The beginning of 2017 found us earnestly praying for God's leading and direction to take our whole family on a family missions trip for the first time. It was a huge step of faith for us as it was a huge financial undertaking. There were concerns about the safety there with some unrest that had been going on. Then there were lots of concerns with Josh and his Autism and whether or not he would be able to handle the unknowns of new places, smells, language, routines, foods, and people not to mention the eleven hour flight one way when he had never flown before. On top of that, puberty hit hard for Josh starting this Spring causing mood destabilization with his Bipolar.
The brightest and happiest part of our year was the time our family was able to spend together serving God in our favorite country in the Middle Eastern area. We were amazed by the generosity of family and friends and our church who financially and prayerfully supported our family on this trip making it possible for us to go and helped confirm God's will for us to go on this trip. The fellowship we had with our brothers and sisters in the Lord over there was so wonderful and encouraging to all. It was so wonderful to introduce our boys to them and see our love for these dear friends be shared by our boys. When things got difficult the rest of the year, I often found myself going back to the memories made during this trip and praising God for such a wonderful opportunity and for light in the midst of so many sorrows.
Upon our return from that trip in May, things quickly fell apart. I returned to work only to severely injure my back lifting a patient which led to intense physical therapy and monthly visits with an orthopedic doctor as I worked to strengthen the area around the herniated, bulging, and torn L4-L5 disc. By the end of the month, we had to hospitalize Josh to help get his mood stabilized.
Things continued to be intense with Josh even after he returned home, and by July, we had to re-hospitalize him. From that point on, his treatment team started encouraging us to consider residential treatment. Our home health aide services for Josh fell apart forcing us to have to take turns leaving work early to care for Josh after school. No matter how hard we tried to avoid residential, that's where God led us. Thankfully, He used a few moms and one dad to really encourage us in the decision and give us hope. The process of getting Josh into a residential program was very difficult and took over a month to complete. Upon admission at the beginning of November, things fell apart with the facility backing out on their word to allow Josh to use his natural supplements and essential oils which help to keep him as stable as possible. We had to make the decision to leave Josh there for his safety even if it meant allowing his mood stability to possibly worsen without those natural supports. We then began looking for a new facility for Josh who would allow for the use of his natural supports to keep his continuity of care that has been supported by his four treating doctors.
In the middle of November, I ended up in the ER with severe abdominal pain and found out I needed to have a large polyp removed from my uterus as soon as possible. Surgery was scheduled for the next week on Wednesday, November 23. It was a simple outpatient surgery, and I was discharged that afternoon and given permission by the surgeon to travel to my parents' house that evening for Thanksgiving.
By that evening, I started to feel very strange but couldn't figure out what was wrong. That led to a very scary next 24+ hours for my family as I was unresponsive following a grand mal seizure. For more details on that whole event, read my blog post about the ordeal. After a two day stay in the ICU and three days total in the hospital, I was released in time for us to return home from our Thanksgiving trip to my parents' house.
Upon arrival home, many appointments with specialists were made and more tests were done to check into the state of my health. In less than a week after our arrival home, Josh was able to be transferred to a new residential treatment facility where he was able to resume the use of his natural supplements and essential oils.
Also in December, I suddenly got taken out of physical therapy and discharged by my orthopedic and listed as "permanently disabled" with lifting/weight restrictions and permanent light duty classification due to my back injury in May. After consulting with a lawyer, I am working on getting an appointment with a physiatrist to be able to resume physical therapy and work my way up to a higher lifting weight ability which will continue to be covered by workman's comp.
Just this past week, I was cleared by the cardiologist regarding the heart complications I was experiencing since my hospitalization in November. There was concern about permanent damage to my heart from my dangerously low sodium levels that caused the near-death experience in the first place. However, the symptoms were not from the damage but instead a complication from the de-conditioning from being so sick in the ICU and the Neurocardiogenic Syncope I have had since college that had been under control until my hospitalization. The cardiologist believes I will make a full recovery and that it will just take time for me to return to "normal." My blood tests this past week also showed that everything has returned to normal limits, which occurred much faster than expected, and we are grateful. The only outstanding concern is related to a new brain lesion found when a CT Scan was done while I was unresponsive. I have followed up with my neurologist about it who wants more MRIs done, but we are not in a hurry to follow up on those tests for now.
