Sunday, May 20, 2012

#63: Disneyland!

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This afternoon I was going to continue the story of my collapsed lungs that I started last week, but I decided to interrupt it with something much happier and magical--Diane and I just went to Disneyland! We flew down to the Long Beach airport on Wednesday evening and got back home last night.

In the time that we have been married, Diane and I have never gone to Disneyland together. We figured that it would be the perfect way to celebrate our five-year anniversary (sure beats staying at the Motel 6 in Murray), even though it is still a couple of months away. It was a spur-of-the moment decision (Disneyland, not marriage) that we made a few weeks ago.

Below are some of my favorite pictures from our trip. We had a wonderful time, and I can't wait to go again!
I have always loved this statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse.
To me, it symbolizes the magic and wonder of  Disneyland.
Oh, and no, Diane and I were NOT matching intentionally.
Scariest ride in the park.
I love the newly updated Star Tours.
I do not love my newly updated double chin.
The "Wookiee Section" of the Star Tours Store.
Darth Vader has never been so good-looking.
We spent Thursday with Diane's sister Marjorie and her family.
Here is a picture of their daughter Izzie watching the Main Street Parade.
Smooching in front of the mice.
You can't beat the atmosphere of Disneyland at night.
No, seriously, you can't beat it.
Playing "Temple Run", an iPhone game inspired by Indiana Jones,
while waiting in line for the Indiana Jones ride!
The Lego Store in Downtown Disney was amazing.
If I ever leave accounting, I want THIS job.
Belle is the only Disney princess I have ever had a crush on (and still have a crush on).
On a side note, it looks like Cinderella is making the Boy Scout sign on her forehead.
Whenever we waited in line, I liked to read about the secrets of Disneyland.
One of the coolest secrets is "Club 33", the mysterious member-only restaurant in Adventureland.
Apparently, Club 33 has a 14-year waiting list to become a member,
and it is the only place in Disneyland that serves alcohol.
As Mormons, Diane and I don't drink alcohol, but we still wanted to get our picture by the door.
We talked with one of the Disneyland "cast members" who shall remain nameless.
He told us that the heads on most of the character costumes cost over $11,000 each.
However, he said that the mechanical head on this parade version of
 Mickey Mouse cost over $100,000 because it can blink and move its mouth.
Even crazier, he said that the head on the brand-new Abraham Lincoln animatron robot in
"Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln" cost over $7 million and is the most advanced animatron in the world!
One thing that he refused to tell me was how many Mickey's there were in the park. He said, "Only one, of course."
Speaking of costumes, this lady's was awesome.
During the day on Thursday and Friday the park wasn't too crowded,
and we were able to go on every single ride that we wanted.
However, starting Friday night, things got a little crazy!
It turns out that it was Southern California "Grad Night" from 11PM - 3AM.
I'll get you next time, sword.



Sunday, May 13, 2012

#62: Bad lungs. Good mom.

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Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers, future mothers, and all the other women in the world who put up with men like me on a day-to-day basis. As I was thinking about my mom today, it reminded me of a particularly difficult time in my life when I needed my mom more than ever.

One afternoon in the summer of 1999, my family was at Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City. As we walked toward the polar bear exhibit ("Hey look! Some sleeping bears!"), I suddenly felt an excruciating pain in the left side of my chest. As it continued to get worse, I realized that I may be having a heart attack, which seemed ridiculous to me as a 16-year old. I remember thinking, "What the heck is going on? I don't eat THAT bad!". The pain continued to intensify and my parents quickly decided to take me to the emergency room (sorry polar bears....next time). Once we made it to the hospital, the pain had started to subside. However, we still decided to get a chest x-ray and some other tests on my heart. To the doctor's confusion, my heart looked and acted perfectly fine and he could not give a reason for the pain I had felt (I promise I'm not a hypochondriac!), so we went home. Over the next two years, these unusual sharp pain in the left side of my chest would return for a few minutes every couple of months. I found that if I just laid down and tried to wait it out, the pain would usually go away. Eventually I got used to it.

However, on October 15th, 2001, as I was shopping at the mall, suddenly the obnoxious pain came back again. I thought, "Here we go again. Just wait it out." But this time was different. By the next day, the pain had not subsided, and I could hardly take a breath. When I leaned forward or backwards, it felt like something inside of me was actually moving around. My parents decided it was time to take me back to the emergency room. After another round of x-rays, I was informed that my left lung had collapsed due to a condition known as "spontaneous pneumothorax". As far as I understand it, spontaneous pneumothorax is a congenital factor (not really a disease) that will sometimes cause the lungs of tall, skinny, (good-looking) young men to collapse. Due to the skinny frame, the chest cavity grows too tall and the lungs don't develop quite right. Small air pockets called "blebs" (I'm not joking. Look it up!) develop on the outside of the lungs. The blebs will then sometimes spontaneously rupture for no good reason. I've long tried to find some correlation for why the blebs rupture, but in my case, I was never doing anything unusual at the time of a collapse. Typically, a collapse would occur when I was playing Nintendo (See? Video games ARE violent!), walking, or even just reading a book.

