Thursday, December 24, 2009
I hope more of you become a follower of my blog and leave comments for me. Thank you even to those of you who have not become a follower and just read. But without you becoming a follower I don't know who is reading and who to thank but it is not necessary. Just thank you for reading and for those of you who have left comments.
A special thanks to Sharae Hildebrandt and April VanTassell who leave the most comments. I truly appreciate it and I know you keep up with my blog so thank you so much.
After my emergency surgeries to remove the burn and graft on cadaver skin I was in a coma and I stayed in a coma for about a month. And I have myself many times, do I believe in a heaven? Because I don't remember a single thing. The brain is so amazingly powerful that I almost left my body so that I wouldn't feel the pain of burning fire on skin. And still to this day, my brain has protected me from remembering the accident. But what happened after I slipped into a coma? Did I see or even hear a higher power. Did I see other souls? Did I see angels? What happened during that month?
One of my best friends' mother has an interesting take on what happens to someone in the kind of situation I was in, where I could die. She believes that there is some kind of heaven, whether you want to call it a heaven or not. But she believes that there are other souls up there who have been important influences in our life we see. And what happens when we see them is there is a discussion about whether it is my time to stay with them and with the higher power, or if it is not time and I must go back. The reason I would stay is if I and/or the souls and higher power were satisfied with what I had done on Earth. The reason I would go back is if there was still something for me to do, people for me to influence, lessons yet to be learned. And she believes that those souls spoke to me, showed me my life and my future life and that there was a reason for my life on Earth and I had not achieved it yet so I must go back. And so I did. A month later I awoke.
Another question I have is do people in comas hear you when you talk to them. Do they feel you when you hold your hand. Many nurses and doctors say they can so it helps a lot to talk to them as if they were awake. And the nurses always talked to me like I could hear them. Well let me tell you, I didn't hear a thing, I didn't feel a thing and I didn't see anything. My mother, however tells me, that she was talking to me and holding my hand one day and I squeezed it, and I really squeezed it. There was no doubt that it was a muscular jerk. So did I really hear and feel her and my mind has blocked all senses from me. I wish I remember hearing or feeling her, or my father when he stood at my bedside and recited prayers. But I heard nothing. I felt nothing. I saw nothing. No dreams. No souls. No Heaven. No God.
So what happens to someone in a coma? Do they really experience souls and heaven and God but are not allowed to remember it? I know people who have had near death life experiences where they say they "saw the light" or "floated above their body". Well, I may not have had a near death life experience like that where my heart actually stopped but I was dying on my way to Portland and I didn't see or hear anything.
And that makes me sad. I would truly feel better about surviving the accident if I had some kind of experience with any of those things because it would make sense for my living. I had all the odds against me that night, especially on the life-flight to Portland where they had to manually air-bag me. And yet I lived. Why? Did I meet those souls and they sent me back because I wasn't ready, as my friends' mother believes? Or is there nothing? It is a very lonely feeling to believe that there is nothing so I want to believe so much in her idea. That I met souls and perhaps even a higher power that night on my way to the hospital, and perhaps my grandmother was one of them (whom I was extremely close to and who died on my birthday). I must try to believe in the latter or my surviving will make no sense. I should not have lived. The doctors have expressed many times they don't know how I lived. They all say I should have died that night with how badly I was injured and the remote area I was living in and that they had to manually get me to breath the entire way there. But I survived and there must be something yet for me to learn or better yet, something yet for me to do and I would like to hope that that something left to do is be a performer, to entertain. Because that has been my dream since I was a little girl and I have felt it was my destiny. So if I had a "conversation" or what have you with any souls/angels/higher power up there and they returned me, I want to believe that was one of the reasons because I lost hope that I would ever achieve my dreams when I awoke and later understood what happened to me and how badly. But why, why can't I remember anything? It is one of the things that drives me the most crazy about my accident.
Monday, December 21, 2009
So I'm asking you, and myself, is there such things as destiny and fate? Do things happen for a reason? Or are there just random acts in this world. I still don't know what I believe but I'd like to believe in things happening for a reason otherwise if me being burned was just a random act, I would be so angry that this random act happened to me. I'd like to believe that there is a reason I was in that fire and almost lost my life so that I can try to figure out what that reason is and be less angry about it. Does that make sense?
If there was a reason for it then what lesson was there to be learned from it? I can say there are some things in my life I am not proud of and people I hurt in the process. And it began when I met someone I loved very much who just didn't love me as much and hurt me very badly. He cost me my friends...well I helped by not resisting and standing up for my friends. I became hard on the outside, not trusting people and not letting people in. I hid on the inside and performed someone else on the outside doing things and hurting people the real me, on the inside, would never have done.
There was a certain and very special person that I met in New York that I hurt very badly without meaning to because it was the performer on the outside that I still used. I still, 6-8 years later after my break-up still hid the real me underneath. I continued to perform a dishonest person on the outside. But he taught me some very important lessons in life and three of them were honesty, what a true friend is, and loyalty. And from this I not only learned to not lie to my friends and family but also not to myself. To be true to who I was no matter if someone liked it or not. If they had a problem with who I was honestly, then they were not worth having as a friend. I learned the difference between drinking buddies and real true friends. In that process years ago when I didn't stand up for my friends, those were true real friends and I just disregarded them. And that brings me to the lesson of loyalty. I should have been loyal to those friends who were my true real friends. Instead I gave my loyalty to friends who really weren't my friends, friends who at the drop of a hat would stab me in the back.
So I have to believe that this fire and my injury happened for a reason. That there were lessons to be learned from it. And I have. I have learned what a true real friend is and to be honest with them, myself, and my family and most of all, be loyal to those friends and family who are true. I also want to believe that destiny bends and changes. I want to hope that there is a destiny for me to be one of the greatest actors, performers, of all time and that's the reason why a higher power kept me alive to give me a second chance to learn those lessons and by learning those lessons I am able to pursue that dream with support all around me. Dreams are hard to accomplish by yourself. You need that support from both friends and family. And through this change and bend of destiny that derailed for a time by being injured, it has given me time to learn those lessons so I can go ahead with my dream wiser and stronger.
