Thursday, March 17, 2011


My sister-in-law is currently performing against the odds. She had brain surgery this morning and the doctor seemed happy with the outcome. They were able to take her off the ventilator this afternoon and she's still very sedated and doped up but is responsive and even talking a little bit. She can apparently respond to simple commands from the doctors, like holding up the number of fingers they ask her to hold up. She recognized her husband and Penn, and even talked to them a little bit (they have her strapped to the bed right now because in her groggy state she keeps trying to remove all of her wires and tubes, and Penn said that she offered to pay him if he would undo the straps. So that's definitely a good sign.). Tomorrow as she becomes more aware of her surroundings they'll start a bunch of tests to see how she stands as far as physical and mental function. There's still so much she needs to overcome, but we're all encouraged by how well she seems to be doing so far. There are so many reasons to be hopeful, but she's not out of the woods yet and it's still really scary.
It's weird being in a limbo position here. I know I'm more helpful here where I can actually take care of the house and the pets and earn money, but it really sucks not being with my husband to offer physical support and to help him deal with his family. And it especially sucks having all of this up in the air. You know I hate not knowing what will happen next, and right now the options for what might happen next are so huge. Being at a hospital far from home would be useless right now, and I (selfishly) would rather not be with Penn's family in such a high stress situation where I know I would just feel awkward and in the way, but it feels so frustrating being here home alone, too.
Ugh. I have to write a midterm for my students to take tomorrow. Life goes on. I'll probably stop writing about this situation here since it's not really my trauma and talking about my minor role in it just feels selfish. But I couldn't just leave yesterday's post hanging without some kind of update. So that's that. Moving off this topic until I have something definitive (and good, hopefully) to say about it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Worrying About the Wrong Thing

I was going to use my free time today to write up a happy blog post reminiscing about my wedding and honeymoon, but I don't think I'm going to be able to do that today after all.

While I was on my honeymoon I read a memoir by a woman whose daughter was born several months early and had a roller coaster ride of a journey in the NICU. It was a well-written memoir, and I related to the author because, like me, she's a worrier by nature. She had humorous lists about things she had worried about in her life and then wrote of more serious worries she had when she became pregnant. But the thing that struck me most was a passage in which she said--and I'm paraphrasing here--"I worried about the wrong things." In the end, it turned out that she had worried about everything except what actually ended up happening. That came out of the blue and left her completely unprepared.
I'm feeling like that right now. As long as I have known Penn he has worried about his sister, and as I got to know him and her I began carrying those worries as well. She's a great person who has had a challenging life for a variety of reasons, and since Penn is very close to her he's intimately familiar with her ups and downs. So for some time now we've been worried about elements of her daily life, trying to walk the fine line between meddling in her marriage and helping when and how we can. Just recently things had come to a head over a particularly dicey situation, to the point where Penn met with our pastor to get some moral guidance on how to handle it (to continue with vague descriptions, she had asked for his formal recommendation for something that he didn't ethically feel he could support, but he was equally afraid to damage their close relationship by not giving her the support she requested).
So we've been talking a lot about his sister over the past couple of weeks and trying to figure out what we should do and, as always, what move would be most helpful to her. And then last night we got a phone call from her husband telling us that she'd had a brain aneurysm. She hemorrhaged for a long time before they finally got the bleeding under control and then they airlifted her to a hospital in a big city several hours from her home. Penn and his mom caught the first flight from here to that city this morning so that they can be with her. I was doing my best to help Penn focus on best-case scenarios, but of course I'm scared. I couldn't help googling things like "brain aneurysm prognosis" and Dr. Google assures me of what I already knew: aneurysms are bad. Very, very bad.
So, I was worrying about the wrong thing this whole time. Of all the things I feared might happen to my sister-in-law, I sure as hell never imagined that she would have a brain aneurysm. Even I couldn't have come up with that fear.
It's way too early to know what's going to happen. I'm trying to focus on the fact that she survived long enough to make it to the hospital in her small town and to the big city hospital. Apparently 15% of aneurysm victims never make it that far. I'm praying for a good outcome from the brain surgery she's going to have any second now (perhaps right this moment). I'm ignoring the statistics that say that over 50% of people who have a brain aneurysm will die within 30 days following the aneurysm. I'm focusing instead on the small percentage that come out just fine, without permanent brain damage.
She's a God-fearing person with a big heart. She's had a difficult life. If anyone deserves a miracle it's my sister-in-law, but I don't know if miracles work like that.