Nurse Taking Blood Samples from Patient 590

 

I have been extremely healthy my whole life. No operations or major illnesses. No broken bones. No need to see my doctor more than annually. Lately, however, I have had to make my way through the maze of medical testing at several different hospitals.

The first thing that amazed me was seeing these very large, comfy chairs, matching the other smaller comfy chairs, in all of the waiting rooms. I could sit on it alone and “spread out” with plenty of room for my purse, phone, and other paraphernalia. However, knowing that the chair was designed for a “larger” person, wouldn’t sitting on it be akin to parking in a handicapped spot, even if there were no “larger” people in the waiting room? Sometimes, the other chairs would be filled, and I viewed that chair being the same as when I drive around and around the mall looking for a non-existent parking space, only to be enticed by the many empty handicapped parking spots in the front of the building. Assuming this case was completely different, I boldly sat in the big chair and fluffed my coat out as though to appear “larger”.

The other thing noticed was that the needles used to draw blood are much thinner and less painful than I remember. A pleasant nurse explained that they have been making them as thin as possible so as to make the blood test more comfortable for the patient. However, before they draw blood, the chair on which the patient sits now has a barrier pulled down in the front of it, ostensibly to make it more comfortable to rest one’s arm. I giggled in my mind that it was there to keep me from jumping up and running away, but I behaved myself and sat still for the experience.

Going for x-rays was a cold experience, literally. Wearing the requisite Johnny, I would lie down on a table that felt like it came from the home of the people in “The Last Alaskans”, which hubby and I watch. Stark, raving icy! They did give me a little lead blanky to cover my “woman parts”, not to warm me up but to preserve my baby making ability. (The train left long ago on worrying about that!) They told me not to move while they took the x-ray, but it can be assumed that my shivering made the x-ray a little blurrier than it was supposed to be!

The most annoying thing is that doctors are now affiliated with certain hospitals. No longer can I conveniently go to Kent for my testing, but need to go to the hospital with which that particular doctor is a member. This can make it mighty inconvenient when the three doctors I have gone to have been associated with different hospitals: Roger Williams, Miriam and RI Hospital, and never the ‘twain shall meet. I need to physically obtain the tests done at one hospital to bring to the doctor who works at another because the hospitals do not communicate with each other. (Whatever happened to Patient Centered Medical Care?) Which brings me to the observation that the Medical Records unit is usually in the basement; the dark, reminiscent of horror movies, lower level. It is always surprising that the people who work there are very pleasant and accommodating, allaying my judgment of the placement of their office.

I have dutifully played the medical roulette game and hopefully my exploration of different options for medical testing is over. I never again want to struggle with the ethical choice of sitting in the “large” chair or not. It’s just too much pressure!

*****

To read about our hilarious and warm relationship, or to read about the success of my 5 children with disabilities, please purchase my book, The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane

 

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Made it Easy on Myself

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A secret was all mine until the news media this year touted it as a “thing”. Years ago, my teenage children would brave the cold and sit outside of Target or Best Buy at 2:00 am on the night of Thanksgiving, waiting for the stores to open early on “Black Friday”. Comradeship galore, they would toast with pumpkin spice Dunkin Donuts coffee, share cookies and sit snuggled under extra blankets in rickety, old, webbed camp chairs. It was an annual social occasion not to be missed. I distinctly remember my son joyously coming home with a television at a 75% discount from Best Buy. (No, it was not a present. He chose to keep it to himself, but the savings was still impressive!) He and his friends chose to shop on Black Friday to get the best price reductions, and no number of aggressive, pushy shoppers or hours long lines to the cash register were going to deter them. Personally, I knew that the same bargains were available on-line, even items that were limited in number in the stores. If a store had a super duper extra inexpensive price and only a few of the items available for purchase, the news would broadcast the pushes, shoves and trampling of shoppers to get to the few treasures available, until the stores wised up and started to pass out numbers outside to those waiting line. However, every Black Friday I could quietly and daintily order these same items all with the push of a button; “add to cart”. I would sit happily at my computer, sipping spiced tea, and gleefully order all of the preselected items, the best from the best at the cheapest of the cheapest, advertised in the Thanksgiving newspaper. This past Black Friday was no different, except for the fact I was no longer a clever pioneer, just part of the general public, ordering on-line, as highlighted by the news.

