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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tender Mercies

1 Nephi 1:20
...But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.

Mark came to my office today to talk to me about how he's upset with his Father in Heaven for abandoning us. Mark is frustrated that everything has to be so hard. We were doing well with our business 4 years ago. We were able to meet our needs and even enjoy some extras, such as a camper, motorcycle, 4-wheeler, etc. I had quit my job, had our little Avery, and we were happy and busy with work. Then everything seemed to just fall apart. We moved to Salem and the trials became overwhelming. Then he was assaulted and we spiraled downward to where we are today. We had it we have nothing. And since I've been in my own melancholy mood, I wasn't able to give him the peptalk he needed. So he left me at work to try and finish getting ready to go camping.

Shortly thereafter the phone rang. It was the Social Security Administration. Mark's disability was approved. We were told by EVERYONE that he'd get denied the first round and we'd probably end up hiring an attorney, who would then take most of the backpay. But we didn't have to hire an attorney and lose all of that money. Tender mercies.

Blessing of the Day: tender mercies

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I Have Overcome The World

Not a whole lot has been happening here with the Davis family.

But we are getting ready to go camping this weekend. It'll be our inaugural trip that breaks in the camper and the campers. The first trip is always an interesting one, as we inadvertantly forget a lot of things. I haven't had a chance to go through the girls clothes, so I'm sure they'll all be wearing floods and half-shirts. We'll be looking like the Clampett's, for sure. I must admit I'm a little nervous. Mark has hooked up and pulled the trailer just fine....on paved roads through town. It'll be interesting to see how things go. We're going alone so I'm going to try and camp somewhat close to some other people just in case I need them for something. Mark wants to rent a side-by-side, but I just want to get out of Dodge and relax. We'll take Madison's motorcycle and the kids can motor around camp and Mom and Dad can just sit enjoy a few days of nothing but our cute little family. We're going to Fairview, so if you haven't seen a post by Wednesday of next week, come looking for us!

I got to have lunch with two of my great friends today. These two ladies were by my side during much of Mark's hospital stay. And when they weren't there, they were calling me, texting me, and making sure, at the very least, that I had something to eat. I told them that through this nightmare I have come to recognize who is "real" to us, and who's not. Those who really care and those who are only surface friends...or family for that matter. I am truly grateful for these ladies and their help. I wouldn't have survived without them.

I've been feeling a little overwhelmed by everything, lately. Worried about everything I have no control over. I'm always amazed at how in-tune Mark is with my feelings. I am so grateful that's not one of the things he lost. He has such a gift when it comes to counseling others. Any of you who have been on the receiving end of one of his "come to Jesus" talks know exactly what I'm talking about. After a good long talk with many tears shed on my part, I went to bed feeling a TINY bit better. This morning I got up to eat some breakfast and sat down with the July issue of the Ensign. One of the articles listed on the front cover is "Choosing Happiness". Hmmmm....see where I'm going with this? I opened it up and engrossed myself in some very inspiring words. Mostly in the scripture of John 16:33. I am always in awe of the power of the Lord in my life. It's as if He inspired the publication of this article just for me. I encourage each of you to read it, if for nothing else than to draw you closer to Him.

John 16:33
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Blessing of the Day: Jesus Christ

Sunday, June 26, 2011

He Walks With Me and He Talks With Me

Mark had his Vocational Rehab orientation last week. He was concerned that it was going to be a waste of his time. The orientation video was a little cheesy, but ultimately the program should be a blessing to him.

He was looking around at the people in the room before it started, and was wondering if it was like the Dept. of Workforce Services, where people go when they need help to find a job. After the video he realized it was for people who had a disability and needed more than just a little help. He looked at me and said, "This place is for people with disabilities. Scarlet, I don't have a disability." I told him he DOES have a disability because he was assaulted and suffered some major brain damage. He was quiet for a minute and then said, "Am I mentally retarded?" My heart broke into a million tiny little pieces.

