On the Road Again!
I haven't really been wanting to post about the whole driving saga before now. Everything has just been so up in the air until Friday; it was hard to know what exactly to write.
Let me start from the last surgery. Part of the purpose for the surgery on April 8th was to bring Dustin's eye forward so that he might be able to gain the peripheral vision he would need to drive. You need at least 20/40 and 60 degrees of vision in one eye to be able to drive. I'll give you the quick(er) version of the roller coaster of the last three months (every up and down might give you motion sickness, so I'll narrow it down a bit).
April 6th & 7th: Two powerful preparatory blessings (by Dust's Dad and cousin Cody) full of promises of many more miracles, protection from guiding guardian angels, "an unusual calm" and success of surgery. "Nothing will be harmed." "You will be able to drive."
April 8th: Surgery
April 9th -11th: Post-surgery anxieties and physical trauma (How much can he see? Did his optic nerve withstand the aggressive nature of dissection, "tugging and pulling" and placement of more plates?)
April 12th: Swelling has gone down enough that Dustin is able to open his eye on his own and he realizes that his vision is tilted to the left and obstructed by two black holes.
You can read about that day here.
April 15th: Orbital Plastic Surgeon tells Dust she was mistaken - you don't need 60 degrees to drive, you need 120 and he's not even to 60. This was a huge blow. Dustin found himself honestly pretty depressed at the prospect of not being able to drive. We both knew that he would drive again one day but we had no idea when that day would come.
I kept reflecting on this talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. I remind myself, "There may come after the fact some competing doubts and some confusion, but they will pale when you measure them against the real thing. Remember the real thing. Remember how urgently you have needed help in earlier times and that you got it."
The doctor also wanted to jump right back in and do the same surgery on the right eye (which we had wanted her to do during the last surgery). Our Plastics doctor nixed that idea. We would wait until Dust had healed from this surgery to go back in.
April 28th: Dust starts going back to work. The tilt and the black holes are gone! Hallelujah! But Dust is frustrated because he doesn't feel like he gained any peripheral from the last surgery. We are both really pretty depressed at this point, thinking about how hard it will be for Dust to build a house with one eye and to not have the freedom that comes with driving. It didn't help to have another surgery added to the not so distant to-do list.
It was at this time that I began reading "The Heroes from the Book of Mormon". In it, Neal Maxwell talks about Nephi and how all of his experiences, all of his trials, all of his missions and tasks were training him to be this amazing man of God.
He had to travel around 250 miles each way TWICE before he was able to get the plates from Laban. In the heat of the desert!
His brothers tried to kill him twice as well!
God asked him to build a ship and Nephi asked him where he would find ore to molten.
He said, "If it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God, He doth nourish them and strengthen them and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them."
I reflected on the previous seven months... Watching Dust get up to walk for the first time as a blind man. Feeling his inner strength as he began to lift weights and strengthen his weakened body with very little blurry, dark, light sensitive vision. Sitting by his side over and over again as he lay in a hospital bed clenching his teeth, suffering excruciating pain with hardly a complaint.
There are moments, almost daily, where it is so very clear to me that he is being built. That he is being shaped and molded through a refiners fire.
Dust decides he hasn't given up. He starts trying to get a definitive answer on the driving.
We call the DMV several times, with varying answers. We schedule the six month check-up with Dustin's Neuro-Opthalmologist and plan to discuss the driving issue with her.
May 23rd: I wake up to an extremely swollen Dust. He goes to work anyway and by the time I pick him up, the swelling around his left eye is huge and is really hard. I panic and take him to the Moran Eye Center. He's calm as a cucumber, singing to himself in the stairwell and even told one of the residents, "I'm great! How are you?" - when she asked how he was doing.
"You're great???" She laughed curiously.
"Well, er... you know. I'm good."
The doctors are not sure but it seems like an infection. Antibiotics.
May 26th: Swelling increases again.
May 29th: Dust tosses and turns all night long, knowing that tomorrow the Neuro-Opthalmologist will either confirm what the Orbital Plastic Surgeon told us earlier. OR she might tell us there is some hope, somehow. I was preparing both of us for the blow of a definitive no. But I was PRAYING that they would at least give Dust the opportunity to have a driving evaluation. He is just so capable! He would never drive and put himself or others at risk if he didn't feel like he could do it safely.
May 30th: After a month of serious sadness, the Neuro-Opthalmologist pulls out a chart to show Dust that it is, in fact, 60 degrees and not 120 degrees.
His clarity was at 20/25, but he was 5 degrees short on his peripheral, testing at 55. He was so close that she recommended he have a driving evaluation. If he passed the driving evaluation, she would submit it to a medical advisory board to decide. If they granted him the opportunity to drive again, his license would probably come with some restrictions (no night driving, no driving on the freeway), but he MIGHT have a shot.
