Saturday, February 25, 2012

Former Students

I was reminded of this experience after I read Mare's post on her blog, Zoaring with Glinda.  She posted this quote from Haim Ginott.

My heart was racing at 150 beats of minute.  I couldn't seem to bring it down.  Having suffered from tachycardia (rapid heart beat) and arrhythmia for years, I usually can just soldier through these attacks.  This time,  the racing just would not stop.  I had my husband drive by the hospital on our way home from our walk.

After barely being able to walk into the emergency room, ready to collapse when I got to the window, I said, "After a walk, my heart began racing, I can't bring it down, and I'm going to collapse."  Immediately, a pulse sock was placed through the window, "Yep, it's racing."  I was in a wheel chair immediately and wheeled back to a room in the ER.

In came four nurses.  In came the doctor.  I was quickly placed on an EKG machine.  I didn't even know I got an IV.  I described my symptoms.  I tried to keep calm while I chewed the four baby aspirin.  Even on the EKG, my heart was still beating at 140.  Thankfully, it was not showing anything but normal sinus rhythm, but the doctor said we had to wait and see what the blood enzymes showed.  So, I tried to relax again and wait it out.

After all the emergency personnel exited, with a blood pressure cuff on one arm, an IV in the other, I was left alone in the room half dressed.  I think someone had barely covered me up, but I couldn't reach to finish the job.  

About then, a familiar looking young man walked into the room.  "Just checking on you," he said.  "I'm Nolan," he said.  Then his eyes went down to the floor as he quickly walked over to me and gently took the corner of my gown and snapped it at the shoulder.  "Yes, Nolan, I recognize you now," I say.  "Tell me your last name.  I've forgotten.  I had you in ninth grade English, didn't I?" 

In my mind's eye, I could see him sitting just a few seats up from my desk.  He was always a quiet, but respectful student.  It seemed odd to see him in my hospital room.  I felt so disheveled, so vulnerable.  My hair was a fright.  I had on no make-up.  I could barely form a sentence at that moment, let alone teach how to write one.  It seemed as if the tables had all been turned.  I was no longer the professional delivering services to my students.  I was now a patient, barely clothed, being attended to by a former student who was now the professional.

I apologized for my appearance.  I asked what he had been doing with his life.  I was happy to hear he had chosen to become an EMT and had finished the course of study.  All the time, I kept thinking how you just never know when one of those former students will show up.

Just before he left, I said, "Thank you for looking after to me today, and for checking on me.  I saw the concern in your eyes."  With a laugh, I added, "My husband has always says, 'Be nice to your students because you never know when they could be taking care of you in the hospital.'"  He smiled.  I then said, "I hope I was always nice to you."  His reply meant the world.  "Yes, Mrs. Wessely, you were always more than nice."

Respect for those we serve is best experienced on the receiving end.  I learned that lesson again when this young man's first move was to avert his eyes while he covered me up so I could maintain some measure of dignity in his presence.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pacing - Part II

Tonight, I sit at my computer cognizant of my inability to put together the post I really want to write.  There are too many pieces and parts to it, and I have not significantly put together the parts in my mind to create the whole.  As I think of how I am unable to complete a task that would have seemed so easy a few months ago, I become even more aware of how much healing my brain still needs in order to do what I once was able to do.  I would be very discouraged about realizing that I can't formulate a clearly presented post on the topic about which I wish to write if it were not for the fact that I am

 not being 

For three days prior to today, I was so dizzy I could barely function.  When I get those dizzy spells, or the accompanying headaches, I begin to think I will never be well again.  

The search for answers about my symptoms:
Since my head injury on the January 2, I have been referred to several specialist.  One was an opthamologist  who ruled out a visual mid-line shift.  I had never heard of such a disorder, but it turns out that this can accompany head trauma.  The good news is that many people can reclaim their lives once they are diagnosed with visual mid-line shift by being fitted with prism lenses.  The sad news is that many of our soldiers are coming home with this problem which could be fixed by these lenses, but they don't have the type of insurance coverage to take care of the lenses.  Without insurance the cost is prohibitive.  Even with insurance, the co-pays can also be prohibitive.  I have been told there are 20,000 returning soldiers in Colorado Springs who suffer from head injury trauma and/or PTSD.  The services they need are many times not covered by insurance.

The opthamologist who ruled out visual mid-line shift did diagnose a vestibular disorder.  He referred me to a vestibular rehab specialist.  I met with this wonderful therapist in Castle Rock, Colorado, which is about two hours from my home, on Valentine's Day.  I was given a very through exam, and I was also assessed as to my risk factor for falling, and for the severity of my problem.  It turns out I am at moderate risk for falling again.  I also have a pretty significant imbalance in my balance system.  The good news is:  It is most likely quite fixable.  The bad news:  It takes time, and it could get worse before it gets better.

It turns out I am "visually" dependent.  I use my vision excessively for balance.  Since my fall, I experienced "visual motion hypersensitivity."  This is one reason I can't spend much time on the computer, on my iPhone using apps.  This hypersensitivity also means I can't drive, do much reading, nor can I tolerate spending time in crowds, or shopping.  I told my husband that WalMart make me crazy because it is too visually stimulating.  She countered with the bet that I would have no trouble at Nordstroms.  (He may or may not have a point there.)   I just know that when I am too visually stimulated, I get dizzy.

What I learned about pacing
  • I cannot go to a high school basketball game on Friday night unless I plan on taking it easy the next day.
  • Walking along a winding path around a lake that reflects sunlight off its waves on a Saturday morning while watching the dog dart back and forth in front of my is extremely visually stimulating.  That is why when I became dizzy on a walk Saturday morning, I should have spent the rest of the day resting.
  • One who understands pacing, would not have gone to a dedication ceremony on Saturday afternoon after becoming dizzy just walking beside a lake.  I did not understand pacing, nor did I assess my true condition well, so I went to the ceremony.  When I looked up on the stage during the dedication ceremony to watch a power point presentation flash photos across a screen, I became so dizzy, I had to leave the auditorium.
  • Mingling with the crowd of friends who had gathered at the ceremony also is not a good idea when one is dizzy.  Crowds make one more dizzy.
I spoke with my vestibular therapist today.  She was helpful in helping me deconstruct the cumulative events that led to my three day dizzy spell.  

Pacing oneself is truly a learning process.  I love to walk along the river walk in our town.  I love to go to the basketball games.  I love to spend time writing and reading on my computer.  I love to socialize.  I love to be in groups of people.  Those are the activities that defined me in the past.  I also think that if I feel good one day, I can jump back in where I left off.  

I am wrong.  
I have more to learn about healing.

I love this quote that my vestibular therapist has hanging in her office:

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is PATIENCE
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

That lesson, the secret of adopting nature's pace, is not one I will learn easily.
Patience is a hard lesson for me to learn, and to practice.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

To My Valentine

For several weeks he has asked, "What do you want for Valentine's Day?"
"Nothing, really.  Just some little romantic thing," I say.
"What?" he asks, pleading for a better answer.
Since I can't give him a concrete answer, he takes me shopping.
He buys be two fleece vests and a new knit top.
Then, on Monday, he says, "I must slip away for a bit.  I have some things I must do."
This morning, after he had
fed the dog,
made the coffee,
fetched the papers,
I finally descended the stairs
ready to greet my dear Valentine and the day.
He hadn't noticed my gift to him on the chest in the living room.
"Oh, I was just getting ready to put your gift together," he says after opening his.
He then slipped out to the car, and walked in the house with a sweet, boyish smile on his face.
He carried a little romantic thing in his hands:
A package of cookies from the Cookie Lady
and a beautiful unique card.
"I thought the card was different and very nice," he says.
"Yes, it is very nice, and romantic," I say.

I don't want Hallmark to sue me, so I am quoting the card, I picked for him:

Every woman dreams
about the perfect husband -
someone warm and caring,
thoughtful and affectionate,
funny and sensitive, 
she often ends up with less.
Except me...
When I married you,
I ended up with a lot more.

This man that I married, 
is a treasure,
a gift beyond measure.
I don't know how I would have made it through the past two years without him.

God blessed me the day He gave me this special man to be my husband.

Without my husband's love, support, and care I don't know where I would be.
Thank you for being YOU, Jim.
Thank you for loving me.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Attempting to Learn A New Skill

Pacing - A New Lifeskill that I must learn

I am trying to learn to pace myself.  That will new a new skill for me.  Perhaps, I've never really been good at pacing myself.  I've been thinking about what the ability to pace myself would look like to me.

  • Pacing myself would require that I am able to realistically accomplish what needs to be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time.  I'm not sure that is even possible for me because I am a life long procrastinator who never started on a project or writing assignment in a timely manner.  Starting early on a project has never been my style.  I think I wrote every writing assignment I ever had at the last minute.  That meant I would stay up all night writing while I was in college.  It also meant I seldom had time for editing or re-writes. 
  • Pacing myself would mean I would have to plan ahead.  Unfortunately, I've never been real gifted in the area of planning either.  If you want proof of that, look at where I planted a lavender plant.  (This unlovely photo of a trimmed back lavender plant in winter was taken to remind myself that I must consider how big the plant will grow when planting next to a walkway.  This point was driven home to me after I planted a row of lavender next to the walkway and by autumn I could no longer find the stepping stones.  The lesson:  Plan ahead.  Consider how much things grow in a realistic way. Use a measuring tape if you must, but spacing must be considered when planting.

