september.

September 2, 2010

well…it’s september. in just over a couple of weeks i will have completed my first year since the wreck. my heart is filled with two very different emotions. one, dread. it has been interesting to be back at belmont for a fall semester. fall semesters are far different from spring semesters. everything is new and there is so much to adjust to. it’s very easy to get wrapped up in the idea of “a year,” but most of all, i fear how i will feel on that day.

last year, around this time, i had this Holy Spirit kind of feeling in my gut like my life was about to change drastically. i felt like i was on an edge and that everything was about to tip into motion. one could argue instead that the motion of my life came to a halt. in so many ways, it did. within the months following my wreck, i learned so much about the importance of rest (however, i still have much more to learn). really though, i think my life just took on a different pace, and maybe a ninety degree turn. God has been teaching me so much over the last twelve months and i know it’s only the beginning.

which brings me to my second emotion: relief. i am so ready to have made it through the first year. someone asked me once if my current state of being with eight fingers was a touchy subject. the answer? absolutely not. this is my reality now. it’s not like a bad breakup that i would prefer not to mention until i’m in a new relationship. getting through the first year is a relief because i can begin to dwell in life outside of the first year of healing.

i have wonderful news to report. when i left for school last january, i measured my grip strength to be around a 24 in my left hand (remember, it was initially a 4?) with my right hand around a 60. i went into the physical therapy office right before i moved back to nashville and my new left hand grip is a 37 with my right hand getting even stronger at a 79. my left hand is now over half the strength of my original right hand grip, and i think my right hand is getting stronger from playing left-handed guitar (which is getting a lot better). overall, everything is getting better. i’m writing again, piano seems to be opening up new creative opportunities, and my degree is taking some exciting turns at belmont this semester. please pray for me as the 17th draws closer. thanks for all the support this past year. more to come!

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i’m officially done with physical therapy today! i am thrilled with the progress i’ve made. my hand has improved tenfold since i started back at the end of october. i mastered the dreaded black clothespins, the heaviest weight. and i am especially proud to say i met my grip strength goal today! my initial grip strength in my left hand was a four, while my right hand was around a sixty. my therapist said our goal would be twenty. i was thrilled the day i met the strength of ten, but today, my grip strength was twenty-four. my left hand is at least one-third the power of my right, and that is a huge comfort. when i think back to where i was, this is the sweetest of victories. of course, my therapy does not really end. everyday is a new challenge for my hand, and my hand is meeting it. a good friend asked me the other day what my biggest limitation is at this point (aside from guitar and piano). i answered my grip strength, and even that isn’t so bad anymore.

the dreaded black clothespins

of course, this is not the entire picture of the challenges ahead. i leave for school on the tenth and i have no idea what God has in store for me this year. i do know that i’m pretty much open to anything now. my life is God’s. that’s one thing i’ve definitely taken away from all of this. pray for me with this semester coming up. i’m a little anxious about it still, but i’m also eager for a change of pace. there are a lot of unknowns ahead, but i do know that God is my life now. happy 2010 everyone!

three months.

December 18, 2009

my accident happened three months ago yesterday. obviously since the last entry is entitled “two months,” i haven’t written in a while. somehow i’ve been relatively busy. i was fortunate enough to still have the opportunity to sing in “christmas at belmont,” so i journeyed down to nashville to sing the music i had been learning from home with my peers. it’s a massive event, if you’ve never experienced it. i highly suggest you turn your TVs to PBS on the evening of the 23rd (check your local listings for the time). i’ve included a little sampler HERE — my group, session, singing with our wonderful host, trisha yearwood! 🙂

this past month has been a little bit more directed toward sliding into normalcy. i’m now typing with two hands and learning how to do it better. allowing myself to go out in public without any sort of glove on, unless i’m cold. haha! gripping “paper thin” picks and building up some strength strumming my left-handed guitar. i french-braided my hair for the first time a couple of days ago! and other exciting victories that allow my left hand some independence.

i recently purchased rob bell’s new book “drops like stars.” i highly recommend picking it up. it’s about suffering and creativity — something extremely relevant in my life right now. i’ve been painting a lot. it’s very calming and relaxing for me and it helps me creatively express myself in a time where guitar cannot as easily fill that need. you may have noticed the new banner above, it’s one of my watercolor paintings. it’s good to still feel like an artist. God is healing me with the endless possibilities in creativity.

two months.

November 20, 2009

two days ago marked two months since the day of my accident. people have asked me if the time has flown by. in a way it has, but it also seems like that day was so long ago. isn’t that how it always is? time does seem to move a lot faster when life isn’t all consumed the way mine used to be. i feel like a kid on summer vacation. yet so much has happened in the past two months, i feel like that day was a year ago. i guess it is good to report that my days are not dragging along. but the 17th of the month always seems a little longer.

the past month has thankfully been a little quieter. more physical therapy, no surgery. it’s strange looking back on the challenges from the past two months. the day of my wreck. losing one finger. the week at the hospital. living with my hand attached to my hip. losing another finger. going home to heal. getting acquainted with a new hand. teaching that new hand old tricks…and those are only physical challenges. there have been several mornings i have woke up to look at my hand, only to realize that my fingers are not coming back, and the challenges are not going away. when i dream, i have two whole, healthy hands. i guess there’s a part of me that is under the impression that my body is just going through a phase, like a fractured wrist, and i will heal and go back to the way things were.

i’m slowly learning to see my hand as my hand. i know one day it will feel natural and all, but i also know i’ll look back on this moment and be glad i left it behind. the past two months have been a sequence of events i never want to live again. i never want to go back to the days i had my flap. i never want to go back to the day i saw my hand in the mirror for the first time. i’m sure i will not want to go back to this moment, but i’ve learned we must live in the difficult moments we are in until we can look back and see how far we’ve come.

playing left-handed.

November 8, 2009

i’ve really been struggling with the loss of my music lately. now that i’m over the largest part of my immediate health struggle, i ache to do things i cannot.

my right hand doesn’t understand. i was listening to a new song by jason reeves with a beautiful guitar picking line. all i wanted to do at that moment was grab my guitar and pick the strings. (jason has this effect…check him out if you’re unfamiliar.) i miss playing my music. i took it for granted before all of this happened. it’s strange. i was never a singer-songwriter who constantly lived their instrument. it was my passion but it wasn’t ever something that i couldn’t go a while without. i could always go to it, and it would still be there. i rarely picked up my guitar just to play it. now it’s all i want to do.

for those of you who do not know, a wonderful friend blessed me with a left-handed guitar three days after my accident, while i was in the hospital. it has given me a lot of hope for my playing, but it frustrates me to know i will have to start over again after seven or so years of playing right-handed. the callouses that had formed on the fingertips of my left hand have softened to new skin. my right hand struggles to remember the form of the simplest chords. i wonder if i will get the fast-twitch muscle memory back in my left hand so i can pick the strings the way i used to.

i’ve been reading about other guitarists who suffer from hand disabilities and i came across an article on a guitarist with focal dystonia. apparently his ring and little finger are frozen, curled inward, without function. he switched to left-handed guitar, which is apparently about as easy as, ‘trying to breathe through your feet.’ i think this is hilarious, haha! but i am encouraged from the article. the man says you have to be willing to sound awful. this is huge for me, because i often get frustrated when i’m not picking up a skill immediately. (for my fellow music majors – case in point: ear training.) but i think this is good advice, especially for me. one thing that assures me is my constant desire to play now. i think it will get the guitar in my hands until it works. i hope it does…please pray for my patience.

moving forward.

November 5, 2009

i am happy to report i am healing very well. much has changed since my last post. i’m sorry it has been so long…see now how much i procrastinated as a student?

my last post (three weeks ago) had me in a soft cast the week after my second amputation. the soft cast served to keep my hand immobilized to protect my new skin graft. i went back down to vanderbilt on october 20th for my post op. they removed the cast, revealing my new hand to me for the first time. the medical technician told me i handled the situation better than ninety percent of his patients. this may be true, but after dealing with a groin flap every night for two and a half weeks, i feel like i’ve seen it all. and there is a lot of truth there. i had been preparing for that day for a long time. in all honesty, the most prominent emotion i was feeling at that moment was relief. my skin graft looked healthy. i was done with surgery for a while. i made the right decision for stage #6. i could move on.

one particular new struggle of the day was the ‘go go go’ my surgeon kept speaking of. translation: physical therapy. my middle and ring finger had essentially been immobilized for a month. they were stuck in a slightly bent curve. i could neither extend nor touch my thumb to my finger tips. my surgeon prescribed six weeks of PT, three times a week. fortunately i have been able to carry out the doctor’s orders here in columbus.

two weeks later i am not only touching my fingertips with my thumb but i am also gripping things, such as: a glass of water, my contact case, my hair (to tie it back), etc. this has been one of my greatest victories. it has been a challenge to be so completely one-handed. i’ve gotten extremely creative. i use the crook of my left elbow to grip bottles while my right hand twists off the cap. if that doesn’t work, i’ll try squeezing it between my knees or feet. haha! i have become much more independent, which is particularly exciting for me. although, the forced dependance i have endured this past month and a half has probably been a once in a lifetime experience.

i spent the entire past week in nashville as my roommate’s guest so i could sing with session and chorale in their fall concerts. (if you are not belmont savvy, session is an all women’s a cappella group that arranges all of their own music…we also happen to be amazing. chorale is a classical mixed ensemble. also amazing.) both groups have been so generous to keep me involved and it was so wonderful to be on stage again making music. it was a little strange being back at first. i had been separated from the campus for so long, i felt like a high school senior on a college visit. however, everyone was so welcoming and i am so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful place.

i still have a long way to go. the grip i have is often too weak. i still cannot make a fist. i still cannot straighten my fingers. but physical therapy has been going extremely well and i am eager to see how i will progress. in addition to soreness in my stiff fingers, i have been struggling from phantom pains (pain in my amputated fingers despite their absence.) it’s a very strange sensation, but overall my pain has been very tollerable. the spreading incision line i complained of in my last post is almost completely healed. all of my stitches have been removed and all the scabbing is gone. i still have some bandaging, but i have come so far. each new menial task i am able to complete on my own is a huge victory.

again, i am so grateful for the continual prayers.