And I have. I know the difference between buddies and true real friends and I have found those true real friends. It was once said that you should only be able to count your true and fiercely loyal friends on one hand because they should be hard to come by with those kind of attributes. I have learned in return how to be a fierce and loyal friend. I have also learned honesty and have finally ditched the performer on the outside and let loose the real me that had hidden for so long inside my body.
So was it destiny, fate that I was in a fire and almost lost my life? Was there a lesson to be learned that I was given the second chance to live and learn those lessons? Or was it just a random act and it just so happened to be me in the wrong place at the wrong time. What do you believe?
Saturday, December 19, 2009
The bi-lateral tissue ex-panders are to stretch out the skin to do another release on my neck because my doctor wants to continue giving me more mobility in my neck. And he is not going to do a graft on my neck this time. Instead he is going to do what is called a "flap" where once he has the skin expanded he will wrap the skin around my neck instead of taking it off and grafting it. This keeps the blood flow intact.
I have had to go through tissue ex-panders before only before it was in my lower belly, which was unfortunate because it made me look like I had a big beer belly. lol. But now this time, being along the back of my shoulders I'm gonna look like a hunchback so I'm not really looking forward to that again but it must be done. The tissue ex-panders must be expanded for about three months and I get so tired of the waiting period from the one surgery to the next and get the ex-panders out. I have to have expansions done once every 5 days. The expansions are done by putting a large ass needle filled with 60 units of saline solution into a porthole underneath my skin and then filling up the expander. This process must be done at least three times and then I go through it all over again in 5 days so as you can imagine, the ex-panders get quite large and cause quite discomfort. I don't know what I'm going to do this time because they will be on my back and I have to sleep on my back right now with my neck AND he must graft the areas where the tissue expanders were and he's going to take that skin from my back as well.
Might I enlighten you on the pain of grafting. The graft is not what hurts. It's the donor site that hurts like hell. A donor site is where they have taken the skin to put somewhere else. They basically shave off a layer of your skin like slicing a piece of cheese off the block and it is so incredibly painful.
So with the second surgery I am going to have to go through the donor site pain because one of my doctors will be doing a release on one of my shoulders. Now a release is where they cut away the scar tissue that is limiting mobility, usually in joint areas. Right now I can't raise my right arm higher than just below 90 degrees and my left arm can raise just a tad bit higher. I have already had my right shoulder released once and it contracted back terribly due to lack of the right physical therapy. So I am hoping he will do my right shoulder again but I won't know until the day of surgery.
I will also have to go through a second graft and donor site for my lip surgery. This is going to be the most painful. Who wants their lip cut open?
So that is the latest on my surgeries and recovery. Oh boy, three operations in one day. These will be numbers 17, 18, and 19. And right after Christmas. But one of the three operations will be a great present, which is the one on my lip, as I have told you I've been waiting on my 19 months, as that is how long since my accident. Hard to believe isn't it? It's been 19 months since my accident. Next march will be the 2nd anniversary of the accident. But I don't see it as the anniversary of my accident. I see it as the 2nd anniversary of the day I lived, the second chance I got at life. But that's for another post :)
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
For me, not a whole lot. But there are a couple things, for instance, listening to my boy Jack White, my favorite musician. His brilliance is beyond comprehension. When I feel bad or cranky or angry or crying, I often listen to him and I am soothed. Not unlike many years ago when I was going through the roughest time of my life up to that date back in the years of 2001-2005. During that time Jack was there for me. I could count on him always to make me feel better, especially because I had alienated all my friends for the love of someone else I had no friends to do the job. So I counted on Jack and he was there every time without fail.
Now I am going through what I most undoubtedly believe will be the hardest time in my life and Jack is still there. I have friends now to help me through this; good, good friends to give me a shoulder to cry upon or to provide distraction from my struggling life. But when I'm alone and feeling bad, I just listen to Jack and it's amazing how I can stop feeling the way I was feeling, or stop the torrential out pour of tears.
I can't go to my parents for consoling because I just feel as though I am burdening them further with my inner troubles. So I have to seek it elsewhere and where I seek it is with Jack and my dearest of friends, but usually firstly Jack because he is the most accessible to me in the moment.
So what is it that you seek when you are feeling bad, upset, wanting to cry, angry, conflicted, depressed? I am interested to know for how many people that consolidation is music because I think music is the food of our hearts and when we are feeling any or all those things above, they are damaging our hearts and we must feed them what they are craving to feel better. And I think that is music for a lot of us, especially people like me who have a favorite musician that has provided them comfort for many years. I have been a fan of Jack White for 9 years now and it's almost as if I know him (I wish I really did know him, let alone just to have met him). Him and his music have been my constant companion through thick and thin.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
She came to pick me up at my house since I am not yet cleared to drive and when I let her inside she immediately embraced me with a most wonderful hug that was full of emotion and happiness to see me, and not just because we hadn't seen each other in 5 years but also to be able to hug me because I was alive. When she first came in and saw me before the embrace, I felt a most powerful and wonderful emotion that made me want to cry. She looked at me like nothing had changed. I could not see or feel her eyes looking at my scars, I felt only that she was looking at me. And I was surprised not because I doubted her but because since we hadn't seen each other for so long that she might show a small amount of shock at what she saw. I was completely wrong.
That hug she gave me, I cannot stop thinking about. She truly embraced me like I was the most precious thing to her and that if I had died I would truly have been missed and put a hole in her life. I felt complete and unconditional love, happiness, passion, and like I had been missed for a very long time and so very happy that I lived.
That night we went over to her house and began to talk. And I mean talk, talk, talk, and talk for 5 years worth. And there was a moment where she just stopped and looked at me, (and I'm not being dramatic) tears welled up in her eyes, looked right through the scars to the person inside of me and said, "I'm so happy that you're here." And she didn't just mean "here" as in at her house, but here on this earth, alive. I was so happy to hear her say that that it almost felt like a punch to my heart, in a weird good way, that made me feel alive and happy to be alive too. Happy to be alive to find her again and find the friendship we had together. It was as if at that very moment our souls connected and we will never part again.
