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‘Worry is interest paid on a debt you may not owe’

Muriel Hip surgery in hospital, 2017

After surgery, in my lovely springtime robe

My oh-so-clever friend Sandy once said: ‘Worry is interest paid on a debt you may not owe.’ I like it. I know it by heart. However, if I have any talent, it is my great ability to worry — a lot. Worry is what I do best of all!

So, told I would have to go home just three days after hip-replacement surgery, I panicked — what else? — and worried! How would I manage? My leg muscles, after months of severe pain, were in miserable shape, more like wet noodles than muscles. How could I NOT worry?

I’m 80. My children live in the U.S. They care. They came. Susan was here for my surgery. She was terrific. Rafi came after I got home to help. He cooks such scrumptious food, I gained two pounds while he was here. Still, they need to go back to their own lives.

Another worry? I have a vestibular disorder, which causes imbalance and unpredictable dizziness, often brought on by stress. Surgery IS stressful and I had a terrible siege of dizziness after my knee surgery in 2011. It was a disaster.

Whadaya know. As Sandy’s wise saying indicates, my worrying WAS a waste of time and energy. After surgery at UBC Hospital, I learned about the Transitional Care Unit (TCU)  right at the Koerner Pavilion, and was able to go there for rehab and care until I was ready to go home.

How come I’d never known about this possibility? I wrote about things like this as a columnist, yet had no idea the unit existed. It was a perfect fit. True, my first night there I had a roommate with dementia who cried out all night in a language I didn’t recognize. The very next night, however, I was blessed with a well-read, clever and interesting roommate, Howard Greaves, who, thankfully, also has a great sense of humor. (A necessary trait to survive the couple of weeks he spent with me).

Howard Greaves.

With Howard Greaves, who survived two weeks as my roommate. Howard deserves a special award for putting up with me.

Another blessing with having my surgery and staying  at UBC was that my dear ‘daughter’ Amy works there.

IMG_0231

My beautiful Chinese ‘daughter’ Amy

Amy visited and checked on me whenever she arrived to work, at her lunch break, and on her way home. Bless her, she also helped me survive the hospital food by cooking my favorite Chinese dish and bringing it in for me. She also would buy and bring me tastier food from outside. Hospital food, after all, is hospital food.

At the TCU, I had much needed, supervised physio five days a week, was helped with my ability to walk, and taught how to get my operated leg up onto my bed — no small feat. The nurses and I were given clear instructions about what I could or could not do so my vestibular disorder wouldn’t cause a fall and create a disaster.

There was a reasonable fee, (I understand it can be discussed if it is a problem). Dr. Reinhold Bernat, in charge of my case, was present and accessible when I needed to talk to him, patient with my concerns, and obviously caring — I know I was lucky.

Yes, the TCU was a good match for me, but, you ask, was there anything I felt was not up to par? Yes! We were allowed only one shower a week. I wasn’t thrilled with that, but survived.

Should you or loved ones live in the area and require it one day, I want you to know about the UBC Transitional Care Unit. Or, if there is such a service where you live, try to inquire about it. I am truly grateful it was there for me. And yes, I’m doing well.

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Upon Turning 80

Mom, thinking 2

photo by Susan Kauffmann

I have found whenever I do something to just be a good person, I get back much more than I ever give. This is exactly what happened when I sent Joseph Tresser some information about vestibular disorders because he suffered with dizziness a few months ago — I know how scary that can be.

Little did I realize how much he would help ME get through a challenging, painful period in my own life. With wisdom and knowledge, encouragement, and a wonderful sense of the ridiculous, Joe helped see me through the long wait for and actual hip replacement surgery. His help has been invaluable.
Joe sent me this and gave me permission to share it with you.

MY GOAL IN LIFE — UPON TURNING 80

Joseph Tresser

Joseph Tresser

By Joseph Tresser

Having experienced ups and downs

Over many years

On a rapid train through many countries

From revolutions to hurricanes and shaky earthquakes,

I developed a simple formula enriching

‘My Goal in Life’ which states:

‘Live young, have fun, and arrive at your final destination

As late as possible

With a big smile on your face

Because this would mean

That you truly enjoyed the ride.’

You can’t go wrong, especially so

If you have made many good friends

Along the way.

What patients need to know….

mom-thinking-2

photo by daughter Susan

Attention Medical pros: What patients need to know….

I should be getting a new hip this month. I’m better prepared than I was six years ago when I had a knee replaced. My lack of knowledge then led to a disaster of an experience. After that debacle, I declared it would be over my dead body I’d ever go through something like that again.

The medical profession sees gray hair and presumes you’ve had numerous hospitalizations and surgeries, and taken dozens of medications and you know all there is to know about hospital procedures and what your rights are and what is usually done. I hadn’t — and didn’t know a thing.

