The “Sling Season”
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NRSV)
This past week Thad was given the go-ahead to stop wearing the “Transformer” Shoulder Sling! After six weeks of “sporting” this garb for 24 hours a day, he was ecstatic to be done with this part of the treatment for his shoulder repair. As we celebrated with lunch at Too Jays we discussed what to do with this torture contraption – burn it, bury it, or let the dogs use it as a chew toy. And somewhere between laughing about what we’d like to do with it, we began to review this past season in his life.
There were difficult moments filled with fear, uncertainty and exhaustion. The shoulder surgery itself was both uneventful and remarkable because it went smoothly and he had no post-surgical pain! However, two weeks later we were back in the hospital for an unrelated colon bleed where he lost half his blood supply. The prep for the colonoscopy was no easy task because his right arm was in a sling and his left arm was attached to an IV pole with both fluid and blood! He had to drink a whole bunch of that terrible tasting lemon/lime prep medicine. What goes in, must come out which meant he spent a lot of time coming and going to the bathroom, sporting the sling and dragging the pole. Lots of prayers were lifted as a colonoscopy was performed and discontinuation of all blood thinners brought the bleeding under control. But once at home, Thad developed phlebitis which brought him back to the hospital. The quandary was whether to simply elevate the leg, use compression garments and moist heat; surgically place a filter in his leg or put Thad back on blood thinners which could start the colon bleed again. More prayers ensued as he was put back on blood thinners. Praise God, the clot in his leg resolved. Whew!
As we talked about this time I asked him how was able to get through this mayhem without becoming frustrated, frightened or frenetic. He recounted how he used imagery when he found himself worrying about the possible outcomes. He imagined the hole in his colon causing the bleeding to slow and then completely stopped. He envisioned the blood clot being absorbed through the body and dissipating. Dr Norman Vincent Peele stated “Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously and never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop this picture!” Watching the news, reading the paper, going through his email were all mental diversions that kept him from dwelling on the “what-ifs” or any pain or discomfort. Knowing that he had support with me as his wife and caregiver (I didn’t prompt him to say that, really I didn’t) and his Emmaus Reunion Brothers and church reassured him that he was not alone in this storm. Looking and finding what was going well during this time gave him an attitude of gratitude. His shoulder surgery was relatively painless, the doctors and nursing care was excellent, and his wife was attentive and loving (you know I had to put that in). And the most important for him was his faith. He believed that God is his strength and shield. He trusted God to be with him through this season and in his walk through this life and into eternity. Knowing this, allowed him to remain calm despite the storm and helped spur me to grow in my faith as well
Thad has passed through a season in his life which required patience, perseverance, and faith. Some seasons are like the spring – full of blossoms and new foliage and others are like the winters up north – leaves shed leaving bare limbs to brave the cold storms. Each season is part of living and how they are traversed can make the difference as to whether one succumbs or overcomes. Dwelling in the difficult times, can find us buried in the snow drifts of living; unable to forge ahead to the new season where flowers bloom and leaves unfold. Believing that a new season is just around the corner, helps to see how God is using each season to help us grow. And through this recognition, we can survive and even thrive. Thad did just that.
Oh, and by the way, we never could decide what to do with the sling so we just ceremoniously gave it to the sanitation men on garbage day.