Christmas is always a hectic time of year, especially with children. We have a very large family of five children and four grandchildren. Each of hubby’s sister and brothers has children of his/her own, and, as we have aged, great- nieces and great-nephews have joined the fold. That is what makes Black Friday a big, fun economic puzzle, searching amidst the bargains for a present for each person. Shopping for Christmas used to be spread out over the entire month of December, and I would often purchase a gift forgetting something different had already been bought. By buying everything on the same day, it was easy to keep track, and even easier to guarantee each item was at its lowest price. Whoopee! Diet coke, popped corn, and Christmas Carols, soon replaced morning tea as my shopping continued in earnest. In the spirit of the holiday, good presents were ordered on that day instead of spending a month trying to find “the best”. (I learned a long time ago that my perception of the best might not necessarily be the best to the gift receiver, so I lightened up on myself.)

At the end of the day, my credit card was put away and my tired typing fingers rested. Pleased with my purchases, I smiled to myself with success. Wrapping paper and name tags sit by the front door so each gift can be wrapped as it arrives and placed in a spare room.

As I sit here, heart aglow with cheer for the coming holidays, my advice is simple; be kind to yourself, whatever holiday you practice. “Perfection” is a stressful state of mind. Good is good, and be confident in that. Relax. After all, holidays are meant to be enjoyed!

Remembering Mom

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A memorial service to honor our deceased family and friends was held last week. I often think of my mom, but never with such a sustained respect as last week. Lighting a memorial candle and watching the wick spring to life with fire made me think of HER life, and all the wonderful things she had done, always with a smile on her face and never with a complaint. Tears slid down my cheeks and were wiped away silently, inconspicuously. How is it that after all of these years her memory can still cause such emotion?

In her honor, I decided to treat myself to a day at the mall. I hadn’t been in a while because, unlike when I was younger and had children to buy for, my own wardrobe was overflowing with clothes and I had nothing to shop for. Or so I thought.

Entering the mall, decorated for Christmas with festive frills and lights, the atmosphere welcomed me, and I felt a spring in my step and cheer in my heart, just as if my mom were by my side as in “olden times.” I meandered into Macy’s, being the first store I came to, looking for the magnificent bargains like mom and I did. We had a knack for finding something spectacular at a deeply discounted price, and this trip was no different. Humming to myself as I browsed the numerous sales rack, my radar led me to the 50% off the 50% off discounted price. My kind of sale! There were many awesome clothes from which to choose, and soon I was purchasing a blue and green sweater for only $4.49. Pleased with my purchase, (something comfy to wear in the winter,) I smiled brightly leaving the store, feeling like the Cheshire Cat.

It was after noon and my stomach led me to the food court. I couldn’t help but buy myself some General Tsao’s chicken, our favorite meal. The ironic part was, my mother always told me she would “have just a little bit of mine” instead of getting her own order. I resented this at the time because I would always walk away unsatiated. Then, I sneakily learned to order double the chicken so she could still share my order without realizing more chicken had been added. She was happy because she wanted to be frugal for lunch and not spend any money, and I was happy because she was happy! On this date in the mall, it made me a little sad that I didn’t need to order extra chicken, but I did think of her as I wolfed down the meal, smiling between bites in her memory.