Thank you Amber for being you, for being the most wonderful friend without even having to try. Thank you for your beautiful love. You certainly have mine.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Well this morning, I had one of those moments where I got snappy with my mother for just a millisecond and she got really huffy with me and made a comment that she always has to walk on eggshells around me. This just made me even angrier because that is simply not true. I do my best everyday to be tolerable to my post-accident life and not to take out any emotions on my parents. And almost always I succeed in keeping my frustrations to myself, even though sometimes that means just being very quiet so those boiling emotions don't rise to the surface.
But why can't they be patient with me? I went through a horrible accident! I don't want my mother to feel like she's walking on eggshells around me because I may be a bear sometimes. I just want her to say, "I'm so sorry you're feeling that way and I understand." And sometimes she does but so much she just doesn't give me the patience I ask for.
I love her dearly and don't get me wrong cause she is very patient but I think her patience is disguised by this "walking on eggshells" attitude like I'm a time bomb waiting to go off at any moment. I need people to understand how devastating this accident has been for me, let alone any burn accident for anyone. It's horrible and upsetting and I fall into heavy depression and get angry a lot because I'm surrounded by people who didn't have the kind of accident I did. People who are beautiful and not scarred. My friends who are living up their lives; living on their own, own their own car and apartment or house. I had all of this and it was taken away from me in a second. I don't know when I'll ever get to have those same things, or simply to live on my own again. I'm almost 28 and I live at home with aging parents. Now you tell me, with all that going on in my life and my head, do I not have a reason to be a bear and upset sometimes? Do I not deserve patience?
Monday, November 30, 2009
Three days a week I have to go to physical therapy up at Grande Ronde Hospital for an hour. This physical therapy is hard, tiring and sometimes painful. I also go to see a therapist once a week for my mental and emotional therapy to help me deal with, well, my life as i know it now and the accident.
Then, in the evening my mother has to help me shower which includes washing my hair and helping wash me with a medicated soap. After the shower I have to be creamed with a heavy cream everywhere I'm burned, which is almost everywhere. And then of course there comes the dressing of my wounds and getting me dressed as the same in the morning. But before I get my wounds dressed and get dressed myself, my mother has to do scar tissue massage on my new neck to help keep scar bands from coming back. This takes another good 15 minutes.
I go through this every morning and every night and then the physical and mental therapy on top of it. I am so tired of it. There are times when I am so angry and annoyed when we are going through the routine either morning or night or both and my mom thinks I'm angry with her and gets upset thinking that I don't appreciate what she goes through everyday to take care of me. And that's not it at all. I'm angry and upset and annoyed that I have to do this everyday and I don't know for how long. How long will I have to have help in the shower? How long will I have to help being creamed and dressed?
So how do I deal with it? I've been working with my wonderful therapist on this weekly and I just can't seem to get past the anger, depression and anxiety I have since the accident. I am so angry at what happened to me and don't understand why it did. It has resulted in this kind of life I have to live everyday which has done incredible damage to my daily psyche state, as well as a difficult life for my mother in particular. And that tears me apart that my accident has resulted in a difficult and exhausting life for her. I'm so sorry mother. I'm so sorry and I'm sorry to my whole family for what they have gone through. I'm so sorry.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I'm thankful to be alive. If I had not made it through that accident, my family would be one child less and I wonder what that would be like for them. How would they spend the holiday without me? This would be their second Thanksgiving without me so would they be more used to it? Or would it still be just as hard?
I think often about what my family would be like without me. Me, being extremely humble and not always thinking myself as important as my older brothers, think maybe the first Thanksgiving might have been hard, but I think this Thanksgiving would have been fine. I know that my family would absolutely protest against that statement but I just don't feel as "cool" in the family as my brothers and I have always felt that way. I am very jealous of them (in a good way) at how my family lights up when they're around. I myself light up. Another thing they possess that I don't ge tto have is a brotherly love between them that makes them so very close. I don't get to have that because I don't have a sister. So I am again jealous of that. I just feel like the little sister but being the their little sister makes them very protective of me and that I do love that. They, however, are my hero's.
I know my family loves me more than anything in their worlds. But I think my death, my absence, would not be as heavy as if it were one of my brothers. Those are only my thoughts and twisted feelings, not theirs.
I love my family so much for standing by my bedside everyday in the hospital and for all the sacrifices and love they gave and continue to give, that's how I know they love me just as much. They are the most important thing in the world to me and I am so very thankful to have such a close knit family.
So this Thanksgiving as I spend it with my mother, father and my oldest brother Mark, I am firstly thankful that I am here to spend it with them. And that is what you should all be most thankful for: that YOU ARE ALIVE and here to spend it with your family and friends and THEY ARE here to spend it with you. And for those of you who have lost a family member or friend, I am so sorry for their absence. But you must be thankful that you are alive to be here for the rest of your family and friends, especially during the holiday season, because I know what it's like, first hand, to imagine not being here for them since I almost lost my life last year.
So give a huge hug and kiss to your family and friends and tell them, thank you, for being in your life because without them your heart would forever mourn their absence.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
She was burned in a plane crash on 80% of her body. She wasn't expected to live. Yet she did. Because of the severity of her burn she was put in a medically induced coma. This story sounds very familiar to me. Though I was burned half of what she was, 40% in 3rd degree burns, I was also put in a medically induced coma for a month. They also did not expect me to live. The biggest problem they had in the beginning when the paramedics were trying to save me was getting me to breath. After many attempts of trying to intubate me, they finally had to resolve to manually air bagging me and had to do so the entire way to Portland, which is nearly impossible.
When I woke up, I knew what had happened to me but I did not know the severity of it. I also suffered horrible hallucinations. The first person I saw when I woke up was my dear older brother Jake and his wife Kim. I could barely talk. My voice was breathy and I could barely get out three words before I had to take a breathe again due to smoke inhalation damage.
She also has a blog and it has inspired me to continue to share my journey with you. She, however, has hundreds of followers and her story has inspired so many people. So many people in fact that it got her on The Today Show! I hope that I will continue to acquire followers like her and inspire people like she did. I want to share my my journey with as many people as I can so that I can teach people to be thankful for what they have in life and to treat and look at disabled and disfigured people differently.
