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When my baby was hospitalized…

Going through old correspondence, I found a letter I wrote to UCLA Hospital (L.A.) in 1973. My son was 18 months old and had been very ill and a patient there. I was distressed at what I saw and experienced in the children’s ward. Parents were only allowed to be there during ‘visiting hours’. (Many of us disregarded this unless told to leave.)


When I was there, I changed my child’s diapers and soiled sheets, fed him when possible and if he awoke crying, hearing my voice, he’d wrap his little fingers around mine and fall asleep again. I recall laying on the floor for one or two nights to be there for him. (One night I counted eleven parents sleeping on the chairs in the waiting room — there were no sofas.)

I walked to the nurses station
He had to go to the bathroom


The boy next door was about six and attached to an IV. He called again and again for a nurse until I went over to ask what he needed. He had to go to the bathroom. I walked to the nurses station and forwarded his request, then got busy again with my own child.

When I heard anguished crying, I went to ask what happened. He had been unable to hold it any longer and had soiled himself in bed. He was embarrassed and traumatized. At his age I can only imagine how he felt.


With parents purposely kept away, other children were neglected. One little girl across the way cried from morning til night each day. No one attempted to comfort her. She spoke only Spanish. My letter, therefore, mainly requested they rescind their policy of not allowing parents to remain with their sick children.


I made copies of the letter and mailed it to six people in charge. I never had a reply. The letter, however, did create a reaction. My pediatrician was told that my child and I were BANNED from UCLA, which was very close to our home. After that I was required to drive across town each time my little boy was seriously ill — and he was.

My pediatrician was told I was BANNED


I am pleased that since then things have changed and now parents CAN be with their hospitalized children. Did I play a role in this change? I’d like to think so, but probably not.


What’s been your experience with your own children’s hospitalizations?

A sense of humor?

Muriel2017

I’d been there before. Several times. Still, when leaving, I headed in the wrong direction. I do stuff like that — very often.

Andrew and I were at a local hospital where I’d had an appointment with my hand surgeon. I wasn’t sure what the doctor would do about that troublesome hand, so I asked Andrew to come with me ‘just in case’.

As I was leading the poor guy astray, he gently reminded me we had to go in the opposite direction.

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Andrew looking serious. (He hates taking pictures.)

‘I told you I have no sense of direction,’ I laughed, ‘You can believe it.’

‘A sense of humor is much more important,’ Andrew responded. He is SO wonderfully clever.

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Where am I???

I burst out laughing. I do that a lot. As for a sense of direction, forget it. Turn me around in my bedroom and I probably wouldn’t find my own bed.

Andrew is right. My crazy sense of humor is helpful. I had just had the doctor cracking up because I asked him to marry me. (He said he would except he loves his wife.)

Then he showed me videos of his new baby, born one day before my birthday, and his little girl. He has told me I can ALWAYS get in to see him, which is terrific for me with my  arthritic hands.

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My doctor cracked up when I asked him to marry me.

I often get great service because of my nutty humor, bus drivers remember me and smile when I climb aboard and make sure I’m seated before they restart the bus. Busy professionals try to fit me in, and, admittedly, I sometimes take advantage of that.

This year, my wonderful, caring family doctor gave ME a Christmas present! I’ve made her laugh often, but she put up with me in tears when I was very dizzy. I adore her….

During the present crisis, I’ve agreed to not be stubborn and I’m staying in because everyone is reminding me how old I am. Old?

Well okay I AM old! And I tell my loved ones I intend to stick around until the last cheque/check bounces!

The last day of the year…

Muriel2017

The last day of a decade. Kind of special. I’m taking the day off. Yup! Honest. For real. I don’t know when I’ve ever done this before, I’m an ‘A’ type who usually does what she’s planned or should.

I’ve got a good excuse. They’ve issued a ‘rain warning’. They don’t usually do that, rain isn’t unusual here, especially at this time of year. They’ve cancelled some celebrations for tonight and talked about millimeters expected to come down on our heads. (I have lived here for years but still haven’t learned what millimeters actually are.)

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Home reading a really good book

I’m not acknowledging my pedometer today as I usually do, but staying in and reading

Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult’s ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ which I can hardly put down. The book is about a couple who have a child who has leukemia. There’s no match to help her in the family so they decide to have a new child specially designed to be a match. When she is 13, she sues her parents for using her as a donor throughout her life. I’m reading about the court battle right now and don’t yet know how it ends.

Any illness in a family, physical or mental, can have dire consequences on everyone involved and this is clearly seen in this novel.

dancing

If you celebrate, enjoy!

