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Code Switching

Day 29: Code Switching

1 Corinthians 9: 19-23 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings

"You kept Me" Marvin Sapp

Happy Twenty Ninth Day of Thanks Everyone!

Today's reflection is going to be a little hard for me. Although the story ends in victory, the bumpy road of painful occurrences to get to the end result are not so comforting. I chose to give thanks for code-switching, which for some may be a little controversial, given some of the emotional and psychological implications for many underrepresented groups of people. However, for the purposes of this reflection and my life's circumstances, I view code-switching in the context of my ability to alternate, seamlessly, between my dual roles of "mommy" and "physician." In my personal life, code-switching has been a tool of survival that has kept my daughter, Delilah Christina, alive.

Code switching in a social/cultural context refers to changing up one's social behaviors, language, and appearance to assimilate to the dominant norms at large. In linguistics, it refers to the switching or alternation between one dialect, accent, or language over another, to project a specific identity. Code switching is a survival mechanism, sometimes of assimilation, used to gain access or favor with someone or a people group while avoiding being locked out of particular opportunities. 

I like how the Apostle Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 9 how he uses code-switching for the sake of people hearing the gospel of Jesus to receive salvation. As I already mentioned, my code switching has been about navigating Delilah's health and health systems to keep her alive. 

On September 3, 2022,  Lilah was experiencing her menstrual cycle. For those of you who have not been on this journey with us for very long, you don't know yet that Lilah has had a condition called catamenial seizures since she was 7.5 years old when she started precoz puberty. Catamenial seizures are menstrual/hormonal induced seizures. With each 18-21 day menstrual cycle since Lilah was 7.5 years old, she has been plagued with seizures due to the onslaught of hormonal changes and increcases in her body. When her journey started, Lilah would experience atypical, generalized seizures every 2 hours in her sleep from 10pm one night to the next night, totaling up to 15 seizures within a day. Those were incredibly rough and wearisome days.

As Lilah has grown, her seizures have minimized to at maximum two or three during a menstrual cycle phase. Because of Lilahs' delicate situation during her menstrual cycle, I still prepare our lives for what I call "shut down mode" so that I can be completely attentive to her needs. Any outstanding work task are accomplished virtually as I am sitting along side her, as she is resting, so that I can watch her like a hawk. On that particular day of September, since Lilah had a seizure the day before, we were on rest mode. When she went into her room that afternoon to sleep, I tucked her in, ensured all the safe guards were in place, in case she had a seizure, and watched her comfortably close her eyes and sleep before I left her room. I headed to my room, which is so close to hers, and started a task.  In a short window of about 15-20 minutes, I didn't hear Lilah sneak to the kitchen to eat the snack I told her she couldn't have earlier. What I did hear was a crashing sound with a hard cracking sound that caused me to rush to the kitchen. 

When I arrived to the kitchen, I saw Lilah's head face first to the ground and slightly turned to the left side of her body, her body was jerking on the floor, in the middle of a seizure, with a growing, large pool of blood surrounding it. In the flash of a second, I code-switched. I was no longer "mommy" but a physician trying to save a deeply injured patient. With full blown adrenaline pumping to my heart, I moved any objects that could harm Lilah out the way, turned her to her side, tried to assess from where the bleeding was coming to stop it and grabbed the kitchen towels at my disposal. I couldn't readily see where the vast bleeding was coming from because the jerk-like movements from Lilahs' body wasn't allowing me to keep her turned to  her side. All I could think about was the several dangers of the head/face trauma,  Lilah choking on her own blood and saliva, which was pouring out profusely, since no matter how much I was trying to stop the bleeding her jerking wasn't helping me to steady it.  

