The Other Side Of The Bed

October 14, 2010

I’ve been away from the blog for a while, but to say that things have been a little crazy around the Hall Home is an understatement to say the least.

For those who don’t know, on May 1st Kolette was admitted to the hospital with Gall-Stone Pancreatitis.  When she was admitted, the doctors in the ER told us that this illness was one of the most painful they ever see.

 

Kolette in the ICU

 

Over the last six months we’ve learned that they were right.  She’s had multiple procedures, one major operation (where they removed 80% of her necrotic pancreas), and has spent nearly two months in the hospital (about a week of which was in the Intensive Care Unit).  In addition, she’s been on high doses of pain medicine, fed though an IV, had her stomach swell to the point where one doc assumed her to be 10 months pregnant, and nearly lost her life.

Without hyperbole, I can say Kolette has been pushed to her ultimate limit—and the whole ordeal is far from over. (Who knew one little gallstone could cause so much grief…right?)  She still fights tremendous pain, and struggles everyday to have the energy to take care of our 20-month-old Cole.  She has to go to the hospital multiple times a week for things like physical therapy, dressing changes, and infusions, and spends nearly all her effort working to be able to eat again without dire consequences–C’mon sing along…”Nausea, Heartburn, Indigestion, Upset Stomach, Diarrhea.” (click on the link if you can’t recall the tune)

 

Kolette's swollen belly

 

The truth is, it’s been difficult on everyone.  Coleman’s had to learn how to live out of a suitcase. Our little rock star has been on a whirlwind tour that’s taken him all over the state with frequent stops at Aunt Kara’s, Aunt Carolie’s, and his all-time favorite—Grandma’s.

 

Coleman on a rare visit to the hospital

 

As for yours truly, on one hand, I’ve had to step up to a whole new level of independence. I’ve had to learn how to take care of myself in ways I never imagined that I could. Part of that has meant making sacrifices—I mean sometimes you realize meals like breakfast, lunch, and dinner are way overrated. On the other hand I’ve had to accept more help. When you’re a C5-6 quadriplegic, you feel like it’s impossible to accept more help (Heck, if I listed the things I needed help with before all this, we be here for a month.) But, I’ve learned to humble myself and have been grateful for the people in my church and my neighborhood that has stepped up and helped with anything I required.

I’ve learned so much through this whole experience. However, of all the things I’ve learned, I think the most powerful has been the understanding of what it’s like on what I call, “The Other Side of the Bed.”

Throughout my life I’ve always been the one in the family who’s been ill. Just look at my record…Broken neck—check, multiple surgeries—check, infection and hospitalization—check, life-threatening car wreck—check, and so on. It was my role in the family, and I played it well if I do say so myself. I was the person in bed, sick and with his life on the line.  To this point I’d never been asked to be, “on the other side of the bed” watching the one you love suffer.

Then, on the 1st of May, things changed.  Ko now was fighting for her life, and all I could do was watch.

It is by far the most helpless I have ever felt in my life (and this coming from a guy who can’t move 7/8 of his body.) There was absolutely nothing I could do but sit in Ko’s room and tell again and again how I loved her, and how proud I was to witness her courage and fortitude.

I know some might wonder how much control a person really has lying in the bed after a major accident or illness. Yet, for me regardless of how much control I had over my physical situation, I had control over my attitude. I could be happy. I could be determined. I could make a sad situation less gloomy for those who visited, and all of this would give me a sense of control.

“On the other side of the bed,” you have absolutely no sense of control at all. In fact, to the contrary, you feel totally completely out of control. You watch, and wait, hoping your love and support is enough, but in the end it’s all up to the person in the bed.

People always tell me how amazed they are that I’ve been able to endure the challenges of my life. These past months have taught me an invaluable lesson. The amazing ones are those who’ve spent hours and hours at my bedside. I’m sure they’ve felt as helpless and out of control as I did, and yet they stayed still.

