Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Endure and Overcome

"Whenever we are inclined to feel burdened down with the blows of life, let us remember that others have passed the same way, have endured,and then have overcome."

Thomas S. Monson


I love this quote. It really helps me to feel better when I can remember that I am not the only one, especially because Jesus Christ has gone through everything, felt everything I have felt and even more. That is what has been running through my head and kept in my heart throughout this whole process. I really do feel closer to him. I never forget, nor can I each day of my life that he is now my legs, carrying me wherever I may go. I feel so strongly about his existence and his love for me. I can never deny that he is living and that he is watching over us, feeling our pains, and hoping that we turn to him for comfort.

Today our home teachers came over to visit and remind us why obedience is mentioned so often by our Lord. It is to help us become prepared to be higher beings in the his celestial kingdom. I know that I need to do better in becoming a better me. I know that I need to try really hard and work through the trials that come before me and bear them with strong faith and obedience. It is to help me and teach me. Sometimes, we have to endure trials that seem unbearable and too hard to think about, but in the big scheme of things, it's all very trivial and so doable. We are higher beings and can get through anything with faith in the Lord.

I am so thankful that I have a testimony of this gospel. I know that it is the true gospel of Jesus Christ that in following it, I am doing what my Heavenly Father wants me to. I know that he loves and cares about me individually, and that is what has helped me out so much through this life changing experience. He knows me and he knows what I need to help me grow. Therefore, I am putting my trust in Him, and will do what He asks of me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sweet Home California

After a long drive and many stops in between, we finally made it home to see my family in Fresno, a melting pot nestled within the San Joaquin Valley. Little Holly ran out to greet me at the car and asked if I was feeling better and up walking again. Her little 5-year-old mind could not comprehend the huge change that occurred in the last few months and thought it was a temporary thing. I can't blame her because that's what I thought initially, too. It is going to take a lot of getting used to. There are many changes to get used to now. It was funny to hear her introduce me to her neighbor friends as, "That's my big sister, Martina. She can't walk." I hope that's only a temporary introduction because it's a bit of a downer to have to hear for the rest of my life. lol

 On Sunday we attended church services and saw old friends. I got to hear my sibling bear their testimony of faith in their Heavenly Father and all that's happened as well as the strength they feel from my attitude about this whole situation. It touched my heart so deeply about their faith in God, especially after the accident and the life changes my family and I have been through. I am so proud to call such strong young people my brother and sister. I love them so much. We headed over to Woodward Park for a nice Sunday stroll.

Graduation day was a hectic one (as these things go). Our best friends, Seyla and Seybee and family friends gathered to celebrate Molly's accomplishment at Macaroni grill for lunch. Yum! We enjoyed delicious food and company, and learned to speak Italian in the restroom. Graduation was awesome, simply because we got to sit on the ground floor and Molly was on stage. I was so proud of my little sis. She was the student body president and led everyone to the pledge of allegiance as well as shared a small bit of her insights to the graduating class. I gotta tell ya, she's an amazing individual, so many accomplishments already. I really hope Brown University will treat her well. We are all so proud of her.





The next day, we drove down to Pismo Beach where the wind was as hectic as the day before was to us, yet so nice to just relax and hang out with my favorite people in the California sunset (although it wasn't prime time). I loved seeing Holly play in the water with Aja. She was so cold, but had the funniest face afterwards from being frozen (California beaches are pretty cold) but she had a lot of fun getting buried in the sand, pumping it on the swings, and trying on hats with AJ! I learned pretty quickly that it's very difficult to wheel in sand because the front wheels kept sinking in. We really had to push hard onto the back wheels. This was going to be a problem we have to figure out because I love the beach!
Sunset at the pier was pure beauty. I always enjoy watching the sun set over the glittery ocean and listening to the calmness and seagulls in the background. I wish I had a sweater with me though because the June wind was still so chilly! We had my clam chowder at my favorite restaurant in Pismo, Splash Cafe. Fresh clam, potato, creamy soup. It totally completed my trip to Pismo. I highly recommend it.