On October 17th, I went back to the hospital for emergency surgery. Dr. Collins (my all-time favorite Catholic) inserted a chest tube through my ribs and into my lung. The chest tube helped to keep my lung inflated while Dr. Collins performed a surgery known as a pleurodesis thoracoscopy, in which my lung would essentially be "roughed up" and abrased to the outside of the chest wall. I have always pictured the surgery as Dr. Collins using sandpaper to make the outside of my lung nice and bloody so that it would scar together to the chest wall (sorry to be gruesome). Therefore, in the event of a future bleb rupture, the lung would hopefully stay inflated since it was stuck to the chest wall. The surgery was successful, but I had to stay in the hospital for nine days to make sure my lung didn't collapse again. During that first stay in the hospital, more than 120 people came to visit me. I felt incredibly loved, and to this day, I am still extremely grateful for everyone who cared for and prayed for me. Throughout the entire ordeal, my mom was always right there by my side. She worried about me so much, and I knew that if she could, she would have traded me places so that I wouldn't have to suffer.
Love ya, mom.
I got out of the hospital on October 25th, one day before my older sister Amy's wedding. Unfortunately, I missed the actual wedding, but I was able to make it to the reception that night. The reception center even had a couch for me to lay on during the event, since I couldn't really stand.

My mom made a cardboard cut-out of me so that I could be a part of the pictures at Amy's wedding.
For me, the highlight of the night occurred when President Monson arrived. Amy had invited President Monson to the wedding reception because my new brother-in-law Manny's grandpa had fought with President Monson in the U.S. Navy during World War II. We didn't know if he would actually come, but it was so awesome to see him walk through the doors. President Monson spent ten minutes visiting with me and told me that the Lord loved me, knew what I was going through, and that when things became too hard I should just "try to take things one step at a time". It is a memory that I still cherish to this day, and I love President Monson for his incredible goodness and true Christlike example.
I gave him my best missionary handshake.
President Monson visiting with me, my friend Melanie, my grandpa, and my little bro Matt.


Amazingly, a few days later, President Monson sent me the following letter:
President Monson is the most wonderful example of Christlike charity that I have ever seen. With all his responsibilities as president of the Church, he still takes the time to visit "the one". He cares about every individual member. I know that he is a prophet of God, and I want to follow and sustain him every day.

After the wedding, I did my best to recover. I made it back to my first semester at the U of U, and things finally felt like they were getting back on track. Unfortunately, exactly a month later, the sharp pain returned, but for the first time it was on the right side of my chest. The pain was overwhelming, but even more overwhelming was the realization that I would have to once again go back to the hospital for another surgery. I bargained with Dr. Collins to let me wait a couple of weeks so that I could finish my finals (ironically, bad grades was more of a worry to me than the prospect of dying).

On December 11th, I finished my last final at 12:30 PM, and I was admitted to the hospital a half-hour later. That evening I ate my last meal before surgery the next morning (some jello and stale french fries) and then tried to go to bed. Sadly, my mind would not calm down. I got out my laptop and spent a couple of hours IMing one of my wonderful friends, Colin. Colin helped me to calm down and I was finally able to go to sleep.

The next morning Allison, my favorite nurse in the whole entire world, came in to give me some medicine to help knock me out before surgery. After getting the shot, my mom said that I told Allison, "I'm completely coherent! I can do calculus!"
Allison: Best. Nurse. Ever.
The surgery on my right lung was a success, but the night after the surgery was rough. After surgery, I was hooked up to a morphine pump that allowed me to receive morphine into my system every six minutes if I needed it. Unfortunately, I began throwing up, which was very painful due to the fragile state of my lungs. To deal with the pain of throwing up, I would press the morphine button as often as I could. However, the morphine became too much for my skinny frame to handle and I started to shake uncontrollably. At about 10 PM, on Thursday, December 13th, I experienced an excruciating convulsion that lasted for what seemed like forever. My best friend Paul and my mom had to hold down my legs while the others went to get warm blankets to cover me with. At that point, one of my male nurses and my good friend Trevor gave me a priesthood blessing that my body would be able to stay calm. After the blessing, the resident doctor gave me some medicine called demerol to help with the shaking. Unfortunately, it turns out that when you mix morphine and demerol, it has the nasty side effect of putting your lungs into a state of "respiratory depression" (meaning they stop breathing). Double unfortunately, by the time I stopped breathing, my friends and family had just left for the night, I was all alone, and I had fallen into a deep sleep.

