Hope and Perseverance

Life can be funny, in its own way, of course.

Last week, I happily reported how my Baby Sis was awake, coherent, talkative, and what-not.  Last week, I was busy pointing out how she’d been forced to the brink, yet emerged to fight another day.  Last week, I was excitedly writing that all was good.

I spoke too soon.

Over the weekend, there were issues – ones that the physicians cannot explain.  At one point, the nurse in attendance could not wake Baby Sis.  While they didn’t come out and say directly, I’ve since been told that they feared she may have suffered a strokeFortunately, this was not the case.  One of the most noticeable things about my sister since her hospitalization is that she’s developed an odd speech characteristic.  Imagine a vinyl LP with a scratch in it, repeating the same set of lyrics until someone moves the turntable’s needle – that’s what it’s like talking with her.  She’ll repeat herself multiple times, totally unaware that she’s doing it.  Worse, she’s experiencing periods of something akin to a “seven second delay” found on most talk radio.  That is, I can say something to her, she processes it and then responds.  She may say something else in the interim, but then she’s right back to my initial comment and her response.

How are you, today?”

I’m fine.  Did you talk to the nurse?  She says I’m doing better.  I’m doing fine.  I’m doing fine.  I’m doing fine.  Did you talk to the nurse?  I’m doing fine.”

I should add that she’s doing all of this in a near-rapid fire manner for long periods of timeI’ve never heard one person talk so much, or at such speed, as she did during today’s visit.

Today was particularly grueling because in the middle of a visit where I joined my other sister and two of our cousins, Baby Sis began to experience pain in her legs.  This has been an ongoing problem, long before this current infection, and there’s nothing anyone can do, short of giving her a sedative.  She’s clearly in agony, but trying to hold it in; eventually, however, it was too much – Baby Sis is crying and on the cusp of screaming out in pain.  A nurse arrived, gave her some medication, and with some effort, my other sister and cousin were both able to get Baby Sis to calm down and relax.  But the experience of the pain was in her mind – despite telling us numerous times that the pain had subsided and she felt much better, she was caught in that mental loop where she was experiencing the pain again and again.  What should have been a fifteen-minute-“How are you” visit, turned into a two-hour stay because she was just so bad.  Eventually, she was truly calm and even joked around with us, but by that point we were close to being asked to leave by the nurse, as they had to do evening clean up.  So with assurances that someone would be back in the morning, the four of us finally left Baby Sis to – hopefully – rest for the evening.

Having experienced that this evening, I’ve developed a special appreciation for my other sister because she visits daily, whereas I only visit every other day.  Originally, I felt compelled to offer up an excuse for my lack of close attention, but I’m tired of trying to justify myself.  The truth is that something within me changed so thoroughly when I spent six months monitoring my other sister’s medical emergency so many years ago.  I’ve never been the same insofar as dealing with a crisis – I can take charge and act as a central authority, but there’s a part of me that just has difficulty in carrying that weight of being “the strong one” again.  Both of my sisters understand this, thankfully, but I still feel a measure of guilt for not being the frontrunner in managing Baby Sis’ situation.

One of her physicians told us that even if the internal infection were wiped out today – so much of it is gone, but not all of it – that she’ll still need at least two months of medical attention, and that’s if she’s lucky.  Baby Sis is anxious about that because even though her current stay has been under a month, she’s reaching that point where she’s beginning to lose hope.  We’re praying that this doctor’s prediction is exaggerated, but we’ll see.

I’m still happy that my sister is alive and mostly recovered – at least she’s finally being moved out of intensive care – but my excitement and enthusiasm has been curbed.  I have not lost faith, nor have I given up hope.  I know that this will be a difficult process and it will take time.

Recently, I recommended one of my favorite Biblical passages to someone:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

– Romans 5:3-5 (NIV)

And while the passage is referring to the benefits of faith, I’ve been thinking about its message insofar as the last few weeks are concerned.  It’s true: Suffering does produce perseverance, which in turn produces character.

And character, hope.

I have hope that my sister will improve.  I have hope that she’ll be back home – to her family, her job, and her dreams.  I have hope that she’ll emerge from this experience a better, stronger person.

But all of this will take time, so we’ll wait and take things a day at a time.  Things will work out.  You’ll see.



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