Saturday, March 15, 2008

My Long Journey

This is really long but I think mothers especially will enjoy it!!

A dear Christian sister has been asking me to share my story of the last few years of my life and I decided this might be a nice time and format to do it. I also have a typed copy if anyone wants one. It's not perfectly written but I want to share it with you. It is rather humbling and somewhat embarrassing but I decided to swallow my pride and hope that someone can be encouraged because of it.

Arthur and I were married January 1st, 1986. It was a beautiful winter day and a beautiful wedding. We were so happily in love, and still are I might add! One of the main purposes God created the institution of marriage was to have children. He wanted a godly seed to fill the earth to worship and praise Him. So with our wedding day began a desire to have all the children God should choose to give us. We used no birth control whatever and decided that God knew what was best for us.

When our six week honeymoon was over, everyone was watching me, just sure I was already expecting. After all, when you don't use birth control you become a baby machine, right? Wrong! It was eight months before I got pregnant with Naomi. I was very sick which made me very glad this hadn't happened eight months earlier. If Arthur tried to kiss me I would throw up. If I ate I threw up. If I walked I threw up. You get the idea. I have always said that pregnancy, the nine month flu, is a great time to lose weight. Unfortunately, I always managed to gain whatever I lost the last few months, and a little extra!

Naomi was born, then Amos thirteen months later, than Isaac eighteen months later, then Miriam nineteen months later, and then Hosanna twenty-one months later. Believe me, by now I was exhausted, tired, worn out, and the thought that at this rate I could have 15 children or more by the time I was 45 scared me to death! Sixteen months later Silas followed and we decided to have him at home. Looking back, I feel it was a bad decision on our part. I'm not against home births but for us I felt it was a wrong move. In no way am I trying to discourage anyone if they feel a homebirth is right. In fact, I've told my daughter in law all about a midwife she might want to check out. Silas was a very difficult delivery. The hardest one I had so far even though we had a doctor attending the delivery.

We should have learned our lesson about home births but we didn't and went on to have Samuel twenty-two months later. Samuel was also to be a home delivery but I ended up with a prolapsed cord and he was born still born after an ambulance ride to the Roseau hospital. The memories of that night have been played through my mind hundreds of times and I doubt I'll ever forget it. It was the worst night of my entire life. Earlier in my pregnancy when we discussed the birth I hadn't felt a peace about have it at home. I hadn't felt a peace about having it anywhere. I believe God was silently preparing us for what lay ahead. It was a physically stressful birth. The typical treatment for a prolapsed cord is to hold the baby's head back so it doesn't pinch the cord before the delivery. Imagine holding a baby back from being born while having pushing contractions. I was sure I was going to die of pain. I never could figure it out how little pains can make me want to faint but bad pain doesn't! We had a funeral. I never knew we had so many friends and that was such a blessing to us. At night I would hear a baby crying but there was no baby. Until I got pregnat again, which wasn't long!

If ayone should care for more details, I have an album that I made about Samuel and how God prepared us, how God used it for good, along with the birth story, pictures, etc.

Eleven months later along came Priscilla. This time we knew without a doubt we better have her in the hospital. Thankfully we did. What seemed like it was going to be the easiest and fastest delivery I'd ever had, the delivery suddenly turned into a long ordeal. Priscilla's heart rate rapidly began to drop during the labor. My doctor quickly went into action and decided to do a caesarean.

During the caesarean, my uterus was rippig, which probably had already started during the delivery causeing her heart rate to go down. The amniotic fluid came in contact with my blood which is called amniotic fluid embolism. This is a very life threatening situation and the mortality rate is very high. (If you've watched Pamela's Prayer, that's what her mom died of). The doctors felt that the stress on my uterus while having Samuel weakened the uterus and getting pregnant agian so quickly complicated the problem. Priscilla was born healthy but immediately my blood pressure dropped so much at one point it was hardly detectable while at the same time my heart rate was dangerously high. Cardiac arrest is one of the main dangers at this point. Another complication is the mixing of amniotic fluid and blood created DIC or desseminated intervasucular coagulation. In other words, you bodies white blood cells quickly quit clotting blood and you essentially bleed to death. My IV sites and shot sights were even bleeding leaving large bruises on my arms and hands.

