Friday, July 26, 2013

Logan's Diagnosis; Breath Holding Syndrome

I want to thank those of you who prayed for my grandson, Logan.  At age 1 (the day before his first birthday, in fact) Logan experienced a period of apnea--he stopped breathing--and also experienced seizure-like body movements.

We were terrified.

We have had the best possible outcome; Logan has a benign condition that he will outgrow.   A pediatric neurologist assured us that his symptoms are consistent with a condition in which a child exhales, then fails to take another breath.  Sometimes he may begin to breathe again within just a few seconds, but sometimes he may lose consciousness, at which time he will automatically begin to breathe again.  It is an involuntary response; during an episode the child is unable to inhale.  The neurologist says the syndrome is somewhat misnamed and misunderstood, because the term "breath-holding syndrome" makes people think it is something the child does on purpose or when he/she is angry. Although attacks may follow emotional upset, pain, or a crying bout, they are involuntary. 

Logan did not seem particularly upset when he had his episode, but he had been crying a bit. Perhaps he was in pain from a tummy upset or from some other unknown cause; pain can trigger the response.  Some children never have another episode, and that's our prayer. 

Thank you, thank you for your prayers! 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Don't Compare

I have just finished reading an inspiring book entitled Kisses From Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption, by Katie Davis.  Katie lives her life for Jesus in a way that humbles and challenges me.  As I read about this woman who, at age 19, gave up her affluent way of life here in the United States and moved to Uganda out of obedience to the Lord's call, I felt at first defensive, then ashamed, and finally repentant.

I want to share with you how gently the Lord dealt with me as I began to open my heart and mind to Him, asking His forgiveness for all the sins I condemn in myself.  I share it at this caregiving blog because I know about the chronic sense of failure that is inherent in being a caregiver for someone who has dementia, especially if that person is someone who used to take care of you in the past.

If you've been a Christian for awhile there are probably points on your timeline where you have answered "yes" to the Lord's call, choices you may have forgotten but the Lord has not.  I want to offer you the comfort I found as I prayed today, recorded with the Lord's portion of the conversation in boldfaced print:

What is in front of you? 

Cleaning the bathroom.  Straightening this room.  Taking Mom for a walk. 

Why do you feel these things are of less value than what Katie Davis has done? 

Things like cleaning dead rats out of stovepipes?  Changing a diaper of a child and finding it full of worms?  Ministering to HIV positive children, kissing the heads of ringworm and scabies infected children? 

While I overeat, sink into laziness and depression, and procrastinate about cleaning a bathroom that isn’t very dirty at all—and …


Stop right now.  You have obeyed me, no less than Katie Davis has obeyed Me.  At the same age she was when I laid My hand upon her life, you responded to a similar call. 
What?  I got married.

You married in obedience to My call;  you were called to marriage.  I remember heart struggles you have forgotten.  I remember wounds that have healed.  I remember prayers and fastings you now dismiss as being of no import.  "You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?" (Psalm 56:8 ESV).  
So.  However improbable it seems, the Lord in His perfect knowledge values my small acts of obedience just as He does those of a Christlike role model such as Katie Davis.  And He doesn't want me making tongue-in-cheek analogies, as I might be tempted to compare Katie's ministry to an Olympic gymnasts' floor routine and my own to an out-of-shape 59-year-old's attempt to do a single pushup. But I'm to make no comparisons, because I am precious in His sight and of great value to Him.

You are too. 

You can find out more about Katie Davis's ministry to the people of Uganda at Amazima Ministries' website:  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

When Other Crises Distract...

The events of my life continue to unfold in all their stressful, grief-threatening glory despite the fact that I am my mother's primary caregiver.  When new ordeals loom I long for the days when, as a teacher, I could say, "I'm sorry, I'm already serving on two committees; my schedule won't allow me to take a third assignment..."  Well, sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn't--but wouldn't it be nice to feel we had the option of opting out?

Our most recent trauma is so close to my heart that I can scarcely write about it, but I feel that Holy Spirit push to share because it isn't right for me to go silent when I am struggling.  If I share with you only the calm words of guidance that spring from the things in my caregiving journey that are right, then how can I expect to help if you are struggling with things that are wrong? 

Our latest traumatic event is this: our grandson, precious little one-year-old baby boy, experienced a frightening health crisis last week.  Now we are in the midst of a time of trusting the Lord through a trial we did not expect, praising Him that we have been allowed to keep this precious little boy with us, but anxiously vigilant now and struggling not to become fearful. 

