Monday, August 1, 2016

Week 87 Pneumonia & Flash Floods

Well...I can easily say this was one of the craziest weeks of my mission! Ward boundary changes, historic floods in Ellicott City, and staying in the Hospital with pneumonia..all in one week! But I'm totally fine right now, so don't worry regardless of the title of the email!

"Hey mom!! Doing well, we got the room
 with the resort/vacation background!!"
Chandler was able to send me this text on Sister Christiansen's phone. 
Here he is with his positive attitude, still wearing his 
Missionary name tag & his big beautiful smile while he was so sick, 
doesn't surprise me! 
This picture was taken earlier in the day with his 103 fever,
who would have guessed it? 

I'll start with the pneumonia. Starting on Tuesday or Wednesday, I started to get pretty sick, but figured it was just a cold. By Thursday, I was thinking it had to be the flu. I could hardly walk without becoming nauseous, was coughing consistently, and went into the doctor with a temperature of 103 that wouldn't go down. They told me I had a Sinus & Bacterial infection with early stages of the flu. They gave me me an antibiotic & sent me on my way. By Friday, it was worse and I had already lost weight so I went into the ER with Elder Fisher, Elder Gordon, and Elder Tharp. They took me in, gave me fluids, and ran tests during the night to find what was wrong. When all was said and done, I had pneumonia. This last weekend was quite the experience, I haven't felt sick like that in quite some time, but her I am, just a few days later, and I feel absolutely fine! I definitely learned a lot throughout the weekend even through those couple of days. Hospital visits are never fun but I got to meet some great people that took care of me and we even got to share the Gospel throughout. I appreciate all of the prayers in my behalf! Also, I met with my Liver Specialist and as far as that goes, things couldn't be better with my blood work!!

We also changed boundaries here in the Columbia Stake. Our ward got cut in half, so some of the people we were working with will be passed off to the other Elders! It will be tough not to be around the Jolissaint's anymore, but I know that Greg and Debby are going to get baptized and join the church soon and am so excited for them! The sad part of the change was definitely that they closed down the Spanish Branch here in Columbia. I served there for 4 1/2 months and absolutely love the members! It sounds like most of them can speak at least decent English though, so they will be attending English wards which means I'll get to see some of them here in the Ellicott City Ward with me. Still, it's a piece of memory that I feel like was taken, and I'm so grateful for the time I got to spend serving there!

2 dead, hundreds rescued. Emergency declared
after historic Ellicott City ravaged by flash flood.

And now onto the historic floods! We had a crazy storm on Saturday, and that's an understatement. It hit the worst in Old Town Ellicott City, which isn't designed to hold a lot of foundation when that much water comes at it. Elder Fisher and I weren't out and about because I was in the Hospital, but if we would've been, we probably would've got stuck right in the middle of it. I've attached a story from one of our investigators, Laura Diaz. She has 3 kids, Ella, Danny, and Jake. Her husband is Welvy and we've been teaching them for a little bit now. They live right in the middle of Ellicott City, next to the river. This story portrays the horror that has hit most of the people here in Ellicott, we're keeping all of them in our prayers, but it also portrays the miracle that they are still alive and well and God's hand in all of this.

Here is the story in Laura's words:

"We are good!  I mean emotionally a mess, but physically fine. Just sore and a few bumps and bruises.  I felt like I needed to just say that right away.  And thank you, for thinking of me, for praying for us and for all that you have done to make this just a little better.  I mean the reason we had to move there in the first place was drama and now this…I can’t seem to catch a break...The county is saying it could be months before we can go back...Now all we are worried about is people breaking in and taking what little we have left.

It was around 7 and I asked Welvy to take the kids up to take a bath.  I never do that, I usually let him take a nap before work and I do the bedtime thing, but I had an unusual amount of dishes and I wanted to get them done STAT.  As I am washing away my community is also washing away.  I look out the window, my sink overlooks the train tracks and the river.  And I see the white water rapids and an SUV fly by.  I screamed for Welvy...and we traded places.  He went to move the car, he had to run through waste deep dangerous water to get to the car, drive half on the curb and half off just to get out of town.  I didn’t think when we passed on the stairs it could have been the last time we saw each other.  It was only for a few hours though thankfully.

