Friday, January 24, 2014

The Road Ahead; January 24, 2014

Solumn and somber are the two words that best describe how I feel right now after my sister's passing.

Utter disbelief is also a two-word feeling that is prevalent right now too.

The events of Friday to Tuesday were whirlwind, and things are slowly returning back to what they once were - minus my sister.

I made the rounds Wednesday  to each of the four Chick-Fil-A locations that were giving 20% of their sales to my brother-in-law and the girls and thanked their management that was on-site at the time.

It was the least that I could do.

At the FM 2920@Kuykendahl location, I had a spicy chicken breakfast burrito at about 10 a.m.  I talked to store owner Mike Ludwig briefly as he was in the middle of an interview.  I was glad that they let me pay to play a small part in the support.

I had lunch with a good friend of mine at the Alden Bridge location - she bought; thanks Beth! - and had the six-piece Chick-Fil-A nuggets with a large diet coke.  The store owner's wife Jenni Skipper was there and talked to her and one of their managers, Ryan.

Beth and I spent a good amount of time there catching up.  We've been friends since some time in 2006 while she and Holly became friends in the last year or two.

I then went to the Magnolia location near Egypt Rd. and FM 1488 and had a large chocolate shake.  I met their manager, Joelle Spencer, and thanked her -- and found out that she is a very good friend of mine, Karen Felicidario.

And, finally, after running 3.25 miles on the track with some very good friends of mine, I ended up at the Louetta Rd. and I-45 location to have the 12-piece Chick-Fil-A nuggets for dinner, again with the large diet coke.

Our church's youth group went by there and supported the cause as well as a high school classmate of mine - Sylvia Torres - whose sister got many, many flower orders (at her company, Always Floral) -- and that she actually helped to prepare.  Her sister did the beautiful display of red roses -- or "celebrity roses" as they were described to me Monday night -- that sat on top of the casket.

Phew!  Four Chick-fil-A's in one day.

I like the food, but not "that" much to do that again anytime soon.

Yesterday, I went back to work.

I worked a little over 11 hours and since a lot of my work is heads-down, getting back into the swing of things was pretty easy and without a lot of disruption.

My client is excellent.  I had a call from the person that I directly report to on Tuesday evening.  He's an EMT and was able to share things with him during the week as they transpired to get a clinical understanding of what was happening with my sister.

His fellow director had a total understanding of what was going on with my sister because they had a similar situation - with a relative - in which ECMO saved that person's life.

When I arrived yesterday morning, she had left a sympathy card on my desk.

Not expecting to have seen my manager in town (as they live in South Carolina), I had sent them an e-mail that I was back to work, but their reply this morning was to remind me to "stay busy".

They said Thursday morning that they had suffered a similar loss in their past.

One of our local training groups, Volte Endurance Training, headed up by my best friend, Bill Dwyer, had sent some flowers yesterday.

I'm not the biggest flower person in the world, but they were pretty and the vase turned out to be one of the team's colors.  I really appreciated their thoughtfulness as well as a lot of individual one-on-one attention that their group had given me.

And that's the type of person that I am -- a one-on-one individual.

I'd rather spend time alone than have anything - whether it be a group or an individual even - forced upon me.  I'm not a control freak, but I am an introvert and like my space.

(There's probably somebody ruling me out of a job over this ... but, it would be their loss.)

That being said, I certainly don't want to discourage people from reaching out.  There may be times that I have to say to folks in the interim that I may be a little longer in getting back with them, that's all.

Otherwise, it is day by day and one foot in front of other - just like before.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Celebration Service Tribute to my Sister; January 22, 2014

First of all, on behalf of our families, I’d like to thank you all for your generous support of our families these last two weeks and, of course, your incredible outpouring of prayers and love towards and for Holly.

When we met with the folks from Rosewood on Sunday, Brent asked Mr. Horner, “How many does your chapel hold?” He said, “About 250.” We all looked at each other, and like the line in the movie, “Jaws”, where Roy Schneider says, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat,” we thought to ourselves, “We’re going to need a bigger chapel!”

