I have wanted to share this story for so long. Years ago, I seriously considered contacting Oprah, I am serious, just to get the word out so others would not have to hurt like we have. Before you read this, know that my parents took good care of us when we were growing up. We were both spoiled!
On February 23, 1984 my sister was born. I was only 21 months old but I remember my daddy holding me up to the window of the nursery so that I could see her. It's my earliest memory and that's all I remember about her being born. She had a very minor heart defect that did not require surgery, just monitoring. Now that I am a NICU nurse I can say that I am pretty sure it was a PDA. She was followed by a pediatric cardiologist until she was 4 or 5 and was completely cleared as far as her heart. Sometime around age 2 my parents were told that she had asthma. She had a terrible time with it. I can remember her taking breathing treatments our entire lives. Sometimes she had to be hospitalized. She also had allergies and had to take allergy shots. I can remember the nurse chasing her once a week to get her shot. Poor thing. The thing with the asthma is that one of the best meds, especially in the 1980's was Prednisone, a steroid. After years of being on and off steroids she gained weight. It was gradual but did get worse when she was having a flare with her asthma. We also did not eat healthy at our home. The greasier the better! I mean this is the South!
Me and Jerri Lynne in 1984
This was prob in 1986
This was sometime in the 1990s. This is when it was really becoming noticeable.
So, we all know that kids are really cruel. She was frequently picked on. I had a permanent spot in the front seat on the school bus for years for threatening and smacking some mean people that gave her a hard time. I watched kids call her "fatty" and make all kinds of jokes over and over. She would laugh and when we would get off the bus to walk up the driveway she would start crying. It was awful! I always felt so helpless. She was a kind soul. I think she finally got used to cruelty.
When she started high school I could tell it was really bothering her. A lot of her friends had boyfriends and she felt left out. Somehow, she ended up being referred to a surgeon who told her how beautiful she was, and she truly was, and that he would do everything he could to help her lose weight by gastric bypass surgery. This was when it was major surgery. It is much safer now, however, I certainly can't recommend it. She saw a psychologist to be sure she was mentally stable for the operation and had to jump through many other hoops to get it done. They felt that her weight was jeopardizing her health and this was the best option. I never agreed but I was only 17 so who cared what I thought. No diets, no exercise had been done. This was a quick fix. I told her the night before her surgery that I was scared and didn't think it was a good idea. I'll never forget her response. She told me that she had been "fat" her entire life and made fun of and that I had no idea how she felt because I was skinny. She told me that she would rather die trying to be skinny than continue to be overweight. What do you say to that?
This was taken a few months before the surgery.
The surgery was in September 2000. Her recovery was hell. She never really got to the point where she was able to eat. She vomited a lot and had other awful gastrointestinal problems. She had a feeding tube for a while for nutrition because she could not eat. Eventually, all of this took it's toll on December 29, 2000.
It was a Friday night and I stayed home with my mom. What teen stays home on a Friday? I just had a weird feeling. The phone rang around 9 PM. The ring didn't even sound right, so I picked up the other end even though I knew my mom had answered. It was the police dispatcher calling my mother because the tags on my sisters car were in her name. She was pulled over in front of our local hospital doing almost 90 mph. She stopped the car and put it in park and the officer said she had her foot all the way down on the accelerator. He opened the door and she was slumped over the wheel having a seizure. Electrolyte imbalances will cause seizures if they are bad enough. Like I said, she was right in front of the hospital. They took her into the ER and she was placed on a breathing machine and LeBonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis was paged immediately to send a hospital wing to take her to Memphis. Where was she going? I'll never know. I had just talked to her and she had talked about coming by or maybe she knew something wasn't right and she was going to the hospital...I just don't know. It bothered me for the longest time.
I will never forget what I saw when I walked into that room in the ER. She was foaming at the mouth, convulsing, tubes everywhere and what stood out the most were the tears streaming down her face. Oh...it was just heartbreaking. I had imprints on my wrist over a week later from her holding me and squeezing when I asked if she knew who I was. I know she was scared and that is something else that has bothered me for the longest time.
She was flown to Memphis and placed in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) and there are not very many ups to this story. She woke up once but it was only for a brief moment before she began seizing again. Many tests and procedures were done. As a nurse, I now know that she was placed on ECMO, which is bad, really really bad. It's a machine that does the work of the heart and lung when they are too damaged to work on their own. All of this lasted 2 days and shortly before midnight on December 31, 2000 we took her off the machines. In my mind, she was already gone.
Opening presents at Christmas. One week later she was gone.
She was a beauty! Inside and out! She loved this sweater. It's hard for me to look at. We laid her to rest in it.
The months afterwards were tough and are pretty blurry to me. I was angry at her at times for not telling us how sick she was or getting help. I was angry at God for the longest time. How could he take my sister? That is where the title "Wasting Your Pain" comes from.
Fortunately for me, God did not turn his back on me when I cursed him and refused to pray to him because my heart was broken. I believe that instead he led me down a path that would forever change my life and blessed me with some adorable children along the way.
When I started nursing school, I was mostly doing it because I do love helping people but the job security was awesome. I knew I would always have a job anywhere I went. Towards the end of the college days, I became worried because I hadn't found anything that I fell in love with. The summer before I graduated I took a job as an extern in a NICU in Memphis. I fell in love.
My career is why I say that my pain and suffering was not wasted like it could have been had God not continued to love me during my time of darkness. Instead he put me just where he had planned all along. I have held babies and rocked them in my arms while they go to heaven. I have also held moms and dads who have had to say good-bye to their little babies. It's never easy. I cry. I am human.
It is that pain that made me the person that I am today (not in the past, I was so mean and ugly...I am glad that I have been forgiven), the mother that I am today, and the nurse that I am.
I am at a point in my life that I take comfort knowing that my sister is truly in a place that is eternally wonderful and that we will be together again some day. I also take comfort in knowing that some people are so special that God needs them so he takes them to be with him. I know that she is happy. I know that she is well taken care of and that there is no more pain. I am at a point where I can thank God for choosing me to be her sister and giving me the gift of spending 16 wonderful years with her.
If you have pain in your heart, I encourage you to let it drive you to help others. I feel like I wasted so much time because I was so hurt but fortunately, He was in my heart and leading me in the right direction. It is God that I owe everything to. If I had not had Him on my side all this time there is no telling where I may have ended up.