Momento Mori: Remember You Will Die
I know there are many of my readers, acquaintances, close friends, and family members praying for my health and well-being, and so I thought it fitting to provide one big update so you can observe the effect of your charity. A preliminary review of events, and then an up-to-date description.
During this past month, I was hospitalized twice, with an additional Emergency Room (ER) visit, all for three different problems. As many of you know (I’ve shared this plenty), I have struggled since 2008 with heart problems such as Cardiomegaly/Cardiomyothopy and Left Ventricular Hypertrophe (LVH). Even though the mechanical measurements were not extreme, the symptoms were difficult to bear with since they came all of the sudden at the age of 21, and even endured when my physical stature was in relatively good condition. The major symptom was violent episodes of arrhythmia exploding during the night, leaving me terrified of sleep. I was already accustomed to sleep paralysis prior to this, which itself began as a scary thing but eventually became routine. Fast forward 10 years, and I was where I was this past December month. I went into the ER with cardiac complaints (again, from night time symptoms), and was incidentally diagnosed with a 2.6 cm wide Pituitary Macroandenoma Tumor right in the middle of my head from a CT scan & MRI. I was quickly admitted to the Neurosurgery department of a different location within the same medical center and scheduled for brain surgery in the next couple of days, especially since there had been signs of it being a hemorrhagic growth (i.e. bleeding). Now, I had not carried any symptoms of this at all, and I fail any of the physical evidence tests for it as well, except for the identifiable variance in hormone levels. However, it turned out that the plan for surgery was t-boned by an intervention of the onsite Endocrinologist team which took notice of the fact that my Prolactin levels were high, and when these sorts of tumors coincide with this high Prolactin, the tumor can often be treated with medication that brings down the Prolactin level to normal over time, though this route leads to a continuous reception of the medication for the duration of life, since the tumor can regrow. I am still not out of the woods yet since a progressive follow up will determine how the medication is working, and whether surgery will need to occur anyway. Your prayers certainly appreciated. All this happened just before December 15th, and so I thought I was good for the rest of Advent and Christmas to be with family back at home in my normal routine. What was in store, however, was a ratcheting up of the nighttime cardiac problem, and a return to the Emergency room it was just several days later, and this time they admitted me to the Cardio department instead of Neurosurgery where they can monitor the heart at night. The hospital Doctors found my pulse going down to 44, and my oxygen levels down well below 88% more than 20 times, and that from just a few hours of sleep. This caused a tap to Pulmonary who recommended an oxygen tank to assist sleeping, and eventually the attainment of a CPAP machine to provide adequate air for breathing. I have found this to be very helpful at night, and I am sleeping much better now. But unfortunately, the symptoms have still to be with me, and we are now thinking it has something to do with blood circulation as a result of the heart in someway. We will not know for sure until more testing can be done, but the symptoms include waking up numb in several places of the body, partly unconscious and disillusioned, unable to talk properly, and the sensation of being extremely weak in bodily functions. A third visit to the ER was in store, and this time they diagnosed me with degenerative disk disease at the bottom of my spinal cord as well as early arthritis, which explains why the left leg was going constantly numb in significant spots. This has also been a chronic problem for years now, culminating in what it is now. Obviously, it would seem that nerve damage would not cause this sort of problem with the hearth and blood circulation (if that is what it is), but this is as far as my desire for hospitals are going to take me. I have a much better chance, God willing, getting specified research with medical specialists. The only drawback is the extension in time of getting tests/results, and the plan for recovery. Until then, each night has its unwanted challenge, and for the first time in my life I desire to be awake more than asleep. Now, more than ever, am I weak spiritually as well. It is one thing to live under the victory and Lordship of Jesus Christ when this life is proving itself an easy passage, but it is something altogether different to meditate on that very same victory and Lordship when half your face is numb, and you cannot foresee if your health will improve. Truly, this has been a very revealing and humbling experience. Most challenging is that I must continue as a father whose children know next to nothing about all of this, save for one (my 9 year old). They depend on me daily. I will need all the prayers I can get for perseverance.
The best part of all of this is the way in which the love of God through Christ’s body has manifested itself to me. First recognition goes to my lovely wife, Victoria, who has exemplified a determined perseverance to serve me at my side the best she can, while at the same time raising 4 small boys, including 1 toddler. While I’ve been greatly disabled from helping this past month, she has boldly taken on the responsibility of continuing to care for them all the while visiting me in the hospital and being my advocate in the face of this trial; and with absolutely no complaints whatsoever. I can’t think of a better image than a strong horse who is relentless and tireless under stress. In addition, we have had several families (you know who you are) come to assist at at critical moments when we needed help with caring for the children, even adding 4 children to another 4 or 5 more children in a single household. Tremendous charity was felt during all of this. There was also a great long visit from my favorite priest, who gave me three sacraments at once. I even had a couple visits from a Orthodox priest-friend, whose children all drew me “Get Well” cards, and also received a nice prayer book. Several phone calls from friends were also extremely meaningful, especially one in particular who hooked me up with a contact of his who had faced the same sort of tumor, but with much worse symptoms, and was nevertheless healed. This person I had never met ended up spending extensive time with me on the phone, explaining his life and how God has changed him through the process. He still sends texts periodically, checking up on me. And lastly, even on Facebook, there have been countless messages and notices for prayer that have meant far more than you can imagine. Thank you all and everyone else who has prayed for this brief and small trial!