I walked by Bath and Body Works, a store into which I had to drag her. According to her morals, a bar of soap was the best thing to wash with, so why waste money on frivolities? It was difficult to convince her that the Sweet Pea or Vanilla Cinnamon scents were relaxing for me, and I would feel so much sweeter after using them in the bath. So, I only took her in when I had a coupon and there was a deeply discount sale. Trying to get her to take a bottle to try, she always gave it back and said she was fine, thank you, soap did the job just as well. On this date, I purchased several new holiday body washes, and I didn’t even have a coupon!

Walking slowly by the stores window-shopping, the tinkling of the piano keys was heard from the middle of the mall. Coincidentally, the pianist was playing live music, and I sat to listen. If my mom had been with me, she would have swayed to the music, and sung the words to the old songs. Often, she would got up and dance enthusiastically. Most children may have been mortified if their parent did that, but my mom was not just ANY parent, she was special in so many ways. She exuded joy, and if that joy inspired her to get up and dance, then so be it. It was that joy that inspired my life so dramatically, and continues to let me appreciate seeing the sunbeams streaming brightly through the clouds and the love when my grandchildren come running to me for a kiss and a hug. It is the kind of joy that makes your heart tingly and the sides of your mouth turn into a smile. I was so fortunate to have had her inspiration.

*****

To read about our hilarious and warm relationship, or to read about the success of my 5 children with disabilities, please purchase my book, The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane

 

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My children who are adopted are of mixed races, which has instigated a lot of joking over the years about how much we are like each other. I remember shopping at Walmart with my daughter, Dinora, when she was about 6 months old.  Sitting in the infant seat, she exhibited every characteristic of a child of Mayan Indian heritage.  The woman in front of me turned around and looked at her, then looked at me, then looked back at her. “She certainly must look like her father!” she said, in kind of a huff. Incorrect, of course, she was just like us.

Three of my children have brown eyes, just like me! Two have blue eyes, just like their dad! Amazing, just like each other!  All of us love ice cream, especially cookie dough, which was hard to keep in the freezer, even though I would hide a carton way in the back under the pork chops, figuring the children hated pork chops.  They didn’t hate them enough to look behind them to find our special treat.

Swimming is something we have in common, (mostly because we live on a lake.) Dinora was able to swim by the age of 18 months old. She used to jump off the side in the deep end of the community pool with me. Everyone was shocked, saying it was dangerous for her to be so deep. But she was so tiny that even if she jumped off the lower end she still wouldn’t be able to touch the bottom, so what was the difference? My son, Francis, was on a swim team, and won a medal for the fastest swimmer.  Steven spent most of his time by the water, pretending to be the Crocodile Hunter with the ability to swim quite far if he saw one of his prey. Angel was a great swimmer, as was Marie.  Many a time Marie and I would take floats and swim back and forth across the lake.  (Okay, so using float was cheating, but the comradeship was worth it.) Hubby, I, and all of my children,  are natural swimmers, just like each other!

Three of my children are creature lovers, anything from earth worms to boa constrictors to the every day dog, cats and bunnies. It is as though any living creature is a fascination to them, handled with care and put back into their “natural environment”, a special expression of Steven’s. One day, while camping at six years old, he found a common garter snake, hunting it down as only Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, could do.  On his haunches, he followed the snake through the rocks and eventually wrangled it onto a stick. By then, a crowd of children had gathered, squealing, “A snake!  Yeeeewww.  A snake! Steven gently showed the snake, saying “Isn’t she a beaut?  Look at that great color that can hide in the forest. Nature is amazing!”

With the exception of me and their dad, everyone loves scary movies. Okay, so maybe they aren’t like us in this manner as hubby turns away anytime he sees blood or monsters on tv and I hide under a pillow anytime I hear eerie music. We can’t ALWAYS be the same!

We all love to go apple picking, to see the colored leaves in the autumn, to watch a sunset at the beach, to swim in the waves, and to help those less fortunate.  Francis was building houses with Habitat for Humanity despite his blindness and Dinora raised money for a soup kitchen in her native Guatemala.  We all worked on making sandwiches which would be delivered to Cross Rhodes. With all of these similarities, of COURSE we are related! And so we have built MY family…

Now they are building theirs. Francis has a three year old daughter who physically looks JUST LIKE HIM, (minus the vision impairment!) Dinora has a young daughter and son who physically looks JUST LIKE HER. And Steven has a three year old who physically looks JUST LIKE HIM, massive head of kinky, curly hair and all! Angel is in touch with his biological family who physically look JUST LIKE HIM. All of the similarities we fostered as a family cannot compare to the fact that their flesh and blood look similar to them. But that is not what they focus on. They bond over similarities…Steven’s daughter really loves animals and strawberries, she MUST be his daughter! Dinora’s son is great at drawing and her daughter is a little diva, enjoying make-up and nail polish, (so much like her diva mom.) Francis’s daughter loves vanilla pudding and swimming in the waves in California! Go figure!

The truth is, family is not what is built by flesh and blood, but by common interests, tastes, morals and a whole lot of love. Of COURSE we are all related, we are a family!

 

‘Twas Once a Child

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My daughter, Marie, has reached adulthood, having graduated from a residential program that had services for both her deafness and her mental health issues. This is the age of worry for any parent, especially one with so many challenges.

When she came to live with us at the age of seven and we were told she was “just deaf”, we could not have properly prepared ourselves for the roller coaster ride of a life she, and we, would have. She was a wild child, blonde hair askew, eyes angry, mouth so hungry she would hoard food under her mattress. She was very angry she had been removed from her mother, (for doing unspeakable acts which shall remain unspoken.) Despite providing her with a healthy, well cared for childhood, Marie’s disposition had been preformed. She would lie, steal, beg strangers for money, and reject all of our efforts to parent her. A hug and a kiss would throw her into a fury. Discussing our parenting situation and our need to show her love, she reluctantly let us “fist bump” her. Years later she apologized and told us her birth mom made her promise not to hug or kiss us, and that we really wouldn’t be her parents. It took us many years of fist bumps before she would accept a hug, and many years more before she would let us kiss her. She is now a young adult, and freely hugs and kisses us if the mood suits her. She shows genuine affection and appreciation, the highest reward any parent could expect from an original wild child.

Although Marie can be very capable, she has been unable to live in a non-structured setting because of her unstable bouts with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For those unfamiliar with this life altering condition, it is experiencing horrific memories so acutely that one becomes “in the moment” of prior abuse, crazed eyes staring back as though at her accusers, ready to defend herself with flailing arms and legs and gnashing teeth. An ambulance ride to the hospital and sedation was the only thing that could bring her out of her experience. It has always been especially tear inducing, (for me,) when at the hospital, with her hand in restraints, she would wake from the sedation, look around, and finger spell (ASL) asking me where she was, having had no memory of the event. Next she would say her throat hurts, (from screaming, no doubt,) and ask for a Popsicle, which she would skillfully eat while still in restraints.

Marie is now formally an adult. A lot of planning has gone into finding an adult home for her, one that would be staffed 24 hours. My calling all possible supported living programs in our state began about a year and a half ago. With the dual diagnosis of deafness and mental illness, no program would accept her. Many of the programs who may have had prior experience in working with her, never even returned my calls.

After working closely with the Department of Developmental Disabilities, whose frustration and efforts equaled mine; they were able to establish a placement for her that has far surpassed our expectations through a program used to dealing with adults with more severe developmental disabilities. They had no prior experience with a young adult with both of Marie’s difficulties, but once they learned there was someone in such need, they stepped right up and took on the challenge.

Marie now lives in a cute, little house on a nice residential street. As described by those on the show “House Hunters”, this one would be described at “Retro”, with bright yellow tile, a front door carved with circles, and a front porch with wrought iron table and chairs. Neighbors bring over cookies and wave to each other on the street. There are three bedrooms in the house, and she is hoping that a housemate will join her soon. She insists that her house buddy like to watch scary movies, (VERY scary movies,) and, most of all, must not be allergic to pets. Marie has a guinea pig that is usually perched on her chest with both of her hands gently stroking the lucky animal, a calming activity that works for both her and Oreo, who is black with a white center, of course.