This experience has also reminded me that a little understanding goes a long way. Trading places with Kolette has helped me understand her point of view. It’s allowed me to understand how she felt in those dark days after my accident, and helped me to realize why she was motivated to push hard when I felt she’d already pushed too much. This understanding helps me appreciate and love her all the more.

Similarly, the prejudice and judgment that exists in the world today can be as easily removed if people will simply try to see things from “other sides.” When we look at others and don’t understand why they seemingly get all the breaks, have all the chances, or get to live a life that we perceive is free of difficulty and strife, we have to try and see things from their point of view. The more we see their side, the more we will understand. That understanding will breed love and remove hate. It will spread humility and alleviate pride. It will bring compassion and eschew cruelty.

At the end of the day this experience has taught me that two things are true. First, I am truly blessed to have people like my sweet wife and wonderful mother who have spent hours at my bedside to show their support and let me know that I was loved. Second, even though it’s often hard, I like my life. I’m lucky and blessed. I want to try and concentrate on how wonderful my side of this existence is and quit worrying about everybody else. I want to fill my heart with gratitude and rid it of judgment.

For, when it’s all said and done, I’ll stay on my side of the bed thank you. For the “other sides” out there are simply far more difficult than advertised.

Jh-


Laughin’ With The Pancreas

May 24, 2010

Every week I try to post something to help give the people that stop by my blog a little laugh.  I call the posts, “A Little Laughter.” Even when I don’t have the time or energy to publish other posts, I try to get a little video, song or story up that will bring a smile to my reader’s faces.

I have a powerful belief in the power of laughter.  To my very core I know that, when it comes to having a positive attitude and dealing with adversity, there are few things that help like humor.  Throughout the most difficult times of my life I have been a witness to the influence a moment of joy can have in determining the altitude of our attitudes and our ability to overcome.

However, just like most things, it’s easy to talk about adding humor to your life and a different thing altogether to implement laughter daily—especially in times of adversity.

I can safely say that the past weeks have tested my belief and dedication to the importance of the funny.

On May 1st, Kolette was diagnosed with Gall Stone Pancreatitis.  It has caused her to be as sick as she has ever been, put her in more pain than most can imagine, and almost taken her life.  She was in the hospital for a week and a half, four days of which were spent in the ICU.

Of all the days in the hospital, those she spent in Intensive Care were the most harrowing.  Every night I would leave her room sure that things couldn’t get any worse, only to show up the next morning to find her at a new low.  She was hardly breathing, with her blood pressure through the floor, and over 65lbs. of water collecting around her liver, kidneys, lungs and abdomen.

Watching her pain had to be the worst.   I have truly never felt more helpless in my entire life. (Kolette and I really traded places on this one.  I’m used to be the one fighting for his life, not the one standing idly by—I prefer my normal position, thank you).

When she was admitted, the doctors told her there were few conditions as painful as pancreatitis.  In fact, at one point in the ER, as Kolette asked over and over for more pain medicine, the doc said, “I could give you enough pain medicine to stop your heart and you’d still be in pain.”

On that first day, I knew that if I were going to keep a positive attitude of any kind through this ordeal, I’d have to have a regular dose of humor.  I knew that my minutes of laughter were as critical to our survival as Kolette’s milligrams of medicine.

So, in an effort to get out in front of the issue, I change the Kolette’s ringtone on my phone to the song below.  Whenever the people in her room, nurses on staff, and Kolette (when she could) used the phone to get a hold of me I’d hear the song “Pancreas” by “Weird Al” Yankovic that’s posted below.  The phone was used enough that, a number of times throughout the day, I’d get a little 20 second listen of the song.  Being a lifelong “Weird Al” fan, I felt it would do the trick—and luckily for me, I was right.

Every time I heard the song, no matter how bad the day, inevitably the ends of my mouth would curl and I’d let out a little chuckle. Instantly, things were a little better, and all at once everything that was heavy would get a little lighter.