The treatment for DIC was best done in Grand Forks so I was flown by air ambulance to the Grand Forks Hospital. I was somewhat conscious and I remember thinking they only fly people to Grand Forks if it's serious. I really didn't know how bad I was. They put pressure pants on me which was like having on a pair of pants acting as blood pressure cuffs fully inflated. I remember thinking I felt like I was being tortured like they did in Russia in days past.

In Grand Forks I stayed in CCU (Critical Care Unit) for a couple of days as they gave me lots of white platelets / plasma and other things as well. (Thanks for those that give blood!!) Meanwhile Arthur was going to leave the Roseau hospital with Priscilla. The nurses were very insistent on keeping her but he left with her anyway. They helped him out by giving him a car seat, five diaper bags full of stuff, and several days worth of bottled milk. Arthur passed her around the CCU waiting room. She blessed lots of people who were scared and grieving over family members. She's still a blessing!! Overall I spent six days in Grand Forks and was sent home. It's interesting that during this pregnancy I felt a real burden to pray that I'd live through the delivery. God works in mysterious ways! Isn't He good!

The blessing of being home didn't last long. First, I had begged them to keep me in the hospital. I had a fever and I knew this was a sign of an infection but they didn't listen and walked me to the car. I couldn't believe they would send me home when I felt so awful! A couple of days after being home Arthur and I brought Priscilla in for a checkup. Before the doctor even got a chance to look at her I was on the floor having fainted. They quickly went into action and treated me for an infection. I was sick for about six weeks. Twice I went back to get stronger antibiotics because I wasn't getting better. During those six weeks I stayed in bed and was basically out of it from fever and strong drugs. I'm so thankful for those that helped care for the children and brought meals. An older homeschool girl came over and helped out quite often which was a real blessing.

While at the hospital I had four different doctors, and then my local doctor all tell me not to have any more children. If I did I certainly wouldn't survive it the next time. It was a God given miracle to survive once. That left Arthur and I in a hard spot. We didn't believe in birth control and yet was it right to knowingly get pregnant with such a high risk of dath? We struggled with this for several weeks. Finally after much prayer, we decided that God knew our situation and if he should send us another child he could easily make me live through it and if he didn't, well, it was my time to go. (If you're in a similar situation, don't use us for an example! You better know what God wants you to do) Once we'd made that decision God gave us peace in our hearts that we had made the right decision for us.

As a result of the delivery, I developed what is called Sheehan's Syndrome which is caused by hemorraging and is the death of the pituitary gland tissue. the effects of Sheehans's Syndrome are noticed almost right away, we didn't realize that until later, as you no longer have prolactin which allows you to nurse a baby. Priscilla was our first and only bottle fed baby from day one. This was the start of a long emotional and hard physical journey.

God sends us many lessons through hard times and one of the lessons I learned early on was to have patience with people who earnestly try to help with their personal "cure-all". At first I was frustrated. Everyone was trying to teach me how to nurse a baby. Somehow after having six children that I nursed for around a year each, I guess they thought I forgot. If only I would do this I would feel better. This product will get rid of infections overnight. You need more rest. You need more exercise. You need to eat better. You need to fast. Help! One day I wrote down thirty different forms of advice I was given. I showed Arthur the list and asked him what he wanted me to do. Simple, he told me. Listen to the doctor, eat good, and get lots of rest. If must have helped because I did get better. (Don't worry, I love giving advice too! It's hard though when advice is so conflicting)

However, once you have Sheehan's Syndrome, you have it for life. If you took a t CAT scan of my head (and I've seen it) you would find a fluid filled pouch where the pituitary gland should be. (I think I'm about half done with this article!)