I had such an amazing time with my dear family and friends back in Fresno. It was different, I know, for everyone to wrap their heads around the whole concept of me being in a wheelchair. But I could feel the love for me shine through and help us all get through this transition period. We're still hoping for a miracle, but enjoying what's in between. I was so glad to be able to spend time with my family. It felt good to be home in sweet ole' California.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Road Trip to California

When I was in the hospital, I looked forward to going home to my small time in Fresno, CA where everything seemed alive and flourishing. I also couldn't wait to be with my family again because I missed them so much. I knew that I need to go back home for a while where things are the same would provide some continuity and cheer me up from everything that had happened in the last few months.

The perfect opportunity was to attend my sister's graduation from high school as a valedictorian. So off we went on a scenic road trip from Utah to California. We saw a lot of mountains and deserts for hours. We stopped briefly in Beaver for restrooms and photos in this humungous chair.
Beaver, UT. Notice the leg atrophy from the last few months

We visited AJ's grandparents in St. George, UT. It's very beautiful and developed city, very serene with tons of Californian influence like In-N-Out Burger (the only one in Utah).


With Harry
 We had a long stop in Las Vegas for a buffet (they are known for ton of cheap buffets) and to walk down the Strip. We just love the busy life here and there's always so much to see! We walked about the whole Strip taking tons of pictures of lots of the themed casinos and fun building interiors.

Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas


Gelato from the Bellagio, Las Vegas


It was bit tricky to take this trip so soon after the accident as we're still going through trial and error to find the best way to adapt to this new lifestyle. The most inconvenient thing that happened was stopping in a dessert town, Baker to use the restrooms at a convenience store and waiting forever for a wheelchair stall (which was used by someone who didn't need it, mind-blowing now that I actually really need it) and finding there was no toilet seat, which was a big deal because with paralysis, there is  no option of standing (sorry, it's a bit TMI), so we had to move onto another place. So frustrating. I guess this will have to be one of those things I have to prepare for from now on.

Read about my experience at home in the next post.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Life after my Spinal Cord Injury

After 2 and a half months of being in the hospital, I was released from the hospital. I felt a bit better physically as my insides weren't hurting any more and I could function more independently. Mentally, I felt in good condition and ready to move on with life. The nurses got me really excited to go on my cruise and helped me feel strong enough to take on the challenges ahead (little did I know, there would be plenty).

My mom and little 5 year old sister, Holly came to visit me that week, which was awesome because they were just what I needed to feel like I was going back to my real, old life again. We had a little get together with good friends who were there to celebrate my release with me. My mom made us amazing Cambodian food, which I had missed so much (I also missed eating in general). They surprised me by inviting Cambry (my amazing idol, who has now been wheeling around for 4 years). I felt so loved.






We had a few outings like going to see my friends, Aja's rugby game and Stephanie's ice skating show. It was so cool. I had missed the outdoors so much. It was so filled with color, green grass, blue skies, clear rain - everything beat staying in the hospital. And I just loved being with these people.

After the cruise, life shifted a bit more and reality hit. It was a rough transition and I felt like I was failing at it. Everyone had gone back to their normal routines - work, school, etc. and I was left at home alone. I struggled so much to do things myself and felt like a little child that always needed help. I needed help getting dressed and putting my turtle shell on. I needed help bathing. I kept falling while transferring from my chair onto places. I kept getting sick because of different medications. It was just plain difficult and I began to get depressed and tired of it all. I reverted to old questions I had in the hospital, Why do I have to go through this? Does my Heavenly Father listen to my prayers? Does He even care about me? I wondered how I was to get through all of this.

The answer came in getting to work at the MATC cafeteria. There, a plank was set up for me that elevated me to the height of the register. I helped customers and got to talk to them about their day. I kept busy with getting whatever I could ready for the day. I found that having something productive to do besides the scrapbooking I was doing before, helped me feel like I was making a difference.  The interaction I had with other people allowed me stay positive for them and myself. I knew that it wasn't good to bring around negative energy with me all the time, so I had to switch my thoughts to look for positive things. With that, I was able to count the little blessing each day and use those to carry me through things that were difficult. I felt more inclined to try new methods that would work and make my life a little easier.

