Milestones and the Parable of the Donut

Today we hit a major milestone in my health because it has been exactly 365 days since the last time I was hospitalized. Considering all the close calls I have had in the past year, including one incident two weeks ago where it took four Norco just to get me to the point where I was comfortable. This milestone means we have been doing a good job at managing my chronic bowel obstructions. Throughout this year I would go through 2-3 week periods getting crippling bowel pains a couple times a week and then nothing for two months without rhyme or reason. Ok, that is a half truth.

There are certain things I simply cannot resist all the time. I have to live and sometimes it means I roll a dice. When I can get away with it, it is real good, but when it comes img_7065back to bite me, I know I can only fault myself. Here is an example: I love donuts. Love them. When you stick to under 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, the consequence of eating a single donut means the teeter totter game of blood sugar for the next 4 to 5 hours trying to balance out proteins, sugars and insulin levels. Is it terrible to get on the insulin rollercoaster? Yes, but clearly not terrible enough for me to stop. In general I am pretty disciplined, but when it is my daughters birthday or that special Saturday, you’d better believe I’m enjoying a vanilla sprinkle donut and a coffee with her. We all need reminders of what makes life so great and if a sprinkle donut with the people you love will lift your spirits when you are in the stomachless grind 98% of the time, go for it. It’s a long journey without a stomach and we all need a mental break from counting carbs, proteins, fats, and calories all the time – so prepare a wet rag, find your blood sugar tester, grab a jar of peanut butter and enjoy the donut, you will be fine.

Maybe the parable of the donut is not just for the stomachless. Cheers.

-Steve

For my practical friends trying to figure out what life is like without a stomach: Since I have had so many struggles with bowel obstructions, I have come to recognize a few key signs that point to a bowel obstruction and some different things that I have learned about myself (please note the following are observations in my personal journey. I’m not a doctor, I can’t even play Operation, so do not take this list as medical advice):

  1. Number 1 is always number 2 if you are are picking up what I am putting down. A key sign of whether or not your body is moving food the way that it should. When it has been a while, it’s time to start hydrating. Hydration is the key to your body’s regularity. I also have been starting my day with a teaspoon of MCT oil which not only gives my body a nice energy boost, my bowels get a little boost as we.
  2. When in doubt, do as hospitals do. Bowel obstructions means three things. 3-4 days in the hospital no food or water until your obstruction clears. You can live without food for 3 days, but without water, not so much. So when I sense the onset of a bowel obstruction (which means consistent pain after consecutive meals and a violation of rule number 1), it’s time to go on a fast and drink more water. Usually within 2 or 3 days I am good to go.
  3. Pain con Pain – Bowel obstructions are painful. For me, they can get bad enough that I cannot stand. Depending on the dosage, usually I take one norco and it does the trick, but there are days that require 2 or even 3. After 3 it is decision time because after 4 it is time for me to go to the hospital.
  4. When it goes upstream, it’s time to worry. If you get backed up enough, eventually you back it up to the starts. At this point, it is hospital time. If my nausea cannot be controlled with zofran I bring in the heavy guns and go for phenergan which I am pretty certain is a horse tranquilizer. If phenergan does not work, for sure, it is hospital time.

New Horizons – Ironman 70.3

It is official. I am taking the plunge and attempting my first Half-Ironman, May 13, 2017 in Santa Rosa.

1.2 Mile Swim.

56 Mile Bike.

13.1 Mile Run.

Nervous? Yes. Fear? Just for my legs which are going to have to churn out wattage for a few hours. After finishing my first olympic distance triathlon last September, it is time for me to tackle one of my life goals, with or without a stomach, to complete a 70.3 race. Lord, hear my prayers.

Let’s do this.

-Steve

 

Life on 50g’s

img_0322

“In many ways, our pain and our way of coping with it define who we are. These experiences shape us and mold us, for better and for worse. They compel us to help others or drive us to numb the pain in whatever way we can.” – Mike McHargue

In the past two years I’ve wanted to do it all. All of life, all at the same time, and help as many as a can. Everything comes with a cost. Kate, in her typical fashion always gives it to me straight and said it this way, “it’s like you are trying to squeeze in a life time worth of experiences and conversations into two years.” Admittedly, this is part of my personality, but I have come to recognize its unsustainability in the long term. It is ironic, but when you are trying to take in as much life as you can, as fast as you can, you miss life altogether. So for the past couple of weeks I have been asking myself, “why?”