We don't actually get to see a vocational counselor until July. They will do an assessment of Mark's abilities, combine it with the testing he's done with this new doctor, and then determine what is available to Mark in terms of being able to work. He's excited at the prospect of being able to do something other than be an electrician, but nervous about what it will take for him to learn a new skill and whether or not he'll enjoy whatever new line of work is presented to him. He's even thinking that he might want to go to school. College school. I know he's far from being able to handle something like that, but if he eventually wants to get a degree, I'm all for it and will help him achieve that worthy goal. I worry so much about him trying something, failing, and becoming so discouraged he doesn't want to try anymore.

When Mark was in the ICU he had difficulty moving the left side of his body. The epidural bleed he had on the right side of his head was massive and put quite a bit of pressure on his brain. He's able to use his left side just fine, his left leg just gets stiff and uncooperative sometimes. He told me yesterday that sometimes he feels upset that it doesn't work like it used to. But then he said that when he starts to think like that he remembers that he almost died, that the doctors didn't know if he would even be able to walk at all, and then becomes grateful that he's alive, able to walk and talk, and able to spend the rest of his life with his beautiful family. For someone who has endured much physical trauma including the loss of an eye, and lost everything temporal except the shirt on his back, he is surprisingly upbeat. More so than I ever would be or am. He is a great example to me of courage, strength and faith. I love this man so much.

Blessing of the Day: counting your blessings

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Then Will I Make Weak Things Become Strong

We met with the new doctor and Mark had to finish one last test. The doc did a preliminary review of Mark's results. I'll give you just a little of what he went over, as we'll have the full report at the end of next week.

First the good news. The doc could not be happier with the results of Mark's non-verbal tests. Mark is well above average (the average being healthy people with no brain injuries) for his visual memory and motor skills. In a nutshell, his right brain is working great. We even gave Mark a little round of applause for having done so well. We were both beaming.

Then it was the dreaded bad news, of which we were fully prepared to hear, as we are well aware of the deficiencies. Just not aware of how serious the deficiencies actually are. The doc showed us a bell curve that measures how the average person performs on these same tests. Then he drew the lines for where Mark is on the bell curve for his performance on these tests. His right brain results are far to the right, meaning very good. His left brain results are FAR to the left, even into the negatives. I must admit that I didn't think he was THAT bad. Mostly because Mark can speak and carry on a conversation, albeit sometimes very slowly and with much repetition on my part. But as we sat there discussing things, the doctor had Mark do some things that demonstrated the results. He asked him to repeat the following: The Ragged Rascal Ran Rapidly. Mark couldn't remember the first word. If you go word-by-word, Mark can do it. But if you give him more than that, he has no memory. The doctor got out his rubber brain model and showed us, again, what was missing and how all these things are playing out in Mark's brain. I wish I could do justice to the explanations, but I can't remember everything, nor do I have a clue about what I'm trying to explain. Basically, because of Mark's injury and subsequent brain tissue removal, he is severely impaired in his cognitive language skills. But we found there is somewhat of a silver lining in all of this.

In some of Mark's testing the doctor had him do a "squeeze" test. He held a meter in his hand and squeezed it as hard as he could. He did this with each of his hands. His right side was weaker than his left. The doctor started to explain that because of the severity of the injury to the left brain, Mark was suffering some weakness on his right side. I explained to the doc that Mark's right pectoral muscles never developed and that the only thing he does with his right hand is write. Anything physical he does left handed: bat, golf, arm wrestle, shoot. The doctor was very encouraged by this news. He said that tests have shown that people who are ambidextrous show language capacity int he right side of their brains. This gave the doctor much hope that Mark may already have some language pathways on the right side of his brain that will aid in his cognitive recovery of his language skills. Who would have thought that a physical impairment that Mark has hated and been ashamed of his entire life would end up being a blessing to him. We have to look at each and every tiny plus on our side as a tremendous blessing. Especially if it gives us even the slightest chance of any improvement.

