Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Drowning

The nature of this experience precludes consistency. Because of that, I have about 20 unfinished blogs floating around my laptop. I had a rhythm going when we were staying at the hotel and walking back and forth to the hospital several times a day. But now there is little rhyme or reason to my schedule. With constant interruptions and vacillating plans and schedules, it is easy to start a story and then forget about it or lose momentum and interest. Plus, the internet situation makes it much more logistically challenging now.

Some of the unfinished stories need to be told, however. There is one which I have been putting off because I don’t think I can do it justice. (Or maybe it’s because it is too intensely spiritual, and I am afraid.) It is startling how quickly very vivid experiences start to fade into haze now...sensory overload, I suppose. But it was confirmed to me recently that I need to try to conjure up the memory fragments of that time.

In the meantime, I will share this one:

Last week, rather than borrowing a car and fighting vicious traffic, I spent several days in Pomona staying at Jay’s house. It was an exhausting, emotional, intense time for Katherine. More new patients have been admitted, and some are extremely volatile and combative. There are only a few female patients whose personalities have not been altered by their brain injuries, so that makes for some interesting interactions. There is a lot of yelling, crying, and even throwing. During one patient’s outburst, Katherine was so scared that she covered her head with her hands and tried to duck under her desk...even though the throwing was several rooms away. Katherine believes that one new patient in particular has it in for her, although it is my observation that it is just a problem with impulse control. Maybe this girl’s pre-frontal cortex was affected. (I’m just starting to study brain books...it is a fascinating topic.) Anyway, Grace and I witnessed one encounter when we sat in on Kat’s “Cognitive Dev.” class. The patients got to play a card game with each other. It was “Miss A’s” turn to play, but she was busily describing to one of the aides (in graphic detail) what she was planning to do with a certain young gentleman. Katherine called her name to tell her it was her turn. “Miss A” slowly turned around and pierced Katherine with a laser look. Then she turned it upon Grace and then on me to make sure we were watching. She sent it back to Katherine and in a slow, deep voice she hissed out her response: “Bitch.”

Katherine was born living Phil. 1:8: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”(NLT) Ugly words are like poison to her spirit.

Later that afternoon, we wheeled her back to the house. She was pensive in spite of our efforts to entertain. When I asked her if anything was wrong, she said, “Mom, I feel like I’m drowning. I’m drowning, but no one can help me.”

I guess it’s obvious from previous entries that I know something about drowning, but I’ve never heard Katherine use the analogy before. (Remember, she’s the one who floats.) I comforted her as best I could. Of course, she immediately wiped away her tears and told me that she’s okay, not to worry.

Shortly after this, we grabbed a movie out of the stack and put it in for a little distraction. When Jay came back and saw what we’d picked, he paused it for a moment to give us some
background information. The Diving Bell and The Butterfly is the true story of a Frenchman, the chief editor of Elle magazine, who suffered a massive stroke at the age of 44. The result was that he lived the rest of his life with “Locked-In Syndrome,” a condition of almost complete paralysis. Although his intellect was completely untouched, he was never again able to move anything other than one eyelid. He wrote the memoir on which the movie is based by blinking as a nurse went through the alphabet a letter at a time. One word could take 5 minutes. After Jay had finished describing the movie to us, I asked Katherine if she wouldn’t rather watch a comedy that day. No, she wanted to see the stroke movie.

An image stood out: The man dreams he is at the bottom of the ocean, trapped inside one of those old metal diving suits used before oxygen tanks. Like the Man In the Iron Mask, the walls of his prison touch his very flesh. Weighed down and drowning, he is utterly alone. The silence screams. No one comes to help.