Perhaps it was the pressure of the unknown or the quest to give my experience meaning, whatever the case, I think what Mike McHargue says in his book, Finding God in the Waves, is spot on. Our pain – however we choose to cope with it – define us for better or worse. In my attempt to embrace my experience and give it meaning, I started to recognize it was/is my way of coping with the pain. So in the past few weeks, I have re-examined my insane schedule (admittedly, self-inflicted), and began noticing little margin between 5:30 am to the time I go to bed around midnight. My restless personality and drive got the best of me and now I want to slow down and refocus on what is important. Apparently, this kind of focus is not something you can put on autopilot, but something to be directed and constantly attended, because my family and friendships are worth my un-anxious presence. Meaningful relationships are not meant to be something squeezed into the margins of your life. So I am again embracing the good news, as it has always been, the hope of choosing a fresh start everyday, so for today I am choosing to move forward.

Cancer CAREpoint Garden Party Crew

I was honored a few weeks ago to be invited to speak for Cancer CAREpoints – Garden Party. Cancer CAREpoint in the Silicon Valley provides services to cancer patients and their caretakers with non-medical treatment that include counseling, massages, wig services, nutrition, support communities and more. My friend Megan, first introduced me to Cancer CAREpoint who helped me figure out my early nutritional needs and I even got a massage which, if anything, boosted my spirits.

As far as my health goes, there is a lot to catch up on, so I wanted to do something different with this post and add a video blog to capture a normal day without a stomach now that I am two years out. The constant adjustment to your diet is something you never really get used to. Figuring out the balance of nutrition with bloodwork, logging how you react to certain foods, is not always formulaic. What worked for me last year, all of a sudden stops for me in April and starts working again in June. What is easy for me to eat one week, makes me incredibly nauseous a few weeks later. Being a foodie and someone who desires diversified meals week to week – what comes next is an exercise in self-discipline.

This past spring and summer I began to notice my body throwing me another change up. Throughout the summer I noticed myself not feeling right a couple hours after a meal – like my brain was not functioning correctly and I would operate out of a haze when all of a sudden I would start to slur my words and sweat profusely. This happens to be the symptoms of hypoglycemia in which my body responds to influxes in sugar by dumping insulin into my system, which causes my blood sugar to drop to unfunctional levels (for me, I begin to feel it under 50 mg). While at summer camp with the students, I was sitting in the chapel when I started not feeling well and took my blood sugar. The number made Kate do a double take because it was 227 which is normal… if you are a diabetic. Within the hour my blood sugar dipped to 37 and I started slurring my words, sweating and not thinking clearly.

The first organ that came to mind was my pancreas which produces insulin to regulate blood sugar. Forgive my rudimentary science, by the way. My mind was racing – did I somehow become a type 2 diabetic on top of it all? It was time for some research. Kate stumbled across some information for patients who had undergone gastric bypass for weight control. In some of these cases, around the 2 year mark, some patients become more prone to reactive hypoglycemia. My doctor ran some labs which thankfully revealed my pancreas functioning fine, but he referred me to an endocrinologist to help me figure out my situation with hypoglycemia. Long story short, the first solution she gave me was to eat under 50 grams of total carbohydrates per day, ideally, under 20 grams per day. The second solution was to remove my pancreas making me a type 1 diabetic for life. At this point, the more organs I can keep, the better, so I’ll opt to live on 50g’s.

img_9230

Unfortunately, the homemade beans, buttery garlic bread, delectable BBQ sauce and crispy onion rings have to get passed on, but thankfully the tender pork ribs are still on the menu.

The thought of living off 50g’s of carbs per day seemed impossible to me because literally everything has carbs in it. In fact, I never considered the amount of carbohydrates I was consuming until I went on this low carb high fat diet, also known as the keto diet. While I thought she was crazy to cut so many carbohydrates out of my diet, I have not had an episode of hypoglycemia when I am disciplined to stick with the plan. The key word being: discipline. I am not going to lie, the first few weeks on the diet I felt like I was dying. Every croissant and sweet potato looked like it was sent from heaven. Second, the change in my diet left me feeling lethargic all day long. Third came the leg cramps and the noticeable dip in my athletic performance. Did I mention how much I missed the croissant?

