Ann and I spent the summer of 2011 in the Windy City. It was a hopeful time that turned really bad. We travelled to Northwestern University in March of that year for a few days of testing to determine if Ann was a good candidate for a stem cell transplant. The treatment seemed like a good option as there is no cure for NMO, the disease that disabled Ann in 2007. After testing, doctors though the transplant was a good option.
Later that spring we spent four chilly weeks in Chicago getting prepared for the transplant. Ann was hospitalized for some of that time. She received a dose of chemo and lost her hair. Her stem cells were harvested for use later in the process. In late June we drove back to Kansas City for a week. Not too many memories of that week except a visit to a place where Ann bought a wig. In hindsight, I think that Ann probably would have done well to stay with her hat as she did not wear the wig much after that week.
We drove back to Chicago and the transplant process began. Ann received more chemo and her immune system was sufficiently suppressed to receive the stem cells that were previously harvested. The day of her transplant was a joyous day. A hospital chaplain was there praying and saying a blessing over the cells. Our kids and grandkids drove up that weekend to celebrate Ann's birthday. Things were looking good.
Then the bottom dropped out. Ann caught a bug when she had no immune system. She struggled for days fighting it off. Then I got a call at 10:30 on a Monday night saying that Ann was in trouble and needing a breathing machine. I hurried over to the hospital. I spoke to Ann and prayed with her. We both agreed that she needed help. It was one of the scariest times of my life. Did not sleep that night. The next morning they brought in a crash cart and I thought that I was losing my wife. Ann's sister flew in to be with us. One of the guys from my men's group flew in from KC for the day. Perilous times.
On the following Sunday my prayers were answered. Ann had slowly begun a progression of breathing during the week. She was receiving oxygen from the respirator and nourishment through a tube in her nose. On Sunday the respirator was turned off a few times and Ann began to breathe. Later that afternoon the tube was removed and Ann breathed on her own. One of the happiest moments of my life. It would be another day before Ann would be able to have the feeding tube removed. Within days she was moved from intensive care to a regular room. Things were getting back to normal.
Yet the month long hospital stay had taken a toll on Ann's body. She was very weak and could not transfer in and out the bed to her wheelchair. Consequently we would spend one more month in Chicago at the Rehabilitation Institute where Ann would once again fight to regain her mobility. The days seemed to go by slowly. I stayed at a downtown hotel and daily walked over to the rehab hospital where I witnessed a strong woman get stronger. And in September, after a month of rehab, Ann and I drove back to Kansas City where she would be in rehab for three more months.
Looking back on that time, I have mixed feelings. For a few years the new immune system seemed to be keeping her disease at bay. Then it came back a few years ago. Since then we try to simply take life one day at a time. We pray. We hope for the best. We trust in the Lord with all of our hearts as we walk out what might be a difficult future.
... a place that I have been to ... part of the A to Z series.