(This is going to be long, just so you know!)
(Note: THis was originally part of a blog challege, Woman of Noble Character Challenge 3 & 4)
She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
Week 3: Proverbs 31:16-18 Are you thrifty and frugal? Do you take care of yourself by exercising and eating right? Write a post about how you are spending wisely and/or any ways in which you are making healthier choices to ensure you are energetic and strong.
Week 4: Proverbs 31:19-21 Do you extend a helping hand to the poor and needy? Is your family prepared for the possibility of a need? Write a post about how you are helping the unfortunate, and how you are setting aside for a day when your family may be in need.
I can't believe how timely this is. For those who don't know, the past few weeks have been crazy for our family. A month ago I would have written something very different for this challenge.
In January, my husband had surgery in Texas. I was his non-medical attendant. He had a fairly large cyst in his heel bone that was causing a lot of pain. The doctor here thought he might break it if it wasn't repaired. They cleaned it out and did a bone graft. (His full recovery time is at least 6 months!)
We spent 17 days away from home while we traveled to the hospital, he recovered from surgery and we returned home. It was not too bad. I felt like I was in limbo. Just before we left, I found out I was pregnant. I didn't feel quite right at first and, honestly, I was really stressed about it. I had 3 blood tests to check my hormone levels but each seemed fine. While we were in Texas I made my peace with this unexpected news.
While we were away, my mother, father and 2 brothers took care of our 7 children at our home. One child or another was sick the entire time we were gone.
Although our time in Texas was uneventful, our journey home was quite the opposite. We left just ahead of a big winter storm. We wanted to get as far ahead of the storm as possible before we stopped. Our truck had other ideas. At about 9:30 PM we suddenly lost power. I pulled onto the shoulder and we crawled along to the nearest exit (about 6 miles down the interstate!). We checked into a hotel and asked about an auto parts store or mechanic. We had few options. We were in the middle of nowhere. Literally.
The next morning we found the truck was working just fine but we went to parts store and added some transmission goo just in case. By the time we left it was snowing pretty hard. My husband had gone off his meds so he could drive. He has more experience driving in snow. I was a nervous wreck.
For the most part, it was harrowing but not too bad. We had one SERIOUS close call when we came upon an accident that was undoubtedly fatal for someone and had potential to be even worse. The accident had occurred in the opposite direction but the vehicles involved were in the median. There was a tractor trailer parked in the middle of the interstate on our side, straddling the center line in an effort to stop traffic. The driver was trying to help those involved in the accident. Because visibility was so low, we didn't even see the truck until it was almost too late. The icy road made it impossible to stop. I have no doubt that angels were guiding us as we slid around that truck, barely fitting between it and the guardrail. There were a few men on the road waving for us to stop. They jumped out of the way as we slid by like a scene from a movie. I have never been so scared in my life!
We drove through the storm and finally made it to clear roads near Memphis. That's when the truck started to act up again. We stopped for lunch and found out that there was a rental car agency a few miles away. The truck worked great getting to the rental car place but we didn't know what the problem was (We still don't but our guess is a computer issue. It seems to reboot if you turn it off and restart the engine but it will act up again after driving it for a while.) We rented a car and started for home but it was snowing again. The rest of the trip was kind of slow but much safer. Before my parents left that evening, we told the whole family about the new baby.
We arrived home Wednesday evening to sickly kids. By Friday I had decided that 2 of them were sick enough to see a doctor. One was diagnosed with strep, the other (our 11 year old) only had a headache and ear pain. The doctor said it was probably a virus and sent us home. That night he started throwing up. He couldn't keep anything down the whole weekend. By Monday he looked awful! His color was terrible, he was dragging himself around. I took him to Urgent Care as soon as the kids were on the bus. (my husband was home with 3 kids under 4 and on crutches.)
Patrick was given an IV of fluids, something for nausea and his strep test was positive. He started antibiotics that day.
That same day was my first doctor's appointment. Patrick waited in the waiting room half asleep while I sat through the usual lecture about eating a proper diet, etc, along with a new one about getting older and the increased possibility of birth defects. Finally the midwife started the exam with her little heart beat finder. She only found mine. She brought in an ultrasound machine and tried again.
Now, I had 5 babies overseas where they use an ultrasound for everything so I have seen more than my fair share of ultrasounds. I knew what I saw on the screen was not normal. It looked like an empty black circle, not unlike the cyst I had a few years ago.
She brought in a doctor to do some measurements and make it more official, then they went through a big deal about getting the dates wrong and doing more tests. I agreed to it but I was pretty sure there wouldn't be much change. I think the midwife knew this. She talked to me a little about miscarriage and was very sensitive without being too specific. I didn't tell Patrick or the other kids, only my husband.
The next day we made a whilrwind trip to Memphis to get our truck. It took all day. I never wanted to drive again at that point! We didn't quite make it home before the bus so my Visiting Teacher come over to meet the kids until we got home about 20 minutes later.
After a few days Patrick started to perk up and looked a little better. He asked me what makes your pee change colors and we talked about food coloring and dehydration. I didn't think much of it. Friday night he told me his pee looked like root beer. I was stunned. I told him to let me see it but he didn't until the next evening. I thought he was exaggerating. He wasn't. It was VERY dark.