When I was a young boy at Northwood Baptist Church in Pennsylvania, before we ever moved to Texas, and maybe even right about the time Holly was born, our Pastor there, Bro. Walker would greet us on the way out each Sunday and I used to recite this verse, James 4:14:

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away.”

We’ve been reminded much these past two weeks how fast things can change in our lives, especially with the ones that we love.

My parents over time had each circled one verse in my Bible.

My Dad’s was Matthew 25:15, “And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability and straightway took his journey.”

Judging by the turnout last night as well as today, one of the many talents that my sister took along her journey was the ability to make us all feel comfortable and loved.

Yet it takes an even more special person to separate money from one’s wallet or purse – and all of ours are a bit lighter today because of Holly.

Where do I start?

Gift cards. Wrapping paper. Chick-fil-A calendars. Mary Kay. Avon.

Here’s an oldie, but goodie, Pampered Chef.

And, of course, the latest rage, Scentsy Candles, and who could forgot the cookie dough.

I think my Mom said the other day even, “No, please, no more cookie dough.”

Equally head-turning, I think, were the number of different jobs that Holly possessed over the years. I never quite knew at any given time where Holly actually worked.

I mean, I run. I “collect states” meaning that I’m trying to run a marathon in all 50 states.

Holly, she not only collected jobs, W-2s and 1099s, but something about cows and Tim McGraw concerts.

I really don’t want to make any of you jealous today, but Holly would have flipped if she knew that Tim McGraw sent flowers to Rosewood yesterday.

Seriously, though, Holly connected us all.

I think I saw it on Twitter the other day that they were going to rename the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” to the “Six Degrees of Holly Munsinger”.

I found out last week I had a friend in our running community who was married to a classmate of Holly’s at Spring and lives across the street from one of Holly’s friends that was in her wedding.

And last night even, a high school classmate of mine’s sister was friends of Brent and Holly through the Spring-Klein Chamber of Commerce.

Most importantly, Holly made our family feel special and loved.

We didn’t just go to Brent and Holly’s for birthday parties and our holiday gatherings because their house’s layout was more open and a little bit bigger, but it was because that those moments were full of love, laughter and joy that Holly’s gregarious laugh and glowing smile was always the center of.

But I can let one secret out of the bag now, I guess: Chick-fil-A is to beef what Holly was to a kitchen.

Even though we had five and a half years between us, we had many commonalities – that is, other than the world-famous Walk stubborn gene.

That ability to connect with people came from our father and grandfather -- or Pappy and Old Papa as my daughter and nieces call them.

Neither one of them, I don’t think, especially, our grandfather, has met a person that they couldn’t start up a conversation with. And when they start … look out.

Holly was the same way.

But we both got more of our abilities to love and have compassion for others from our mother and our grandmother – Gom and Great Gom.

Three years ago, we worked together – with the store’s owners - to produce a 5K at the one Chick-fil-A that she worked at which was the most perfect event that I had been involved in.

That is, until God called Holly home last Friday for us to put together the events yesterday and today that I won’t – and I hope you won’t -- ever forget.

I’ll close with this. I announce at a lot of road races in the area.

Awhile back when Holly lost a lot of weight, she was lightly jogging on the treadmill a little bit before her doctor advised her that she shouldn’t do it anymore.  [I added in the ceremony that Holly had rods in her back when she was 18 for scoliosis.]

So I never had the opportunity to announce her name as she approached a finish line, but as she has finished the race of life, I’m going to take that opportunity this morning:

Finishing in a personal best time of 41 years, five months and 20 days – a time that we all hoped would have been much, much longer – Holly … Jo … Munsinger.

Holly, you ran an incredible race, full of love and happiness.

You finished first in all of our hearts.

We love you, I love you and we’ll miss you until God calls us home too.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

We Lost Her; January 18, 2014

First of all, please respect our families by not posting this link in any social media, for the time being.

I know that many have communicated that you looked here every day, so I figured some would look this morning for some official confirmation of your worst fear.

