doctors

UNAVAILABLE: ALMOST LIKE A VACATION

hammock

Being unavailable to my caregiving responsibilities was like going on vacation.

I recently took some time off to have my gall bladder removed.  Golly, but body-part removal sounds ghoulish — even neglectful or careless although I know that isn’t true – things just happen. Furthermore, Dr. Frankenstein is not my surgeon. Replacements and repairs sound all right – like putting a new engine in a car – a pacemaker, new hip or knee replacement.  That sounds like good maintenance.  It’s the removal word that sounds menacing, discarding – like we’re throw-a-ways — like taking the car to a junk yard.

However, that comparative idiosyncrasy exists only in my imagination.  Actually, I had a good-size stone which produced some severe stabs of pain and some degree of discomfort, but never a continuing 10-on-the-chart pain, which was a good thing.  Nevertheless, a lack of urgency placed the procedure into an elective surgery category.  My surgeon’s advice:  it should be removed.  So I was faced with having a body part taken out – scary.  I mourn a tooth extraction, now I was considering the removal of this important and useful, but expendable storage/distribution organ which has been with me all of my life: a part of me.  It was time to share this news with family and allow for other opinions, and it’s times like this that I feel so alone and really miss Ken.

Years ago having one’s gall bladder removed was a major, lengthy hospital stay, long-recovery operation.  Today, using laparoscopic surgery, it’s an in-and-out ambulatory procedure requiring three small, intentionally placed slits in the upper abdomen and an interesting reconfiguration of the navel. Yet, even with family input, I debated whether I should wait for a No. 10 on the pain chart.  I conferred once again with my p.c. doctor (who believed it was warranted) my dermatologist (with whom I had a chance-same-week appointment) — she advised that I should do it — and finally I shared my hesitations with another doctor during my pre-op appointment.

I knew that it wasn’t going to get better even though many people carry a gall bladder filled with stones and never feel even a twinge. The most compelling reason for me to have it done before I was driven to consent by a siege of No. 10 pain was because I am the prime caregiver for Ken.  Everyone in the family would best be served, including me, if it wasn’t an emergency situation.  As the pre-op doctor and I were talking about my husband having Alzheimer’s one of the nurses overheard and after the doctor left, she suggested that at some time I really should get away for a rest – whether I did the surgery or not – she felt I was ready for a respite: a pause in my care-giving duties.  I assured her I was all right and that I wouldn’t consider traveling more than an hour away in case of him having an emergency.  “Then,” she said, “You should take some time off and be unavailable.”  Continuing, Nurse Nancy explained that she had cared for her mother who was a victim of AD, and her sister came periodically from out of town to relieve her.  “I never went anywhere either,” she said, “but when my sister was with my mom I was ‘unavailable.’  You’ll be surprised how refreshed you will feel.”

Following my pre-op appointment I was mentally ready for the procedure and made arrangements with our daughter, Debbie, to come from Utah to be at home with me and Ken for three weeks.  Although most of our grown children are self-employed, she is the only one who has the flexibility to bring her work with her. 

She arrived as scheduled, helped Ben while our daughter-in-law, Sabina, accompanied me to the hospital and brought me back home to my waiting bed for some R & R.  Debbie continued helping Ben and pampered me when necessary with other family members nearby as backup.  Furthermore, I happily found myself totally unavailable for anything outside of my own personal needs. 

I cannot express what an incredible sense of freedom I felt.  It isn’t that helping the caregivers with Ken is so difficult because it isn’t.  It’s just the responsibility of caregiving is relentless when done every day 365 days of the year.  Scheduling is unbroken and it’s the unbroken part that becomes not only relentless but stressful which usually goes unnoticed because it’s a silent, consistent buildup of tension.  The wise nurse knew exactly what she was talking about.