Lavender in winter
The next year, I had to take out the rock used as stepping stones 
and place them farther away from the plants.

New pathway next to the lavender

  • Pacing myself would mean that I must consider other factors when getting to an appointment on time.  I can't give myself the bare minimum of time to get somewhere.  Traffic might slow me down along the way if I don't give myself enough time to get to my destination.  I might get lost.  The list could go on and on.  Again, this is a life-long problem for me.  I'm one of those who runs in the door of an appointment at the last minute, or if I'm feeling especially time conscious, I might be a few minutes early, but this is somewhat rare.  Pacing myself is truly a skill I need to develop and practice.
  • Pacing myself is essential now that I seem to be doing better since my fall.  I can't just jump in and schedule a full day's worth of activities.  I can't do this because I will crash mentally and physically, and that will mean I will be worthless the next day.  Pacing myself is essential for my total healing.
If I had any doubt that the last statement were true, I learned it yesterday.  My day seemed like a normal day would be pre-fall.  
  1. I met a dear friend for coffee in the morning.  I actually drove the mile or two from home and felt quite thrilled to be able to do that.  I felt well, and I also felt grateful for the independence I was feeling.  Plus, I was really looking forward to some time with my friend from high school days.  We've only reconnected in the past year or so, yet we are so much on the same wave length, it felt good to just chat, and compare notes on life, retirement, and consulting after retirement.  The time flew by way too quickly.  It was great to be out and about again.
  2. For the past six months, I have been serving on a committee at the University where I used to work.  This committee is working on a project to get accreditation for the English language program that is a part of the International Program.  I was worried about being able to sit through yesterday's two hour meeting.  I didn't know how I would do in an academic setting which would involve thinking, reading, writing, and discussion.  I've been very unsure of my language skills since my head injury and have noticed some problems.  Thankfully, I was able to be a full participant.  I listened.  I took notes.  I asked pertinent questions.  I made suggestions that were well received and noted.  In other words, it seemed I held my own while I was there.  In fact, I was asked if I would consider working as a paid consultant on the project.  (I am considering the offer.  Would I pace myself if I took it?)
  3. My husband and I had an early dinner/business meeting with our high school reunion group.  We have been a part of this group for several years now.  The reunion that we planned was in 2010.  The reunion group keeps meeting because we love to get together, and we are working on a memorial for our former principal who was the first principal of the high school we attended.  We have commissioned a sculptural relief honoring him, and we are dedicating the relief and naming the commons area of the school after him.  The work on this all began prior to the reunion in 2010, and we are finally completing the project.  
When my husband reminded me of the dinner meeting, I gave out a big sigh.  I wanted to go, but I also wanted to put on my pajamas and sit quietly.  I probably should have done that.  A person who was realistic about being able to pace herself would have done that.  

I barely made it through dinner.  We had to leave early.  My head was splitting.  I could barely utter a cogent thought.  I had to close my eyes and not look at the oncoming lights from the cars from the road.  I came home and went to bed.

Today, I have done next to nothing.  Well, I did write this blog post.  I also went for a chiropractic adjustment.  That always helps.  I am suffering more from the whiplash effect of the fall these days than the trauma to the brain.  

As I rest, I remind myself that healing  involves learning how to pace oneself.  It means one might not be able to jump right back into a busy lifestyle.  It also means I must give myself permission to be gentle to myself and to be realistic when it comes to learning what I can and cannot do at this point in time.  

I am grateful, so very grateful, for my progress.  Now, I must not rush ahead of myself.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Healing Touches From Friends

“If you can make it through January, you can make it through anything.”
These words from my dear friend, who was quoting something her mother used to say, echoed in my mind throughout the long month of January after I suffered a fall down the basement stairs on the second day of the new year.  

I had such high hopes for January this year.  I was thinking of taking a class since I need some credits to renew my teaching certificate.  I was determined to spend much time at the computer writing.  I wanted to start my memoir.  On the first day of 2012, little did I know that after my head and neck injury,  I would spend nearly the entire month of January sitting quietly with my eyes closed through much of the first two weeks.  

I am happy to report that I made it through January! 
On the last day of January, which was also my youngest son's birthday, I celebrated 
Getting a Massage
Getting a manicure and pedicure! 

I want you to meet my two friends who have provided a healing touch to me for so long.  
I love these two ladies. 

