overdue update part II: zach’s mom

many of you have been following the scary hospital stuff with zach’s mom via facebook or the caringbridge website.  but i know that for many of you who may read my blog, the information may have seemed a little disjointed and scattered between updates, especially if you’re not local or don’t know her personally.  here’s an “overview” version of the last several weeks…

over the summer, my dear mother-in-law, Tami, had been suffering from what she thought was simply a tenacious, lingering sinus infection.  after weeks and weeks of various dr appointments and unsuccessful treatments, she was finally diagnosed at the end of September with Wegener’s Granulomatosis – an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the body’s blood vessels resulting in damage to the kidneys and lungs.  initially, everything appeared to be calm and under control, nothing to worry too much about right away.  the plan was to do a few biopsies and eventually start a low-dose chemo treatment in a several weeks to try and kick the disease before it did any real/further damage to her body.  she was even cleared to travel to the pastor’s  and wives conference the week prior to beginning the treatment.  while at the the conference Tami began to feel very, very ill.  after a long and rough travel day, she spent the weekend attempting to recuperate and headed to her regularly scheduled Dr appointment the following monday.  upon seeing how high her potassium levels were, the Dr immediately sent her to the ER.  monday evening the whole family was together at the ER (and eventually the ICU – they moved her) where we thought they were just going to take the night to get her potassium levels under control and then move forward with life and the treatment plan as before.  Tami was joking and chatting with all of us that evening and all seemed manageable and fine.  but in less than 48 hours, everything was far from fine.  apparently part of the nature of Wegener’s is that it can “sleep like a lamp and then suddenly wake up like a lion” (according to one of the Drs).  some people can go 30 years with Wegener’s and never have an episode or major symptoms arise.  well, in Tami’s case, the disease “woke up like a lion” very very suddenly and began attacking her kidneys and her lungs.  the attack and decline were frighteningly rapid and by Tuesday evening the Drs were saying things like “kidney failure” and “bleeding in her lungs.”  by Wednesday they were saying “she is literally fighting for her life.” it was really really scary.  and while the Drs wanted to immediately start her on high level chemo to treat the Wegener’s, they couldn’t do that until the downward spiral of her kidneys and lungs was under control.  it took several rounds of dialysis and almost 2 days before she was stable enough to begin the chemo treatment. she was sedated for over a week and on a breathing machine for much of that time as well. 

for several days there were literally hundreds (possibly thousands) of people praying for Tami all across the country while we waited to see how/if she would respond to the dialysis and the chemo. and God so very kindly answered all of our prayers with a “YES” and caused Tami’s body to begin responding to all the treatments.  it was slow progress at first, with a few steps forward and then a step or two backward.  but eventually she was able to handle breathing on her own and they were able to bring her out of the sedation.  and while the initial progress was slow, once the first hump was over, she began to improve quite rapidly!  suddenly the Drs were calling her recovery “remarkable” and even “miraculous.”  oh we serve a remarkable and miracle-performing God!  a week and a half after going to the hospital, Tami was able to sit up in a hospital chair and eat Thanksgiving dinner!  yes, we carted the entire meal to the hospital and crowded into her room to enjoy a meal of great thanks together as a family!  it was a bit hilarious but oh, so special. 

it was an intense, emotional, exhausting, distressing, rallying, prayerful, tearful, desperate time for the whole family.  Ron (my father-in-law) was at the hospital nearly around the clock. zach and his sisters were down there almost every evening.  we spent several evenings together as a family in the hospital cafe just eating and chatting and being together.  even thought she was mostly sedated, Tami had moments of semi-lucidity (that she doesn’t remember now, but she was definitely “there” at the time) where Ron or Zach or someone would hold her hand, ask her questions, reassure her of their closeness and that she was going to get better.  since i was still in the throes of nausea, i wasn’t able to spend very much time at the hospital, so i just made it my goal to completely release zach to go and be there as much as possible.  he took nearly 2 weeks off of work spending the majority of the afternoons and evenings at the hospital, even staying overnight a few times so that his dad could go home and sleep in a real bed, or make it to church on sunday and still have someone be with Tami. 

the amount of prayer support and encouragement from friends, acquaintances, relatives and even strangers was overwhelming and incredible.  from surrounding friends and family to people who hadn’t seen or talked to Ron & Tami in years to people who didn’t even know them, they just knew me or Zach or Tami’s mom or sister or someone connected with the family – so many people were praying!  the church here in Pasadena has rallied to support and serve our family in so many ways.  continued prayers, of course, but also practical means like rides for the younger girls to/from classes, gift cards to local restaurants to help with all the hospital meal runs, mowing the yard, bringing meals (for 8 people)! we even had friends from arizona drive out to spend the weekend just being there for us. talk about a truly awesome display of the body of Christ coming together to serve, support and LOVE!  we are beyond blessed!

as of now, Tami has been home for about a week.  the family home was actually on the verge of beginning a fairly substantial renovation project, so Ron & Tami are living in Courtney’s apartment less than a mile away to keep Tami’s immune system safe away from dust and debris, not to mention the noise and craziness of a home remodel!  she has dialysis 3 days a week, and the Drs are optimistic that her kidneys will eventually begin working properly again and the dialysis won’t need to be a permanent part of her life.  she is still on the chemo with the hope of sending the Wegener’s into full remission.  the road of recovery ahead is still a long one – months, at least – but overall she is doing SO WELL and we are all unbelievably relieved and grateful to God for bringing her through this and giving her back to us for, Lord willing, many many years to come.  i mean c’mon – there are grandbabies coming that need to be loved on!

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