Sunday Reflections from Another Patient

Hello Warriors;

I have the great pleasure to share the thoughts of my friend, who is also a patient, and patient advocate.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 8.21.52 AMMrs. Linda Radach and I met at the USA Patient Advocate Network workshop in D.C. last year, underwritten by the National Center for Health Research and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 8.21.37 AM

You know when you have the feeling that you’ve known someone forever, but you’ve only just met? That is the way I feel about Linda. Our friendship took mere hours to bloom, partly, I suspect, because she is a type of fertilizer for the soul.

Linda was injured by a failed hip implant, and she has suffered greatly as a result. Still, though her spirit is weary at times, she leans upon her faith in Christ and the Lord of the Bible for wisdom and strength. She has allowed me to share her faith and source of healing in a poem she wrote, Captured Free.

Scripture inspires her life and her writings. She has offered a collection of her thoughts and expressions of her pain in scripture here: Healing Worship – Lenten Study Notes. As a true believer, she runs further into the wisdom of God, so freely given to all, even in her suffering. I hope her words bring you comfort and serve as a salve for your aching soul. I know the many conversations we’ve had were powerful for me and healed some of the broken pieces in my soul. In the realm of human suffering, we are all alike. We all experience it in different ways, but suffering can bring those who sing, in spite of their trials, together – to make a beautiful noise to the Lord who hears our cries.

Here is a beautiful song to listen to, as you read Linda’s words and meditate on them.

Lord, Hear My Prayer

SongbirdSpectrumWC391

“Captured Free”

 

Songbird sits, quiet and still

No warble or whistle, no song or trill

Once free to fly, with songs soaring high

On the perch where she sits

Her soul wooden and dry

 

The view from her cage – dark and drear

No light or shadow, only shades of fear

Dreams shattered

Heart tattered

Pain has silenced her praise

 

There must be a way to regain her song

But night after night the silence grows long

Freedom and joy – mere memories now

Still, faint though it be, hope wonders how

A melody stirs in the darkness

 

Slowly light dawns upon the small locked cage

Revealing the way known to the wise and the sage

In this new morning she would take a chance

To free her soul and rejoin the dance

Humming the melody of the darkness

 

Imperceptible at first, the cage doors released

Giving flight to her wings as imprisonment ceased.

Tearful, yet growing stronger, her song she raised

Offering up a sacrifice of praise

Giving thanks for the limitations of her life in the cage.

 

By Linda J. L. Radach

November, 2012

 

Look for these beautiful songbirds, and remember the Lord’s word.

He cares for you.

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows”. – Luke 12:7

“Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God.” – Psalm 84:3

bird-poster

Where is the FREE PRESS in the WORLDWIDE MESH MESS?

Please find my latest blog for #TMWF supporter Baron | Budd PC in Dallas. Great people, and I’m so grateful that they have given me a louder voice on a larger platform. Grateful for them. This blog is about the recent Mrs. Joan Budke (deceased) v. Ethicon, regarding its Prolift product. Saldy, Mrs. Budke did within approximately nine months of the implant of the device. Johnson and Johnson

Where is the FREE PRESS in the WORLDWIDE MESH MESS?.

6/2014 – The Faces of Mesh: Heather Zuk – Her Passion for Plenty

Heather Zuk is a breath of fresh air.  She has a light and airy countenance about her that makes you want to float into her realm.  She is creative, witty, hard working, heart warming, and all of 20 years old.  Over the six or so months that I have watched her online, followed her posts and giggled at her shenanigans, one word comes to mind immediately: BEAUTY.  

Heather playing guitar

Heather playing guitar

She surrounds herself with it.  She embodies it.  She has a lovely outlook on life, not an ounce of bitterness in her tone or, I imagine, even lurking around in the roots of her heart.  She never has unkindness at the tip of tongue; never a shaming remark; never a desire to tear down. Quite the contrary, she is the consummate builder: she builds flocks of chicken; libraries of photos; books filled with poetry.  She’s a creative mind, and it’s on that gift that she chooses to focus.  She’s kind and a brilliant and creative steward of all things lovely in the world.  I see her in pictures of meadow-filled flowers; in pictures with family, smiles broad about their faces, clearly enjoying the company of one another; in pictures adoring the relationships she’s built with her brood of chickens.

When I ask her what the mesh has taken from her, she seems not to understand the question.  Innocence maybe, but her youth has not afforded her the hindsight to gaze upon the bodily sacrifice of bearing and rearing children.  I ask again.  This time, the answer comes more naturally, “Well I used to love to help out with the farm more, you know, milking the cows and stuff, and I can’t do that anymore.  I miss helping with the work on the farm that I used to do.  But I can still do a lot,” she concludes.  Our vignettes of conversation never end on sour notes, or lingering notes of fear, or uncertainty.  That’s just not who Heather is.

She is a 20-yr-old who knows what she wants and is content with what she has, and what she’s able to do, despite what’s been taken from her by the hernia mesh that was first implanted in her as a 17-yr-old.

