Honesty is something that can be very difficult when writing blog entries, yet it is so essential. I asked Google to define the word for me and this is what I got:
1. the quality of being honest.
“They spoke with convincing honesty about their fears”
I believe that God has continually asked for honesty from me in my writing and that is very true of this post. I want to have convincing honesty when discussing my hopes, struggles and fears with you and I believe that God is currently calling me to do exactly that.
Many of you may have received a notification within the last few days saying “Andy Harris liked your post” and for those unsure, he did. It’s so crazy that I am now able to start tagging him in all the puppy videos I see as this has been something I have missed so much over the past few months. With this however, I always fear that people think that he is all better and we can all start texting and phoning him now. This is most definitely not the case and from the following points you can understand how it would overwhelm him.
Over the past week I have been very aware of the number of times I have been asked questions about how Andy is doing and some of them have made me realise that I need to do a recap of how he is doing. To do this, I have compiled a list of some frequently asked questions.
When will they remove the tracheostomy?
THEY TOOK IT OUT TODAY! Yaaay!! Andy FaceTimed me earlier and just stared at me with a huge smile on his face until I noticed its absence. He then called every member of the family to do the same thing; a very happy man. When I saw him tonight he just looked amazing, like a totally different man and so much more like himself which I didn’t think was possible. The sister told me that she has never seen a patient as happy as she saw him today after its removal. Praise God for Andy’s joy! Here is a picture to show you how good he looks.
Is he walking yet?
Although we see small flickers of muscles working in Andy’s legs, he has not been able to use them and based on recent scans the medical opinion remains the same; Andy is paralysed. However, he has started to engage his core in a very positive way and within the past week he has been showing us his “sit-ups” (with the assistance of his left arm pulling him forward) and we are so impressed. The building of his strength here will be essential to his independence and ability to help support himself. My prayer is that he will continue to strengthen these areas before God steps in to deal with his legs. Although we have seen a little discouragement from Andy within the past week regarding his legs, he has had times where he is excited about walking again and using them. This mindset is very much promoted by the nursing staff; if Andy visualises himself walking again, that it will help in his determination to get there. For some people reading this, that sounds ridiculous but if he decides to give up hope now, he will not give himself the best chance and the days ahead will be even harder. We don’t know what the future holds but we will remain hopeful in the waiting, knowing that “with God all things are possible” and that “faith can move mountains”.
Has he said anymore words?
Andy has two issues that effect his communication, they are dyspraxia and aphasia. I will not go into these in detail but the dyspraxia affects his speech as his mouth and tongue cannot receive the signals to move in specific ways, in order to form words. For this reason, Andy can only make certain sounds and consonants are proving difficult for him.
Aphasia is currently effecting his ability to listen and read. Although we have conversations with him daily and he does have a good understanding (continually making jokes at us), there are times when he struggles. When doing various tests and tasks in his speech and language therapy, it becomes clear that his reading is stronger than his ability to listen and understand. The best way I can describe this is when we mention a person’s name. This week I told him that “Jason Taylor” is coming to see him and he gave me a funny look to say “who?”. I then showed him his name written on my phone and he knew exactly who I was talking about and was then able to recognise me saying the name of his wife and dog etc. If I was to mention him again, now that he knows, he will not forget. His memory does not seem to be affected in any way, he just does not remember the first few weeks after he woke up.
Please pray that Andy’s dyspraxia and aphasia will be gone, in Jesus name. That his brain will heal fully and his speech will return, allowing him to share his story with many people.
So can he read?
Although Andy has the ability to read, it is very difficult to know how much and what his understanding is. He has a flip calendar that has a different message for each day and we know that most days he cannot read these. He has however given us the impression that, when it is only a short sentence, he is able to read it. Again, we are unsure whether or not he has really understood what he has read and it could be that he has been able to identify key words. One thing that Andy has specifically asked us to pray for is his ability to concentrate; I assume this includes when he is having a conversation, watching tv and listening to something being read to him.
Is he eating yet?
As his swallow has been improving, Andy has recently been given some liquids and you would think that he had won the lottery! Yesterday he sent the family an apple and orange emoji and we later found out that he tried both of those flavours with the speech and language therapist. Today he FaceTimed me just after he had some again and it was so clear that it had lifted his spirits as he was much happier than earlier when he had called. He is hopefully going for a swallow test tomorrow which will determine how well he is doing and if he can stop being fed through his stomach or not. This is an appointment that he previously missed due to sickness so please pray that this goes ahead as Andy has been counting down the days until he goes for this.
When will he be home?
I do not know the answer to this question but I know that it will not be anytime soon. However, now that his tracheostomy is out, he will soon be able to get out of the hospital for a couple of hours, with a nurse present. Amazing! He is so excited at the prospect of this and it is what will keep him going for the next few weeks.
We have been so blessed by the number of people praying for us and have really felt the result of this. God has been covering our family (in particular Andy) with a real sense of peace which has been incredible. However, within the last week we have seen the enemy come in to destroy this and I could safely say that it is the worst I have felt since the days in ICU. On Wednesday I attended Andy’s speech and language therapy session and after observing him and talking to his therapist, I was reminded of far he has to go. Talking with him during visiting sometimes allows us to forget (or not recognise) the severe issues he has with his language. This isn’t necessarily always a bad thing, but it means that when we are reminded of it, it comes like a slap in the face. Thursday proved to be another negative day, with bad news coming from all angles. Again, we heard what we already knew but I suppose had hoped to have changed. When looking at Andy’s X-rays, he was told that his damage was permanent and that he would never walk again. As far as I’m aware, this is the first time he has heard information as concrete as this himself and unfortunately he did not have any family support with him at the time. As you can imagine, this has been difficult for Andy to process and also hard for us to encourage him but please pray that Andy can continue to be hopeful and determined that he will one day find movement in his legs. As a family, we know that this is possible, and although we can let doubt creep in (as I have this week), we continue to put our trust in God, not leaning on our own understanding.
Thursday afternoon however was a very different story as Andy got a visit from some of the Ulster rugby boys. This cheered him up and really was perfect timing as it let him forget about the wick morning he just had. He could not get his head around the fact that they would take time out to come visit him and was so so happy about it. It was also the birthday of another girl on the ward (who is a season ticket holder) which made her day too.
I continually tell you how proud I am of my husband and this week has only added to that. I watch as Andy pulls himself out of self pity or sadness and gets excited about the thought of being able to walk again. He needs as much motivation as he can get right now to push on with his therapy and strengthen his upper body, so please continue to pray for this determination. Pray that he can encourage others with his love for God and that the peace filling him will overflow into the hospital. I continually remind him about how God is doing something massive here and that we just happen to have pretty difficult parts to play in story. That although it is so difficult, God is changing people and encouraging so many with his story, we just need to be still and wait on the Lord. Please pray for continued patience for the family and the ability to find joy in each day.
I have one last wee point about Andy being on Facebook. Please, if you do not know him personally, I would ask that you do not add him. He is currently using his newsfeed to see pictures from his friends and has been able to like and comment on some (using emojis). We all have a bunch of friends that we no longer recognise or know anything about and if he was to add to this list, he would most certainly miss out on the cute pictures he is looking for. Also an influx of messages will only frustrate/overwhelm him, especially if he can’t read them so I would prefer to leave it the way it is, where he is in contact with certain friends and family. Thank you for your help with this.
Today I am thankful for the ability to FaceTime my husband and that he is able to be the one calling me.
“Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act” Psalm 37:7a