Up and about I was back checking my computer the next day.  Opening my email I found that my personal address book had been hacked and the hackers had sent out an ad under my name for weight loss.  Several of my friends sent it back with questions.  Emailing everyone on my list I stated that I had not mailed the ad, and then changed my password.  Hopefully, that will eliminate the problem of further intrusion – till next time.  Coincidentally, the timing couldn’t have been more on target lining up perfectly with my surgery, and I did see a little humor in the entire scenario.  The text read that the recipients should use the product because, as stated in my bogus testimonial, I had lost 29.2 pounds in the last 30 days.  I thought about the troublesome stone which was now gone, “It was like your father’s,” the doctor had explained, “about the size of a small egg.”  Remembering my erroneously reported weight loss, and although shedding a few pounds in never far from my personal goals, I’m sure glad my small egg didn’t weight in at the better part of 30 pounds.

You ask if I am still enjoying my recuperation.  Without a doubt, I am.  However, because I feel so good I must remind myself periodically that I am still recuperating.  Following doctor’s orders I’m not lifting heavy boxes or mowing the lawn.  Debbie and the caregivers haven’t missed a beat in Ken’s care.  Perhaps he too is appreciating a change, and I am comforted that he is well and as happy as a victim of AD can be.  From the comforts of my own home I can watch from afar yet spend time with him as a visitor, all the while making myself very unavailable for any of his needs.  If it weren’t for a few tender spots in my torso I could lose myself in a book and even pretend I was on vacation.

Photo courtsey of:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/chumpolo/511227025/

Originally posted 2011-09-11 00:02:18.

THE SEASON OF MIRACLES

cloudy sky

Looking towards heaven we remember the miracle of Easter, and gain hope for other miracles.

“Then why do we have Easter bunnies?” asked Haley, a few years back when, as an extended family, we talked about the holiday and all of the traditions.  The little ones gathered with us that evening were the third and fourth generation of Ken’s and my progeny, but one doesn’t have to be very old to question rabbits, especially small bunnies, hopping around delivering Easter Baskets.

“Tradition,” they were told by one of the adults, who continued to explain how bunnies and chicks born in the spring represented new life to the ancients, many of whom converted from pagan idol worship to the teachings of Christ, but brought with them some of their pagan symbols.  Over the centuries those symbols became intermingled with the “new life” of the resurrection of Jesus on the third day following His crucifixion.  Succeeding years of symbolism and generations of adding glitter to old traditions, we as a majority Christian nation seem to be more caught up celebrating the season of new life with colored eggs, jelly beans, chocolate bunnies and marshmallow chicks than we do the resurrection and “new life” of our Lord Jesus Christ, which of all miracles is the miracle of miracles.

During His ministry, Jesus performed many miracles which are recorded in the New Testament for us to read, honor and ponder.  And today — miracles continue.  There are countless miracles, recorded and testified to in these modern times.  I am one of them.  Following last year’s automobile accident and being somewhat aware of my numerous injuries and the trauma encountered, I mumbled from my hospital bed, “I should be dead.”  My grown children made no comment, but I could see worry in their eyes, nor did the medical people who constantly surrounded me confirm – or even suggest to me that my condition was grave.  It was later that my young friend, Malena, a former member of an  EMT ambulance team agreed, having been present and an observer of similar accidents where the victims were pronounced dead at the scene.  I am here because of the prompt, efficient actions of another EMT crew, amazing doctors and nurses — and the absolute, undeniable healing power of prayer, the laying on of hands and God’s grace.

There are skeptics, of course, but as a woman of faith I choose not to be one of them, instead I give credit where credit is due.  I accept miracles and wonder how the doubters explain away that which is right before their eyes.  Many in the medical field have witnessed and have been a part of other miracles and some share the experience with the world.

From two different sources on the internet comes the account of Jeff Markin, an apparently healthy man of 53 who was on his way to work when he was overcome with feeling sick.  He called his boss saying he was sweating and suddenly felt ill, and that he may not make it to work.  Encouraged to go to the hospital Markin arrived at the emergency room of Palm Beach Gardens Hospital in Florida and collapsed on the floor with full cardiac arrest.  After 40 minutes of intense effort and being shocked with a defibrillator numerous times Dr. Chauncey W. Crandall, the supervising cardiologist was summoned.

