Lessons Learned

flowersThree weeks ago I had surgery to reattach an Achilles tendon.  I’d been told it would be a slow, somewhat painful recovery, and I tried to prepare myself without knowing what that really meant.  What I have learned is that it would be extremely difficult to go it without help, and I’m sure that applies to many situations that life sends our way.

The hubby has been fantastic leaving me alone only long enough to go work out or pick up what is needed from the grocery.  He has helped me do all the hard things like get to the shower.  He has brought me every meal which I can tell you he never expected to do.  He has kept all these electronic things that we depend on charged.  Most of all he has kept my spirits up, and that is a really big deal when you are helpless.

Always I’ve appreciated friends, but never more than now.  They have been more than generous with food and time and little happys to make me smile.  As a result, friendship has a whole new meaning and I am keenly aware that I need to work at being a better friend.

Quite honestly, I was very unprepared for being unable to do for myself so if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, here are some tips.

Be prepared.  Find out what equipment will be helpful at home.  There are all kinds of apparatus that make every day things easier.

Be in shape.  Laying around does nothing to strenghten your body so the time you have spent exercising will pay off.

Think about what you’d like to have handy….phone, books, computer, toiletries….and have them in place.

Be grateful.  No matter what the situation, find something to be grateful for each day.  It makes a big difference.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  The simplest things may be more of a challenge than you think and a helping hand is a gift.

Don’t try to tough it out.  There are days when it’s OK to admit that the going is hard and maybe shed a tear or two.

Finally, mind the doctor.  The goal is recovery and that will happen a lot quicker if you don’t change the rules.

I’m hoping all of you are well, but if you are going through a hard time, let me know and I will at least say a prayer for you.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Many Questions

As adults, my daughters have adopted many practices, namely in the way they eat and the way they treat their bodies, very different from the ones with which they grew up.  I must confess that on many occasions I have questioned their decisions with some skepticism, which they have often taken as criticism rather than as an effort to understand their thinking.

It is likely that many of you who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s hearing the snap, crackle and pop of Rice Krispies, thrilling over Kraft macaroni and cheese, loving Wonder bread, being immunized against polio and smallpox will understand my dilemma.  After all, none of those things seem to have hurt us, right? Then, as adults we tried to feed our family good foods and follow recommended procedures to keep our babies healthy.

So, where did it all change?  Why have processed foods, food coloring, gluten become taboo?  Why are people with health issues seeking alternative measures?  I’m not sure I have any of the answers, but here is what I think.  Simply stated, many of the foods we eat have changed more rapidly than our bodies.  They have been genetically manipulated, injected with pesticides and other chemicals to the extent that our DNA has not evolved to accept them.  This appears to be particularly true of wheat and other grains which have been traditional staples in our diets.  The consequence is that grocery aisles are increasingly filled with gluten free products, and it is possible that other grain based foods will also be displaced.

While my diet is not totally free of all the things said to be of questionable value, much has changed in the way we eat due to dietary restrictions among other family members.  The easiest change is to eat all natural foods, the hardest is to eliminate gluten.  I have been amazed at all the foodstuffs from cereal to soy sauce that contain gluten, and when it comes to baking without wheat flour I have been a total failure.  Maybe it’s an acquired taste, but I haven’t found too many gluten free recipes that I’m crazy about.  Incidentally,if you want to read more about gluten and its impact, go here to read an interesting article sent by my daughter.

As for medicine, that’s an area where I have no expertise as I am one of those lucky people who is seldom sick and rarely sees a doctor.  That being said, it does appear that what we think of as modern medicine often treats the symptoms rather than the cause of illness, leading people to other sources for relief.  Whether or not alternative medicine is more effective than traditional treatment is not for me to say.  It may well cure allergies, fatigue or infertility, but does it cure cancer?  Quite honestly, I hope I don’t have to find out.

