Sunday, February 19, 2012

My 41st Birthday


I began writing this post about a week before my hand injury. I just finished typing the remainder of the story, and I'd like to share it with you now!

My birthday was June 24, which was during the Greene Sibling Reunion at my brother's mountain cabin in CO. Now, the birthday before this one pretty much...umm...well, SUCKED. That's really the only way to describe it. No offense to my husband and kids, of course.  They tried hard to create a nice celebration for my 40th birthday. However, on the heals of my big ol' MS attack and diagnosis, the big ol' 4-0 was not exactly something I planned a big party it was just the 7 of us here at home. THIS year, I was spending the day without my little family, but I got to spend it with my HUGE, extended family.

The day began nicely, with most of the reunioners already at the cabin. People greeted me with happy birthday wishes and granted me lots of hugs and smiles. NICE! As the day progressed, I had a sneaking suspicion that "something" had been secretively planned for later. My sister, Monica, created two LOVELY platters of cakes and fruit for everyone's pleasure, topped with a birthday candle (it read, "OLD"). That, in itself, would have been great. But later, when darkness fell and everyone was settling down, the group congregated around the raging firepit. I was the last to arrive, having just checked in with my kids/husband on the phone (ya' had to walk a bit up the road in order to get a cell signal). Within seconds of my sitting down, Angela called me (loudly): "Mara?!" "Yes..." "I have something for you." She held out her hand and gave me a Starbucks card with FORTY-ONE DOLLARS on it! Oh, my goodness. But wait--there's more. She introduced person after person in the same way: "Mara?!" "Yes..." "So-and-so has something for you." I ended up with SEVERAL cards with 41 bucks on each one. HOLY CRAP! I STILL can't believe it. I was shocked, grateful, excited, greedy and giddy all rolled up in one. What a night.

By the took me and the kids (I HAD to share my riches, right???) three short months to use up ALL the cards. It was REALLY fun.

Ummm...What Was That Ready-For-Action Part Again?

I use the word "fate" occasionally, not because I believe in it literally, but because sometimes it's the best brief description for something that happens for no apparent reason. Being a believer in the many and active works of the Holy Spirit, I see sorrowful times and tragedy as opportunities to grow in spirituality and faith. Not everyone I know agrees with that philosophy, and there have been moments when I fail to see it myself. I do believe that each occasion of suffering is a necessary part of the journey to Heaven. We feel some of the way Christ felt. We understand others' suffering. We have a chance to be an empathetic comfort when those around us are suffering. Isn't that what we all want: to be understood and comforted in times of trouble?

All I wanted to do that "fateful" afternoon is bake some bread. Dinner was to be skimpy, and I wanted to be sure the kids had enough to eat. I rushed to get ingredients out, then picked up the new Kitchen Aid mixer I had received as a birthday present just weeks before to replace my broken one. It was beautiful...shiny cherry red, gleaming glass bowl...beautiful. (That was a foreshadowing.) As I carried it to the counter from the shelf, the bowl slipped from the base's threads. I hugged it to catch it from falling. It jerked upward against the motor. The bowl broke into two pieces that collapsed into each other. My right hand, which had been holding the bowl on its side, followed the collapse. The broken bowl sliced into my hand, from my index finger straight across to my pinky, right below the joints that connect my fingers to my palm. Immediately, I dropped the whole thing as if it were on fire. Flexing my hand outward, the cut at my index finger looked like a fish gill. Oh, no. Oh, NO. Although there was no bleeding yet, I instinctively grabbed a paper towel, got it wet, and pressed hard on my hand. Realizing it was a bad cut (the worst I had seen on my own body), I got a cloth towel and pressed it over the paper one. I spent a couple of seconds selecting which one--the reddish purple will do, I thought. If the thing bleeds, no one can tell. ALWAYS THINKIN'. My kids were all home, and my niece, Kiera, was at our house (she drives), but I couldn't get a hold of Joe. I imagined he was on his way home (4:30) and his cell phone was turned off for some reason. My next door neighbor drove me to the Urgent Care Clinic about 10 minutes away, and Joe met us there. The triage nurse let me in before the other patients, and that's about when I started freaking out. Pain set in. And fear. Lots of fear. I couldn't curl my finger. WHY? I soon found out why, because when the attending physician dug around in my wound (I had been given painkillers by IV and syringe), he spoke the dreaded words I knew he would: "Yup, you cut both tendons in there. I am trying to grab 'em to get the ends sewn up temporarily, but they are too far down in both directions." The cut severed the two flexor tendons in my right index finger, but missed any others. "You will have to get those fixed in surgery." My fear turned into panic. SURGERY? I had never had surgery in my whole life. Five childbirths, two spinal taps, some MRIs, wisdom teeth removal, and a broken tailbone...but no "real" surgery. Yet, two miserable days later, I went under general anesthesia to get my poor flexor tendons reattached. It was successful. As I left the surgery center that afternoon, I embarked on my long journey of pain, immobility, helplessness, physical therapy, and impatience.

Now, all of you who are reading this might be asking, "Why is she telling us all this?" I am hoping to convey to you something very personal and even devastating in my life. My MS has already shut certain doors for me, but this hand injury locked a few of them. Dexterity, hand/arm coordination, and leg/foot strength are things I lack these days, replaced with parasthesia (pins & needles), neuropathy(numbness), and weakness. Usually I am pretty resolved to accept it, but frustration and disappointment creep in occasionally. It would be nice, for example, to touch my little Rose's face with my fingers and feel her sweet, soft skin the way it really is, or to be able to walk around shopping all afternoon again without a thought of the pain later. These are things I have decided to accept and have given up to Christ...but it doesn't mean I don't miss them from time to time.

I began Occupational Therapy twice a week a mere 7 days after surgery, then went to once a week after a few months. I still go once a week. I am slowly improving my ability to curl my finger, but after 6 1/2 months, I still work hard at it. They all tell me it takes a year or more to "peak". That's August. It's now March. Long, long time. But...every day I try, try, try. My persistance and perseverance is slowly paying off. The payoff is seen in my dexterity, as well as the patience I've taught myself and my kids. I truly believe my suffering is making us ALL better people.