Mask

During times of stress, I have lost my ability to talk. It has not happened for a while, but there was a pattern I noticed where when times got tense, I would develop laryngitis. I realize now it was my body’s response to dealing with an uncomfortable situation. If that part of me was shut down, I could not speak up, and I could use it as an excuse to be quiet. Once the uproar had passed, my throat would heal until the next bout would seemingly come out of nowhere. At the time, I saw no correlation between my outward circumstances and this occurring. 

It wasn’t easy when I had two small children who wanted my attention, and they needed me for guidance. Or, one would say,

“Mom, can you read me a book?”

I spent hours gargling with salt water and whispering. By the end of the day, I felt drained from trying to get my point across. I didn’t understand that as I stuffed my feelings down, I was creating a physical silence. 

Years later, I looked this up and discovered a vast number of articles on the subject. Some have it happen when going through the grieving process and describe it as having a lump in their throat because they can’t get past the loss. When living in a state of unrelenting fear, others, like myself, will experience what I did. 

My biggest concern was that I would sound like a dragon lady for the rest of my life. I was coming across like a chronic smoker. While I desperately wanted it back, would it return normal? During one of these episodes, my daughter asked,

“What if it never comes back?”

 It was an innocent question as it had been going on for two weeks, with slight underlying worries that it was gone forever. So when she said that, I gargled more. 

As the years went on, it stopped. But, I had other symptoms manifest in other places. While I no longer lost my voice, I would get horrific lower back pain connected to my sciatic nerve. My daughter had found information that if this happened, there was a pressure point on the back of the leg that could be activated to alleviate it. 

The process was to lay face down while she took a closed fist and punched this area. It was weird, but it worked. However, it was only a temporary fix because it was emotionally based. I sought chiropractic treatments that helped, and when this nerve pain in my back seemed to have lost the fight, it found another place to take up residence. 

I have had reoccurring pain in the right side of my face. This time, I became aware of it being caused by outside issues that I wasn’t dealing with correctly. As I employed acupuncture, meditation and went back to the chiropractor, it has gotten better, but on occasion, it will strike and cause me to be unable to function. It is called ‘suicide pain’, which I try not to think about when in the middle of the problem.

Last April, my dad fell and was admitted to the hospital. It was discovered that he had been given a medication that should not have been administered. It was a tangled web of trying to find answers, and as my annoyance began to soar, the nerve in my face was sending out excruciating signals. I didn’t have time to sit on the couch because I didn’t want him to be alone.

He needed supplies from his apartment, including a cream that helps with pain in his knee. So as I have done before, I pushed my feelings aside and went to his rescue. I explained to the hospital staff his hearing issues, and they told me that as long as I shut his door, I could speak to him without a mask. 

On this particular day, with my face on fire, I was on my phone responding to a text while he was watching a baseball game. I had tried to hand off his medicated cream at the desk, but I was told to give it to the nurse assigned to him for that shift. I was told she would be by to get it from me. It was going on two hours since I had arrived, but I decided to wait it out. I had taken a pain reliever with not much relief.

I still had my mask, but it was on my chin as he would ask me questions; it was just easier for him to comprehend what I was saying. 

I heard his door open, and I looked up. 

“Pull up your mask!” She yelled. 

I instinctively did because, after a year of this, I never want to make anyone uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “He is hard of hearing and..”

“I don’t care! You both should be wearing a mask! If I get sick because of you, then who is going to work here if I’m at home having to use up my vacation time?”

Wow, that was a lot of take in. I tried again to diffuse the situation.

“He is really hard of hearing, and I pulled it down so he could…”

“I don’t care! There are so many people coming in and out of these rooms not taking this seriously, and then I have to deal with it!”

I watched her grab his arm forcefully to put on the blood pressure cuff. He looked over at her and said,

“Hey, take it easy.”

She started the process of getting a reading and was quiet, so I said,

“It must be hard for you to work in these conditions, and you must be stressed out by it.”

Usually, when I take this approach, I get a calmer response back. Not with this one.

“It’s people like you that are the problem! Both of you. And I’m the one that’s going to get sick! Because of you!”

