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-


Standing Up By Falling Down

March 11, 2009
Jonah In My Room

Jonah In My Room

Lying in the emergency room at the St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction Colorado, I was frightened and afraid. For reasons I still do not understand today the staff there wouldn’t let my dad (who sat in the waiting room) come and be with me. I was 15 years old, unable to feel or move anything below my arms, and totally alone.

This lasted for two hours. The doctors did test after test until finally they felt their diagnosis confirmed. It was then that they pull back the curtain, looked me in the eye and said, “Jason, you’ve broken your neck and will never walk again.”

I went into shock. Working to process the information I had been given, the next thing I knew I was laying in a CAT scan. As I laid in the machine, in what felt like a big white tube, I remember as I began to understand that my life had drastically changed. In the CAT scan of flood of worry and concern rushed over me. But, I will never forget the first worry I had .

From that day to this I have had a thousand concerns with reference to my disability. From that day to this I have had a thousand worries about being in a wheelchair. But, the first fear that flashed through my mind was, “Who will be my friend?”

I wondered who would want to go to the ball games with a guy in a wheelchair. I wondered who would want to go on a date or to dance with a guy in a wheelchair. I wondered who would want to just hang out with a guy in a wheelchair.

For, there were other kids at my school who were in wheelchairs and they didn’t have very many friends. I knew I myself had never made an effort to get to know them and wondered how people would react to me.

I was blessed as the countless group of my peers made the decision to bless my life as they answered my question saying, “I will. I will be your friend”

The next day I received a package filled with posters and cards with words of kindness and encouragement. My parents placed the posters all over the room so wherever I looked I was reminded of my friends support. With the posters and cards they also sent a cassette tape. When I was laying in surgery my friends all got together and recorded on both sides of a 60 minute cassette. I listened to that cassette all the time. I listened to it until it broke. When it broke I had my parents tape it back together, and then I listened to it until it broke again.

This continued for about a month until the doctors finally felt that I was healthy enough to have visitors. As soon as they were given the green light, a group of my friends hopped in their car and drove the six hours from our home in Boise to my hospital room in Salt Lake City. I couldn’t wait. I was excited to see every person in that car. They were my friends; friends like Jonah.

Jonah was one of my best friends.  We were as different as night and day. I was completely conservative; he was completely liberal.  I came from a devout Mormon family; his family often spoke and wondered about the existence of God.  My Dad was an entrepreneur with a business where he worked from early in the morning until late at night.  His parents loved their time off in the summer to work in their garden and in their woodshop building boats.  But somehow, somewhere in a place before this time, Jonah and I had made an agreement that on the face of this earth, we would be friends, and we were.   We were as close as two young men could possibly be.

Knowing that my friends were on their way, I watched the clock counting the minutes until their arrival. Finally, they were in the hospital and on their way up to my room.

The group entered the room one by one. Just seeing their faces lifted my heart. It’d been too long since I had interacted with my friends face-to-face and I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. Jonah was the last to enter, and I’ll never forget what happened next.

Jonah took no more than a few steps into my room, looked me in the eye, turned a pale white I hadn’t seen before or since and said, “Hi Jason, how are ya…” and passed out before he could finish his sentence.

To be fair, one has to understand what Jonah saw when he entered the room. The last time he’d seen me I was standing up 6 feet tall, 175 pounds and in the best shape of my young life. Now, I was lying down, and although still 6 feet tall, I now weighed 118 pounds. You could literally see every bone and joint in my body. In addition, I had tubes in my body and the markings of a halo brace which had recently been removed. This, accompanied with the smell that every hospital/care center/long term care facility seems to have was enough to put anyone over the edge.

Flustered and concerned at Jonah’s response, I quickly hit the button to call for the nurses assistance. My nurse came in and because of my poor health was so concerned about me she nearly missed Jonah altogether. She asked me what I needed and I told her I needed help getting my friend off the floor.

They helped Jonah up, took him out of the room, cracked the smelling salts and gave him some time to get ready to come back into the room. He had to lay down on the bed for a while, then stand up for a while and then finally was cleared for reentry.

Jonah passed through the door to my room is the rest of my friends and I were laughing, talking and catching up. He took a few steps toward my bed, again looked me in the eye and said, “Hi Jason, how are ya…” as he passed out.

Again, flustered I buzzed the nurses. They came in, looked at my friend and said something to the effect of, “Oh, him again.” Like before, they helped him out of the room, cracked the smelling salts and gave him some time to “right” himself before he came in again.

After nearly a half-hour Jonah was ready to again make the attempt. As he walked in my room the conversation between my friends and I stopped. We watched Jonah, wondering if he could make it this time. The nurses followed him in. It seemed like their hands were outstretched just waiting to catch him. Again he looked at me, and again he said, “Hi Jason, how are ya…” and again he passed out.