Marie is thrilled to be able to go shopping for food she likes, not necessarily the food I have cooked for her. She is no longer in school, so work activities will happily replace the classes with which she used to have such frustration. She has directly chosen the things that she would like to do during the day, throwing out suggestions I would have thought unobtainable.

Marie has always loved to ride horses but gets frustrated that when we go, her horse needs to be tethered to another due to her deafness. She recently began an activity at a horse farm that facilitates riding for children with disabilities. For such children, the riding is therapeutic, but the horse walks slowly. Marie’s job is going to be to trot the horses at the end of the day because the horses themselves get bored walking slowly. What better job than that for someone who loves to ride horses?

Marie’s penchant for all animals has earned her a spot working with “disenfranchised” cats and kittens, that is, homeless felines. She will clean the cages, feed them, and then “show them off” like Vanna White highlights the letters on “Wheel of Fortune”. Oreo will be jealous, I’m sure, so Marie will have to wash the cat scent off before she returns home.

At this point in her life, Marie is feeling very good about herself and her care for others. She has signed up for a Meals on Wheels route, and all of those hugs she didn’t give in her early years will undoubtedly be dispensed ten times over among her lunch recipients.

As a mom with a daughter for whom life experiences didn’t start out well, I am so thrilled that in her adult life she will be doing the things she enjoys with people who will support, encourage and appreciate her. What more could any parent ask for?

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

To read our story raising Marie and her four siblings, please purchase my book, The Apple Tree:  Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane. It is on sale on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Thank you for your support!

Come On, Friend!

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One of the joys of being a grandparent is spending fun time with my grandchildren. Sometimes on Saturdays my granddaughter, Rose, and I go to the Play Place at Burger King. She has so much energy that the climbing, jumping, crawling, swinging, hiding and chasing meets her activity level head on. However, the most amazing behavior coming from this innocent little tot is her ability to consider everyone her friend.

Rose, whose speech is delayed, is very large for her age of three, chunky and sturdy, but not overweight. She has a head of wild, curly hair that overwhelms her face. When other children talk to her, she cannot answer questions about her name, how old she is, or other ordinary questions children ask. Instead, she will gleefully look them in the eye, motion to them, and say, “Come on, friend,” as they inevitably run off to play together.

Rose adjusts her behavior to the age and temperament of her friends. Older boys, who would not generally want to play with a toddler, will play “tag” with her, thinking they can outrun her. Giggling, she runs beyond their speed limits with her long legs, chasing them into a corner where she tags them, and she steps back so they can run off and the game can begin again.

If Rose is playing with someone smaller than herself, her whole demeanor changes. She smiles and gently motions them along, skillfully helping them up to the next level, patting them soothingly on the back, and encouraging them with “Come on, friend.”

Rose has the most fun playing with someone her own size. They generally take turns playing “follow the leader”. Laughter streams from the Play Place as everyone is having fun.

Rose does not discriminate between friends, and merrily plays with anyone. One day a boy with obvious ADHD was running, skipping and jumping in a disorganized manner throughout the play area. Rose joined him, step by step, copying the same things he did, laughing uproariously.

Another day, an older girl who was non-verbal with an obvious developmental delay, became her friend. Rose joined her, playing on the outskirts. She copied her; jumping and twirling like her new friend. Every now and then, this girl would make a pleasant noise and Rose would repeat it in a singsong manner, taking her friend’s hand and saying, “Come on, friend,” as they did their dance.

