so much.  Here is the final (so far) installment of my never-ending week:

As Monday morning dawned, I was finally feeling good enough to get out of my hospital bed and visit with my roomie.  I also got a long visit from my husband, and the chaplain's office sent a volunteer (He was about 85, shuffling gait, pants pulled up high) to see if I needed their services.  He kept looking at my husband who was sitting on end of the bed (wearing regular clothes, mind you), and then just stared and said, "Ranae???"  Apparently he never saw me sitting in the chair three feet in front of him wearing my ever-so-attractive hospital gown... (Hubby and I were able to laugh about that after he left.)

As the day went on, my arms got redder and itchier.  Turns out that I'm allergic to the tape used to hold IVs in.  Whoodathunkit?  Anyway, they had moved my IV in the middle of the night on Sunday---in the ER they had put it in my left arm (I'm a lefty, so that worked soooo well, plus all that crying and bending my arm had bent the line.).  So now I had the giant patch of red, irritated skin on my left arm, plus bruises from where the lab techs had drawn blood, and then irritated skin on my right arm where the IV was, plus the feeling that fire ants were marching up and down my arm from the allergic reaction.  Benadryl wasn't helping, and so on Tuesday they called the needle IV specialist lady in to put in a 3rd IV--hers didn't hurt OR itch!

Soooo, by the time I was allowed to leave on Wednesday, I was a bruised mess.  I was as weak as a kitten, and spent most of the rest of the night sleeping, peeing, and medicating. (What a party, huh?) 

Thursday was my friend's funeral---I couldn't really walk very far, but gave it my all to attend her funeral--or as we called it, the celebration of her life.  I was only able to stay for about 1/2 of it, but I was able to honor her life.  That helped a lot.

So, what now?  Well, at this moment, I'm sitting at home instead of at church, because I truly do need to be able to go back to work tomorrow.  From there I'll see the doctor on Friday, schedule surgery #2, and then get it out of the way.  I still have all the questions I had one week ago, and it still hurts to see all those dreams turn to ash, but I'm going to turn to the words of David in Psalms "Why are you downcast, O my soul?"  I am going to turn to God and lean heavily on him, hoping that my joy really will come in the morning.

Darkest Before the Dawn

Well, I guess it's time to tell part two of my week-long saga.  I actually spent a long time overnight trying to figure out what to say here today, because I want to do it right...

After making it through the night on Saturday, Sunday dawned bright and sunshiny---fuzzy, but sunshiny.  I was on some serious painkillers and antibiotics, and because there's this belief that you shouldn't wear contacts during surgery, I was as blind as a bat.  I had one of my nurses hand me the patient bag with my lenses in it, and discovered that I was on the top floor of the hospital with a little old lady as my roomie (we actually had friends in common-how cool was that?)  My morning ritual was to sit up and eat (2 bites counts, right?), ring for help to go potty (did I mention that I really scared the nurses the night before?), and then flip through the channels.  I was still too sick to be bored, because it struck me as a wonderful idea to take a two-hour nap.

When I woke up, my husband came through the door---and he had brought two things I desperately needed:  my toothbrush and a razor!  So I went around and was able to get rid of the fuzzy teeth thing and the 5'o'clock shadow thing.  He held my hand and we prayed together, and just visited...When my lunch came and I just ate 3 bites, he kinda frowned, but I think the medicines just made everything taste wrong (smelled great, tasted...meh).

Then the visitors started showing up.  First it was one of my cousins and her daughter (totally not expecting them, and she's a little...different)  Then my parents arrived--got me caught up on local news and the fact that half of the United States had been praying for me (I have a HUGE family, plus work family, plus church family...)  We talked about what my surgeon had told them and how serious my situation actually was.

Then SHE walked in...One of my best friends for years, Belinda walked into my room, wearing her Christian Motorcyle Association leather jacket, a royal blue doo rag, and a million-watt smile.  Belinda always reminds me of a cross between an elf and a pixie--all sparkle, all smiles, tons of hugs, and a contagious laugh and love for life.  I was totally surprised to see her.  We each lead such separate lives in town that we don't get to spend hardly any time talking-- but she's been there for me for everything--my wedding (she was a bridesmaid), my pregnancy (she was over the moon!), my miscarriage (she held me tight and loved me through that dark time).  We picked right up where we had left off the last time we talked.  She gave me some activity books to stave off the boredom, lifted my spirits, and then talked about her boys--a 20 year old and 18 year old twins.  She was supposed to be going on a ride with the CMA that afternoon, but told them that I was more important and she felt that God told her to come see me and encourage me.  She was going to meet them back home for a celebratory dinner.  She prayed for me, gave me another hug, and then I said, "Thanks so much for coming.  I've really missed you.  Have a safe trip home!"  Then she hugged everyone else and left the room.