That being said, there are some things that you just don't expect to witness in your life.

There are also some phone calls and conversations that you also never expect to make.

I experienced both of those last night, as did my brother-in-law.  (The key word in that statement is "both" and I'll be able to explain that at a later time.)

There will be hundreds, even thousands of questions of "Why?" in the days, weeks, months and even years to come.

The fact is:  We really don't know.

At times we think we will, but we really won't know for sure until it is time for those of us who have accepted Christ as our personal Saviour and have passed ourselves to Heaven.

In the days and weeks to come, we all will experience periods of anger, shock and disbelief as a result of a life taken from us all too soon.

Reach out and do your best to find somebody that you love and care for to help you love yourself through them.

It is still a time to continue to pray and reflect and examine our own lives.

And some will wonder, "Why didn't all of our prayers work?"

I don't have that answer either.

I like to think that everyone's prayers helped keep her fighting to the end, and she indeed put up a good fight, but I don't know how God works those things.

Thank you to each and every one of you who reached out, communicated with us, prayed for and with us, did things for each member of our families and most importantly, loved us.

We'll all continue to need your love for awhile, especially the girls, my brother-in-law and my parents.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Today's Update On My Sister; January 16, 2014

My favorite song on Christian radio today is called “Help Me Find It” by a group called the Sidewalk Prophets.

It was really a joy to hear Waverly sing it on her last Sunday before she left to go to Liberty University in August.

The song is about us letting go as believers and allowing God to handle things in our life and lead us in the direction He wants us to go – or to follow his perfect will.

It struck a note with me on the drive home from the hospital a short while ago in that it is what we can ask God to continue to lead the doctors and the nurses in finding out what in my sister’s body is resisting everyone’s best efforts to help her.

I don’t know where to go from here
As long as I know that You are near
I’m done fighting
I’m finally letting go

Even if her body would stop fighting, there’s still a period of time that is needed for her lungs to get stronger so she can come off the ventilator.

Right now, she’s getting 100% oxygen through the ventilator.

That needs to get down to 60% before the doctor can do something different, is what my brother-in-law shared with me this evening.

Her applied PEEP (positive end-expiratory pressure), which is set on the ventilator, needs to come down to 5.  It has been down as low as 10 for a period of time, but when I left this evening it was at 16.

My brother-in-law said that earlier they’ve tried different combinations of oxygen rate and PEEP settings to see if there’s something that her body will handle satisfactorily.

So, basically, the values of 60% and 5 need to occur together for her to attempt to come off the ventilator and breathe under her own power.

Whenever they attempt to move her in any significant manner, her vitals continue to go all over the place.  Heart rate shoots to the 130 bpm range, saturation level drops and she also continues to run a fever from time to time.

When I got there this evening after work, she was running a 102 fever.  It is my understanding that when you have a fever that your body requires more oxygen.

Additionally, the infectious disease doctor is changing up the antibiotics to keep her body from accepting one and therefore inhibiting the suppression and elimination of the infection that’s been in her lungs, which created the pneumonia.

Even when it hurts, You’ll have Your way
Even in the valley I will say
With every breath
You’ve never let me go

We certainly believe that God hasn’t let her go at all.  He’s still working.

My brother-in-law also shared with me this evening that the head nurse during the day told him that she’s been doing research on her own to see if there’s something that they may be missing from an antibiotic that may help my sister.

Still her organs are good and strong although the doctor told my Dad that he was going to begin to get a little bit more aggressive and that he basically wanted her to pee – well – like a horse.  

There was also some discussion to see if they could bring a mobile CT scan into the room, but my brother-in-law hadn’t heard if that is something that they’re still going to try and do – since he doesn’t want to move her.

And I believe that I heard that there were some concerns of the quality of the image in how she is positioned.

So basically a lot is still up in the air.

As I shared in how the doctor communicated with my parents and my brother-in-law, I wish that I had better news to share with you.

My prayer is and will continue to be that God will reveal to the doctors and the nurses the answer to unlock the mystery of what seems to be keeping my sister from getting over the proverbial hump.

