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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.

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.

Oh dear! A Concussion?

Mom Scared SM I have a vestibular disorder. I have dealt with balance and dizziness issues for years. I have fallen many times. I listen to the news — I am interested in what happens when athletes suffer concussions. I know about these things. There are members of the organization I co-founded 15 years ago who deal with vestibular conditions because they’ve had concussions. You would think I’d know better….
I fell again recently. I went down like timber in the middle of the night and hit my forehead against a dresser with metal drawer pulls. Ouch! I was visiting friends. I didn’t want to disturb them so I said nothing — and did all the wrong things!

I fell down like timber in the middle of the night

I fell down like timber in the middle of the night


I dragged my aching body back into bed. The next morning, by pulling my hair down over it, I hid the large bump on my forehead which had blossomed into lovely shades of purple and blue. Clothing hid the bruises on my body and I claimed exhaustion and blamed the heat wave (it was 110 F. there) as an excuse to lay low. These are especially good friends and they let me call the shots. They spoil me and take care of all my needs/desires and I felt okay for the rest of my visit with them and noticed nothing.
After arriving back home, I felt unusually exhausted and unable to function. I’m organized — I made a list. It overwhelmed me — I’m not ordinarily easily overwhelmed. Friends called, but I was too weary to call them back (which was weird — I’m talkative) and sent out an email to a few at once saying I would call after I rested for a few days. A friend called back to ask if I had forgotten our book club meeting (at my place) the very next day. I had seen it on my calendar — it just hadn’t registered.
I had a concussion

I had a concussion

This friend knows about concussions. She recently had one herself. She suggested I see my doctor and I listened. My doctor confirmed that I did, indeed have a concussion and told me which steps to take, and especially to take it seriously.
“Muriel, I am interested in prevention,” she told me. “I want you to carefully think about it. Tell me exactly how it happened, why it happened, and what you can do to avoid it in the future.”
The brain, before and after a concussion

The brain, before and after a concussion


We discussed it together and I subsequently thought about it further after I got home and this is what I came up with.
#1 I was over-tired. I had risen at 4 a.m. the day before, then taken an all-day train from San Francisco to Los Angeles, arriving at about 9:00 p.m. Excited to see each other, my friends and I chatted awhile before I turned in. I awoke, as usual, sometime during the night to go to the bathroom, but was too tired to get up. If I ignore it, I hoped, perhaps I would fall back to sleep. It worked, but when I awoke the next time, it was a more urgent call for action. I moved too quickly.
#2 The bed I slept in is a sofa-bed. I’ve slept in it many times and it is lower than my own. Usually, I support myself with my hands when I get out of bed at home. I could not do that on the sofa bed. I needed to raise myself slowly and be sure of my footing before getting up. I was in a real hurry. I didn’t.
#3 The carpeting is plush and thick and soft — my own at home is not. I should have taken more time in turning towards where I was heading. I didn’t.
#4 In any case, I could have used my walking stick for support, no matter what. I didn’t. I jumped up, turned and keeled over.
“After the horse ran away, I locked the barn.” From that night on:
I did not put off the middle of the night trip to the washroom, so it would not feel so urgent.
I took my walking stick up to my bedroom each night and diligently used it for stability each time I got out of the low sofa bed and walked to the nearby washroom.
I turned slowly — as I should have in the first place.
It was too late to prevent the concussion this time, but I shall remember these steps in the future. And, I was extremely lucky. I’m okay now.

Live and Learn

Muriel from Blog

As time passes, I’ve had to change my mind on many issues — just one of which is wondering why otherwise intelligent people can throw money away on promises of unlikely cures. I didn’t understand, for instance, why people with cancer would pay thousands of dollars to go to some Mexican clinic to be given shots made of apricot pits. Did they really think it would work? Why, I thought, would they be so gullible as to believe charlatans and frauds who offer magical cures for whatever? (Thank goodness delicacy required me to keep my mouth shut on the subject at the time.)
You know I’ve dealt with dizziness, nausea and imbalance for years. Episodes in the past were awful, but less frequent. During the 1990s, they hit with a vengeance and tenacity I was unable to cope with. I, myself, became one of those “gullible” people. I now realize it is not so much gullibility as desperation.

The dizziness was so persistent, I was unable to cope

The dizziness was so persistent, I was unable to cope

I, who had flatly refused to take hormones, who questioned and refused just about every prescription any doctor tried to give me, suddenly accepted, bought, payed for, swallowed and did whatever my doctor or anyone else suggested might help. I wanted my life back!
Antivert didn’t help, so I tried SERC, then Dramamine, then, as recommended, I doubled the SERC. I tried a diuretic. I was willing! I was desperate! I was even ready to try inner ear surgery which causes deafness but “might” eliminate the dizziness. (I later did have that surgery, but whatever was causing the dizziness had by then also caused deafness in that ear, so there was nothing to lose.) It too did NOT cure the dizziness.
“We just got a brand new product in for nausea,” suggested my local pharmacist, who no longer had to ask my name. I bought it… It didn’t work.
“Have you tried acupuncture?” inquired a business associate over the phone.
“No, do you know someone?”
I didn’t know her, but I accepted her recommendation anyway.
“How about a holistic practitioner?” someone else proposed.
What’s his number?” I asked.
I was ready to try anything. If someone had promised the dizziness, imbalance and nausea would go away if I stood on my head and spit nickels, I’d have tried that too.

