I had a short lecture with Ashtyn in the hospital when she woke up Monday. “When Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling and sculpted David, he had a vision of what he wanted it to look like. He knew what it was going to look like before he even started. Ashtyn, you need to have a dream of what you want and then you can make it a reality. Without a vision of where you want to go, you aren’t going to go anywhere.” The short conversation ended. An hour later the doctor came into the room as he had done each afternoon over the weekend. “Ashtyn, what are your plans today?” he asked. “I don’t know. Just rest I guess.” I turned to her, “Seriously Ashtyn, what are your plans today? What are you going to do?” She thought about it for a few seconds and asked the doctor, “Can I go home?” Pleased and with a smile on his face he said, “Yes.”
The day before, as Ashtyn was curled up in her bed, sleeping deeply in the middle of the day with the blanket partially over her head, I asked the doctor, “What needs to happen for her to go home?” Pointing at the inanimate girl, he frankly said, “She just can’t be like this.” The following day, her simple question, “Can I go home?” was enough for him to observe that, “Ashtyn, you’re much more here today than you were yesterday. I see no reason why you need to stay in the hospital.”
Three hours later, she left the hospital and was taken directly to the pool. It was Memorial Day which is a day we love to spend at the swimming pool. Ashtyn wanted to go home but I insisted she spend some time outside. She spent 30 minutes sitting by the pool, not particularly happy, sad she couldn’t swim, and sick to her stomach. Shortly after getting home her Uncle Casey and Aunt Alisa came to visit. Alisa jumped on the trampoline with her daughters while Casey had Ashtyn sit on a camping chair next to him. Watching her adorable cousins would have normally brought much joy to Ashtyn, but she continued to not feel well. Casey and Alisa brought cookie dough and made cookies while Ashtyn slept on the couch. Their efforts for Ashtyn were perfect, but she was in a funk that was proving to be difficult to get her out of.
Ashtyn had an IV pole that hung a bag of formula with a tube that fed into a pump and then hooked to her NG tube. The goal was to have the formula infuse at a rate of 75 milliliters every hour, 24 hours a day, to give her the calories and nutrients needed. She couldn’t handle any more than 25 ml’s an hour, which was a problem in the hospital as well. At 5 a.m. she asked that I put the pump on hold so her stomach could calm down. Shortly after waking up Tuesday morning we talked about the importance of getting to the point where her stomach would handle 75 ml an hour. It had been 2 weeks since she first got sick from gallbladder stones and she hadn’t eaten well since. It was imperative that she got off the starvation path. I left the room and shortly came back as she was throwing up in a bag. Before we knew it, she had thrown up her NG tube. The tube went in her nose and out her mouth. My head raised to heaven as I shook my head asking God, “Why? After two weeks, why is she still throwing up? After two weeks, why does her stomach still not handle food? She needs food desperately. Losing more weight would be detrimental. Why? What is the purpose? So far, after each stumbling block, I have seen a purpose and blessing in all things. I honestly see no purpose in this.” She attempted to put the tube back down her throat and into her stomach. “Mom, if I eat all the calories I need, can I not have the tube? I learned my lesson about avoiding food. I will eat.” I took the tape off her face and pulled out the tube.
With the tube out, I immediately saw Ashtyn come to life. Her smile was back, her sense of humor was back, her energy was back. My question was answered. The purpose? It was time and Ashtyn was ready for the tube to come out. She had thrown up many times before with the tube in her nose. Why did she throw up the tube this time? It clearly was the right day for her to throw up the tube to get rid of it. I shouldn’t have doubted God. Before going to bed she shared this insight, “Before, I tried so hard to avoid the NG tube. When they told me I had to get one placed I thought, ‘well this means I’m not strong anymore.’ That one thought added to more and more thoughts, ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘I am not strong enough.’”
The tube pushed her over the edge and played a part in her losing her fight within. With the tube gone, she ate as much as she could during the day and didn’t throw up once. She ate more calories than she was getting with the NG tube. Much of the day she felt very full. Tonight before laying down, she sat on the bed with her legs crossed and head in her hands. “What are you doing?” I asked. “Hold on. Mind over matter.” Several minutes later she explained, “I was visualizing my stomach stretching out and my body absorbing all the stuff I ate today. When I do this, it’s weird. My stomach doesn’t feel as full. I can also see little baby cells maturing into bigger and better ones. This was one of the best days I have had in a long time.”
“The tests of life are tailored for our own best interests, and all will face the burdens best suited to their own mortal experience. In the end we will realize that God is merciful as well as just and that all the rules are fair. We can be reassured that our challenges will be the ones we needed, and conquering them will bring blessings we could have received in no other way.” ~ Jeffrey R. Holland