As I was scrolling through the unfinished blogs this morning, I ran across notes I’d made the morning after a strange dream I had the first month after Katherine's surgery. In the dream, a little blonde girl was running and skipping over large slate stones scattered in a pond. Suddenly, she slipped and fell backwards, hitting her head on a hard stone. She sank into the water and down to the murky bottom. In slow motion, I put my face into the slimy water and tried to find her, but I couldn’t see. Long panicky minutes ticked by. Finally, I spotted her and dove down, grabbed her, and started back towards the surface. But the water was so dark that I became disoriented and couldn’t tell which way was up. Just as I ran out of air, we burst through the cloudy green ceiling. I dragged the little girl, who now seemed much smaller-almost a baby- over to a bank. She was limp and lifeless. I began beating her on the back, but nothing happened. Then someone came up and took her from me. I lay on the ground, defeated and devastated. But when I looked up, I saw the little girl moving and smiling in the Someone’s arms.

***************


“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.”
Is. 43: 1b-2a (NLT)

(Now that I’ve thought about it, I believe I will count that dream as a Memorial Stone.)

19 comments:

suzirockett said...

I had just wrote on the other site no updates in so long! praying still and often longing for the good and complete work in Kat. wanting to know every detail so to better pray. Trust not fear!
I hold you all in my heart and all in my prayers.

plilr said...

I just watched "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" last week and thought of Katherine through the whole thing. Funny that this was mentioned in your first update in a while.

I wish that there was some funny or spiritual anecdote that would shed a new light on Kat's and everyone else's experience at Casa Colina, but I can't think of one. To be honest, what she is going through adjusting to the other patients sounds awful. As her mother and sister, that really must enrage you after she (and you guys) have gone through so much to get her to where she is now. I'm sure you are relying on the fact that there is a plan and everything happens for a reason, otherwise she wouldn't even be in this facility. I can't imagine how tired you must all be.

As always, you guys, and especially Katherine, are in my prayers and the prayers of all my friends and family. Surely today is a little better than yesterday and tomorrow the future looks bright.

Can you update us on how Katherine is progressing? How is her swallowing coming along? Her right side? I know that you said that Jay was going to sit down and write, but I am anxious to know how her therapy is coming along. I hope Jay and James are doing as well as they possibly can too.

Much love,

Desiree Hall

Linda Abney said...

Dear Kim and Katherine,
Each blog and Caringbridge update challenges me to pray harder. My prayer group at church ask weekly,
"what about Katherine"? We join with so many others who ache for each of you. You are, however, encouraging me to examine how I relate to others who may be experiencing pain of various kinds. We pray for grace upon grace to be able to deflect the hurtful comments. Watched "To End all Wars" last weekend and couldn't grasp the cruelty one person could inflict upon another. I will pray angels of mercy around Katherine, joy in seeing progress with therapy, and the knowledge that He never wastes our sorrows.
Like others have said updates are helpful in knowing how to pray specifically.
Love, Linda

tatiana said...

katherine will FLOAT above all the chaos & her spirit will remain strong....
luv & prayers,
tati

Brittany said...

Ms. Kim- I feel like I could just sock that lady in the face talking like that to Katherine. I can't imagine what you guys wanted to do- I know you have the "bigger picture" and I can guarantee that Katherine reacted to that in love. She has always had the ability to remain poised and loving nomatter what the situation. It seems that Katherine is a light to others all over Casa Colina. The prayers are still going here in Greenville for Katherine and for those of you who are with her. We love you
Brittany Wood Bolemon

Brittany said...

MS. Kim- IT makes me want to sock that woman in the face for talking to Katherine like that- I can't imagine what you guys were feeling in the room- I can guarantee Katherine reacted to that with loving grace. She has always had the ability to be poised and composed in hard situations. I am so thankful that Katherine is still "Katherine". It sounds like she is a light to so many at Casa Colina. We are still praying for you here in Greenville. Thank you so much for any update. We love you
Brittany Wood Bolemon

Brittany said...

so sorry to write that two times. I thought my first entry deleted-

alalime said...

Tell Katherine that she has the love and support of thousands of Christian brothers and sisters (many of whom have never met her, like myself). I will pray specifically for her heart and soul to be lifted above the poisonous words and actions of the patients around her. I'll pray that she finds ways to cope with and maybe even laugh at some of the situations she encounters. And I'll pray that she swallows and walks, just as she requested.

