You Can't Mourn Here

March 16, 2020


I’ve been debating about posting this story and my thoughts on the current world events because it is something that still haunts me, but I feel so strongly that it needs to be told.

As many of you know, my husband is fighting a relapse of Leukemia that occured 7 years after having a bone marrow transplant that “cured” him. The Leukemia relapsed in a rare tumor form in his gut that presented as a bowel blockage. When it was first discovered, we spent two weeks in the hospital awaiting a bed at Stanford, but nothing was available. The surgeon at the local hospital decided that we couldn’t wait any longer and performed surgery laparoscopically to remove 12” of his small intestines along with the tumor that we later discovered to be malignant.

That led us back to Stanford in October of 2019 for a month-long stay of high dose chemotherapy treatment. During that time, Willie developed an abscess that went septic and ended up killing him. 

Like he actually died in front of me. 

Then the amazing team of 30 doctors that immediately materialized in his room brought him back to life and sent him off to ICU for 3 days. Previous to this event I had no understanding of the delicacy of life and how fleeting it truly is. 

During those 3 days of isolation in that ICU wing I got a taste of how that world works and it is an amazing and terrifying place. Our room was a sterile box with heavy metal doors between the hallway and adjoining room. We shared a small, double paned window with the room next to us and I counted 10 people that went in and out of that bed during the 3 days we stayed. 

Some of them died.

Others recovered enough to move to another floor of the hospital.

As I waited and watched over my husband during those scary hours I prayed that he would be a case that transferred to another unit and not the alternative.

The story that is currently haunting me occured on our second day in the ICU. A man was brought into the room next to us around 3PM and a dozen family members came to surround his bed. This was curious since the ICU rule is only one visitor at a time, but it soon became apparent that it was this man’s final moments on earth. I could hear all of the conversation through the door and understood that he was a loving father and grandfather who was likely in his early 60’s, the same age as my dad. 

The nursing staff checked in frequently to make him comfortable as the family waited. Around 5 PM the room burst into wailing and sobs and I knew he had passed away. I cried with them as I looked at my husband in his uncertain state of health and wondered if we would be next. About 3 minutes into the sadness a nurse entered the room and with a loud, but caring voice she said

“I am so sorry for your loss, but this bed is needed by another patient so you can’t mourn here.”

She directed them out into the lobby just before a janitorial team came in to sanitize the room and a new lady was in the bed 10 minutes later. 

I am haunted by that phrasing of “You can’t mourn here,” because it is a directive that could easily be spoken to my family or any of yours if we do not stop the spread of this virus by participating in social distancing as we have been asked to do.

I’m a bit inflamed over the stories being shared on social media of people who contracted the virus and it “wasn’t that bad” or “only lasted a few days.” That is amazing and wonderful for healthy individuals, but we are a country with hundreds of thousands of people who are not in that category and WILL need ICU care if they catch the virus.

My husband is one of these people.

Social distancing allows us to slow down the spread of the virus so if/when people catch it and need ICU care there will be a bed available to them. It’s not about how I may personally be able to fight off the virus, but how WE as a nation are able to fight it. 

I attended a webinar over the weekend hosted by Kris Kresser who is an esteemed functional medicine practitioner and he presented data from the information we have on the virus so far. By looking at how other countries like China and Italy have handled it without immediate social distancing we are able to see how important this first step is.

He said that each day of social distancing prevents 100,000 reported cases of the virus.

That is massive!

That gives our hospitals and ICU units time to see people as they get sick and not be massively overrun like we are seeing in the other countries. There are reports of an entire hospital being built in one day to accommodate the illness in China and images of tents being set up outside of Italian hospitals to create beds for the sick. 

I think the most harrowing image I have seen is from the 1918 outbreak of the Spanish Flu in which they set up rows and rows of army tents to house and care for the sick. That could be us if we don’t act now as a nation to slow down the spread.

That could be my husband in one of those tent-beds.

Or me!

Or any one of us.

I don’t want ANYONE to be on the receiving end of being told they can’t mourn here.

All of this can be scary and overwhelming and it is not my intent to instill fear. Rather, I feel impressed to teach from my experience and offer a view from inside of the ICU.

As Paul teaches us in 2 timothy 1:7

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.”

It’s as if Paul is speaking directly to us in this current time. We do not need to fear, but we need to use our POWER to slow down the spread of this virus and our LOVE to make it happen. These ingredients create a sound mind in which we can hear and act on the voice and direction from above. 

Part of our power lies in the ability to choose our thoughts which lead to our emotions. If you are living in fear and doubt then I invite you to check in with your thoughts and see what you're telling yourself.

My story is a perfect example of what NOT to do. When I think of my husband lying on a cot in a makeshift ICU tent I feel completely panicked which leads me to act in erratic and anxious ways and results in my entire household exploding with fear. 

All of that came from a thought!

I am choosing instead to acknowledge my fear, investigate the feeling to see what it has to teach me, then I am choosing a different thought which include things like these:

Nothing has gone wrong here. 

We are safe.

We are prepared.
I know exactly what to do.

I have the power to control things within my home.

You are welcome to borrow any of those that bring peace to your heart. When we control our thoughts, we also take control of the stress hormones in our body which are creating the anxiety and chaos. These same stress hormones actually suppress the immune system and leave us more susceptible for infections so if you want to avoid getting sick, start by harnessing your thoughts!

I’m inviting you all to participate in social distancing and arming yourselves with the spirit of power, love and a sound mind.

I know the “sound mind” part is the most difficult for many of us right now so I will be hosting a free webinar in the coming day to offer tools that will help you find that peace of mind. Stay tuned to our facebook page for details!

With love and digital hugs,