I feel that these difficulties are some of that bitterness my doctor told me about. And the blessings I've learned to count are those moments of sweetness. I hope and pray with all my heart that this will get easier. I have faith that it will and that Heavenly Father will provide me with the strength I need to see it through.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cruise to Mexico in a Wheelchair

After so many months of recovery in the hospital, a cruise was perfect for the end of that difficult period. It was certainly a great motivator for me to get better and for my doctors and nurses to push me to get better. Thanks to MATC, I was able to pay the rest of the cruise fare that I had been saving up for before the accident. Two days before the cruise, I was release from the hospital and headed to San Diego.

Before embarking on the cruise ship, we had to go through a security check line, which I was led to the front of. Getting to pass up to the front of the line sounded pretty cool at first. But then I realized there would be extensive probing and a long wait. Bummer. I had to make sure that I had showed them my medical release form and prescription forms for all of the medication I was bringing on (and there were quite a few. I was just released from the hospital, mind you).

We embarked on the Carnival cruise ship from San Diego and to sea we went.
It was pretty accessible to get onto the ship as there were ramps all the way. We didn't notice it being difficult to get around the ship for the rest of the time, except for getting up to the top outdoor deck where the swimming pool and hot tub were (I was carried up by AJ). It was also kind of tricky to maneuver around crowds of people, but that's normal.

Right as we got onto the Carnival cruise ship, we made our way to the buffet, which is all-you-can-eat basically all day everyday. I was pretty sea sick at first so Dramamine was crucial to making the rest of the trip enjoyable. I had an on-board nurse there to support me and made me feel so much more secure in case anything happened. 

As for accommodations, we requested a wheelchair accessible room, which meant a larger room, but it didn't include an accessible restroom. My wheelchair couldn't fit through the door, which was a pain. It made me have to rely more on other people. We made do with it, but there's got to be a better option of next time. I'm so grateful for my roommate, Aja and our friends for helping me out with this.

What to pack: 
1. Bathroom supplies - Make sure there are enough catheters and gloves are brought on (if you have SCI). If you run out of the supplies (and they're reusable), wash them with warm soapy water or talk to a cleaning maid. 
2. Medications are also very important. 
3. Barf bags - I felt like my tolerance level for sea sickness was weakened because of my changed center of gravity and lack of physical movement. 
4. Sunblock and sunglasses 
5. Appropriate clothing including formal wear for fine dining


With help to be carried from the ship onto a little boat, we rode off to Catalina Island, just off of California, where there were lots of tourist shops and restaurants. We went on long strolls together through the island. There were beautiful views from different angles of the island. I really loved pushing around.




Sexy little bunny left in our room by the roomkeeper.
La Bufadora in Ensenada  
It was more sandy and windy as we docked at Ensenada and wandered around, but it was pretty manageable to get around. It was only tricky once we were shopping and trying to get around the booths in a wheelchair. Sometimes, I had my friends bring items for me to look at. The bargaining process was funny and another story for another day. Walking around the town was interesting as we noticed how much work it is for someone in a wheelchair to get around. There are lots of steps to get into shops and restrooms are not wheelchair accessible. With some help, I was able to get around.

We went over pretty close to La Bufadora, whose path was easy enough to get around because of the ramp. Waves would hit the rocks and gradually build enough pressure to blow up, hence the name.  It was pretty cool to watch. 

We rose up earlier to watch sunrise.  It was a bit difficult to see, but nice to get to do after so many months of being in a hospital room.  I loved the fresh cool breeze.  We enjoyed hot coco together afterwards.  It was a great way to end our cruise.  