Dr. Crandall said the room was like a war zone with everyone doing all they could to save the man’s life.  However, Markin showed all the signs of death: the heart rhythm flat lined across the screen, his pupils were dilated and it was determined he had been “down” too long for any hope.  The other doctors left, and time of death was determined and recorded.  Dr. Crandall signed his name to the report and turned to leave.  At the door he heard a voice telling him to pray for this man.  Busy with his work load and feeling rushed, he continued into the hall.  Again, he was stopped short and instructed a second time to pray for this man.

Returning to the patient’s bedside where a nurse was preparing the body for the morgue, he placed his hands on the man’s chest.  Markin’s fingers, toes and lips were literally turning black from lack of oxygen when Crandall honored the Lord’s command and began to pray, crying out for the man’s soul.  At the conclusion of the prayer, Crandall asked the ER doctor, who had returned — wondering what was going on — to shock the patient one more time.  Out of respect for his colleague, he complied.  The monitor showed a perfect heartbeat.  Jeff’s fingers and toes twitched, breathing resumed and he began to mumble.  Three days later with the patient still in ICU, Dr. Crandall found Markin sitting up and alert with no brain or organ damage and a healthy heart.

As with all miracles, there is no explanation, nor is there a reason for Jeff Markin’s healed heart. Furthermore, the good doctor makes no effort to provide one.  A Christian all of his life, he made it a policy not to mix his religious beliefs with his practice.  However, he began a search with prayer and the laying on of hands as another avenue to healing when his son was stricken with leukemia.  Dr. Crandall has written “Raising The Dead” chronicling his experiences.

He also commented about faith and its importance, quoting from scripture a portion of Matthew 17:20 when Jesus said, “If ye have faith of a mustard seed…………..nothing shall be impossible to you.”  On the video I watched, Dr. Crandall concluded Markin’s account with, “Miracles are real, and they are real today.”

I pray for Ken that he may be comforted in his affliction, and I pray for me that I may continue to cope, be patient and find joy in my service to him.  This is our assignment, and while it is an assignment I could do without I also understand its importance in a very broad sense.   Every reported case of AD presents to the medical community the urgency of escalating their research.  If Ken’s illness helps to spur that research, even one little bit, it may save future generations from this miserable disease.  I pray for our ability to manage what we are dealing with, not for the Lord to give us a miracle and remove our burden.

Ken and I have had our portion of miracles, including being blessed with full, rich lives — not without our share of other adversities — which have made us stronger.  Moreover, we take delight in our wonderful, ever-growing family – all of them miracles in their own right — and I am still here to care for my husband and be with him as he continues his lone journey home.  Ahead is the assurance for the most important of miracles: new life somewhere in the distant future — all because of that magnificent miracle which happened on a bright, spring morning nearly 2,000 years ago.

As fellow Christians do we really need to be reminded that there is more to Easter than baskets and candy?   The answers might be “more than likely,” “probably,” “I suppose,” and ultimately, “yes,” because we are human, and we become distracted getting caught up in the ways of the world, the pomp and pageantry we have created – and don’t forget — the good taste of chocolate bunnies.  Yes, we do cast a fleeting shadow on the simply stated – yet — majestic message of that long-ago Sabbath morning:  Jesus lives.

Hopefully, in celebration of this Holy Day we call Easter, let us all take the time to peek through the shimmer of cellophane grass, past the colorful, hard-boiled eggs and jelly beans, and gratefully look for and remember what’s important on this and every Easter Sunday: the miracle of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and His extraordinary promise to all mankind.

Originally posted 2011-04-23 04:17:25.

THEY, DOCTOR OZ, BROCCOLI, ET AL

broccoli

Does broccoli prevent Alzheimer's? "THEY" say it does.