Playful and fun!

Playful and fun!

When I interview her, it’s more like a girl chat.  It’s fun and fresh and spirited and upbeat.  It feels like mesh is someone else’s problem.  We talk about maybe getting to meet someday, about her photography and, dare I say, quite eccentric interest in poultry.  New York feels closer than ever during our discussion.  Heather is multi-dimensional, and she’s not afraid to show it.  I love that about her.  Oh ya, and she works at a body shop. “Just in the front office,” she reminds me, but inside I think, “How cool! I just love this kid.”

 When we do enter the mesh realm, she explains to me that when she was 17, she was mounting the stairs to her bedroom, and on the way, she sneezed.  A few short minutes passed, and she began to feel weak, nauseous, fatigued and just “very ill.”  Neither she nor her parents knew why.  After three or four hours of enduring the worsening symptoms; they subsided almost as abruptly, so she and her family thought it simply to be a strange, single incident . . . until it happened again a few months later.

This time, they sought immediate medical attention and discovered that Heather had, not one, but two hernias – one femoral and one inguinal.

Heather was referred to a specialist, and most of you reading know, “the rest of the story,” as the late, great radio personality, Paul Harvey, spoke in signing off at the end of his radio program.  Unfortunately, like many of you, Heather can’t end her story here.  After seeing a specialist, she and her family decided to follow doctors’ orders and have mesh implanted at both hernia sites.  She has never been the same.  In fact a third hernia (femoral) showed up about a month after her first mesh implant surgery.  She has had another hernia since, hernia revision surgery, and attempts at removing some of the mesh, and all this, by the ripe-old-age of 20.

Doctors say the mesh is likely to interfere with her ability to have children down the road, but she doesn’t live in that reality. She tells me, “I guess I’ll deal with that down the road, when it’s time.” I have an online friendship with her, and I delight in the person she is. I watch her post funny videos; take silly pictures with her sister; enjoy her family; playfully, skillfully and artfully enjoy her hobbies. We make a pact on the phone. She will help me learn to raise chickens, and she is excited to share with me all she knows about them, when I tell her I’ll be taking on a few yard birds soon.  We giggle about my neighbors “free range chickens,” and their birdie little antics. We laugh; make pinky swear; and both find a great deal of humor in my chicken-raising neighbor’s name: Mr. Fetherston.  I delight in her joy. Not everyone laughs at that, and I feel a kindred soul. Mesh again recedes from the forefront of our conversation.  I ask why she likes chickens so much, and she says, “I don’t know; I just always have.” I sense that she enjoys them more so now; because, with her injury, she can still participate fully in the activities of caring for chickens, not having to give up facets of their care, like she’s had to with her other bigger barnyard friends, cows and the like. Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 10.28.55 AM

Her family – father, mother, brother and two sisters – are supportive, and she knows that is a gift. She is wise beyond her years in some ways, but also green, bright and new. I sense she has no vocabulary for what many other mesh-injured women have lost, because she is simply at the point in life where many of us long to be again: she hasn’t gained quite as much to lose as her elder counterparts. That doesn’t lessen her suffering, in my opinion, for pain and suffering is always relative. In a way, I grieve that she may never experience what has been lost by so many of you; deep relationships with adult children and spouses, careers and dignity. It certainly, again, begs the question,

 “Is it really better to have loved and to have lost, than never to have loved at all?”

It’s a question that floats in the Mysterious; hangs in the balance, some days tipping towards yes, some days tipping towards no.  She confesses that sometimes when she ponders the future too much, anxiety begins to take hold – the terrifying type – full blown panic attacks. Having experienced such myself, Heather and I agree; there is no better word to describe them than, TERRIFYING.  On one recent occasion, she began to feel the pangs of anxiety growing stronger. She tried to watch a movie with her sister, but nothing seemed to help.

“I was trying not to burst out crying for no reason [during the movie]. When it finished my sister went to bed, and I stood in the bathroom trying to figure out why I was crying, and I started blaming the mesh. That led to over analyzing all the bad things the mesh has done and possibly could still do, and before I knew it, my pulse had escalated and I started hyperventilating. All of that caused me to panic more, because I couldn’t make it stop; so I sat there sobbing; almost passing out; hyperventilating uncontrollably for about 20-30 minutes before my pulse returned to normal. When it finally ended, I was so completely exhausted I barely made it to my bed before falling asleep.”

In the same exchange she says, “I am in constant pain, and I struggle with depression,” but she is quick to add, “but I don’t focus on that.” In fact, her writing about her experience is quite eloquent. Read more here: http://herpassionforpoultry.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/two-definitions/ from her first-person point of view.

One thing is clear as crystal to me about Heather. She is full of love; full of joy; full of compassion; happiness; empathy; adventure; spirit; and Hope. I believe that whatever or whomever comes her way; she will absorb the Bad, and turn back out into the world the Good. She has a Spirit about her that makes one know her story ends happily ever after, however it actually ends.

