Don’t Wait for Second Chances

When I wrote WAITING FOR BUTTERFLIES, I explored one of my greatest fears…not getting to see my daughters grow up. Today we have a guest on The MOM Journey who looked that fear right in the face. Alana Dawson, author of the devotional She Says He Says: Challenging the Lies We Say to Ourselves with His Truths, shares what she learned about second chances. Welcome, Alana!

It’s been a year since my life was rearranged, flipped, turned upside-down and inside-out.

A year since everything and nothing has become important.

A year since I got a second chance at life. And I am so thankful.

I have talked openly about suffering from a pulmonary embolism but today, I’m sharing my story.

The day started out like many others, taking down Christmas decorations and preparing my house for my parents’ arrival in a few days. When my husband arrived home from work, we decided to take our daughters out to eat in Waikiki. We were stationed in Hawaii at the time. That evening we ate out and laughed and walked along Waikiki Beach before returning home and to bed.

It’s funny how the mind can remember such little ordinary things. I can still remember the smell of the ocean as we walked along the beach to the car. The tourists, sunburned and white-eyed from too many hours in the water. I can remember the torches along the walkway flickering bright orange against the dark night sky.

Then I remember the pain–searing hot as I woke in the early morning hours of December 28th. It was black, closer to night than morning, dawn still hours away.

As I stepped from my bed I was wet with sweat and unable to catch my breath. My left arm was completely numb, and the pain, oh the pain, was radiating from my neck down my back. I managed to wake my husband.

As much as I remember about the night before, those quick minutes after waking up and heading the ER are a blur. I know we woke our two daughters, ages 9 and 5 at the time, but I don’t remember how they got in the car or how I got in the car. Perhaps my husband carried them. Perhaps he carried me.

I do, however, remember the nurses’ concern as I hobbled into the ER, and then my daughters’ faces as I was rushed backward in a wheelchair literally seconds after coming in the door. I didn’t get to say goodbye or I love you or reassure them it would be okay.

Of everything I remember from that day, the one thing I will never forget is their faces—confused, worried, still half-asleep with rosy red cheeks and sleepy, half-opened eyes.

After tests, EKGs, scans, blood work, and hours later, my doctor returned to tell me the news: I had multiple blood clots in my lungs, pulmonary emboli. I’ll be honest with you, I was relieved. That sounds ridiculous now, but I knew little about blood clots and I was just happy it wasn’t a heart attack.

I held back my joy, however, when the doctor said they had to transfer me by ambulance (and yes, I had to stay in my gown and no, I couldn’t at least put on my jeans) to Tripler Army Hospital on the other side of the island because the small hospital I was currently in wasn’t equipped to handle me.

I was shocked as the transport team pushed me, strapped onto my gurney, to the Special Care Unit at Tripler. I peeked into rooms as we passed by to see mostly elderly and very sick-looking people.

Joking has always been something we do in our family, something of a coping mechanism at times. So it was only natural that I joked myself through the morning and all the way into my new bed, much to my husband’s disapproval. I should have known this wasn’t a funny situation just by looking at his somber demeanor.

After several more tests, questions and another EKG, I finally met my new team of doctors and was able to ask what all the fuss was about and when my daughters could come see me. To my disappointment, they explained children were not permitted on the SCU. Then they explained not only the severity of my situation, but the uphill battle of recovery I was going to face. How I was still not in the clear and if not treated correctly, the clot could break loose and travel to my brain.

In that moment something clicked. I wish I could explain to you how the wind shifted and my head started spinning. The doctor kept talking but I didn’t hear a word. Suddenly I fully grasped the gravity of the situation. I was sick. And by the words I was catching here and there, words like—recovery, herapin, warfarin, blood thinners, underlying condition, before we can release you, long-term damage—I understood that there was no joking my way out of the situation. As soon as the doctors and my husband left, I grabbed my phone and looked up pulmonary embolism. I was shocked at just how lucky I was to be alive.

As my medication began to wear off, the searing pain I had felt early that morning began to creep back in, but so did a new pain, one of regret, shame, disappointment.

As I lay in bed, alone in the dark room, unable to get comfortable, taking in my situation, I couldn’t help but think about my family, my husband and my daughters. What I had left behind for them to remember?

I wish I could tell you I was proud of myself, of the life I had led. But I can’t, because if I’m honest with myself, and with you, I was selfish and cranky much of the time.

I wasn’t as good of a mom as I could have been, or wife, or friend. I rushed around trying to meet some ideal, some expectation I had painted of myself. I said yes to everyone and everything but my own family. I was a professed Christian, but if you looked at my life from the outside, you’d be hard pressed to tell other than my occasional quiet time and Sunday morning church going. The verse from Revelations 3:16 came to mind, “You are neither hot nor cold and I’m about to spit you out of my mouth.”

In the dark, with my monitors beeping, I bowed my head and asked God for another chance: another chance to love Him first and foremost, another chance to love my husband well, and another chance to be a Christ-like example for my daughters.

I got that chance and I’m grateful. My PE experience changed my life. It gave me perspective on what, or rather who, really matters. I got to go home and I can still remember the joy when my daughters came running to me. Tears of joy streamed down my face, hot and searing just like the pain I experienced days before. I had a long road of recovery; in fact, I’m still recovering in many ways. I’m on a blood thinner and will be for the rest of my life.

I don’t share my story today just because it is the anniversary of this event. I share it today because I don’t want you to find yourself lying in a hospital bed unsure whether you will make it through to morning, wishing you had lived your life differently.

A year ago I got a second chance. You can have one, too.

Alana Dawson is a wife, mama and military spouse currently residing in Albuquerque, NM. Alana writes to empower women to love God and life, right where they are, just as they are. She has had a lot of practice at this as she has lived in seven different states and had the pleasure to meet and make friends in every one of them. Alana recently published her first devotional, She Says, He Says: A Devotional Challenging the Lies We Say to Ourselves with His Truth. Alana cannot live without coffee, peanut butter or Jesus. You can follow her writing and military adventures on her blog www.alanadawson.com, on Instagram @alana_pilar, or on Facebook.

Blessings!

4 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Olsen says:

    I too had a life changing medical event . Mine was a blood clot blocking the main artery that supplies blood to my small intestine. At the time I was in the hospital after surgery removing a cancerous tumor from my colon . The pain was excruciating ! I knew I was dying even told the nurses . They called in. Numerous Dr they all thought I was faking it . Then I demanded they do a complete CatScan . That’s when they found the blood clot. The surgeon came in and told me there was absolutely nothing that could be done and I only had 72 hours to live . I told him that couldn’t be right I was supposed to be going home today . I couldn’t understand going from having surgery and getting ready to start chemo and radiation for the colon cancer that I knew I could beat to dying in just a span of hours . I knew my only option was to start praying. I too wasn’t the Christian I should have been but that night I turned to God and prayed not that I’d survive but that my family would be able to understand and that they’d all pull closer to God . I remember nothing of the 18 days afterwards . The Drs all still say I should never have survived it because my small intestine should have died and you can not live without your small intestine. I’m a walking miracle . Four years later I’m even off the blood thinners that they said would be something I’d have to take for the rest of my life .

    • Karen Sargent says:

      What an amazing story, Elizabeth! I love when God shows up in such undeniable ways! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Have you read the book “When Breath Becomes Air?” I’m reading it now and it has brought back my life changing cancer journey in full-blown color. These health scares definitely remind us to stay grateful and aware of our blessings. Thanks for sharing.

    • Karen Sargent says:

      Laurie, thank you for recommending WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR. So many people struggle through cancer; it’s good to know such a meaningful book is out there!

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