When did you last visit your doctor?

Vital information was not passed on

I had the audacity to presume that questions I answered recorded by a young doctor in my surgeon’s office would be passed on to the necessary recipients of such vital information — like my allergy to sulphites. It wasn’t. My surgeon promised he would not allow me to be sent home, where I’d be on my own, because of my vestibular disorder. The nurse in charge said ‘He has no say in the matter.’ I was discharged. I came down with a severe, long siege of dizziness and nausea the very next day. It was horrible.

Never having been hospitalized in Canada for more than one night, I didn’t even know I had a menu choice for meals, terrible as they are reputed to be. No one told me. I was served rice every day for five days.

Old lady in hospital

Rice every day? Not a happy camper.

I like to learn all I can, and had gladly attended information sessions regarding living with arthritis at the hospital. We were advised to use Tylenol for pain, so I did, but had no idea special Tylenol for arthritis, (stronger dose) existed until a friend told me about it some years later. Why didn’t they tell us while they were at it?

funny nurse

Your surgeon has no say in the matter

I’m not a shopper. I have little patience in stores. I just head to what I want and buy it. Not for me the wandering up and down aisles to see whats on the shelves. I’ve got things that interest me more to do with my time.

I’m writing about this now with the hope some medical professionals will read it and realize that not every gray-haired old woman has had major surgery before, or knows about hospital procedures and medications.

I hope I’m better prepared this time. Wish me luck.

The Kindness of Strangers

stranger-in-red-coat

Stranger in a red coat

A stranger in a bright red raincoat came up from behind me as I plodded across the busy intersection as fast as I could, but not fast enough — the light had already changed to red. ‘I’ll walk beside you’ she said, ‘They won’t want to hit both of us.’

My knee is mad at me so I use a walker. It helps, not only with my angry old-lady-with-walkerknee, but also with my old balance disorder, which has caused many falls through the years. (That’s why my knee is so upset.) The woman realized I was having a difficult time and decided to help a stranger. Why?

In my neighborhood, many shops have handicapped door operators which you push to open the door. Still, passersby who don’t realize that often stop on their way to pull a door open for me. My favorite morning breakfast stop has one, which occasionally isn’t operative yet if I arrive early. (The activator is above the door — I think the staff can’t reach it.) A favorite, tall fellow patron, Greg, will get up and switch it on if he sees me coming. Nice….but why?

door-operator

Handicapped Door operator

The other morning, Greg noticed my walker wheels were caked with what he thought was dog poop. He warned me about it, but I continued reading. I’m such a passionate reader, I didn’t even notice when he and his pal Garth wheeled my walker out the door, cleaned it so I wouldn’t have to deal with it later, and brought it back in. (I’m hoping they were wrong, that what they cleaned was actually ground up wet brown leaves which gather at the sidewalk cuts I have to use.) Why did they bother?

bus-driver

Bus drivers deal with some abusive riders

I regularly attend exercise classes at a community centre. I no longer drive. I use transit. How do bus drivers in this busy city who deal with mentally ill and abusive riders plus crazy traffic manage to stay so considerate? They wait until I’m seated before starting the bus. They patiently wait again for me to painfully rise and slowly back off the vehicle with my walker. (It was a bus driver who taught me that it’s the safest way to leave.)

This week I told a driver I wish I could sit on my walker on the bus. It’s higher and less painful to rise from. At my stop, she urged me to take the time to place it in a particular spot, set the brakes, and see if it would work. Not wanting to make her late, (they are on schedules) I told her I’d try it next time I rode a bus. Hey, it works. I hope I see her again so I can thank her. I’ve since used her idea twice. Why did an absolute stranger do this?

Then, the volunteer who sells coffee once a week at the center carries my coffee to a nearby table for me. It’s difficult for me to manage that and the walker — multitasking was never my thing. He says he’s not allowed to accept tips, I never ask him to do it, but he does it anyway. Why?

What makes so many strangers so kind? For one, I believe most people are inherently good. I also know that when I am kind to others, it gives ME a warm fuzzy. So it goes…..we give, we get. I am ever grateful to my wonderful caring family, to my friends, and especially those many strangers who are there for me. Warm hugs to you all!

chandra

My son’s beautiful wife Chandra who worked so very hard to plan a special 80th birthday party for me. She succeeded.

Facebook?

mom-pic-to-cropI’m a tough old broad. I don’t give up easily and I’ve always wanted to be more technologically knowledgeable. (I dare you say those two words in a row quickly.) I thought I wanted to know how to use Facebook like a lot of other people do. After all, anyone who IS anyone is on Facebook, right? So, once when my son visited, I cornered him to help me and he set me up.

However, all good things come to an end and that was all Rafi had time for on that visit. After he went home, I took advantage of a very patient young friend to become more computer literate and asked him to teach me how to actually use Facebook. He tried. He knew what he was doing. I learned a little. Whatever was I thinking?

At first it was thrilling. I suddenly heard from a few wonderful people out of my

funny worried lady again

How do they know???

distant past whom I hadn’t heard from in years. That was pleasurable, but also a little scary. How did they know so quickly I was on Facebook? I would feel better if I understood more about how these things really work.

There are the many emails I now receive telling me I have 28 or 35 new notifications, or this person and that person want to be my ‘friend’. I don’t know most of them. Why would they want to be my friend? If I didn’t know me would I want to be my friend? And are they even aware that they do? I wonder…. Then, how much time does it take to view 28 or 35 new notifications? And, can I spare all that time?

Girl-dizzy

All those colours and pop ups can make me dizzy.

I also get emails telling me someone or other has posted a new photo. If i know them, I do try to go see them. Sometimes I manage and sometimes I don’t. What I too often find are numerous advertisements, many of which pop up in boxes, and so much dizzy-making colour busyness and confusion that I find myself rapidly withdrawing. It’s a matter of self-preservation. I have a Vestibular Disorder. This kind of moving visual thing can be a trigger for dizziness.

Over all, I’ve discovered, after the initial joy in finding and touching base with treasured old friends again, Facebook can mercilessly gobble up your time as well. Yes, I am retired. Yes, I don’t work anymore. Still, there are things I need to do, or want to do, or find more interesting to do with my free time.

Have you seen my scarf?

This old body of mine demands more attention than it used to.

As an ancient personage, I have discovered everything takes longer than it used to and this old body of mine demands a lot more attention than it used to. So, the question is: Do I really have time for all this?

What is your experience with Facebook? I want to know if you use it and what you think.

Doctor-assisted suicide for Canada

Muriel black and white Kudos to Canada’s Supreme Court, which this week voted unanimously for doctor-assisted suicide. It seems they’ve given a reluctant Conservative government a year to put it in place. This is something I have wanted for myself for years and I heartily approve. Hurrah for Canada, the country that made Gay marriage legal, and now has passed another important act of compassion.

Normal people don’t move mountains, and Dr. Jack Kevorkian, crazy as he may have been, was a hero in my eyes. He assisted 120 people to die. To my friend who is writing about serial killers, that is what he considers Kevorkian was — a killer. Interesting….

Dr. Jack Kevorkian and his suicide machine

Dr. Jack Kevorkian and his suicide machine

People have strong feelings on this issue, and I will not argue. I just know how I feel, and lately, it has been front and center in my own life because a friend asked me to help him end his suffering. (And, this was not the first time I have been approached in this way — I don’t know why.)

“C” was a member of the organization I started 15 years ago for people with balance and dizziness disorders. When I first met him, I was sure the guy would kill himself at work, which sometimes required climbing ladders. He had Ataxia, which compromised his nervous system and his balance was severely affected even then. Fate sometimes plays cruel jokes on us, he had been a Tango dancing devotee.

His co-workers thought he drank. He let them think so. They would chuckle, and he would smile with them. But it was a charade — he didn’t drink — though if you saw him walking, you would certainly think so. He was determined to keep working until he was 65 so he could collect his pension. I was sure he wouldn’t make it….

No one fought harder than “C” to continue functioning, he attended Tai Chi classes, and regularly worked out at a gym. His arm muscles looked strong and powerful, but his illness was even more powerful. However, every step I thought he should take, he delayed. He drove longer than I thought he should. He walked without a cane longer than I thought he should — and he fell, again and again. When I felt he needed a walker, he finally gave in and bought a cane — and kept falling. When I thought he needed a wheelchair, he purchased a walker.

They must have known him well at the emergency department of his local hospital. Once, it was nine stitches to his scalp, another time it was twelve. Too often he sported ugly scrapes and bruises. I worried. He drove me nuts. It became too dangerous for him to live on his own. Long after I thought he should give up his apartment, he finally gave in. The falls, however, never stopped.

When things became more than he could bear, he asked me to help him end his life. I contacted “The Farewell Foundation”, an organization which helps people in his position as much as they are legally permitted to. They cannot provide anything for you, but they will stay with you when YOU, yourself, obtain or do whatever you decide on, until you are dead. I understood their position.

Sociologist Russel Ogden, founder of The Farewell Foundation

Sociologist Russel Ogden, founder of The Farewell Foundation

Things became more and more unbearable. He could no longer write. He could no longer speak clearly. He could no longer hear much. I met with him and the kind people from the organization. They warned me to be careful and told me of possible dire consequences. A woman who had helped someone spent over $100,000 in court, lost her passport and could no longer leave the country. My children live out of the country. I love them. I want to be able to visit them. I was scared.

We visited his doctor together. He was sympathetic, but not willing to help — too frightened to I assume. Again, we understood. I bought the most recent copy of “Final Exit”. I read it cover to cover. I marked and underlined everything I felt could be helpful, brought it to “C” and read those parts for him. We talked about the various options. However, as usual, everything he decided to do, he decided on too late.

The last fall I was aware of cost him an eye. They had to remove it. After that, he was permanently hospitalized. Things were now truly out of his hands. He again begged me to help. I was told if he chose not to eat in hospital, they wouldn’t be allowed to force him, and they are required to keep him comfortable. Did he understand? Was the information I was given correct? I’ll never know.

He then asked me to take him to Switzerland. He could no longer walk at all. I would not be physically capable of helping him make it. It was too late. In desperation, he asked me to get him a gun. He was no longer able to hold one or to shoot it. It broke my heart to watch his suffering. Can a caring person be relieved and glad when a friend dies? I was….

For “C” and the other person I knew who would have opted to end his life on his own terms had he been able to, I hope this new law will be enacted and be there for all who wish it. You need not agree…..

“May you live in interesting times.”

Mom, look I'm telling you 2 They say “May you live in interesting times.” is an ancient Chinese curse. Indeed, ‘interesting’ can be horrible if there is war, political unrest, famine or real trouble in your life. To me, the curse sounds wise enough to be Chinese, but there is some doubt about where it actually originated. No matter. Some of us who are lucky don’t consider ‘interesting’ as ominous.
The other day, over lunch of Eggs Benedict, a friend who has reached the venerable age of 90, declared: “I’ve lived through the most interesting of times”. She shared with me all she had seen during her long lifetime — and since she has been truly lucky, she’s absolutely right. An elderly Los Angeles friend had said the very same to me over 25 years ago and I still remember….

He remembered his family's first radio

He remembered his family’s first radio


He had recalled with pleasure and wonder his family’s first radio — all of them sitting around the table wearing earphones, with the contraption of open tubes and wires sitting in a place of honor in the centre of the table while they heard a symphony on radio for the very first time. It was a thrilling event he never forgot. He told me about the time their gas lights were changed to electric and when his mother no longer had to go out into the hallway of their apartment building to get water because new plumbing was installed right in each and every suite. He thought it all miraculous.
An 1895 automobile

An 1895 automobile

He also remembered the excitement of receiving wires, seeing his first automobile, the introduction of the telephone, then later television, microwave ovens, electric typewriters, and his first computer and printer. He did not dwell on the fact he had had to flee for his life from his beloved Vienna and then, serving in the U.S. Military, had witnessed the liberation of a Nazi death camp. He felt he had had a fascinating, interesting time of it.
My lady friend who last week talked about all the wonderful changes she has seen has been even more fortunate. She spent her whole life in Canada. And, yes, the advancements we’ve experienced are great in many ways, but sometimes I wonder…..
I am old enough to remember learning to type on a manual typewriter and how difficult it was to deal with my first electric one. Those keys typed letters at the
I learned to type on a manual typewriter

I learned to type on a manual typewriter

slightest touch, and it was frustrating. If I found that intimidating, you can imagine how intimidated I can be by the complexity of modern computers.
I also remember when we called any business and a real, live person answered the phone. Now, a machine tells us our call is important and the wait will be 15 to 30 minutes. Or, we must push this button and that while the minutes tick by and we desperately concentrate on following the recorded directions correctly because just one blunder — and we’re out of the loop with no possible way back. And, since these electronic telephone systems aren’t always perfect, we can do all the right things and still end up with a dial tone. No wonder we grind our teeth!
Just where oh where have all the people gone? And if our calls ARE important to them, why don’t they employ enough people to handle them? Perhaps we’ve made a Faustian pact with the devil where modern technology is concerned. Even flesh-and-blood humans are beginning to behave more like humanoids than people. We bank at machines, our bills are paid automatically and too often we have little human contact in our everyday lives. I miss that, don’t you?
Will our grandchildren who nuke potatoes in a microwave ever know how great a real baked potato tastes? Is that important? Will future generations who grow up texting each other and using cell phones have any idea how to have a real conversation? Will the youngsters who are no longer taught how to write at school know how to sign their names? Does any of this matter to anyone besides me?
True, my own relationship with modern technology is tenuous. My computer and I have an agreement — I try not to goof too often and it tries not to scare me too much. I know how to turn on my microwave, but have no idea how to decrease the power, so everything gets heated on high. Still, we manage to live together in peace.
And, all those unnecessary clocks that are pre-installed on microwaves, CD players, and most other electronic gizmos in my home remain unset, so don’t bother looking at them for the correct time. I don’t know how to set them and nor do I care.
There is just so much I can handle.