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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.

supportafriend

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

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Okay, I’m brushing, I’m brushing…..

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

A while ago my grandson, Remy, asked if I had false teeth. Huh? He must have heard something about old folks and teeth. I put that kid straight right away! I, indeed, have my own teeth. However, because I have more luck than brains, I admit it may just be genetic. My roots are so long, whenever I change dentists and they see my x-ray, they comment and chuckle about my small teeth and huge, long roots. For all I know, they reach my toes! I’ll probably never lose my pearly whites.

I’m feeling lucky right now. I had a call from a friend who lost all her teeth some years ago due to gum disease. She also suffered several devastating strokes, which I had attributed to her smoking. What disturbed her most was being told, too late, that had her gums been looked after properly, it wouldn’t have happened. (She had seen a dentist regularly that she liked and felt betrayed.)

Dentalimplants

Tooth implants

She subsequently went through a time-consuming, expensive and painful process of getting implants. (This procedure may have

false teeth

Ordinary false teeth

improved since.) Later her implants became infected and had to be removed. With her medical history, she was advised to stick to ordinary dentures.

With a mouthful of fillings and crowns of my own when I was still young, I was sure I’d lose my teeth early. “Don’t worry,” my dentist said, “we can always

Dentist tooth#2

Take care of your gums

fix them — just take care of your gums.” The man was right and I’m grateful to the dentists and periodontists who have educated me and taken care of my mouth throughout my adult life.

Recently I read that gum disease may be connected to strokes and heart disease. Could it be? Was smoking not the only risk my friend dealt with? It is impossible for me to make such an assumption, still I wondered, so asked my periodontist.

“Periodontal disease,’ he explained, ‘is a bacterial infection of the gums, bone and attachment fibers that support teeth and hold them in the jaw. The bacteria are found in dental plaque, a sticky, colorless film that forms on teeth. Toxins produced by the bacteria irritate the gums and cause infection. If untreated, it can result in bad breath, bleeding gums and eventually, tooth loss. Almost half of all adults have some form of periodontal disease and may not know it.

Winking tooth

Keep me happy and I’ll help you stay healthy

“Since periodontal disease is a bacterial infection, bacteria can enter the blood stream and travel to major organs, beginning new infections. The heart is one of the most susceptible organs. Thus, theories explain the link between periodontal disease and heart disease — oral bacteria can affect the heart when they enter the blood stream.

“Researchers have found people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease than those without. It has also been linked to other health problems, including respiratory diseases, strokes, diabetes, osteoporosis and premature and underweight births. A new study of fat deposits in the carotid arteries of stroke sufferers shows that 70% contain bacteria, and 40% comes from the mouth.”

Wow! I had no idea there was so much more at stake. I’ll go brush my teeth. Okay, I’m brushing, I’m brushing….

blk:wht:I'm brushing

Okay, I’m brushing, I’m brushing…..

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?

 

One door opens, another closes…

Muriel2017

photo by my Chandra

It was high time to give up driving. My vision had changed and my little old car was tired. Do I miss it? Yes. But only for grocery shopping. Traveling by bus is not only a new adventure, but an opportunity to see more — and chat with strangers. People are fascinating. I’m new at using buses, and don’t know anything about where they go or their schedules.

My friend Hans, who lived in L.A.’s Hollywood Hills, used to tease me about plans to visit ‘the village’, which is what he called this beautiful city. He was delighted by the unpaved sidewalk and  remaining unpaved alleyways here and there in my neighborhood.

I believed him. This IS a small town compared to L.A. which is so very large. Using buses for transportation, I was allowing an hour to walk the few blocks to the stop and to get wherever I wanted to go. It worked until now. I’ve just learned the town is bigger than I thought. An hour wasn’t enough to get to where I was to have an ultrasound taken of my shoulder this week.

Yup, it was the first time I’d bused that far. I’d driven that route many times by car, but you get to see so much more out the bus window than you can driving. Driving requires attention to traffic, lights, pedestrians and what’s happening behind you. On the bus, all that is taken car of for you. Hurrah!

