Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Where We Are Now

The last few months have brought many defining moments.  We have been tested
and stretched and brought to our knees, all while clinging desperately to the hope that
things would get better.  They have to get better.  We've never stopped to question
why, never wondered why this whole horrible accident and the aftermath that
followed happened to us.  Because, truly, if not us then who?  Shawn's accident is
something that happened, a day that was meant to be in some crazy cosmic way, and we
are living with the shock waves that still resonate deep inside us.  And scattered
throughout this long and winding road that has been the last six months, there have
been moments.  Moments that hang in the air and take your breathe away.  Moments
that make you cry and scream and change who you are and what you thought was
real.  These moments, they are a part of our forever story.
Shawn had a very important doctor's appointment last month: he had a nerve
conduction study done on his arm to determine the severity of  the nerve damage
he sustained during the accident.  It was an appointment we had been anxiously awaiting
for months, knowing that the outcome of this test would determine his prognosis.
Shawn was optimistic and strong, confident that we would be enveloped in good news
and a renewed sense of hope.
I knew better.  The nurse in me had long overtaken my role as a wife and I knew from
my experience with my patients that the outcome of this test would be bleak.  I never
told Shawn that but inside, I knew.  The doctor was quiet with a gentle spirit, his
hands operating the nerve conduction machine in swift, fluid motions.  What seemed
like hours actually took place over the course of 5 minutes, the monitor beeping
methodically as I resisted the temptation to bite off every one of my fingernails.  Shawn
lay on the table patiently, slow deep breathes making his chest rise and fall.  I had to take
my eyes off the monitor as I watched the screen display what I already knew.  I
watched Shawn's chest move up and down instead.
When the test was over, the doctor quietly turned the lights on in the exam room and
gave us the bad news: the nerve damage in Shawn's arm is irreparable, it is severe
and extensive.  While he has made significant improvements in his ability to move
his fingers, bend and lift his arm, and regain muscle strength, his arm and hand will
never, ever be the same.  He will never again have the same function in his left arm as
he once did.  Surgery is, as of now, not an option as the damage is too severe to hope
for much improvement.  The doctor encouraged Shawn to continue with his
physical therapy, continue exercising and stretching and working towards getting the
most function he possibly can with the limits that lie before him.
Neither one us said very much, there weren't many questions left to ask.  We have
asked them all to the dozens of doctors we have already seen.  We shook hands and
the doctor turned to leave, stopping briefly at the door and turning around to look
my husband in the eyes.  He said, "You know, Shawn, I really think that God has a plan
for you, that what you were doing before was not it.  There is a lot in store for you, there
IS a plan." And he turned and left the room.
Shawn and I stood up and I began helping him put his shirt back on, buttoning each
button without looking up at him, not able to stare into those big brown eyes.  He pulled
me to him and we held each other, our faces buried in each other's necks as the tears
finally came, big silent heaving tears that traveled through us like waves.  Months of
tears, long nights of fear, all flowing together in one big, defining moment.  This was it,
this was our reality, and as we stood in that doctor's office, just the two of us, we knew
that it was time to move on.  It was time to face the truth that this story might not have
a miracle happy ending.  We had to move forward and accept that things will never be
the same.
I love you.
I love you, too.
And we walked out of the room, hand in hand, ready to begin the next chapter.
That day was a turning point for us, the hardest blow yet.  The words that doctor spoke to
us were a reminder that our lives have been forever changed.  One moment, one second,
one fun filled ride in the desert changed it all.  We have struggled with this new reality
since the day it all began: fighting to keep our family together, our daughters protected,
our happiness intact, our sanity in check.  But he's here and he's alive, he is healing
and getting stronger each and every day.  We have settled into a new groove, the girls
so happy to have their daddy home, my heart filled to the brim with the love I have for
this man.  What started as 21 days in a hospital hundreds of miles from home has
now become a second chance, an opportunity to begin a new and exciting chapter in
our journey together as a family.
There is a part of me that will never be the same, a part of me that died on the day of
that accident right along with the nerves in Shawn's arm.  The girl who once lived with
no fear, arms wide open and ready for anything is now more guarded, fearful of anything
else happening that may cause harm to the people I love so deeply.  I've seen things I
am still struggling to process, images that run through my head and keep me up at night.
I am more afraid of being vulnerable, not as willing to share my emotions as I once was.
I'm more fragile than I have ever been, protecting myself and my heart like a warrior
who has just returned from battle.  Shawn and I are both living with PTSD, learning
to process the trauma we experienced as best we can. I've accepted that there is no
rule book for this kind of grief, no instruction manual on how to live through this
properly.  You just live each day as best you can, holding onto your hope and faith and
letting your inner strength be your guide. 