After a couple weeks Kate and I were riding in the car when I noticed that I cannot remember the last time I took carafate (for my chronic bile reflux). We looked it up and apparently the Keto diet is recommended for anyone suffering from bile reflux or GERD. Up until this point I was taking carafate multiple times a day and slept sitting upright. So for the first time in two years, I have actually been sleeping flat on my back and getting more rest. I thought my endocrinologist was crazy, but it works. While 20g’s sounds impossible, I am not sure what I would gain if I am feeling good at 50g’s. Maybe this will change in a few months, but for now I’ll enjoy the rest.

Graces,

Steve

img_0204

 

Rejoice, Always. Year Two.

Last Sunday as I was preparing to preach in church, Kate called me before taking the stage to wish me a Happy Gastrectoversary! My second year without a stomach had gone by slipping under the radar of my memory bank which I think captures the normalcy I have found with my new way of life. Things are not what they were, and that is worth mourning for a season, but life has really gone on. Among my stomachless friends, we will say from time-to-time, “no stomach, no problem” when it comes to reclaiming bits and pieces of our old life. It’s our stomachless way of celebrating progress and the simple things: the glazed donut, walking a 100 ft which soon turned to a half-marathon run, the makeover, a complete new wardrobe, a new addition to the family, traveling, the perfectly drawn gibraltar, and the list could go on. This week Marne sent our group a hilarious message, “Sometimes I eat thin mints until I hit a terrible me sugar coma… wink emoticon.” 

It was a beautifully hilarious moment! This amazing group of people have made my stomachless life more than survivable, but enjoyable. Sure, it’s a bummer not being able to eat a pint of ice cream or a sleeve of thin mints, but weighing the cost sometimes makes it that much more pleasurable. Stomach cramps? They come and go. Blockages? they are annoying and painful, but pass. Chronic bowel obstructions? Well, I’ll be honest, this part really does still suck, but at least when I go to the hospital I know exactly what I need: pain meds, zofran because the pain meds make me super nauseous, phenergan because sometimes the pain is so bad I need to get knocked out, an IV for fluids, and four days NPO to clear out that bowel obstruction. “Boom. No stomach, no problem.”

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is written by a man who after being chained, beaten and arrested, encourages a group of people whom he loves dearly with these incredible words: “Rejoice in the LORD always! I will say it again: rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). I love these words because joy under all circumstances is a choice. It’s a choice that requires courage and perspective. It’s challenging and difficult, but without it, bitterness and resentment will grow like a weed in my soul.

Kate made a passing comment a few months back that has sat with me since, “I don’t think I have heard you have an honest-to-goodness-can’t-breathe-tear-wiping laugh in a long time.” Insert wide eyed emoji here.

Truth is, she’s right and has not been the only one to make that comment in some form over the past couple of years. For the past few summers I have had the privilege of leading a team of high school students and adults to serve with an incredible organization that does projects in Guatemala. Over the years we’ve made some incredible friends in Central America and have come to know each other well. Last summer one of our Guatemalan friends made a casual remark while we were waiting for building materials, “your face, it’s so serious. No more laughing oso panda?”

Maybe it is time to pay attention because it has become clear to everyone else except me that the slowest aspect of recovering life after a traumatic parting of ways with a stomach has not been the scars, but recovering my humor. Somewhere along the line, while I have had a great outlook on life in general, things have taken a bit of a serious turn.

Without question, cancer is serious, but I do not think it should suck the joy out of my life either, which is something I never considered as a side effect of life without a stomach. Overall am I content? Sure. But what happened to that rolling-on-the-ground-can’t-breathe laughter that is a huge part of my personality? I think there might be a picture of my humor on the back of a milk carton somewhere. I’ve spent almost two years now getting my body up-to-par. Many things are still a work in progress, but I think it is time to recover my personality and joy for life again. It is way too easy to get discouraged because like everyone else, it has been one step forward, two back, but I really want to focus on joy and contentment as the next, and perhaps longer, phase of my recovery.

