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Heads Up, Heads Down

I find that sympathy breaks my focus. When I’m climbing a vertical slope out of a hot valley, and my husband keeps asking me if I’m okay, his expressed concern, though appreciated, is an interruption. My entire mind is concentrated on willing my body to work, and I am weakened if I pause to consider how I feel. My mind is my greatest asset, and I count on it to have the strength to get me to climb any mountain, whether physically or figuratively. I’m heads down, drawing strength out of the deep within me.

Kiara has had a tough few days. She’s never experienced being post-operative before. She was unconscious for her early recovery last time. The skin on her head is thin because she is young, thin because she is female, and weak from previous surgeries. He has had to pull it tightly as well, so he has put deep sutures into the connective layer underneath, pulling it extra tightly, to try and relieve the pressure on the surface sutures. This is one of the reasons she is experiencing pain on her head. The bruising from the operation has sunk down, causing her eye to swell shut.

Also, though her abdomen surgery-wound is from her belly button and wraps around horizontally to her side, inside it’s even bigger as they have had to cut under the skin up towards her ribs and down towards her pelvis because the soft tissues had adhered to the bone. So the wounded cavity in her abdomen is huge, which is also very sore.

Added to this, even though she has been in pain, the doc has kept lowering her pain meds so that she is more fully awake. He needs to observe how she has responded neurologically, and what setbacks we are dealing with. Can she still say words? Do her right arm and leg work? Is there any weakness in them?

I’m wanting heads-down focus these first few days, the teeth-gritting type, but she’s heads up, looking at me for help, feeling weak and unable to cope. She never expected to feel like this. She was planning to smuggle in her favourite foods and coolest pajamas to ICU. Heads up, she looks into my face, needing me to spoon-feed her strength.

Mentally, Kiara is as tough as nails, but when it comes to physical pain she’s just a little girl. She wants me to make it go away. She wants her pink blankie and soft pillow from home.

I have to find the balance between the gentle sympathy my husband would offer me and the tough lace-up-your-boots-and-march kind-of courage I’d speak into myself.

For years God has trained me in how to think. As I have fixed my thoughts on what he has declared is truth I have learned to know that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I have learned there is nothing that can separate me from the love of God. I have learned that he made me to be more than a conqueror. I have believed his words, and taken them as my thoughts. My thoughts have become substance in my brain and my body, training them to grow according to his pattern.

Kiara is still learning to master her thoughts. She is what the bible calls ‘wise’ in that she does not require strong discipline in order to learn. A wise man responds to a gentle rebuke but a fool requires strong discipline. Throughout her life, Kiara has required only a gentle admonition in order to redirect her behaviour.

Teach a wise man and he will become wiser still. Yesterday, I gently come alongside her and help her to choose the right thoughts. I replace her words of inability with words of possibility. I replace her words of weakness with promises of strength. I remind her how far she’s come and of what the next few weeks look like. I point out the summit and convince her she is able to get there. I open her eyes to God in the room. She accepts my words and takes them as her own thoughts. By yesterday evening, she is feeling positive. We even manage a game of ‘Heads Up’. We have to guess words as we take turns explaining, and I’m delighted with her fluency and ability to find the words.

And today we’re approaching 72 hours after the surgery. 72 hours was the deadline we were given after which her 20% risk of fatality passes. She is not hemorrhaging heavily into the drains coming out of her surgery sites. There is no sign of leakage of brain fluid. She can see and hear and talk. Her speech centre has not been damaged.

And it’s time to get up and out of bed. She is able to walk to the bathroom, and shows no weakness in her right side. The doc announces it’s time to leave ICU. Our daughter is officially out of the woods! The major risks of surgery are behind us. Risks from now are more wound risks and can be dealt with if they arise with antibiotics or minor surgery.

We head off to our ward and she has her own room, with even a bit of a view (thank you!) Her big sister is able to visit and they are reunited after a few days apart. She eats a good meal and goes off to sleep. She manages to wriggle a bit in bed, enough to get herself into a comfortable position. And as she sleeps so peacefully, her beautiful big sister also asleep in the armchair next to her, I pray that they would accept the words of God about them as true. I pray that they would let God teach them what to think. That they would take his words and make them their thoughts, turning truth into physical substance as they grow into his promises over them.

Heads up as they’re learning the truth. Heads up as they look for help. Heads up as they find the face that is allowed to teach them their thoughts. And as they grow older, heads down. Heads down when the going gets tough. Heads down to find they’ve got what it takes. Heads down when they need to find the truth within them and draw on it to strengthen their legs for the climb.

We continue to pray:

For her tight scalp skin to grow together.

For her skull bone to remain alive, grow vigorously and close up the gaps.

For her abdomen tissue that was joined to the bone to now grow together and close up that cavity without any build up of fluid or infection in that area.

For her brain tissue to miraculously regenerate and her cognitive function to return. Accelerated growth.

For protection from injury and infection.

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