Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Long Entry Ahead. Consider Yourself Warned.

It's May 21.

Last May 21, Matt woke up with tingly hands and numb feet.

Within a week, he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré Syndrome and hospitalized for two very long months.

As summer approaches, I've thought a lot about last summer—our first one here in Portland. And how it didn't exactly turn out as planned. Those two months had such a lasting impression on our little family that it's something we think or talk about nearly every day.

I've never been naive enough to assume life would be perfect, but I never imagined that in one single summer I'd experience:

  • a hospitalized husband
  • single parenthood
  • running a business I knew nothing about
  • assuming role as the family's sole breadwinner
  • establishing life in a new city without my husband
  • having to ask for—and accept—help (lots of it) on a regular basis

People say everything happens for a reason. Sure, whatever. A year later, we still don't know why Guillain-Barré slammed our little family. And I doubt we ever will. Even though Matt is 99.9% better (still dealing with numb, painful feet), we still reel sometimes from the stress, worry, and uncertainty of last summer.

But, in hindsight, I guess we learned a few things:

If something crappy had to happen, it happened at the right time, in the right place. A few weeks earlier (before our move), and insurance issues could've kept us in Houston indefinitely. A few weeks later, and we could've had the extra expense of a workspace. My sister was in Portland for the summer. My parents and in-laws weren't overbooked travel-wise. They were all a huge help. Lots of little (and big) things lined up in our favor.

Crappy experiences don't last forever. They either end or you get used to them. We're glad ours ended before we got too used to it.

A penny saved is one less penny to worry about. Money in the bank minimized a HUGE stressor when the family breadwinner was incapacitated. Hooray for our miserly ways!

The healthcare system is screwed up. But don't trifle with it. Health insurance is non-negotiable. ($6,500 in hospital bills was crappy, but $150,000 would've been beyond crappy.)

It's ok to question doctors. Like if they think your condition is chronic. Or if they want to prescribe a lifelong steroid treatment. If your gut says otherwise, say so.

People are kind, generous, and thoughtful. We were recipients of so much kindness last summer that we'll never be able to repay it all. We're trying to at least pay it forward a little by being kinder, more generous, and more thoughtful, especially when others are having crappy experiences. Meanwhile, to all the kind people we're indebted to—the ones who provided kind words, encouragement, babysitting, care packages, prayers, phone calls, financial help, clean laundry, pampering, a listening ear, hospital visits, meals, notes, drawings, fun diversions, supportive e-mails, etc. etc. etc.—many, many, many thanks!

Life is good. There's nothing like a crappy life experience to help you recognize the good things in life. To ward off bitterness and self pity, I kept a running list of things I was thankful for. All the kind people mentioned above made the list. It was a very long list.

Take nothing for granted. Especially health. And loved ones.

So anyhow, here we are, a year later. Our day was unremarkable: Matt made mobiles, I did paperwork, and Riley spent the afternoon playing with Grandma D. But for us, after last summer, an unremarkable day is pretty darn remarkable.

The end.


Emma said...

Wow, I can't believe it's been a year. What an experience. I'm so glad you had an uneventful day.

Breanne said...

I've thought of your experiences from the little I know about it and have been humbled by the thought of it on multiple occassions. I don't know if it was better or worse to buy a mobile from you during that time - more stress, but more business? I do know we love it. (We just had pictures taken of Taya in the nursery and the mobile looks so good in the background - I'll have to show you some pictures!)
Thanks for writing this post. It is good for all of us to learn from each others' experiences and to be reminded of how precious our health and loved ones and many blessings are.

Breanne said...

If you care to see the bit of inspiration your post gave me, take a peek at my last blog post (though I rambled and am not sure it made much sense, but I talk about you in it!) Curious now?

lyn said...

Thanks for sharing your year with us. - and reminding us of the good that can come from life that is so hard sometimes.

Lucy, Marc and Katie said...

Great insight-thanks for sharing!

Chrissy said...

What an incredibly scary summer! I'm so glad that Matt's (mostly) recovered from that horrible disease. You're a tough cookie to tackle everything you did on your own. I can only imagine. This was a great post. Thanks, Kathryn.

Meredith said...

Kathryn, this post is exactly what i need today to remind me how very blessed I am! We love you guys!

Andrea said...


You and Matt have demonstrated your ability to be the best and most resilient people I know. I am proud, but not surprised, that the two of you have overcome great challenges in life. I love you both very much and miss you very much!

Cardalls said...

I am David Cardall's (Duane's son)wife Cheryl. I admit to blog stalking you for a little while and not commenting. But I love your blog, you are very clever and insightful and I enjoy reading about your adventures. We are so glad Matt is doing so much better! Our blog is private, but I'd love to invite you to it if you want. You can send an email to david2047 at gmail . com

Angela said...

You have such an amazing attitude about everything. Thanks for sharing. It's inspiring.

susannah said...

You made me cry. Ah I miss you like crazy right now but am so happy that all is well for you and your little family now. It is amazing how much you all have been through, and how everything has turned out alright. I am so glad that Matt is back to his old self and that you are happy. I love you!

Julianne said...

It is amazing to see what can happen in a year. Your experiences have been strengthening to me. I am glad you are all doing well.