I think the “seriousness” stems from coming to terms with my own mortality which gave me a sense of urgency to accomplish everything right here, right now, but I am beginning to wonder if a new lease on my life should not necessarily mean I need to move at breakneck speed either. My attitude has been to recover as much of my life as fast as I can, but what if I miss what actually matters along the way?

My faith has given me strength to face my everyday challenges these past couple years, but I tend to forget a huge portion of my faith is finding joy regardless of my situation. So tonight, Kate and I are celebrating our 8th anniversary a couple weeks early with an incredible meal at Gary Danko’s in San Francisco and if I have to sprinkle Norco on my duck breast to get through the meal without pain, I will continue to rejoice. No Stomach, no problem.

Grace and Peace,

Steve

Holding Both Views In Sight

This blog was inspired by a friend of mine who gave me permission to write about a picture she posted on Instagram from the window of her room while receiving chemotherapy treatment a few months ago. The image of her IV pump against the backdrop of the mountains in the distance paired with her caption, “Enjoying the view today!”, jarred something loose in my soul.

The picture itself wasn’t necessarily what was deeply moving to me. It was the fact that this image was incredibly consistent with who I know her to be; a woman of grace and courage regardless of her circumstance. Even while navigating her own challenges, she created margin to reach out and encourage us throughout our journey. In my mind, she is characterized by a dignified courage that is nothing short of inspiring. To know people like Chelsea is a divine grace.

I think this image took up residence deep in the recesses of my soul because it perfectly captures the intersection of faith and hope in the face of adversity.

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 8.02.07 AMDuring both my interviews with local news I was asked, “how do I keep going?” It’s a common question as if what I have to say next is the “secret sauce” that will unlock the key to understanding suffering. I don’t blame people looking for meaning, answers and/or a purpose in difficult times because we all want to figure out how to walk through those times faster and with greater ease, but I’m beginning to learn that there is no true fast track to navigating those seasons. To boil it all down to faith and hope seems trite and ignorant to real suffering. I think that is what makes the image so powerful to me because it answers the question artistically which is the heart’s way of hearing truth.

I think you can see this picture three ways. The first is to focus on the IV pump; to look at the situation and allow the situation to be the focus. Perhaps any joy and beauty in life has been sucked out in exchange for the incessant beeping of a kinked IV line alarm going off, again. The second is to simply see the picturesque mountains and the sky in the background and completely ignore the IV pump in the frame all together as if thinking enough good thoughts will circumvent the situation. This is to downplay the fact that life can, for lack of a better word, suck in seasons. The truth is chemo sucks. Cancer sucks. And life without a stomach can suck. No amount of good thoughts can take away the prick of an IV starting or the feeling of helplessness watching a loved one undergo radiation. Hope and faith is not a way to avoid tears or sorrow, that would be fantasy. I think this is why I was drawn to this picture, because to have both hope and faith in the midst of adversity is to hold both views firmly in sight. Faith and hope gives us an honest look at the challenges that we face in this current moment and gives us the courage to step forward as we keep adversity in the context of a broader story. It does not erase the weight of suffering or the scope of adversity as if simply focusing on the mountains will make everything go away. True faith and hope holds both firmly in it’s sight; to give perspective and context to what we face currently and the ability to look beyond what we face to see something as normal as blue skies and mountains we drive past everyday in a new light. I believe it causes us to pause for a quick moment and reorient our souls towards something beautiful in the midst of challenges.

IMG_5540

Having insomnia, allows me to see some incredible sunrises.

As I step into 2016, I want to take encouragement from true hope and faith which holds both views in sight. So in the words of my friend, Chelsea, take a moment, regardless of the circumstance, to pause, to take a breath, to notice something beautifully mundane and “enjoy the view today!”

Graces,

Steve

Steve and Kate-212

Ornaments Over Time

Kate and Steve-1

13 years ago Kate and I started a tradition giving each other ornaments for Christmas.  This was a big deal because over 22 years ago today my dad passed away from stomach cancer and the feeling of loss became the dominating story for me around this season. Since we have been together Kate has worked hard to change that story to little avail. Christmas has always held sentiment for Kate so our first order of business as a married couple was purchasing a generic multi-pack of ornaments from Target to fill in our abnormally large Christmas tree because her eyes always taller than our ceiling. I will be happy to report that every year we find compromise between my mini-Christmas tabletop succulent and the mammoth noble fir that requires the services of a bucket lift to top.

