Monday, November 21, 2011

Don't Stop Here

Thanks to the help of a great counselor/Pastor I have known since before John's transplant that I was dealing with some pretty serious anxiety stuff and some post traumatic stress stuff too. We didn't realize just how real all of it was until the morning of the 16th, one year from the day that we sat in the little waiting room just outside the doors of the PICU, we had been told downstairs in the surgery waiting that John had taken a turn for the worse in surgery and had been invited to come sit up stairs closer to the doors where he was because they were trying to stabilize him and they didn't know if we would get to see him alive or not. I honestly have no clue how long we sat in those two chairs with the physicians assistant coming out every so often to tell us that they were still fighting to keep him here and that it wasn't going well and then finally finally we could go in, we couldn't touch him, we couldn't get close to him, we could only be in the corner of the room because they just really weren't sure even then that he was going to make it but they were still fighting with everything they had and needed us to not be in the way of that fight. Long story short, he did make it and is doing wonderfully, amazing actually, beyond anything we ever hoped or dreamed.

Since surgery every morning I wake between 3 and 4, I'm not even sure I realized that I was doing that when John was in the PICU, it finally dawned on me that it was every day when we got to out patient status and while I expected it to stop once we got home it hasn't. Some nights I am awake for a few minutes and can go back to sleep relatively easily, many nights I am awake for several hours and am clueless really as to why I am awake, just that I am.

The morning of the 16th I woke up like normal and laid there by Mark, usually I like our nice dark room, but this time it felt like it was closing in and by the time John's pump went off and Mark woke to go shut it off I was mentally wired and knew that I had to go see John, had to make sure he was really here, so I went, I saw him, he was breathing just fine, sleeping peacefully, warm to the touch, obviously alive and well and I started to cry, by the time I got out of the room and down the few feet of the hall to the bathroom I was sobbing. I'm not even sure how I got back into bed, my heart racing so fast I was afraid it would explode and I would die right there, and all I could remember was those damn chairs in the waiting room, sitting there, just sitting, wondering if we would hold him alive again, sobbing, screaming, crying, waiting. I couldn't even remember if we had come home or if John had survived, nothing was as real as those two chairs, nothing, not even Mark holding me. Finally I got to where I could hear him, he was saying something about John being okay, I was able to think a little, we left the chairs and went into John's room, nurses and doctors everywhere in that small space, the ventilator running, the monitors and IV pumps, and blood, oh God all that blood, and my baby and I couldn't touch him or hold him and he was dying and I would never see him smile and the chairs, those damn chairs in the waiting room. The heater kicked off, in hindsight I think it kicking on is what woke me up, but when it kicked off I could hear John breathing from the other room. John, breathing, breathing normally, he's here, he's home, we're home, scrambling looking for my iPod, yes there the pictures from when we were out for the day, real, really there, breathing. It took a long while, I have no idea how long, but I know I looked at that picture of John and Mark for a long long time and then I was able to start thinking, we came home, John came home, he was so silly, he sat in the floor at the movie and then needed to dance, he loved the french fries at the restaurant, the gun, oh how could I have forgotten he found a picture of an air soft pistol in the Bass Pro ad and showed it too me like 100 times yesterday, how could I have forgotten the glee, the smiles, the joy, the breathing, the warm, and the day flooded back and slowly I went back to sleep.

When I woke up later I felt like I had tried to run a marathon, every muscle in my back, legs and arms were sore and tight, my head pounded and I was exhausted. Throughout the day anxiety grew, what if this happens again, will I really have a heart attack and die now with John doing so well, why am I this crazy when Mark is mostly okay. So I did some reading and in that reading I found some advice that to get through that acute stress time you have to keep your mind moving, you can't let it lock up like mine locked on those damn chairs. Still I was afraid to go to sleep that night. We kept John up way late, playing and giggling and having fun, before sleep Mark and I shared a devotion which oddly enough was about John the Baptizer, whom we named our John after. I finally fell asleep.

Sometime between 3 and 4 I woke up and there we were sitting in those damn chairs again, here comes the physicians assistant, Lord's prayer, I can remember the Lord's Prayer, okay the beginning of it, move to John's room in the PICU, more of the Lord's Prayer, giggling, he was giggling last night while Mark carried him back to bed, damn chairs, no, not the chairs, Creed, okay a bit, wait more, giggling, Lord's Prayer, Creed, giggling, and smiling and warm and breathing and the heater kicked off and there I can hear him breathing, Lord's Prayer, sleep, no racing heart, no sobbing and screaming, sleep, thank you God, thank you for sleep.

I am writing this on the night of the 17th, when I go to bed tonight I will be saying my prayers that when if I wake with a start in the night and find myself in those damn chairs that I won't stop there, just keep moving. Believe me I will be going to bed with pictures of John close to me and the Creed and Lord's Prayer on my lips as I drift off. Mark is on call this night and a few hours away. I don't expect this battle to be over soon, from what I read about Post Traumatic Stress I might fight this battle for my whole life, but that's okay, and despite this I am okay, and the sun will come up and go down and days and nights will pass and each time I find myself in those damn chairs again I pray that I can just keep moving.

In my searching, looking for help and answers to this I found information from vets and victims of crime and tragedies about post traumatic stress, that information was helpful, but I am putting this here just incase someone who needs it and wonders if they are crazy because they have not been through those 'big' things and yet PTS is there in their head, it happens to more than just vets and victims, it doesn't mean that you are bad or weak, just hurt, scars in our heads are so much harder to heal than scars in the body, just keep moving, don't get stuck in the damn chairs and if you do know that you're not alone, others of us have sat there too. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

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