My mother senses she is no longer the focal point of my attention, and is not bearing this well. My distraction makes her restless and insecure, and she  becomes fearful and suspicious about whether her needs will be met.  She writes journal entries like this one:  "They are probably having ice cream in there and it would never occur to them I might like some too."  Five minutes after I am in her room I might receive a phone call from Mom:  "I thought you were going to bring me something good to eat," she says.  

Just at the time I'm feeling emotionally vulnerable and still shell-shocked with fear for my grandson, Mom becomes sarcastic and rude.  She is unable to comprehend the gravity of our grandson's situation, and when I try to talk to her about it she brushes it off with some surface level comment such as, "Well I'm sure he'll be fine, I hope they don't get themselves all riled up about it."  Anything that distracts my attention from her is perceived as a threat. 

We've taken measures to alleviate Mom's fears by providing her extra snacks, which she loves.  Our respite caregiver spent more time than usual visiting with Mom this week.  I've learned that the extra stimulus of even pleasant conversations will stir up Mom's discontent the moment I leave the room, and so my strategy has been to be very intentional about eye contact, pleasant expressions on my face, and hugs.  These things seem to reassure her in the way that my words cannot.  It's important for me to leave my anxieties on the other side of Mom's apartment door, because she senses how I am feeling.  A very powerful mood lightener for Mom is shared laughter and so I give myself extra caregiving credit if I can find something that makes her smile!

It is difficult to "put on a happy face" for the person who once shared and lightened my burdens, but that's what's needed now.  If I will just take an extra moment or two to whisper a prayer and to place a smile on my face before I enter Mom's room, I know she'll be reassured. 
My grandson experienced a period of apnea at 2:00 a.m. on his first birthday.  He just happened to be sitting on his mother's lap; she was rocking him back to sleep after he had cried out.  He struggled to breath, would cry out, catch a breath, then stop breathing again.  This cycle repeated several times. Finally he lost consciousness.  Just when my daughter and her husband were preparing to initiate CPR, he opened his eyes, was uncharacteristically quiet and withdrawn for awhile, and then seemed fine.  No further incidents have occurred.  He is in the process of receiving medical tests, and is being monitored at night by motion detecting baby monitor.  My prayerful impression is that this is a one time event, but we need prayer for knowledge and wisdom in the days ahead.  Please pray for Baby Logan! 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

What God Can Do

As Christians most of us become a little bit inured to Biblical truths that ought to cause our hearts to beat faster as our eyes widen in awe. 

"I can do all things through Christ, who strenghtens me (Philippians 4:13)"...knew that.

"When I am weak, then God's strength works through me (2 Corinthians 12:10)"...uh huh.

"God can do much more than we can even imagine (Ephesians 3:20)...yawn.

I'm afraid this is the state I found myself in when the Lord gave me a persistent nudge to seek a TV interview for my book.

I ignored Him. 

Then, when that push became more persistent and urgent, I bargained, "OK, Lord, if someone asks me to do a TV interview, I won't turn down the opportunity." 

I figured I was completely safe. 

Meantime, another one of those persistent nudges began to work on me..."Do a Youtube video series highlighting the information from your caregiving book.  Those who can't afford to buy a book or who might not be reached in any other way can thus benefit from the blessings the Lord has provided you and your mom." 

The technology and "how to" fell into my lap, and though recording and editing were time consuming, this didn't carry the fear factor for me that the thought of a live TV interview did.  And so I obeyed.  I learned as I went, and as I watched myself on camera was surprised at how many funny little mannerisms I possess that I didn't even know about.  I didn't know the Lord was preparing me to obey Him in a bigger-for-me way. 

When the call came it was from the public relations manager of a book store that had invited me to do a signing.  "Call the TV station and ask for Ralph Hipp," he said.  "He will get you on his 4 O'Clock show."  I hesitated and even as I shook my head vigorously from side to side in an emphatic "NO," I heard myself say, "Yes, I'll call the station." 

In the six week interim I fought down my fears with Scriptural promises that suddenly applied to actual situations in my life. The interview went well, and I learned about God's strength in a way similar to that described by a friend who, at age 60, parachuted from a small plane with the aide of an instructor.  "They give you the opportunity to pull the cord," she said, "But if you don't do it the instructor will." 

God never asks us to take a leap of faith without promising to make the jump with us.  Whatever challenges you are facing as a caregiver I can tell you with renewed certainty--"God is with you. He won't let you down.  He will enable you!" 

Giving up my fears entailed acceptance that I wasn't going to perform perfectly!  This week's Caregiver's Corner reveals how perfectionism can cripple us in our caregiving journey...find it here: