auto accident

MEAN MR. NICE GUY AND GAL

During her recent visit and before Marvalee sang her songs for Ken, she and I talked about the two people we loved, their Alzheimer’s and where it had taken them.  “Mama has become so mean,” Marvalee lamented, saddened by her statement.  “I guess deep down inside, she had a mean streak in her personality.”  I understood why she might reach that conclusion.  It’s hard to watch these people who have led such rich, full, and often charitable lives become less than who they were, eventually becoming virtual strangers.  Strangers we often don’t like.

“Oh Marvalee,” I said, “You mother didn’t have a mean bone in her whole 105 pounds.”  I remembered Eva strumming her ukulele and singing, dressed in a colorful muumuu, a flower decorating her dark hair which flowed free as a girl and as a mother of four was styled into a bun.  Even after the band, led by her talented husband Ed dissolved, she put on her muumuu, placed a flower in her hair, picked up her ukulele and spent the day at rest homes and care facilities entertaining the patients.  “Your mother was a kind, gentle woman,” I told my troubled guest.  “She isn’t a mean person, nor is Ken – at least not in their hearts.”

I recounted an afternoon when I had taken Ken with me to buy a new refrigerator shelf for one of our rentals.   It was a parts store where we had become frequent customers.  Tony, the associate looked up our needed replacement chatting as usual, almost bantering to Ken as he had in the past.  Silence prevailed, and being puzzled Tony glanced at me.  “Alzheimer’s,” I mouthed.  Puzzlement changed into dismay as he said, “I’m so sorry.  He’s the nicest guy in the world.”  I nodded in agreement as Tony wrapped the shelf and volunteered to carry it to our car. 

 “Let me tell you who the mean ones are,” I continued, recalling an accident of many years ago when the four-year-old son of our mutual friends ran between two parked cars and was struck down.  Slammed onto the street by an oncoming car, Robert was seriously hurt.  At the hospital, he lay unconscious, the doctors doing all they could possibly do to stabilize him while his parents hovered nearby wondering if he would even survive.

“Before I finish Robert’s story, let me remind you of my own son ,Kevin, who, at 18, also suffered because of a disastrous automobile accident.  Not like Robert’s accident, but badly injured when he was thrown from a little VW onto a highway in the middle of Idaho.  But like Robert, he too lay unconscious while the doctor in a very small town hospital worked to save his life.

“So what did these two accidents have in common?” I asked.  Marvalee listened while I continued.  “With Robert stabilized, but still unconscious he called out words like, ‘shut up,’ and ‘stupid.’  Words which his parents had told him were not nice words to use.  To a four-year-old, they were profane.

“Years later when my 18-year-old lay unconscious, he too called out profanity.  His naughty words, however, were much more advanced than those of Robert, and typical of a young adult male. As concerned as we were about the seriousness of his condition,” I explained, “Ken and I were a tad embarrassed as Kevin blurted out all the cuss words he knew turning the air in the hospital a bit blue.  ‘Don’t be embarrassed,’ the doctor counseled, ‘that’s base man calling out.  He’s hurt and he’s angry, and he’s venting.’  Robert had done the same thing with his words of ‘stupid,’ and ‘shut up.’  Even though he was just a boy, base boy was angry, hurt and venting.”

Summing it all together as best I could I assured Marvalee that the meanness was not some long-suppressed personality trait of Ken or Eva, but base man and base woman.  There are times when they are not only confused, but angry and no doubt frightened; both of them locked away in a mad world of nothingness.  Their meanness allows them to not only defend themselves, but being mean is also a way to vent.

 “Of course,” I concluded, “the application of base man and base woman as part of the Alzheimer’s disease is only my opinion.  But I take comfort in believing that both Ken and Eva are not fundamentally mean, but have always been two of the nicest people in the world.”

Originally posted 2010-08-11 07:30:26.

AN ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT

Remember watching the PBS special series which took place during the 1800s where the rich European noblemen and their wives had dozens of servants scattered throughout the castle: butlers, upstairs and downstairs maids, a seamstress or two, cooks and bakers plus scads of additional kitchen help.  Outside there were gardeners, stable boys, coachmen and countless others to keep the grounds manicured and trimmed, and the carriages polished.  It took a lot of people to keep those palaces functioning and presentable. To head up the staff was the prim and proper housekeeper who, with help from the butler, supervised the staff making sure their work was always done; accomplished quickly, quietly and out of sight from the manor’s lord and lady; except possibly, for his groom, her personal maids and the children’s nanny.  The “upper crust” did not fraternize with the help. 

Even in America the mansions of the early 19th century boasted servants quarters in their elegant three and four story mansions where it was normal for the help to “live in.”   Economics, career opportunities and life styles have changed the previous opulent society from normal to unusual.  However, it isn’t unusual for busy people in all walks of life to enlist cleaning services and gardeners on a weekly schedule, or occasionally to help catch up on the often dreary tasks of home maintenance, but for the most part, most people do everything themselves

Ken and I were always do-it-yourselfers, learning early on that by doing you got more bang from your buck, plus the satisfaction of a job well done.  Whether it was adding an extra room, painting the house – inside and out — bricking in a patio, building fences, landscaping the front yard, caring for the children or keeping the house clean we did it ourselves.  Consequently, I found coming home after my three months of recovery and recuperation a bit disconcerting to have “help” in my house on a permanent basis.   What’s more, it made me wonder who’s the boss?

I knew, without a doubt, that my family had made the very best of decisions in my absence, yet to find Ben (Ken’s caregiver and a person I didn’t know) busy in my kitchen preparing food for my husband  — and me — felt very odd.  Not only does Ben care for Ken, he cook, does light housekeeping and laundry (which he folds to perfection) and polishes the furniture when company is coming.   However, I still wasn’t sure if I was at ease with this new arrangement, feeling at first as if I didn’t quiet fit anywhere in my own home.  But doing a reality check I also knew that I would have to change; caring for Ken as I had done before the accident was a thing of the past — something I could no longer do —  especially considering all of his new needs.  Even though I was capable of taking care of myself, it was, perhaps, a good thing to still require rest and a nap when my energy level plunged, and appreciate Ben’s presence.  I was the one who still had months of therapy for my neck and knees, and I was the one who needed time to make an attitude adjustment.

Unlike the gentry of long ago who didn’t fraternize with the help, a few months have passed allowing me to become comfortable with Ben and I believe him with me.  In addition, there is David, Ben’s relief (granddaughter Kristina, who has been living with us, takes the night shift).  One of the surprise bonuses of having other adults in the house has been someone else to talk with.  I have also met and admire the wives of both men, finding the four new treasures in my life.  They are all career caregivers – a noble calling – kind and gentle, but firm when need be with the childlike adults whom they assist.

An auto accident wasn’t a path I would have chosen, nor would I have pressed the “select” button for a six-year continuing assignment with Alzheimer’s, but I have learned to accept those things I cannot change.  Life has taken me to this point where help is required and it is with gratitude and growing affection that I give thanks for Ben and David.  Their hard work and devotion continually touches my heart.  But even more, I am grateful that I am not stayed by some silly tradition from generations past.  I can, and do, enjoy and appreciate their friendship.

Originally posted 2010-07-17 21:39:56.

IT’S A CONUNDRUM

I was curious about drunk driving in California and wondered what I could find on the internet which might shed some light on this state and national problem. Finding some information, I did feel a little disappointed that statistics on that particular site hadn’t been updated since 2006. Perhaps statistics don’t change that much. What I did notice, however, were pages and pages of attorney’s advertising to defend the drunk driver. I found that interesting and yet a little troubling. I realize that everyone is guaranteed due process, but it was almost as if there was more concern for the intoxicated driver than for the those who might be victim to his/her recklessness, so I surfed a few more sites.

Finding more statistics, but of another nature, the new page calculated that three out of every 10 people will have an encounter with a drunk driver at least once in their lifetime. Nearly one third; that’s a lot of people whose lives can, are and may be altered by the recklessness and selfish act of drinking and driving. Recalling my youth, and another accident, I realized I have had two encounter’s involving the deadly practice.

A boy friend (I’ll call him Hank) of my oldest sister, Polly, had an adorable small car, a very pre-war model coupe with a rumble seat. One evening he invited me, a friend and my other sister, Janet, for a ride. We got to sit in the rumble seat – so exciting – as that was the desire of our hearts. The three of us – I was 11, Janet 14, and my friend 12 – wedged ourselves into the tiny opening located where most cars have trunks. With Polly and Hank in the front, we sped down the hill from where we lived, the wind already blowing our hair in every which direction. Laughing, we soon came to one of San Francisco’s main southern thoroughfares; and at our point of crossing it was a very wide section of Army Street. With the traffic light in our favor, Hank ventured forward only to notice one lone car’s headlights coming straight toward us crashing broadside into the sturdy little car. The three of us in the rumble seat bumped our heads together a few times, our tight fit into the seat no doubt holding us in place. Running the red light, the driver of the other vehicle and his lady friend were both drunk.

Hank called my father and the police from the corner store and we waited for dad on the sidewalk. Hank and Polly dealt with the accident and police report, while my dad took the three of us home. Our adventure was short-lived, and other than a good couple of knots on our heads we were all just fine.

Drunk driving is nothing new and has probably been around since before Henry Ford’s Model A; a timeless problem unresolved.  By comparison, the state is totally on top of people having a disease which might have an affect on their driving, but it seems they can’t get a firm and lasting grip on driving under the influence of mind-altering substances.

Upon the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Ken’s neurologist told us that by law the DMV must be informed of his condition. That was in January and by March, he received his letter requiring that he be retested. We both felt confident as Ken had renewed his license less than a year before and had passed with flying colors. However in just eight short months deterioration of his memory was becoming evident. Watching him from across the room at the DMV, I could see the puzzled look on his face. Undoubtedly, as he read the multiple choices, he had already forgotten the question.  He failed the written test so miserably they disallowed him taking a driving test. His license was revoked – forever.  He hasn’t driven since March of 2005, and that was a good thing; better the DMV than me concluding he was no longer a responsible driver.

My daughter, Julie, and I talked about the statistics and the many problems of people driving under the influence. The term DUI covers not only alcohol, but drugs, legal or not, or any other substance which might impair one’s driving ability, and yet many driver’s believe they are the exception. “Legislate more laws,” was Julie’s answer. “They don’t obey the ones already on the books,” I answered, adding that I had listened to young and old alike who carried a medical marijuana card and believed it gave them special permission to drive immediately after dragging in a few puffs of pot to dull their pain.

Back on the internet, one site claimed that sobriety checkpoints and other enforcement tactics would help, especially around holidays; and more education. When people know better they do better. “Sometimes,” was my answer.  Another page suggested, “If you want to do something about drunk driving, get involved.” Candice Lightner became involved when her 13-year-old daughter was killed by not only a drunk driver, but a hit-and-run drunk driver (who was eventually caught). He was 47 years old and my drunk driver is in his late 50s. They were both old enough to know better.

Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving: MADD which has become a national organization. Through legislation, education and enforcing legal age drinking MADD claims to have dramatically reduced drunk driving. Yet, if you happen to be a statistic, it doesn’t matter what the reduction. For me, being a victim is 100 percent. So what can possibly help us as a state and as a nation in ridding our streets of drunk drivers? Being involved, enforcement, education or more legislation – or what? “It’s a conundrum,” concluded Julie, “It’s a conundrum.”

Originally posted 2010-07-11 23:53:44.

I WANNA GO — HOME?

After three weeks in the hospital I was tansferred to a convalescent/rehab center and still felt — comfortable — if that’s the right word — being a patient.  “Just leave me alone in my bed so I can get better,” was my plea, but the goal at rehab is to get you up and going and out — and home.  However, when I looked down my road to recovery I found that I didn’t want to go home.  As injured as I was, I didn’t want to pick up and continue with where I had been in February.