2020Meanwhile, this is a good opportunity for me to wish each of you the very best for 2020 and to thank you for visiting my blog. I love that you live in at least 110 countries — that’s how many I’m aware of since I’m not always home to note new ones.

If you celebrate, enjoy! I didn’t make any resolutions. Don’t have to. I’m perfect as I am — and so are you.

 

resolution

 

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Appreciation for supportive friends….

Muriel2017I met Bill and Nancy Keuntje on a train in 2017. They’re a warm couple who were kind to this old lady and very worth keeping in touch with. (I think they live in New Jersey.) Bill collects miniature toys and promised to send me some — and immediately did so. He also composes beautiful music, some of which I get to listen to on my computer.

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Support your friends when they need you

‘I’m just a blue-collar guy who’s made it to age 70 and knows but for the grace of others, I would be much worse off.’ Bill says humbly, but he’s no ordinary guy. So, during his recent chemo treatment for cancer, Bill thought about all those who gave him love and support during the harrowing experience and wrote this for all those who love and supported him:
.
maninbedAnd I don’t know what special is –

Don’t know why it is –

chemo

grateful to support during treatment

How just a moment alone or among a crowd,

Can become the why of a lifetime –

How sometimes it appears…. or just happens –

How the solitude of a whisper within a passing cloud

Can become the dominant essence that pervades and envelopes

That which wasn’t there just a thought ago –

But I do know what’s special –

The value that it holds, the power it possesses –

How it can overwhelm and dominate –

Or be the gentle note a bird might sing as glimmers of the

first light of day appear –

The first breath of a newborn today.

And I do know that it’s always there –

Impatiently waiting – biding its time –

olddoctor

Doctors know friends help

Needing to nourish – to be nourished –

Whether by a congregation of souls

Or an unknown entity X-degrees separate,

Alone and distant within the depths of a shadow

But more importantly, I know the Who –

Maybe not by name or familiarity –

Couldn’t pick it out of a crowd, for the crowd might be it –

But you are there – amongst the throngcup

As a color within a rainbow graced by its hue –

Unique as a dewdrop upon a blossom kissed by the sun.

Yes, you are special!     More so than you realize!

Yes, you are special!   More than you could ever imagine!

YES!

YOU ARE SPECIAL!!!!

You can send Bill good wishes for complete recovery directly to: bkeuntje@gmail.com

I thought I invented it….

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

That’s how things go folks. You think you’re particularly clever and have come up with a unique and brilliant idea that no one else has ever thought of before — and you learn it’s been used for centuries. Bummer!

For years I’ve seen myself through scary, painful or difficult times by singing — aloud. The older the song, the better because then I have to work harder at remembering the words. I’ve fought my way out of my apartment step-by-agonizing-step after devastating dizziness sieges by singing. At times I’d make it as far as the elevator, but later might make it as far as the front entrance. Sometimes guys, that can be a big accomplishment, especially for a dizzy dame.

I’ve survived driving my car home (right turns only) while experiencing severe

old lady nervous in car

terrified driving when vertigo begins

vertigo by singing encouragement to myself. Want the words? (Don’t worry about copyright, use them anytime.) ‘You’re fine because you’re fine, because you’re fine, because you’re fine….’ (Use any tune you like, it doesn’t matter, no one’s judging.) It obviously worked for me — I’m still alive!

After my hip surgery last year, while five fussing nurses gathered round my bed trying to figure out how to extricate the stubborn last staple (out of 18) which had somehow formed a ring in my flesh, I sang an old kids’ song as they dug in. When they finally succeeded, they gleefully gave each other high-fives and danced about. Were they just pleased with themselves for solving the problem, or delighted with the quality of my (ahem) beautiful voice? I never asked…..

I’ve many stories I could tell you about times when my singing saved the day for me, but I won’t bore you with all the grizzly details. Suffice it to say, it has worked.

lady with earphones

Really, it works

Why do I risk making a fool of myself in front of others who are sometimes strangers? Because it works. It seems my brain, unable to double-task well, has to concentrate on the (preferably) old song I don’t remember too well. I actually believed I was the one who figured this out all by myself — that nobody else ever thought about it before. Ha.

 

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Music Therapy by Louis Gallait, Belgian artist, (1810-87)

 

Recently CBC Radio had a program about Music Therapy. I had to find out more so called on Mrs. Google. Waddaya know? It’s been used for years for relaxation, reminiscence for the elderly, physical rehab for stroke victims, plus more other physical and mental conditions than I have the space to list here. Interesting, no?

Go ahead. Give it a try. Why not?

 

‘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.

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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.

What patients need to know….

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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.