Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Tara K. E. Brelinsky

3/27/2014 (1 year ago)

Blessings In Brelinsky (brelinskyville.blogspot.com/)

Words like burden, trouble, or unwanted never entered our conversations.

As though it were yesterday, I recall the upset in their voices on the day they discussed the doctor's recommendation for a feeding tube. Considering the infrequency with which doctors actually bothered to speak directly to family members, I assume the news was delivered via the shift nurse. The tube was being ordered to better facilitate her nutritional needs. On a floor full of kids dependent on breathing tubes, drainage tubes and electronic monitors, a feeding tube was the next logical step. But to Misty's family, that step was leading in the wrong direction.

Highlights

By Tara K. E. Brelinsky

Blessings In Brelinsky (brelinskyville.blogspot.com/)

3/27/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in Health

Keywords: Brelinsky, special needs, Misty, dignity of life, preferential love, preferential option, mercy, domestic church


ZEBULON,NC (Catholic Online) - Her name was Misty. It was printed in chalk on the nurses' station board along with a list of other first names. We would never actually meet, but I caught a glimpse of her one day as I walked passed her room. The mental picture I'd developed before that sighting was of course all wrong.

Just days into our month long stay in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, we met Misty's family: aunts,  an uncle, a grandmother, father and cousins. Now, almost nineteen years later, I've lost count, but there were enough of them to fill the room around us. Doubtful our paths would have ever crossed if not for the circumstances that forced us all into that tiny waiting room.

Naive, overwhelmed newbies we were, but Misty's family were well-seasoned veterans in this system of corridors, white coats and ever-changing prognoses. They took to us and us to them in a fast friendship that felt like it would last a lifetime.

In bit and pieces, through conversations and encounters over the next weeks, Misty's life story unfolded. Born to young, unwed parents, her mother died sometime before the baby would finish toddlerhood. Knowing she would never see her daughter grow up, Misty's mother had one dying wish; she made her sister swear to raise the child as her own. That little sister bore that promise with unswerving faithfulness and along with the rest of the extended family she committed the next fourteen years to caring for her sister's only offspring.

Sometime after losing the mother, it became apparent that Misty suffered from serious medical conditions which were the result of an under-developed brain. Her life would include many PICU stays and she would never know the freedom of spinning to "Ring Around the Rosie" or the joy of singing her ABCs. By the time we met her family, she was relegated to a bed, unable to speak or provide her own basic needs.

Surely some outsiders questioned her "quality of life". To a culture that equates physical fitness and mental capacity with the measure of a person's worth, Misty might have appeared a hopeless case.

Her family knew her better.

She loved it when her aunts and grandma fed her, they proudly boasted. At mealtimes, she rewarded them with smiles and eyes that spoke the words her mouth could not. And though the doctors and nurses insisted she was forever silent, Misty cooed for those who loved her. Rather than flowers and teddy bears, family members shopped for new, lace-trimmed nightgowns to make her not infrequent hospital trips more pleasant. Every day it was someone's job to brush out her long, flowing hair and wash her pretty face. True to her promise, Misty's aunt insured that someone always remained nearby.

Words like burden, trouble, or unwanted never entered our conversations.

As though it were yesterday, I recall the upset in their voices on the day they discussed the doctor's recommendation for a feeding tube. Considering the infrequency with which doctors actually bothered to speak directly to family members, I assume the news was delivered via the shift nurse. The tube was being ordered to better facilitate her nutritional needs. On a floor full of kids dependent on breathing tubes, drainage tubes and electronic monitors, a feeding tube was the next logical step. But to Misty's family, that step was leading in the wrong direction.

To the doctor, who probably spent five minutes reading her chart, this fourteen year old was a case study in medical interventions. To the busy nurse, Misty was another terminal patient with machines to monitor, levels to record and notes to take. The act of feeding her was just another necessary procedure to follow, but to her aunts and grandmother meals were so much more.

At the time I thought I understood their desire to retain this autonomy for Misty, the ability to taste flavors and feel textures across her tongue. But now that I've experienced the excitement of spooning first bites into my own little ones' open mouths, I can relate all the more to their desperate attempts to protect her mealtimes. Three times a day, Misty's family had the privilege to lovingly nourish her with food and she had the opportunity to feed their hopes and dreams. With my own not-yet-verbal children, I have to watch for their bodily cues to tell me if the food I offer is pleasing to their palate and when they've reached their fill. Feeding a child means moving in close, making eye contact  and connecting (physically and mentally).

A feeding tube meant more than simply relinquishing a chore, it meant stripping Misty of one more "normal" function. When you expect your child to grow-up, to advance through life's milestones, it's easy to take such little tasks for granted, but Misty's family didn't have that luxury.

On that day, walking passed her room, I peered in expecting to see the girl my mind had formed. Instead, the young girl of about fourteen appeared so tiny and fragile in her hospital bed. Her legs barely reaching beyond the midway point, she was no longer than a child of five or six. And that long hair flowed nearly the full length of her stunted body it seemed. I was startled by the reality.