I know in my last blog I wrote that I sometimes wish I had died in the accident but today she inspired me to be thankful this Thanksgiving that I lived through my accident. And to be thankful for my family and my friends. My family has been amazing in their support for me. They were there everyday and someone is always there each day that I'm in the hospital after another surgery. They are truly amazing people and I could not have been luckier to have such a family.
I am also very lucky to have a church that prays for me everyday, even when I'm not there. I am especially thankful for my pastor, Clay and his wife Jen who do everything they can to get me out and hang out with them and other friends and not make me feel like a freak or self conscious of my scars. They have been amazing. I truly feel like they see me for me and not my scars.
My scars make me hide out and not see people but this woman, who was also burned on her face and scarred, did not hide. She even took pictures of herself. I refuse to take pictures of myself and with others with my scars right now. I hope that will change after my lip surgery, which is to be scheduled in 6 weeks so I am impatiently awaiting for that day. I just may find the courage to appear back in pictures but I don't know if I will be able to do it even then.
I wish I had her strength. People tell me all the time how brave and strong I am but I found out today that I am not as strong as this woman. But she does not have the contractures in her extremities as I do and that is part of what makes my everyday living very hard. As I have said in another blog, I cannot reach into the cupboard for a dish or cup and I can't even wash my own hair due to the contractures in my shoulders. So everyday is a struggle for me to just function with the simplest things. I do not think she has the problem as I saw her doing some exercising and physical therapy. But I still admire her for her strength and confidence. I may have the strength but I do not have the confidence. And that kills me. I use to be such a social butterfly and now I hide out. I pray that my doctors will continue to perform miracles on my repair and I will get my life back. Until then, I continue to be scared and lonely and hope that through this blog, I will touch the lives of many others.
Monday, November 23, 2009
I hide out like a hermit because I am embarrassed by my scars despite how my neck has transformed. But some of my face was burned and that is what is most embarrassing for me. Luckily it was just the lower half. My nose and eyes and forehead were not effected, but the lower half - my cheeks and lips - were. I am awaiting lip surgery in 6-8 weeks from last thursday and this will help my confidence to see people tremendously. I don't know yet if Dr. Vangelisti, my plastic and reconstructive surgeon, will be doing my face at the same time. That was a question I neglected to ask. So my next step is to await his phone call on when surgery is scheduled for. This I am IMPATIENTLY waiting for. I hope I hear from him before Thanksgiving. That would be a dream. But I'm afraid I will not hear from him until after the holiday.
So in the meantime, here I am, alone and scared and frustrated. He says he is CONFIDENT that he will be able to repair me to my pre-burn physical looks but I am so scared that I will forever be scarred and never look the same. I am so very scared. And this fear makes me feel so alone. To fear that because of the possibility of being scarred in a place that you cannot hide from people makes me scared that I will never find a companion. Now I know firsthand what disabled people feel when it comes to that "companion-less" emptiness inside.
So this morning as I talk to a friend who is dating someone I find myself envious of him. Oh how I wish this had never happened to me. It is such a devastating accident and it has changed my life dramatically. And what's worse, is that I should be thankful this Thanksgiving that I am alive. But there are many times, and this is going to sound horrible, that I wish I had died in the accident rather than having to endure this life that I am living. I'm sorry to say that.
So here I am, crying all over my computer as I write this feeling so empty and alone wondering if my life will ever be anything like it used to be. I mourn the life I used to have everyday but this morning I am having a particularly hard time and I needed to write it to remind all of you out there that are disabled that you are not alone in your loneliness and fear and loss. And to remind all of you who are NOT disabled and have someone to love and loves you back, love with all your heart. Don't just go through the motions of your everyday life. Live your life like it could end tomorrow and love, truly love, if you have it.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Jack White has finally entered the gaming scene! Three songs out of each of Jack's three bands: The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and The Dead Weather were released to RockBand and Guitar Hero.
Out of the White Stripes is "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground," "Girl You Have No Faith In Medicine," and "Icky Thump." Out of the Raconteurs is "Many Shades of Black," "Steady As She Goes," and "Salute Your Solution." From The Dead Weather is "Hang You From the Heavens," "Treat Me Like Your Mother," and "No Hassle Tonight."
Though I find this great news, Jack White does not. In an LA press conference Jack White stated, "It's depressing to have a label come and tell you that [Guitar Hero] is how kids are learning about music and experiencing music," White complained, adding that, "...if you have to be in a videogame to get in front of them, that's a little sad."
This is where I'm a little disappointed in Jack for the very first time in my life! Although a part of me agrees with him that this is how kids are learning about and experiencing music is a little sad rather than getting on real instruments and going to concerts. But Rock Band and Guitar Hero are sometimes the only way kids can do so, and they have a blast doing it! So why not Jack? Why not let kids enjoy learning your music through a video game if that's all they have available to them?
But I highly encourage kids to get out there and learn and experience music whether that means getting into the school band where you are provided with an instrument or buying an old guitar or drum set at a garage sale. As well as saving up your money to buy concert tickets so you can experience live music cause it is truly an amazing experience to listen to and see your favorite bands and artists perform live.
Music is a vital part of my life and has been since I first started piano lessons in the third grade going all the way to achieve the highest level in music theory. The piano started as my main instrument but I also learned to play the flute and oboe. In High School though, I began singing and that became my primary focus from then on to my graduation from college majoring in Vocal Performance. I still play the piano and sing today and I couldn't imagine my life without them, let alone music in itself.
So I agree and disagree with my boy. It is somewhat depressing to think that Rock Band and Guitar Hero may be the only way some kids and adults are learning and experiencing music. I cannot imagine only having a video game to learn and experience music instead of laying my hands on a real instrument, let alone reading music; though I know many musicians actually cannot read music. That is another big reason I adore Jack so much. He writes and co-writes his own stuff as well as producing some and even directing his own music videos.
But you do not have to have that kind of talent to learn. Sure it's gonna be hard at first and frustrating to some, but you gotta keep at it. You will learn it and trust me, you'll feel so great for having accomplished a real instrument and you'll have a blast doing it. There is a plethora of music out there from easy to difficult, from classical to even music from your favorite artist for you to learn and play. So don't be afraid or intimidated because it's not the plastic instrument you play on in your video game and read colored lines on the screen.