 Off-balance, dizzy and suffering with nausea, I would try anything


Off-balance, dizzy and suffering with nausea, I would try anything

As you can imagine, I wasn’t doing much cooking and jokingly threatened to turn my kitchen into a bedroom, but the shelves began to look more like a large medicine cabinet, lined with containers full of prescriptions and remedies that didn’t work. I thought I’d have to toss out some dishes just to make more space.
I popped pills, was poked by needles, swallowed vile-tasting, expensive Chinese herbs and solutions as directed, plus I obeyed and consumed nothing but cooked foods. My body had “too much dampness and too little energy”, and there was a heck of a lot of work to be done on my “spirituality”!
Finally, I came to the conclusion that what I definitely didn’t have enough of was — money, to pay for it all — I had become too ill to work.
Being desperate enough to grab at any solution myself, I learned an important lesson and was, once again, humbled. Vestibular disorders don’t kill you, but they can make you wish you were dead. So I now fully understand how others suffering from incurable and possibly life-threatening diseases can succumb to the hope held out by those bastards who prey on our vulnerabilities.
And, I’m still learning…..

To Family/Friends of Those with Balance and Dizziness (vestibular) Disorders

Muriel from BlogSince Dr. Graham Bryce and I started the B C Balance & Dizziness Disorders Society (BADD) 15 years ago, I’ve talked with hundreds and hundreds of members dealing with vestibular disorders. When our first Board met around my kitchen table, we discussed a name for our fledgling support group. I noted that “Balance and Dizziness Disorders” which was chosen, would probably have the acronym BADD, which might not look good. The response? “Well, it IS bad.” So “BADD” we became.

Balance and Dizziness Disorders ARE bad

Balance and Dizziness Disorders ARE bad

Through the years, members complain that nobody gets it. Not only do family and friends not understand how debilitating these conditions are, too many medical practitioners have no idea how difficult it is, at times, to function at all. These disorders are unpleasant enough to live with, but the lack of empathy from those around us can be devastating. With a broken arm, you sport a cast; if you are blind, you use a white cane; but stagger in the street (As I have from time to time) and people will look askance, consider you to be drunk and refuse to help you even if you request it. And, yes, that has happened to me!

Image used on BADD's brochure. We are always aware of trying to stay upright

Image used on BADD’s brochure. We are always aware of trying to stay upright

Not only do we deal with a scary, unstable world which moves in ways others don’t experience, with a balance system others take for granted which won’t work properly for us, but also the anxiety and fear of knowing that at any moment, often without warning, everything may begin to spin. When that happens, panic ensues, we find it impossible to keep our bodies upright. The feeling is terrifying.

I have desperately clung to street poles, mailboxes, garbage cans and strangers when suddenly hit by one of these episodes. I have courageously fought my way out of my apartment in stages after sieges. I’ve had to stop my car enroute to work in busy Los Angeles traffic, my heart pounding while my whole body trembled with fear. Not pleasant……

At any time, things can begin to spin

At any time, things can begin to spin

I have arthritis. It hurts. Unfortunately, after so many falls, a knee replacement didn’t work miracles. I deal with pain every day. I have, however, repeatedly said I can cope with the pain — as long as I’m not dizzy. Any day in which I don’t experience dizziness is a terrific day!

A father of a member I spoke with insisted his son was not being diligent. He missed a business appointment when he was experiencing an episode. (The son’s attacks were so violent, he was unable to get up from the floor and would have to be taken to hospital by ambulance.)

Keep Going? I can't even get up!

Keep Going? I can’t even get up!

“I’ve had a heart attack. I’ve had cancer,” the father insisted, “You just keep going.”

When I tried to explain that I, myself, ordinarily very reliable, self-sufficient and hard-working, was unable to “just keep going” even though I was not financially ready to retire. He didn’t hear or understand.

“He had a friend fill in for him,” the dad continued, “Maybe his client will like his friend better and he’ll lose the client. You just have to……”

I failed to reach him. What can I say when members tell me their family or even their doctors don’t take their conditions seriously. Too many family doctors seem to know nothing about vestibular disorders. At times I despair.

Yes, we make dates and appointments we sometimes can’t keep. I was to be interviewed on television for my job when I became so dizzy on my way to work, I had to call in to say I had no choice but to take a cab home. They were not pleased. I was the only one working there comfortable with that kind of assignment. The cab driver, seeing how ill I was (did he think I was already drunk at 8 a.m.?) didn’t offer me any change. He took much more money from me than he should have. I was too sick to argue — but I still resent it.

I often feel like this, but I'm sure he's better at it than I am

I often feel like this, but I’m sure he’s better at it than I am

One of the most common causes of dizziness is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), often easily treated by a manoeuvre. Many of us with other vestibular disorders end up with BPPV as well. Sometimes a manoeuvre will work. Sometimes it won’t. Sometimes it makes you feel even worse. There are no easy, simple answers.

I plead with family and friends of people who experience balance and dizziness disorders to try to understand and forgive when we’ve made promises we can’t keep or a date we have to cancel.

I've gotta get out of here! Too many colours! Too many lights!

I’ve gotta get out of here! Too many colours! Too many lights!

We may feel a desperate need to immediately escape from a shopping centre because the bright colors are making things impossible. We’ll suddenly grab your arm to hang on to because the world has decided to play nasty tricks on us. We’ll ask you to walk farther to avoid walking on the grass because if there is a slight indentation hidden by it we may fall. It may seem unreasonable to you, but I am familiar with it all.

Yes, we do love you. Yes, we do want to see you. And, yes, please do not misread our distress — it has nothing to do with you and it is not a rejection of you. We need you in our lives even more than other people do.

For information about BADD, see http://www.balanceanddizziness.org