Donna and I have just come from seeing Aimee this morning and I can report that over the past 48 hours, Aimee has had the most difficult pain she’s experienced through her entire ordeal.
Just to be clear: in my previous post I mentioned that Aimee refused pain medication during dressing changes. The surgery Aimee had on Friday is far more severe than any dressing change imaginable. Aimee is now taking pain medication in as liberal a dose as can be prescribed. If she even dared to refuse taking it, which she wouldn’t, then the doctors would most certainly administer it in an IV drip. Even so, the allowable doses of Morphine, Fentanyl and Lyrica are often inadequate to deal with the pain that Aimee is now experiencing. Please believe me when I say that Aimee’s refusal to use pain medication has ceased following her most recent surgery. She is now requesting it ahead of schedule.
Until now, Aimee’s pain has been focused on her amputation sites, the wound on her left side and, most recently, the her right thigh (the skin donor site). She now has two new pain centers: her abdomen and her groin. During the most recent skin graft, her surgeons were forced to take muscle from Aimee’s abdomen to create a flap over the iliac artery in her groin. She occasionally cries from the pain, but she stops because crying hurts her stomach. She says that she feels like a patchwork quilt, because her body is a collection of skin grafts and bandages.
We have to be careful what we say to her. It hurts her to talk, so she doesn’t want any questions. She doesn’t want to have to think about making decisions or attempt to conjure up a response. She wants and needs a quiet surrounding, but she also wants us to remain in the room with her. Much of our time together is spent simply waiting by her side until she expresses a need, which is not a problem for us. That is one of the many roles we have as her parents. Whatever Aimee needs, her mother and I will be there by her side to provide.
Sometimes she just needs to sleep. This morning we found her resting comfortably for the first time in hours, so we left, drove to Cracker Barrel and had breakfast while she slept. She had the nurse call us while we were there to tell us that she wanted to see us. Parenting on demand. You have to love that.
When we arrived back at the hospital she was visibly suffering from the pain of her surgery. We patiently tended to her, careful to be close by her side and provide her needs, but doing so with tender care. She said she was hungry, but she hasn’t been able to eat for over 24 hours now. She ate after her surgery on Friday, but she had trouble digesting solids and she wound up vomiting up everything during the night. She was concerned that she popped a stitch in her abdomen while heaving, but the doctors assured her that her stitches were intact. Amazingly, although she is suffering immensely, Aimee’s presence of mind is sharp.
She looked at me with sad, raised eyebrows and whispered softly, “Daddy?”
“Yes honey?” I answered.
“Happy Father’s Day,” she said as her sadness withered into a faint smile.
I wanted to hug her, but to even touch her sends a shockwave of pain through her body. I could only smile and nod.
“Thank you Aimee, I love you.”
“I love you too Daddy.”
Sometimes being a parent is not easy and this is one of those times. I would much rather be the one in that bed. If I could take that pain away from her I would do it in a heartbeat. If I could give her my hands and legs, I would gladly do so. If she needs anymore “muscle flaps”, I am going to demand that they take it from me. I so much want her to move past this stage of her illness. I so much want to see her resume her normalcy of life. Whatever you call what she is going through now, it is not normal.
We have to take the bad with the good. We have had many good times with Aimee over the past twenty four years. Sure, we’ve had our share of challenges with her, mainly because she has always been very strong willed. All I can say is that Aimee takes after her father in that regard. The fact that she is a lot like me makes it much easier for me to understand Aimee. Regardless, Donna and I understand that parenting requires discipline and grace. Strong, consistent and patient nurturing, that is the key. Children need to have the freedom to make mistakes, but a parent needs to be there to pick them up when they fall.
Donna and I have always believed in providing a firm and disciplined environment for our daughters while simultaneously giving them the freedom to make their own choices. A good example of that was a few years back when we took Aimee and Paige with us to the now closed Daufuskie Island Resort on an Edward Jones business trip. Each family was assigned a golf cart to use on the island and the girls asked us if they could drive the cart around the island. Donna and I discussed this and then laid down the rules of golf cart usage: stay on the cart paths, watch for traffic, don’t try any wild stunts, be respectful of others, etc.
Later that night Donna and I walked to the big group dinner at the restaurant pavilion. Paige and Aimee were nowhere to be seen. Halfway through dinner, big sister Paige showed up while Aimee appeared to be hiding behind her.
“Daddy?” Paige said.
That word can be said at least ten ways and the mere expression of the word can mean ten different things. This time the sound of it was something along the lines of “we screwed up”.
“What happened?” I knew right away that something was wrong.
“About the golf cart…”
Aimee stood behind Paige, willing to let her big sister bear the brunt of my response. I think my response surprised them. To make a long story short, Aimee decided to off-road the golf cart onto the beach and she hit a big rock and broke the steering mechanism. The cart was towed back to the island sundry store where it remained parked with pigeon-toed front wheels and the name plate “COPELAND” on the front to announce our family’s indignity. One of the financial advisors took a picture of that golf cart and every year we get together, he shows the picture so that we can relive our indignity with a chuckle.
Her mother and I handled that event with stern grace. What can you do? Basically, we all did the same thing – we walked. When Paige and Aimee complained about walking, we reminded them that we could be riding. We all suffered the consequences, but we all learned from it and we all became better for it because we suffered together.
Today we suffer together again, but that’s okay. It’s better to suffer and learn than to not suffer and learn nothing. One thing we will not do is suffer alone.
I thank you all for supporting us through this difficult time in our lives and I truly appreciate your continued prayers. Please know that although our suffering is great, there is One who suffered more than any of us will ever know. Jesus Christ bore our sins on the cross so that we could come directly to God with our fears and pains. It is through His blood that we have hope. It is through His love that we have faith. In acknowledging His suffering we can understand what love truly is. This is one factor that makes me the father I am today.
I have to add that my father, Sam Copeland, is the man who led me to Christ so that I could gain a clear picture of how to live my own life. Paige and Aimee affectionately refer to him as “Sampa” and it is he that gave me a clear example of how to raise my family. When I was growing up, Sampa allowed me to make my own mistakes and he and my mother were there to pick me up when I fell. Their firm hand and disciplined approach in raising me has helped me become the man I am today. I am quite fortunate to have enjoyed a great luxury that many men have never known.
Thank you Sampa, I love you and I hope you have a blessed Father’s Day.
To all those other fathers out there, hug your children and savor them. Help them to grow into fine examples of humanity for everyone around them. Encourage them to have compassion for others and show them how to love by showering love and adoration on your wife. Be firm and resolute, but demonstrate grace in the process. You will make mistakes as we all do, but be willing to acknowledge your own mistakes and learn from them. We are all human and demonstrating your frailties will only make your own message stronger. Most of all, lead your family along a Godly path so that they will be able to find their way back to the path when they stray.
God bless you all and have a happy Father’s Day!
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