Because of Mark's severely impaired cognitive language skills, he is unable to acquire, maintain or effectively retain work. So, we move on to the next step for him, which is vocational rehab. We will be meeting with them on Thursday for an orientation, and then they'll assign us to a counselor who will do additional testing, look at the doctors' reports, and make determinations as to what kind of work Mark can try to train for and attain. This is a difficult thing to accomplish. It takes much work on Mark's part, additional training to learn new skills, and a benevolent employer that is willing to work with someone like Mark. We have much work to do that is going to take quite some time. And all the while we have to try to sustain ourselves financially, emotionally and mentally. Once again the challenges seems overwhelming. But I wish you could have heard Mark talking about all of this. He thanked the doctor profusely for his willingness to help us. He told the doctor that he wants to be able to work again, but if he never does, then that's life and we'll just deal with it when it comes. His attitude has improved greatly over the last week or so. It has much to do with prayer and a benevolent Father in Heaven.

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).

Blessing of the Day: weak things made strong

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I Can Do Hard Things

I have been trying to post the following for 3 days and there's been a problem with Blogger. I'll get another posted probably later tonight.

I'm sorry I've been incognito for a few more days than usual. I had to prepare for and run the Ragnar Wasatch Back this last weekend. For those who don't know what that is, it's a 192 mile relay race from Logan to Park City, Utah. We have a 12 person team that shares those miles. It starts on Friday morning and we run through the night and into Saturday evening. It's the craziest thing I've ever paid money to do. But it's truly the greatest achievement.

So, it's a little hard to go back to what happened this last week. But I'll try. Mark finished up his testing on Thursday morning (4 hours), and we'll be meeting with the doc tonight to go over his results. He'll be giving us the good and bad news. We're both nervous and excited. We want to know where we stand and what it's going to take to get Mark back to his regular life. We've been warned that it's going to be a slow process, and we know that, but we're very excited to start that journey. No one more so than Mark. I hope he's not discouraged by the test results. The tests were very difficult for him, so he already knows he didn't do very well. I just keep reminding him that it doesn't matter because we have to know what we're dealing with and where we're starting from. We can only go up from here since we're praying there won't be anymore seizures or issues.

Mark did really well without me this weekend. He had a lot of help from my mom, but he still managed pretty well. He took the girls to the movie by himself. I'm sure that was a bit of a challenge, but he did it. He missed me terribly. Sent me several text messages. I'm glad we had this seperation. It was good for me to get away. While my "vacation" was not relaxing in the least, it was time for me to do something just for me. And it felt really good, if not extremely exhausting.

One of the girls in my car hadn't heard about the assault. So after everyone had asked how Mark was doing and how things were going, I had to fill her in. She was, of course, completely astounded. And after talking about it for a few hours, we were lying in our beds at the hotel on Thursday night and she asked me what I had learned the most from this experience. At the time I couldn't really give her an answer because I've learned so many different things. After giving it some serious thought, Saturday morning I told her it was that I can do hard things. This is the hardest thing I've ever had to do, and if I do say so myself, I think I've handled it pretty well. I have my moments that can sometimes turn into days, but overall I know that as difficult as it's been, I've dealt with it and endured it well. I'm still enduring it well. I've had so many people tell me they don't know how I've been able to get through. And I used to think that I really had no other options. But each and every one of them has said, "Yes you did. You could have curled up into the fetal position in the corner and chosen not to deal with it at all." And you know what...I'm starting to believe them. I'm proud of what I've done. It's hard and I'm doing it. I can do hard things.

Blessing of the Day: support of others

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Welcome Home

We had a nice weekend. Aside from an exhausting head cold I had to suffer through, we had a good time. It's been a relatively quiet few days since.

We got to picnic in the park both Saturday & Sunday. Saturday's was a combo birthday/welcome home party for my brother Lee and his wife Leigh. He's home for some R&R from Afghanistan and her birthday was on Tuesday. They both love to golf so I was asked to make them a golf themed cake.

Lee flew out to Afghanistan on the day of the assault. He hasn't been able to view the blog due to security measures by the Army. He's only gotten limited information from his wife. He came over Wednesday night to see us. The first person he wanted to see wasn't his only sister, or even his mother. It was Mark. He gave him a big hug and told him he scared the hell out of him. We sat and talked about everything that's happened since and he said that he and his CO just kept shaking their heads and asking, "Who does this? Who is capable of beating his own brother to within an inch of his life?" I showed him some pictures and he was just completely overwhelmed...again. It was good to get validation, yet again.

