Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ENTRY #22 - Looking Back-Part 3

The below is an independent entry, but is also Part 3 of my "Looking Back" recollections which are record the time immediately before my diagnosis with Addison's disease. Unfortunately, this time of losing my optimal health coincided with the terrorist attacks of 9-1-1...and so my memories during this time are a mixture of great personal and national havoc.

The day after September 11th 2001 found our family in shock along with the rest of the nation. Our young daughters were scared. We let them stay home from school the day after the attacks, Wednesday, the 12th. My oldest daughter was very upset that we did not pick her up from school on the day terrorists attacked America. She came home and cried and cried because a few teachers had inadvertently terrified her after she overheard them discussing the school's potentially dangerous location. Space Center Jr. High is adjacent to Johnson Space Center and there was concern about it being another iconic target. Throughout the day, she heard the whisperings about Johnson Space Center, the location of NASA's Mission Control. In fact, Johnson Space Center was indeed shut down after the was evacuated. Looking across the field from Johnson Space Center, my daughter's school is easily in view. However, yesterday, as we were under attack, I thought the kids would benefit from remaining in school. Turns out, school attendance made the day more memorable because of the public terror.

My youngest, at the elementary school had been in the car with me early that morning as the towers were attacked. Apparently, she had intensely listened with me to the LIVE newsradio report with the Manhattan caller who was watching and describing the attacks on the towers from his apartment. She went straight inside the school, to her math class and told the teacher that New York had been attacked. The teacher actually chastised my daughter and told her to sit down; she told her to not say such terrible things. Within minutes, this teacher took a call on her cell from her husband who was informing her of America being the victim of terrorists. She was so upset that she dropped her phone and began crying. My daughter already knew the subject of the phone call.

To shield our children the best we could, the day after the attacks, we let the girls stay home for a day of recovery and reassurance. We did something unusual, we let the girls play videos all day long. It was a simple way to re-direct their minds from the tragedy while we hid our television update viewing. We could not erase the terror of September 11th, but tried to give them a break from the bombardment of ongoing devastating news reports.

What can we tell our children in this situation? Is there anywhere that is safe? How do we explain the reasons that regular citizens were the target? At least there are incredible stories mingled with the heart-wrenching ones. Today, we heard about a police officer who had been on the 82nd floor as the tower collapsed. He described "rolling down with the building." He has a broken leg and a mind full of trauma to deal with. With all my soul, I believe that terrorists are mere cowards - this attack is as if someone has stabbed another in the back. Obviously, they did not want to confront our military, instead, they targeted men, women, children...all were fair game to the beasts who preyed upon the blood of the innocent.

The day after the attacks, one of my Professors said, "Here we are trying to do normal things, and as we sit, rescue workers are digging through the rubble, looking for survivors and finding the dead. But, we must continue so the bad souls won't win. Our life, on the whole, must go on so the terrorists will not win."

Happy family times in Texas ---- Days of Deeper Innocence
Little did I know that my Addison's diagnosis was right around the corner. During this time of national mourning and a time of every American household trying to find a reason to smile, I was quickly going downhill. For the past month, I had visited the doctor's office or an emergency room at least twice per week. There were no answers. Sometimes, I would be connected to IV lines, given fluids and I would feel a bit better, then be discharged. After a few hours, the entire process would start all over again. As of September 11, 2001, my body was to the stage of not cooperating normally, but nothing was normal. Every morning I drank a large V8 because it was mysteriously helping my body feel more "energetic" for a short while. I had a definite abnormal craving for V8 juice. Around lunch, I'd drink another V8. I didn't really have energy to eat regular foods any longer. I felt sick all of the time and couldn't shake it. The attacks on September 11th, 2001 gave additional reasoning for me to ignore my own health and to make ongoing excuses as to why my body was not able to stand for any substantial length of time. I'd simply tell myself that my physical illness had been compounded by the attacks - many of us were physically sickened, especially if we had loved ones working in a federal building. No one knew what else to expect from the terrorists.

Day by day, my health was deterioriating. Often, I was in danger of collapsing. I tried to hide my increasing physical decline. To be honest, my "weakness" was highly embarrassing to me. Frequently, my fragile condition forced me to sit or to lie down throughout most of the day. Regular workouts at the YMCA were suddenly an impossibility. I couldn't even hold myself upright...How was I to lift a weight? My life was falling apart. My life at home, my academics, and my business life were all suffering. Within a few weeks, my body would be powerless and the simple act of breathing would become an Olympic feat. I had been a strong, vibrant 33 year old woman, I could not imagine that my life was in such terrible danger from a rare disease that was capturing me in its relentless grip. Addison's disease - I'd not yet ever heard of this disease, but I would soon receive its life-long label.

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