Four days on a boat at sea was such a great experience.  I'm so glad I got to do it.  I want to give a big thanks to everyone who helped me along the way. This was unforgettable.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Outings and my SCI Recovery

I'm so grateful for the time that AJ has put into this relationship and how much love he shows me through his patience and encouragement.  He has been a key player in this whole healing process.  He visits every single day and updates me on the outside world.  He is very enthusiastic...a great story teller.  He's also very comforting during times of sadness.  He makes me smile :) He is in a tap class and is learning some pretty cool moves.

AJ and I have set aside "date nights" for Friday's, where we put a sign on the door so visitors don't come in for a few hours and we just watch a movie.  I think I fall asleep for most of them.  He tries to stay for as long as possible to make sure I'm really asleep.  I always hate it when he has to leave though because I have to be in a room filled with machines, feeling empty and all by myself. Sadness seeps in because I feel confined to my bed and my freedom is withheld for the time being. Without help, I cannot leave.

But we had a special date this last week. We went to the Draper Temple Open House.  I was really nervous about leaving because it seems so foreign, but my doctors are trying to help me get assimilated with real life again, so we will be doing more "outings."  It was windy and cold.  But the temple was awesome.  We were one of the last visitors and got to go through different entrances. Our tour guide was so kind in showing us the interior with great detail and humor. He led us to one of the coolest spots - it was a grand picture of Christ in his heavenly resurrected state, with his eyes so soft and arms spread out ready to embrace us - me - and saying, "Come unto me." It brought so much solace to look into his peaceful eyes and feel the warmth of his arms, calling me to come unto him.  He really is real. That was an amazing experience, which I'll never forget.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Grateful for Friends

"But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine." -Thomas Jefferson


I'm so very grateful for friends who come to visit and are so willing to listen, talk, and cheer me up. They have been instrumental in my healing process. They keep the days from blending in together in boredom. They really do brighten up my day and bring great stories to share. I really do love them!

Angelica has been coming over every morning at about seven o'clock.  She tries to be very quiet when she comes in, but I know she's here.  She's so funny.  She comes to study here, work on my loom hat, acts as a scribe for my journals, talks with me, and helps me however she can. Her scribing has helped out so much because I get so tired and dizzy when I try to read or write, so I don't do a lot of it.  I'm so thankful she is willing as it helps me to think my way through my experiences thus far before really writing it down as well as reflect on what's going on.

Ryan brought over the movie, "Emma," and watched it with Angelica and me.  I thought it was funny when he asked for us three to hold hands.  I shared dinner with them because I was not feeling well or hungry, which happens a lot lately.  It was a sweet movie.  I think I fell asleep. The drugs make me so tired. Sometimes, I don't even remember what happened the day before, but I try super hard to remember when people come to visit because it makes me happy :)

Other friends from the ward like Stephanie and Sarah have been stopping by to visit and keep me company. One friend, Greg brings in a group on Sunday's to sing to me.  Bishop brings some of the guys over to visit too.  They are so funny and so sweet.  He even brought his family, even his son, Christian to play his guitar, "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz.  It was so awesome.  He makes playing the guitar look like so much fun. They have been such blessings to me.

On Sundays, my nurses and sometimes Mom help me get dressed in Sunday clothes and Dad takes me to the chapel on the ground floor to listen to the gospel message and partake of the sacrament.  I have felt peace in listening to the talks and thinking of my Savior Jesus Christ who has been exactly where I'm at and completely understands how I'm feeling. He provides me with so much strength. Although, sometimes I get so tired that I fall asleep (not much has changed.lol). It's a bit uncomfortable to have my little IV/feeding tube rack with me at all times, tough. blah. It's also comforting to see that there are others that are going through some of the same things as me, and to know we're all in this together. I'm glad that there is so much support from friends and family.  I'm grateful for the relationships that were created before and are strengthened now from this experience.  I'm also grateful for those new ones as well. I can feel the love and I feel so grateful that Heavenly Father has blessed me with such great friends. He sent angels to watch over me and cheer me up. He really does have a plan and he placed them here for me to help me get through this.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Daily Universe Article about Martina