Ken was home.  After the accident he stayed several days in the hospital as my daughter, Debbie, wrote about in her guest blog titled   “One Simple Phone Call. ”   From the beginning I felt at ease knowing he was being cared for by her and the caregivers she had managed to assemble: all good people.  With everything in place, Debbie returned to her home in Utah several weeks after the accident to be with her family.  For me, the thought of going home was beyond comprehension.  I wasn’t ready to assume the responsibility of home and Ken and all it entailed.  I was still too caught up with me.

A few years back my neighbor mentioned she felt my family wasn’t doing enough to help me with Ken.  “They should take time and be with him for a while so you could catch up on some rest, take a trip — something — just get away.”  I smiled at my friend and jokingly asked, “If you lived in Hell and someone told you they would be willing to take your place for a week so you could get away, and you took them up on it and managed to have a wonderful rest and vacation, would you come back?”  All joking aside, while I dearly love my husband and the life we have had together, living with Alzheimer’s is Hell.

Laying there in rehab, that’s how I was feeling.  I had been given time off from Hell and I didn’t want to go back.  “Time off.”  That was almost laughable.  I hardly considered my hospital experience a vacation of choice.  I felt terrible not wanting to go home, guilty in fact, and sad, but after six years of being Ken’s only caregiver watching helplessly while my husband slipped away into the awfulness of Alzheimer’s, the cycle — the routine — the dedication — all were gone; shattered by the thoughtless decision of someone who believed he could drink and drive.  My neck remained in a brace, my head and face were still healing from wounds, cuts and contusions, and my legs felt like cooked spaghetti when I managed to walk.  I just wanted to stay in bed.

Rehab was a zoo.  The halls were filled with visitors coming and going, and patients in all degrees of recovery.  Some strolled the halls hanging onto their walkers, some were wheeled about in wheel chairs either by friends, family or staff.  Doctors and nurses gathered around the nurses’ stations; medical aids, nurses’ aids and housekeepers busied themselves with whatever needed to be done while therapists of all kinds guided their charges to and from the exercise rooms.  The only time the halls were empty was after midnight.

No matter how badly I wanted to rest, it would only happen in rehab after I had done my part in getting stronger.  This was a workplace and I was part of their work.  So was Sabina.  They taught her how to change my neck brace making her an important part of recovery after I left.   I soon learned that it was necessary to turn my whole body, never my neck  if I needed to look around, how to shower safely,  to use my walker for support, to climb stairs even though my wobbly legs would rather do nothing, and to get into and out of a car without hurting my neck.

I went to therapy every afternoon at 2:30, and then returned to my room where I cried — not from pain — it was more from the frustration of  everything combined.  Hadn’t I had enough on my life’s plate taking care of Ken, our finances, our business, maintaining the house and lastly — myself — without this added burden of dealing with a long list of serious injuries.  And so I cried.  My afternoon sessions with weeping seemed to be a release of pent-up worries and struggles, prior unshed tears, so much time lost, and the long aftermath yet to come where I would be contemplating, “What’s next?”  But even more, I was homesick.

I thought of the orange tree growing to the side of our house.  This time of year it should still have been filled with the succulent fruit and I imagined myself picking one, and then sitting down on the steps.  In my daydream it was warm — spring was just beginning.  Slowly, I dug my finger nails into the peel pulling it away from the fruit and tossing the discarded evidence under the juniper bushes telling myself  it was good compost for the soil.  I could almost feel the juice run down my chin as I relished my prize.   The  reverie vanished and I cried some more.  I wanted so badly to leave, but I knew I didn’t want to go home.

“You don’t have to go home,” said Julie, her husband Tim agreeing.  “Come and stay at our house until you feel strong.  Stay as long as you like, we’d love to have you.”

With my walker for support, Rehab discharged me after three weeks.  I walked to the car, got in without banging my head or straining  my neck.  Sabina drove me to Julie and Tim’s home, where they were waiting to welcome me.    Having been there countless times, it now felt rather odd.  No longer was I just Mom paying a visit, I was a house-guest with a room of my own.