For the picnic we went to the South Fork Park above Vivian Park in Provo Canyon. It was a beautiful day to be outside. The kids played frisbee, rolled down the hill, went on "the BEST adventure EVER!!" (according to Avery), and saw a cow moose with her baby...3 times. Twice, Mark and the girls walked up on them in the trees. Then when we were driving down the canyon we saw them laying down in some grass bedding down for the night. It was a great evening.

On Sunday we headed up to Murray Park in Salt Lake to meet up with some dear friends. There were 8 adults and 15 kids. We stretched out some blankets, filled our tummies with picnic food and goodies, talked about our lives and laughed. For once there were no tears (at least within the adult circle). It's always fun to visit with these friends.

My husand, you'll notice in the description of Satruday's events, didn't stick around the group. He wandered off with the kids instead of trying to engage in conversation with the adults. On Sunday, he did stay with the adults, he just didn't talk much. So little, in fact, that one of my friends commented on it. She said that he's noticeably more quiet than he's ever been. A difference that even people that don't see him that frequently can notice.

I have my husband back...but I don't have all of him. I miss how we used to be together. How we joked and laughed and teased. How he would make up stupid lyrics to regular songs just to get me to laugh. How he used to try and get my goat by throwing out one-liners and being sarcastic. Now he's just quiet and pensive. Lost in thought and worry. Lost. And I miss him. Terribly.

Blessing of the Day: friends

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Angels Among Us

The Lord never ceases to amaze me. And neither do the people I'm surrounded by.

I always love going to see Mark's new doctor. I'm always amazed at the knowledge he has and his willingness to share that knowledge and expertise. I always feel genuine concern from him. A true desire to do all that he can to help Mark get his life back. A true desire to help as much as he can to right such a brutal and ruthless wrong. It's almost a love that we feel from him. A love from one of Heavenly Father's children to another. I can't adequately describe it. It's one of those things that can only be understood by being a part of it. Surely one of the greatest blessings our Father in Heaven has reserved for us. An angel given specifically to us. And once again, I am profoundly grateful for it. Perhaps one day I can express it adequately. One day.

While Mark was doing his testing with an assistant, the doctor came out and we discussed Mark's ability to go to work. The doctor reads this blog, so he knows Mark has a great desire to go back to work and provide for his family. But the doc explained that Mark going to work is a long time in the future. Mark's deficiencies are with language. Language is involved in EVERYTHING we do. And the basis of most of what we do. Last week while Mark was doing his testing, I was sitting there working on the smocking on Olivia's baptism dress, all the while listening and watching what was going on. The doc explained that I was performing a motor skill task (sewing), but was able to be engaged in what Mark was doing (watching, listening, understanding). That wasn't difficult for me as my brain is healthy. Mark is not capable of doing that. If he were to be put alone into a room that needed all of the switches & outlets changed, he would have no problem accomplishing this task. But the second someone walked into that room and asked questions, or took Mark's focus from his task, he wouldn't be able to accomplish it. He can't combine his motor skills with his cognitive language skills. His cognitive language skills have been compromised so severly that a breakdown occurs. And when you add the chronic fatigue that goes with a brain injury into the equation, it just get's worse.

We also talked about the possibility of PTE (post traumatic epilepsy) developing with Mark. He told me about a study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Epilepsy occurs, evidently, a lot more often than the average person knows. In very mild brain injuries (concussion) it can develop in 1 of 100 people. In severe traumatic brain injuries such as Mark's, it can develop in 1 of 5 people. I think my face must have fallen quite far because he jumped at the opportunity to point out that while there is a 20% chance he could develop it, there's an 80% chance that he WON'T. He also said that it's very manageable with new medications. The only problem, really, is that in the State of Utah, if you are diagnosed with a seizure disorder, you CANNOT drive. I'm trying not to let all of this overwhelm me. I'm praying that Mark will be counted among the 80%.