So join the school band or choir and sign up for music classes and you'll see what Jack means. Bottom line for me, YES! have fun on your video games but there really is no substitute for the real thing.
Monday, November 16, 2009
So the sermon on this particular Sunday was about sharing and looking at a problem in a different light. My Pastor, and I shall call him by his name cause I don't think he would mind :), Clay, used the examples of the disciples finding ways to share only 7 loaves of bread with 4,000 people. They could either look at it in frustration and impossible to do so with only 7 loaves OR look to God and hear what He has called you to do. So while the disciples cried out that it couldn't be done, God called upon Jesus to find a way to feed that many people with so little and Jesus heard Him and did.
Sharing should be a very vital part to our life here on earth. There are so many people in need and we can get very selfish and take for granted what we have while there are thousands of people out there who don't have a bed to sleep in or two nickels to rub together.
I learned a lot about this while living in New York City. Everywhere you go there are homeless people either sleeping on the cold and hard cement with a stand asking for money or walking around with a paper cup from McDonalds begging, and sometimes right in your face so it was hard to avoid them. Often times I was in a hurry for an audition or for work and just completely ignored them but there were times when I was just strolling in the park or heading to meet some friends and stopped to give a dollar and sometimes even two even if that meant going with less for myself. And that is exactly what Clay was talking about on Sunday; sharing sometimes means giving more and keeping less for yourself. And it made me think that I did do that sometimes and it made me feel good that I helped someone more by keeping less even if it meant it would put me in a bind to get back on the subway. There were also times when I actually gave them food instead, even if that meant giving them my lunch or dinner for work. Even times if they were by a vendor I bought them a chicken or beef kabob for three bucks, even if it meant not being able to buy one for myself.
So I was proud of myself for being so selfless in New York City despite the hard life I was already living; a starving artist as they say. And so I could completely relate to the sermon Clay gave because I already had such experience with sharing. We should all try to learn how to share, and that doesn't always mean money. It can be being involved with Neighbor to Neighbor or giving your used clothes and shoes to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
There are so many things you can do to share. And trust me, you will feel so good you'll want to do more even if means keeping less for yourself. That is sharing.
Thank you Clay for such a wonderful sermon. It reminds us to step out of our bubble and see others in the world who have less than us.
Monday, November 9, 2009
It is so easy to take advantage of the simplest tasks of our everday living for those who are not disabled or injured. And that's totally normal but I hope to open people's eyes with this by making you aware of those simplest tasks that my injury has taken from me, and hopefully temporary, but still taken from me for quite some time.
Have you ever thought how lucky you are to wash your own hair? To be able to lift your arms and shoulders high enough to reach your hair and wash it. Or being able to reach up to the cupboard to reach a glass or a dish; to put your own pants on because your arms can reach low enough and are flexible enough to do so. How about being able to look side to side to look at someone or behind you using just your neck, let alone to look up at the sky?
ALL of these things I cannot do. Now hopefully with my neck surgery done and when this halo comes off I will be able to the latter. But I need help reaching up to get something out of the cupbard because my arms don't reach higher than shoulder height due to scar tissue. My mother has to wash my hair because I can't reach my head for the same reason. There are so many things that I can no longer due because the scar tissue has limited my mobility. I used to be a personal trainer and now because of that scar tissue I haven't been able to step inside a gym for 18 months and that kills me. I also used to be a big runner and i can't do that either. All I get for exercise is my physical therapy, which can be painful, but that just doesn't cut it for a personal trainer and health nut.
My day to day tasks are difficult and I have to be taken care of morning and night of everyday. I must be assisted in some of the simplest of tasks as I have mentioned. Have you every thought of being fortunate to be able to live your life without physical assistance? I can bet you haven't. That you've never even thought about it. I didn't.
So thank God, or whoever, that you are able to do so. Don't take the simple things in life for granted, despite how cliche that sounds. But it is so true and I know this by experience. To be able to take care of yourself, to reach that glass and wash your own hair makes you blessed that you have never had to go through what I go through everyday. Think about that everyday when you do something so simple as such things mentioned that you can do them without assistance.
To be able to take care of yourself is such a fortunate thing because when you lose it, you lose a lot of self confidence and joy in life. I have lost a lot because of this injury. I can only hope that my doctors will continue to help me so that maybe someday I will be able to do those simple tasks again; to live on my own and take care of myself and I know I will never take that for granted ever again. So neither should you.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
True, real friends are hard to come by. I know this by experience. I have had a troubled life since high school and through all these nearly 10 years I have found out who my real friends are and those friends I THOUGHT were my friends really weren't when the ice got thin. I have been hurt by many of those friends. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Keep your friendships in repair." Well I feel as though many of my friendships have gone by the wayside due to some of the hard times in my life, which also brings me to another quote by Samuel Johnson, " If a man does not make a new acquaintance as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in constant repair." Well I feel as though those friends whom I have not mentioned and will keep anonymous have not kept our friendship in constant repair.
People throw around the word "friend" too much. So many people have "acquantances" that they cannot differentiate from being a "friend." What is the definition of a friend? True friendship is perhaps the only relation that survives the trials and tribulations of time and remains unconditional. A unique blend of affection, loyalty, love, respect, trust and loads of fun is perhaps what describes the true meaning of friendship. Similar interests, mutual respect and strong attachment with each other are what friends share between each other. These are just the general traits of a friendship. To experience what is friendship, one must have true friends, who are indeed rare treasure. Friendship is a feeling of comfort and emotional safety with a person. It is when you do not have to weigh your thoughts and measure words, before keeping it forth before your friend. It is when someone knows you better than yourself and assures to be your side in every emotional crisis. It is when you can sleep fighting and get another morning with a better understanding. Friendship is much beyond roaming together and sharing good moments, it is when someone comes to rescue you from the worst phase of life. Friendship is eternal.