A reporter from the school newspaper, the Daily Universe interviewed me about my accident, while I am in rehab. She said so many wonderful things about me. Just check out the title, "Student looks for a miracle in life despite multiple hardships." Here is the article.  I hope you can read it!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

PANCREATITIS

I haven't been able to keep down ANY of the food I'm eating, despite lots of encouragement and bribes to eat more.  Honestly, nothing sounds remotely good, not even my favorite foods like they normally do like OJ, Special K berry cereal, yogurt, or even steak, rice, and veggies!!!  Everything I eat comes up… making everything less appetizing, even to think about it. It's so very frustrating and I feel miserable all over when it gets icky. It's even worst when it happens in front of my friends. I feel bad that they have to witness that stuff, but I'm sure they must be feeling bad for me. It's just not a pretty sight, is it? Here we have this 80 lb. girl, bags under her eyes, messy hair, with my boyfriend's baggy pi's on, barfing up a storm. blah! I don't feel like a vivacious, energetic Martina anymore. It's pretty rough.

Test after test, doctors finally determined that I have Pancreatis, where my pancreas is inflamed from the extreme trauma it has experienced along with the rest of my body. I looked it up on PubMed, which is just as confusing as when my doctor was explaining to me, but here it is, "The pancreas is a gland located behind the stomach. It releases the hormones insulin and glucagon, as well as digestive enzymes that help you digest and absorb food."It turns out that the pancreas does a lot more than being the little lump in my body as I once thought it was.

So do you know what all of this talk about pancreatitis means? Yes, you guessed it...nose feeding. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? It's where a tube in stuck through my nose and goes past my pancreas to my stomach, which will give my poor baby pancreas some much needed rest. I am being fed a yellow liquid from a pouch that is hooked up to something like an IV stand. It sits right next to my bed. I am hooked up to it all day everyday.  It even goes to physical therapy together, and because we endure that hardship together, I think we're developing a bond. However, it irritates me at times like when it runs out and makes a really, really loud beeping noise until a nurse comes into switch it out, which may take a really, really long time. Hardships build up relationships, right?

Overall, pancreatitis has been really rough. Just when I was really feeling better and just looking forward to leaving my dull, grey hospital room for home, I get to stay indefinitely longer.  I REALLY want to get better soon...I'm having trouble keeping my faith up because of this roadblock, but I'm trying. I feel so utterly miserable. I'm so ready to leave all of these monitors, tubes, blood samples, shots, blah, blah, blah behind and get some fresh air. Yes, fresh air is long over due. I need to move one already and go do things with my life. I know I'm complaining way too much, but I really can't wait to get better. Each day, I lay in bed feeling week, throat hurting, stomach pained, and spirits low. I don't see a point in this part of the process. I wonder if my Heavenly Father planned for this pancreatitis along with the accident or if it's something that comes with the territory? If so, why? It's really unnecessary. Not only am I feeling terrible, but I don't know when it's going to end and that causes extra stress because it's also incurring tons more hospital debt each day that I really can't pay for. Uh…let's not go into the hospital bills. It's way above my head and giving me a headache just thinking about it. Nonetheless, I have faith that He has a plan for me and that all of this will be over soon. Grey skies will turn to rainbows soon enough, I hope. In the meantime, I'm thankful for the family and friends who still continue to visit me even though each visit is so spontaneous and they never know what's going to happen with me. Sorry and thanks, guys.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bittersweetness


Life is full of Bittersweetness.
There comes in life, many bitter moments, hardships, trials, things that seem unbearable. However, we must always remember that there must be a balance. Remember to look for the sweet moments as well and hold on to them for as long as possible.  Embrace all that you experience.  Learn from it.  Hold on to those you love and live by what you know is right.  Stay strong and positive.

Rehab is a reality check. The first few days were miserable. First, each day was a reminder of how much I needed my legs because I'm being trained to do everything with as little help as possible; I couldn't even put on my own pants! Oh the frustration, especially with this turtle shell on (and another six months to go).

