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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.

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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.

Whatever happened to my cast iron stomach?

photo by Susan Kauffmann

photo by Susan Kauffmann

I like lobster, but don’t have the courage to kill them, so I only eat it out.

I like lobster, but don't have the courage to kill one

I like lobster, but don’t have the courage to kill one

Years ago, after reacting badly to lobster dinners three times in a row, a friend suggested an allergy. I said I had a cast iron stomach, but finally accepted her idea. I’ve since learned it wasn’t the lobster. Now that I know more about our food supply and the many chemicals added to what we eat, it isn’t surprising that more of us are becoming ill as a result – including me.

Later, I began experiencing sensitivity to fish too — usually after eating it out. I decided my allergy had expanded to anything that lived in water. I consumed no fish or seafood for 15 years, but still often became ill after eating. Things were getting out of control — and scary. I asked to see an allergist.

Tests showed I’m not allergic to fish or shellfish at all, but to sulphites, the preservative seafood is often bathed in when frozen or shipped. It also keeps potatoes white, maintains the color and texture of frozen foods, and is used so often today, it would be impossible to give you a list of foods to avoid. (The allergist warned it was a ‘minefield’ out there.)

It isn’t easy to eat out and have a sulphite-free meal. I ask bewildered servers about preservatives and they look at me with blank expressions. They work in an industry where foods are laden with chemicals and have no training or understanding of what I’m talking about. As for fast food outlets, forget it.

As for fast foods, forget it.

As for fast foods, forget it.

It is almost impossible to find unadulterated foods in our grocery stores either. I read labels when provided, however often the listing of ingredients is not required and there’s no way to know what’s in foods we buy. One chemical or pesticide by itself may be safe enough, but a cocktail of more than one can be deadly.

You can tell when chickens are dizzy, they only have two legs like we do

You can tell when chickens are dizzy, they only have two legs like we do

Hens react to chemicals much as we do. Studies have shown when hens were fed two chemicals in their food, they lost weight, developed diarrhea, shortness of breath, weakness, stumbling and tremors. Exposure to combinations of three caused even more illness, paralysis and death. Tests showed nervous system damage in those birds. (Discover Magazine, August, 1997 — and we’ve done nothing to stop it yet.)

I am concerned by the long list of additives and chemicals I see listed on the food labels I read so carefully — and they don’t even tell us which pesticides were sprayed on the wheat used to make the flour or to keep down bug infestations while the flour is being stored, nor what bakeries are using in their environment. If we add all the pesticides, additives and preservatives we consume in foods we place on our plates, we come up with a potentially harmful or even deadly combination we were never meant to ingest.

These are added to make a longer shelf life possible. Manufacturers and food processors make more money — and we get sick. Is it any wonder we have an epidemic of children suffering with Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, Asthma and Allergies? That so many people are now suffering with Vestibular Disorders? And I, of the ‘cast-iron stomach’, now struggle with allergies?

I remember when bread got moldy if it wasn’t consumed quickly. Cookies got stale, didn’t taste right

The cookies my generation gave our babies now contains preservatives

The cookies my generation gave our babies now contain preservatives

and had to be tossed. The same cookies my generation fed our babies now have preservatives in them. (I checked.) They can stay ‘fresh’ forever. Read the labels……

Do we value money more than our own children?

**Check labels for sulphites as: sodium metabisulphite, potassium metabisulphite, sodium bisulphite, potassium bisulphite, sodium sulphite, sodium dithionite, sulphurous acid, and Sulphur dioxide – and this is only part of the story……

My grandson Remy when he was little. More treasured than any amount of money

My grandson Remy when he was little. More treasured than any amount of money