I often go back to this photo, this moment captured that perfectly depicts this year in
our lives: Shawn with all his strength and determination, Liv by his side, our servant
hearts shining through.  This was the year we learned how strong we actually were, the
year we stopped talking and planning and actually started doing.  This photo: it is real
and raw and beautiful.  It is love.
I know that the hurt I feel will transform into a part of my soul that will serve me for the
rest of my life, I will continue to heal emotionally just as Shawn has healed physically.
I've always been the caregiver: perfectly content to put my own feelings and needs aside
to help someone else.  I feel most alive when I am nurturing another soul, using my
heart and good intentions to make another person's life better.  That is what has carried
me through this: the ability to turn my own emotions off for the greater good of my
family.  The days when I wasn't sure how I would get out of bed, how I would take care
of everyone and everything, those were the days I just had to DO IT.  Don't think,
don't worry, don't cry, just DO IT.  And now, as the dust is clearing and the storm
is beginning to settle, I am finally allowing myself the space and time to process and feel
and pick through the emotions I have stuffed so deep inside myself.
Shawn and I often say that the last 6 months were all about survival and recovery.
We made the best out of our situation and worked hard to get through the most
difficult days.  Now, as a new year looms ahead of us, we know that the months to come
will be about rebuilding.  It is time to take our new reality, our scars and wounds and
the changes they have brought us, and build a new us.  The future we once envisioned
has changed, the plans we made are beginning to take on a new form.  And that doctor
was right: God has a plan for us, a plan more amazing than we could ever imagine.  The
fears and anxieties will subside and I will soon, someday, be the fearless girl I once was.
I will continue to sit with my emotions and face them head on, all while holding the hands
of the man I was always meant to walk alongside.  Though part of us died that day in
the desert, we are now more alive than ever.


Kelley said...

Wow, what a powerful post, Liv. I love what the doctor told you as he left, I think he's right too.

Caitlin A. said...

This was a beautiful post, lady. I'm so sorry about the results of the test, but wishing you guys all the strength in the world in this next chapter. So much love for you.

Deanna Fike said...

from what i can gather from your blog, you and shawn are both fighters. you aren't going to just sit around and think 'well this sucks.' you guys are going to keep on living life to the fullest.

mandy @a sorta fairytale said...

I'm so sorry about the test results, but you and your family seem so strong. Your faith will carry you through! xoxo

Lauren Harris said...

Yet another post that feels more like a conversation than a post. And once again, love and prayers to your sweet fam.

Lucy the Valiant said...

Oh, He does have a plan! You are such an amazing family and I'll be praying for you!!

Vanessa said...

Oh no, what a bummer. I can't think of anything better to say than what that doctor said. It's true, that old saying: God never closes a door without opening a window. I'm overwhelmed by how far you and Shawn have come since the accident. I know there are only good things in store in the future. Much love...

Kara Motts said...

I am so sorry to hear that the damage is more than what you wanted. Your story has been incredible to witness. You have been a pillar of strength and sacrifice and I'm in awe of your peace through this tragedy. But as the doctor said, God does have a plan and I believe He gives His children good gifts. He loves you so very much and I pray that as you both continue to heal from this, that He would surround you with His peace and grace. Hugs to you sweetness.

Sara said...

Sending so much love your way. I am so amazed by how strong you all have been through all of this and I just know you will make your future even better than your past. You all are inspiring.