When I finally turned Lilahs' head, I saw the most monstrous, gruesome, devastating picture image flash before my face. Lilah's one tooth had been cleanly and completely ripped from her mouth from the root. Another tooth had been cracked in two different places and was split in half hanging open. The other teeth were completely cracked and shattered. "OMG! I have to find and preserve the teeth too," a thought flashed. It was one of those chaotic moments, where I kept calm to methodically check of the list of task that I could and had to do in order to ensure that Lilah would get through this seizure safely.  Simultaneously, I found myself asking God to stop this seizure and let there be a very short post-ictal so I could get Lilah the help she needed immediately. 

Within seconds her seizure stopped and I was able to minimize and then stop the bleeding. As she was in post-ictal I ensured all the entrapped saliva and blood in her mouth were out.  I rushed to clean up the blood on the floor to find and preserve her teeth. I didn't have any whole milk but used what I had to preserve the teeth as best I could. I called Jacobi to see if they

 ER had emergency dental services. Once the resident said she could call the consult, I told her that if she could call, I'd be on my way with Lilah.

Now, came the harder task. How would I get Lilah from the kitchen floor to completely clean her up and get her ready to go?  If any of you have had to carry someone's dead weight before, you know how incredibly hard it is. Lilahs' dead weight is no joke. During seizures, I've had to carry her dead weight and have almost buckled or seen multiple people buckle trying to get her to a final destination. In that moment, I knew that I didn't have the strength to carry her from the kitchen floor to the bathroom tub so I prayed again. "Please, Lord, wake her up so that I can completely clean her up and get us out the door." I made one last call to my friend who was on her way to a location near the ER and asked if she could drive us to the ER. I made Lilah a hospital bag and put all her stuff, including the preserved teeth in it. 

The miraculous happened! Within 10 minutes, Lilah was fully out of the post-ictal phase of her seizures and had full strength. Normally, her post-ictal lasts at least 30-45 minutes and even then she's sometimes still pretty groggy or wobbly and tired. This time she was endowed with strength like I've never seen and wanted to walk herself to the bathroom. She even got fussy as I tried to help her. She wanted to get in the tub by herself and completely cleaned herself up as I hovered with eagle's eyes every step of the way. You would think that Lilah would be in horrible spirits, in excruciating pain, and suffering from the head trauma. I cry as I write this because, Delilah Christina, in her usual "independent" person mode was yet again displaying a level of strength, resilience, and perseverance. She looked at me, almost reassuringly, as if to say, "mom, I got this!" My baby, who is really no longer a baby, showed me that she was still a survivor and not letting anything, not even the recent seizure, take her out. 

Lilah has suffered so much through this ordeal with her seizures. It has knocked me to my knees to see her suffer through this for twelve years. The bane of my existence has been to remove this condition from her life. 

Lilah was in great spirits, smiling. However, as I watched her disfigured teeth, I was seeing yet another permanent scar that this condition inflicted. Surprisingly enough, her mouth wasn't swollen but that didn't stop me from numbing any prospect of pain with Tylenol and ice packs. I don't know if Lilah held it together because she wanted to assure me that she was okay and didn't want me to break down or if she took this experience as a badge of honor that she yet again escaped death. Either way, her strength and drive kept me pushing. She finished washing up, we got her dressed and we were ready just in time for my friend's arrival. 

My friend assessed Lilah and was surprised that she was smiling and okay after the ordeal she had just encountered. She asked if I was okay. I told her that I was just grateful she was alive and now worrying about the finances associated with fixing her teeth. I didn't have any money for root canals or any of the aesthetics needed to fix her mouth. God was going to have to seriously provide for us if Lilah was going to need her face and teeth to be the singer and model God said she would be. 

We got to the pediatric ER at Jacobi and registered. Luckily, it was a holiday weekend so the place was pretty empty and we were seen almost immediately.  When we settled into Lilahs' usual ER room/bed, Room #12, the resident came to do a history and said that she paged the dental resident on call to come.  