So I have met new acquaintances and it is these new acquaintances that I have found the true meaning of what a real friend is. Since my accident I have met new friends and it is these new friends of mine that I call my true, real, dearest, best friends. Sure, I have a few friends from my past, such as high school, that I can still call as such but they are few and far between. But for those that I have been friends with for more than decade and are still here for me, I love them truly for still being here. As Samuel Johnson also said, "True happiness consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and choice." This is a quote I often think about when I get lonely for friends and think about all the friends I used to have and who I have now. And it makes me want to grieve for those friends, which I do, but as Samuel said, my true happiness lies in the worth and choice of friends I have now. And this helps me to dry my eyes :)
Since my accident, I have found those new friends: Clay and Jen Andrew in most particular. And since my accident for those who have TRULY been there, those friends I have known before the accident: Jocelyn Berado, Sam and Jamie Jacobson, Joe Garoutte, Michael Koopman, Emily Nash Gray, Becca Mielke, Jess Zukin, Craig McIntosh, Heidi Larson, Jodi McManus, Joe Goodavage, my manager who has always believed in me, and many of the people that work with my parents who have supported not only me, but them as well. I would also like to give a very special thanks to everyone at the La Grande Methodist Church. I couldn't thank you more for what you have done for my family and for all your prayers. These people, these friends, have shown truth to Aristotle's words: "Misfortune shows those who are not really friends," for these people I have mentioned have been my friends despite my misfortune. Thank you, to all of you. I love you with my soul.
And as for tonight, I had a great time and it boosts my confidence every time I go out so it is good for me. But it is with these particular friends that I see that I must part with you a quote from Edward Everett Hale, "The making of friends, who are REAL friends, is the best token we have of a man's success in life." I hope to have the kind of success that Hale speaks of. I've just got to keep them in "constant repair."
Friday, November 6, 2009
This however is certain: when the greatest rock guitarists of all time look at you and nod, call you by name and sit down with you to play you know you have a Hell Hound on your trail. Or perhaps it is White who has been chasing the Hound.
Jack White, born John Anthony Gillis. Also known as Jack White III and sometimes affectionately referred to as the "Seventh Son" is indeed the seventh and last son of seven boys and three girls, born July 9 1975 in Detroit, Michigan to Teresa and Gorman Gillis. Whatever name with which White may be called, none of them has yet to wield the key to the locks on this enigmatic yet creatively magnanimous artist.
White is not only most times a mystery in both his direction and motive, he is a chameleon the likes of Dylan both physically and musically. We have watched over the last thirteen years his perpetual metamorphosis.
From that Indie Boy Blue (or red in White's case) creatively crafting an Indie cult dream full of peppermints and ice cream under a red, white and black motif; spawning thousands of "Candy Cane Children", to a critically acclaimed musical artist whose name seems to fall easily and frequently from the lips of some of the world's greatest musicians.
Jack White would more than likely cringe and spit at such a vacuous, oversimplified definition of his early history and his "from the get go" vision and rightly so. There was always that thing lurking seductively underneath it all. Sneaking around like a big cat waiting for it's moment to pounce; right from his and Meg White's 1999 debut studio album self titled The White Stripes.
If you spent your time with your eyes closed (or open), put the visual that is The White Stripes in perspective, you would have caught the whiff of the leashed beast from the beginning, pacing right outside the room.
White is a creative powerhouse. A musical work horse. Musician, Song Writer, Producer, Father, sometime Actor. His collaborations and projects are dizzying. To name but a few of these collaborations: Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Page, Loretta Lynn, Beck, John Peel, Mark Ronson, Dexter Romweber, Adele, Alicia Keys.
He is the creator of The White Stripes,The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. Jack White also launched his own label and studio/record store Third Man Records in Nashville. He has yet even more creative morsels awaiting his attention. One wonders, what might happen if we could bottle just one ounce of infusion from his Muse?
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Now since the accident, I feel as though I am being punished by God for any sins and wrong doing I did, any offenses against other people that I did either consciously or unconsciously. Because what happened to me was bad, real bad. I feel as though He is being so cruel as to have punished me and then let me live to live out the punishment. And for this I cry very often. I have a lot of bad days and on some of those bad days, I actually wish I had died in the accident. I am going through hell with my life right now and another thing that makes me cry so, is that my life is on hold now. For a long time. My burn doctor and plastic surgeon have both told me that a burn is one of the most devastating accidents there is because it is such a slow healing process, taking as long as even 4 years. Well I am 18 months into my healing and I hardly see a difference, except in my recent surgery to release my neck and right elbow and wrist. Other than that, my scars are still very prominent and because of that I hide out, not allowing people to see me cause I'm so embarrassed by them. So now I live at home, with aging parents and have to be taken care. And with the rate of my healing, it's looking like a 4 year plan for me.
What did I do that was so horrible to be punished this badly for? I feel as though the wrath of God has been brought down on me and He is showing no mercy. So every night that I go to bed I pray that it will be all over with tomorrow. But despite my prayer, I know that it won't and therefore I wish never to wake up again so I don't have to experience the pain or look in the mirror at a face I don't recognize and makes me cry every time I do look at it. Almost my entire body is scarred and despite what the doctors say, I feel as though nothing, no matter how many surgeries I go through, will fix this body. And for that I feel trapped.
I mourn the life I used to live back in New York before that third year. I grieve for it everyday of my now suffering life. I was living my dream to be an actress and a singer; to be on Broadway and on film. And in an instant, it was all taken from me and I don't know if I'll ever be able to go back. And if I can't, my soul will die.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
My best friend (Jocelyn Berado) went through 30 hours of labor when they finally decided to do a c-section on her before baby Isaac James made his grand entrance into the world weighing 8lbs 3oz and 22 inches . He is such a strong and healthy baby! He's so adorable and cute I just wanna eat him!
He was wearing a sports shirt on when I saw him for the first time and I decided I think he should be either a soccer player or a quarterback...I'm leaning toward the quarterback :) But if he followed in his mama's and auntie Sarah's footsteps and became an artist I wouldn't mind that either;)
But I love him so much and since I'll never get to have a blood nephew or niece I have to live vicariously through my best friends. so Jocelyn gave me my FIRST nephew and I couldn't be more excited! I'm going to spoil him to death. I will also soon have a niece in December : Findley Nash Gray!