Three times he came in my room, and three times he passed out. He never even finished the sentence. I remember thinking, “How am I what?” The afternoon passed and in the end Jonah was able to spend some of the time in my room without being on the floor.

In my life, I’ve been in a number of hospitals. I have spent literally years of my life in a bed in some sort of a healthcare facility. In that time I have had hundreds and hundreds of visitors. But none has ever meant more to me than Jonah.

Some wonder how that can be. He spent more time outside my room than he did in it, and even in the room he had difficulty finishing even one sentence. But Jonah’s actions proved his friendship in a way words never could.

First, he was willing to endure some discomfort to prove his friendship. When a person passes out it can be an embarrassing experience. Just go to a local junior high choir concert and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Sometime during the concert a little seventh grader will lock their knees and fall right off the top riser. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that when they take their place again their face will be filled with embarrassment–nobody wants to pass out in public. Also, this passing out meant some pain for Jonah. His head wasn’t falling on plush carpeted floors. Each time he fell over his head smacked squarely on hard “hospital smelling” tile floors.

But my friendship meant enough to him that he was willing to go through some embarrassment and some pain to see it through–to show me that I was important to him.

Second, he kept coming back. No one would’ve faulted Jonah if passing out the first time was difficult enough to cause him not to want to come back again. But he did come back. And even though each trip meant more discomfort, embarrassment, and pain his desire to prove his friendship outweighed every negative consequence.

I learned a lot of things that day from the trip my friends made. Not the least of which was that Jonah Shue was my friend.

Every time Jonah fell down his spirit stood up reaffirming to me his friendship. If we want to have friends like Jonah, we have to be willing to be friends like Jonah. We have to be willing to go through some discomfort and pain to prove our friendship is real. We can say all the right things, but if our actions don’t follow suit in the end it really means nothing. That day, Jonah confirmed his friendship with his actions better than he ever could with his voice.

Lasting, confirmed friendships like Jonah’s helped me keep positive in negative times. They helped me remember to have the strength and fortitude that they saw in me. When the people who call themselves our friends act this way they will build us up when others would tear us down.  When we will find ourselves surrounded with people willing to endure the difficult with us, we will begin to enjoy more of the sublime.

I am who I am today because of people like Jonah who chose to stand up by falling down.

Jh-

You can check out what Jonah’s doing today by looking at his video here. (He’s on guitar)


In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night

January 23, 2009

green-lantern1

From the time that I was a very young boy I have always been into comic books and their characters in some form or another. Whether it was actually collecting and reading the comic books or simply following the stories with my brother on Saturday morning’s “SuperFriends” I loved to see these larger-than-life heroes with their amazing powers.

In some ways it was like my own personal mythology. Instead of stories of Zeus, Hermes, Ares, Poseidon or Athena, the stories were of Superman, The Flash, Batman, Aquaman and Wonder Woman. I loved the way good always triumphed over evil. I loved the way the writers allowed me to relate to these characters, and I loved the amazing art.

This love affair was strengthened and renewed after my car accident. I was in the hospital for 13 months without anything to do. To fill my time I began collecting comic books again. It gave me something to look forward to each week (Wednesday is the day new comics hit the shelves) and provided me something to pursue.

When I wasn’t reading the comic books themselves I used my laptop to search the Internet for the ones I needed to complete my collection. When big events happened in “Comicdom” then I would work to ensure that I had every piece and part of the storyline along with every cover drawn by every artist. I know there were times when the whole thing drove my family crazy, but it gave me something to think about outside of syringes, catheters, CPAP machines and therapy–and that made it important to everyone.

After my initial 13 months stay I found myself in the hospital repeatedly for the following 11 years. During one such 3+ month stay that was more emergent and serious than the others I asked Colette to put up a poster of Hal Jordan a.k.a. “The Green Lantern.”

The Green Lantern was always one of my favorite characters. I was always enamored with his abilities and the way with which he gained his strength. Hal Jordan was a test pilot who was one day brought to the crash site of an alien spaceship. Inside the ship Hal found an alien named Abin Sur. Abin Sur was a part of a group called The Green Lanterns who oversaw that good and right happened across the universe. He happened to be The Green Lantern for the area of the cosmos that included Earth, and because his spaceship crashed he needed to find someone quickly to be his replacement. Hal was that man. Hal was given the two things he needed to become the new Green Lantern; a green ring, and a battery (also green and shaped as a lantern) that could recharge the ring.

What made the ring special and unique was that it could produce anything its wearer could imagine out of a green energy that would emanate from the ring. If The Green Lantern needed to fight a villain he could imagine a giant baseball bat and the bat would appear and the evildoer would be knocked out of the way. If The Green Lantern wanted to capture his enemy he could simply imagine a jail cell and the iron doors would appear. The ring would continue to do this until it ran out of energy at which time The Green Lantern could place his hand with the ring on it inside the Green battery shaped as a lantern and say the words, “In brightest day, and blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight; Let those who worship evil’s might, Beware my power… Green Lantern’s light.”