Now, I know that everyone won’t think he song is funny.  Most will probably just think that it’s weird.  But it was perfect for me. It gave my heart the little lift that it needed and helped me have the strength to carry on, and if I was passionate about the power of humor before, that passion has only intensified now.

Kolette is home now, still in a great deal of pain, with a long road and the chance of multiple surgeries ahead.  But, as I ask for your prayers and good thoughts for her speedy and successful recovery, I also ask that if this song doesn’t make you chuckle or chortle, find something that does.  Then, when you do listen, watch, or read it, and witness as your attitude improves and the white-hot heat of that positive attitude warms your life.

For, I know that regardless of whether times are good or bad, or if things in your life are easy or hard, we all are better after a little laughter.

Jh-

Thanks Al


Get The “Hack” Outta Life

November 4, 2009

Hack

If you’ve never checked out Lifehacker.com, you really should.  It’s built on the idea that you can “hack” or find “work arounds” to eliminate much of the regular mundane stuff that bogs us down and eats up our time and money.  With that idea in mind, the site is filled with all kinds of great info on easier ways to get around the regular things everyone has to deal with every day.  The last time I checked the site, they had ideas for everything from a cheaper way to build a first aid kit for your car, to a way to keep your visits to the coffee shop to a minimum, to a easier way to build a theater system in your home.

It’s flat out chocked full with a whole horde of ideas on how to find little shortcuts and “hacks” to make life easier.  I love the site, and use it on a regular basis.

In a similar vein, I see people trying to teach others that they can “hack” their way through the difficult parts of their lives.  They promulgate products and offer up programs promising to have found a “work around” that’ll work for them.  It comes assured as a way to delete difficulty—and then when it doesn’t work, it’s because they didn’t work hard enough or they quit too soon.

I see it all the time. Someone comes around with an easy answer, the promise is too much to pass up, and someone takes the bait. Then, after months and months of time and money, when it’s obvious the snake oil isn’t going to take hold, the answer comes that the sufferer simply didn’t want it bad enough.

The fact is, life is hard—and some things just can’t be fixed, no matter how bad we want them to. Life is filled with adversity and frustration that can’t be “worked around.” Although there is little question that there are ideas to help buoy us up in times of trouble and discord, the majority of the hard stuff simply has to be worked through.

There’s no quick fix, no pill, no “hack” or “cheat” that can change the harsh realities of life.  For the most part the only prescription or program that will have any effect is a healthy dose of, “Pull up your bootstraps.”  “Suck it up,” isn’t real popular, and definitely not PC, but reality is that most times it’s the only answer that really makes any difference.

We all know suffering, but what we also know is that there’s no easy out, no quick fix, no magic spell that can make it ”all better.” But in the end that’s a beautiful thing, because when the balance sheet is finally made right, it’s the hard things that we’ll be most grateful for.

They are the times where we learn the most about who we are and what we’re made of.  They are the times when we get the chance to grow. It’s the struggle that stretches us; it’s the banging against the rocks that will keep us tough.

Only by being “knocked down,” do we find out if we’ve got the strength to get up off the.

There will be some that will read this and say…”So, what then?  Is there nothing to do?  Is there nothing that can be done?”

The answer is, “Of Course not.” There are so many things that we can do to lessen suffering—We just have to accept that most times we can’t have it taken away, and that we can’t take it away for others.  In fact, we shouldn’t.  For, the real irony is that it’s our own opportunity to endure adversity that gives us the ability to find out what we’re really made of.

Adversity will come (I promise you that), and it’ll be a real humdinger.  But, when it comes, embrace it and accept it.  Don’t waste your time trying to “hack” your way out of it.  Just get after the business of enduring it well and watch the lessons you learn. I’m not saying it’ll be fun—no one ever promised you a rose garden—but, if you keep on keepin’ on, it’ll shape you in ways you never dreamed.

Jh-


I Can Do Anything For 80 Years

October 22, 2009

Hospital Traction 1st Acc._2

I have been taught the importance of being positive from the youngest days of my life.  I don’t remember a time when having a PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) wasn’t a regular part my parents instruction on the proper way to live a life.

Therefore, growing up, I tried to make a positive outlook a part of my life.  I tried to look at the glass half full, tried to see the best in those around me and tried to concentrate on the good and forget the bad.

Then at fifteen and a half, on the 13th of July 1986 my life changed in a second.

I went from a completely healthy young man in the best shape of my life to paralyzed from the chest down with only partial use of my arms and no use of my hands.

As difficult as that transition was, it was the first nights that were the most harrowing.  My lungs filled with mucus to the point where you could barely see any clear part of my lung on the x-ray.  My pulmonologist told me it was the worst case of pneumonia he had ever seen.

You didn’t have to have a medical degree to understand that my life was in the balance.  In those days, I had one wish.  It wasn’t to walk, it wasn’t to be accepted back at home, and it wasn’t to have a normal life-It was to live.

All I wanted was to wake up the next morning.

After a few days when I began to feel, not quite out of the woods, but on my way there, my dad came to the side of my bed and asked me if I felt like I could deal with life as a quadriplegic, I replied, “I can do anything for 80 years.” I was so grateful that I’d kept my life—everything seemed better.  Even paralysis seemed doable.

In the days since then, I’ve almost lost my life at least one other time.  And in those days, good or bad, I’ve tried to recall  that same feeling.  Whenever life gets difficult (as it often does) I try to remember that no matter how bad it gets, I still have my life.

Knowing that I am still breathing makes everything else challenging small in comparison.  It makes a real difference in my effort to live a happy life.  It is difficult to complain about the stumbling blocks when you find a way to remember that you are still around to stumble.

When things get hard, remember to love life.  Be grateful that you are still here.  Be glad that you have a chance to struggle and the negativity will be replaced with that Positive Mental Attitude I was taught so much about in my youth

Jh-


Chores

March 6, 2009
Hospital TV

Working on my chores--Watching "The Private Eyes" with Don Knotts and Tim Conway.

On the beach directly after breaking my neck I wondered what life held in store for me. The EMTs that finally arrived by boat were fairly convinced that because of the way the accident happened the damage to my spinal cord would not be permanent. This was the news we wanted to hear. About three hours later, the doctors told me that the EMTs on the scene were wrong, that I had broken my neck and become quadriplegic; paralyzed from the chest down.

This was a lot of information for a 15-year-old boy to disseminate. Shortly after receiving the news, I was whisked away to over seven hours of surgery. The next morning as I laid in a specially designed hospital bed that moved back and forth to keep pressure from building up, my parents informed me that while I was in the hospital I had chores to do.

I knew what chores were, I had had them most of my life. Whether it was cleaning my room, setting the table, dusting the house or mowing the lawn, chores were something I was intimately familiar with.

Being in the hospital, I wasn’t necessarily looking for special treatment, but I did think that my current situation was maybe going to buy me a little break from making my bed.

I gave my parents a curious look wondering what they could possibly mean. I wanted to believe the unbelievable as much as anyone, but without a miracle there was no way I was mowing anyone’s lawn.

They proceeded to tell me that the chores I was going to be assigned in the hospital would be a little different. My dad pulled out a set of cards. On the first card was a list of what I had to do. The rest of the cards were part of the work. These were my chores:

1.) Read a list of my talents three times a day.
2.) Read a list of my blessings and things I had to be grateful for three times a day.
3.) Read a list of my dreams and spend time envisioning them coming real.
4.) Read a list of my goals.
5.) Have someone read something positive or uplifting to me once a day.
6.) Have someone read to me from the Scriptures three times a day.
7.) Watch or listen to something funny once a day.

These were my jobs. My parents took these assignments as seriously as they did the ones I had at home. Regardless of whether I felt sick or well, up or down, frustrated or content I had to do my chores.

There are some days I was glad for my list of things to do, and there were others when they were the last thing in the world I want to think about–much like the chores I was assigned at home. But in the end, those chores had payoffs I never would have imagined. Each task brought with it its own reward.