Donna suggested I take the ‘Express’ but I didn’t know where it stopped. A REAL person would have asked but I didn’t so I was five minutes late for my appointment. No one else seemed upset by that but me. (Well, did I ever promise you sanity?)

Ultrasound-Machine

Storm clouds? Stormy sea?

The ultrasound experience was new too. I had once had one, but this time I could actually see the screen. At first it looked like storm clouds gathering and whirling about in preparation for a huge storm — in my shoulder. Later I saw it differently. It looked more like ocean waves in a stormy sea. The technician listened to my nonsense with  amusement, then ventured to say nobody had ever seen the ultrasound in that way before. Probably true….

GoodoutsideRio

The Rio Theatre built in 1938

Afterwards, on leaving the building, I looked across the street. Wow! I was right in front of the awesome old Rio Theatre, now so much in our local news. I’d never seen this beautiful Art Deco venue before. No wonder local residents don’t want the Rio, built in 1938, torn down to be replaced by yet more condos — which most of us can’t afford anyway.

LobbyRio

Rio Theatre lobby

The other day, I read the Rio was voted our city’s #1 ‘Multimedia’ venue. (It features film and live performances.) What is wrong with us? How can we allow irreplaceable jewels like this gorgeous structure obliterated? The likes of the Rio will never be constructed again. It will be lost to us forever. Kudos to the present operator, Corinne Lea, who is trying to raise the money to purchase the building and save it. She’s just started a crowd-funding push. I wish her success.

Ridge Theatre 1950-

Ridge Theatre, 1950- 2013

My own neighborhood has lost an old theatre too, the Ridge (1950-2013). It was not as gorgeous as the Rio, but nonetheless much loved. The ground floor is now a Loblaws Market (infamous for its participation in a massive bread price-fixing scheme for years which cheated food shoppers) with yet more condos above. The old ‘Ridge’ neon sign sits on top of the building — a constant reminder of what we’ve lost forever.

 

Me give up? Are you kidding?

muriel-6

Am I stubborn?

A while ago my eye specialist said my vision had diminished — new glasses would no longer help. He told me not to bother trying. The thought was devastating. I’m an avid reader. I didn’t want him to be correct.

doc letters

I didn’t want him to be right.

Did I accept that? Of course not. I made (and paid for) an appointment with a local optometrist, who has fascinating new technology, to check. I wanted him to say my doctor was wrong and I could, indeed, be fitted with glasses which would keep me reading.

He agreed with my specialist. I wasn’t a happy camper.

Rebecca 1

Rebecca and Brian in Los Angeles

Did you expect me to stop there? Are you kidding? Four friends and loved ones recently told me I’m stubborn. Well, perhaps they’re right. Perhaps there are times it’s good to be.

Brian Singer is a practicing optometrist in Los Angeles. He and his wife Rebecca are dear ‘children’ whom I often visit. It made sense to discuss this problem with Brian. He cares more about me than any other optometrist and promised to check my vision the next time I visited  — and he did.

peering over glasses

I can still read

Brian WANTED to help. He took a chance. He tried. My reading glasses aren’t gorgeous. (He suggested I use old frames to save on the cost in case they didn’t work.) However, he has managed to keep me reading since 2011. Imagine what that means to me. Hurrah! Bless you Brian!!

There are many things I’m grateful for. I’m grateful for Brian and Rebecca’s caring love and hospitality through the years. I’m grateful for Brian’s skill and knowledge and his willingness to go the extra mile to help me, that he was successful and I’m still able to read and continue to participate in my book club. It adds so much to my life.

Yes, I am stubborn. I don’t give up easily, and the friends and dear ones who so recentlyMad old ladyan-with-a-rolling-pin-isolated-on-white told me so were probably referring to my determination to work hard at recovering after hip-replacement surgery. Okay guys, you’re right. I AM stubborn. But, I’m getting stronger every day — and getting my life back. Yeah! There are times being stubborn helps.

‘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….

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.