During the hour we waited for the dentist to come, I prayed and thanked God for sparing Lilahs' life. I prayed for the dentist and techs that would assist in the restoration of her teeth. I asked God to anoint and take over their hands so that all would be well. Since Lilah was tired, I worshipped for her and sang over her and let her close her eyes to rest.  Now that we were in the "safety" of the ER, I code-switched back to "mommy" mode and found myself about to have an emotional break down. The adrenaline rush ceased. Simultaneously, the picture images of Lilah in that pool of blood repeatedly flashed through my brain, I saw the damage done to her mouth/teeth, and I remembered that I left her side for twenty minutes. Tears began to flow like streams from my eyes. I felt the exhaustion of battling Lilahs' seizures for the past twelve years weighing on me. Lilah and I were carrying the burden of it by ourselves and it was so taxing and wearisome. My emotions were trying to take me down the rabbit hole of "ifs." If I had just stayed in the room with Lilah, she would not have been in the kitchen without me. But, it was too late for the regret because things had already happened. All I could do was hold Lilahs' hand so that we could fearlessly walk through this next journey of recovery and restoration. 

I realized something else in that moment as well. The luxury I had to cry in that ER room was not something I could afford to do nor did I have the privilege to do in the moment of Lilahs' injury. If I stayed in mommy mode during her injury, I would have been too emotionally distraught and weary to get Lilah out of the danger zone and into safety. My code-switching saved Lilah. Just like Apostle Paul mentioned, I was successfully all things to all people at all moments so that Lilah could be saved. 

When the dentist arrived, she looked puzzled and said to me "what are the changes that I had the exact same case at two o'clock this morning?" I replied, "God needed to make sure that you had practice before you worked on my baby." Since the resident felt she had more important things to do than to assist the dentist with Lilahs' mouth repair, I became the dental assistant for the next two to three hours as the dentist repaired Lilahs' teeth.

I code switched again to fulfill the duty of dental assistant. The dentist was so sweet. She was also very meticulous and determined to make Lilahs' temporary stent and teeth look amazing. We worked synergistically for those few hours, not knowing that we were forging a dentist/dental assistant bond that would endure much further than that ER visit. We continued in that vain every one to two weeks for the next three months. Lilahs' next appointment is in the first week of the new year; we still have much more restorative work that needs to be complete.

I hate not being able to tell the many miracles that have happened in this three month period since the incident because a wholesome reflection of all the minute details would make the story complete. But, we'll be here forever if I do. What I can and should write is that God answered all the prayers of the saints who were constantly praying for Lilah throughout this ordeal. Lilah was blessed with the best, world renown, top of the line, dentist, orthodontist, and root canal specialists at the dental clinic. In this next visit I think we are adding another top of the line specialist to the team. The tooth which was ripped out of Lilahs' mouth was able to be placed back into her mouth without complications or infections and has successfully stayed permanently in place. God really did that! Lilah has gone through every dental procedure and surgery like a trooper, most times without any numbing for hours. For some reason, she doesn't like the numbing at all. Lilah survived on what I call "tasty mush" for weeks and even months at a time to heal her gums and teeth. If you know my daughter'slove relationship with food, you'd understand just why that is a miracle. We have had paid transportation to and from each visit, which alleviates much of that financial burden of taxis and Ubers after each appointment. All of the staff working with Delilah has promised that when they are done, she will have a completely beautiful and restored smile. Because they have done everything so thoroughly and followed-up so effectively during and after each visit, I believe them.

Today as I am thankful for my ability to code switch, I ask that you consider donating to Teens of Color Abroad (TOCA), This organizations addresses the racial disparities in language learning and study abroad participation by providing high school students of color with global language learning experiences. If many of you remember, on Day 28 of our first Thirty Days of Thanks journey where we gave thanks for traveling, we donated to the Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education (F.L.Y.T.E.). It is with profound sadness that I report that after seven years of doing wonderful work, providing youth of color opportunities to experience the world outside of their neighborhoods, F.L.Y.T.E, had to close its doors because of the rising cost of travel and fewer donations to support their work. Let us support organizations that allow for our youth great opportunities that will widen their world view and perspective and challenge them to want more for themselves and do more for their communities.

Love ya, 

Have a Great Day of Thanks 

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