By Rosie Preston
The main reason I am sharing this family situation with you, my readers, it is this wonderful newspaper who gives me the opportunity to continue to do what I love to do, which is to write and to share.
It was two years ago when Phil woke up as usual to go to work. I noticed a change in his body. He was weak and his skin was as yellow as a banana. So I called the triage nurse at the VA hospital. She listened and asked questions. After listening to his symptoms, she told us to go to the nearest emergency room. We did so, only to be referred immediately to VA hospital in Birmingham. Even though the local hospital told the VA that it was a serious emergency, we had to wait quite a while since the ER was packed that Saturday night.
Eventually, several doctors stood around Phil’s bed. They were very concerned about his skin color, among other symptoms. Of course, that is a sign that the liver is not working properly. Phil was admitted that night and that began a 21-day stay at the VA hospital. Interestingly, the doctors were all from the University of Alabama and immediately started giving him bags of plasma.
Phil’s low red blood cell count was only five. When the doctors could not get that number increased, they knew his red blood cells were not being processed by his liver. Phil was sent to the Intensive Care Unit on the third day after the doctors told him they could do nothing for him. His red blood cell count, which should be 15 to 22, had not gone above seven.
I had just merged onto Interstate 59 to pick up our granddaughter at school. I’ll never know how I drove to Gadsden with all the tears running down my face. I somehow managed to call the immediate family. After picking up my granddaughter, my daughter drove us back to Birmingham. Our teenage granddaughter has lived with us since she was age three, and she is as close to her PaPa as she is to her dad. Her crying was very sad to me. Somewhere along the way, we stopped. She bought Phil a little red stuffed dog, which is still very special to him.
When we got back at the hospital, many family members were arriving as they heard about Phil’s diagnosis. While he was in ICU, he was hugging everyone and telling us not to worry. He knew that he was on good terms with God and that no matter happened, he would be okay because of his strong faith. All the family members knew that, of course, but it still didn’t keep us from being so upset.
Then a miracle happened, as many specialist doctors from UAB Hospital started new procedures on Phil. After several days, his red blood cell count came up to 11, which gave the doctors the go ahead to make a plan to continue to treat him. After several test, the doctors decided to remove Phil’s spleen in December.
After Phil recovered, we were told that his spleen was full of dead red blood cells that were not being processed. His skin color started changing back to its normal color. We were sent home after a few days but had to make multiple trips back to the hospital for continued care. Over a period of five weeks, Phil had five rounds of chemotherapy. He was also prescribed daily steroids. It was a touch and go procedure that was used to finally get Phil to a place where he could get his blood work done – the VA clinic in Rainbow City. We praise God and are very thankful and accepted it just wasn’t Phil’s time to leave this earth!
At the present time, Phil has leukemia but luckily it remains in remission. He never was able to work after he had become sick, and the upcoming household bills were due.
Family members came together and gave us enough money to make it. The company where Phil had worked for several years came up with just enough money to keep us going. Strangely enough, when I sat down to pay bills, I had a $730 credit with the gas company. I called and they sent me a check!
Then, because I am in care of my mom’s money, she had just enough in her account – over $600 – to continue to pay our bills. So many people sent money that I knew it was more than a coincidence. It was answered prayers sent up from his loved ones.
Many family members and some friends continued to give money from their hearts. This has strengthened my faith, because I know that Phil is a walking miracle and that God placed the right people to help us through this transition. We always had just enough money, almost to the penny, to pay our bills!
I now look around me and realize the many things that I thought were important do not matter at all. The fact that we have gone from being middle income to low income has put me in survival mode, and I have found many ways to be resourceful with our outgoing funds. I can cook meals that don’t cost nearly as much money as eating out. There are great thrift stores in our area that offer many name-brand clothes, and those are the two main ways to reduce our ‘outgoing’ money! I have become comfortable with adjusting to a lower income.
The material things that were once very important to me are no longer in a worry. I have a teenage granddaughter who loves to wear nice clothes, and one day I took her and a friend to a thrift store. They didn’t want to get out of the car, but within 15 minutes I looked up to find them going through clothes that would fit them. I then heard, “Nana, look what we found!” Those girls were as excited as they would have been if we had gone to the mall. We checked out with four bags of clothes and spent less than $25!
Since then, my granddaughter and I go shopping, and it is a great challenge to find something that she will consider wearing. We definitely are on a mission trying to find not only clothes but shoes, bed linens and decor for our home, and often we get lucky. I have told my granddaughter that the reason I go to so many different thrift stores is that there are people who bring their goods every day, so we never know what we may find.
Being in the low-income group as we are compared with those who have much more to spend, I have realized that we have everything we need in life. In fact, we are still being blessed.
Sometimes a card will arrive in the mail with a check, cash or a gift card to eat at great restaurants. This is a wonderful treat and very appreciated. We often save the cards for a special birthday or holiday.
There is scripture I have found to be true when we needed help: Paul says in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Just 13 verses later, Paul gives the liberating promise of future grace: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Keep smiling, Rosie
Visit my blog at www.life101rosie.com, look me up on facebook at Rosie Preston and e-mail me at email@example.com.