Friday, September 21, 2012

Falling Into Grace

I guess current family events are going to have to stand in for my usual post on Corridos this week. My mother and father were attending a conference for retired ministers in Kerrville, Texas. Their trip to Kerrville was a gift from Linda and me.  We knew that time with old friends in ministry would mean a lot to them.

Unfortunately, while at the retreat, Mom fell and took a very hard hit on the head. The hospital in Kerrville detected internal bleeding and so transferred her to Methodist Stone Oak Hospital in San Antonio.

I need to say that this isn’t our first pass at handling an emergency with Mom and Dad. They are 80 and 81 and the past few years have taken a couple of nasty swings at both of them. My father has a condition called Macular Degeneration, which has progressed to the point where he is functionally blind. He also struggles with some significant cognitive deficits and with Parkinson's.


 I don't think I will ever stop being grateful that God gave me a pair of brothers like Tim and Rob. Tim and his wife Melissa live in Waco and have gone far above and beyond in looking after our parents.

A family friend, Richard Faling, was leading the conference. Richard accompanied Mom and Dad to the emergency dept at the hospital in Kerrville and provided warm support and compassion to them. Tim took off mid-week from his job at McGregor high school and drove four or five hours from Waco to pick Dad up to take him to the hospital in San Antonio where Mom was transferred.

My brother Rob, whom I’ve written about on this blog before, met me in Waco and we drove down on Wednesday to meet Mom and Dad in San Antonio.

The last 56 hours has been pretty stressful for everyone.  My heart and head have been going ninety-to-nothing in two opposite directions. But I can tell you that God has been taking care of business.

For starters, when I first heard about the fall from my sister-in-law, Melissa Grace, I sent an email to my colleagues in the office of mission and ministry in the Baylor Health Care System, asking them to pray for her. Things sounded pretty serious. Mom was about to be hospitalized five hours from her regular doctors, from her support system in Waco and in a hospital none of us knew anything about.

 About ten minutes after I sent that email out, I got a call from my cousin-in-law, Sherry King. I married Sherry and David quite a few years ago and we have a great time when we see each other, but we only see each other about once every eight years or so. At any rate, Sherry called to say that my Aunt Nelda had called to tell her that Mom had fallen and was being taken to a hospital in San Antonio. Rob had called Nelda when he got the news from Melissa.  Our informal emergency communication system works almost as efficiently as the Critical Incident Response Protocol among BHCS' chaplains.

Sherry and David live three minutes from Methodist Stone Oak hospital. She met the ambulance at the hospital. Further, Sherry told me that she knew the hospital well because her father spent eight weeks there earlier this year. 

 Sherry and David are really phenomenal people and proved it in spades this time around. Though David was out of town and Sherry was in the midst of annual testing with her third graders, she drove straight to the hospital after her school day was over and managed to beat the ambulance there.  She sat with mom until Dad and Tim could get to the hospital, and then put me and Dad and Rob up at their house the next night.

Mom couldn't stop talking about the warmth and care she received from Sherry, who facilitated communication with the physician, took note of every detail he communicated to Mom and made sure that Tim, Rob and I were thoroughly informed when we arrive.

After a couple of nights in the ICU and two CT Scans had determined that Mom did not have ongoing bleeding, she was released today. 

About thirty minutes away from the hospital, though, Mom began to experience nausea and pain in her back and right leg. As glad as we were to be out of ICU, you can bet that all three of us, Rob, Dad and I, were feeling pretty scared. We stopped in Blanco to consult with a pharmacist. About that time I texted Linda and several friends, asking them to pray for us. Waco seemed like an impossible distance away at that point.

The small drug store in Blanco reminded me strongly of the drug store where we spent a lot of time drinking Dr. Pepper floats and reading comic books in Meridian, Texas when we were growing up.  The pharmacist was really helpful to us, responding with honest feedback about the possible effects of giving Mom her pain medication at that point, showing us some over the counter anti-nausea medicines, but in the end recommending that we take her to get a little something to eat. 

That did the trick. We had a comfortable ride home the rest of the way. Though Mom has had episodes of pain and nausea since, she is resting comfortably now. I am going to stay with them this weekend just to be sure everything is going well with them.

 Over the last two and one-half days we have known more than our fair share of laughter and tears. 

At one point, Rob went down to bring the car around. Mom insisted on dressing herself behind a screen. As I was anguishing between modesty and my experience of having seen folks take falls in just such situations, my functionally blind father announced he was going to the rest room.

That fact did not register with me until ten minutes later, when suddenly I got a vision of my father falling while ambulating around the corridors of the hospital unattended.  Unattended, I say. So I asked the nurse to look in on Mom and went looking for dad. He wasn’t in the bathroom down the hall. About three or four minutes later I found him looking into ICU rooms on the opposite side of the ICU.

“I am a little turned around,” he told me in a casual tone.


 Bottom line: God has taken care of the ones I love this week, and with such meticulous, endearing care, that I can hardly believe it. Rob,Tim, Dad, Sherry, Richard, Mom and I laughed, prayed, and squeezed out a tear or two, but I know that every one of us is so grateful for God’s presence. God’s love. And family. And friends.

If trouble must come your way, my single prayer for you is that God bless you with the kind of love I have felt covering my mother and indeed all of us with care and protection at every step.



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