That day was sunny, bright and blue — April — I have always loved April.  The countryside flourished green with spring and a few scattered daffodils bounced their yellow heads as if bowing to a passing breeze.  I sat on the front porch wrapped in a warm blanket on pleasant days just watching the season awaken.  Blossoms opened before my eyes as the days and weeks passed.  Wisteria vines flowered into full cascading clusters, followed by tiny leaves wiggling free from deep inside the gnarled branches.  Spring was healing winter’s visit — and me — making everything new again.   How grateful I was for this bonus time so badly needed to mend my body, my sadness and my broken spirit.

Originally posted 2010-06-28 07:22:40.

SPEAK UP — IT JUST MIGHT SAVE YOUR LIFE

In early February I wrote a blog titled “This’ll either cure ya or kill ya”, http://annromick.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/thisll-either-cure-ya-or-killya-or/ about the importance of doing research regarding your own and your family’s medications. My husband started displaying psychotic behavior following a long period of taking and combining certain o.t.c. remedies and prescription medications.   I ended up weaning him on my own, which did temper the bad behavior.  He now takes only one pill for high blood pressure.   However, it is so easy to trust, believing that medical people are always right, but that assumption is so wrong.  Not only is it wise to be alert with what cures you take at home, it is even more prudent to challenge medical people if you end up in the hospital.  And most important — if you are unable to speak up for yourself, ask a friend or a family member to monitor your medications and progress.  A good watch dog may save you extra days in the hospital and just might save your life.

A week after the automobile accident of February 15, I was transferred from ICU and the trauma unit of one hospital to the CCU of my own HMO hospital.  While my family continued to hover over me, I was improving, which was the good news.  The bad news seemed to be the attitude from some of my HMO’s medical people.

The disadvantage of my HMO (I don’t know about others) is that your own doctor — your primary care physician — is not part of your hospital stay.  He/she sees you only in the office, and while the doctor and patient may become very well acquainted, the doctor has very little, if any, say in your health care while you are confined to a hospital bed — nor does he/she ever come to see how you’re doing.  I suppose I’ve been spoiled by my former medical plans where my doctor’s daily visits were so beneficial.

The HMO doctors assigned to me were, no doubt, skilled in their profession, but appeared to be lacking in sincere concern as to my physical and mental well being.  It seemed the main focus was how quickly they could eliminate my need for being there, and how long would I have to remain before they were allowed to discharge me and ship me off to a convalescent/rehab facility.   They often made me feel as if my expenses were taken directly from their salaries.

Several days after being admitted, one of the doctors said to my daughter-in-law, Sabina, “We are going to send her to rehab this afternoon.  I find no medical reason for her to remain here.”  Surprised by the declaration, and checking through a chart which she personally kept on my condition, Sabina listed all of my medical problems which had not been resolved, insisting they be addressed before I left.  ‘Do you want me to commit fraud?” questioned the doctor, annoyed at being challenged, but still not motivated to look into my remaining health issues.

That same afternoon I developed a terrible ache which seemed concentrated in the left side of my back.  With each breath, I felt stabbing pains.  Sabina discussed the new condition with Dr. Stubborn, insisting that the pain be checked, forcing the doctor into action.  I was sent for further examinations resulting in treatment.   Apparently, my left lung had been collecting fluid and needed to be drained with a tube inserted through the chest wall and attached to a drainage bag, plus another round of antibiodics.   Without Sabina speaking up for me, I would have been transferred to rehab with at least one serious medical condition.  Speaking up for myself was difficult because I wasn’t sure of my own medical needs making it easy for a medical professional to convince me I was perfectly all right and ready for the moved.  I remained in the hospital for another week.

It was the same with medication.  One doctor would remove a drug, and if it wasn’t so noted on my charts, another medical person would want to continue the dosage.  “I know you aren’t familiar with the names of your medicines, so count the pills,” suggested Sabina.  “If there are more than seven, ask the nurse what each pill is supposed to do.”  That I could do, and I began my own questioning, even spitting out pills which had been discontinued.  I used the same system while at rehab, and many a time, the prescribed meds offered were no longer needed.