We know that a lot of you have shared that these updates are very important to you.

My objective is to give you the information necessary to pray to God for His guidance and direction.

And, of course, our families know that you all would be at the hospital if there were reasons that we couldn’t be there.

I don’t think there’s been a time that my sister has been left unattended since she went into the MICU.

My brother-in-law is spending the night tonight.

His stepmother will be pulling her second night tomorrow evening.  We really appreciate that – and her willingness to help my parents and my brother-in-law out.

As I referenced yesterday, I posted a prayer request on KSBJ’s web site.  This is what I shared:

Last Sunday, January 5, my sister, who is in her very early 40s, entered the hospital with pneumonia and was rushed to MICU late the next evening when her lungs filled with fluid from the infection. She is intubated and in her 9th day today in the MICU while the physicians continue to find the right combination of paralytics and antibiotics to allow her body to rest and allow the ventilator to do its job. We know that God is in complete control of the situation and we would simply ask for continued prayer for the doctors, nurses and clinicians to do all that they've been trained and have experience to do as well as for my brother-in-law, two nieces (freshman in high school and the third grade) and parents as their hearts - along with many friends and other family - are heavy for my sister to get well. Thank you in advance for stopping and taking the time to pray for my sister and her family.

There was probably another half dozen people who clicked on a link to let me know that they have prayed specifically for my sister.

However, I received an actual note from someone.  It went as follows:

I have been praying for God's healing hands upon your sister. She is in my daily prayers. Even though I do not know her personally, I definitely know who she is from Spring High. I know she's a wonderful person. Just know many are praying for <name removed> and her entire family!

As you can see from above, I really didn’t give any identifying information, but they knew exactly who it was.  This is why I haven’t given up hope.

Here’s also another specific prayer request.

It was shared with my Dad that the lower part of her lungs are becoming “leathery”.  I’m thinking that this will restrict her lung’s ability to process oxygen, but I’m not totally sure.  Therefore, we need to fully understand it.

I think this is all I can communicate this evening.

Our administrative friend, who is the CEO of another hospital in the system, stopped by to visit earlier today after making a call to the administrative team at the hospital where she's at.  Yesterday, the COO (Chief Operating Officer) had stopped in to check on things and spoke to my Mom while she was there with my sister.

Thanks again for everything – your prayers and thoughts toward everyone involved.


Brief Morning Update and Thoughts; January 16, 2014

One of the good things about a blog – as opposed to posting to a Facebook status – is that you can share some more minute information without inundating people.

After a certain while, they know about the blog – and then they can come here for more specific updates (or to see if anything had been added and not “publicized”, if you will).

And here’s an example of why not every single little thing is shared, as it happens.

And that’s because there are so many little battles going on in my sister’s body as it fights to be restored to full health.

My Dad e-mailed me at about 7:30 a.m. earlier this morning after I had forwarded to him and my Mom today’s Max Lucado mailer titled, “Doing What Comes Naturally”.

That mailer included the following – and I think you’ll be able to see why I sent it to them as encouragement:

“My child’s feelings are hurt, I tell her she’s special. My child’s injured, I do whatever it takes to make her feel better. My child’s afraid, I won’t go to sleep until she’s secure. I’m not a hero. I’m not unusual. I’m a parent. When a child hurts, a parent does what comes naturally. He helps.

“Moments of comfort from a parent. I can tell you they’re the sweetest moments in the day. They come naturally, willingly, joyfully. If all that’s so true, then why am I so reluctant to let my heavenly Father comfort me?”

“Being a father has taught me that when I’m criticized, injured, or afraid, there’s a Father who’s ready to comfort me. A Father who’ll hold me until I’m better. And who won’t go to sleep when I’m afraid. Ever! And that’s enough.”

My Dad wrote, “Right after you left (which was about 10 p.m.), her respiration rate started to drop and went to the mid 80’s for about an hour.  Never have prayed as hard for an hour.”

