Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sisters, Sisters

Sisters, Sisters;
There were never such devoted sisters...

Fans of the old Bing Crosby movie White Christmas will recognize those lyrics as coming from a duet/dance sequence by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. Two of my granddaughters have entertained us with their own version at our family Christmas.

But they take on new meaning as I think about my recent hospital experience. They describe my own two sisters.

Jill, the baby, has a very tender heart and great compassion. Because of work and family commitments, she was not able to stay with me a great deal, but she offered a steady stream of support--books, magazines, cozy house shoes, a dress to wear after I went home, when I couldn't tolerate the pressure of trousers or jeans on my incisions; decorative book marks, phone calls, visits, anything she could think of to comfort me and occupy my thoughts.

Middle sister Judy is retired, and thus able to spend many days and nights in the hospital with me. She talked to nurses, questioned the reason for various procedures, made sure my allergies and diabetes were taken into consideration, and most of all she helped make sense of the flood of information and opinions; during my stay, I saw cardiologists, surgeons, nephrolgists, endocrinologists, psychiatrists, residents, interns, an ever-shifting entourage of medical students who came to view a condition my surgeon said most of the doctors at the hospital had never seen.
Judy listened to everything, remembered it all, and was the liason among all the specialists, making sure that each knew what the others were doing, and that no conflicting medicines were administered. She even talked to the nutritionist about meals that were not appropriate for a diabetic.
When my husband arrived after work, or my parents for their morning visit, Judy was able, as I was not, to explain what was being done, and why, and what the doctors said as they made their rounds.
When I told her how little I remembered, because of all the drugs, she told me what was going on, and reassured my anxieties.

Daughter Jeana had French braided my hair in an effort to keep it tidy and contained, but after several weeks, my hair was a huge matted mess. My sisters, along with my mother, daughter, and husband, took turns for three days, trying to comb it out without pulling it out by the roots or cutting it short.

Such devoted sisters.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Whole New Me

Losing more than 60 pounds has affected me in many ways.

For one thing, I didn't recognize myself for a while, when I saw my reflection unexpectedly in mirrors or reflected in windows.

It has certainly affected my wardrobe, which was once rather extensive. I have gotten rid of more than three large trash bags of clothes that were one to three sizes too big.

Just before I went into the hospital, my baby sister told me she had some clothes for me. Her friend's sister had passed away after a battle with ovarian cancer, and the clothes had been hers. I was really looking forward to getting new (to me) clothes, especially since most of them were more expensive than I normally can afford. Now, all those lovely clothes are hanging in my closet, waiting for me to find someone that size who needs a professional wardrobe.

Currently, I have one pair of jeans, one pair of black pants, and three tops that fit.

On the other hand, all my shoes still fit.

I can paint my own toenails.

I can bend over to tie my shoes, and breathe at the same time.

My tummy is flatter than it has been since I had my first baby--and he is in his thirties.

My little granddaughter pointed out that I have lost "a whole me" (she weighs less than the pounds I have lost).

My brother says that since I have lost weight, my face looks like it did when I was in high school (!)

These are all positive developments.

On the other hand....I still need a cane or walker, since my core muscles are so weak.

One of my legs is weaker than the other, which affects my balance.

My exercise routine takes up an inordinate amount of time each day, but then I have nowhere to be and nothing to do at any certain time, so I guess that is not really a problem.

Cooking, while needing a cane or walker, is an adventure, and sometimes a small disaster if I drop something that I can't readily retrieve. I spend several hours a day prepping food and cooking--not because I am making elaborate meals, but because it takes me so long to do.

My hair--oh, dearie me, my hair. I have very long, very fine hair, past my waist. It used to be very thick. But it is falling out. Every time I brush it, a big handful ends up in the brush, and then in the trash.

Not only that, but my eyebrows are disappearing, as well as the hair on my legs--I'm not really complaining about that, though, since it means I really don't need to shave my legs--just pluck about six fine blonde hairs.

Apparently, though, the hair has migrated to my chin. Jeana plucks it for me monthly.

Some of these things will eventually return to normal, I hope, as I progress through physical therapy. Some of the changes, I hope, will be permanent, such as the weight loss.

Some things, such as being retired due to disability, will be permanent whether I like it or not.

So....if you have enjoyed coming here, some things will stay the same. Other things will change. It's going to be interesting, either way.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Home Alone

Tuesday was a full day. On the way to my two dr. appointments, we stopped at my previous high school to deliver a letter of resignation. I saw my principal, my department chair, and a couple of teachers. It was good to see familiar faces, and to achieve some kind of closure. It also made me wistful....I am going to miss teaching. In fact, I miss it already.

After contributing some blood for lab work, and seeing my surgeon, it was on to the Central Administration building for my school district. We expected to be in and out in five minutes, but were there more than an hour, filling out paperwork, getting advice, and having three different people checking to be sure that I had sent in all the forms I was supposed to complete, and that I had taken care of transferring my insurance.