And that's the last time I saw her.  Her "safe trip home" was the final one--straight up into heaven.  I know that's where she is at, because she had an assurance of her salvation.  A kid (that I used to have in school--the "I hate school" type) decided to make a left-hand turn right in front of her cycle.  In an instant she went from being a mom, a wife, a daughter, and a friend, to being a saint in heaven.  I've never lost a friend like that before--not ever been the last one to talk to someone. It's very surreal, and not really an experience I want to repeat, but I'm glad I got to see her that one last time, got to hug her and pray with her... 

At the last moments of her life, I had other visitors praying over me, and it wasn't until 6:00 that evening, when I was alone, that my mom called me with the news.  As I sat there crying, my roommate was so concerned that she called for the nurses.  Nurses often get a bad rap for being too businesslike, but mine were angels of mercy.  They sat with me and let me cry, got the chaplain for me, and called my surgeon to find out if they could give me a sedative to calm me down.  I wasn't hysterical, just heartbroken.  Not out-of-control, but at a loss so deep that the fountains of my soul just overflowed.  My husband called soon after, because he had just gotten home and found out--he called our pastor who immediately called me and told me he was coming.

My most cherished memory of that awful night?  The head nurse in charge of the floor came in, sat down on my bed, gathered me in her arms, and just rocked me like a baby.  She pressed her cheek against my forehead, brushed my hair away from my wet eyes, and talked with me about Belinda.  She told me to have a good cry, because the tears of grief were also tears of healing, and that God understood my loss.  She let me go when the chaplain arrived, although her comforting was much better. 

The chaplain (who was a woman) came in to talk.  I don't have anything against women being chaplains, but I do have something against a chaplain who is supposed to be counseling you over the death of a friend who NEVER once opened a Bible or shared words of scripture or gives you a hug or a hankie.  I actually thought my dog Maggie would have done a better job.  It was just a very...non-religiousy kinda sterile visit.  She left fairly quickly and my pastor came.  By this time, the sedative was kicking in, so I wasn't sobbing.  He held my hand and talked about everything.  My plans that were now tossed, the dream of being a mother that had turned to ashes in the span of 24 hours, the loss of such a dear friend...I don't know how long we talked, probably only 20 minutes or so, but then he prayed over me and I felt as if Jesus himself was sitting in that bed with me, His arms wrapped around me, comforting me.  My pastor stayed and held my hand until I fell asleep.

Needless to say, that overnight was rough, too.  I know God was right there beside me, through each bad moment, holding me tightly to keep me safe.  I cried out, "How much more can I take, God?  How many more things and hopes and dreams do I have to lose?  I know you have a plan, a great plan, for my life, but it's so dark that I can't see it.  We were just starting to get our feet back under us, just planning on starting our family in a different way---and then this.  When does it get to be my turn for happiness, my turn for peace and safety and family?  Your word says "sorrow may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning"...I feel like I've been put into the deepest night again and again---when will the joy come in the morning?" 

I don't know all the answers to those questions yet.  Probably won't for a while.  God doesn't give quick, easy answers.  He just calls us to trust.  Trusting is hard.  It means taking yourself out of the equation, it means not fixing it yourself.  I'm going to have to be trusting God a lot right now, because where we are is this:  It is now humanly impossible for us to move for at least 3 years.  It is humanly impossible to become foster parents or adoptive parents for at least 3-10 years.  It is humanly impossible for me to become pregnant.  It is going to be very difficult to pay off the hospital bills within 3 years. (I haven't gotten them yet, and I do have insurance, but the bills alone are probably close to $100,000.  I have to pay my deductable, plus 20% of everything else, so that going to be a long repayment process)  I have no guarantee that I'll have a job next year, husband still doesn't have one that's full-time.  In short, things are just about hopeless.  I have a hope, and I'm going to cling to it so strongly because it's all I have left.  I KNOW God has a plan in the midst of all of this.  I know it...but it's not going to be easy, it's not going to be quick, and it might demand that I give up on several of my dreams in order to follow the plan.  I'm gonna say it right here--this is going to be one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life, and I don't like it.  But I'll do it anyway, because I want to be used by God for the purpose He created.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I *Knew* Things Were Going Too Well...

Let's is October 20.  Exactly one week ago, my world got rocked again--and not in a good way.  Since I've been a bit tight-lipped about life lately, let me take you back in time to three weeks ago...(cue dreamy music and that hazy, dreamy feature on TV that lets you know you're going back in time)

I actually got a teeny, tiny raise this school year.  Husband is still looking for work, but we've decided that we were going to make the plunge around January and try to purchase a home in the town we both work in. (me at the school, him part-time at the radio station)  This is the town where we go to church, attend social functions, the whole nine yards.  We hadn't looked seriously at moving b/c of our job situation, but the savings in gas alone would almost pay for 1/2 a house payment.  Plus, it's a bigger town than we live in now, with access to a larger town and more employment opportunities for husband.  We were looking--had found a really good house--were getting ready to go look at it, began filling out the loan papers...The plus to this house was: it had a basement, was in a good neighborhood, had 4 bedrooms/3 baths (which was really a big deal b/c we don't qualify for foster/adoption in our current house), a nice backyard--it looked perfect.  We hadn't gotten our hopes up yet, though, because we knew this was going to be a several-month-long project.  We'd prayed that God would help guide us as we picked a house and wanted one that would become our home. 