So congrats Jocelyn on your wonderful accomplishment! You done good girl! I love you!
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
In 2005 I left to go pursue my dream of acting and singing in New York City. I lived with my best friend in a 2 room apt in with three of us girls in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. So, as you're assuming or wondering, two of had to share a room and since jocelyn and i had known each other since middle school and had grown to be best friends, we shared the room. In fact, we were so poor, we shared a bed: a futon bed! good grief. it was fun at first. It was like having a slumber party without parents every night. We were so happy.
Three days after I arrived I got a job at this adorable irish pub where most of the employees were Irish so it made for some fun. I began as a waitress and about 6 months later, they remodeled the place into a brew house and became House of Brews and served of 52 beers from around the world and I became a new bartender. So exciting! Bartender was the job i had originally been wanting. So i learned the trade and became VERY good at it.
But in February of 2006 I left House of Brews to go with a very good (and much older) friend of mine. He had been in things like The Sopranos and Casino and many others. He was fairly well known and had a lot of money. But we were good friends and he looked out for me and wanted to take me with him to LA to go to pilot season over there. Well I had a lot of fun and it was great to go to LA, we hardly got my headshots out to anyone and I didn't get one audition. I felt like it was a waste of my time despite the fact that he paid for everything for me and treated me real nice. Hes a sweetheart and I will always adore him.
However, when i returned 2 weeks later, i made the biggest mistake that i will regret forever. Instead of returning to House of Brews i went hunting for a new job. And i got one down in the heart of Greenwich Village at The Garage. It was a jazz restaurant and bar. It was much more formal which i wasnt so fond of. I liked the good old irish pub where you didn't have to wear uniforms like at The Garage.
Also another life changing event that happened at the beginning of the year was I left my cozy and safe nest in Williamsburg to go live somewhere else where i didn't have to share a bed. I finally found a place in Long Island City (not long island) where it was only 10 minutes away from the HEART of the city so that was great. Another great thing was it was like a big warehouse building so it was very open and there were 3 bedroom on the main floor, a bedroom in the basement and our landlord had his own apt on the top level, the 2nd level. And there was a rooftop access! So you could go up there and see the beautiful manhatten skyline from just barely across the East River. It was perfect.
Unfortunately that fall i got very sick with thryoid problems and had to leave in a hurry so i had to pack up all my things, put them in the basement and take only a few things with me. Luckily all went ok with my thryoid (they foundn 2 cysts but they were benign) and i returned to New York only to have to search for another apt. This time I went to my manager's apt ( i acquired a manager in 2006 when he discovered me at the New York Independent Film Festival). He was like a dad to me so he took care of me. We had a good time.
During that time, i had many auditions, did several small independents and did a few pilots (that never took off). I finally got a decent part in a movie called Retribution, which my manager directed but i did audition for this part long before i met him. I was the main leading lady. I was pumped cause this was really happening and it was REALLY ACTUALLY going to the New York Independent Film Festival where people would come to watch it at a movie theater! It was fantastic. That night was magical. My parents came up for it and i was so happy to share it with them and for them to see some real work!
During my time in New York I lived in three different places ( i was kinda a gypsy :) ), did several acting gigs, got myself an agent and a manager, had SEVERAL friends come visit which always made for EXTREME AND WILD fun as well as family.
Then it was in March of 2008 I came home for a visit cause i just needed one. i was going through a rough patch and that's when my accident happened. A mere week after i got home. And you know what happened with that as I explained in my first blog.
My life has turned around dramatically for the worse i always feel like. And i'm trying to turn it around for the better but it's been a tough long road and i still have a ways to go yet. Doctors say a burn is the most devastating injury as it takes years and years and many surgeries to recover from it. Well it's true. I am on my 2nd year and according to one of my doctors i have about 2 more years. Life is hard but all i want to do is get back to New York. I mourn the life i used to live.
But since being home i have become good friends with my pastor and his wife, Clay and Jen Andrew and they have provided a good, safe and very fun environment for me to hang out and I have a blast with them. I truly feel as though they love me for me and look past my scars and for that I truly love them. Thanks guys. And for those friends out there who i have known for awhile and are still here for me i thank you as well and i love you all for the same reason. I just can't wait till this is all over and i can get my life back and see all of you again (since i'm hiding out because of my scars.) But once again, a dear thanks to Clay and Jen, as well as Sam and Jamie Jacobson, my best friend Jocelyn Berado, Emily Nash Gray, Becca Mielke, Michael Koopman, and Carol Campbell whom i have allowed to see me, for not making me feel like a freak with my scars; for hanging out with me and making me feel wanted and loved.
I feel as though i must explain my blog ID: mrsjackwhite. In 2001 I became a HUGE fan of the band The White Stripes. The lead singer in that band was Jack White was actually born John Anthony Gillis and was the 7th (the youngest son) of 10 children. In 1997 Jack formed the band The White Stripes with Meg White (from whom he took his last name) . In 2001 they released their first album: The White Stripes and made 5 more albums after that for a total of 6. Then in 2005 Jack started a new band called The Raconteurs which was made up of a bunch of old friends. This was a much different sound and it was great, still is. The White Stripes is not so active anymore but there are rumours of a seventh album!. Then in 2009 Jack came out with ANOTHER band called The Dead Weather which Jack White then took the backseat of the band and plays the drums, which made me sad cause one of the reasons I love him his unique voice. I love to listen to his vocal styles. I also love him for his incredible genius as a musician. He writes his own stuff, produces and his lyrics and music are just plain amazing. He is definitely a rock n roll artist to be reckoned with. In fact, just recently The Rolling Stones passed on the torch to Jack.
Another reason why I love Jack White so is because later on around 2003, i began to have troubles with my boyfriend. Big troubles. And i could always turn to his music to make me feel better; to dull the horrible pain. No matter what happened between my boyfriend and I and when we finally broke up, I could always turn to Jack's music for comfort. And to this day, if i'm upset, angry or having a bad day, all I have to do is listen to Jack and all my worries melt away....for awhile anyway :) And now that i have had my accident I turn to him again to take me away from the pain and the realization of what happened
to me. I dream of the day I finally get to meet him so Jack or any crew or friends of Jack White, if you read this, please, I would die to meet my idol!
