Go Easy…


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Sometimes thinking about the past is appropriate, especially when you get news about someone that meant something to you, even if you haven’t spent much time with them in recent years.

Families are such slippery things–they are fragile and sometimes easily shattered. They also are defined by many different things, not just by blood. And often the ones that aren’t put together by blood can mean more. We define them ourselves.

When the some things that created them, like a marriage, dissolve, then they seem to disappear too–at least in the physical sense. But we may realize, especially at critical moments, they still linger within deeper parts of us; that these people who were once family are still dear.

So when I heard my ex-father-in-law is now in hospice, I found myself extremely sad. He was someone who had been very good to me while I was married. It’s been easy to recall so many memories of the kind things about him: his easy acceptance of our decision to adopt a HIV positive child, and his special love for her. And his overly enthusiastic attitude (and long conversations and questions) about my career as an EMT/Paramedic, something I didn’t always feel at home from his son. He loved the stuff!

I picture him as the typical unassuming New England man, quiet but always willing to help; that crooked smile, bald head and slight limp. He was my go to guy, always aware of what was happening with the weather, and loving to talk about it.

Maybe he’s not officially ‘family’ anymore, but in my heart he will always hold a very special place as he made me feel welcome and a part. I felt like family because of him.

Thank you, and may the rest of your days be easy…

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Hospice


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Had my training for becoming a Hospice Volunteer today. It was incredibly organized and informative. They don’t mess around–a bit different from the Soup Kitchen, I must say. Of course, it’s a whole different ball of wax. They depend on Medicare/Medicade  funding, so must tow the line, even when it comes to volunteers. We are dealing with patients, so have to follow the same guidelines that any healthcare providers do.

Luckily, having spent so many years in the business, I’m familiar with most of it–and how to deal with death and dying, and families, but it was great to get a brush up and hear their take on things.

The group was pretty big, with kids from high school right up to senior citizens. There was even another female paramedic! Only two males though, as the group was mostly women. It seemed like a really good bunch of folks willing to do a whole range of jobs. I wish I was more talented, so I could provide special things, like singing or music, but hopefully I will give something in my own way.

Once all my paperwork, tests etc. pass, then I’ll be clear to go around with a mentor and finally begin my own work with the patients. Some have no family of their own, but some just need extra. Many (most they said) have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease so might not recognize us from week to week. But that’s fine. As long as we can provide comfort of some sort.

I have some ideas of what I can do. And I’m honored to share this sacred part of someone’s life. To help give someone a good death is important. That transition can be so difficult, we must try the best we can to make it as easy as possible. For everyone: the patient and the family.

And so I step into this realm once again and take this journey with them, hopefully with something to offer.

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Poem : Unexpected 


Yesterday you were something 

 Strong and juicy 

Walking tall with strutting shoes

And clicking mind

Then life is sliced

Unexpectedly 

The switch is flipped 

And it’s not the same 

You are gone 

Somebody new has come 

Are they visiting 

Or come for good ?

Looking at them 

It seems like you

But new

Different 

And only time 

Will intertwine the two 

Doctor Doctor


With all the medical stuff going on in my life and in my Mom’s, I decided to make a quantum leap and step out of the norm and change Doctors. This is always an interesting decision to make, and sometimes hard, but in this case it was a piece of cake.

Since I have moved to this part of the country I have been even less impressed than usual with the health system. I’ve never been that impressed to begin with, but here and there one can find a decent provider. My doctor from where I moved had a relationship with me for 18 years or so, and while it wasn’t perfect, I did like her. She still was very traditional, but she did seem to care and listened…for the most part. But she had her great limitations based on the Western tradition of medicine.

Leaning toward a different way of life than most, and being an outside the box person, sometimes I test the patience of Doctors (and many people I meet). This is something I am not ashamed of, actually I’m quite proud of it, although I’ve come by this with some tough moments in life.

