Persistence, Perseverance, & Triumph

chavaS (14)

May 2, 2020, I felt really sick. I went to my local emergency room and I was screened for COVID in the outdoor tent at the hospital. I was being treated as a potential COVID patient. They quickly diagnosed me with a neck infection, but it did not explain the amount of pain I was in or how sick I had become.

Further testing revealed that I was negative for COVID but was suffering from Ludwig’s Angina, a bacterial infection of the mouth. I was told that this is typically misdiagnosed and not usually caught in time and can be deadly. I was told numerous times during my hospital stay that had I not come into the emergency room when I did, it is very likely I would not be alive today.

The Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon (OMFS) on call was finishing his shift and planning to take the day off but volunteered to stay on and care for me when he saw how sick I was. I was thought to have had COVID because of my temperature and a scan of my lungs, but it was actually from the bacterial infection. The infection was so severe that I had become septic and needed to be intubated for airway protection with strong antibiotics to fight the infection, as well as have three separate surgeries and drains in my neck.

The scariest part for me is that I do not remember any of this. I remember walking into the tent and not much after that.

I lost more than 14 days of my life because of fever, numerous surgeries, and intubation. After being extubated my throat, mouth, and head hurt, and I could not seem to form sentences and I really did not understand why– I had no recollection of anything that happened in those 14 days. Not being able to speak and being scared to swallow was tremendously frightening. Even though they were telling me I was on the upswing, I had a long way to go and was frightened and felt very much alone.

One morning during rounds, the OMFS team came in and was taking photos of my mouth, jaw, and neck as they did every day to follow my progress, I somehow got out “You’re using your camera wrong!!!” They did not understand what I was saying. I felt I was screaming in my head, but they could not hear me. I repeated myself. I finally got out that I was a professional photographer, and they were using their camera wrong. I felt I had no control over anything that was happening to me. But my assertion that I could help them use their equipment correctly meant a great deal to me. It meant that I could affect at least one small part of this experience. After that, the team would come in, do rounds, take the mandatory photos, and ask me for “approval” of photos. One small triumph for me!

The days, weeks, and months after being released from the hospital have been a roller coaster ride. Doctor’s appointments, at-home antibiotics through the PICC line (which was quite uncomfortable), in-office procedures such as removal of a lesion from my tongue, blood tests, x-rays, pinpoint injections, and so much more. This infection and being intubated not only affected my mouth but other issues have arisen, high blood pressure, memory issues, issues with speech, issues swallowing, and other ENT issues.

With all of these new issues, I keep going even though some days it is so hard. I am learning to make peace with what happened and accept the situation for what it is and thank Hashem for allowing me to continue to live my life, see my daughters start their own families, and watch my granddaughter grow. There are days where I am not sure I have the strength to even get out of bed but I get up every day. I go to work for a law firm and an amazing attorney who has stood with me every step of the way, I continue to run three businesses that my husband and I own, deal with the world at hand, specifically the changing world in which we live due to the pandemic.

I continue to live life, my “new normal” with the help of my husband, my daughters, sisters, and other family members, both blood and chosen. As the Beatles say, “I get by with a little help from my friends…”

I do not take anything for granted.

I keep walking through life each and every day with a purpose. The purpose can be something as small as getting dressed and going for a walk to something bigger like “you have a story to tell, someone needs to hear it to help them.” This is the reason I continue to soldier on no matter how hard it might be. And there are days where it is harder to keep going. Reading painful stories in the news and the dissension between people. I had walked away from social media (except for business for the most part) because I just could not take the negativity of what I saw. Small steps to preserve my sanity and mental health. Another small triumph to keep me healthy.

It seems that every time I move ahead, there is another setback. You know the saying “two steps forward, three steps back,” that is how I feel on certain days. But I keep moving forward. I remember every day that I am still here, living life. My faith has helped me see that step. I believe that Hashem has kept me on this earth to help others in one way or another. I take steps forward to keep moving forward as hard as it may be sometimes.

Dr. Debasish Mridha once said, “Success is living life with all of its songs and melodies, triumphs and tragedies.” This has become a new mantra for me. Life has its ups and its downs, positives and negatives, but I take my life one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time, when a day at a time just seems too overwhelming. I say I love you to the ones I love, I check on my family and friends, and I most certainly do not take my health for granted any longer.

This is how I continue moving into the future.

Photo by ShadowCatcher Photography.

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Creativity has truly been what has fueled her soul. She has always had an interest in the arts and being creative. As a child she would create clothing for her dolls with scarves, do their makeup and would come up with stories behind all of the looks. As she grew older, she would sit with her mother and watch her sew beautiful clothing and then was able to sew on her own. This is what led her to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

Once she met her husband, Michael, she picked up a camera and was hooked. She has been creating memories for family, friends & clients for over 15 years and specializes in Portrait, Event and Wedding Photography.

She is also Owner and Head Officiant at Ceremonies by Lori. She is a Legal Secretary and Administrative Assistant for more than twenty years and now is also an advocate, as both a speaker and a writer, for Jewish women who are dealing with crisis pregnancies.