IMG_5756

Our first ornament in 2002

As we added Evangeline to our family our two ornaments became three, and this year we will debut a fourth to represent Felicity. As I was decorating our tree a few weeks ago I started to realize that those generic ornaments from Target have slowly receded like my hairline and now our tree reflects 13 years of different stories being written a couple ornaments at a time.  With our new ornaments, I now have tangible reminders that I play an active role in creating the kind of memories my daughters will associate with this season, so what story do I want our ornaments tell? I hope they would not simply represent a highlight reel of our lives, but the slow exchange of heartache and loss which was the dominating narrative for so long, with new stories of love, new life, family and rugged hope. While I cannot change history and life will never be the same without my dad, these ornaments will represent different memories for my two daughters.

God bless you and your families this Christmas,

Steve

Health and life update:

IMG_4580

While their has been relative radio silence (at least on our blog) during this season of our lives, September to December has been anything but boring. I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon in September, my sister-in-law had a near drowning incident at the same race, my second daughter Felicity was born a couple days later, I’ve had another bowel obstruction which required a hospital stay for few days before Evangeline’s 3rd birthday, we raised a little over $1000 for No Stomach for Cancer during Stomach Cancer Awareness month in November where I rode well over 100 miles, was interviewed by a couple of local news networks, spoke at the high school where I started my relationship with Jesus, and now, we’re looking forward to turning the page on what we are hoping will be a “normal” year.

I’ve had a few questions regarding my health, diet, exercise regimen, weight, etc… over the past couple of months so here some of the highlights:

My hospital stay for another bowel obstruction in October has led my (new) surgeon to believe these obstructions will be a chronic issue that we are hoping to control with diet. While we could go back in for a third surgery, it is not a guaranteed fix. In fact, there is a chance it creates more scaring that would exacerbate the situation. The good news is, we are learning when I am having an active bowel obstruction or not and what to tell the hospital when I have to go in. One of the benefits of being married to a nurse is her active involvement in my health. It basically comes down to this: if she can’t control my “vomiting”, I have a bowel obstruction and its time to go the hospital for some pain meds, an IV, four days of fasting, and X-Ray’s only. I’ve had enough CT scans now to power a nuclear submarine for a couple days.

Regarding my diet: I’ve switched to a low-carb (under 100g) high protein diet (over 100g) which helped me regulate my blood sugars which are out of control. I find myself a lot more sensitive to insulin spikes which dips my blood IMG_4949sugar into the 30’s before I switched my LC diet. I picked up a blood sugar monitor to at least confirm whether or not I was experiencing a dip in blood sugar or something else. It has given me a better understanding of my body as it relates to how I am feeling. I will say that switching to a low carb diet was a balance because I immediately lost about 7 pounds and I had to regulate with some low-glycemic index carbohydrates in the form of sweet potatoes and good fats in the form of nuts. I have found myself a lot more sensitive to ice cream for some unknown reason. I used to be able to eat a full scoop without issues, but now I have trouble with a few bites. I’m not sure if it’s related to my new diet or not. I will say that for the first week or so of switching to a low carb diet I felt terrible, known as the “keto flu” as my body switched from burning carbohydrates as its main source of energy to fats. I felt weak and tired, but after a few days I started feeling normal again. During my race season I maintained a weight around 158-162 lbs. Consistent eating throughout my day paired with my training which has slowed in the off-season has seen my weight hover closer to 160-165. One of the cool things that has emerged as I have shared my story are people in the world of nutrition who have reached out to help me achieve my goals. I am now trying out a new way to get all of my fruits and vegetables in the form of powder. So far, so good. I have noticed that the quantity I am able to eat has improved greatly and I can sit down and eat a full chicken breast and veggies without a problem.