Being the odd woman out is not always easy and often leaves one feeling alone or odd, but I’ve come to embrace my differences and see them as good. And those that embrace me for them, I consider special and wonderful friends. And those special Doctors who understand that I don’t fit the mold of a ‘normal’ patient (and I don’t mean in this case that I have mental illness–although some may think I do)–I simply mean that I don’t embrace the typical style of medicine we see now…especially these days.

The more I am around Doctors, hospitals, providers and caregivers–the more I see folks that don’t much care about an individual, I see youth and immaturity, often rude and harsh behaviors, cut corners and people without true listening skills or compassion. Not always, but generally. It’s very, very disheartening. And when this happens with patients that can’t advocate for themselves, or don’t really know what to expect–it spells disaster.

Patients forget they are the customer and deserve the attention and care their money is buying. They feel that anything a Doctor says must be true because they went to school for so long and paid so much for their educations. But sadly, this isn’t always the case. We all have the right to question something if we feel, in our guts, that it isn’t right for us–even if a Doctor says it is–or even just to ask a question. It should be team-work, not a dictatorship. And there should always be a sense the Doctor truly cares.

So in this vein, I decided to find a new, more holistic approach to my health care. No more typical Western approach: sterile waiting areas, answering systems where no humans answer the phone, lost faxes and Doctors looking at computers instead of you. I’ve had it with this type of care! I remember the days when a Doc came to my home to see me. This is a far cry from those days…

A quick search found me a holistic Doctor right near my home. I called the office, left an easy message (there were no thousands of mailboxes I had to press 1 or 2). My message was answered the next day promptly, and I had a lovely conversation with the office person Carol the next day–we spoke for maybe 15 or so minutes about our respective lives! It was refreshing. And appointment was made.

When I came for the appointment, the office smelled wonderful: of incense and herbs. The office was lovely with beautiful music (not Muzak). My visit was one hour-long (a couple of times the Doc went out to see others) and we spoke about what the plan was for me and what I hoped to get from our relationship together.

I’m going to do acupuncture, herbal remedies and maybe some other modalities to help fix some chronic issues. Honestly, I’m really very healthy most the time, so I may not even see her that much. She respects that I may need to see some Western Docs for certain things, she’s cool with that for sure. And if I have a bone sticking out of me someday (hopefully not) that I have to go to any emergency room anyway. Of course! But she said she helps her patients getting ready for surgeries with special things so they heal faster and without scars.

I came away feeling very positive. Hey, 1000 years of Chinese medicine can’t be all wrong. And certainly I have not felt right about what’s been going on with my treatment thus far, so why not? Anything is worth a try. She seemed caring and positive and very attentive. I felt comfortable and peaceful.

And best of all: she spoke to me directly and not into a computer!

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Who Knows/Who Cares?


Sometimes we know too much, sometimes we feel we know nothing at all. Being empowered with information can be a good thing, or it can make us crazy with frustration when we see things we feel aren’t being done correctly or at least up to the standards we believe to be right.

This is the case with me as an ex-paramedic. I’ve had more than I’d like with the health care system lately and am completely discouraged with it all. There are plenty of things I absolutely do know about, and others that may be out of my scope of practice, but that I surely have enough information to sense when something seems out of whack.

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So when my Mom called again today to say she was having left arm weakness and tingling, only three weeks post heart attack/stent, I told her to immediately call the ambulance. She was reluctant given the bad experience we all had, but did what I asked. Thank goodness.

This is where my saga gets frustrating. Why does an ambulance take so long? Why can I take a shower and come from farther away and still beat them to the hospital, driving well within the normal speed limit? Seriously?

I mean I knew, having not even seen her, this could possibly be a stroke/TIA or another heart attack. A little speed on their part might be in order. I don’t get it. And don’t even get me started at the hospital. As soon as I saw her, the first thing I did was look at her face and asked her to smile. I noticed facial droop, but the nurse told me no she didn’t see any.

