Saturday, August 2, 2014

Diamond formation

A large lump of coal, under great pressure, over the course of years, forms a diamond. Such constant trial transforms a common stone into a treasure cherished by many. 

There are some people I've met who are diamonds, so formed by such intense suffering that it is hard to describe it. 

One such person cannot remember back past the time when her life was untouched by pain. 

When she was very young, she took a tumble and fell on her head. Unknown to her, it misaligned a vertebra in her neck. All of her childhood she suffered from rare migraines caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain; these were marked by nausea, extreme vertigo, and other unpleasant symptoms including temporary blindness on one side of her vision, but rarely any headache. 

She endured doctors not understanding her symptoms and then misdiagosing, several times. Not until she was 14 did she get a diagnosis (and only after extensive research by her parents who presented their research to the doctor): basilar artery migraines (BAM) also known as vertebrobasilar insufficiency. She was unable to take any medication for these attacks; if she did, she could have a stroke because the migraine medications constricted blood vessels. Since the migraines were caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain, further constriction (from medication) could shut off blood flow to the brain. It took only one such scare in an emergency room to drive that message home. The pediatrician had left standing orders to use a medication called DHE or dihydroxyergotamine, administered through an I.V. This medicine would constrict her vessels. The parents disagreed and objected; the attending physician (wanting to appease them) only gave her a half-dose. She had a mild heart attack and her migraine spiked off the charts. If she'd had a full dose she might have had a stroke.

She had to drop out of high school in grade ten due to missing so much time from the migraines, which came in clusters of up to three weeks at a time. This led her to believe that she was not intelligent, when in fact, she was extremely smart. Otherwise she couldn't have made it through elementary and junior high school with the high marks she did while still missing as much time as she did.

When she was 19 years old, pain in her neck led her to seek chiropractic help, where the slippage in her vertebrae was discovered on X-ray. The chiropractor gave her neck exercises to do with weights attached to her head, and within two months she regained some curvature to her neck and the slippage was reversed slightly. Over the next six months her migraines slowly tapered off. 

During that time, her dentist had to do a root canal in one tooth, and told her that she had to get her wisdom teeth out. She underwent both procedures about a year apart, and was left with TMJD - temporomandibular joint dysfunction. She still suffers from pain in her jaw (which extends into her neck and shoulder) and an inability to open her mouth wide, or chew tough meats.

However, the migraines were far less frequent - she occasionally had a regular one in her head but the debilitating vertigo was very rare. One day she just up and decided to go back to school and get her GED. She had it within 2 months. About six months later, she decided to go to college and become an executive assistant. She did, graduating at the top of her program. 
Photo "Single Blue Diamond" by

She'd been at her job, living a relatively normal life for the first time in her life, when she stepped out of her work place after work one evening in late November 2012, crossed the sidewalk to get into her parents' vehicle, and slipped on a patch of black ice. She fell. Hard. 

She noticed a numbness in her left foot, and looked down. To her surprise, her kneecap was not in the correct place, but on the side of her leg. She reached down and wrenched it back into place. She doesn't remember feeling pain at this.

Her father helped her get into the vehicle. The pain hit on the ride home. It took her parents two days to convince her that she should get it seen to - she was that wary of doctors!

Thus began another pain journey. Over a year and a half and two surgeries later, she still walks with a crutch (or a cane on her good days) due to the surgeon making an error in the first surgery which was not detected during the second surgery. She has been on disability insurance since April 2013. Her surgeon has declared her unable to work indefinitely. She struggles with depression, loneliness and anxiety on a daily basis. Several months ago, her life was touched deeply by grief. She has symptoms of PTSD and battles panic attacks, multiple chemical sensitivities, and asthma.

I've told you all that to tell you this. This young lady is an absolute joy to know. She is deep, sensitive, thoughtful and loyal. She accepts people the way they are. ALL people. She's passionate about what she believes in. 

She is honest about how she feels if you ask her, even if she feels horrible. Yet she is not bitter and she doesn't use her disability as a tool to get a person to do what she wants. In fact, she has even used her crutch or her scar to start conversations and put people at ease; she understands people in pain and is one of the most empathetic people I know. Yet she won't snow you. If she thinks your behavior is hurting someone she loves, she will find a way to tell you in a way you'll be able to accept.

She has grown so much because of her pain, because of the things she has experienced. She's learning to look after herself, to believe that she is well worth the space she takes up in the world and in our lives. Pain - in her case - has become that constant pressure that has transformed her into someone absolutely priceless. She is indeed a diamond ... a precious gem in our lives. She always was.

I'm proud to know her. My life is richer because she is in it. 

And that's no lump of coal.

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