“Owen (the male nurse) was concerned and a prn breathing treatment didn’t help.

“He called the doctor and it was just wait and see.  And finally it went back up into the low 90’s.

“Later she had another fever and Tylenol brought it down.  So another rough night, but she is stable again.”

Which, of course, is something to be thankful for – and to continue to pray for.

Stability, and then progress.

I responded back to him once I made it to the office.

I wrote, “Keep praying, Dad -- even if it is the same words.  I think God is more concerned what we believe in our hearts as opposed to the words that come out of our mouth.

“There's this one song on Christian radio today that says, "When you don't know what to say ... just say, "Jesus".  There's still power in His name."

I believe that.  Do you?

It is also encouraging to know there are folks praying for my sister all over the country.

At Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia where my daughter goes to school.

In Pennsylvania, where my grandparents live.

In Missouri, where we my sister and I have friends who are our church’s original pastor’s son and his wife.

What other locations, outside of Texas, are folks praying for my sister from?

Please leave a comment – and thank you for each and every prayer – for her, the doctors, nurses and caregivers, my brother-in-law, his two daughters and my parents.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

More Time, More Prayers; January 15, 2014

Once again, I can't tell you enough about how thankful I am for each one of you and the prayers and/or support that you're providing for my sister, brother-in-law, two nieces and my parents.

When I go for my nightly visit, after work, I'm not only doing my best to be calm and to engage whoever is there at the moment (to take their mind a little off of things), but to also listen acutely enough to capture a synopsis of the day to share with all of you.

First of all, these are some things that we can praise God for:

1.  My sister has a strong heart.  She does not have to have a cardiologist in the active mix at this time.

2.  Her urine output has been strong and consistent (I personally witnessed the male nurse dumping almost a full bottle in the toilet ... OK, maybe a little "tmi") and signaling that her kidneys are functioning normally.

3.  Her liver is also functioning normally at this time.

As organ failure can be a risk with what she is going through right now, these are things that we can continue to ask God to remain strong until she gets completely well.

The pulmonary doctor is lead and my Dad felt as if he's been more upbeat today than he has been in the last two days.

He is somebody that my Dad is very comfortable with in that he feels that he is very compassioniate and has even hugged my Mom and put his hand on my brother-in-law's shoulder and said that he knows that he hasn't always been bringing the best hoped for news at times.

We can be thankful for this as well as excellent nursing and other professional care, such as the respiratory care staff, around the clock.  They've also been very, very compassionate, friendly and communicative as to what they're doing to my sister at all times.

I watched one nurse literally take what closely resembled a toothbrush and move it around the tube that is in my sister's mouth and work it around to - in essence - brush her teeth (although I'm sure there was something more significant that they were doing.)  It was a thankless, yet incredible job that they're doing.

When I arrived at about 8:15 p.m. earlier this evening, her "breaths per minute" number was down to 16 - a certain answer to prayer, but, of course, it is only one piece of the puzzle.  (It later went up after they did something to her that I'll describe below.)

The reason that the doctor wanted to (and wants to) do the CT scan I learned is because he wants to make sure that he isn't missing anything.

The challenge has been, though, that when they have lowered my sister's bed back to where she is completely flat on her back -- as she would need to be to go into a CT tube -- her vitals have started to pull out of line (i.e. heart rate increases to in between 120-130 bpm) and her oxygen saturation has gone down.

Before they came up with a new paralytic (rocuronium, I believe), they had been turning her on her sides every six hours in an effort to increase her oxygenation levels.

However, in an effort to get her body to relax, they stopped doing this.

But in an effort to improve her lung function and to benefit in the removal of any retained secretions in her lungs, they have begun to use what's known as a Vest Airway Clearance System.  Click here to read more about it.

A belt is placed around her midsection and the machine blows air through the belt to literally shake her body in an attempt to dislodge mucus from the bronchial walls, and mobilize secretions and mucus to larger airways so it can be suctioned out, in my sister's case.