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Again I say: seriously? Who would know better? Her or the daughter? It’s nuts. Luckily the Stroke RN and neurologist (when they finally arrived, which wasn’t too fast), agreed with me. Wow, there’s a miracle. So the conclusion was, most likely a TIA (mini-stroke) which had mostly resolved itself by the time she had called me (which wasn’t right away) and they had gotten her to the hospital (they took their time).

Thank goodness it had resolved itself!

So why did it happen? Well, that’s the million dollar question. Most likely due to medication changes from her cardiologist because of the stent. Were these prudent? That I don’t know. This is where knowing too much/too little gets me in trouble. The bigger issue may have been being sent home from the 5 day follow-up visit after the stent because they didn’t think she was booked. They messed up there. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Who knows?

Does anybody know anything these days? Is it all a crap shoot? Does anybody care really when it comes down to it?

I’m really beginning to wonder.

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Wounds 


The wounds we suffer from an unexpected illness or traumatic accident or incident can go layers deeper beyond our physical being. The bruises, broken bones, scars, lumps or changes going on under our skin may be seen under a microscope or with an X-ray, but no one has a clue what is churning within  our psyche—sometimes not even us.

Certainly if an injury involves the brain at all, then it’s impossible to understand how we feel. Even a concussion can cause memory loss, depression and a host of other feelings the individual may not be aware are related to the injury.

We are such complex machines. We include part computer, pipes, motor, lenses and this crazy soul. If any one of these parts isn’t functioning, the rest limps along poorly. 

The odd part is that we may not even be aware something is wrong or unable to articulate what it is….

So in a system of health care providers that don’t care or are too busy to really pay attention, we are left with lots of people who aren’t being treated properly. If a patient is elderly or simply just too hurt or ill to understand what is going on, they will slip through the cracks and get poor care . 


So what do we do? 

I was one of these people a number of years ago after a horrific car accident. I had no clue just how brain injured I truly was at the time. I was a mess. Yes my physical injuries were bad, but the hidden mental, spiritual and emotional injuries lasted much longer.

Luckily I had friends nearby to help talk me off the ledge. My depression became cavernous. It snuck up on me. My memory was shattered for a while too. And the pain was like a lover that wouldn’t leave my side. It was dark times.


If we are lucky we will have an advocate  or at least someone who cares a lot and who still is in touch with reality when we are not. It’s hard to listen when our lives have been shaken and our bodies rattled. A part of us believes nothing will be right again.

But actually I believe these things actually do change us for the better. It’s like nature’s way of doing a rapid mutation, sometimes only lasting seconds, as in the case of my accident, but with everlasting positive effects.

 

Out The Door!


From a really bad thing came a really good thing. Today my Mom and I decided I should quit my job. As many of my long time followers know, I was really unhappy in that job anyway. From the beginning that position has been hard for me with difficult co-workers, rude doctors, unreasonable managers and unkind people in general. Not what I wanted in a new position.

I felt that when I moved here, that one priority was to be relaxed and enjoy my place of employment. Stress from years of working in the Emergency Medical field had taken its toll and I was ready for a big break. But admittedly I took the wrong position offered to me from a couple of offers. Figuring this was somewhat within my field and giving me the opportunity to meet more people and slightly more money–I jumped at this one.

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How wrong I was! Money should never, ever guide us, and I should have known better. And while I did meet some very wonderful friends that I hope to keep, the bulk of the folks there were more of the same uncaring healthcare ‘professionals’ that would sooner spit on you than help you.

So when the opportunity arose to help my Mom get well, you didn’t have to ask me twice to walk out the door. I didn’t even give two weeks, which is not my style at all. I’m not sure I’ve ever done that in my life! But with her health, their attitudes and my degree of frustration, I was out.

To my great surprise and gratitude, my boss was very kind and understanding about it all and even said if there was anything he could do he would. If there were more words like this, maybe there would be more retention there, but sadly he is not the one to talk to most people. It happens I go to him because he’s nicer.