In my lifetime, advances in medicine have been significant and certainly the market is flooded with drugs, the warnings for which sound worse than the symptom they treat.  While many people in this country take those drugs, I heard on a morning TV show discussing health issues that 80% of the world’s population relies on alternative medicine, including homeopathy and acupuncture, for their primary health care.  That must give some cause for thought because more than half of the medical schools in this country are said to offer courses in alternative medicine as part of the curriculum.  My chiropractor son-in-law refers to it as being one of the tools, along with traditional medicine,  in a tool belt meant to keep people feeling their best.

Who knows where all the new information we are receiving will lead?  Some of us will stay with practices that are familiar and comfortable while others will explore different avenues.  As for me, I will do my best to prepare foods that nurture my family’s bodies and hope with many of the rest of you that I don’t have to go looking for answers related to my health.

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It Comes to This

clouds

When we start thinking about how we want to live our lives, most of us seem to wish for the same thing, to live life to the fullest, to be able to take care of ourselves and, when the time comes, to simply pass from this life. In recent weeks I have learned one doesn’t always get that wish.
My 93 year old mother was hospitalized with pneumonia. Whatever the frustrations and difficulties of that experience, they pale in comparison with her new reality. She is not able to return to assisted living where she lived more or less independently and participated in a full range of activity designed for those with cognitive dementia. She is in a skilled nursing facility which appears a nice way to say nursing home. It is a top rated facility with a seemingly professional and caring staff, but it breaks my heart to know this is where Mother will live out her remaining days. A nursing home is the one place she has always said she didn’t want to be, and I was optimistic enough to think that wouldn’t happen.
As she looks around and realizes she is in a place where nothing is familiar, her eyes fill with tears. “What’s wrong?,” I ask. “I’m so afraid,” she answers. “Of what?” “I feel so unsafe.”
I can’t begin to process her feelings, how it must feel to suddenly realize that nothing is the same but not be able to connect the dots that help understanding. It is hard to look at the diminished person whose needs more closely resemble an infant’s and see the person who was my Mother. I have done things for her in recent weeks that I could not have imagined. I hope I have done them gently and with love despite having occasional bouts of revulsion.
If there is a good to this experience it is that she is not aware of all that is wrong. Ask how she’s doing and she answers fine. Ask how she feels and she says good. The doctor says that her belief that all is well is likely what has kept her alive through a bout of illness that has sapped her reserves. How long this will continue is part of the mystery, and I have to believe there is some purpose to her current condition though I am not sure how much of that is for her and how much for me. Perhaps there is more I have to learn.
This experience has opened my heart for all of you who have already walked this road. I share your tears, the emotional drain, the physical exhaustion, the fear of the unknown, the ability to meet unexpected challenges.
For those of you who have yet to deal with aging parents, my heart goes out to you. It is not easy. My advice? Claim the good times now. Don’t dwell in the past or wonder about the future. Be here, right now taking advantage of all that life has to offer.

Frustrations & Observations

If you have read my most recent posts, you know I’ve been doing hospital duty.  Any of you who have done that know how very frustrating it can be to say nothing of tiring and, did I say boring!  If the patient enters through the emergency room, that adds to the frustration as it can be hours of waiting before he or she is treated and admitted.  And, if observations are correct, during the wait, some staff is more interested in chatting on cellphones than paying attention to the needs of the patient.  Go figure!

Being admitted doesn’t end the waiting if my mother’s recent situation is any indication.  It was a full two hours before anyone came to take her vitals or hook her up to IV’s.  When you don’t know what is going on and a person is really sick, that can be a little frightening.  Just ask the daughter who was covering the bases until I got to Houston.

For the week plus Mother was in the hospital, it was discouraging to see how little contact nurses actually have with their patients.  It seems that in today’s world more emphasis is placed on paperwork than on patient care.  What a shame!  I cannot help but wonder how a patient  makes it in the hospital without a family member or full time caregiver being present to advocate.   Yes, there are a lot of sick people in a hospital requiring much of staff, but when help is needed, the request should be responded to, not  treated as if it were an imposition.

