On June 16th, 2006, on the way to my MRI appointment, my dad drove me first to the home of a wonderful lady to meet her baby grand piano. I couldn’t walk without assistance, couldn’t see clearly, could hardly hear (everything was muffled), and felt dizzy with every little movement. He helped me to her front door, and once inside, I remember a greeting and being led to the bench in front of her 1916 Francis Bacon piano. The center three octaves were horribly out of tune, as she had played mainly hymns for the 30 years she owned it and never had it tuned. The outer octaves were rich and beautiful, gorgeous to hear, and I knew instantly that I had found the piano of my dreams. Literally, I dreamt of a piano just like this once in a room much like the one in which I found this piano, and now, I could almost grasp the magnitude of the reality. Since my hearing was impaired with the mysterious swelling, and the piano was badly out of tune, we asked my music teacher at the time, to also try out the piano. She was thrilled with it, and three days later, the piano was in my family’s living room.
In 2006, the evening of my highschool graduation party (five days after giving the only student speech at the senior class graduation from Open Door Christian Academy that year), I came down with a fever in the 102 range. It had been an amazing day, filled with fun & laughter & friends & family & games & food & wonderful conversations.
Our guests were finishing the evening by watching the movie “Cool Runnings” when I went to bed with a fever in the 103 range. In the middle of the night, I called my parents in the next room on my phone after finding my temperature was in the 104 range.
They worked to break the fever, stayed by my side, and comforted me. I am forever grateful for their care. In the morning on Monday, my mom called our doctor to make an appointment for that afternoon to be seen. Shortly before going to the doctor, my fever broke, and we canceled the appointment. We thought all was well.
That night, my temperature shot back up and reached 104.9. It didn’t subside and I struggled with debilitating chills & severe sweating. I was mostly unaware of my surroundings when early that morning (Tuesday), my mom drove me to the local Hospital’s Emergency Room. After X-rays, a spinal tap lumbar puncture, an IV, blood draws, and many monitors were in place and taken, I was admitted to a hospital room. That night around 2:00am, my blood pressure tanked, and I woke up groggy to a room full of doctors & nurses darting around shouting orders – and I was moved to the Intensive Care Unit downstairs.
The doctors thought I might have measles, be in shock, or have a failing liver. All the tests in the initial days pointed to any number of terrible things. On numerous occasions, I struggled to breathe and developed swelling all over. My feet felt like bricks and I couldn’t move because of the headache worse than I’ve ever experienced before or since. Because of this series of symptoms and a few others, I was moved to an isolation unit in the ICU with it’s own air supply & filtration system leading to the outside.
We never found out exactly what was wrong. I had to have the room as quiet as possible (because sound felt like a stabbing knife through my head), and as dark as possible (because the same happened with any light). Visitors had to wear gloves and masks. I kept my eyes closed as much as possible and slept 20 hours each day – only to wake when I’d go into a coughing fit because the oxygen assistance wasn’t enough, or when it was time to have my blood drawn. My cousin and sister braided my hair to keep it somewhat acceptable.
It was an awful time, but through it all, I felt at peace. My dear family, friends, church, students, and school were praying for me. The overwhelming gifts of flowers (which were wonderful to receive when I returned home) and the cards were extremely special to me. My school put together a poster of notes from teachers and classmates. I still have every single card & this amazing poster sits safely in my room as a reminder of the gift of life & loved ones.
During that time, music was almost constantly in my head. I wanted to compose, to sing, to write lyrics, and to play my piano. At the time, and for the approximately 12 years since starting piano lessons, I had been learning on my mom’s beautiful Sohmer & Co upright piano. But, for over a year, I had been searching high and low, near and far, for the grand piano of my dreams.
Piano Arrival Day :)
After the horrible ordeal in the hospital, and with my blood tests still showing major problems the week after my release from the hospital, we set up an appointment with a rheumatologist, who scheduled a brain MRI. She was concerned about the increasing headache, the dizziness, the swelling, the hearing loss, and the light sensitivity. On the way to the appointment, 5 days after being released from the hospital, I was as weak as ever, and my dad had to make a stop. Much to our amazement, he came across some friends/pastors from church, who volunteered to come out to the car and pray for me. They did, and we went on our way to the MRI appointment.
At the doctor’s office, I needed some assistance getting to the MRI machine, but my headache had subsided for the first time in two weeks. During the test (which was a closed MRI), I wasn’t scared, and I could actually have my eyes open. My head didn’t hurt, even with the loud demolition-type sound of the photos it was taking. My MRI photos are super interesting! When it was over, I walked out of that room on my own, standing tall and steady (well, maybe a little wobble). I have no idea what else happened during that time since running into our friends, but I know I was healed. I know the Lord did a miracle in my head. The MRI came back clean.
My sister was married the next day, and I was in the wedding as a bridesmaid. During every major part of the wedding, I was there. I took naps between the ceremony, the cutting of the cake, the toasts, the dances, and before they left on their honeymoon. But, I was there and emerged for each activity. Alive, and able to be there for my sister on her amazing day.
I am grateful for that – not only for myself, but for her. To be in her wedding was an incredible gift to us both. I know she feels that way too.
Two days after her wedding, with part of an inheritance from my granddad and some money from my first couple years of music lesson teaching, I was able to purchase the beautiful Francis Bacon. Granddad would be pleased. :)
In the months that followed, my hair fell out. During the initial months, I wore bucket hats to church, college classes, and while teaching. This photo was taken at a studio recital I held at Courtyard Fountains Retirement Community in December 2006, six months after the hospital stay, and about 2 months after the day I cut off the rest of my hair after it fell out in too many patches. When it grew back, it was different – with curls, waves, and with red in it.
It is another reminder of one of the scariest times of my life.
The studio quickly grew. In June, 2006, I had 8 students. By the December recital in 2006, I had 18 students performing. Today (2016), I see 40 students weekly, and couldn’t be happier. Over the past 10 years since my piano blessing materialized, hundreds of students have played it. Some know the story, and others have no idea. I don’t tell anyone anymore, but every time I sit down to play, I am reminded that I almost never was able to play again. I am reminded that life is such a precious gift, and we don’t know how much time we have. When we encounter a crisis, and are surrounded by family & friends, we realize exactly how much we are loved. I am incredibly thankful that music continues to be a gift, one I hope to share with those who come into the studio. I am very, very thankful.
I found out my piano was made in 1916. To honor the occasion of this 100 year anniversary, I thought I would share the story of this wonderful piano and blessing coming into my life.
I cried when the movers brought it in, and I cried when I first played it. You can see my tears in one of the photos. I am so grateful to be alive, to be teaching, and to be reminded every day that life is a gift. Life is a gift, my family is a gift, my students are a gift, and my friends are a gift. My piano is a daily reminder that I am alive today because I was given a gift of healing that year.
IMPORTANT NOTE = I originally thought my piano was made in 1914, so I wrote & posted this entry in 2014, but in 2015, my piano technician/tuner informed me it was actually made in 1916 (and I immediately archived this post – making it private). Today, on 1/25/16, I am posting this again, updated and corrected. I hope you enjoy having some insight into why music is so special to me. Teaching is one of my absolute favorite things to do. I teach and play music because I positively love it. Thank you for being part of my journey! :)