Before we leave, she begins to look back at the field of vision tests from the previous eight months, exclaiming as each one pulls up how unbelievable it is that he continues to improve with each test. (Optic nerve damage is generally permanent. They are never supposed to regenerate.)
We had the amazing opportunity immediately after this doctor appointment to meet with the good men who gave Dust the blessing just an hour and a half before his vision came back. What a special opportunity for us. I'm not sure that I've ever before met a man who radiated such light and goodness.
June 4th: Shawna gets set apart for her new calling by two Apostles of God. With his hands on her head, Elder D. Todd Christofferson sets Shawna apart and blesses her in her new duties. He continues to bless each one of her children, each one of their spouses, as well as each one of her grandchildren. Then he blesses Dustin specifically. This was a very sacred and special event so I won't repeat all the details, but he does bless Dustin that he will continue to heal and gain all the means that he will need to be able to provide for his family.
June 5th: A day of testing at a private Drivers Ed company. He passes every test with flying colors!!! I smile as I look at the words printed on his results page, "Very Low Risk".
June 6th: Dust calls me with excitement in his voice. He is going to start digging our house tonight! I felt so proud that he was not going to let anything hold him back. He was going to keep moving forward with the things that lie in his power.
June 12th: A much anticipated day. The driving test. In a car. I think this driving test looked a little different than the one he took thirteen years ago. He slid into that drivers seat with such a calm confidence. No 16-year old nerves to be found anywhere. They drove for over an hour. I was not surprised to be high-fiving him once again at the end of the evaluation.
June 18th: We waited anxiously for the evaluator to communicate with the doctor and finally got the glowing review to take in to the DMV to submit to the medical advisory board. I don't know what they said, but two of the DMV workers really seemed to dash Dustin's hopes, despite the favorable recommendation from several professionals. He left feeling uncertain about his driving fate. They told him that the medical advisory board meets only once a month and he would be on their agenda - whenever that would be.
Someone from the medical advisory board called Dust later that same day with a determination to resolve the issue. She wanted to get it figured out ASAP so we didn't have to be in limbo any longer.
June 19th: A phone call reveals that the head of the medical advisory board wants Dust to take another field of vision test. If he doesn't have 60 degrees of vision, he will not be getting his license.
We pray for the enabling power of the atonement to strengthen Dust's body - that The Lord might grant him five more degrees of vision. Following Nephi's example, when he was tied up by his brothers in the wilderness, Dust asked for the strength within his body to break the bands with which he was bound. I felt so incredibly calm. I did not know what would happen, but I knew it would be the right thing.
June 20th: Dust walks out of his field of vision test with a big smile on his face. He had gained SIX degrees of vision, resting at 61 degrees of peripheral vision!!! Count us down for ANOTHER serious miracle!
Dust immediately calls the medical advisory board. They tell him they want him to have another driving evaluation from a DMV evaluator.
June 29th: Dust heads into the DMV at 9:30 am, in a downpour, for his driving test. He spends a half hour taking the written test and goes out in the pouring rain to prove his obvious skill behind the wheel. As they make their way out the door, our sweet Cole stands on his chair and yells, "You can do it daddy! I know you can!" to the amusement of everyone in the building.
Inside the DMV, I feed the kids Kneaders pancakes on the second to last row of hard chairs while they entertain the twenty people sitting around us waiting for their number to be called.
We go into the little foyer between two sets of doors, so the kids can run around without bugging anyone and run right into Dustin and the instructor. He grabs my hand as they pass through and they go straight back to her office.
Not five minutes later, I am kneeling on the ground with the kids as I look up to watch Dust push the door open. And there he stands with a huge smile on his face, his drivers license in hand. "Well, I got my license back!"
"Yay!!! Daddy!" I threw my fists up in the air! I was so happy.
Pausing for effect, he followed up his good news with even better news, "And I have NO RESTRICTIONS!!!"
This, I hadn't dared to hope for. I ran to him, threw my arms around his neck and jumped into his arms. I have to tell you, I haven't seen him smile so big in a long time!
I spent the rest of the day in happy tears, thanking our Father in Heaven for the many tender mercies He has given to us.
I don't think either of us could have been happier as Dust pulled away, behind the wheel of my dad's truck.
Today, June 30th: This morning, I smiled as I lay in bed, listening to him fire up the truck to drive himself to work for the first time in nine months. I think back to the darkness of September 21st and how infinite it seemed. If someone had told me that my sweet husband would be building his own house and driving by the end of June, I'm not sure anyone would have believed them!
And I tell you what, if you want to feel good... just call Dust. The happiness in his voice from his regained freedom says it all.