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Sadly it’s the loud mouths that run the place who either pretend to be nice or just plain aren’t nice or have their favorites. Of which I was not one. And I am proud not to be! I’m always glad not to be part of the crowd that played games or is too afraid to say what I feel for fear of pissing them off. Bah!

Because I know in my heart what is really important, and it’s certainly not any of those silly folks who can’t walk their talk. It’s about family, real connections and honesty. And hopefully when Mom gets better, it will be time to find a new career. But this time it will be nothing to do with human healthcare!!

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Back Of The Queue


Having been in healthcare in the US for 20 years, I know what a poor system it is and how one must really know how to navigate within it or get lost. Plus one must be an advocate for ones-self or have an advocate, or simply get lost.

Luckily my Mom has me! The elderly in this country are forgotten about in more ways than one, and within the healthcare system is one BIG way. As a friend said: they get pushed to the back of the queue. No-one cares…not really. Many can’t speak up for themselves, have poor insurance (and we all know it comes down to money) and don’t really know what’s going on anyway.

But not only am I a healthcare provider, but I have a big mouth. A bad combination if someone isn’t doing their job. Hey, I’m the best patient  or advocate in the world, if the people are treating patients like they are supposed to do. That’s because I know what it’s all about: how hard the patients can be, the thankless hours, the endless paperwork, the nasty co-workers and crappy management/jobs. I get it all. So I tend to be very nice until you cross the line of not caring or not doing what you are trained to do.

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So when someone gets sent home and everything is still wrong, the person is still way too sick–we have a problem Houston! When the home-care RN comes and finds actual data to back this up and tries to call the Doctors and no-one returns phone calls…. well, you can darn well believe this ex-healthcare provider AND daughter is going to be making some phone calls herself.

And they ain’t gonna be pretty!

Come on people! Are you serious here? Is it really only about the money or what? Does anyone care anymore??

So after a rather FIRM, shall we say, discussion with the doctor’s secretary…she said in a very meek tone: hold on please. Oh, yes, I’ll hold on alright. And then I was put through…imagine that!

I finally got a PA on the phone. And finally some resolve. No, Mom won’t go back to the hospital…ever again as a matter of fact thank you very much thanks to all you people! No, that wasn’t an option. And I don’t blame her one little bit. But after much convincing, she did agree to go tomorrow (instead of waiting until Tuesday) to see her Doctor that did the procedure. Thank goodness… It took some doing because she’s fed up with everything, but I was firm with her too. There is just too much going on and she deserves more. I won’t let them turn their backs on this patient.

She was the boss for a long time, but I am now.

You can bet I’m going into that room tomorrow too. And this time, I’m calling the shots!

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Invisible


While I don’t like to admit it, I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older (and have embraced my gray hair) I’ve become invisible. In my younger life, I was never, ever an invisible person. Even when I felt then (unbeknownst to my then introverted self) that the crowds were getting a bit too much for me. Somehow I still stood out shall we say. My personality was somehow bigger than my small frame… even when I didn’t want it to be.

It was my big mouth I suppose: always standing up when I felt injustice was happening, or whispering an irreverence at inopportune moments. Or when I felt someone (preferably someone of authority) said something I felt stupid and needed to be put straight. Yep, I never held back, and usually got in trouble, bringing attention to myself and therefore was definitely not invisible.
Plus I was never, ever a follower. And in fact, usually a leader. Starting a trend maybe, like the first one to wear hot pants in my high school. To me, they were just cool. Or to bring cloth bags to the grocery store 40 years ago when everyone thought I was nuts. Or becoming a vegetarian about the same time because it simply made sense. And being the ‘class clown’ and ‘most inclined to argue’ also put me in the class of calling attention to myself–just like George Carlin so aptly said…Hey, look at me!