As we walked out to the car I asked Mark how his testing went today. I asked him if it was hard. When he didn't say anything I looked over at him and he was crying. When he got control of his emotions, he was able to express that he feels so stupid. He feels so dumb because he can't find the answers to simple questions that he could before the injury. He said when the people that give him the test look at him, he can see the compassion in their eyes as they understand that he's not functioning at the level that he should be. It makes him feel even more stupid, but he understands that they don't mean it to be degrading. It's just a natural reaction to what they see before them. He wept as he expressed his desire to take care of his family and his inability to do so. He's embarrassed. He apologized profusely for not being the man he used to be. He apologized that he can't take care of me and our girls. He apologized that I had to endure such tremendous heartache. He apologized that his family did this to us. You can't comprehend how my heart breaks to witness such a humbling display of sorrow. And the anger that accompanies that heartbreak. Anger for such senselessness. This didn't have to happen.

I have some repenting to do. Just yesterday I was posting about my "pity party" attitude. And then the Lord stretches forth His hand, touches a practical stranger's heart, and provides an unspeakable gift to our family. I felt such gratitude for His willingness to love me and bless me, even when I lose sight of the many blessings that I have in my life...when it seems as if I have forgotten Him completely and the ourpouring of love and blessings from above. And my heart is full of gratitude for those who feel His touch and act on it. A truly altruistic action. A ministering angel. An angel that will never know the true value of her gift. An angel among us. Thank you.

Blessing of the Day: ministering angels

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Worry Wart

So much worry.

For the last few days Mark has been in a pretty deep depression. He hasn't been very active. He's not had any projects going. And for Mark, that's a problem. See...he's a thinker. And if he's not actively focused on DOING something, he starts thinking. Thinking about how useless he is. Thinking about how he can't be an electrician anymore. Thinking about how his wife has to go to work while he stays at home and tries to re-learn how to read. Thinking about how his family is living in someone else's home. Thinking about what a failure he has become. Thinking about how long it will be before his wife gets sick of it all and leaves him. Thinking, thinking, thinking. Worrying, worrying, worrying.

Mark is so consumed with whether or not he'll be able to work again. He asks me about 10 times a day if he'll ever be able to provide for his family. He asks me if it's the Lord that's told me he'll be able to work or if I just "think" he'll be able to. He wants to know what the doctor says and why we're doing all of this testing and not moving forward with things. A man of patience he is not. A man of worry he is.

And I've been doing some thinking myself. I've been thinking how tired I am of being the strong one. I've been thinking how emotionally & physically drained I am for having to be all things to everyone. I've been thinking how this is really hard, for all of us, and wondering what it's going to take for us to feel "normal" again. And maybe we just need to re-evaluate what "normal" is and just accept that there is no such thing. This is it. And as I type this all I can think is how tired I am. I'm just so very tired. Of everything.

Blessing of the Day: little girl hugs & kisses

Monday, June 6, 2011

Life Expectancy

Mark was really down the other day and was worried that because of the severity of his injuries that his life expectancy would be cut short and he wouldn't be able to see his chilren get married and enjoy his grandchildren. While it was a serious, heartfelt concern, I kind of laughed and told him that if the Lord really wanted him, He had the opportunity to take him and He CHOSE not to. I'm convinced that Mark will have a long life, as long as we do what is necessary to rehabilitate his brain. But it really got me thinking. So I asked the doctor what his research shows. He said:

"The general answer is that normal life expectancy occurs with TBI provided that post-traumatic epilepsy (PTE) does not develop. I anticipate that Mark will have a normal life expectancy given everything I’ve seen to this point and how rapidly he has stabilized medically. However, if PTE develops then a significantly shortened life expectancy may occur. PTE can become a very, very difficult condition to treat. There are several other factors that we should discuss, but it is best not to discuss these with the patient at this point in the patient’s recovery because we always want to the patient – Mark -- to be focused on the present and working on their therapies and not worrying about what could potentially occur. With the type of brain injury he has, especially with the temporal lobe damage, he has a significant increased risk for major depression and we need to closely watch for that. After age 60, there is a substantial increased risk of more rapid age-related declines in cognitive ability. These are things best for you and I to discuss at this point. Typically, I’ll do more educationally with the TBI patient after 2 years post-injury. One other thing – extremely important is to never let Mark engage in anything that puts him at risk for another head injury. Even a rather mild traumatic brain injury could have devastating effects and erase all of the gains he has made."