Enjoy her talent as a photographer in the gallery I’ve posted here, and visit her blog http://herpassionforpoultry.wordpress.com to get to know more about this lovely, quirky, genuine and grateful girl with the giant joy that makes up some of her beauty, and a woman I have come to call friend.

Thank you, Heather, for sharing yourself with us. We are all better for knowing you.

 

The Unbearable Likeness of Being a Mesh Angel’s Daughter

The Mesh Warrior BluesOne of my favorite blessings about this, our mesh-injured community that we are slowly building, is that EVERYONE gets validation, not from doctors maybe, but from one another.  Mesh Angels and Warriors, immediate and extended family; we all get to experience that sense of relief when we discover we are not alone.  On that note, please find validation and healing in today’s writing from guest blogger, Tanya, a Mesh Angel’s daughter.  

Thank you for sharing your story. ~ God Bless you all/TMW


Tanya

Tanya

The Unbearable Likeness of Being a Mesh Angel’s Daughter

~ by Tanya

When you grow up in the Midwest, summer evenings mean lightning bugs (my favorite) and June bugs (Holy terrors).  It was always too humid and hot to do anything other than sit inside and play or read in the air conditioning during the day, so my mom would take me and my younger brother and sister for walks nearly every evening. My mom is 5’9” with long legs, and we would have to run to keep up with her. I don’t remember her sitting still unless she was reading the newspaper or reading library books to us.

Lighting Bugs

Lighting Bugs

Sometimes it’s hard to remember now that my mom is that same woman. I honestly don’t know if my brother and sister remember much about Mom when she was more active. When my brother was about 3 years old, he took off running in a parking lot. My mom ran after him and slipped on the gravel. She had to have stitches on her nose – scraped up her hands and knees pretty badly too. That’s how my mom used to be.


“My mother RAN.”


My mother doesn’t run anymore. She barely walks. Until recently, she couldn’t even sit for very long. Thankfully she has found some relief with medication and physical therapy. Her days are still full of pain, but the medication brings it to a tolerable level. She is never completely pain free.

My mother is a grandmother. She longs to lift her grandkids up into her arms and give them hugs and kisses. She wants to wrestle with them and play tickles and make their lunches. She is the kind of adult who never speaks down to kids. She talks to them like they are grown, and they love her for it. My mom considers conversations with children to be equal to great debates on literature and history.

She can barely hold the little ones on her lap now. It causes her too much pain. My brother lives closest to my parents. He has a boy, James. James and my mom are very close. Since he was a baby, he has sat with Mom on her special chair in the living room. They have watched TV shows together or read stories or looked at pictures of James’ cousins Zeke and Evie (my sister’s kids).

My mother, James’ grandmother, struggles to have him over at the house unless Grandpa is there too. She can’t get James a drink of water or a snack, because just walking across the room is an insurmountable task at times. Keeping up with him while playing outside is out of the question.

James and his grandma love each other very much. James’ grandma loves him so much that she doesn’t let him see when she is in agony. Once or twice, a tear has escaped, and James has been very concerned for her. She tries to be careful and tries not to worry him.

“What’s the matter, Grandma?” He comes over and gives her a hug and kiss. That’s what you do when someone you love is hurting.

“Grandma’s tummy hurts. It’s okay,” she tells him.

Grandmother and Grandson - a new relationship.

Grandmother and Grandson – a new relationship.

Since the first of this year, my mother has been to the emergency room more than twenty times, simply because there was just too much pain – intractable pain in medical terms – pain that cannot be eased. Yes, she has seen doctors. Yes, they have given her pain medication. Yes, she has seen specialists. She has had MRIs, CT Scans, Sonograms, Echocardiograms, X-rays, etc.  The pain levels have often been too high for her to bear.

“I don’t see any acute cause for your pain,” the doctors say.

My father has to sit outside the triage room at the ER. It’s hospital procedure – separate the spouse in case there is any abuse the patient wants to disclose. My dad doesn’t get much sleep these days. His wife’s pain wakes them both in the night. She needs help. Dad is the one there to help her. He is her home health care provider, the breadwinner, the housekeeper, maintenance man, etc. They don’t really remember what it means to simply be husband and wife anymore. They just try to get through one day at a time. I worry about my dad as much as my mom.

I moved away from my hometown three and a half years ago. Mom had been gradually experiencing more and more pain and limited mobility for a few years before I left, but it wasn’t debilitating at that point. I visited my parents a couple times a year, each time noticing mom’s worsened state, but still not fully realizing what was happening.

Last February I bought a plane ticket home again, and in the weeks leading up to my trip, I started talking to Mom about the plans for what we would do. She said things like, “Remember, I can’t do all of that.” My dad started sending me text messages saying that Mom was in the ER. “Lots of pain,” the texts read. I began to worry that Mom’s situation had gotten much worse since I had seen her last.

That week last February during my visit is still a complete blur. Days and nights bleed together. There was little sleep. I made pill charts to make sure Mom didn’t overdose on painkillers and anxiety medications. They were prescribed, “As needed,” and she hated taking them. I cooked meals that she didn’t eat – just too much pain. She had no appetite. I didn’t eat much either.

I cried more than I had in a long time. I followed Mom back and forth: from her chair to the bathroom and back; to the bed that we brought downstairs for her. Climbing stairs had become a burden for her. I researched everything I could. On one particular occasion, Mom got so frustrated with my constant research, that she literally took my cell phone out of my hands and told me to, “Give up.” She was struggling to hold on to any hope at all. Don't give up

I left that visit with a broken heart for my mother. I sat in the airport, numb from the experience. I ordered a drink and some food at the bar. I slept like a baby on the plane. My boyfriend picked me up from the airport, and I cried all the way home. He held me, and I wept for my mother. I wept for my father. I wept for my brother and sister and nephews and niece. Our mother, wife, grandmother and friend is still here, but we miss her. She misses herself. The mesh with all its pain, complications and unanswered questions has impacted our relationships with her.

My sister flew home about a month after I was home. She didn’t take her kids. It was for the best; Grandma was in bad shape. We, her family members, have become nurses, doing the kinds of up close and personal things that nurses do – my brother, sister, and father – all of us. I don’t disclose this to embarrass my family, although it most definitely will. I tell you these things because this is the truth of living with a mesh-injured mother. It is the truth.

We have become a family poised to take action. We research. We ask questions. We are the squeaky wheels. We spend a lot of time on the phone with one another planning courses of action regarding doctors, lawyers, health insurance, etc.


“In the midst of it all, my mother reminds me that she is a person, not a project. We must remember that. It is her body. She gets to make decisions.”


My mother is a person. My mother is a person in pain, a person who did what her doctor recommended to fix a problem, and her life changed forever – and not for the better. My mom has a mesh implant, and her health problems started shortly after it was implanted. We have yet to find a doctor who will diagnose the mesh as the culprit and cause of her pain and/or the litany of other symptoms she has developed since the procedure.

It’s highly likely that the rest of my mother’s life will be one that includes pain in all its iterations. Thankfully, she has found a pain management program that has made her pain more manageable, but it is a daily struggle.

My family has a different life than we thought we ever would. We get angry about it sometimes. We get angry that there are so many women struggling in the same ways. My family and I pray and try to be an encouragement, and we give one another grace when one of us just can’t handle the emotional strain of it all. My mom has many times been just as brave for the rest of us as she is for James, our family’s precious next chapter. She sees how upset I get – how upset we all get – about it all.

She’s afraid of worrying me. She called the other day, and no, she didn’t talk about her pain or herself; she actually asked how I was doing.

That is the kind of mother I have. I pray that I will have her for many more years.

I love her very much.

A mother and daughter's heart is inseparable.

A mother and daughter’s heart is inseparable.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND THANK YOU ALL!

Hello Angels & Warriors;

I have a thousand and one completely unorganized thoughts racing through my mind right now, but the one thought that keeps peeking through is THANK YOU. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!  YOU are the ones who have supported and blessed me in the four months I’ve had this blog up and running.  We are a community who is making a dent in the way the world works, and for that and the privilege of being in your company, I am blessed beyond measure, and you all give me hope to press on still more.  Two quick comments and then over the break, I’m excited to write some blogs that have been pressing on my heart for quite some time now.

1) I got to visit with one of the most AMAZING Mesh Angels ever yesterday in Nashville, where she lives.  Her name is LoLo, and her game is surviving and thriving.  I also met her husband, Phill and her grandchild, Kaiden.  I cannot say enough good things about this family.  I will be doing a series on them through the early part of next year, and in Phil I hope to paint the picture well of who he is, for he is THE REAL DEAL:  tender, kind, wise and a true MESH WARRIOR for his wife, his family and all of you.  I can’t wait to tell you more.

Aaron & Beautiful LoLo

Aaron & Beautiful LoLo

LoLo; Phil, The Mesh Warrior & 4-yr. old Caden

LoLo, Phill, The Mesh Warrior & 4-yr. old Kaiden

2) We’ve made some great headway on my little cobbled together fundraiser.  Here is the site to donate: http://igg.me/at/themeshwarrior/x/5291818

Click, read, donate via Paypal or credit/debit.  It's that easy!

CLICK HERE, read, donate via Paypal or credit/debit. It’s that easy!

Please consider sharing with your network or making a small donation yourself- $1 is enough.  I’d rather have 18,000 $1 donations, because it means we have a real investment from our community in our cause.  But- trust me, if anyone out there wants to contribute the remaining $17,000 – go for it!  To be clear – NONE OF THIS MONEY WILL GO TO ME OR MY FAMILY.  It will go to get as many low-income women towards their mesh removal surgeries as possible, and it will also help me understand better about what the price tag for one woman (to her chosen doctor) and a caregiver is – that way, we can campaign better with an actual range of numbers.

God Bless you all!  May your Spirit be Merry and Bright this week as you celebrate the entry of GRACE into this planet – as a concept and as a man.  MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Love,

Your Mesh Warrior

Thursday Teaser – AM I GETTING YOUR ATTENTION?

Hi Angels & Warriors;

I must admit I’m feeling very communicative today after coming out of my shell following my trip to UCLA.  A couple things you should know first:

Barb Vance is A-to-the-AWESOME!  

A few days after Barb's Mesh Explant... she looks EVEN BETTER now!

A few days after Barb’s Mesh Explant… she looks EVEN BETTER now!

She is doing incredibly well.  Still healing, but I drove deep inside the Pine Curtain last night (Tyler, TX) to spend a few hours with her, and she is feeling and looking absolutely beautiful!  It’s been almost three weeks since I’ve seen her and slightly over one month since her explant with Dr. Raz.  I don’t think she’ll mind me sharing with you all the two most marked changes I noticed:

  1. No more BLOATING!  She looked so healthy.  No puffy tummy, no puffiness in her face.  Her skin looked beautiful.  She just looked happy and like a body on the mend in splendid fashion!  In fact, our next meeting will include SHOPPING!  Love it- what used to be a dream will become a reality- enjoying a trip to the mall with a friend!  Ladies, have hope because of Barb’s journey.  It does get better.  My eyes have seen.
  2. Her conversational style. . . previously forgotten words easily came to the forefront of her pretty lil’ head, right out of her smiling mouth and into a great conversation.  It was as if I were watching this imagery of a San Francisco morning “mesh fog” being forced out of her much more slender self with every word she uttered.  I was so sad when I had to leave!  She was still herself,  just MORE of herself and MORE of who God created her to be: a caring, hopeful, sacrificial and fun friend, aunt, mother and grandmother . . . her story, a fantastically incredible miracle to have witnessed.  How many times will we get to say that in our lives?  I WITNESSED A MIRACLE!

This is A miracle I am truly expecting to see over and over again, as God uses Dr. Raz and the other doctors who are learning alongside him to fight back this evil with some deadly weapons: hope, knowledge, skill, and oh ya . . . a scalpel!  There is only ONE thing that evil has no defense against: THE TRUTH!!  And Barb is actually, truly LIVING PROOF that it is so.  God bless you today and every day.  Look for the miracles around you.  They ARE there.  Much love to you all, and you’ll probably hear from me again today since I am feeling quite “bloggy.”

And don’t forget… tomorrow is the Friday Gift-away! 

Who and where they are, we do not know.  But one thing we do know. . . their heads are hung in pain, fear, weeping and all the other emotions you all know.

Who and where they are, we do not know. But one thing we do know. . . their heads are hung in pain, fear, weeping and all the other emotions you all know.

Please remember, the qualifications for the Gift-away are a bit different this week. You must bring at least ONE NEW ANGEL to the blog- someone who doesn’t know our community is out there- people just like we were at one point: alone, afraid, lied to, taken for granted, forgotten, lonely and surrounded by people who do not believe us.

As I explained here, since most of the groups on Facebook are closed or secret, how will we find every last one of those ONE MILLION+ women who are suffering in your same situation?

With YOUR HELP- that’s how.  If this blog feels like a rallying cry, that’s because it is.

You can do it!!  I am praying and hope, hope, hoping to greet many new ANGELS tomorrow and give some blessed and deserving ANGEL-WARRIOR a cool prize. . . .

Am I getting your attention??  If not, tell me what else I can do. You know I will do it- don’t tempt me!

Go find ’em and bring them to a new world of hope, love and possibility.

Hoping and helping for HEALING,

Your Mesh Warrior

P.S. – THE RACE IS ON!  I ALREADY FOUND MY NEW MESH ANGEL!!  Anyone out there as competitive as I can be?

We were supposed to be at LAX- in the wrong place at the wrong time . . .

Barb_Aaron. . . but we weren’t.  

We were scheduled to be at LAX in Terminal 1 yesterday, November 1st, on what proved to be a terrifying day and a deadly tragedy.  My prayers are fixed on the innocent people involved and on their families.  Loss is a part of life, and none of us knows what will happen in the very next moment in life.  Only God knows how long we will live this life, and only we can choose how to live the precious moments we have.  I am reminded of how precious this gift of life is, and to never, ever, ever take it for granted.  Always let your words be loving and your spirit be one that lifts others up from the depths of the reality of this fallen world we live in – quite an ugly place sometimes.

I decided to write this blog entry, because several of you have asked to hear the story.  So this is the story of how Barb Vance and I were supposed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but MIRACULOUSLY, we were not.

It’s Tuesday, October 29.  Barb and I are lying in bed as she recovers from her Oct. 18 surgery and I write.  We’ve become familiar with this comforting routine we have each day.  I wake up and go get coffee for the two of us, and with each story shared, each regret from the past vulnerably uttered, and our hopes and dreams for a future without mesh, we sip that early-morning nectar of the gods and awaken for the day ahead.  On this particular day, we start to wonder, “Why are we still here?”  We don’t really like L.A. in general; we have no more appointments, and Barb is feeling better than expected 11 days after her full mesh explant.  Barb says, “Well I suppose we could just leave early.  That would get you back to your hubby sooner, and I could see my grand babies in their Halloween costumes.”  This is starting to make a lot of sense, so she calls, and easily rebooks our already-scheduled November 1st flight for the very next day, October 30 at 5pm.  Easy enough.  Plenty of time to pack, and enough time to host the first “Tea at the Tiverton for Mesh Angels” (another blog to come about that soon).  We get going on our plans for the tea and begin to pack for our early departure.  I do laundry and run errands.  She makes calls to other Angels at UCLA to say goodbye.  Everything seems in order.  We have our lovely tea on Tuesday night, and by Wednesday afternoon at 3:00, we are headed to LAX for our 5:00 departure on Southwest Airlines.  I put LAX into my iPhone’s GPS, a procedure I’ve now used three times, without incident, since arriving in L.A. October 14.

Here’s where things start to get pretty darn interesting and — a good word is hard to find here — bizarre, like Twilight Zone bizarre.  For some reason on this particular day, my GPS decides to take us on a winding  (although also rather scenic) route that terminates at the BACK of the airport.  If you’ve ever flown to LAX, you know that it is so big that it has its own zip code, literally.  WHY, after three successful journeys to and from the airport would my GPS dump us in the back!?  There are construction signs and workers, a dirt road, orange signs every where, a chorus of, “No- this is not right.  You are lost.”  A worker shakes his head at us; we shake our heads back to express acceptance and the knowledge that we are, in fact, completely lost.  I roll down my window:

Him:  “Jou are een dee wrong place.  Where ees eet that jou are g’ing?”

Me:  “We need to get to the front of the airport.  My GPS sent us here to the wrong side.”

Him:  (laughing)  “Jou neeeed to make a turn on dee ro-ad Peeekings.”

Me:  “What is the name of the road?”

Him:  “Peeekings.”

Me:  “Peeekings?”

Him:  “No, Peeekings.”

Me:  “Ok, thanks for your help!  Wish us luck!”

Him:  “Good luck.”

Me:  “Si, Buena Suerte, and Gracias!”

Time- 4:00

I have traveled a lot in my life, so I’m not too worried yet, but I’m on the verge for sure.  I try to keep calm as Barb starts to ask, “Should I call the airline and tell them we’ll be late or see if there is a later flight?” The steely resolve in me is not yet ready to admit defeat.  “No, I think we’ll make it.  I think we’re good.  We just need to look for ‘Peeeekings St.’ and turn left.  That will take us to the entrance.”

As we make a u-turn and drive away, we are both watching intently as we read each sign we pass.  We finally pass a road whose name begins with the letter “P” but the road leads to nowhere, and we are each trying to sound it out to see how it might could be pronounced “Peeeeekings” with a heavy accent.  We’re not feeling it.  We keep driving.  We see a motorcycle policeman in the parking lot of some kind of airport building where we are pretty sure passengers are not allowed.  We pull into the parking lot anyway.  Barb rolls down her window, “Excuse me.  I think we’re lost.  Could you help us?  Our GPS sent us to the wrong side of the airport.”  Two gentlemen approach our car, very ready and willing to help.  Barb notices that one man has on a suit with an official looking gold pin and tie.  She says, “Are you the mayor or somethin’?” to which he answers, “No, but you could say I am The King of the Airport.”  We agree we’ve somehow been led to just the people who can help us.  Barb gets bolder, “Can we have a police escort to the entrance?”  To our surprise, the motorcycle policeman says, “Yes, of course.”  Barb and I look at  one another in awe.  Despite our obvious time issues, I must make time for a selfie. . . this is just too unbelievable and without pictures to prove it, I fear it will be just that: completely unable to be believed. So here they are:  The King of LAX and the Nicest Policeman in all of L.A.

The King of LAX

The King of LAX

The Nicest Policeman in all of L.A.

The Nicest Policeman in all of L.A.

The Official Police Escort

The Official Police Escort

Time- 4:15-ish

So now we’re really on our way, everything really is going to be fine, but we look at the clock and again see we’re still pushing it, but we can make it if we use the Sky Cap and Curbside Check-in.  But still there is that one pesky little issue . . . checking in the Hertz rental car.  Hmmmm . . . this is a problem, one I’m not sure how I’m going to get us out of in 45 minutes.  Barb says, “Do you think I should call the airline and tell them we’re late and check on other flights?”  Despite our recent victories, God-sent policeman and The King of LAX, I must admit, “Yeah, I think we better call now.”

Following our friendly policeman closely, we turn left onto a street called “Pershing.”  Barb and I look at one another . . . . . “Oh, Peeeekings!  We thank God for the policeman again, as we never would have made that connection.  We arrive at the Southwest Airlines Sky Cap as we say goodbye with an enthusiastic thumbs up and emphatic waves goodbye to our Angel Escort that appeared at just the right time.

We open the door and hurriedly find a wheelchair and debrief the friendly SW Airline reps of our debacle.

Time- 4:30

We still have to get checked in, baggage and all and everything through TSA security before we’re in the clear.  Oooh- and still, there’s this problem of returning the dang car.  I ask the SW clerks if there is a protocol for leaving the car at the airport, rather than driving to Hertz (which at LAX is completely outside the airport).  A disappointing, “No, sorry about that,” leaves me frantic but as always, still problem solving and unwilling to admit defeat until the bitter end.  Barb informs me the 5:00 flight is the last one of the evening headed to DFW.  Now I start freaking.  This whole time, I’ve been trying to get through the Hertz phone tree, to no avail . . . busy signals, dropped calls, transfers that lead to ringing that goes nowhere and to no one.

Time- 4:33

“Barb, all our baggage is checked in.  Please take my purse and pillow, my backpack with your wheelchair, and I promise I’ll be on the plane.  Just get on the plane and wait for me.  I promise I’ll be there.”  During our two-week stay together, I had broken a promise to her, a circumstance outside my control, but still I HATE breaking promises, and I make this promise now as a sort of fuel- thinking, “I cannot break another promise to her.  I cannot break another promise.  I must keep my word.  I will be there.”

I jump in the rental car and like a race car out of the pit, I head to the Hertz location outside the airport. When I arrive, I sheepishly park in a handicap spot and run into the Hertz office.  There are people everywhere, like someone stepped on an ant hill.

Time- 4:37

I am still running and I just start yelling into the air like an absolute crazy woman, “Can someone help me? I need someone to drive me back to the airport in my own rental car.  Please- someone help me!”  People are staring at me, but I don’t care.  I made a promise.  Well that, and everything I own is on the plane with Barb.  I have my license, my ticket, my phone, the clothes on my back and this albatross of a car (which is white I might add).  A few men in black and yellow hats run over to me.

Me:  “I need someone to drive me back to the airport in my own car.  I’m going to miss my 5:00 flight, and I have an injured person waiting on the flight for who I am the caregiver.  Please, please help me.”

Him:  “Only shuttle drivers can drive the cars.”

Me:  “Ok, well can you call a shuttle driver to drive my car?”

Him:  “Well, we don’t really do that normally.  And you still have to check-in your car.”

Me:  “I understand.  But this isn’t a normal situation.  I just need some help.”

Him:  “Let me call and see if I can find a shuttle driver.”

As he jogs off, I look around and realize just how many people are there.  It is the largest rental car facility I have ever seen.  There are hundreds of people, and they are all doing things “the right way” and not the crazy-ranting-late-lunatic-tourist-way.  The man comes back, “I found you a shuttle driver.  He’ll be here in two minutes.”  I say to him, “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you.  Thank you for helping me.  I just needed some help regular-person to regular-person, without all this red tape.  THANK YOU.”  He acknowledges my gratitude with a tip of his hat and stays close to his walkie-talkie, looking to and fro for the on-his-way shuttle driver.

Time- 4:41

I am pacing and praying and looking around for anyone who might look like a “shuttle driver.”  After about three or four minutes, I start asking people, “Are you a shuttle driver?”  I have no idea what criteria I am using to select those I ask, but I ask again- a different person, “Are you a shuttle driver.”  Both “NOs” leave me panicking.  The man in the yellow and black hat runs out to the driver of a golf-cart-like “shuttle” that takes incoming clients to rented cars that are parked what could probably be miles away from the central office of this huge place.  I see them speaking and nodding their heads.  The man in the yellow and black hat runs towards me, as I run outside to meet him.  “Freddie can drive you.  He’s licensed to drive all our vehicles!”  I say thank you again so many times and take off in a sprint to my car, yelling back to Freddie, “C’mon Freddie, my car is right here.”  I notice he is trying his best to run with me, but he is limping a little, and I notice he is elderly once we are both in my/their/his car.  He has gray sprinkled throughout his jet black hair and a weary-sounding voice.  He is kind.  He is calm.  He is not affected by my craziness or by my frantic demeanor.

Time- 4:47

I still will not admit defeat.  We get to the Hertz gate.  We have to give the attendant our mileage before we can be set free to continue our pursuit.  The mileage is digital.  We can’t find it.  This woman is not budging, despite my pleadings.  I suggest they just subtract the distance to and from the airport from the mileage once Freddie returns with the car.  “No, that is not happening,” declares the attendant.  We are turning the car off and on, off and on.  We are pushing buttons.  Nothing is working.  Suddenly the mileage appears.  We have no idea how, but I am screaming across Freddie to the attendant, “21,871; 21,871; 21,871, please open the gate.”  I literally feel like a prisoner set free when the gate opens, seeming to invite us to the next phase of this insane journey.