Training: During the winter season I keep my training sessions short and sweet focusing on different skills and most of all fun! I still hold to the mantra, “if I feel good, train, if I don’t, don’t.” My long rides can extend up to 2.5 hours without nutrition, but once I start feeling like I have run out of calories, it throws off the rest of my day. Right now I keep my bike rides to about an hour or so and my runs are nice and short, about 3 miles. Secondly, I’m trying to take it easy to balance out my rest and my training. On the nights where I have bad bile reflux (still an issue) or only sleep for 3-4 hours, I try not to train. Insomnia, unfortunately, looks like it’s here to stay for now. As an added benefit, I do get to experience some incredible sunrises every morning on my rides.IMG_5540

In regards to pain, I’ve actually have seen a spike in the amount of pain I have had over the past couple months. Over the past few weeks I have found myself in a lot of pain requiring more and more medication to manage. I’m trying to limit my pain medication to stave off resistance which is a big challenge. There was a stretch where I was getting pain multiple times a week requiring almost double my dosage of pain medication and waiting too long to take medication is not helpful. I cannot tell you why I have these seasons, but I know that they seem to be temporary and I return to “normalcy” rather quickly.

My local stories can be seen here:

Telling a different story, to the world.

NBC Bay Area’s: “Bay Area Proud”

Kron4: Video Tale of a Triathlete with No Stomach

http://kron4.com/2015/10/12/video-tale-of-triathlete-with-no-stomach/

 

Still Good, All the Time by Kate Dang

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. This is probably the best description of the last week of my life. This may sound a little odd considering my second child was born on Monday. Exactly one week ago today my very pregnant self was patiently waiting for Steve at the finish line of his Pacific Grove triathlon. This itself had brought up a lot of emotion for me because of everything that happened this time last year, and the reason why we had missed the race a year ago came flooding back.

“Lifeguards, lifeguards, lifeguards!!” a cry from the beach and my entire being switched focus. I turned to see a truly terrible site, one as an ER nurse I dread, and as a person fills me with such sorrow. In the water was a swimmer who had clearly stopped swimming and was laying face down in the water. My stomach sank as I thought about the family that would soon be hearing that something was very wrong with a dear loved. I was impressed by the quick response by what I assumed to be a bystander on the beach who had thrown off his shirt and swam in, and the reached the swimmer quickly. As any ER nurse I watched the response by all of the emergency personal and was truly impressed by how quickly and efficiently they had started CPR and even appeared to open the patients airway and appeared to have initiated intubation right on the sand. As the ambulance pulled away a few minutes later I paused and sent up a quick prayer for everyone involved and my heart ached for a family that I knew would be receiving some terrible news shortly.
My attention returned to the finish line to await Steve and this awesome moment that I was anticipating. My phone started ringing and I saw that it was my dad calling and words that I have never anticipated were spoken from the other end of the phone. “The race just called and said that Michelle was taken to the hospital” I stopped breathing. What? My sister? The fitness instructor? The one that runs 7-8 miles a few times a week? No, someone has made a mistake I was sure, someone had her mixed up with someone else. The directors of the race find me and tell me yes that was Michelle that they were working on down on the sand.

It’s cliché to say that you go numb and your mind goes blank, but there is no other way to describe such a moment. I couldn’t think or breath properly. I have to thank everyone involved in Tri-California because over the next few minutes they got me, Steve (informed of what happened a few seconds after he crossed the finish line) our friend Brian, and Evangeline all to the hospital. From the finish line we went straight to the hospital.

We walked into the doors of the Emergency Department and were immedialty taken to the “quiet room”. As anyone who has ever worked in a hospital can tell you, this is the last room that you want to be taken to as a family member. Good news is rarely given in this room. This is the bad news room. When the ER doctor walked in to talk to me my first question was is she alive? 

“YES.” O.K. Small breath. 

Is she responding at all? “Yes, she was trying to pull out her ET tube before we sedated her.” O.K. Second small breath.

The ER physician proceeded to tell me that they had decided to place her in a medically induced coma and perform therapeutic hypothermia to try and prevent brain damage after cardiac arrest. She estimated that she had a down time (meaning no pulse) for anywhere from 20-25mins. There was nothing to do at this point but wait and pray. Something that will forever be seared into my memory is the nurse who came with the physician to talk with us, shared my sister’s name.