Fortunately, during those occasions when I was unable to speak for myself, I had an excellent watch dog.  Without Sabina’s voice challenging doctor’s decisions and being so vigilant in overseeing my medications, I could have slipped into a serious decline, and, at other times, would have been way over medicated.  None of the above is good for any patient.

Personally, I find it difficult to move on from the days when your doctor knew you and your family’s medical conditions as well as his own, and was sympathetic to your needs.  However, reality tells us that with medical people being pulled in so many directions in today’s world, and dictated to by the profit portion of  HMO’s insurance policy makers, those memorable days of yesteryear are gone forever.  It’s now up to us and our loved ones to be responsible for taking charge of our medical needs.  If something doesn’t sound right, speak up or have someone do it for you — it just might save your life.

Originally posted 2010-06-21 06:42:00.

THE SECONDARY CAREGIVER

Throughout our marriage whenever I got the sniffles — or worse — a full-blown cold, Ken was at his worst.  A nurturer he was not.  “Mom — or mom-in-law,” he would plead into the phone, “Could you come out and help for a few days.  She’s sick.”  “She,” of course meaning me.  The mothers were wonderful and at their best as caregivers and baby sitters, while he continued wringing his hands with worry all the while whining and wondering when I would get better.  Once I was on the mend and after the chosen mother had gone home, I often felt a little miffed that he was so incapable of  caring for me.  Sometimes I would tell Ken that it was too bad his investment in a marriage license wasn’t paying off:  Heaven forbid — his wife caught colds!  “Does an occasional bout with poor health entitle you to a refund?’  I teased.  It was a good thing I actually had a constitution of iron and was seldom sick.

In retrospect, I do believe he was terrified when I became ill.  He never said so, but I came to that conclusion because when I was in the hospital and “my primary care” was assumed by someone else, someone he didn’t know and a professional, he became a knight to behold.  My husband was the first one to arrive when the clock pointed to the beginning of visitor’s hours and he was the last one to leave when the nurse growled, “Sir!  Visiting hours are over!”

I was envied in the maternity wards as Ken sat by my bed being the best father and most attentive husband in the land.  He would pull his chair as close to my bed as he could get looking starry eyed and smiling while we talked.  Holding my hand in both of his, he periodically kissed my finger tips and told me how much he loved me.  I suppose the hospital knight canceled out the home klutz because when my colds were gone I always forgave him his incapability, and through the many years of our marriage I have concluded that’s exactly what it was:  Ken was emotionally incapable of stepping into that primary caregiving role.  A secondary support system was something altogether different, and in that role Ken shined like a new penny.  Following the automobile accident, and were he not stricken with a diseased mind, he would have been a permanent fixture next to my bed.

I missed not having him close by, and there were times during the twilight hours when I imagined him near.  With that thought in mind I drifted off into a deep sleep and dreamed about us.

We were celebrating; possibly my birthday which was in the first week of March.  Arm in arm, we were jaunty, each of our steps clicking in unison, tapping out a rhythm along the streets of San Francisco.  I suppose we were looking for the perfect restaurant.  He looked wonderful, his gray hair giving him an air of distinction — and to please me he wore a coat and tie.  He looked so handsome.  The weather was balmy, and I was dressed for an evening on the town; the two of us made a perfectly matched pair.  We were “us” in my dream, strong mature adults with grown children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren, enjoying every precious moment of our life together.  I felt good — and happy — even though we didn’t seem to be reaching any destination.

Block after block we walked, peeking around corners and passing many suitable places to eat, yet we kept going.  Suddenly, and without warning, we passed a darkened doorway and there in the corner was Ken.  Not the mature adult whose arm I had just held in my dream, but Ken the way he is — really is:  Ken with Alzheimer’s — confused and alone.  Were we meeting spirit to spirit? Or was my dream reminding  me that in reality Ken would not be my hospital shining knight, nor would he be my devoted secondary caregiver kissing my finger tips and telling me how much he loved me.  Alzheimer’s had taken that Ken from me, and coming out of the twilight where dreams can be momentarily bright and consoling — then gone like a puff of smoke — I was left to remember that my husband would not be part of my recovery.

Originally posted 2010-06-07 05:56:21.