The symptoms of the disease can take years to surface and for a couple of years I felt great. Slowly though I started noticing I had less energy. I started sleeping more and more. I felt so guilty thinking I was getting lazier and lazier. This is a result of extreme, basically non existing, thyroid function which is regulated by the pituitary glad.

I started getting perpetual morning sickness. I hated mornings. Brushing my teeth often made me throw up. Getting ready for church on Sunday's was a real trial. I started getting excruciating muscle cramps in my abdominal muscles. I likened it to having labor pains whenever I bent too fast or got cold. As a result of this I stopped bending over almost completely. You can imagine what that does for ones figure! I stopped going outside if I could help it except on the warmest of days. As far as femine issues, I was kind of in the post menopause state. I lost all the hair on my legs, arms, and under my arms. No, I didn't miss shaving!

By now we knew we would no longer have any children. This was hard. Although I already had seven children and one in heaven, I had expected a lot more and was deeply missing the little ones I would never have. I encourage young mothers who are hopelessly overwhelmed with children to hang in there. I have heard many ladies stories who thought life would never get easier and all of a sudden they stopped having children and then missed the little ones. Enjoy the years you have with your little ones not matter how busy and hard they are. God is in control and he knows what you can handle. If he sends you a child every eighteen months, then he knows you can handle it even if you don't think you can! He is always there to help. Eventually they grow up and you will have all the help and blessings you can handle!!

I also feel a deep burden for those unable to have children. Yes, I have seven, but I do know the pain of hearing someone is expecting. I know the pain of having everyone talk about nothing but babies of which you have none. It has taught me to be compassionate and careful what I talk about around those with few who want more, or those that have none. Now, almost eleven years later, I have peace about my state and look forward to the day when I have grandchildren to hug and cuddle with. God has also given me lots of nieces and nephews and church children to enjoy! My children and Arthur keep talking about adopting but I've dragged my feet on that one!! If God hasn't given you children, there are lots of unwanted ones out there. It could be God wants you to care for some of these little ones. I also strongly believe that if God chooses not to give children to a couple, he probably has some kind of ministry for them that those with families can't have.

The symptoms list goes on but those are the main ones. About two years ago I got sick. The flu was my guess and I stayed in bed for three days. I couldn't eat much but I managed to drink water. The third morning I got up when Arthur went out for chores (to milk the cows that is) and told him I wanted to go to the doctor when he got in. Good idea he figured. When he left our bedroom I was too tired to make it to the bed so I layed down on the floor.

I have no recollection of the next 18 hours to this day but I'm told this is what happened. I went downstairs and started screaming that I was in pain. I wouldn't respond to the children when they tried to talk to me. Priscilla said I freaked her out!! They quickly got Arthur and he took me in the car to go to the Roseau hospital. I guess I asked them if they were taking me home. Naomi had come along to watch me and I told Arthur to slow down once. That gave them a little hope that I hadn't completly lost it!!

Each person has something called an antidiuretic hormone that is regulated by the pituitary glad. This hormone regulates your sodium and fluid levels in your body. Well, mine was really out of kilter and essence I was dehydrating to death even though I was still getting in fluids. I was in pretty bad shape. I once watched a TV show about extreme weather situations and saw effects of people who dehydrate in the desert. They basically go crazy after they lose their sences. This is what was happening to me. Unfortunatly the doctors didn't know what was wrong with me. I mean, we don't live in a desert! So to be on the safe side they sent me to Grand Forks in an ambulance. Since I was complaining about pain,(I'm not sure what kind of pain I was in to this day), they figured I must have something seriously wrong with me and put me in a room with an isolation sign on the door. They started testing me for all kinds of diseases like Bird Flu, West Nile Virus, and lots more. Everyone that came in the room had to wear a face mask! About midnight I "woke" up. It ws fairly dark in the CCU room and there were these doctors around me with face masks on. I really had no idea where I was. I guess I thought I must be dreaming. A doctor asked me, "Do you know where you are?" I must've looked blank because he told me I was in the hospital and had been sleeping a "LONG" time. This is weird I thought. It's strange to not remember 18 hours - a whole day.