Meet Monica 
Monica Suarez
Masseuse Extraordinaire
I have been going to Monica for massages for years.  She looks way too young to have been providing a healing touch to my life as long as she has, but I think I have been going to her for at least eight years.  Monica is truly a gifted masseuse.  She understands the body medically, and she seems to know exactly where I need work on my tight, knotted muscles.  She knows my problem areas, and she deals with them with great skill.  

Not only does she have healing hands, she has a heart and an attitude toward life that is healing and affirmative.  She is wise beyond her years.  She is all about family, tradition, health, and love.  She is the youngest child in a large family.  She honors her mother, and the memory of her father, her siblings, and her heritage.  As a way of passing on her love of her culture and heritage, she is teaching young girls, including her daughter, how to be folklorico dancers.  

Image from the internet
showing folklorico dancers
Monica is also a wonderful wife and mother.  Her job allows her to set her hours so that she can work around her children's schedule.  We share stories on family, gardening, and life in general.

Monica has seen me through some pretty rough patches in my life and in my health.  When my dizzy spells were at there worst, pre-head injury, this past summer, I nearly passed out on her table.  She knew just what to do.  

I was scheduled for a massage on January 3rd, so I went to see her even though I had just been injured the day before.  Wisely, we decided against the massage, but I was able to see the chiropractor where she works that day.  He has been such a good resource and practitioner for me also.  He has worked a lot with patients with head injuries, so between him and Monica, I know I am in good hands when I go in for treatment.

Truly, with my long standing problems with sciatica, lower back problems, and since  my first huge flare-up of major pain from stenosis in my neck a year ago, I don't know how I would continue to function without Monica.   Especially, in the past month, she has been invaluable in my journey toward health and healing.  If you live in Pueblo, and you need a good massage, call Monica!  

Love you, Monica.  Thanks for your healing touch in my life.

A girl is having a great day when she has a massage in the morning and a pedicure and manicure in the afternoon.  As I said earlier, I celebrated making it through January by visiting two of my favorite people.  You just met Monica.  

Meet Kerri
Kerri Bell
Head to Toe

Kerri Bell has also been a very important person in my life for a very long time.  Oh how I look forward to spending time with Kerri while she does my nails. I think we bonded in a special way the very first time we met years ago.  My husband found her for me.  I was looking for someone to give me a pedicure for the prom (he was a high school principal).  He told me of the mother of one of his favorite students, and the rest is just history.  Kerri has been doing my nails ever since.

Kerri and her friend Judy just reached a milestone when they opened their own salon together a few months ago.  I'm so happy for them.  The name of the salon is Head to Toe.  If you are in Pueblo, it is on Pueblo Boulevard right next door to Mi Ranchito.  They have created a warm, welcoming, soothing place to go to have your nails and/or your hair done.

Hair stylist
Head to Toe

Kerri and I have both shared some hard times together.  She has always been there for me.  I sometimes tell her that she is better than any therapist out there because while she does my nails, she also listens.  We have shared many a laugh, many tears, and have encouraged each other through the rough times in life.  If you want to know all the DRAMA in my life, you could ask Kerri what it is, but she wouldn't tell you.  She's loyal like that.  She listens, but she doesn't tell others.  Maybe that is one reason I love her so much.

Some may not care about getting a manicure, or a pedicure, but I love to have both.  When looking for a manicurist, I insist that I go to a place that clean, like crazy clean, and managed by professional people who take more time being caring and clean than in making money by pushing through as many clients as they can in a day.  This is just a basic in my book.  If I can also enjoy the atmosphere, the other stylists, the other clients, and my own manicurist at the same time, then I am really happy.  While Judy has never done my hair, I have come to know her over the years and look forward to seeing her and chatting with her as Kerri does my nails.

Kerri and I have shared some pretty funny times together.  I sometimes bring her tuna fish sandwiches and we have lunch while I soak my feet.  One time last winter we had a terrible snow storm and the roads were sheer ice because the temperatures were hovering around -3 F during the day, but I had an appointment for a pedicure and manicure that day, and I wasn't going to miss it.  

I walked into the shop in my UGG boots.  I walked out in sandals.  Kerri had already taken my keys, turned on my car to heat it up, and then she helped me to the car so I wouldn't slip and fall.  I was not about to mess up my pedicure by putting on my boots.  Mike, the owner of the shop she was in at time, said, "Your clients are nuts."   Nuts, maybe, but I had no time to let my nails dry, I had to drive across town to my real therapist.  Now, when I walked in her office in sandals, carrying my UGG boots, well that is the topic for another post.  

Love you, Kerri!  Thanks for commiserating with me during the difficult times, crying with me during my grief, being there for me when I need a friend who understands, laughing at my stories, and sharing stories of your beautiful girls and your wonderful new granddaughter with me.  Your life has blessed mine.  You are a very special friend who has always given me your healing touch.