To get a great and full biography go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_White
Monday, November 2, 2009
I almost died on St. Patrick's Day 2008. The doctors honestly don't know how I lived through it. Due to amnesia of the event I cannot tell you how it happened but I can tell what has been told to me.
Around 1am on March 17th the fire alarms in my parents home went off. My mother and father jumped out of bed and ran into the living to see nothing on fire but instead to see smoke coming from upstairs where my room was. My mother ran upstairs and saw me lit up on fire. i had collapsed to my knees and folded my arms across my chest. She first yelled out to me to get down on the floor and roll. But I wasn't responding. Nor was I screaming out for help. So she grabbed a blanket off my bed, threw it around me and put the fire out that had consumed my body. My mother then ran downstairs to call 911 and my father went upstairs to be with me. My clothes were pretty much completely burned off of me and as I lay there on the floor barely conscious, with my dad kneeling next to me not knowing what he could do for me, he said I opened my eyes, looked at him, and very softly whispered, "I'm sorry, daddy." My mother started to come back upstairs but my father yelled down to her not to come up. She didn't understand why and my father didn't give her a reason that night. But later, he told her it was because he was sure I was going to die right there before help got there or I wouldn't survive any further help and he didn't want my mothers last memory of me to be what he was looking at as he knelt beside me.
The first person on the scene was an old friend of mine from High School who is now a cop and she ran into the house and up the stairs to me. The paramedics then arrived and tried to get me stable but they were having trouble getting me to breathe. So they had to manually use the airbag to keep me breathing the entire life-flight out to the Oregon Burn Center, which is nearly impossible. Once there, they worked quickly to clean the burn off and see how extensive the damage was. As soon as they knew what the damage was, the doctor came out to talk to my parents about how badly I was burned and what was going to happen next with the extent of my injury regarding surgeries, what the surgeries would do to help me, an estimate of how long I may be hospitalized, what I will go through while in the hospital to get better and basically what it means to have a burn injury and what it will mean for me and the rest of my life with a burn injury like mine. I was then taken from the OBC to the main hospital of Legacy Emanuel to undergo emergency surgeryto save my life.
I did survive. But the doctors were all completely amazed that I did with the severity and extent of the burn injury i incurred. In that first surgery I lost 7 pints of blood; the body holds 8 pints. They said their only likely guess for why I survived was because of my young and very healthy heart. I was in impeccable shape - I weighed around 103lbs, 11% body fat, ran at least 6 or 7 miles a day, weight training as well as classes like yoga, Pilates, hot yoga, and spinning class. I also ate insanely healthy and was a personal trainer and nutritionist when living in both Portland, OR and New York City. The doctors contributed these things to my survival. They said had my heart not been as healthy as it was or I as young as I was (I was 26yrs old), I would not have survived.
I was then held in the Oregon Burn Center (Portland, OR) where I was in a coma for a month and underwent 4 surgeries in that first month. I stayed in the Burn Center for almost four months enduring 6 surgeries in total for skin grafts. They often had a hard time with me with getting my grafts to take. Too many times my body would reject the graft(s). This was just the beginning of learning that my body is unique...and not a good kind of unique. My body does not heal properly causing intense scars, scar bands and contractures that are hard, have no kind of pliability to them in the least bit and they grow in my body like a spiders web. And NOTHING fixes them absolutely. I've gone through several release surgeries multiple times on the same part of the body and have followed up with physical therapy and after a time, the scars and contractures shorten and tighten up just as they were before. It causes a great deal of pain and suffering and frustration.
After 3.5 months recovering in the OBC, I went to the Rehabilitation Institute of Oregon where i underwent more physical therapy and scar tissue massage. After 3 weeks there, I finally got to go home.
Since then I have gone through a very tough time. This was a devastating injury and has changed my life dramatically. I have now, as of this post, undergone 16 surgeries and have unknown more years worth of repair. I also now have a plastic/burn reconstruction surgeon working with me.
I am completely devastated about my life because it has ended my acting and singing career which i was well on my way to in New York City where I had been living for 3 years before the accident. Now i am 27 and living at home with my parents because i have to be taken care of. I have limited mobility in my arms so it makes it hard to do simple daily tasks. I also have to endure painful physical therapy as well as difficult mental therapy. I think I cry at every session because of how devastating this has been for me. I lost everything. My life was taken from me in a split second. Everyday, I think about how I list it all, how I have nothing now. I avoid mirrors line they are the plague because looking at myself makes me both physically and emotionally sick, not to mention, I simply don't recognize myself anymore. I am in constant mourning of everything I lost - my life, my independence, my physical self and above everything, my dreams.
So here I am, now in a halo after my latest surgeries where they released my neck (removed the scar tissue) as well as my elbow and wrist (right). I was in the hospital again for a month and underwent 4 different operations in that month. Two on my neck and one on my elbow and one on my wrist. Before the operation on my neck, the scar tissue was so bad it had contracted me all the way down to my chest, as if my chin was attached to my chest. I had no neck and no chin and my lip was burned as well so it was pulled from the contraction in my neck. But now after the latest surgery, my head is up and i can finally see up and in front of me! The only problem is, I hate this Halo. It prevents me from moving my head at all and they have me in this to prevent the contractures from coming back right away. There is still a possibility they can come back but i have to do intense therapy to prevent it. Dr. Vangelisti also said I will probably have to have another release surgery on my neck again but it will be much more minor. I have about 2-3 more weeks in this halo and then i get it off. I have been in it for 2 months now and it has been excruciating and annoying. I can't wait to get it off so I can use my new neck!
I have had incredible family support and while i was in the hospital it was amazing the letters and stuffed animals i received from both people i knew and people i didn't know. People had started a medical fund in my name to help with medical expenses. It was absolutely amazing. But what hit me the most was the people i thought would be there for me, weren't. And the people I never thought would be, were.
But thank you to all of you who helped with my medical fund and sent cards and letters and stuffed animals! You all mean the world to me and I love you all.
This is just the beginning of my story.