Lessons in Joy While My Daughter Fights For Her life

It was the Fall of 2013 that I began one of the most challenging, scariest and gratitude filled two weeks of my life.  I literally watched my daughter, 23, fight for her life. There was one moment during those two weeks that she was in a CT Scan with the head of Radiology, the head of ICU, the head of Cardiology and the head of General Surgery….and all I could do was wait.  With her permission, I share this video that tells her story.

Music: This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush

The first time I left the hospital was 38 hours after she collapsed – the hospital wouldn’t let us stay after visiting hours once she was out of surgery. Once her oxygen saturation levels dropped two nights in a row and her health was declining we didn’t leave the hospital again until she did, two weeks later.  Matt & I did shifts so that someone was always there with her. I did the day/evenings and he did the evening/nights.

Matt was my rock. I felt helpless just watching her, knowing that no matter how many times I kissed her head or held her hand or got her water or talked her through the emotional and physical pain that it was not going to help her heal her body.

The. Most. Helpless. Feeling. In. The. World.

While in her presence I remember being strong, taking notes when doctors came by the room, asking questions because Em was so drugged up on morphine that, even to this day, she has a hard time remembering all the details. She didn’t even realize how close to death she came until our family doctor said, “you almost died” at a follow up appointment a few weeks after getting out of the hospital. I was a momma bear watching over her cub. The minute that fresh air hit my face tears began to roll down my cheeks and by the time I made it to the truck I was one hot mess. Matt had to make the calls to keep the family informed because I couldn’t speak through the tears and I didn’t want to break down when I needed to be strong for her.

As the two weeks played out there were many offers of assistance and in the beginning I refused them thinking that I could handle it and I didn’t want to put anyone out. Trina offered to clean my house and Tia offered a meal for Ry, my 16 year old son who was at home.”No, no, it’s ok – we’ve got things covered but thank you!”, I’d say.  As the days got tougher I had to surrender.

Kristi was on top of the situation and had been offering her assistance the whole time which I had been refusing. When I finally gave in and asked for a favor, to make some green jello with no whip cream, she arranged for an army of people to make it because it was the only thing Em wanted to eat. She sent a text asking if she could call. I said I couldn’t speak on the phone or I would fall apart. She promised to keep it about the delivery of said green jello. As soon as I heard her voice I burst into tears as I knew I would.  She was sick that day and couldn’t deliver the jello herself for not wanting to spread any infection to Em. She had arranged for Jaylene to deliver the jello with her massage table to give Em & I massages at the hospital.  I literally fell to my knees in tears, overwhelmed by the gesture. Thank you Kristi for helping me get through that most difficult time.  Thank you Jaylene for the gift of relaxation. I am grateful for you both.

The toe nail polish of Em’s big toes was removed so we could see the color of her nail bed.  Once she was starting to feel a bit better I tweeted looking for a mobile pedicure person – who were people recommending?  Erin, who I had only met once before, responded that she was on her way to the hospital with a Gift Certificate for Emily for a mobile pedicure. I tried to refuse and thanked her but she wouldn’t accept my refusal and said she was already on her way.  Again, overwhelmed by the kindness I burst into tears when I saw her. Darci had made the trip with her and brought a shot of tequilla.  More tears fell. Thank you Erin & Darci for showing up, making a difference in my day and holding me while I cried in the middle of the parking lot. I appreciate you both.

Beck is like family.  I didn’t even have to ask and she didn’t offer – she just did. She took Riley & the dogs to her house, fed him, made sure his homework was done, dropped him off and picked him up from his extra curricular activities.  She treated him like one of her own. I didn’t worry much about Ry in those two weeks because I knew he was in good hands. I remember the first “shift” that Matt took with Em.  I can’t remember how many hours I had been at the hospital by then but she took me home, ran me a bath and even tucked me in. She took my car that night because she knew if I only slept a couple hours I would go right back to the hospital. She brought it back in the morning. She knew what I needed when I didn’t know anymore.  More than words can say Beck, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I wouldn’t have handled it the same without you.

Why is it difficult to accept gifts of kindness?  I know that if I had a friend in a similar situation I would want to help her and helping her would bring me joy. Was I taking away my friend’s joy by refusing their offer of assistance?  Let’s let each other help each other!  Imagine what a beautiful world we would live in if gratitude and acceptance were openly shared.  When someone offers me help today, I try to remember these two weeks where I didn’t have control over things and felt a pull to surrender and let the kindness of others help me through the roughest two weeks of my life.  I am grateful for every moment, every gesture and the lessons I learned in joy, acceptance and surrender while my daughter lay fighting for her life.

Thank you for the love you showed me through notes, the texts, the prayers and positive vibes, the offers of assistance and the flowers sent to Em. To those who shared this journey with me, thank you for taking care of me so I could take care of her. xo

5 thoughts on “Lessons in Joy While My Daughter Fights For Her life

  1. Aly Pain

    Love this Melsha. I remember that time well and everything you were going through. It brings to mind the times my oldest was in the hospital and I tried to do the same – be strong, hold it together, refuse help. The truth was I didn’t know how to receive, and boy did I need to learn!
    Times like these not only show us the amazing support and love we are surrounded by, but the ability we have to surrender and open fully to it.

    1. Melsha Shea

      YES! That’s exactly it, Aly. It’s still difficult to accept help but I work on it surrendering and opening to it. Thank you for the support. <3

  2. Celeste

    Oh wow Melsha! Tears flowing. I’m so in awe of her strength and story of survival and of your strength, mama bear. What sacred lessons of joy and opportunities to receive kindness, which is something you give in such abundance every single day. So much love to you and your precious family.

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