“He has been tested, and he is fine. I have no symptoms of…”

“I don’t care!” She abruptly ripped off the cuff.

“I will be back later.”

I held up the medications I needed to give her. 

“I need you to take these for him.”

“I will be back after you leave!”

She spun out the door.

I glanced over at him. His eyes were glued to the tv. Oblivious, thank goodness. He saw me looking at him and said,

“Is everything ok, Chris?”

“Yes,” I said, lying my face off. “I need to go speak to the nurse at the desk, but I will be right back.”

Every masked face looked up as I approached. 

“Can I help you?”

“Yes. The person helping my dad needs to be terminated!”

All the eyes got wide as I explained the unbelievable beating I had just taken. I made sure that no one sitting there was unaware of what I had endured. The charge nurse asked another staff person to take the medication, and she walked me back to his room. 

“She usually is assigned to another floor. You be with your dad, and we will sort it out. I am so sorry she acted like that.”

I shut his door behind me as I entered. I startled him, and he knocked an entire cup of water on the floor. I grabbed something to clean it up and was crouched down by the side of the bed. I heard his door slam open. She was back for round two. 

I stood up with water dripping off my hands. 

“What knee does this cream go on?!” She said with the same tone as before. I saw that she was holding the containers in her hands. 

“You don’t know? Are you not in charge of his care right now?”

I was not the same person she had come across moments ago.

“I have not had time to look at his chart!”

“Well, maybe you should. Maybe you should know what you are dealing with. Is it my fault that you aren’t doing your job?”

As I spoke, she visibly started to wither. I didn’t raise my voice, but I decided to pick my words very clearly.

“You are the worst example of a nurse I have ever met. You have no idea what this man has been through coming off a pill that could have caused a major injury. And you are a poor listener. It would be best if you never worked with the public. You should figure out your retirement package immediately.”

I don’t recall the rest of my come to Jesus speech, but her eyes were wide, and she clutched both bottles under her chin. I know I kept my language in line, but I was now in protective mode over a vulnerable adult, and once that is on, there is no coming back. Words streamed from my mouth, and I had no idea what I was saying. I was not about to lose my voice as I had in times past. 

When I quit, she blinked rapidly and stammered,

“I will go look into this.”

“You do that,” I said, going back to the spill at my feet.

I looked over at him. 

“Is everything ok, Chris?”

“Just perfect. Who is winning?”

A new nurse appeared and took over his case for the night. I found out later that the former one had upset numerous people, staff included, and my confrontation was helpful in having her adequately dealt with.

Amazingly, the fire that had been coursing through my jaw wasn’t on the forefront of my mind. I know that there is a scripture that says a kind answer turns away wrath. But, in this case, that didn’t work. 

Proverbs 31:8-9 says,

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushedYes, speak up for the poor and helpless,

and see that they get justice. (NLT) 

There is a balance to all things that God has created. Sometimes, I think people try to ‘nice’ their way through life. I am not against being kind, and I will always chose that before DEF-CON 5, but there are times when a person needs to confront and not enable bad behavior. Don’t cause yourself trouble by not handling conflict properly because your body will begin to manifest symptoms you do not want. Let your voice be heard, be your authentic self, and come out from behind the mask.

With A Cherry On Top

I called her name from the house.  It was one of those beautiful Sunday afternoons where all the windows in the entire house were open to let in the surprisingly cool breezes that you don’t expect at the end of June.  I called for her again, but she didn’t come.  Her brother, Stinky, had long been in the house after winding himself running up and down the fence a few times with the neighbor dogs.  It wasn’t like them not to come in when I called running side by side.  They had come into the world together, and continue to keep an eye on one another.

“Lily!” I said again hoping she wasn’t going to make me come find her.  When I got no response, I slid on the closest pair of sandals.  I located her under one of our trees throwing up.  Once she got it all out of her system, she did her usual energetic tail wag and came running as if nothing had happened.  I have owned a few dogs in my time, so this didn’t seem too unusual as this has occurred many times before.

I secured the two dogs and went grocery shopping.  I came home to more evidence that Lily’s stomach was not okay.  When I tried to give her a little food a few hours later, she headed straight back outside to be sick again.  At that point, I was beginning to become concerned.  It wasn’t like her to have this happen so many times in a row in such a short space of time.  Of course, it was a Sunday night, so our vet was not open.  I decided to pray before bed, ask God to help her and slept with one of my hands on her next to me.

The following morning, I fed her as and she seemed fine.  Business as usual, so I went to work and texted my daughter early in the afternoon.  I received a response back that all was well.  Then, within a half an hour, another text came saying she was throwing up again.  I came home and watched her travel from spot to spot in my backyard until she no longer had anything left in her stomach.

I placed a call to the vet.  I was told they were all booked up until the following day at 3 pm.  The technician told me not to hesitate to go to an emergency vet overnight, and she said not to feed the dog until morning.  I was to give her a small amount to see if the situation was clearing up.

That evening, Lily was more than upset to see her brother getting dinner and she was not.  Again, she zipped around the house, barked at strangers passing by on the sidewalk and didn’t seem to have anything wrong with her.  No matter how much she looked at me with her pleading hungry eyes, I stood my ground withholding her food until morning.

I woke up the next day, and I said to God: You have promised me that you will help me.  You care about my life and all the things that are in it.  I need an answer to this right now.  I have a 3 o’clock appointment at the vet that isn’t going to be free.  Please show me if I should take her in or not today.  I had enlisted the help of four people who I knew were praying for me.  Some would say: Why waste your prayers on a dog?  I would say:  Why not?  God cares about all aspects of my life.

I gave her a small portion of breakfast and followed her outside.  Along the way, I kept thanking God for the answer.  I didn’t have it yet, but I was saying it anyway.  I also kept saying: Show me the source of this trouble.

Lily walked over to a tree in the middle of the yard and began sniffing around.  I crouched down to see what she was finding so interesting.  On the ground was a bright red pit.  I picked it up to examine it.  It was as if someone had taken a cherry and ate the fruit and spit out the seed.  I thought it was odd, but actually dismissed it.

She headed back for the house with no more ill effects.  I still wasn’t sure what the trouble was, but I had a thought to look up cherries and toxicity to dogs.  What I found astounded me.  Not only can a cherry cause stomach problems for pets, the pit is highly toxic and can cause death.  I sprinted back outside to look for the pit but I couldn’t find it.  I gave my daughters instructions not to let the dogs outside until I had returned later.

As 3 ‘o’clock loomed closer, I kept getting this uneasy feeling.  What if she was really sick, and I didn’t take her in? As I pulled into my driveway, this thought went through my mind: if she doesn’t act sick, keep her home and cancel the appointment.  I found her to be back to her old self.  She sprinted across the yard and didn’t seem to have anymore tummy upset.  As I stood and watched her, I kept thinking…where did that cherry pit come from?  We don’t have cherry trees in my yard, nor had I bought any at the store.

God, where did it come from? I asked inwardly.  I felt I was to look to the left of me.  Across the yard, and slightly hidden by my shed, I saw a neighbors tree blossoming over my fence.  I walked over to examine it and found it full of choke cherries.  Some had fallen over the fence into my yard where my dogs run with hers back and forth. I had found the culprit!

I walked along picking up half eaten berries and other full ones so that no more would be ingested.  I saw my neighbor come out, and I spoke with her about the issue.  She said her dogs had never bothered with it, and she immediately cut the branches back so it was no longer dangling over my fence.  She was not aware of the poisonous nature of the fruit to dogs.

When I look back at the series of events, I can see how I was led to the solution.  I tried not to panic, but I gave God a chance.  Many times, we cannot see the truth because we are so blinded by fear.  My dogs are like my children to me, so when one of them is a little off kilter, so am I.  However, I know that God loves me and wants me to live in peace.  This is why I knew if I asked for guidance, an answer would come.

I cannot tell you how comforting that is to the mind and the spirit.  To let go and cast your care into the hands that made all that is around us.  We are not alone in anything we go through.  The answer may not always show up overnight, but if we keep on listening, don’t fall into despair and let the peace of God surround us, it will make us alert to what action to take in finding a remedy.  We are promised that we can have it all with a cherry on top.

Jeremiah 33:3

“Call to me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”