Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Well, the year isn't so far along, yet some big changes have happened in my little nook of the world, already. Granted, we're coming off of 2009, which will mostly be remembered as a year marred by economic gloom and doom—oh, yeah, and Michael Jackson's death, something Larry King still hasn't gotten over. And I suppose, given Jackson's financial worth, even that event must have caused an economic ripple, of sorts, felt 'round the world.
But since my blog is titled "A Vermont P.O.V.," I'd like to keep my focus on the Green Mountain State, if you don't mind. Sure, there's not much Hollywood glitz, here, but we have plenty of white glitter atop of our hills, which not only looks good but also serves a more practical purpose—skiing. So, getting back to the economy and 2009, on the micro-level,it proved to be a significant year for my family. My husband ended up needing to go on disability, due to an ongoing back problem. I guess that's putting it mildly, since it nearly killed him ten years ago, this same month.
He has a rare spinal-tumor condition, called an ependymoma, which is technically benign—but that doesn't mean it can't kill you, all the same. Luckily, for us, his tumor formed at the base of his spinal cord, rather than somewhere in his brain, where it would have meant almost certain death. Typically, this condition gets discovered in one's childhood; but in rare instances, like my husband's, it gets missed or overlooked. In his case, as a teenager, he was diagnosed with scoliosis; but the tumor, which had been growing since his birth, went undetected—until the day it ruptured, decades later, causing him to pass out and collapse, while at his desk, at work. Typically, as well, if you are one of those few individuals which make it to adulthood with this tumor still intact, the tumor ruptures, you die, they do an autopsy, and that is when your loved ones learn what you had. To my knowledge, my husband is the only known survivor of this type of tumor rupturing. He is a walking miracle, for sure.
Of course, the doctors were quite perplexed, at first, and tried frantically to save his life, working from the assumption that he had suffered an aneurysm. They were wrong, even though quite miraculously his life was still saved through their efforts. As it turned out, it took a team of neurosurgeons five days to determine that his condition was indeed a rare spinal tumor, one which by then had grown to the size of six vertebrae long. The rupturing of the tumor had caused spinal fluid to build up within a cavity, below his brain, which is what produced the brain swelling that caused him to pass out.
For the first two days, after the rupture, he lived hour to hour. On the fifth day after he had stabilized, an MRI of his spine and brain was ordered; and that is when we finally received the answer to his mysteriously-plaguing back pain—pain which was so intense, during the three years leading up to the rupture, that he couldn't even bend down to tie his shoes. Yet not once had a doctor ever ordered a simple MRI. They were convinced it was only a muscular problem, most likely due to his sitting at a computer all day. Boy, were they ever wrong!
However, a strange—equally mysterious and miraculous—thing happened, during that first, five-week hospital stay, relating to that same, fateful MRI. After we had its results, I had wanted to thank the doctor who had ordered the test. Yes, we were facing a serious, life-threatening condition and were both terrified about what our future held; but I still felt some measure of gratitude and peace of mind in just knowing what we were finally up against. I don't know, but for some reason a foe seems more easily defeated if you can visualize it. So, anyway, I went around the hospital, from doctor to doctor, but oddly none of them had ordered the MRI. In fact, there wasn't even a paper trail found anywhere in his records or medical chart, which would have been necessary for such an expensive test as an MRI to have been ordered.
It was—and still is—a mystery, who or what allowed him to have that MRI taken, which enabled us to find out about his tumor condition. Without that test, he never would have had the subsequent eight-hour surgery—at least not as part of a planned strategy of attack. The surgery, ultimately, is what has kept him alive, ever since the time of the rupture—well, that and three follow-up surgeries (because the tumor grows out of the base of his spinal cord, lending the tumor and spinal-cord tissue to fuse together). The surgeons have always had to leave a small piece connected, or else the risk for paralysis is too high.
So, the fact that he is just going on disability now is sort of a miracle too—well, at least an extremely good stroke of fortune. And I know that might sound odd, given the financial and physical limitations the disability places on our entire family. But I'm looking at it from the perspective that my husband, on all counts, should've died ten years ago and all this time I could've been left a widow, to raise our two kids on my own. So as bleak as our situation may seem on the surface, the reality is we're all really lucky to still have him alive and in our lives.
Which brings me to what I wanted to get at in the first place—how my life has changed, just two weeks into this new year. Naturally, with our situation drastically changed, I no longer could afford to keep my writing business going, not with our income cut so much and my health insurance squeezed out of the disability equation. (Yes, spouses are not covered by disability insurance, only the children are.) So, I started that horrible, demoralizing task—the dreaded job search. And what a lovely time to do it, too—during the worst economic times since the Great Depression! Well, I'll spare you those infinitely low moments when I thought I would never find a job, when I thought this was it—my fate: to never contribute to society in a meaningful way, to never help support my family financially in the way we so desperately needed, to never be able to pay off my student loans, to not be able to help send my kids to college, to never be able to travel the world...you get the idea.
But, lo and behold, as Fate would have it, the world—or at least my little corner of it—did seem to need me, after all. Just this week I landed myself not just a job, but hopefully a new, exciting career. I am the new Training & Events Coordinator for Vermont Family Network, which serves families of children with special needs. It's a great organization; they do amazing work, so needless to say, I'm hoping to live up to the expectations and be a contributing asset as soon as possible.
So, see, miracles of all sorts can happen, anytime. I sure learned that—in fact, I keep relearning it and always when I need to learn it most. Maybe that's how God operates. Maybe when He senses we've just about given up, He decides it's time to give our faith a little boost. Who knows the reason? All I know is that I'm extremely grateful for what I've received—this January and ten Januaries ago—so I have no intention of wasting any of my miracles.
And what about you? Can you say the same?