Time- 4:50

I say to Freddie, “Now, I am not asking you to do anything illegal, but I have got to make that 5:00 flight.  I am accompanying an injured person who is already boarded.”  Freddie nods.  He gets me.  I close my eyes, and I begin praying aloud.  I barely remember what I prayed for, except that my hand was on Freddie’s shoulder and I was praying for his safety, his health, his family, his job, his relationship with God.  I thanked God for the many blessings He had already given:  The King of LAX; The Niceest Policeman in L.A.; the construction workers, the man in the yellow and black hat, the Southwest Skycap employees, Barb.  I look up and apologize to Freddie, saying “I’m sorry; I’m just freaking out a bit and I’m scared, and this is what I do when I’m scared: I pray, ” to which he replies, “You keep it up girl. We got ta getcha to da plane.” We arrive at the terminal, and I look my Angel Driver in the eyes and say, “God bless you, Freddie.”  And I sprint out of the car and into the building.Statue_of_angel_Ottawa

Time- 4:54

Hey it’s been working so far, so I start screaming into the air again to anyone who might listen, “Where is security?  Where is security?”  Someone answers: “Straight ahead, up the escalators!”  I say “Thank you” and keep running, up the escalator, through a maze of security ropes, explaining to the main TSA agent that I am late and need help.  He looks at my ticket and says, “You sure do,” and he helps me cut to the front of the line.  I have to take off seven bracelets one by one because I know from past travel that they will set the sensors off.  It feels like an eternity.  Why did I have to wear SEVEN bracelets today??  Shoes off, sunglasses off, jewelry off, I go through the body scanner.  Eyes closed and face clenched, I am holding my breath.  GREEN LIGHT!!!  I gather up my bracelets, slap on my flip flops and sprint again- through concourses, restaurant openings, hallways, people, and I am unsure whether it’s Gate 4 or 7.  I think it changed, but I’m not sure, so I use the tried-and-true method: chant like a crazy person: “Which gate goes to El Paso/DFW?”

Time: 5:00

I hear a voice, “Are you Aaron?”

Me:  “Yes, yes, I’m Aaron.”

VOICE:  “Run, run- this way, hurry!”

Me:  Oh my gosh, am I at the right gate?  Does this go to El Paso/DFW?

VOICE:  “Yep, ticket please.  You’re free to pass into the jetway.  You made it.  Have a great flight.”

Time- 5:02

There are a few others still boarding at the end of the jetway.  I run towards the plane, and I’m not in my right mind- not at all- and once I get inside the plane, I yell again (although this time, it sounds much more like the loud, pathetic whimper of a frightened sheep), “BAArb. . . . . . . BArb!”

Understandably, she lowers her head and hat while raising her hand.  I sit down in my seat, next to her.  I cannot even think straight.  I am sitting on this plane.  How did this all happen?  Recent events are flooding my mind in pieces, pieces which break off and wander down mental paths of what could have gone wrong at each turn.  I can’t even talk.  Barb is as calm as cat napping in a warm window seat, and that is what I have wanted all along, for my Mesh Angel to feel taken care of:  calm, relaxed, full of trust for her caregiver and friend.  The flight attendant shuts the door.

Church by Tiverton

The Beautiful Church next to Tiverton House in L.A.

Time- 5:04

The captain speaks, “I’m sorry we’re pushing off just a little late today folks.  We had a few kinks to work out, but we’ll get you there on time.  Should be a smooth flight with a few bumps as we take our quick, 15-minute stop in El Paso and then we’ll have you into Dallas right on time- about 10:35.”  I lay my head on my pillow, and just keep thanking God, for who else could clear a path like this?  For the literal love of God, I didn’t even check my rental car in.  Freddie could be headed to Tijuana by now, but somehow I don’t think so.  My mind stops racing as I settle into an utterly overwhelming feeling of gratitude.  Barb rubs and pats my back, and I finally admit, not my victory, but the victory of something much greater than me, with a heart filled with hope and goodness much grander than mine.  I am convinced his name is GOD, the GOD of the Bible, the God who says things like this:

“Look at the nations and watch, and be utterly amazed for I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” -Habakkuk 1:5

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” -Romans 12:2

“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for hope and a future, plans to prosper you and not to harm you.” -Jeremiah 29:11

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish.  And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” -Esther 4:14

Angels are often depicted as sweet little babies or frail looking women.  Actually, Biblically they are very powerful and carry out God's orders with might.

Angels are often depicted as sweet little babies or frail looking women. Actually, Biblically they are very powerful and carry out God’s orders with might.

In other words, we don’t know exactly why we’re here sometimes, some days.  But when the day comes, one for which you were made, you’d better be ready and trained up to be used by God to accomplish His purposes.  This I believe is the best thing I can do with my life, and I am grateful that He used me, sharpened me, toughened me up, so that I can remain prepared for “such a time as this,” because I’m assuming since I’m still here, there will be at least one more.