As my mom was getting on the elevator to go home for some much needed rest, she felt a powerful impression to turn back around and make sure I was okay. As she entered my room, she looked at me and realized that something was wrong. My face had turned blue and my lips were a dark shade of purple. Clearly, I wasn't breathing. My mom ran to get Allison, even though she was in a room with another patient. Allison instantly noticed that I was in respiratory failure, and she issued a "Code Blue Emergency" which brought other medical staff scrambling to my room. At that moment I was clinically dead. As staff began to fill my room to carry out emergency procedures, my mom stepped out into the hall, worried that she would never see me alive again.

Fortunately for my mom (and even more fortunately for me), the incredible medical team was able to get me breathing again. I remember suddenly opening my eyes and feeling the most intense pain of my entire life. I was freezing cold and I was shaking like I have never shaken before. I frantically looked around the room and saw Allison and my mom above me to the left. There was a mask on my face to give me oxygen. Suddenly, I sat up and threw up.....all over my mom. She told me that although it was disgusting, the fact that I was alive completely made up for it.

People have asked me if I remember anything when I was dead. Sadly, I don't. I remember falling asleep after getting the blessing, and then I remember waking up. I joke that I only saw blackness, which means that I have some major repenting to do! In seriousness, it was a wild ordeal. If my mom had not followed the prompting of the Holy Ghost, I would not be here today. I can never thank my mom enough for coming back into my room that night. I have so much life to live. I feel like I still have work to do here on earth, and I am so grateful for the chance.  Let me just say, I love you, mom!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

#61: Draw Something 3.

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I'm not addicted to Draw Something. I'm not addicted to Draw Something. I'm not addicted to Draw Something. Shoot, yeah, I am.

2nd only to Superman for best blue costume.
Tim "The Toolman" Taylor.
It's a cap!
I'm terrible at drawing women. I can never get the eyelashes right.
During my senior year of high school, I sang in a Christmas choir
with his aunt Rosemary just before she passed away.
Still life?
The only vest that came to mind.
Mr. Kutcher in black and white.
Mr. Barcode....also in black and white.
My coworker Karmen had to reach out to her Facebook friends for help on this one.
I guess I should have drawn one of the actual metroids, rather than Samus.
Mace Windu? Is that you?
For my dad, who still doesn't understand why Star Wars is infinitely better than Star Trek.
Simba...or whatever.
Rest in peace. 
NOT Zelda. She's a woman...elf...elf-woman.

Tanooki suit!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

#60: WWJHMD?

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I was thinking recently about the oft-quoted Christian phrase "What Would Jesus Do?" (commonly abbreviated as "WWJD?"), which is intended to remind us to think of what Christ would do and then to respond accordingly when making choices. Over the years I have tried  to live up to the phrase, but I honestly cannot think of a single day in which I have been completely successful at it. In fairness to myself, I have had many days where I have made good choices, but I cannot truthfully say that I have ever been able to look back at the end of a day and tell myself that I did exactly what Jesus would have done. Hopefully, I am not the only one that has ever felt that way.

This thought made me a little discouraged as I realized that I could not fully live up to the standard. Jesus was so perfectly loving, obedient, and forgiving that the idea of trying to be like him became daunting. I love Him  and want to follow His example, but with my current capacities I don't know if I could ever truly live up to His goodness. I am not perfect and in this life I never will be, but as I thought about this, I received an impression that perhaps I just needed to modify the phrase a bit. Rather than asking myself what Jesus would do, instead I can ask myself "What would Jesus HAVE ME do?"

This may not seem like a huge distinction, but it gave me a lot of hope and peace of mind. Even though I am not perfect, I CAN try to do what He would want me to do. Jesus likely wouldn't spend the majority of his time each week working as an accountant, but I think He is okay that I do as long as I work with integrity and try to support my family. Jesus probably wouldn't spend his vacation time going to Disneyland, but I think He is okay that I do if I use the opportunity to create memories with family and friends. And Jesus almost certainly wouldn't have a blog combining the gospel and Star Wars, but I think He is okay that I do as long as I remember to keep in mind the purpose of trying to bring people to Him.

So, I guess the point of all this is that if you ever become discouraged when asking yourself WWJD?, maybe you can try WWJHMD? instead. Thanks and have a great week.


Friday, May 4, 2012

#59: Happy Star Wars Day!

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Here's to another happy year of lightsabers, hair buns, X-Wings, and giant sentient slugs!
Image found here.