Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Paying It Forward

Once upon a time I was pregnant.  We had our 20 week ultrasound.  We found out that our little one had Trisomy 13.  We were told he was not expected to live very long.

And then as if all that wasn't enough to deal with, my brother AND a dear friend of mine both started fundraisers for us.


On top of that, my brother went and started spreading the word all over everywhere that we needed help.

The nerve!

Our initial reaction wasn't the best.

People started donating their hard earned money to us.  People who were probably living paycheck to paycheck just like us.  Friends, Family, total strangers, someone named anonymous just kept giving and giving.

To us.

Like we ever did anything to deserve that.  I mean there are people out there in the world who are starving to death but someone is donating us money.  We have a house, a car, food on the table, clothes, and more toys than my kids know what to do with but people are donating to us?

Once we calmed down a bit and accepted the fact that people were going to help us whether we wanted it or not, we began to recognize how much we did need it.

Those donations gave us one less thing to stress about as the medical bills started piling up.  We were able to focus on choosing the best possible care for Matthew rather than worrying we wouldn't be able to afford it.  One of my friends mentioned at the time, whenever you add an additional title to a doctor's name you add an additional dollar sign.  And we were seeing some long titles.

When the time came those donations paid for Matthew's funeral.  We had lots of help with the funeral costs. Family donated a plot to us in the cemetery where Matthew is buried surrounded by family.  The funeral home also waived any commission.

While I was in the hospital, my brother and dad took one look at our car, marched in and demanded our keys, and took it to get four new tires.  One of the tires had been patched the year before and we had bought a small air compressor that plugged into the cigarette lighter.  We were filling up that tire every day with air until we finally burned out the air compressor.  Then we went back to quarters at the gas station on the corner.  All the tires were bald, one had a nail in it and the one we were filling up every day, had a gash that looked like it came from a box cutter.  (It had been there when the tire was new but as it wore down it seemed to crack deeper.)  Getting new tires, or at least replacing the leaking one, was on our to do list in the month we thought we still had before Matthew's birth.  Then he came early.

On top of the financial help, we had so many people praying for us.  I believe in the power of prayer, but I can honestly say I never experienced it before in such a powerful way.

The day after Matthew died, after the funeral home came and picked him up, I sent my husband home to sleep.  I then caught up on some of the sleep I had missed over the previous days.  The next morning I was alone in the hospital.  I had time to check Facebook for the first time.  I saw all the messages and posts sharing our story and asking for prayers for our family.  So, many messages from people letting us know we were in their prayers.  A Eucharistic Minister stopped by and gave me Communion.  It was a very peaceful morning for me.  I was able to spend time to reflect and pray.  To feel all the prayers and love.  It was a moment of calm in the storm.  Time I needed to refresh before I checked out of the hospital and launched straight into funeral planning.

At Matthew's burial, a young man from the funeral approached me to let me know a priest friend of his would be saying a Mass for Matthew.  A week later I received a message from a woman in the UK letting me know she saw my story in a Facebook group and that she doesn't like to impose her beliefs on anyone but she's Catholic and she asked a priest to say a Mass for us.

I don't know if I can ever really explain what that time felt like.  It was like being in a protective bubble.  The prayers felt so strong.  I look back at that time and I can visualize the prayers protecting us.  Encouraging us.  Keeping us going.  Now, I know some of that was the adrenaline.  But physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually we were uplifted by prayer.  I have never felt it so strongly.  That hospital room was filled with angels and saints.  I could feel them.

I may never be able to repay all the people that showed us so much love and kindness.  But maybe I can pay it forward.

Right now there are people who need our help.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by my inability to help so many people in need.  But then I remember what the power of prayer did for me.  If nothing else, I can at least offer that.  And I can share a few stories.  Ask for more prayers.

And if someone reading has a few dollars to spare maybe they can help financially.

I often wonder how the little I find myself able to donate can help.  Why bother at all if I can only give a few dollars?

Then I think about how much money movies like The Dark Knight Rises made.  Movie tickets were $10 or less.  Opening weekend sales in the US alone were $160,887,295.00.  If that many people could spare $10 to watch a movie, maybe they could spare $10, or $20 or even $5 to donate to someone in need of help.  As you can see, it really adds up.

Looking for someone to help?  Allow me to recommend a few.

The Poppe family.  Cassandra is a contributor at  Her husband and young son were injured in an accident when a burning barrel exploded.  Her husband suffered burns on his arms and hands.  Their 4 year old son caught fire and suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns over more than 60% his body.  The worst injuries were to his face.  He was airlifted to two different hospitals and is now being treated in a hospital in a different state from the family residence.  He has been sedated for pain and is breathing on a ventilator.  Obviously there will be traveling costs in addition to the medical bills.  The fundraiser can be found here.  Don't miss the "Hugs" tab where you can leave words of encouragement for the family and let them know they are in your prayers.

Nina blogs at Artsy Nina.  Her husband, Thomas, was in a snowmobile accident on Saturday.  His injuries include a brain hemorrhage, multiple broken bones and fractures including a fractured orbital (eye) socket.  His recovery will take time and unfortunately he hasn't been at his new job long enough to qualify for FMLA.  Donations can be made here.  There is also a tab to leave "Hugs."  I know they will appreciate your prayers.  You can follow his progress here.

Jen blogs at Conversion Diary.  Jen has been diagnosed with multiple pulmonary embolisms in both lungs and has been in and out of the hospital.  Every time she tries to move she finds herself out of breath with a racing heartbeat.  She is 24 weeks pregnant with her 6th child.  She can't move at all without risking her health and that of her unborn baby.  Needless to say that will be very hard for a mother of 5 young children.  Donations will help her pay the astronomical cost of her prescription medication.  One month supply cost her over $4000!  (No, that's not a typo.  It's really four thousand.)  She posts updates on her blog and says she is being strengthened by our prayers

On my side bar you might notice a widget for Girl Power 2 Cure.  Juliana is in my son's CCD class at church. The first time he met her he could not stop talking about her beautiful eyes. He also thought it was very cool that she can use a computer to talk. One Sunday after Mass her mother gave us a little purple card with more information about Juliana and how we could help her and other girls like her.  Juliana has Rett Syndrome which keeps her from talking, walking and using her hands. What I found surprising is that Rett Syndrome is potentially reversible.  Rett Syndrome has been cured in lab mice.  The mice were bred with a cure already in place but the discovery helps to tell scientists how to go about developing a possible cure.  It also shows that once cured all symptoms subside.  No matter how long the person has had Rett Syndrome. Juliana's page has more information on how we can help.

Again, don't underestimate the power of prayer.
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