This never-ending news cycle leaves us overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted. We easily lose sight of what is most important and our priorities become unbalanced. Then, life hands us a moment of perspective.
Update 12 June 2018: It is with great sadness we report that Andrew passed on around noon eastern time today. While there was hope immediately after the surgery to remove the blood clot, he suffered a massive aneurysm this morning and he was not strong enough to recover. Please keep John, Chris, David, and their extended family in your thoughts during this difficult time.
Yeah, I know, I've not written anything since April. I've tried a couple of times and left both posts abandoned thinking that maybe I'll get back to them. Truth is, I probably won't.
There's a lot going on. There's always a lot going on. This morning, it happens to be the rescue of the Thai soccer team and their coach and the president's supreme court nomination, among a dozen other things. Our media makes sure we are constantly bombarded with a litany of stories that strike fear in our hearts and frequently anger our spirits. We yell and scream at our computers and phones in disgust and outrage then, all too frequently, yell and scream at everyone else simply because our rage has been pumped to such ridiculous levels that we are unable to contain it.
I backed off writing every day, or even weekly, because I needed to not let everything that prompts outrage to overtake me. I can't be the cool, chill, laid back person I want to be if I'm spending too much of my day engaged in writing about things that send me over the emotional edge. I step away from the computer and my phone more now and naps have become my refuge from all the insanity.
Then, along comes situations that force some perspective.
John was a college classmate and fraternity brother. We lost contact after graduation as often happens and John ended up living in Richmond, Virginia selling insurance. He married someone who seems to be quite lovely, Chris, and they have a couple of sons, David and Andrew. Like any family, they have their ups and downs, but overall everything seemed to be going well. John and I reconnected on Facebook a few years ago, as has happened with several former classmates, and he's never posted anything that would give one reason to worry.
All that changed a couple of weeks ago. Andrew, who's just a bit younger than my youngest son, was found in a dumpster, left for dead. No one knows how or why. He was beaten severely and shot in the back of the head. Somehow, he was still alive when found.
Making It Personal
We hear about vicious attacks like this far too often. Arguments over the effects of America's gun violence have dominated our culture to the point they've become normal. America's streets are dripping in blood more than any other industrialized country in the world and we seem incapable of doing anything to stop it.
Andrew's story hits a very personal nerve for me, though. I've watched as John and Chris have posted updates twice a day. With each post come hundreds of comments offer prayers and hope and encouragement. Doctors have done everything possible to save this young man's life. The dedication of the nursing staff is nothing short of inspiring.
Yet, there are still times when it feels like that any little improvement is met almost immediately with a setback. Last night (Monday, 9 July) brought word that the drain tube in place to help relieve some of the pressure from swelling had become clogged. Moving the drain, even a little, could prove fatal.
Here is this morning's update:
Tues morning- Still desperate for prayers. The drain started to drip, but too slowly. He is putting out in an hour what was taking less than 5 minutes yesterday. ICP high was above 40. It is close to 30 now after 4 hot salts and a Manitol. It is affecting heart rate. He is maxed out on all pain meds.
ICP = intracranial pressure, and any is dangerous.
To say that Andrew's situation is critical almost feels trite. He has been critical since the moment he was found. Yet, as we measure everything by an intuitive sense of degrees, the level of concern could not be much higher than it is at this moment. I find myself checking my phone continuously for any word of change.
I have sat long hours in the hospital with families like John and Chris before. Brain injuries are unpredictable and just when it seems that progress is being made, all hope is dashed when body temperature suddenly goes up or ICP spikes or a drain becomes clogged. Medicine that was working wonderfully one day becomes ineffective the next. Grace lies in that the victim rarely knows consciously of the ups and downs their body is experiencing. For families, though, every day is an emotional rollercoaster of praying and hoping and clinging to every report from every medical person.
Elsewhere, life goes on. Heads of state travel to a NATO summit this week. Some immigrant children will be reunited with their parents, though many more won't. Millions of people are stoked about the World Cup semifinals.
For John and Chris, however, everything else is irrelevant next to the health and well-being of their son. He is the center of their universe and the state of the world shifts with his current condition.
On Sunday, doctors told John and Chris to "grab a little normal" whenever they can. For John, that meant spending some time with his grandson and chuckling at his eldest son's parenting skills. "Normal" is tough to find, though. No matter where they go, no matter what else might be going on around them, Andrew is still lingering in their minds.
As I'm writing, John has posted that Andrew is being taken to surgery. Doctors have found a blood clot that may be causing some of the problems. Good news, in one sense, but terrifying in that any medical procedure at this juncture is fraught with severe risks.
We cannot know where this all may lead. I do know that, no matter what, "normal" has been redefined for John, Chris, and their extended family. Every piece of news and information they now receive is colored to some degree by this experience. Life has changed.
The rest of us enjoy a broader focus. We can see all that's going on in the world and have the energy to resist where resistance is needed, yelling when something needs to be heard, and even marching when the cause demands.
Let us not lose the perspective, though, of what is going on right around us with the people we hold most dear. May we never shrug off a chance to say "I love you" or give someone a big hug. May we never be "too busy" to hold a hand, listen to a story, tie a shoe, or go for a walk. Through all the upheaval around us, much of which really should frustrate us to the point of action, may we still not lose the perspective of what is most genuinely important: our families.
Priorities require attention. For me, that means I'm going to step away from the computer now and help my daughter bake a cake. She's wanting some daddy/daughter bonding time. I'm a fool if I don't give her just that.
Find your priorities and give them your attention.
And if you're so inclined, a prayer for John, Chris, David, and Andrew wouldn't hurt.