Second of all: physical therapy. All the activities we did would have been 10x easier if I could just use my legs. Who would've thought scooting could be so hard; yes, without your legs scooting your butt is one of the most complicated activities ever! The only thing I had to rely on were my arms and my physical therapist's support so I wouldn't fall flat on my face.  And if I wasn't careful, there would be random moments of passing gas... how embarrassing! I just kept apologizing to my therapist...Sorry Dario!



But... I know I'm going to get through it. It's just so frustrating. I wish I use my legs again. Hope. Something that I need to hang on to, right? Well, at least that's what everyone has been reminding me since.
My doctors have been so supportive of me. Sometimes the ones from the O.R. would just come in and ask how I'm doing, and even hang out with me (some even discuss their day skiing...oh you guys make me jealous!!). My nurses and CNA's have been so kind as to help me as much as possible and talk to me and tell not to give up, because miracles do happen. The best part throughout all of this is having my boyfriend, family, and friends along the way. I feel like I need and appreciate them so much more. Thanks guys :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Our Story Begins with a little life changing Accident


The WORST Pain of My Life!
It was a bright Thursday afternoon when she got out of my car. Thursday meant snowboarding class for Martina and she was as excited as ever to go. With the same enthusiasm of a little kid getting to go on a much anticipated field trip, Martina waved goodbye and headed to the bus. Neither of us knew that that day, our lives were going to change.
 
It was several hours later when the first glimpse of tragedy struck.
My phone rang. Glancing at the caller ID I saw it was Martina. I answered expecting to hear her sweet voice, but instead was greeted by a stern manly voice. Confused I asked,
"Hello?" What came next broke my heart: softly Martina cried, "Hon, I fell on my back and it hurts really bad!" If ever anybody felt powerless to help the one they loved, it was me.
Rushing to the hospital I arrived just in time to see them taking her off the helicopter. I ran inside to be with her, but I was stopped by a sentinel guarding the entrance. Captured, she escorted me to my cell where I waited until another came to question me. After her questions she left me, and I was left to my thoughts. I was restless like the way you get when waiting for the results of a test you don't think you did well on. I glared at the door waiting for my release; it was almost an hour before it came.
As I entered the room Martina was in, I felt like I was walking onto the set of a t.v. show. Doctors and nurses rushed around her in ordered chaos. She lay in the middle of the room, smothered in blankets; above her there hung a giant heater that looked like a fry warmer. I crossed the room and lightly caressed her face, it was ice cold despite the attempts to keep her warm. She looked at me and smiled. But it quickly disappeared. Tears began to pool in her eyes as she told me how much pain she was in.
She looked into my eyes, now glistening from tears, and told me, "Hon, I'm scared." I was speechless. All I managed to say was that everything was going to be alright. The words didn't seem like they were enough; not for me and not for her. Words cannot describe what either of us felt at that time.
It wasn't long before my father came and together we administered a blessing to her. This was probably the best thing we could have done at this time. It brought the peace that can only be felt when people place their trust in their God and align their will with His. Shortly after we had given the blessing, the doctors told us they were taking her for immediate surgery.
They took her and we watched helplessly as she was wheeled down the hall for her surgery. For her the next six hours were spent lying on her face, unconscious, while the doctors operated to save what they could of her spine. The surgery resulted in steel rods and several screws placed in her lower back. While for me, the time was spent calling her friends and family to console and comfort them.
After her surgery we had a little time to visit with her, but those of us who were there didn't stay long. We knew she needed rest to regain her strength for the challenges that lay ahead. By now it was 3 a.m. the next day. The visit was bittersweet; though she was able to talk with us, tears swelled in her eyes. She was still in pain and the doctors did not yet know how much damage her spinal cord had experienced, but the outlook was bleak: she would probably never walk again. We gave her another blessing and then we left. All of us much more sober and grateful to God for the tender mercies in our lives that made it possible to bear this experience and the hardships to come.