The image I'd created was based on my idea of "normal" because that's how Misty's family portrayed her. The obvious love they had for her communicated a different picture, while my eyes sized her with a worldly measure. No one ever knew my surprise and for that I am glad because I am ashamed of it. My false vision betrayed my ignorance and bias.

Those few weeks, nearly two decades ago, changed my life. I lost touched with her family, so I never did learn whether or not they managed to protect her from the feeding tube directive, but I've never taken for granted the real importance of "feeding" my children.

Misty was truly everything that her family saw her to be. Beautiful. Worthy. Special. Perfect. And in my mind, she will forever remain larger than life not because of her stature, but because she personified Christ (the hungry Christ, the naked Christ, the imprisoned Christ) to those who took the time to see.

-----
Tara K. E. Brelinsky is a home schooling mother of eight living children, with six more heavenly ones who intercede. Married to her childhood sweetheart, they make their home in North Carolina where they teach Natural Family Planning, grow a garden, raise two dogs, a cat, ducks, roosters and a flock of hens (in addition to all those wonderful kids). Tara studied journalism a lifetime ago in college, but now she writes simply for the the glory of God. You can read more of her musings and inspirations on her blog "Blessings In Brelinskyville" (www.http://brelinskyville.blogspot.com/).

---

personal blog



Comments


More Health

World's first malaria vaccine wins approval from European drug regulators Watch

Image of Mosquirix must first win agreement from African governments as the vaccine only offers only partial protection.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The world's first malaria vaccine is a go with European drug regulators after it was recommended safe and effective for babies at risk of the 'mosquito-born disease' in Africa. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Called Mosquirix, the vaccine was developed by ... continue reading


560-pound man sets out to bike across the U.S. to lose weight and save his marriage Watch

Image of [Photo by: ABC News]

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

To try to live a healthy life, get a job and save his failing marriage, a 560-pound man decided to embark on a biking journey across the United States. He has already traveled about 90 miles since he started last month and has lost around 60 pounds during the first two ... continue reading


Catholic organization's approach to female reproductive health a 'game changer' Watch

Image of Together with his colleagues, Dr. Thomas Hilgers developed NaPro (Natural Procreative) Technology. In Omaha in 1985, they founded the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction, and in 1999 formally created the Creighton Model FertilityCare System.

By Gabrielle Cubera, CNA EWTN News

With the hope of providing authentic and ethical health care for women, Dr. Thomas Hilgers, creator of Natural Procreative Technology, has worked for decades to establish a medical network that studies, understands, and treats the female fertility cycle. Omaha, ... continue reading


Have scientists found the key to shut off aging? New study with worms finds success Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Scientists have uncovered how to switch off the aging process, during a recent study with worms, which could possibly lead to the process being successful in humans. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - The new study showed that adult cells of worms shortly ... continue reading


New eye drops may soon replace cataract surgery Watch

Image of Vision could cease altogether if cataracts remain untreated. Cataracts cause more blindness worldwide than any other eye condition.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Inexpensive and easy to administer, a new eye drop may soon make cataract removal surgery obsolete. A frequent bane of existence that afflicts the elderly, the new drops dissolves the clumps of protein that clouds vision. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Cataract ... continue reading


Superhero DNA desired by pharmaceutical researchers for new drugs Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

They don't have the ability to fly or come with laser eyes, but there are people who exist today with the "superhero" genes. Similar to the figures portrayed in media, these people have ordinary lives with extraordinary physical abilities because of uncommon biological ... continue reading


Controversial Dr. Death and his 'Destiny machine' set out to help assist the suicide of an entire volunteer audience Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Controversial medic known as Dr. Death will try to gas a volunteer audience at the Edinburg Fringe show, which he hosts, with his updated "right-to-die machine" to showcase "a peaceful and reliable means of death." According to reports, he will invite people from the ... continue reading


Human contact with armadillos blamed for surge in leprosy cases in Florida Watch

Image of Floridians are being advised to use caution and not touch the small, cat-sized creatures.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Increased human contact with armadillos is being blamed for an increase in leprosy cases in Florida. The state usually sees two to 12 cases of leprosy a year. There have been nine cases in 2015 alone, which is higher than average, according to the Florida ... continue reading


4 common reasons for weight-loss failure Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Most of us have tried a lot of different diets in pursuit of a healthier body but for some reason most attempts don't work the way we wanted or expected them to. According to Dr. Sally Norton, a weight loss expert, we have to reconsider our entire lifestyle in order ... continue reading


Man lives with hand attached to ankle while waiting for reattachment surgery Watch

Image of A Chinese man had to have his hand attached to his ankle after severing it off his arm.

By Hannah Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A factory worker's chopped off hand was grafted onto his ankle for around a month, in order to keep the hand alive until the proper surgery could be conducted. This is not the first time Chinese surgeons attached and saved a hand with this method. MUNTINLUPA, ... continue reading


All Health News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Exodus 32:15-24, 30-34
15 Moses turned and came down the mountain with the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 106:19-20, 21-22, 23
19 At Horeb they made a calf, bowed low before cast ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:31-35
31 He put another parable before them, 'The kingdom ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 27th, 2015 Image

St. Pantaleon
July 27: St Pantaleon came from Nicomedia, near the Black Sea, in Asia. ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter