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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Our Father Knows

I have been meaning to write for a long, long time. The last six months have been full of life changes, big and small. First of all, I am excited to announce to those who do not already know that I have gone back to school! I have been thinking about going back for years, but something always seemed to hold me back. In early July, something just nudged me and before I knew it, I was meeting with advisers, transferring credits, filling out paperwork, declaring a major, and registering for classes! I transferred my credits from Weber State University to Utah State University, and I have been accepted into their Professional and Technical Writing program. If all goes according to plan, I should graduate in May of 2017! I'm not positive what I will do after that, but I've always been interested in a career as an editor or as a grant writer, and this major will prepare me to do either of these things. I have loved every minute of being back in school, and I am learning amazing things! I just finished up my first semester back, and even with my crazy, busy life, the Lord has helped me get A's across the board! I am so grateful for a Father who magnifies our capacities and blesses abundantly!

While going back to school has been a positive and exhilarating change, there have been some really hard developments for our family as well. On the weekend of November 20, Tyler and I were in Park City celebrating our 15th anniversary at the beautiful Washington School House Hotel. It was a magical weekend. On Saturday, I began noticing that Tyler was acting strange. He was haunted by an unquenchable thirst, and a constant need to relieve it. We decided to come home from our trip early; on the way home, he drank almost 100 oz. of fluid and wanted more. (It was only an hour and a half drive!) I knew something wasn't right. He stayed home from church the next day. On Sunday night, as he was sleeping, I noticed that his hands felt strange. They seemed to be drained of life; they were skin and bones and ice cold. The skin on his arms looked like elephant's skin, and it looked like he was losing muscle tone. It's hard to describe that part, but it was rather shocking.

The next morning, he seemed to feel a little better, so he went to work. I started looking things up online, trying to figure out what was going on. I found out about a condition called hyponatremia, or water intoxication, and decided that that must be what Tyler had. He had been drinking tons of water to help him lose weight and control his appetite. I just figured that his fluid intake had gotten out of hand. He texted me at 10:00, and asked if I could come pick him up from work at lunch because he was feeling too dizzy to drive. When I picked him up, I told him that he needed to limit his fluids. We went to the grocery store and he bought yogurt to cool his parched throat. I called my mom (a retired nurse) and told her what was going on. She also thought it sounded like hyponatremia and told us to "quit messing around" and get to the doctor and emphasized that it is a potentially fatal condition. I called our family doctor's office and was told that they had no openings, not even for emergencies. We then decided to head to the ER. By the time we got there, Tyler's symptoms were progressing rapidly. His head was on fire, he was becoming more agitated, and his speech was slurring. He became manic in his speaking as well and was beginning to make less sense. We started to register, then when they saw how he was acting, they took him back immediately. They ran all sorts of tests. Our time in the ER was frightening and is still a little bit of a blur. At one point, they took him from me to go get x-rays. As I sat there, I heard the ER doctor talking on the phone with a specialist at McKay Dee hospital (I didn't know what our diagnosis was yet). He was describing a 36-year old male patient and asking if he should order a life flight transport. Right then, I crumpled. Tears of desperation and fear sprung to my eyes and the room began to swim. A thought entered my mind that I should ask for Russ to be with me (Tyler's father who passed away in 1998). I did pray for his presence. Instantly, I was calmed. I somehow knew that Tyler would receive the help he needed, and that everything would be all right. After another fifteen minutes or so, the doctor came in and told us that while Tyler was starting to develop hyponatremia, they were more concerned with his blood sugar, which was an incomprehensible 892. Normal blood sugar should be from 70-130. People with blood sugar over 400 are at risk for going into a diabetic coma. They said that they could not believe that Tyler was still conscious and coherent (more or less). We had no idea that he was diabetic. He had lost 55 pounds in the effort to be healthier, so it was a blow to him psychologically. We went from thinking "Hey! Here we are getting healthier and taking care of everything" to "We have a chronic disease" in a matter of seconds. They guessed that he had had diabetes for years, but since he is a healthy, average weight, active guy, we never suspected it. They reassured us that diabetes, though it has quite a stigma, is primarily a genetic disease, which in some cases may be postponed by diet and exercise, but they explained, sometimes it's just in your cards no matter what you do to prevent it.

They swept him away to the ICU, where he stayed for three days. After that, he was moved to a regular hospital room for another day. The time in the hospital was spent meeting with dietitians, educators, and doctors, learning about insulin, monitors, etc. It was a time of grieving for both of us; we grieved Tyler's health, we grieved the simplicity of life before this challenging diagnosis. I was pulled between my responsibilities at home with the kids, and my desire to be with Tyler as he faced this Goliath. Most of all, I was scared. You see, I have been at risk for diabetes for years. It has always been a concern for me. I am overweight. I am unhealthy. I am the one who was fighting back this disease. Not only did I feel bad that Tyler was the one who got it, I also felt an immense pressure to do everything in my power to ensure that I wouldn't also find myself in his shoes. As I began to consider the financial strain that this expensive disease was sure to place on our family, I felt frantic. I am not diabetic, thank goodness. But I am still trying to make sense of my eating disorder, to find the drive and divine assistance that will help me to change my own life. Now, I feel so much pressure regarding my health, that it is a very heavy and difficult burden.

When Tyler was able to come home from the hospital, on the evening before Thanksgiving, there was a sweet, almost tangible spirit of peace and gratitude in our home. It was almost like the feeling that comes to a home following the birth of a new baby. Our husband and daddy had been protected. He could have died. He should have been in a coma. He should have had internal damage to his organs. But he didn't die. He wasn't in a coma. And his organs are completely healthy. He and I both felt the power of these miracles. We were able to enjoy his being home as a gift--a second chance at life. Everything was different and we knew it. Our perspective, especially going into the holiday season, was so keenly focused on our Heavenly Father's love for us and His mindfulness of our situation and our family's needs.

I wish I could say that we still have that spirit in our home, at least that strongly. We still have a renewed appreciation for life, health, and family, but now we are beginning to see the more immediate and temporal implications of living with this disease: the cost of insulin, of testing supplies, and of course, the staggering medical bills that are now showing up in the mail. I am so very grateful that we have good insurance. After Tyler lost his job, he went uninsured for about six years. And though our bills are high, we see that as a major miracle. I don't know how everything will work out, but I feel very strongly that it will. Our father knows our situation and He knows our hearts. He will clothe, feed, and bless us, as He always has. It's going to be all right.

A few weeks ago, I was at the doctor's office for a procedure, and when the nurse asked me if I was experiencing any depression or anxiety, I lost it. LOST IT. The weight of ALL of it just filled my little troubled heart and spilled out everywhere. I was a mess. It was extremely embarrassing! At that moment, I knew that during all these years of hard things for our family, I had been having anxiety, and I never realized it. The doctor came in and talked to me about it, and we came up with a plan, which is working very well.

Whew! So as you can see, we Walton's never settle for boredom!

Yesterday, I was reading my scriptures and trying to decide on a verse to ponderize for the week, and I ran across this little gem: ""For your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him." --3 Nephi 13:8

I love this verse!  Do you know why? Because I absolutely know it to be true! As my heroine, Marjorie Pay Hinckley put it: "I love the Lord. I know this is His work and that He is at the Helm. I have seen too much to ever deny it. He lives. He is truly my Father, and the Savior is my Savior in every sense of that word. If I can just be one more voice to say that God lives and that this is His work, I will be satisfied."

It is going to be OK. Before Tyler lost his job seven years ago, I thought that losing a job would be the worst possible thing to happen to our family. But it wasn't. In a way, it has been a beautiful thing for our family. And before Tyler was diagnosed with diabetes, I thought that receiving a diagnosis like that would be the worst possible thing to happen. But it hasn't been. It has been a beautiful reminder of what is truly important in life, that this life is fleeting and fragile, that every breath is a gift from a loving Father, and that families can do hard things together. We can do hard things! Now that we are managing his blood sugar, we are finding, to our relief, that his condition, at least for now, is just one little corner of our world. I know that we are going through this because we are supposed to go through this. Things are working out. And I know that they will continue to work out. For that knowledge, I am grateful. God is truly at the helm. Thank goodness for that!