Anytime one of her playmates leaves, Rose runs over to wave and say “Bye, friend,” then looks around for another friend to call her own. If no other children are in the Play Place, she will come and sit with me to have a drink of water and relax a little bit. Sometimes she will stand up and look into the Burger King dining room to see if any potential friends are eating their lunch. “Friends?” she says quizzically, putting both hands up in asking the question. As soon as another child enters the play area, Rose jumps up, runs to them, pats the child on the back saying, “Hi, friend!” as they go off to play.

This past Saturday, I heard screaming coming from the upper level of the play area. Not screaming as though she were hurt, but screeching that affected everyone’s eardrums. The boy with her was screaming also, in unison. Standing on my tiptoes, I saw the boy hit Rose, and Rose hit him back. This screaming and hitting went back and forth a few times before Rose heard me calling her to come down. Generally obedient, Rose was soon by my side where I reminded her that she should not hit or scream. She looked at me with her innocent, big brown eyes, pointed up and said “Friend?” who had continued screaming while his dad sat nearby and played on his cell phone. Reinforcing my rule for Rose that SHE could NOT scream or hit or we would leave, she wasted no time in darting her eyes around the room to find another friend, and soon ran off to play with someone else.

I learned two very important life lessons from Rose that day. She could learn proper behavior, and choose not to engage in misbehavior, even if it was hilarious fun for her at the time. More importantly, she was accepting of all children, and modified her behavior to deal with their differences. What a wonderful society we would have if we all could accommodate those different than ourselves; not just “accepting” them, but actively interacting with them and providing a positive relationship.

Come on, friends, we wait to greet you!

Why Is It That…

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 My morning commute to work should be 17 minutes according to the GPS. That time is based on the average number of red lights along the way, as well as traffic slow ups in a few areas. I generously leave myself 20 minutes of drive time. Most days, my body is in my chair at work, computer turned on, by 9 am. On those more important days, such as an early meeting with a patient or a work committee, every traffic signal along the way glares “stop”. They turn red JUST as I get to them. Every one. Some of those red lights at the big intersections seem to be several minutes long, adding precious time to my commute. Why is it that on the most important days, traffic seems to be heavier, more acutely elderly are driving at a snail’s pace, and there are an abundance of red lights?

     Eating out is a wonderful experience Hubby and I get to do once a week. Saturdays are especially important because many local restaurants serve Prime Rib, a favorite of mine, especially while on a low carb diet. There’s nothing better than eating a huge, Flintstone size, piece of meat. (I apologize to all vegetarians, but I am what I am….) Hubby and I settle into a comfy booth with the seat still warm from the couple sitting before us. We leisurely chat a little bit, telling the scurrying waiter we are in no hurry, mentally savoring the meal that is about to come. Except it doesn’t. The restaurant is out of Prime Rib. OUT? How can that be? My patience is tested when I am told they had a “run” on this mouth-watering hunk of meat and none was left for me. Why is it that when I am most looking forward to a meal, the restaurant is out of it?

     The days of nice summer weather have been a delight, and I had splurged on a few summer dresses for work. Ah…the warmth of the sun on my skin, the sunlight making my eyes squint, a dress swishing around my legs and a bounce in my step. Except for that one day last week, where the temperature was in the 60s and it was rainy and glum. I wore my favorite dress that day to add something positive to the dreary atmosphere. It would have worked out fine except the dress was sleeveless and I shivered all day. Why is it that we are tricked into wearing summer clothes when the temperature is more of autumn?

     Why is it that…

…when you wear sandals, there are socks a-plenty, but when you wear regular shoes, there are no matching socks to be found?

…when you meet someone from your past and you try to introduce him/her to Hubby, you can’t remember his/her name?

…you can be happily playing the penny slot machine at a Casino for an hour, and when your $20 runs out, you leave the machine, only to observe someone else sit in your spot and win the jackpot?

…when you search and search and can’t find your glasses, they are right on top of your head?

…when you need to sign a check, the only writing implement in your purse is a Sharpie?

…when you are just getting into an interesting article, it ends….?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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