Tuesday, October 24, 2006

in sickness and in health...

...oh, did Matthew Pinson really know what he was getting himself into when he said those words? This past month has been a rollercoaster of emotion, physical pain, crying out to the Lord asking why but, also, of being very thankful for life. Honestly, it hasn't been a month...it's been eight years...and really something that the doctors now say was probably there since birth.

Confused? Don't worry...we were too...although most of the people who read this blog already know most of this struggle, for they are the people who have raised me, the people who have been my friends and family and have walked alongside me in the valleys.

Warning: the following gets a little wordy and medical, but it helps explain...
Eight years ago, I went in to the hospital with abdominal pain. I was 18 years old. what followed was a six-month stay on a pediatric cancer and leukemia floor; consisting of an appendectomy, gall bladder removal, multiple other surgeries and procedures, and a diagnosis consisting of, but not limited to, pancreatitis, a hiatal hernia, superior mesenteric artery syndrome, and a possible motility disorder in my digestive system. I was not able to eat the entire time; being fed with feeding tubes and pretty much sedated on morphine the whole time because of the intense pain I was experiencing. Doctors were so puzzled; not understanding why an 18 year old would get pancreatitis, the chief concern and cause of pain, in the first place. They continued to perform exploratory surgeries looking for answers and really came up pretty blank. I left the hospital after six months; after celebrating every major holiday in that tiny room, weighing 85 pounds, with a little bit of temporary relief, but no real answers.

Fast forward a little bit (I promise I'll try not to make this ten pages long)...
Throughout the past eight years since that initial hospital stay, I have spent many nights in emergency rooms several times each year. I have graduated college, gotten married, and had my sweet baby Jack. Each time I have gone in with recurrences of pain, nausea, vomiting, etc. They do all of the routine bloodwork, ocassionally admit me for a few days and generally come back empty handed; usually telling me it's irritable bowel syndrome or gas pains, or of course my favorite-telling me nothing and instead sending in a psychiatrist to evaluate me while I am in some of the most intense pain of my life. All of the scar tissue from my past procedures have caused quite a bit of issue as well, such as severe pain from adhesions and the tissue not being able to stretch beyond a certain point, resulting in our baby being born five weeks early (praise God, he was totally healthy and has been my sunshine ever since). It has been frustrating to say the least, but I have since pretty much been resigned that I will just have to live with that pain forever and do what I need to in order to be what I need to be, such as a wife, a mother and a teacher...no problem, right?

Many people know that this past year I went back to work, teaching middle school theatre, as well as being in grad school to complete my Masters of Education. it's a job that I really do love. I get to use my theatre degree, I get to be around middle schoolers who, despite their interesting smells, are really some of my favorite people in the world. It has been hard...on many levels...most of all, because I am away from my Jack. Being home with him for two years non-stop was a true blessing that I will never take for granted. but he has done so well-he loves his sweet sitter and we have also had so much help from our families. Going back to work has also been hard on my body. On the 20th of last month (September, right?), after teaching school all day and then having required staff development after school, I called Matt to tell him that I was really not feeling well at all. what followed was a hospital stay of almost three weeks. Once again, all the tests and once again all my fears waiting to hear those words, "Well, we just can't seem to figure it out". The Lord blessed us with an amazing team of doctors; doctors who showed us determination and human kindness. at first they believed that I had celiac disease, which is an intolerance to gluten. They put me on a gluten-free diet, but it did not seem to help any, and although my biopsies looked like celiac, the blood test was negative. My gastroenterologist then started to suspect something very rare called Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction (yeah, you can imagine why i have chosen not to share the name of this problem with my middle schoolers!) When he told me that I was that mystery patient that all the doctors were discussing at lunch, well honestly I was not flattered! But, I was very thankful to have proactive doctors for the first time in a long time.

I won't go into all of the medical details. if you are that interested, give me a call or google it. And actually Matt has become very good at explaining the workings of the digestive system, so you might just call him! But what basically happened is that the Lord's hand intervened so perfectly that the doctors caught the symptoms of this rare disease at just the right time, right when my body was in a flare up and my liver functions were off the charts. It's something that you really have to be looking for in order to catch it. I ended up getting transferred to a hospital in dallas and was blessed to get in with the leading doctor in the world for this condition who performed my surgery. Ironically, he works only on this disease in conjuction with the Mayo Clinic, which is where they wanted to send me eight years ago to have tests run for a newly discovered problem (the one I was just diagnosed with). When the doctor in Dallas measured the pressures in my bile ducts(I apologize if you are reading this over some sort of meal) they were at 80 and 110, when they are supposed to be around 40. That explains some pain, huh? Basically nothing was getting through, and I was apparently born with two of these ducts instead of one. So, he just made an incision and then placed a stent in my pancreas. Looking back, all of it fits together, and they really do think that this is going to ease a great deal of the pain that I have felt for so many years. We did have a little setback, ending up back in the hospital just two days after going home. I had ended up with a blood clot from my PICC line that they had finally put in because of my horrible tiny veins that have been ruined through the years of so many hospital stays. Then when they put me on blood thinners, after only two days my blood was so thin that they could not even measure it in the lab. The blood thinners are supposed to make your blood clot at 2 to 3 times the normal rate, and the highest the lab could measure was 23 times the normal rate...mine was past that! The doctors said if I had fallen, not even cut myself, but just run into something, I could have bled to death. That was definitely scary because we have dealt with the pain, nausea and vomiting for years now, but never blood clots or internal bleeding. Once again, the doctors took very good care of me and I only had to stay three additional days in the hospital.

I spent the next few weeks trying to return to "normal", and I am still not there. I did go back to school a week and a half ago, and that has definitely been a challenge, but good to get back into a routine. Although I must admit that I am already looking forward to the holiday breaks! I still feel quite weak, but my school is being so supportive and we have had an amazing amount of help from family and friends.

This post is a little too informational for my taste, but it's hard to know how to explain all that I have been feeling without explaining what we have been dealing with. Pain has been a part of my daily life for so long, and while the doctors say that this won't completely change that, I look forward to the prospect of it being much less. We have felt so surrounded in prayer and love from our community of faith, and I have been reminded once again of what an amazing family I have and what an amazing and powerful God that we serve.

It's funny and amazing to me because, honestly, I think that Matt did know what he was getting into. He knew that taking me as a life mate also meant taking all of my health problems. And he took me anyway. He has been my rock through all of this and I can't ever find words to say how thankful I am that God made him my husband. I don't know how he did all that he did, spending the nights in a chair by my bedside, taking care of Jack, going to work every day, not to mention running lesson plans back and forth to school and putting my grades in the computer for me! What a guy! My parents and Matt's parents were amazing in helping with Jack and also spent countless hours by my side. My mom and dad have been there every step of the way, since this first began many years ago...and there is no way I could have ever made it through without them.

I have written before about Matt being the student council president at Fort Worth Christian when my mom was working there and I was in the hospital eight years ago (the six month stay). He led many prayers for Mrs. Tyndall's daughter(that would be me) who was so sick in the hospital. Little did he know that he was praying for the girl that would one day be his wife. We know now that God was answering those prayers for years to come. He healed me then and those prayers that Matt prayed for my healing continue to be answered as he now stands beside me as my husband.

I am, above all, thankful for the Lord's healing in my life. Just as I have been saved by Him, and continue to be saved each new day, I have witnessed first hand as he daily heals not just my soul but also my body. He also knew what he was getting into, and yet He still sent His son to save me. In the past month, I can honestly say that I have felt that salvation on a physical as well as spiritual level in a whole new way. Praise God for new beginnings...His power really is made perfect in our weakness!