While he was off with the car and trying to get back to us, we were stuck inside.  I got the kids ready for bed and put them in bed, I told Ella to keep the boys with her and not to move.  Then I heard a loud bang and the house shook.  I ran down stairs and the inside stair well was swirling high with water, like in the titanic movie, it was crazy fast.  The door was being banged on and finally broken into by a homeless man.  Not the nice homeless man we usually help (he’s ok by the way), but a scary one I have never seen before.  His name turned out to be Mike. He chased me up the little stairs that were left not under water and he and I did a little back and forth door pushing.  Finally my dog decided to go nuts, he hesitated once and I got it bolted shut.  I called 911 violently shaking but they were busy…yes that is what they said.  By now, my children are crying for their daddy and frankly I am too. He proceeded to get into my neighbors houses but was unsuccessful.  So I just got it together and said to my children, no this is gonna turn like fun (something Ella used to say when she was little).  And I said pack a bag just in case of everything you can’t live without, Ella said that’s just you guys and Danny said DONATELLO!!! (his Ninja Turtle)  So I said outfit, pjs, ipad and Donatello.  The screaming from the street, fire alarm and continuous honking was enough to make anyone go crazy.  We peaked out the window, and shouldn’t have.  We saw families and couples yelling from their cars.  One woman could see me and was begging me to help her, I wanted to jump out of the window and help her, but I had 3 little faces looking at me crying for their daddy that we weren’t even sure made it out alive.  I didn’t want to orphan them.  Plus I am a great swimmer but wasn’t sure I was strong enough to go through that with cars flying by and building parts and electric wires and fire, help them, and then swim back.  I'm cool but not that cool.  I will have nightmares about her the rest of my life.  By now the entire bridge was under water.

The neighbors came over one by one, I am like the mom of the group.  Everyone else is young and no kids.  We all ended up separated but we came together the next day, it was almost agonizing for all of us to be apart and not know what happened to the other. 

So my phone is at 2%, electricity is flickering, the gas pipe breaks, the car in front of my house is wiping around tangled in the telephone wires catching on fire and I cant find my husband.  The smell of gas was so bad we had to cover our faces with towels.  The police want us to evacuate because they think we’re going to explode.  He said to get in the boat, I was like no I have an infant.  He said too bad.  I get in that nasty scary water with my infant on me and Danny on my shoulders and next thing I know my husband comes walking up the back way, him and his friend Grant, climbing down the mud slide.  My one neighbor said this feels like its from a movie.  He parked in Catonsville (a few miles away) and walked, all that way, not knowing if we were even still there.  We strapped the babies on us and walked, more like climbed straight up the hill in the mud hands over feet.  Eli (my dog) helped all of us the best he could.  Finally we made it up that mountain, after countless slips back down and trees falling all around us and sticks stabbing our legs and the mosquitoes having a field day with my children.  We made it to the top…the worst is over right. Wrong.  We get separated in the chaos AGAIN!!!  Me with kids and dog, husband and grant with bags.  Miles later we find each other in the pitch black woods.  I swear Welvy and I have been together/known each other for 30 years and we have been thru more disasters than one couple should.  We don’t need phones or gps to find each other, even before we owned phones, we always found each other.  Ella said I am starting to trust this thing you two have going!  And my little boy clutched that Donatello every step of the way.  He kept saying thumbs up mama Donatello is OK! And my sweet 20lb 4 month old slept in the sling strapped to me the whole time. 

So when we finally got to each other and walked miles to the car we tried going places, but its hard a family of 5 and a dog covered in mud for people to want to let us in.  Our land lord did.  Once again she has saved our lives. 

For now we are here off St. Johns lane. Not sure for how long.  People want to know what I need or how to help.  I don’t know how to answer that. I am pretty sure we all have like PTSD, which sounds crazy but we all got in the one bed and cried ourselves to sleep. And all day today we haven’t left each others side.  We keep meeting up with the neighbors and just crying it all out. 

No one would believe what we went through, not really.  The news can say what they want, they can send you pictures of what happened, but no one, aside from my neighbors will ever know truly in your soul know what just happened to us, in the matter of 20 minutes we were fine and then in the middle of a natural disaster.  And when it was all said in done my little man said to me thumbs up mama you are so cool so awesome!  And I said not me, God is.

Thanks again for all your prayers, keep them coming, this craziness is just the beginning of a long road ahead."

I'm so grateful that they are safe, what a crazy story! A miracle as well though. Like I said at the beginning, this was a crazy week full of all sorts of experiences, but I'm so grateful for those kind of weeks! I'm so grateful for all of the wonderful people around me that continue to support and pray for me, thank you so much. Have an amazing week!

- Elder Leavitt

Here is a link to videos/pictures of what happened as well:

*I am including some photos of the damage and aftermath of the flooding in Ellicott City so that Chandler will always remember this, not only as a tragedy but also a Tender Mercy from the Lord! I want to add that as I sat here heartbroken & in tears knowing I couldn't be there to take care of him as he laid in a hospital bed, I consider this such a miracle! What a great reminder that Heavenly Father is in charge and he has a plan for each one of us! Chandler has never taken a sick day before and we know without a doubt that this pneumonia is the one thing that kept him in his apartment during this flood on Saturday. I never thought my sadness on Friday would turn into such a feeling of Gratitude!! I love you Chandler & I love sister Christiansen & Elder Fisher for taking such wonderful care of you for me!!

Notice that the water level is right up to the street sign.

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