Reading my list of talents reminded me that although physically I had been limited, there were still many things that I could do. I was reminded of all the wonderful abilities I had–and in a world of “disability” that  was huge. Reading the list of blessings and things I had to be grateful for reminded me of all I still had in a time when every day I was reminded of things that had been taken away.

Reading my list of dreams reminded me that I still had dreams. In a time in my life when the world seem like one big dark nightmare that incandescent glow of my dreams kept the darkness at bay. Reading my list of goals reminded me exactly what I was in pursuit of, and kept that pursuit firmly ensconced in my mind. Listening to someone read things that were uplifting of a spiritual nature nurtured my soul. They reminded me of the unconquerable strength of a spirit that is well fed.

The humor made me laugh (even on days when I wasn’t sure there was much to laugh about.) In all my days dealing with difficulty and discouragement I have found humor to be a faithful ally. Some of the greatest therapy I have ever had is thinking back to the events of my life with a smile.

Having these chores also gave me something to do. When you first break your neck, your time in ICU is spent laying down and watching TV. I would receive an hour or so of therapy every day, but in those first weeks I simply allowed my body the time it needed to heal. Not to say that this wasn’t difficult, or necessary, it was just slow and without a lot of action. There were necessarily drastic changes every day which made it difficult sometimes to track exactly what was being accomplished.

Completing these chores gave me a sense of accomplishment. Although many of the things were very small things, in my world at that time finishing them each day gave me value and helped me to feel important.

In all the time that I have spent in hospitals I never went through any depression of any kind. I attribute this to a number of things, not the least of which are my chores. Learning the blessings that come from reminding myself of the most important things in my life, of my goals and dreams, and of the laughter left in the world benefited me then and benefits me still today.

I still have chores. I’m still not really good at mowing the lawn or making my bed. But I still have chores.

There is a feeling one gets after a hard days work. There is a feeling one gets after a hard days work. It’s a feeling of complete exhaustion and total contentment. It’s the knowledge that we’ve given something back to the world and that things are better both in our life and the lives of others due to our efforts. Chores taught me that if I ever wanted to succeed I needed to work to have that feeling everyday.

Give yourself chores, not just tasks, but chores like I had. Remember your talents, remember your blessings. Dream and envision those dreams becoming reality. Set goals and work to accomplish those goals. Read or listen to things that lift and make you laugh. Never forget to nourish your spirit and sense of humor.

When you do you’ll find a sense of fulfillment, accomplishment and well-being. Chores will make your life more rich, full and bright. As a young boy I never thought I’d say this, but I am grateful for chores.

Jh-


Pull Your Wagon

December 30, 2008

little-red-wagon

It’s hard for me to think of a time in my life that I wasn’t spending a portion of my energy selling. From lemonade to magazine subscriptions to financial services to ideas for better living, my life has revolved around convincing people to purchase a product I felt could benefit their lives.

One of my earliest memories of this passion for the exchange of money for products and services came when I was five years old.  I had figured out that in order to acquire the candy that was so beautifully displayed at the 7-Eleven down the street I would have to have money. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any money and my mother (who for some reason didn’t share my excitement about the candy) had informed me that she was not going to provide me any additional monies.

Knowing that the “bank” at the home front was closed, I began to think of other options that would help me acquire the candy. I began to wander around my yard trying to find some spare change, and when that didn’t work I began looking for something that I might sell for the money I needed. Eventually, I found a product that I felt sure would get me to my proverbial “candyland.” I loaded up my little red wagon with my product and started on my way to make my first sale.

As I started down the sidewalk my mother saw me and asked where I was going and what I was doing. I told her that I was on my way to sell my wares. She looked in my red wagon and saw it filled with rocks. These weren’t polished rocks, or painted rocks, they were just regular old rocks. She told me that people weren’t going to want to buy rocks that I had found in our yard and invited me to come back to the house where she would help me differentiate them somehow.

I looked at my rocks and felt sure that I had a product of others would pay for. After a few more attempts to change my mind my mom eventually let me go on my way to learn my lesson from the school of hard knocks.

About a half-hour later she saw me slowly returning to the house with my red wagon in tow. As she began to console me in my defeat she noticed that the red wagon I was pulling was empty and my pockets were filled with change. I had sold every one of my rocks and it wasn’t long until that candy I wanted so bad was mine.

Like that day, sometimes in our lives we feel confident in our ability to do great things. In fact, we are positive that we will succeed until someone comes along and attempts to change our mind. Often the people working to get us to see things a different way are doing so because they love us. My mother’s only motivation was to keep me from failure.

However, just because their motives are good doesn’t make their opinions right. There will be times in our lives when we are sure that we can move forward; sure we can do some thing, and in those times our success will largely depend on our willingness to press on regardless of what others say.

In my life, as I think back, I recall many goals that I accomplished even though others told me that I would fail. I think back to the people who told me I would never breathe on my own. I think back to the people who told me I never would graduate high school. I think back to the people who told me I would never get married. I think back to the people who told me I would not become a father, and I think back to the people who told me I would never find gainful employment.

In many ways the only reason I ended up right and they ended up wrong was because I moved forward regardless of what they said. It’s important to get input. It’s important to get advice. I rarely make a decision in my life without consulting wise people with my best interest at heart.

But, acquiring advice doesn’t mean you have to act on that advice. When you know you can succeed and others are sure you will fail, many times the difference between success and failure is whether or not you press on.

This kind of persistence will be the difference between a full wagon and empty pockets and an empty wagon and full pockets. Move forward. Press on. For the most part the real differentiator between selling your rocks or not is a willingness to pull your wagon down the street.

Jh-


The Laughter Lesson

December 9, 2008

weirdal

Directly after I broke my neck everyone around me went into triage. The people who were responsible for my care made sure that I received the most important care first. The EMTs who first arrived on that beach at Lake Powell did only what was needed most to get me to the emergency room. The ER doc’s picked the most crucial areas of my health to concentrate on to prepare me for surgery. The surgeon’s cared only for my most critical needs to get me into the ICU. My ICU doctors worried only about those things that were most eminent to my survival.

My parents follow the same course. They decided to concentrate only on those things they felt were most important to keep my attitude up and my spirits high. Of those few things they picked to concentrate on one of them was to make sure I laughed.

Every day I was required to watch, listen to, read, or have read to me something that was funny. They didn’t care what it was as long as it made me laugh. At my request they left the hospital and went and purchased every “Weird Al” Yankovic or Bill Cosby album, every Don Knotts/Tim Conway or Monty Python video they could find.

No matter how bad the day, no matter how bad I felt, no matter how bad my situation I had to use these “tools” every day. It was made to be as important as any therapy session or surgical procedure. My parents wanted to ensure that laughter was a part of my life even on days when there didn’t seem to be much to laugh about.

The results were amazing. Regardless of how I felt Bill, Al, Don, Tim and the Pythons always made me smile. That smile always turn into a laugh, and that laugh into laughter. As I laughed my problems seem smaller and the day brighter.

Years later I try to use this important lesson in my life. I work hard to make sure that every day I find something to make me smile; to make me laugh. I have found that immersing myself in humor for some part of my day is as important as anything else I do to keep my attitude up.

This dedication to laughter has also allowed me to look at the lighter side of my life. I have found that when trying times come they go much easier when you find the humor in the situation and learn to laugh. Some may think it’s the crazy and at times a little twisted. But, I have found it impossible to smile and frown at the same time. I can’t do it–It is a physical impossibility.

Try it. Find something, anything that makes you laugh and make it a part of your daily regiment.  Make it a habit. Just like you brush your teeth and comb your hair everyday make sure you set aside some time to laugh. No matter how busy your schedule, find a way to fit it in. If you will you’ll find your bad days better, your good days greater, and your great days out of this world.

They key is to simply learn to laugh.

Jh-


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