With my soap box  still intact I do have one more annoyance regarding Alzheimer’s information.  It appears that every other magazine or TV talk show guest has a theory for avoiding Alzheimer’s.  It’s as simple, it would appear, as the common cold, and “They” know the answer.

Who are “They?” For years I have wondered that. “They” seem to be everywhere and know everything; so much so that I’ve given them a proper status with a capital T. You’ve heard the references a zillion times: “They” say…., “They” are showing…., “They” know for sure…., “They” seem to be right. “They” set the fashion and home trends.  “They” tell you what colors to use, what sofa to buy, window covers which are the latest, what’s in or out, cold or bold, and what’s hot or not.  “They” have become so prevalent in our society, so controlling, so self-serving, and “so the last word in just about everything” it’s difficult to make a competent move without looking for their input. “They” even dabble in how to live a healthy life and how to prevent Alzheimer’s with numerous magazine and newspapers articles using, if available, some reputable references.

In the medical field, though, the “Theys” seem to have lost some influence.  “They” have, however, passed on their clout using other pseudo names such as “Others” and “Studies.”  “Others agree” or “Studies show” or even “Studies prove” appears to carry more authority as to input or conclusion even though vagueness still prevails.  And we mustn’t forget “According” to.  Often the mysterious four appear in articles written by doctors with impressive degrees and in good standing, or pharmaceutical companies, who are also impressive and acceptable compared to the unidentifiable, common underling “They.”  Yet, even though what is presented brings hope to the reader, or viewer/listener, the information remains without a proven conclusion.  And, more often than not the statement is salted with what a former English teacher referred to as glittering generalities.

For example, on a slow news day you might hear that “studies show an Alzheimer’s breakthrough is right around the corner.”  “Studies prove that a good exercise regimen can prevent Alzheimer’s.”  “A healthy diet prevents Alzheimer’s.”  Generalizations I can deal with, it’s the absence of a disclaimer such as may or might that I find disturbing, because nothing is certain even though the healthy ideas offered are worth considering for everyone.  What is interesting about disclaimers such as may, might, possibly or perhaps is that several years ago when some of these health suggestions were becoming popular they did use the disclaimers.  Why not now when solutions are still no where in sight.

Today, Dr. Oz is going to be my fall guy.  Mind you, I love Dr. Oz and watch his program as often as I can.  Way back when he was a weekly guest on ABC’s “The Oprah Show” I seldom missed his day.  Wearing purple gloves and scrubs he was the absolute expert: smart, entertaining, cute, personable – cleaning out refrigerators for willing viewers he usually left a near-empty white box in the kitchen and the homemaker was delighted.  The good doctor proved his point with an ugly glob of fat and got folk’s attention: we need to eat a healthier diet.  For us “lay people” he was right on target, even updating us on any late news about Alzheimer’s.   In many ways, especially promoting a healthy diet, he is absolutely right, but he is not right about broccoli preventing Alzheimer’s.

Reading his column in the February 2010 issue of “O” magazine he wrote that eating broccoli prevented Alzheimer’s.  That’s what I found annoying and not true.  No one ate more broccoli than Ken and I did – do.  It being one of our favorite vegetables we consume the little green trees year round (prepared in many ways) and we enjoyed it long before our children tagged it “little green trees.”  Yet Ken is nearing the last stages of the disease. If the article had included “broccoli may prevent AD” I would have had no objections.  Who knows, possibly Ken’s consumption of broccoli may have delayed the disease. But without a disclaimer it appears to be a fact– which it is not.  I haven’t heard of any vegetable, including broccoli, being used in any clinical trials.

Perhaps someday, “studies” will prove, or “others” will have found, or far off in the future we may find that even the illusive “They” have evidenc that broccoli – and wouldn’t that be ironic — might be the secret ingredient to a successful cure.  Meanwhile, and trust me on this even though I am not a doctor, broccoli, delicious and good for you though it is, doesn’t prevent anything — and that’s “according to”  me and my many and long years of experience with Alzheimer’s.

Originally posted 2012-02-04 23:01:44.

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