Beau Cooper said...

You speak to my heart. We pray for you constantly.

Beau Cooper

plilr said...

Katherine still looks like Cinderella--there is no denying how beautiful she is, inside and out.

MJ said...

Katherine's interactions with the other patients, she more conscious than many, particularly those who cannot control their tongues, reminded me of a passage from Kahlil Gibrans 'The Prophet' called "On Good and Evil." For the full text of the passage, go here. Specifically, this part of the passage seems most fitting:

"You are good when you are fully awake in your speech,
Yet you are not evil when you sleep while your tongue staggers without purpose.
And even stumbling speech may strengthen a weak tongue.

You are good when you walk to your goal firmly and with bold steps.
Yet you are not evil when you go thither limping.
Even those who limp go not backward. But you who are strong and swift, see that you do not limp before the lame, deeming it kindness.


You are good in countless ways, and you are not evil when you are not good,
You are only loitering and sluggard.
Pity that the stags cannot teach swiftness to the turtles."

truth4nothing said...

oh I love the picture of you both. It's so dear-
You are just the best mother ever. I have such admiration for you, and Jesus in you.

SCB said...

Mrs. Arnold please tell Katherine she continues to amaze me and remains in my thoughts and prayers daily. I collect quotes, writing them down constantly in journals...the very first quote I ever collected is one that I think of when my mind wanders to Katherine.

"The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for."
~ Allen K. Chalmers

Katherine has all of those things (even when it doesn't feel like it). She is truly an inspiration to me. Please tell her my thoughts and prayers are constant.

love to you all,
Sarah Bell

Linda Abney said...

Katherine,
I can't tell you how thrilled I am to see your beautiful picture on your mom's blog. Your Christfilled radiance shines through in spite of an eye patch and glasses. You remind me of a precious girl who used to race me down our driveway.:) I think seeing your beautiful face will bless all who are reading your Mom's excellent and informative blogs. We love you so much!
The Abneys

Emily said...

Miss Kim, thank you so much for posting the picture of you and your girl- it is so good to see her beautiful face! We're officially Pepperdine friends of Katherine and Jay, though we have a lot of other connections, including DeSoto! I want you to know how much your blog has meant to Jake and I. We have been so impacted by the sharing of your heart as y'all walk through this time and are so appreciative of your transparency. Thank you for being a vessel the Lord is using in thousands of lives.

Kim Godawa said...

Thanks for your on-going updates. It is challenging and inspiring to hear what God is doing through you and your family. I pray for you daily even though I don't know Katherine personally. The body of Christ is closer - because of your vulnerability.

On another note, the picture is wonderful to see also. One question, do they not patch the "strong eye" (left) to force the "weak eye" (right) to work? As a nurse, I've seen this done and the brain "recruits" help from other parts of the brain - forcing the weak eye to see/move stronger.

Love in Christ,
Kim

Kim Arnold said...

Again, I am so blessed by the comments from friends new and old!! Thank you for taking the time to write...your words are life-restoring.

Kim, we appreciate input from medical professionals. I have asked the same thing. Although we alternated patching the eyes while at UCLA, her vision is so impaired in the right eye that they don't feel it's safe for her to do phys. ther. at Colina with the strong one patched. The cranial nerve affecting balance was severely damaged in the surgery, and the double vision exacerbates the balance problems. They are prioritizing and focusing on certain things over others...right now preparing to walk and swallowing are being given precedent.

Love to you all,
Kim

tatiana said...

praying, praying, praying.... always....
many blessings,
tati

kadavisu said...

I met Katherine just after she and Jason got engaged when they accompanied the FBC singles on a ski trip to Canada. Have been praying for her, you and the whole family since this happened. Whenever I think of Katherine, I think of the verse where Paul talks about us being transformed from glory into glory. She has always been beautiful and now - even more glorious. Thank you for sharing your journey. I'll keep praying.

Suzanne Davis