Now,  there’s more to the story than the frustrations experienced in the hospital.  It is learning first hand that our medical/insurance system is totally screwed up.  Some of you will say AMEN to that!  I won’t go into all the details of that observation, but be warned that Medicare or its benefits administered by another service are not universally accepted.  Many health care providers just don’t want to jump through all the hoops involved with filing claims.  This creates a whole new set of problems once a patient is released from the hospital and requires skilled nursing/rehab, and once more a question is raised.  What happens to people who can’t pay?  Insurance isn’t going to solve the problem if facilities don’t accept it!

I feel very strongly that if  elected officials making the decisions about health care were held to the same standards as the rest of us, things might not be so complicated.  It is obvious that the system is flawed, and I have no confidence that Washington is going to fix it unless we voters put pressure on the people we elect to participate in the same system we do.  Perhaps, then some common sense would enter into the process though without good people being elected, even that is debatable.

OK, I have vented, but I think we are talking about some very serious issues here that ultimately will affect all of us.   That in itself is a very scary thought. Just curious, what are your opinions?

Linking to Seasonal Sunday

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In 100 Steps

Hospital duty can get to be pretty tedious, in fact downright boring.  To entertain myself, I decided to try an idea I’d read in an article on photography offering suggestions for ways to find subjects in places where you think there are none.  One was to walk 100 steps from where you are and look at what’s there.   Let’s give it a try.

Lo and behold, there is much to notice in a hospital beginning just a few steps from where I sit.

What is there may not be the stuff of great photos, but each tells a story.

Rooms ready,

others waiting to be cleaned.

People working

or thinking about it.

What’s to happen here?

Glad to find this.

Well, that was fun and made the time pass a little quicker.  What do you see 100 steps away?

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Called into Action

These days whenever the phone rings, my heart skips a beat for fear the call will be about my mother.  When that isn’t the case, there is such a feeling of relief.  This week, however, the call I fear came, and I was 2000 miles away.  With the doctor advising that she be taken immediately to the emergency room, the daughters had to be called into action.   For them this is not easy because both have young children and can’t leave on the spur of the moment, but together they found a way to cover the bases until I could get there.

For one daughter, anything having to do with hospitals is hard, but she looked her fear in the eye, accompanied her grandmother to the hospital and stayed with her until she was settled in her room some ten hours later.

She held Mother’s hand, read  and sang to her, fed her and spoke to her with gentle voice.

She made a collage so that when Mother opened her eyes she could see her family.

She brought her grandmother a softie to hold on to hoping it would keep her  from scratching herself.

Being there may not have lessened the daughter’s fear of hospitals, but she met the challenge with grace and compassion.   So did her sister.

I hope Mother knows how lucky she is to have these two special granddaughters.  I know I am!

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Sharing the Love

Some months ago I wrote about the privilege of sharing time with a friend undergoing chemo treatment.  Her prognosis was not good, and though that has not changed she clings tenaciously to life, giving herself time to enjoy family and friends, write letters for her young girls and yes, plan her funeral.  One of her requests was for there to be bagpipe music.

At this point in her illness, friends in her small Maine community have rallied round sitting with her day after day, reading to her, talking quietly or just watching over her while she rests.  A few days ago, she commented to one of her friends that she regretted not being able to hear the bagpiper play at her funeral.  I’m sure there was a moment before the reality of that statement sunk in, but then the friend, who just happened to be the one who had arranged for bagpipe music, went into action.

She called the musician and together they planned a parade of friends.  He, of course, would lead with friends  following behind from the top of the hill to her house, everyone waving streamers in celebration of her life.  

Don’t you love that picture?  My only regret is that I could not be there except in spirit to join in.  I love thinking of Liz, her courage and the love she has received from the small town that is her home.  What I have learned from her is grace, courage and dignity, a lesson I hope to use well.

Today I urge you to hug someone you love because as we all know, nothing is forever.