The next 36hrs were probably the longest of my life. As anyone can tell you that has gone through something like this the worst part is not knowing. Your mind starts to drift down endless paths of speculation. What exactly happened that caused this? Did they get to her in time? Will she remember us? Will she meet her new niece? My mind shifted back and forth between racing and blanking back and forth. I couldn’t help but think of the new life still growing inside of me and wondering if she would ever know her auntie Shelly the way that her sister does. 

Needless to say neither Steve or I slept very much the next two nights. On Monday morning, I then received probably the best phone call of my entire life. 

“Kate, it’s Mom, SHE WOKE UP” I actually physically sank to me knee’s. I took a deep breath for the first time in two days. I felt a physical release from my body that I have never experienced. My mom then tells me that she was trying to talk to the nurse and was writing on paper (due to still being intubated) questions about what happened. I immediately called Steve who was on a bike ride because he was worried and couldn’t sleep. We both stared crying and decided to take Evangeline right to school and head immediately down to the hospital.

It takes a little over on hour to get the hospital from Steve’s work and we spent the majority of that ride talking about how amazed we were by God’s provision. This race happened in the cold temperatures of the bay which helped to protect her brain. The man on the microphone was an Olympic swimmer who noticed that she had a weird kick/swim pattern and appeared she was in distress and called over help before she even stopped moving. The man who had pulled my sister from the water, was an off duty fire fighter/rescue swimmer in San Francisco who regularly serves as a life guard during Tri-California’s Alcatraz swim challenge, on the beach was a neurosurgeon who was spectating and helped get her airway open and suction out a significant amount of sea water. God had put all of those people in place to be there to help her at the first sign of trouble.

When you prepare for a baby you spend nine long months anticipating a lot of different things. What will they look like, is it a boy or girl, when will they arrive, what will their name be? This last question had us stumped for a while during this pregnancy. Everytime we thought we had it down, one of us would come home and say, “hmmmmm I am not sure.” Especially the middle name, at this point Steve and I were literally still fighting about the middle name, and I had pictured a very awkward moment in front of the birth recorder. For some reason  being unsure of the middle name had made us still have a shaky feeling about the first name. I was a little worried that we were going to have a situation like my mom and dad naming me and just not have a name for 3 days.

On the ride to the hospital it became clear that the middle name was just wrong and that is why the first name didn’t feel right. We were in complete agreement, Felicity Michelle was the right name. 

Felicity meaning, “happiness, joy, fortunate” and Michelle meaning, “who is like our God?” 

It had a wonderful symmetry to us because Evangeline’s middle name was for Steve’s sister and now Felicity would be for mine. A couple hours later I was standing in the room with my sister who was still sedated and would be slowly weaned off the ventilator/sedation over the next 24hrs. I stroked her head and whispered in her ear that she had to get better soon because her niece was coming in the next two weeks and she needed to meet this new person. I sat down at her bedside and felt my water break. I looked over at my dad and said, “Either I just peed my pants or…”

Like any good father he grabbed my arm and almost yelled, “you did not pee your pants you need to go now!”

We found Steve and my mom in the ICU  waiting area and made the decision that although I was not having any contractions, we should probably head back over the mountain to make use that we were close to the hospital when I needed to go in. We got into the car and Steve started driving and within about 15 mins I told him, “No, just go straight to the hosptial, this is definitely full labor just go straight there.” 

Another 15-20 mins rolls by and I look at him and tell him, “you need to drive faster!” (I am not sure if I was that polite in my request you will have to ask Steve) We got to the hospital and with little fuss or difficulty she was born a few hours later. 

  
I couldn’t stop thinking that these two will forever be linked. The niece that was born the day that her aunt, against the odds woke up. It has been 5 days since this happened and I don’t think I have fully processed how much God’s touch was on our entire family over the last week. Every day since, Michelle has made incredible progress, walking, talking, eating, and has the ability to do all her own care like brushing her teeth, combing her hair. She is still struggling with memory and being over stimulated so for now if friends and family could continue to give her space and keep well wishes to just her Facebook account that would really help. Trying to respond to texts and e-mails is simply too overstimulating at this point in time. I am sure Steve will post here on his perspective on the last week at some point, but for now he let me take over the blog for a day to share the amazing story of God’s provision and faithfulness in our lives. It has become our family motto in a lot of ways through good times and bad, but “God is good all the time, all the time God is good.”

Blessings,

Kate Dang