A little faith and a lot of love go a long way…

Meant for more

I mentioned in my last post that I come from a long line of fighters and survivors.  On Friday, July 15, life gave me an unexpected reminder of this fact.

Those who know my birth story know that it’s pretty much a miracle that both my mom and I survived on January 2, 1983. Since that day I’ve encountered a variety of obstacles, physically, mentally, and emotionally, yet much like the Energizer Bunny, I just keep going, and going, and going…

Last Thursday, at my doctor’s request, I had routine bloodwork done since it had been over 2 years since I’d had any. First thing Friday morning I got the call that there was something abnormal about my results and the doctor needed to see me as soon as possible.

I raced to the office, panicking the entire way. Every worst case scenario that you can think of clouded my thoughts. As soon as I arrived, a nurse escorted me quickly to the scale and then right into an exam room. She took my blood pressure and noted that it was rather high…odd considering I’m typically on the low end. She inquired as to whether I was nervous and I nearly screamed, “YES!” As she exited the room she reminded me to think positive thoughts. Well meaning but not happening lady!

Almost immediately my doctor rushed in with my paperwork in hand and gave me the news. Everything was fine except my hemoglobin. “Thank God!” I exclaimed. “I thought I had cancer!” His reply? “I can’t tell if you have cancer with these results.” Thanks, Doc.

He continued on by explaining that my hemoglobin level was half the minimum it should be which made me severely anemic. He asked a few questions about my periods and diet and I reminded him of my gastric bypass. He rattled off some symptoms and asked if I’d experienced them. Um, YES. I’ve been attributing them to other health concerns, one of which I had just seen him for earlier this week! 

“You could collapse at any moment. This is bad, Kari. Your levels have probably been dropping for awhile now and you’ve just gotten used to feeling the way you do. We need to get you to the hospital for a blood transfusion immediately. I’m going to make the calls now.” He was out of the room almost before I could blink and the well meaning nurse returned with another set of paperwork in her hands.
“You’re going to have to deliver this to the hospital now.” She handed me the sheets, gave me directions on which entrance to use at the hospital and sent me on my way along with the instruction to pick up my prescribed super strength iron supplement as soon as I was finished at the hospital.

I texted my mom and asked her to meet me at the hospital. I filled Big Daddy B in but he was with the kids and I didn’t want them to worry. At the hospital, I approached the registration desk and when they saw my name they told me they were waiting on paperwork which I promptly handed to them. “We’re getting your blood ready now,” I was told and within 5 minutes I was registered and taken back to a room filled with “comfy” chairs and a few patients already receiving fluids of some sort.

The first couple hours were spent taking my vitals, drawing more blood to make sure they had a match for me, drawing blood again to double check the match, and playing a super fun game called, “Find the Vein.”

Side Note: I’m an expert at this game. I hide my veins so well that it’s more likely I’ll be poked 5 or more times until someone finds a vein than getting it on the first try or two. This happens almost every time a medical professional needs to find a vein. My record so far is 8 sticks in one sitting. My arms were covered in bruises the next day and that made for some entertaining public outings, especially since I was pregnant at the time. I’ve met all sorts of IV teams and anesthesiologists because of this game.  This particular visit however, they finally found a vein on the 5th poke.

The vein they were finally able to find was small however and the nurses were worried about pushing so much blood through it. At this point though, they were out of options and so decided to begin. While the first bag of blood was coursing through my tiny hidden veins, one of the nurses informed me that she checked my hemoglobin levels from my bloodwork and was surprised I was alive and standing. She also noted that she thought I’d be back for another bag or two of blood because the two that were ordered for me probably wouldn’t help as much as everyone was hoping considering how low my hemoglobin was. Thankfully my rising anxiety was quickly stifled as she handed me a menu so I could order lunch. 

I spent 7 hours at the hospital. I met some very kind people along the way. I was able to have my mama by my side. And perhaps most importantly, I felt so much appreciation for those who donated blood and saved my life. 

Which brings me to a deep realization. It still blows my mind that the blood of a kind stranger or strangers is coursing through my veins. My heart pumps the blood of these good Samaritans and I know nothing about them other than the fact that we share a blood type. I can’t tell you their race or gender. What’s their religion? Political affiliation? I have no clue. Whoever they are though, they saved me. And I will be forever grateful to them and anyone who donates blood.

So in August I head back to the doctor to follow up. It will take months to fully recover. However the day after my transfusion, I already felt so much better. Since Friday I’ve had much more energy, many of the symptoms I was experiencing have subsided and perhaps my most favorite…every night beginning Friday I have been able to fall asleep quickly! And I wake up so much easier (not easily…just easier!) and actually feel somewhat rested. WHO KNEW?!?

So get out there and donate blood. Or if you can’t, at the very least do a random act of kindness for someone. Take a deep breath. Look around you. Really look. This is your life. How are you living it?

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Save yourself

First of all, I feel the need to update the nicknames I’ve used for my kiddos the past couple years as they have changed and grown and developed their own little personalities. So let’s start there.

Gorilla is a typical firstborn. Strong-willed, rule follower, bossy, responsible, funny, and super smart. He’s a thinker, always has a million things on his mind, a little worrier who thrives on routine, structure and preparedness. I shall call him…El Presidente (or EP) from this day forward.

Binxy has grown into quite the feisty young lady. She knows what she likes…and what she doesn’t. Sometimes she speaks and it appears she is either a 17 year old or a 43 year old trapped inside a 4 year old’s body. She takes no crap and is hilarious. Her name shall now become…Sassy Pants (or SP).

Now that that’s settled, I can continue. Sassy Pants chose a Barbie book at the library today, (of course she did). We returned home and immediately she demanded that I read it to her. As I read through the story, I couldn’t help but notice that the two main female characters ended up being rescued at one point by two minor characters who happened to be male. 

Hold up. I am not ok with that and it’s not a message I choose to relay to my daughter. So as she asked me to read it the story to her three more times, I changed that part…”and then the girls saved themselves.” And since then, it’s been on my mind and heart.

My mother is a very independent, strong woman. One thing she was sure to teach me was that it is important that I am always able to stand on my own two feet. Shit happens and life throws curveballs and she said I needed to be sure I could always take care of myself, and my kids if I chose to have them one day, which obviously I did. That stuck with me. I come from a long line of fighters and survivors and I don’t plan to stop that lineage with myself. 

Something that has become increasingly more clear to me as I age is just how messy and complicated life can get. We are conditioned not to talk openly about that as a society just as we have been conditioned as little girls that men rescue us. These are two things I strongly disagree with.

I think more than ever it’s important for us to openly discuss tough topics and I believe girls need to know they can save themselves. They do not need a man, or anyone else for that matter, to rescue them. 

Jennifer Anniston recently penned an essay in which she declared,

“Here’s where I come out on this topic: we are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone. Let’s make that decision for ourselves and for the young women in this world who look to us as examples. Let’s make that decision consciously, outside of the tabloid noise. We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own ‘happily ever after’ for ourselves.”

We get to decide our own “happily ever after.” How powerful. I want my daughter to embrace her own happily ever after, whatever that may be. Perhaps for Barbie and her friends, being rescued by hunky male twins is their own happily ever after, and if so, good for them. But SP will know that there is more than one way to be rescued, and sometimes saving yourself is exactly what you want or need to do. There is no shame in that, no shame in walking a less traveled path, as long as you keep moving forward.

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