Her body didn't respond to it too well earlier today and she lasted six (6) minutes - out of 10 -- as her heart rate got to 130 bpm and her oxygen saturation level dropped to 85%.

It's as if her body doesn't want to let it do anything that is good for it!  :-)

Certainly something that we can continue to pray about, I think.

The flu patients who have been in the MICU where she's at - according to a couple of the nurses who have been caring for her - have been on a path of about 12-14 days before they've started to turn the corner and we are into the 10th day as of late this evening.

Even though you may feel like you've been praying the same each day, please continue to do so.

I put my sister's situation on KSBJ's Prayer Works site - without any specific identifying name references - and I had five (5) people who took the time to click on a link to send a message to say that they prayed for my sister and our families.  I'm thankful to each one of those who took that time to ask God to heal her and care for those that loved her dearly.

And thank you again for the family who is taking care of my two nieces while my brother-in-law is having to work.  I don't want to draw attention to them by name, but a continued "thank you".

I know that my youngest niece is going to be able to get out of town for the weekend and compete in her cheerleading competition as she was able to make practice this week, thanks to a friend of my sister who has three girls that will be competing as well.

And I just want to say how proud I am of my oldest niece as she deals with what her Mom is going through during this challenging time.

They both are talented young ladies of whom their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and family are very, very proud of.

Please continue to pray for my parents.  My Dad's faith is being severely tested and, of course, my Mom's heart just seems to break - as any mother's would.

And for my brother-in-law.  He just keeps getting it all done - without too much sleep.  A good man.

Thanks for listening and continuing to pray and asking for God's perfect will in this situation.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Dash of Stubbornness; January 14, 2014

If you've ever met a Walk, you know that there's a tendency of stubbornness that exists in each and every one of us.

Some of us more than others and at times, it comes on as strong as can be!

My sister, right now, continues to display hers and -- we all need her to stop!  :-)

As I referenced last evening, she's been trying to outwork the ventilator.

Her doctor wants her to get down to 18 breaths per minute; however, she, at times, has been as high as 28 bpm.

(When I left this evening, she was down to 21, which is as low as I've seen it since she's been in MICU.)

In an attempt to get her body to relax, the doctors have given her a paralytic.

As with many drugs (and I'm not a clinician although I work in the health care setting), there's a certain dosage or strength.

When I hadn't heard anything from my Dad today, I was slightly concerned so I was prepared for the full range of scenarios when I made it to the hospital through the middle of the evening (and after the MICU was opened back up to visitors).

What I learned was too complex to put into a text message.

When the doctor visited this morning, it was determined that the paralytic that was being used wasn't strong enough to paralyze her enough to get her breaths per minute down.  (My physician friends will correct me - please - if I don't get this explained exactly correct.)

The way my Dad explained it:  the clinicians were stumped.

He indicated that they had a conference with the critical care pharmacist and they literally came up with a concoction of two drugs that weren't in the hospital's formulary and were doing manual calculations to determine how much they would be able to give her.

I may offend here, but it is not my intention to.  If I do, I sincerely apologize.

If you're a believer in and a follower of Christ, this - to me - is evidence that God is in control of the situation - and He wants us to all completely put our trust in Him.

The nurses that I have encountered at the facility that my sister is in do a very good job in communicating what they're doing.

I told the nurse that was in her room caring for her before I left that I was trusting her 100%.

The way I see it:  I have to (unless something, of course, is so blatantly obvious that doesn't make sense) as I don't have their chosen field of training, experience and passion to care for others.

We were told early on that this was going to be a long process.

We would ask that you pray - in addition for the doctors and nurses to be able to perform their duties according to their training and expertise -- specifically for my sister's body to rest to allow her breaths per minute to get to a point and remain stable so the options to help get her well have less potential risk.

I don't remember the specific need for a CT scan, but there's a hesitancy to even transfer her one floor lower because her body needs to be more at rest.

A process known as ECMO - which I know recently was instrumental in saving the life of a young girl in our area who contracted the pneumonia as a result of H1N1 - has been put on the table as a potential option.

