Pushing Through The Unexpected

images (3)There are certain phrases you hear in life that you can never be fully prepared for. “Congratulations, you’re homeowners.” “You’re pregnant.” “Your favorite TV show is going off the air.”

One I never thought I’d have to hear is, “Worst case scenario, double amputation up to the knees.”

Those words hit me harder than a physical punch to the gut.

I was lying in my hospital bed on the sixth floor. It was sixteen days since I was admitted and my world was thrown upside down without me knowing about it. The initial scare was gone. I had the fight of my life and I won, but I was not without my scars. My left hand was swollen and the tips of my fingers black. My left thumb was completely black and I was just starting to understand that I would have to have it amputated. My hand was so heavy that I had to lift it up with my right in order to move it and with blood flow returning it was also hot to the touch. If I fell asleep with my hand close to my head I would wake up sweating from the radiating heat.

I was out of the ICU for about four days and plans were in motion to move me to a rehab facility the next day. But before I went I needed my fevers to stop and a podiatrist needed to see me to plan a treatment course.

On the fever front we had several theories all that were being addressed so I mentally put that requirement on the back burner.

All that was unknown was my feet.

A few days earlier I finally got out of bed and started walking around. Granted, I needed a blood transfusion of a couple of pints in order to get enough energy to take a few steps without having a heart attack but the point was I could walk. I thought I was as good as gold, the podiatrist would look at my swollen feet with open sores, red and angry, and would put me on some regiment that would help heal the wounds and I’d be on my way.

Instead I had this man standing in front of me in my darkened room telling me that I’d most likely never run, skip or dance with my little girls. His words cut me to the core. He continued to assess my feet but all I heard was white noise.

How could this happen be happening?

At this time I was two days shy of my thirtieth birthday. I should have been wondering if Eric would be able to pull off a big surprise party for me. I should have been enjoying the sun on the hot summer day, watching my girls run around a playground and worrying about sun screen. I should not be lying on a hospital bed listening to someone who wants to take my legs.

The air went out of the room. For the past week I became good at schooling my facial expressions. I had received a lot of mind blowing news in that time and I was coming to the realization that there’s always an option, just take a deep breath and think. But that philosophy did nothing for me in that moment. I hated my life. I hated God. I hated that damn doctor.

My breathing increased and I must have made some indication of my struggle because my mom was at my side within seconds. Her one hand rested on my shoulder while the other one gripped my right hand.

Somewhere in all the anger that filled my body, my mind cleared and I saw my girls.

My two little girls.

With no legs how would I pick them up and spin them around, using the pitch of their giggles to determine to go faster or not? How would I show them how to take a corner kick? Who would chase them around the house on a rainy day to expel their pent up energy?

I would fail them as a mom. IMG_1559

Now, with all this said, I knew deep down that legs or not I would never fail my children; just being alive proved that. But I allowed myself that moment to grieve, to be scared, to be angry.

Time started again, the doctor left and I lost it. I looked up to my mom with tears blurring my vision and just asked, “why?” All I wanted to know at that moment was why was I going through this. Why did I get sick? What did I do?

My mom fell back on her maternal instincts and just rubbed my back and quietly shushed me. My father reverted back to his overprotectiveness of my childhood and smiled, saying, “I’ll be right back,” and went right out after the doctor. In all of this, that actually is one of my favorite moments, my dad giving the doctor a piece of his mind… and I’ve been on the receiving end of one of my dad’s pieces, I almost felt sorry for the doctor. Almost.

But I digress.

After the doctor returned and pointed out that there is a chance that I could make a full recovery, he explained about the hyperbaric treatment that could save my feet. Time was a huge factor in whether I’d lose just a toe or my legs and I had to get in a chamber right away. That was a Thursday, the following Monday I was all set up and ready to start the first of my fifty-five dives the following day.

For those of you who don’t know I have two feet, minus a pinky toe. I have major deep tissue damage that slows me down some days but I remember that day, those feelings of hatred and anger, and I remember how far I’ve come.

There are a lot of things that happen to us that we never ask for or expect. The trick to getting through them is allowing yourself that time to feel the emotions you’re feeling at the time. Happiness, anger, frustration, confusion, whatever, just feel it. It’s ok to cry, it’s ok to hate your situation, it’s ok to beat your chest and even scream a few curse words.

But that’s not all. There’s a second part to the equation to remember. Feel those emotions when they happen but don’t carry them with you. (Unless they’re the happy emotions. Keep feeling those as long as you can.)

Don’t get confused with feeling angry, sad, or frustrated with feeling sorry for yourself. Anger doesn’t solve anything, but it can be a great motivator. Use the anger to come up with a viable solution but don’t get stuck there. Move on. You don’t have a future if you live in the past.

That day, and the days after, felt like they lasted an eternity. It’s now been ten months since that prognosis. I’ve participated in a three hour spin-a-thon, I’m training for a mud run, and I’m dancing on stage with my oldest daughter.

We might not plan for things but with the right attitude you can overcome just about anything. Even when your favorite TV show is cancelled.

 

**I just want to note that we stayed with this doctor, he became one of the doctors we were closest with. He may not have given the greatest first impression but his quick thinking got me into the hyperbaric chamber which in turn saved my feet. We had weekly visits with him for months and we had some of our favorite doctor moments with him and his staff. And I’ve forgiven him for his bedside manner. :)

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5 Responses to “Pushing Through The Unexpected”

  1. Jolyse Barnett Says:

    Karen,

    I’ve followed your progress since the day I received the plea for prayers from my sweet friend, Jen Gracen. I knew, just from the tone of her FB updates, how serious your situation was. My 22 year-old daughter, about to enter medical school, kept telling me it didn’t look good but that you had a chance of survival. That wasn’t good enough in my eyes. You are young and vibrant and have a loving husband and two beautiful little girls to enjoy. They need you. I prayed for you, and I’d like to believe that all our prayers and wishes helped give you the strength (although I imagine you’re one tough cookie who didn’t need a lick of help!) to keep fighting.

    I’m so sorry you’ve gone through this. But you’re a survivor. You will never take anything for granted, and that may be the blessing in all of this. I say this with heartfelt sincerity. My husband is struggling with recurrent prostate cancer as I write. He is a fighter too. We need him to be here, and so I understand your fears and your struggle with a life-threatening illness. Isn’t is wonderful to have some normalcy?

    Can’t wait to read your next post, and look forward to one day meeting the one, the only–Orange Karen. (((hugs)))

  2. Karen DeLabar Says:

    Thanks so much, Jolyse! It has been quite a year and I’m finally settling down into this new normal enough that I can write about it. Thanks again for reading!!

  3. George Hilbert Says:

    Hi Karen, You don’t know me and I don’t know you…But perhaps we “know” each other better than we think. I first heard of your situation when a couple of my author friends talked of publishing an anthology as a benefit. There was never a question in my mind that I would be fully behind this, not only buying the book (in several formats), but also Tweeting, Facebooking (is that a word?), Google Plussing and promoting it wherever I could get someone to listen….I am happy to read that your progress is as good as could have been expected. Please keep us all informed as to your continuing success. Thank you for the opportunity to be involved…..

  4. Karen DeLabar Says:

    Hi George! Thank you so much for following my story. I am so thankful for people like you who are willing to use their time to help promote this anthology. The support I have received from friends and strangers is overwhelming and humbling. I am amazed how people have rallied behind my every weak step and even still as I get stronger. Thank you again for your patronage and support! :)

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