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Battles and Blessings: January & February 2022

Updated: Jan 18, 2023


Where do I begin?


January was... difficult.


Somewhere during the last month, I read a devotional that struck a chord with me and has been rattling around in my mind ever since. The author of the devotional, Nicky Gumbel, quoted several other pastors as he pieced together this thought: our lives are a continuous stream of battles and blessings that run on tracks side-by-side.


Gumbel said, "When we are in the battle it is hard to believe that it will ever come to an end. When we are in a period of blessing we sometimes expect it will go on forever. But life is not like that. There are battles and blessings."


That simple thought helped me to see my way through the month, acknowledging that when we experience hardship, we can simultaneously experience good things.


In the first week of the new year, I came down with Covid. I had flu-like symptoms and recovered within five days, but felt lingering fatigue and shortness of breath for the rest of the month. (This was a little battle.) I isolated myself from my family for a week, and although it disrupted homeschooling and Evelyn's therapies, I managed to spend the time in my room sleeping, reading, and writing. I worked on the first book that follows my novella, Christmas at the Fort, and made an enormous amount of progress that made my heart so happy. My husband took amazing care of the kids and me. He brought all my meals to our room and kept a continuous supply of tea on my nightstand. What a blessing!


Two weeks later, after I'd recovered and we thought everyone else in our household had miraculously avoided Covid, our world was upended when our daughter Evelyn had a tonic-clonic seizure (formerly known as a Grand Mal) in her sleep. Big battle.


On Wednesday, January 19th, Evelyn went to bed in good spirits after a very busy day. My husband took our dog for their nightly walk and I went to my room to work on my book. (Wednesdays were my nights to write.) A little while later, I thought I heard the front door open. My hubby usually pops his head in our room to say he's back and then watches TV in the living room while I write. And our puppy usually bounds into the room and hops on our bed. That didn't happen. Had he come home? Had I heard the door or not?


After a few minutes, a nudge of unease prompted me to put down my laptop and investigate. I walked through our dark living room. No sign of my husband or our puppy. I went down the long hallway and heard a strange clicking noise coming from the kids' room.


I entered their room and found Evelyn in her bed, convulsing. I grabbed my phone and dialed 9-1-1. After I'd talked with the dispatcher and was assured paramedics were on their way, I called Barkley, only to find that he had come home and was in the backyard enjoying the stars with our puppy and reading his devotional. He came running inside and we waited, in utter shock, for the paramedics to arrive. The blessing here is that I found Evelyn during her seizure. Had Barkley popped in to say, "I'm home," as per usual, I wouldn't have checked on the kids for another hour or two, assuming all the while that they were sleeping peacefully.


We're not sure when Evelyn's seizure started, but it lasted at least another five to ten minutes while we waited for help. The paramedics got her stabilized quickly, but she remained unresponsive. (Can I give a huge shout-out to all first responders? I don't know how they do their jobs, but I am forever grateful for their courage and willingness to brave the unknown and help others.) When the paramedics asked me which hospital to take her to, I simply said, "the one that will save her." Minutes later, based on their advice, Evelyn and I were in the ambulance and headed to a hospital about thirty minutes away.


Evelyn was unresponsive throughout the ambulance ride. Upon arrival in the emergency department, she started a second seizure and they gave her a different epilepsy medicine through an IV. She then vomited and they had to suction her airways. Once she was stable again, they did a CT scan. Preliminary results didn't show any signs of another brain bleed (she had one at birth). Next, she had a chest x-ray that showed some aspiration. She remained unresponsive the whole time. After the tests and multiple doses of drugs, she fell into a deep sleep. We were admitted and moved to a room around one in the morning.


When the immediate danger had passed, my body was overcome with a migraine and nausea. I spent the next four hours praying over her, crying, and talking on the phone with Barkley. My mother booked a flight from FL to AZ and headed to the airport. Around 5 a.m., a kind nurse brought me an icepack, since they couldn't give me acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and I finally fell asleep with the ice pack pressed to my head.


Evelyn woke up around 6 am on Thursday, groggy and confused. She fell back asleep and then woke up again just after 7 and talked, slurring her words a bit. She asked questions and looked around trying to figure out where she was and how she got there. That was the biggest moment of relief. Blessings! Up until that moment, my mind prepared itself for the worst since I had no prior experience with seizures or how they affect the brain. I feared my little girl wouldn't wake up, or that if she did, she might not be the same. What if she wasn't the sassy, sweet, bubbly, will-say-any-thought-that-comes-to-mind Evelyn Rose?