SOME KIND OF ACCIDENT?

“Ow!  That hurts my back,” I groaned, not knowing where I was, who was moving me or why.  Aware of bright lights, sirens and men’s voices, I heard someone say, while enclosing my neck in a brace, “Broken neck, possible broken leg.”  I thought, “Are they talking about me?  I don’t want a broken leg, much less a broken neck.”  I had no way of knowing what had happened, but suddenly the thought ran through my mind that I had been in some kind of accident.

Across the inside of my head stretched a blackboard which appeared to be blank.  Slowly, printed in white, as if someone were writing with chalk, there flashed a phone number.  Call my son,” I mumbled, repeating the numbers before me.  Then, as surely as I knew Keith’s phone number, I repeated both Ken’s and my HMO medical numbers.   “I have a pacemaker and my husband has severe Alzheimer’s.  Don’t let him wander away,” I added, somehow knowing he would need all of the important information.  “Can you tell me your name and birth date?” another voice asked.  I answered his question and gave him Ken’s name and birth date as well, then faded into an unconscious place.

Obviously, the driver of the maverick car did not correct as I had assumed.  Instead, his vehicle must have remained in the diagonal line aimed in my direction.  I was like a sitting duck in a shooting gallery, the trajectory of his set course was fixed on me.  He couldn’t miss.  In retrospect, who could have known he had spent the afternoon drinking and was drunk out of his mind?   Authorities could only calculate the speed of his car as it broadsided my SUV just behind the driver’s seat.  Out of control, the maverick bounced off before slamming once again into the rear of my vehicle, spinning it wildly before coming to a stop — facing in a southerly direction.

Inside, I had been unaware of  impact, the first blow no doubt knowking me out cold.  I can only speculate on what followed.  The seat belt, which I had buckled, failed.  I believe it retracted on impact, and in so doing snapped the metal-locking end into my lip, cutting it just left of my nose at the same time knocking out one bottom tooth.  The air bag deployed, but without the seat belt holding me in place it was ineffective.  Lacking any restraint, I became air born and was somehow hurled through the driver’s side window onto the street where I lay until paramedics arrived.  (By comparison, Ken’s injuries were minor, but still required several days of observation in the hospital.  Restrained, confused, combative and unhappy, our concerned children insisted he be released for better care at home).

While my family waited and worried outside the trauma unit, I was finally stablized by a group of dedicated and extraordinarily skilled doctors following an hour and a half  of intense effort.  Medically, I was a mess.  The team of professionals battled shut-down kidneys, stabilization worries; there were cuts, contusions, blood loss, massive bruising, broken ribs, a broken neck, head fracture with concussion and I had inhaled glass shards while exiting through the closed window  They worried I could suffer a stroke or be paralyzed as the neck fracture was a top vertebrae protecting vital areas and nerves which commanded life itself.

During a moment of consciousness I requested a blessing of healing from the clergy of my church.  Their anointing words of comfort, hope and promise fell upon me like a warm blanket on a cold night.  Finding peace among the turmoil I also found rest, allowingy myself to let go and let God further work His  miracles.  When awareness allowed me to ponder, I reviewed my broken and bruised body and while I will never dismiss the seriousness of my many and varied injuries, I am still amazed that I only suffered a broken neck, head fracture and broken ribs.  In actuality, I should be dead.  I can only believe there must be some part of my life’s mission which has not been completed.  Why else would Heavenly guided unseen hands cushion my descent to the pavement?

Originally posted 2010-05-09 00:35:36.

ALZHEIMER’S AND BUDDY

lonely desert road

A lonely stretch of desert highway similar to where Buddy had his accident

 

For the most part I dislike nicknames.  When I met Ken he was introduced to me as “Bud.”  Bud, I thought, he doesn’t look like a Bud.  Actually, I didn’t even know what a Bud was supposed to look like.  Perhaps someone small, around seven with no front teeth, but this Bud had his teeth and was over six feet, and rather handsome.  I just knew I didn’t like the name, Bud.  In making further conversation he mentioned that his uncles back in Colorado liked to call him Buckshot.

NICKNAMES GALORE

Ugh, that was worse than Bud was my second thought: “Buckshot?  Why?”

“Just nicknames,” he continued.

“Do you have a real name,” I questioned?

“Ken,” he answered.  “My full name is Kenneth Richard Romick,” but most everyone calls me Bud.  All of my life I have been Bud, and my sister Loretta has been Sis.”

“Do you mind if I call you Ken,” I asked. Continue reading

Originally posted 2013-04-14 00:21:22.

A NEW YEAR AND THE YOUNG SLEUTHS

 In some of my previous posts I’ve mentioned having to search for things — mail, keys, TV remotes and any number of objects Ken acquires and hides.  Taking and hiding is typical behavior of victims of Alzheimer’s; part of the paranoia I suppose,  and my searching continues.  I’ve noticed as his disease worsens he becomes less aware of others around him.  He doesn’t notice me standing to one side as he hides a stack of magazines under a toss pillow on the sofa   Nor is he as clever in choosing his hiding places as he once was.  Ken now has more of an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude as he tucks things away.  My detective work is much easier than it was when letters and bills were hidden in books and then placed back on a shelf.

I suppose we could say living with an Alzheimer’s patient brings out the sleuth in many caregivers, and more often than not it is a necessity.  Of course, having been a parent has been uppermost in learning subtle detective work of a different kind when rearing a family, especially when dealing with evasive teens.

However, my parental investigations, or searching for hidden objects in my own home have been overshadowed, and are nothing compared to the gumshoe work done by  granddaughter Kristina and her boyfriend Chris these past few days.

Lately, the fates have not been kind to her.  Her mother, living far away in Utah, can only console her by reminding the young woman that bad things come in threes, and if that’s true, her quota has been filled.  First of all she had a fender bender which put her car out of commission.  Second, she lost her job, and three nights ago someone broke into Chris’s pickup and stole Kris’s purse — and his brother’s backpack.  Every important paper or card she owned was in the purse, including her keys.

Alerted, I thought of having the locks changed as our address is on many of Kris’s papers, but a quick phone call from her the following day informed me that someone had found her purse with her keys still inside.

The theft had taken place a few blocks from Jack London Square in Oakland where the police took the report.  Sorrowfully, the officers concluded the crime was considered a petty theft and they had no manpower to do any follow up.  A homeless man found the purse in San Francisco and called Kris on her cell.  The three (Kris, Chris and the homeless man) agreed to meet near a donut shop off Market Street.  Rewarding him generously, Kris shuffled through the remaining contents finding several important documents missing, including her driver’s license and ATM card. 

Reporting the ATM card as stolen, the bank read them a list where there had been attempted use and refusals.  Determined to find the culprit, the two were allowed to view  tapes from the businesses where use attempts had been made, which included places in Oakland, San Francisco and Vallejo. Their conclusion:  the thief lives in Vallejo. 

“Everyone was so helpful,” said Kris, “but the tapes we have viewed so far were not clear enough for identification, nor could we make out the license number from his stop at a gas station.”  And the search continues.

Their goal is to catch him on tape swiping the card, and hopefully a good tape will show the license plate of the car.  The police have said if Kris and Chris can find that kind of conclusive evidence the accused party will be arrested.

I admire the young sleuths their tenacity and great detective work, and the fact they are still “hot on the trail.”  If there is a positive epilogue I will surely report it here.

Searching every shelf in my home, hunting through all of the drawers, and shaking books to find what Ken has secreted away doesn’t begin to compare to their diligent hard work, but despite her loss this has been an “entertaining” saga for me to share.  It tells me, once again, that life goes on even in the homes of Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.  And while having a young life temporarily turned topsy-turvy with some of fate’s mishaps their adventure, while frustrating for them, makes me feel “normal,” as if I’m still involved in and am part of the world out there.

My New Year’s wish for Kris is that she gets her car fixed, finds a great job, and all of her important papers, somehow, show up.  In addition, I wish for them a champion’s feather in their caps for effort – and in the end justice.  I hope they catch the bad guy.

Originally posted 2011-01-11 05:04:36.

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