My first thought was the antibiotics. Dark urine was listed as a side effect under "call your doctor" if you have this. I called the ER and asked to speak to a nurse but they said they didn't do phone consultations. I wasn't sure if it was an emergency since he wasn't in pain, didn't have a fever, seemed a little run down but fairly healthy, etc. That night he threw up again. I didn't give him the antibiotics that night or the next morning. He slept late and woke up just before Shane left for his church meetings.
I had Patrick get dressed and go with us to church. His face looked puffy and several people commented on how bad he looked. Shane and another brother gave him a priesthood blessing. He said that "with time" Patrick would make a full recovery. I felt reassured but I was more certain than ever that he needed a doctor. Shane took him home while I stayed with the other kids. When we got home they were both napping. Shane's surgery has taken a lot out of him and he still gets tired easily. I woke him up and told him I was taking Patrick to the ER.
At the emergency room they didn't seem too excited about Patrick at first. The doctor gave him and IV and sent a urine sample and some blood to the lab. (By now his urine was red!) The nurse said that he might get cold from the IV and I could ask for a blanket if he did. Near the end of the IV he started getting goosebumps and looked kind of purple and blotchy. He was even shivering a little. I went to the front desk and asked the nurse for a blanket. She seemed a little put out but when she came in she immediately took his pulse. His heart rate was 20 beats per minute. She hooked him up to machines and got the doctor. They did an EKG. His heart rate had come back up to an acceptable rate but his blood pressure was high. (the highest I saw was 174 /99). The doctor came in and said she had called Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville and they were sending an ambulance. She explained that he was having a complication from the strep infection and his kidneys were shutting down. That was causing the high blood pressure.
I called my husband and told him what was happening. He made some calls and found someone to come watch the other kids. Now remember, he is on crutches, I have been helping him get dressed because he can't bend that foot, and his truck has not been running like it should. The ambulance arrived as he was leaving the house. They waited a few minutes but ended up leaving with Patrick while I waited for Shane.
We raced down to Nashville, went to the wrong ER (Vanderbilt is a huge medical complex) and finally found Patrick sleeping but okay. He had been throwing up because of the toxins that were building up from the kidney dysfunction. They had given him something to help him rest. They also gave him medication to flush the kidneys and keep his blood pressure in check. We repeated the events of that week who knows how many times that night to nurses and doctors, family and friends. Shane stayed at the hospital while I went home to be with the other kids.
He came home the following Tuesday after spending 2 nights in the hospital. He had made dramatic improvements but the doctors said it could take months for his kidneys to heal. We felt very blessed because he did not need dialysis or an extended hospital stay. He is still on medications and a low sodium diet but he is doing well.
The day after Patrick came home I went back to the doctor for a second ultrasound and the results. The doctor was very kind but reached the same conclusions that we had. Either there had never been a baby (a blighted ovum) or it had not formed past a few weeks and my body didn't realize it (missed miscarriage). We discussed options and decided to schedule a d&c for Friday. She had explained that the natural process can take a few days and be very painful and physically taxing. We didn't want that. We wanted to have some control again. I guess the Lord wanted to teach us that we don't really have any control because Thursday my body realized it wasn't pregnant any more.
I wasn't in any pain but I was bleeding very heavily for several hours and starting to feel dizzy. I called a nurse from our ward and she suggested going to the hospital to get checked out. After another late night we were home and the miscarriage was basically complete. The doctor at the ER said I had just gone through it faster than most. I had been expecting labor-like pains or at least some strong cramps. I had none of that. The doctor gave me something to cause stronger contractions and speed things along but I barely felt them. Another blessing.
By now you are probably wondering what this has to do with those verses in Proverbs and the questions associated with them. Well, I learned a great deal about virtuous women during all of this. I called on 5 to watch my kids during our various hospital trips. 2 brought meals. One brought flowers and chocolate "to bring you some sunshine". 2 gave me advice about low sodium foods. 2 gave me advice about the miscarriage. Countless others called or emailed offering prayers, comfort, and support. I got hugs and smiles. Some of these women I haven't seen or spoken to in 10 years or more. I was overwhelmed by their love. I never realized how much it could mean to know you are not forgotten.
I also realized how important it is to be prepared. In a temporal way, we had plenty of food and enough money for our various needs. We were careful with our spending and had planned ahead for the trip to Texas. When we returned I replenished our supplies. Through all the excitement I made sure we kept up with dishes and laundry. Our kids have regular chores (not that they are happy about them) so it was not unusual for them to do the basic housework that I couldn't do for one reason or another.
We were also prepared spiritually. The moment of crisis is not the time to look for faith. The faith needs to be there to hold you up when the crisis comes. Without prior preparation my son would not have had a priesthood blessing. I would not have recognized the comforting of the Spirit during each of these trials. Prayer would not have been my first instinct when we faced danger and fear. If I had not been going to church, I wouldn't have known those sisters who reached out and they wouldn't have known me and my family.
The last thing I learned from all of this is how important it is to choose our friends wisely. We lift each other, stregnethen each other, motivate each other. I know I would not be the person I am without the many virtuous and noble women in my life. They put me on the right path and keep me there. I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for this great blessing.