The thing that really endeared me to The Green Lantern was the source of his true power. The ring would allow him to create anything he could imagine but it was his willpower that decided the strength and longevity of the items he would create. Hal Jordan ended up becoming the greatest of all Green Lanterns because no one in the universe had a willpower like his.

When I was in the hospital fighting to get my body through its most recent onslaught trying all the while to keep a positive attitude, I would look up at the poster of The Green Lantern and remember the importance of my own willpower.

Although I lacked the fanciful ring and lantern, I did have the ability to fight off my enemies with a willpower second to none. As my enemies of death, disability, negativity, and negligence conspired against me I could win the day if like The Green Lantern I kept my imagination and will strong.

In many ways we are all like Hal Jordan, The Green Lantern. Following the example of this comic book hero we can find ways to endure and find success. Our efforts will wax or wain all based on the strength of our will.  There is nothing that will ever be to difficult to acquire and no obstacle we can’t overcome with dedication and willpower.

For, lo truebeliever, remember “In brightest day and blackest night” we will find glory and honor if we will but keep our will strong and true.

Jh-


The Saving Grace of Hope + DVD Giveaway

December 13, 2008

sunrise1

After the EMTs brought me in from my major car accident and the doctors and surgeons in the ER and OR did their part I was placed in the intensive care unit to heal. As life-threatening as those first weeks were, the first days were an hundred times more harrowing. My body was battered and broken and one big bruise. As difficult as the battered and broken parts were it was the “bruise” that was putting my life in danger.

Think back if you will to the last time you saw a black eye. Remember how the area around the eye swells and fills with fluid. Think now about my body as one big black eye. The accident had caused my legs to break badly enough that I slipped out of my seatbelt and “ping-ponged” around the front of my van. My body therefore, like a black eye, was swelling and filling with fluid.

The damage was so extensive that on about a third day after the accident my tissue became saturated and the fluid began to fill my heart and lungs. On that third day as my family came into the hospital the doctor pulled them to the side and told them that if they wanted to say goodbye to me they’d better do it that day, because I wouldn’t be around the following day.

Curious about what the doctor meant exactly my family inquired further about my chances. They wondered if the doctor meant I might not make it through the night or I probably wouldn’t make it through the night, to which the doctor replied that there was no chance I would make it through the night.

That night was as difficult a night as I have ever had in my entire life. My lungs would begin to fill with fluid and my ability to breathe was seriously compromised. The only way to alleviate the situation was to have a Respiratory Therapist come in and suction out my lungs. This required the RT to slide a tiny tube down my nose and into my lungs to draw out some of the fluid.

The process was painful but when they were finished I could breathe again. Unfortunately, my situation was so dire that 45 minutes to an hour after the procedure was finished my breathing would become labored again.

I would push my nurse’s call button and when the nurse arrived in my room I told her that I needed to be suctioned again. She reminded me that it had barely been an hour since I had been suctioned last and that because of the pain I might want to wait a little while. I told her that I didn’t feel like I could make it a little while, and regardless of the discomfort I needed to be suctioned. The RT would again come to my room and take some of the fluid out from my lungs.

All night long this process was repeated. Nearly every hour for the entire night I pleaded to have the Respiratory Therapist do the procedure and nearly every hour through constant reminders of the intense pain my pleas were heard and the procedure was done. It was difficult, it was hard, it hurt, and when the sun rose the next morning my hospital gown was covered in blood, but I was alive.

As I think about that night and what it took to stay alive the primary ingredient was hope. I hoped to live. I hoped to breathe. I hoped for the courage to endure the pain. I hoped for the intestinal fortitude to see the morning come. All I had to hold onto through that most difficult of nights was hope.

Luckily when the doctors told my family about the severity and potential fatality of the situation they elected not to tell me. This allowed me to hope. I never once considered that I might lose my life. Hope kept my mind focusing on the positive instead of becoming mired in the negative. Instead of wondering which hour would be my last, hope allowed me to think of every hour as one bringing me closer to new health.

There is a saving grace that comes with hope. Hope can change our hours as we think about our opportunities instead of our pitfalls. Hope can change our days as we concentrate on how things can become better instead of worrying about how things will become worse. Hope can change our lives by allowing us to maximize what we can do instead of being weighted down by what we can’t.

I am thoroughly convinced through my own experience and through those experiences that I have seen others overcome that 90% of success is waking up each morning with a little hope in your heart.

So hope; hope that things can be better, hope that you can accomplish your goals, hope that your life will be filled with the richest blessings of your dreams. Just hope, and let that hope chase all the fear and doubt from your heart.

Jh-

Leave a comment of something that brings you hope and one of the comments will win one of my autographed DVD’s (or click here to purchase your own). I can’t wait to see the things that bring you hope. I can’t wait for your hope to increase my own. Comments close at 9pm PST Tuesday, December 16.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.