However, since the facility doesn't have the machine needed for this procedure (although it has certified clinicians in the process), a transfer downtown would be necessary -- and there's already a waiting list to get that care with the use of the device.

Plus a transfer to another facility is a great challenge if there's concern of going one floor down in the same building.

My father did learn through an administrative friend of ours that there's another facility in town that have these devices, but they aren't keen on renting them and would desire the patient (and the revenue associated with them).

I share this to guide your prayers, not to flame that facility in comments, etc.

I would ask that you respect my reason for sharing this with you - and refrain from any public rebuke in social media.  (Thank you.)

A friend of my sister and brother-in-law was spending the night tonight in my sister's room to give my parents and brother-in-law a chance to rest - even though my brother-in-law has had to return to work (but at least he's been able to arrange to be local as opposed to being on the road.)

We appreciate her willingness to do so and there are other offers to do the same.  And we thank you for that.

Thank you again for all of your prayers and those of you who have reached out and made yourself available to our families.

We greatly appreciate your generosity, kindness, love, concern and care for my sister, brother-in-law, their two daughters (my two nieces) and my parents.


Monday, January 13, 2014

My Sister's Medical Update; January 13, 2014

Thank you again for each and every one of you who has been praying for my sister - who was admitted to the hospital on Sunday, Jan. 5 with the pneumonia and moved to MICU the following evening, her husband and two daughters and my parents.

As you can imagine, it has been a challenging time for all.

I haven't been providing updates the last couple of days because I wanted to respect individual's news feeds and the changes - at time - in her condition have been minute and would have taken a lot of specific, detailed explanation to communicate.

The best thing to pass along then became, "Please continue to pray for all involved."

As a man and as my sister's brother, I want to fix things, but in this situation I can't.  Nor can anybody that's reading this and not involved in her clinical care.

I have to exercise my faith and place my trust in God, the doctors and nurses who are providing her care and the drugs and equipment that are being used - in the right combination and dosages - to help her get well.

As my brother-in-law and I spoke in her room on Sunday evening, it is like watching a shell game in play; however, a delicate life -- one that is loved by many -- hangs in the balance.

She had slowly been making baby steps, but had some small setbacks on Sunday and Monday mornings.

Her body has been trying to outbreath the ventilator, which has numerical measures on how hard she and the machine is working.  It has always been a gap of about seven (7) or eight (8).  When I left this evening, it was a range of two to three.

They've been adjusting her paralytic to try to allow her body to rest to keep it from trying to outwork the machine.

Yet, an applied positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) of 14 is much higher than the doctors would like this at this point in the process.  It had been as low as 10 last evening; however, it is desired to get to five (5) or below.

I would go into more details, but some would be inclined to do a little reading and ask questions -- more than likely the same that we're asking the doctors as far as the future direction and options in her care.

However, I think it is safe to say that those options are varied and run the gamut.

Some aren't easy to think about, let alone discuss.

I continue to express my appreciation of and pride in how my brother-in-law is handling everything.

It is very, very hard on him, yet he is doing it well - and, at times, with little sleep.

His two girls - my two nieces - are staying with friends who recently moved back to Texas in the last two to three months.  They have three girls of their own.

My family appreciates what they are doing to support my sister's family.

It is also tough to see the stress that it is putting on my parents.

When I got the initial call last Tuesday, my Dad - the Marine - was as rattled as I've ever heard him in my 47 years of life -- even with him having gone through as many back procedures as he has over the years.

Yet I teared up this evening as I saw him tell my sister "Good night" for the evening -- and that he loved her.

And we've, unfortunately, in the midst of this situation, have heard pieces of misinformation out and about as well as one vile post -- on a message board, reportedly -- that simply has to be left with God to deal with.

Knowing that you're praying for our families and you allowing me to share with you this information has allowed me to be calm and collected to support my brother-in-law, nieces and parents where and when necessary.

Please trust me that our families covet your prayers and that God will be in complete control of the entire situation.