Wow. I am hopeful that the doctor thinks that he'll have a normal life expectancy due to his rapid recovery, but very discouraged that his cognitive abilities can diminish rapidly after age 60. I know that there isn't a history of dimentia or Alzheimer's in Mark's family. His grandparents have lived long lives. But I also know that PTE can develop at any time. I'm beginning to think that my life would be much less stressful if I just stuck my head in the sand. You know...Ignorance is Bliss! But I also know that Knowledge is I'll keep asking the important questions, and try not to worry about the unknown. Try not to worry about things I have no control over. Try not to worry...

I didn't share any of this information with Mark. He doesn't read the blog because we talk about it a lot and reading is difficult for him. I can see the "significant increased risk for major depression" setting in. I'd like to say that it's due to his inability to be the man he used to be, but now may have to give some of the credit to the brain injury itself. Not just the aftermath of it. He get's a Priesthood Blessing from our Bishop about once a week. He's really struggling. And I feel like all I can do it hug him, promise him that things will get better, and pray my heart out that they do. They have to.

Blessing of the Day: knowledge

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Oh Blessed Day

What a glorious day for the Davis family. We had the wonderful opportunity of baptizing our beautiful Olivia. She is our love and such a blessing to our family. This was truly a blessed day.

Mark was extremely nervous as he prepared for today. He recited the baptism prayer about 700 times, only getting it right about 10 times. He was so afraid he wasn't going to get it right and would have to say it over and over again. The Bishop had a card, with the prayer printed on it, taped to the glass in front of Mark. He only messed up once. He was beaming with pride as he raised his beautiful daughter out of the water. My cheeks were wet with tears as I wept to see the man I love more than life itself perform this sacred ordinance for his baby girl. It was a blessing I prayed for, with all of my heart, back in December. It was the culmination of a miracle brought on by the many prayers of our friends and family, even strangers, all over the world. I partook today of an extraordinary gift from my Father in Heaven. I am profoundly grateful.

I bore my testimony to this fact and looked down at my sweet husband's face. His eyes were filled to the brim with tears, as he too, recognized this day for what it really is. A wondrous gift of a miracle. A profound recognition of the Lord's hand in our lives. A blessed day.

Blessing of the Day: cleanliness

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I've Got My Eye On You

Sometimes I sit down to blog out of obligation. I don't really have anything of importance to say. No news to report. No startling discoveries. I'm just drawn to the compulsion to share something...anything.

And it's funny how on those days when I think I don't have anything to say...I end up writing four long paragraphs. Maybe it's just the act of sitting down and placing my fingers on the keys that compels my thoughts and feelings to the surface.

Mark had an appointment with the opthamologist last week. We picked him up some glasses because with only one eye working, even though it's got 20/20 vision, it has to strain so much that it's difficult to see distance. We also picked up a cheap pair of reading glasses. Mark used to pride himself with the fact that his vision was perfect. Now he's down to only one eye and glasses. And it wasn't cheap, to boot. I'm really getting sick of the financial burdens and devastation that have come through the senseless acts of other people. It's really getting old.

We've been preparing much for Olivia's baptism. I remember unburdening myself to my mom one night when Mark was still in the ICU. I was worried that he wouldn't be able to baptize Olivia. I knew that if he wasn't able to, it would be devastating to him. But as we prepare for this sacred occassion, I am filled with love and gratitude that he can fulfill his role as Patriarch and father. I guess that's one of the silver linings in these dark heavy clouds that continue to overshadow us.

Blessing of the Day: new beginnings