Hello everyone! This blog entry will be a little different. I’m Mike, Chessie's husband, and I've hijacked her blog today to write about a pretty huge event/obstacle in our lives recently. For all our friends and family, these are the details for what has been a bit cloudy in our posts on FB. This promises to be long-winded but there’s a point to it.
First of all, my story is not as tough as some have experienced, but I felt I needed to get my testimony out. I have had a continuing medical issue for about 7 years. In 2014 it began causing more problems, culminating in a trip to the ER in November that caused me to miss two weeks of work. So the doctors and I decided it was time to schedule a surgery to remove the part of my intestine causing the problem. On January 6th, my wife and I packed a hospital bag, since I was told I’d have to stay for 3-4 days. Extra clothes, toiletries, a book, cellphone charger and… Cookie.
Cookie is a doll that belonged to my daughter Makayla from the time she was 4. At the time, her mother, Celena, and I had already divorced. However, Celena and I were both active duty Air Force and stationed here in Hawaii. When Makayla was 6, her mom got orders to change station to the mainland. I knew this was coming but it was very hard for me, knowing that I’d only get to see my daughter for the summers. Makayla gave me her favorite doll, Cookie, and filled it with hugs, so that I could get a hug from my daughter anytime I needed it. It’s a tradition that we have had for years, and she still "refills" Cookie with fresh hugs when she visits, 10 years later. It sounds silly, but I will fight you over that doll. Don’t test me.
Being prepped for the first surgery.
So I had the surgery on the 6th as planned, which the doctors said was a great success. I seemed to be recovering quickly and they decide to discharge me a couple days later. However, right before Chessie arrived to take me home, I started feeling… not so great. My symptoms included a resting heart-rate of 140 and a temp of 103. Needless to say, there was much fussing over me that night. I was moved to the ICU, but the doctors assured me that it was just because they didn't have anywhere else for me at that moment and they wanted to keep a little closer eye on me.
Over the next two days, I had lots of tests done on me. Urine, blood, x-rays, CT scans, all of which came back negative. My condition didn't improve. These two days were the scariest of my life. Something was wrong with me, and the doctors couldn't figure out what. The doctors tried to be reassuring but Chessie and I saw worry in their eyes every time they came in. How long could my heart handle beating at 130-140 beats a minute? At what point do the doctors exhaust all their options? My daughter, my mom and dad, people I would want to see if I were leaving this world were all so far away. At the same time I was terrified for my new wife. Could she be a widow less than a year into our marriage?
Nonetheless, Chessie and I would hold hands, pray with the chaplain, talk (when I wasn't passing out from exhaustion and narcotic painkillers), and pass the time while we waited for the doctors to do another test or give us some news. I also almost completely emptied Cookie of her supply of Makayla's hugs.
On the third day, the doctors told me that the only thing they could do at this point was an exploratory surgery. This was terrifying because Chessie was on her way to see me and I didn't really get any notice. They said they were taking me back to operate and the only thing I could do was text my wife that I was about to go into surgery and hand my phone to the nurse to put away. When I woke up, Chessie was there. The doctors told me they had found the problem and fixed it. A "nick" in my intestine caused by withdrawal of the surgical robot arm thingy after the first surgery. Apparently the "nick" was about 4 inches long and caused intestinal waste to spill into the abdominal cavity, which is what was causing my problems.
My biggest incision. It's looking MUCH better now.
I immediately started getting better. I improved a little every day. All the while, my wife and Cookie standing vigil at my side. And at night, when Chessie went home, the lights were out and the hospital was quiet, except the beeping of IV pumps, and the occasional nurse who would come in to shove a fresh needle into me somewhere, I would talk to God. It was a comfort, at a time in my life when comfort was very scarce. It wasn't until I began improving that the doctors validated our worries and told us how serious the situation had become. One of my doctors told me she was "very very worried", and Chessie and I saw her eyes well up with tears for a moment.
The first time we were able to cuddle after more than a week.
Fifteen days after I checked into the hospital, I finally got to return home with the love of my life. There was the pain of a very large incision and it was very unnerving to not have the medical care close by if I needed it… But it was home. Now, as I write this, I’m getting a little stronger and feeling better every day. I have a bit of a road ahead of me, especially as far as stamina. 15 days in a hospital bed doesn't do much for your cardio.
In the Air Force, we talk a lot about "resilience". It’s the topic of lots of briefings that no one wants to go to. It’s a fancy term for the pillars we use to get through tough times in our lives. Religion, family, community, friends, hobbies, anything that you can lean when the going gets tough. I work in a field with a lot of brilliant people. It seems in our small community that religion is often not a popular belief, and I know a lot of people who don’t put stock in things that they can’t see and touch.
I guess the reason I felt compelled to write this post, is that I think everyone should believe in something. Sure, believing in God isn't fashionable or logical in the minds of some. But believe in something. Fate, karma, positive thoughts, whatever can get you through the tough times. For my ordeal, I had my wife, and I had my faith, and I CHOSE to believe that hugging a silly little doll somehow connected me to my daughter thousands of miles away. If I hadn't had those pillars, I would have crumbled. Allow yourself to put faith in something greater than yourself now. Build and maintain those pillars of strength so they are there when you need them.
Today I am flying alone to Tucson to buy gemstones and minerals, the raw materials I use in my passion of creating wire sculpture jewelry. This is a trip that I planned back in November. I know that without God, my amazing wife, and a silly little rag doll named Cookie that I would not be able to go.