They did start treating me with sodium and fluids even though they thought I still had a disease. They maybe even thought I was crazy because they sent a psychiatrist in to question me. He asked who the president was and I couldn't tell him. I can't believe I could forget president Bush! They never did figure out the antidiuretic hormone problem but I got better after five days and they sent me home.

Things went from bad to worse and I got more and more tired. By now I was sleeping at least fifteen hours a day. I used lots of salt to keep my sodium up and that helped some. The doctors told me at the first sign of sickness to get to the hospital. Better yet, don't get sick.

Last fall I got sick again. To make a long story short, I ended up in the emergency room three times before they treated me for what I knew my problem was. They game me some antibiotics that made me hallucinate. They tell me I was allergic to the drug. I sure can't figure out why people would take drugs illegally on purpose to hallucinate. I got a letter from my doctor to give to the emergency room should this happen again no matter where I am in the world.

I realize as people we do all we can to stay healthy. Being healthy is something Americans' spend millions of dollars on a year. If they only knew how close God is when times get hard they'd all want to be sick! Okay, I understand, we don't really want to be sick!! No one seemed to understand me. Surely I was imagining my problems. Surely I was just being lazy and not taking the right health product.

This was probably the lowest point in my life I have ever been. I was getting worse so quickly I was sure I wouldn't be long in this world. I hadn't gotten hope or encouragement from anyone. I prayed a lot. I also mourned what my dying would do to my family. I wrote up my funeral plans to make it easier if that should happen. Of course it will, sometime! I am so glad that God had me born in this time and in this place where I could hear the gospel as a young girl and trust in what Jesus did on the cross to save me. I'm so glad there is a God who loves and cares for us.

Let me also say here that I appreciate doctors so much. They make mistakes. They give out too many drugs. They cost, a lot! But they also save lives. No, I'm not against herbs and the such but sometimes it's just nice to know there's a doctor around when you need one.

My doctor sent me in for some testing and while in the hospital God sent me an angel. Okay, so it was a lady. She was the first lady I ever met who understood me. I don't even know her name but she met Arthur in the waiting room, found out what I was in there for, and proceeded to track me down in a different part of the hospital to give me some hope. She too had a pituitary problem and with it all the hormone problems that result. (A good share of your body is regulated by the pituitary gland). She had also been to a doctor that was really helpful and gave me that doctor's information and phone number.

I took it as a sign from God and called for an appointment to the doctor in Fargo who is an endocrinologist, someone who works with the endoctrine system of which the pituitary gland is chief.

The doctor spent almost three hours with me on our first appointment. She understood my system so well! Finally, help was close!! She started me off with Cortisol which is a steroid, and a thyroid medication. She assured me I would be a new woman by my next appointment.

She was right! Within a few days I started to feel better. Praise the Lord!! Now, a little over a year later I feel better than I've felt in years. I have energy, my muscle cramps are gone (which were caused from my body not using it's sodium and fluids correctly), I now can tolerate hot and cold. I even have hair growing on my arms and legs!! I no longer have "morning sickness" and all kinds of other smaller things have improved.

I've seen other doctors since to get completely back into balance. I continue to see my doctor in Fargo and have tons of blood tests to make sure everything stays in balance. I'm so glad God sent an "angel" my way to tell me where to go.

Whatever our trials in life may be, and everyone has some, God has a purpose. Be sure to use the lessons God brings your way to help others. use those trials to draw closer to Him and wait patiently on how God will use it for good. Remember God loves you and cares for you! And by the way, I know a wonderful doctor if you have extreme hormone problems. She also works with diabetics which is hormone related as well.

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