Evelyn feels most secure when her daily routines are steady, so she can get frustrated easily when our plans change. I can't tell you the relief I felt when she looked up at me, groggy and confused, and accusingly said, "You didn't tell me you were bringing me to the hospital." As if I had planned this extracurricular field trip without her knowledge. I laughed and said it was a surprise for me, too.


Afterward, the doctors planned to schedule her for an MRI that morning but were hesitant to put her under anesthesia because of the aspiration in her lungs. Then her Covid test came back positive. The neurologist said that because Evelyn had a brain bleed at birth, she was more likely to be susceptible to seizures and that Covid may have been the catalyst. Aside from the seizure, she was (and remained) asymptomatic. After learning she had Covid, the hospital postponed her MRI until the end of February.


As the day progressed, Evelyn became more and more talkative and back to her sassy self. Hallelujah! She was disappointed that I didn't get a photo of her in the ambulance and that she couldn't remember the ride. She even asked if she could get a ride home in the ambulance so she could remember it this time. Around noon, the neurology team came in to start her Electroencephalography (EEG). They placed a dozen electrode stickers on her head with glue and tape, then wrapped her head in forty layers of gauze. She had to resist scratching or pulling them off for twenty-four hours. That was quite the battle for her!


She spent most of the day vomiting, but by dinnertime, she was able to keep down some applesauce, and later a grilled cheese, fries, and grapes. She said dinner was the highlight of her day. Battle and blessing.


On Friday, she had the EEG electrodes removed and the neurologist quickly scanned her report. The doctor noted that Evelyn consistently showed abnormal activity on the right side of her brain. At this point, I have no idea what that means and I was too tired/overwhelmed to ask questions. I am eagerly looking forward to her follow-up with the neurologist in March, so I can ask all the questions that have come up since our hospital stay.


We went home on Friday night, feeling a bit like we were bringing home a newborn for the first time. Cautious and worried about our every move. For now, Evelyn and Liam are both sleeping in our room so that we can monitor Evelyn throughout the night and because Liam doesn't want to be alone. We're looking into getting a sensor for her to wear that could alert us if she has another seizure.


Evelyn is taking an epilepsy medicine, even though she's not been diagnosed with epilepsy yet, and so far, she hasn't had any more seizures. With each day that passes without a seizure, we are finding some semblance of a new normal. Adjusting to little things, like her not being able to read in her room alone and needing an emergency pill on hand at all times (to stop a seizure). Nothing like forgetting the emergency pill and getting five minutes down the road. In a moment of sheer illogical craziness and fatigue, Barkley and I may have talked about carpeting the entire house since it's mostly tile. Don't worry, we're not going to pad the walls. Yet. (I sure hope my humor is coming through here.)


While January 2022 was one of the hardest months of my life, it was also one of the most profoundly moving times in my life. We were so incredibly blessed by our family and friends who stepped in to help us in our time of need. Whether it was family coming from across the country, or our friends who came over at ten o'clock at night and sat with Barkley while he waited for news from me at the hospital. We were flooded with prayers, messages, phone calls, and meals from friends far and wide. I can't think of another time in my life when I felt so wholly wrapped in love and friendship. Most importantly, I leaned on my faith more than I ever have before and know that God is going to use this hardship for good.


The battle isn't over. But neither are the blessings.


And isn't that amazing?


We got to spend two weeks with my mom, and just as she flew back to Florida, my father-in-law drove across the country and spent ten days with us. We wouldn't have gotten that time with them otherwise. Blessings.



Liam is powering through as usual. More blessings! He's doing well in school and just started another season of flag football. He also participated in a week-long UK Soccer Camp that he absolutely loved. He sure stays busy!



Evelyn's MRI is scheduled for next week, and then we have to wait until the end of March to meet with the neurologist and hear the results. In the meantime, we wait and hope for the best. Evelyn has returned to therapy and her schooling and is in excellent spirits. She's her usual bubbly, say-anything-self and we are so incredibly grateful for that.


The only other news from January is that I started working part-time at Amazon sorting packages in the warehouse at night. It's not too exciting, but it's giving us a little bit of financial peace and room to breathe.


Barkley received a promotion at work and I'm so very proud of him and the growth he's made in all aspects of his life in the last year. There were lots of battles on the work front, too, but we continue to be blessed.


That's all for now! Thank you for reading and for being a blessing in my life. I'm truly honored that you take your precious time to keep up with my family and me.


xo

Stephanie




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