Meanwhile, during these crazy months, there's Tim and David, who are just trying to survive and cope with all of the drama. Tim has has his own various battles to fight including trying to keep up with his work at the office especially when needing to miss work due to Josh's or my needs. Despite a difficult and interrupted work schedule, he had his best year yet in growing his business. We are grateful for God's goodness in that! Tim has also had to juggle for this past month his own daily responsibilities while picking up many of my own responsibilities since I have been too weak to do much and have spent a lot of my time resting on the couch or in bed. We have been grateful for our church family and other friends who have helped us greatly in providing meals during this difficult time.
We have thanked the Lord so many times for David this year. His early years struggling with failure to thrive, his immune disorder, and subsequent illnesses and antibody transfusions have helped make him the resilient eleven year old kid that he is today not to mention the hardships of being a brother to someone with Autism and other mental health struggles. David took each thing in stride with very little complaints, yet we know how much he is struggling inside and how he fights to bottle it up. Seeing him struggle with depression and anxiety symptoms was difficult, and we increased our efforts to help him work through his struggles. On top of that, he began middle school this year as a sixth grader and experienced insane amounts of school work that even overwhelmed me as his mother. He has had to struggle through a hard school year this Fall while dealing with so much drama in his household, and he remains resilient! We see evidence of his faith growing. Struggles aside, we have also seen David continue to blossom in his Taekwondo abilities, and David moved up into a full sized violin. Being faithful to our promise, we purchased him his very own full sized violin, and we all enjoy listening to him play. David had the privilege of playing very last minute (less than a week before the concert) in his school band in the Spring and also performed a violin solo during the concert. In December, he had the privilege of playing his violin in the Concert Band (made up of 8th-12th grade instrumentalists from his school and another local Christian school) even though he is not in Band at school. He was given a little more notice this time but still had one month less to prepare than the rest of the students and didn't have the twice weekly rehearsals like they had. We love seeing David shine and use his abilities from God to bless others.
Josh is now thirteen years old, and he is doing well at the new residential treatment facility and has been there now for almost one month. We are seeing signs of God at work in his heart and his life. He is thriving in the highly structured environment that the facility provides and is enjoying being able to be back at his special school he had to leave when he got transferred to the first residential treatment center. We pray that this time away will be a growing experience for him and will help him to be more stable and able to function at home and in the community to help him thrive. He remains an animal-lover, and his cat and guinea pigs continue to be one of his greatest loves. We look forward to when we can have him living at home with us again hopefully sometime in 2018.
My back injury has made me rethink my line of work and my future as a nurse. I have began to look once again at options for becoming a midwife and have increased the number of clients I have as a doula. I don't know what God has for me, but I am seeking His will and walking through the open doors He provides. I am also trying to figure out how to increase my business of wellness coaching and essential oil education to be able to better serve my clients and grow my client base to help people live more natural and healthy lives.
Tim will be taking on more responsibilities at his office this coming year as his dad starts to turn over parts of the company to Tim. He is excited about the increased responsibilities and the challenges to grow himself and his company that they present.
As I close, I don't want to leave you thinking that 2017 was all doom and gloom for the Russell family. As difficult and trying as it was, God has wondrously carried us through. He never failed us. While we don't understand what He is trying to accomplish in the many things He has ordained for us to go through, we know that He is working all of these things out for our good and His glory. His sovereignty over our lives is a comfort to us, and the circumstances has helped us to grow our faith and dependence on Him. I leave with you Scriptures about God's sovereignty over our lives. May they be a comfort to you as they have been to us, and may you see God's good work in your life as you enter 2018.
1 Chronicles 29:11-12 (NIV) "Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all."
Job 42:2 (NIV) "I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted."
Psalm 135:6 (NIV) "The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths."
Psalm 18:30 (ESV) "This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him."
|We enjoyed the time we were able to have as a whole family this Christmas Eve when Josh was allowed to come with us to celebrate Christmas with the Russell side of the family for a few hours.|