By the time we stopped for lunch, I was so exhausted I felt like lying down on the tile floor and falling asleep. I was too tired even to eat. So Wick took me home for a nap.

Three hours of sleep, and I was ready to go shopping. After losing so much weight, I now have bought one pair of jeans and one pair of black pants, and three tops. I need new underthings, summer clothes, and some walking shoes, for when I am actually able to go for walks again. We went into three stores, using my walker for balance and for a place for me to sit down when I got too tired. You might think that I would have been excited to be shopping for smaller size clothes, and you would be right--for about five minutes.

After that, I was exhausted again, so Wick took me home for another nap. He was concerned that I might not sleep that night, after sleeping so much that afternoon, plus the late-afternoon nap, but I slept like a rock, and never even knew when he left for work the next morning.

Retirement is not what I expected. We had planned to retire together. I never planned to be home alone all day, while he still had to work. I miss my fellow teachers. I miss the mental stimulation. I do not, however, miss lesson plans, grading compositions, or the pressure of standardized testing.

After three and a half months at my daughter's, with four lively grandchildren to keep me entertained, being home alone all day has been a huge adjustment. I had gotten used to frequent chats with Jeana perched on my walker, and I miss her jokes and sense of humor. I miss her company.

I have never been a huge television watcher. I don't like the constant noise. I can't go outside unless Wick is here, because of the danger of falling on the stairs--my strength and balance are still problematic. I don't know anyone else in the RV park, so I have no visitors. I have been embroidering some kitchen towels with ducks and fish for our cabin kitchen, and it is pleasurable, but not something I can do eight hours a day--it eventually makes my hands ache. If not for Frankie, our Pomeranian, I would be lonely indeed. He keeps me company, entertains me with his funny expressions, and warns me whenever ducks get too close to the window.

I spend a lot of time looking out that window. It's a big one, and I have a good view of the small lake here, which reminds me of our lake at home. I see lots of birds, a few dogs, occasionally someone fishing. This view reminds me that I am not truly alone here.

In fact, I am never alone, since God is a constant presence in my life. How do people manage, who don't have a relationship with Him?

The nurse who does my blood work every two weeks reminds me that in December, I could not move my foot six inches across the mattress, and now I can walk with a cane. I no longer have to be strapped into a wheel chair to keep me from falling out. I can get a meal on the table by suppertime, most days, even if it does take me most of the day to do it. I can dress myself again. I can make myself a sandwich for lunch. I am making progress, however slowly.

I have much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

ICU Angel

I have joked around about my hospitalization, but the sober truth is, I almost died.
My mama says that my temp went up to 105, and I was diagnosed with heart failure and kidney failure. A lot of people were praying really hard for me.
When I came out of the second surgery, the surgeon said no one could stay with me through the night, since I would be in ICU (Intensive Care Unit). So they all went home.

Some time during the night, I opened my eyes. The room was dimly lit, but I could see that I was in a regular room, not ICU. Someone was sitting beside the bed, holding my hand. Her forehead was down on our joined hands. At first, I thought it was my mother or one of my sisters.

I didn't say anything, but she seemed to sense that I had opened my eyes. She lifted her head, shaking back a thick mane of auburn hair. In a calm, conversational tone, she told me that she had been praying for me. She told me I had gone through the surgery well, but that I needed extra care through the night. She said that she was an ICU nurse, and that she would be with me all night.

She wiped my face and mouth, smoothed my hair, adjusted the pillow, reminded me of the morphine pump, and asked about the level of my pain. She asked me if I wanted to pray, but I was having trouble talking. She asked if I wanted her to pray, and I squeezed her hand. So she prayed for me--with me. Groggy on meds, in terrible pain, I was able to understand what she said, even if I couldn't croak out a word. In my mind, in my heart, I prayed too.

She sat back down on a little wooden stool, and held my hand as I drifted back into unconsciousness.
Each time that I roused, she was there to give me a sip of water, to make me as comfortable as possible, and to pray with me.
The light was always dim, not the bright lights the nurses usually turned on. No one else came into my room through that long, dark, pain filled night.

At last, I awoke to sunshine, and the faces of my family anxiously watching to see if I was okay. The next thing I saw was the little wooden stool, now empty.

I asked about her, the nurse who had stayed with me all night. My sister went to the nurses' station to ask how to contact her, to send a thank-you for her watchful, prayerful care.

The charge nurse said that no person of that name had been on duty in that section, nor in any other section on that floor. Furthermore, she said that no ICU nurse would have come to my room, and that if I needed ICU care, I would have been in ICU.

Who was she, this auburn-haired woman, who held my hand, prayed for me, cared for me through that night?

I think she was an angel.

If she was my imagination, as some of the nurses suggested, where did that little wooden stool come from? If she didn't care for me that night, who did?

God sent her to help me, to take care of me, to keep me alive. To be an embodiment of His Holy Spirit. To be my ICU angel.