Did I need attention? I don’t know? I just know that I was an only child and loved school and my friends and loved to get into it with anyone who would participate in good debate or humor. Or I did some things simply because they made good sense to me and I believed they were right. It never occurred to me that not everyone felt the same way. In fact, it might be better if they didn’t.
So now that I’m 60, and suddenly a senior citizen–it seems so odd to say that because I still feel like a kid–and part of the class of people who most ignore. It feels crazy. Me, the person that most folks used to gather around and laugh with, or got yelled at, or who got sent to the principal’s office because I was so disruptive. Now I can’t even mange to worm my way into a conversation because it’s assumed I have nothing of value to say. It’s utterly amazing to me.

At least this is what I find among the folks where I work. It’s a mixed crowd of both young and middle aged…not too many my age. I’m in the hub where people come and go and I could just be a chair really. When they bring new people around, most times I don’t even get introduced. I find it rude really. The new gal that does my job in the evening is 27, pretty and has far more attention from folks (men and women mind you) fluttering around her in a couple of months than I do in nearly a year there.

Is it because our society doesn’t value age and wisdom? Certainly I have become less in need of the attention I once did. I’m more subdued and quiet and more observant. Maybe I don’t draw the attention any longer.

It’s quite interesting to watch the squabbles, the dances and cruelties. I’m proud to have joined the ranks of the wise ones actually. There’s humor sitting back while seeing those that make fools of themselves as I once did or listen to tales of woe and know how unimportant these things really are in the grand scheme of life.

I only hope I’ve taught my own daughters to treat their elders better than I am treated at work. And I hope I never acted in this way. We can certainly choose moments to be invisible, but no-one should make  someone feel that way. We all have the same rights to be equally colorful, vibrant and brilliantly seen.

Everybody Hurts


Everybody hurts. Bullies are often bullies because they are hurting. I found that out at work today.

A young gal is out for some time at work. She always struck me as rather dark…and I heard rumors. I never pushed because it’s none of my business. But my assessment skills are pretty strong from years in the emergency business, so I guessed she had a difficult personal life.

When she didn’t show up for work two days in a row, then 3 months of her shifts got posted…I guess I knew there definitely was a lot going on. But no-one is really talking. That’s not exactly true: as some of the rougher crowd surely complained about her just cutting out of work like that…I mean how could she!? Doesn’t she have any compassion for her co-workers? How bad could it really be after all???

That’s when I spoke personally to one of the folks I consider a bit of a bully. She told me she just can’t really understand people with issues ‘like that’…considering herself a ‘very happy person’. Ha, I thought! A happy person? Someone who goes around making fun of everyone in the joint, talking behind people’s back at every opportunity, being unfriendly to many and nice to others, pretending to be nice after saying mean things…??? No, that’s definitely not a happy person in my book. She just can’t admit it.


But as she spoke to me, she told me that her mother was just like that young girl out of work. The mother checked out on her children (namely this happy person) when she was young and she always hated it. Determined not to be like her mother, she appears to be a wonderful mom, talking about her kids all the time and is very devoted to them.

Yet in her heart, the hurt and anger still lurk deep within.That’s obvious. These things, when they fester, always leak out. So instead of dealing with them head on, they become like stones in one’s soul making it hard to empathize or show compassion to others. Anyone who may remind her the pain her mother caused her, or who may put her in a situation where she is comprised, she then lashes out. And to keep ahead of the pain, she stays a step before it by making fun of others to build herself up.

It’s a fairly typical scenario. I just saw the root of it today, so now she’s easier to understand. Sad really. She sees herself as nice and friendly because I believe that’s how she wants to be. But like anyone she was caught in the web of circumstance. It’s blurry embrace gripped her and made her be something of which she is unaware.

So then, it is my job to be kinder and more aware of the situation. To try not to engage and get frustrated and angry back. It’s not easy when a bully is on the prowl. Maybe now that I know what she needs is maternal love and attention, I can somehow discreetly send those vibes her way.

Maybe this then will help to fill the gap and help her toward some true happiness instead.