Thank you for allowing me to share -- and thank you for being a part of my family's life.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Birthday Recap; January 6, 2014

47.  I'm sure glad I don't feel it.

Yesterday was a really nice day, with the exception of learning that my sister needed to be admitted to the hospital for pneumonia.

My brother-in-law was five (5) hours away hunting, getting away from a busy, stressful time at his place of employment, and my Mom had to go help her and take her to a free-standing ER clinic first and then to the hospital.

Despite that, Waverly and I had a chance to spend the day doing things that we've grown to enjoy doing over the years.

It started with breakfast at The Egg & I in Shenandoah, our local favorite.  We have a couple of favorites in Lynchburg - especially Market at Main - when I go and visit her at college.

She went to choir practice and Sunday School while I went home and worked on a few things and then we were both in church together.

It is always an incredible joy and source of pride and thankfulness to watch her worship God while singing as part of the praise and worship team.

With my Dad engaging our guest speaker, Dr. Jerry Thorpe, that she attended Liberty University before she got out of Sunday School, he took the opportunity to introduce himself to her before the service - and all of us learned that Dr. Thorpe is on Liberty's Board of Trustees' Seminary Committee with co-founder Dr. Elmer Towns.

I went to the gym to workout for an hour and completed an errand before both of us went to the monthly Sunday Night 5K, hosted by The Woodlands Running Club (nee Bill Dwyer) at Barbara Bush Elementary.

These 3.1 miles would replace those that she has ru every year with me since 2007 at the end of the Chevron Houston Marathon.  If I toe the line and make it that far, I will certainly miss her not being there waiting for me.

We decided just to run the race nice and easy, but we also wanted to make sure we finished ahead of Seven Hills Running Club legend Ken Johnson, who shares a birthdate with Waverly and just finished his 100th marathon on New Year's Day.

Waverly ran nice and steady and went 21:28.42 through the first two miles - a 10:44 pace.

Even though she needed to take quick blows four or five times, and not having done any cardio in about three weeks, she delivered a PR time of 33:41.27 -- 37 seconds better than the race (Poplar Forest 5K; 34:18) we ran together in Lynchburg on Saturday, October 12.

It represented a pace of 10:50 per mile, which is in between the 10:34 per mile she ran on Thanksgiving Day for five miles (her fastest pace ever at any distance) and the 11:02 per mile of her previous 5K best.

It is really fun to see her more through an improved fitness stage.  She enjoys running around campus while she's at school, just to get out of her dorm room and enjoy the beauty of the commonwealth of Virginia.

We went home, got cleaned up and then had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, a semi-expensive favorite of ours in The Woodlands.  (Well, semi-expensive if you have the cheesecake, but it was my birthday.)

I enjoy having the time to discuss life with her and we talked more about some of her goals for the next three years as she wants to move into Student Leadership next year and serve as a Prayer Group Leader.  Then she would like to become a Resident Assistant (RA) in her final two years.

It is great to see her set her sights on actions which will serve and meet the needs of others in their day-to-day and spiritual lives.

When we made it back to the house, she gave me a card, a Chris Tomlin CD (one further back then his most current "Burning Lights" release) and a calendar - that I have hanging in the kitchen area - where she culled together photographs that both took a look back at the past year and also looked forward to the year ahead.

I'm thankful to have her plans to travel back for Spring Break already taken care of as well as a visit from me the weekend of February 22-23 and then for her Mom to fly up on Wednesday, May 7 to help her drive home for the summer.

Forever how long she's going to be home, that is.

She wants to make a return trip to Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) in late May and early June followed by six weeks of working in church youth camps all over the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.

Am excited to watch her set out to achieve it.

All in all, it was hard to top a day like that.

The clutter was pruned away.  Something I've been trying to do each and every day, and more and more, I've been succeeding.  And, for that, I'm thankful.

I heard from lots of friends on the phone, in person, via text messages, Twitter and Facebook who wished me "Happy Birthday".  Each one, even those that came early, was greatly appreciated - and reminds me how fortunate I am.

There were one or two that I wished I would have heard from, but there's always next year, right?