***But you know how you get that little voice that tells you things are going TOO well?***

Yeah, should've listened to that voice.  On Oct 13, I woke up at 8:30 with some killer pains---the tell-tale signs of the serious kidney infection I seem to get every 8 months or so.  I don't get any of the warm-up UTI signs.  I'm just fine one minute and in absolute agony the next--and this pain hurt worse than my miscarriage did (it was all physical, whereas the other one was physical and heartbroken and desolation).  Since I knew what it was, I padded off to the bathroom and looked to see if I still had any antibiotics left over from the last time this had happened---yup, I had 4.  I thought it would be enough to hold it off until I could see the doctor on Monday.  Well, 2 hot baths, hot pads, and tylenol later, it was getting worse.  I called hubby to have him come home ASAP, and by the time he arrived, I was throwing up.  We decided to go to the ER, but since we live in a very rural area, the closest ER we have is one hour away.  That one hour trip lasted longer since we had to pull over for me to upchuck on the side of the road (real classy, right?).  I was admitted to the ER, then my mom arrived so hubby could go to work.  When the morphine wasn't knocking out the pain, they sent me in for a CT scan, which showed....a GIANT kidney stone that had blocked my kidney (seriously, it's the size of a marble trying to get through a hole the size of a small crochet hook).  When my nausea was increasing, my blood oxygen decreasing, and my pain intensifying, they decided to rush me in for emergency surgery.  I ended up having a stent put in from my kidney to my bladder (it's like a bendy straw--and yes, you feel it every time you have to pee).  The original plan was to remove the stone during that procedure, but the surgeon told me later that as the stent went in, green pus boiled out.  It turns out I was less than an hour away from the infection becoming septic.  It was really, really, really serious.  I made it through the surgery fine, but had to wait in the recovery room b/c of a tornado warning (nope, totally not making any of this up--my imagination is good, but not that good).  When I finally made it to my room, I was feeling TONS better.  However, during the night, my blood pressure bottomed out twice, and I woke up hearing the nurses surrounding my bed adding fluids and talking to me to try to keep me from going from bad to worse.  I obviously made it through the night, but it was touch and go for a while.

I'll tell you part two and part three tomorrow, because this trauma alone wasn't enough to mark my first patient visit to a hospital in 30 years.  No, it had to get worse, and while I'm home now, I'm still recovering and awaiting a second surgery in two weeks.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A *Normal* Day in the Life of Me's been a while since I posted.  I promise that I didn't fall off the edge of the world, but it's been close.  My summer ended in a whirlwind, and then I jumped into the school year with both feet.

Sometimes as a teacher, you approach the new year kinda like dipping your toe in the water.  Other times you enthusiastically jump in with an Olympic-sized dive.  Then, if you're really a glutton for punishment, you do what I did this year:  you say yes to just about anything you can fit in.  For some who choose that option, it's all about the extra money that comes in; for others it's about filling the hours to the max.  For me?  Well, it's because I want to do my best so that this school will hire me as a teacher next year, AND because I'm a sucker for wanting the best for my Sped kids.  What have I gotten myself into?

Well, I (the perpetual night owl who loves her nightly dramas on TV) am currently waking up at 4:45-5:00 AM (as in pitch dark, see the stars for another 2 hours kinda early), then leaving my house by 5:30 to get to school by 6:00 (we're looking at moving so that I can do a bit of sleeping in at some point in the future--more on that in another post).  I then hop on board the ol' yellow school bus at 6:15 AM and ride for an hour and a half so that I can help a student get on the bus and make sure that this student doesn't cause any behavior problems.  (Student is doing great!!!!  I've gotten lots of compliments on the good behavior, b/c that was NOT the case last year with another aide---I'm gonna bank on it being the compassion I have and the fact that I know ASL, as well as the whole "licensed, certified teacher" thing I have going on)

Then I spend the whole day at school where I am the only middle school aide in a middle school of approximately 320 kids.  I just keep hopping all day long.  Then I spend lots of quality time with my *favorite* student who daily tells me that he/she hates me and that I'm a jerk and a moron (not joking, but have you noticed that there are some words, when daily or hourly repeated, that start sounding really funny?  I do a good job of keeping from giggling when this student says these things---I just keep documenting it and telling him/her to get back to work.

Then I get on the bus for the ride home, get dropped off at 4:30, and then drive the 1/2 hour home.  I take my shower, grab a tiny bite to eat, and then go to bed by 7:30-8:00. (which means that I'm not watching ANY of my favorite shows---I have to catch up on Saturdays--when I'm home!) 

Needless to say, I'm pooped by the end of each day, but I hope it pays off for me by the end of the year.  I've got to go--it's almost time to go to bed, and I need to finish using the Internet tonight!  See you tomorrow for the next exciting installment of my life!