Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Birthday Look Back in Time

Today is my birthday. Happy birthday to me and many more. The previous sentence is often said, but today I realize, once again, how precious of a gift life is. Eleven months ago to the day, I had a stroke and could've not been here today.

A story...

On a cold April morning, my mother got up to go to the bathroom, being six months pregnant didn't help her small bladder. To her horror, she saw blood and clots in the commode. She screamed for my father and passed out.

The hearse

Darkness enfolded her and being surrounded by the black curtains covering the windows didn't ally her fears.She realized the dark interior was the town's hearse. She'd only been in the United States for a few weeks and only recently met her in laws. She knew about the American customs for funerals was a long black car. Did I bleed to death, she wondered as the bumps in the road reinforced the fact that she was still alive. Surely she wouldn't feel pain if she was dead. I'm alive! Please don't bury me alive!

The hearse skidded on an icy patch in the road and she heard my father curse at the driver to be more careful. A hushed conversation followed. Or maybe it just seemed hushed to her in back of the long vehicle. She tried calling to her husband in the front seat, but the words were stuck in her throat. They didn't hear the sounds she made over the radio and their conversation.

Sacred Heart Hospital, Yankton, SD
Soon, the bright lights of the city shone through the cracks in the curtains. She wondered where they were as she felt the vehicle back into what she assumed was a parking spot. I hope they don't think I'm dead, she thought as a severe pain shot through her abdomen. Her last thought before she slipped into unconsciousness was... please let my baby be okay.

She was in a field of flowers. There were more flowers behind a gated fence. I need to pick some flowers for my baby, she thought. The ones behind the fence are the prettiest. She went to the gate and tried to open it. The gate wouldn't budge. She tried harder and felt pain throughout her body in her effort, but especially on her face. That's strange...and she opened her eyes.

The nurse was in full surgical garb and a bright light hung overhead. She knew what a surgery room in the hospital was like. Her sister was a doctor. Why was she in surgery? A pain ripped through her abdomen and then she remembered. The nurse was slapping her face and talking to her but she didn't understand the English words.

She felt straps being tightened around her legs, chest and arms. Smiling eyes above the face mask and more muffled words. Then there was pain. A pain so great she she could not even describe the intensity. She felt herself beginning to drift into blissful unconsciousness, but a hard slap brought her tear filled eyes back to the nurses. The eyes were not smiling now, but shadowed with concern.

Then she saw a small bundle carried rapidly to an incubator. She glanced at the over sized clock on the wall, 4:25. It was the last thing she saw for the next six hours. When she awoke, her husband was snoozing in a chair next to her bed. His hand resting on hers. Judging from the sunlight pouring through the closed blinds it was morning.  She tried to move but the pain instantly stayed her action. Where am I? Judging from the decor and the I.V. bags running into her arm, she was in the hospital.

She moved her arm and my father came instantly awake.

"My baby?" She asked half afraid of the answer.

"A girl, but she has got some problems. I named her Jo Ann. She was baptizes by the pastor shortly after she was born. She's alive but don't get your hopes up. She only weighs a little over two pounds."

Sister Blanche, a nun, came in to administer the pain medicine and check the I.V.s. while my mother took in the information. My mother saw the same smiling eyes looking down at her while her vitals signs were monitored. It was then she realized she was in a Catholic hospital.

"Honey, you said our pastor baptized her shortly after she was born?"
"Yeah, he drove like a bat outta hell to get here. No offense, Sister."
"No offense taken, sir. I've heard worse," and then she smiled the brightest smile my mother had every seen. She turned and left the room.

"How was she baptized Lutheran in a Catholic hospital and why was I in a hearse?" asked my mother.
"Well you know our pastor. He stormed in and fought all comers. By God, she was going to be baptized Lutheran even if was a Catholic hospital. The hearse was the only thing we could lay you out flat in with your legs elevated," my father replied.
"Pretty flowers. Did your family send them?"
"The whole congregation from St. Marks sent them.
She looked at the envelop marked in a flowery cursive script, 'Rm. 425.' " But that's over half the town!"
"Yep, they love their new resident from exotic Japan," he chuckled. 
"Will she be okay?"
"God willing and she's a fighter."

In the months that followed all three of them stayed vigilant and prayerful. Sister Blanche cut the diapers into quarters so they would fit me. They took turns feeding me half an ounce at a time and I continued to thrive. When I reached five pounds, I was finally released from the hospital.

Sister Blanche at her retirement after 50 years of service. 
Sister Blanche who refused to let a monkey of a baby die. In watching home movies of the time, I was a hairy, little chimpanzee baby in a incubator.  I owe my life to her attentive care. She monitored the oxygen levels carefully because she'd read that premature infants often went blind from too much.

In fact she is mentioned on the hospital's website in their history. I couldn't have been in better hands. She died in 1984. The same year my #3 daughter was born a month premature. Of course medicine is more advanced than it was more than half a century ago when I was born.

 Now facing a long recovery of a stroke, my father was right. I am a fighter or just too stubborn to give up just like when I was born. I'm a marvel of survival and I'm in God's hands still.

So what do you think? Should I play the numbers 4-2-5 on the pick three Lotto? LOL


  1. Hi JL .. well that was some entry into the world and what a story to tell .. I can't imagine it - well yes I can, but you know what I mean.

    How fabulous you posted a picture of Sister Blanche ... and I'm so pleased you saw your way through to today.

    Well Happy Birthday for yesterday .. and having a stroke on your birthday is not the best idea - but long may you keep recovering, you certainly seem to have the will to live and to improve yourself and get over some of the stroke symptons ... enjoy the years ahead ...

    Cheers Hilary

  2. What an amazing story. Pictures really help don't they?

  3. Happy Birthday Jo!

    Great story! And play those lotto numbers!

  4. What an amazing story! I'm glad your a fighter and I got to know you. Happy Birthday!

  5. What a lovely story in honor of your birthday, Jo! I know you're a fighter and that's one of the best things about you...along with your wit and help for others.

    "And many more."

    You did hear the music, didn't you? ; )

  6. Incredible story! That woman was a blessing to you. God had a purpose for you and He's not done with you yet, so just keep fighting.
    And happy birthday!

  7. Happy Birthday! That's quite an entry into the world. I'm glad you're still fighting. It must be built in.

  8. Wow went to lunch with my daughters, paid some bills, and went to therapy and y'all jumped on with birthday wishes...thank you.

    Diane- researched those numbers and they have come up 125 times in the past few years, but not today :(

    Sara- thank you. I'm glad I'm a fighter too.

    Marie- yes I did. Were you off key?

    Alex- I know God isn't finished me yet that's why I'm still here. More work to done.

    Nick- programmed from birth.

  9. Happy birthday! And yes, play those numbers. What a story!

  10. Happy Birthday! What an incredible way to make your entrance into the world! :)

  11. Happy Birthday! And what a well-told story. You are definitely a fighter. What a dedicated nurse she was. How terrifying to wake up in a hearse!

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  12. E.S.- I did and they didn't win.

    Lara- I always knew how to make an entrance even at birth.

    Shannon-Sister Blanche was two of a kind. Why do I say two? She had a twin who worked at Sacred Heart and was also a nun.

  13. What a story! Happy belated birthday - and hope you have a wonderful birthday weekend!
    Good luck on the lottery if you play :-)


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