Thursday, April 30, 2015

throwback thursday

way back in about 1986
Maddie was looking through some photos I had posted online and found one of my kids and me in about 1986.  She identified everyone in the photo but one person, and asked me "Grammy, who is that?"  I told her it was me, and she repeated her question two more times in disbelief.

She finally said:  You're as little as your kids!
I said: well Maddie I was a lot younger then, and the kids had mostly gotten as big as me (with the exception of Wretch, who was about Maddie's age).  (No way was I going to comment on what she obviously meant, which was that I was THINNER.)

Then Duncan started in: that's you?  that's YOU?  THAT'S YOU???
Me: Yes Duncan it is me.
Duncan: You look like you need to be married.
Me: I was Duncan, to Gramps.  That's why I was as LITTLE AS THE KIDS...I got married when I was a kid...(sort of...I was 17).  :)
Gramps, me and some of the kids and grandkids in fall 2014
Link up any Throwback Thursday photos you would like to share, in the comments below.

...laugh, life is good! ~cath
find me @jonesbabie on Twitter

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

the week of living dangerously

The past week has been beyond weird for my family.  Specifically, for Stevie Wonder, Wretched Daughter and Grumpy Grammy.  It started out normal enough last Monday, April 20th.  But by Thursday it began to go downhill.  I'm going to share my week since then so that if you experience anything remotely like it, you will realize you aren't alone.

Thursday SW (Steve) told me he had another dizzy spell.  This had been occurring more frequently the past few weeks, but I remembered that he first complained of some dizziness months ago (I tend to file information like that for future reference).  I got really insistent (the kids say I am overbearing when I am like this and they are right) that he call his cardiologist on Friday and tell them what was going on.

Friday he did just that.  Fridays are my off days now, and so I listened as he dealt with it.  The doctor's nurse left a note with the doctor, and Steve paced waiting for the call back, which came late morning.  He was told to call the pacemaker clinic, who tried to access his pacemaker via the wireless machine that sits on his bedside table.  Only today, for some reason they didn't receive any next call was to St Jude's to talk to the tech, who told him the transmission had gone through.  More phone calls followed, and finally the nurse asked Steve if he needed to go to the ER, and of course he said no, he was fine right then.

Saturday, SW went with Wretch  to Wal Mart, and he had a spell so bad he grabbed Wretch's arm in the parking lot and bent over, which freaked her out.  He insisted on going in and shopping, leaning on a shopping cart (something he had never ever done before).  When they left, she called me even though he didn't want her to.  My response was simple:

Take him to the nearest after hours clinic or ER NOW.

Princeton Hospital lobby
Steve agreed and Wretch carried him to the nearest clinic to have his vital signs checked and be triaged.  The staff at the After Hours Clinic told him that since he was a heart patient with a pacemaker, he should to go straight to the ER.  Steve, being the cooperative person he was, said he would, but to Princeton Baptist ER in Birmingham, an hour away.  Deb was totally wretched now about what to do, and I told her that if his vitals were ok (blood pressure was somewhat elevated but he was not symptomatic) then to come home on their way and get me.  (This decision would be a pivotal one later that day).

I had been putting some color on my hair (of all days to do it!) and by the time they got to the house I was almost ready to go.  I was giving orders about medications, clothes, etc to pack, because I KNEW they would keep him.  Don't ask me how, I just knew what I felt the problem was after spending the time waiting on them reviewing all the odd signs and symptoms over the past several months.

Off we went to the ER, Steve quiet most of the way, until he said:

I feel worse today than I did the day they put the pacemaker in.

He could not put his finger on it, just a general feeling of unease.  I kept asking him different questions about how he felt, pain, etc.  Nothing but the feeling of just "feeling bad".  This hardened my resolve as we got to ER.  Within a short period of time Steve was on a bedside monitor that showed a normal rhythm being paced.  The physician's assistant came in shortly after that and had multiple tests run on Steve.  All were ok,  No odd findings and Steve was still feeling ok at this point.

Watching Steve, I still felt in my gut that something was not right.  Steve suddenly said:

I'm getting really dizzy now.  It's bad.

I jumped up and stood looking at the monitor while this happened.  AND I SAW IT.  What had been causing my gut feeling.  Steve's pacemaker was firing, but the ventricular lead was not causing a ventricular contraction as it should be doing.  So what I saw was several pacer spikes, with no heartbeat.  Then SW's heart kicked back in and he said:

Ok, I feel better now.

I stood there watching him and saw 4 more episodes happen.  A few seconds each, it caused Steve to become extremely dizzy lying perfectly still on the exam table.The PA came in, and when he indicated they would probably send Steve home because they couldn't find anything, I told him I didn't think so.  I described what I had seen.  The PA  told us he was going to talk to the ER doctor.  In a couple minutes the doc came in.  He was very kind (as all the staff had been) and listened to me.  I explained what I saw and he said he had looked through the last hour's strips and couldn't see anything like that.  I told him in a firm but polite voice that I didn't know what time it had happened, but that I was a nurse and  knew how a pacemaker was supposed to function, and THIS ONE WASN'T.  He smiled at me (a real smile, not a condescending one) and said he believed me, and that he would go look some more.  He said the tech from St. Jude's was coming to interrogate the pacemaker just to be safe, at which time I relaxed just a bit.  The doc left to chase the elusive pacemaker strip, and while I waited, Steve had the worst episode he'd had, his heart rate dropping to 28 and getting very anxious and dizzy.  I stepped to the door and hollered for the first staff member I saw (turned out to be another ER doc but I didn't know that) and I explained again, in a slightly less polite tone of voice, and thank god, this time I had a witness!  He listened to me explain briefly what had been happening, and I told him the episodes were getting more frequent and I was not taking him home until this was addressed.  He told me he would go talk to the doctor, and I waited again.

In just a minute or so the ER doc came in waving a paper and said "I found it!  You were right, and I also saw this last episode happen while I was finding this."  At this point I looked at him and said "I knew I was right, I've been reading monitors for 20 years, and the ER doc said they were moving Steve immediately to the ICU part of the ER and were going to externally pace him.

More tests, external pacing (don't let anyone ever tell you having your heart paced externally isn't painful), and an injection of Morphine and Versed into Steve's IV to calm him and help him rest. THAT lasted about 15 minutes, at which time he woke up, said he needed a shot of Scotch, and then made a ribald comment about me, at which the nurses at the desk laughed and asked if we needed the curtains drawn.  I told Steve sternly to BEHAVE or I would fix his pacemaker permanently myself.  He laughed and we waited....

He went to the CICU (Cardiac Intensive Care Unit) after the St. Jude's tech told me he thought the wire was fractured.  To test this theory, while SW was in the ER ICU, the tech turned Steve's pacemaker off briefly twice, and during those few seconds, Steve thought he was dreaming, but to us he looked like a dead person, skin waxy, eyes and mouth open and body jerking.  Wretch got through the first episode, but the second time I told her to get some fresh air and she left in tears.  I knew what was happening and the technology around me, and felt secure with the situation.  She just saw her daddy die in front of her.  Twice.

To cut things short, the pacemaker was defective for some reason, although Steve had been too vigorous with his activities and was told to take it easy on his left arm from now on by the surgeon who replaced the whole system on Monday.  Yep, Stevie Wonder had worn a 7 year pacemaker out in 2 years.  Not something the cardiology department saw every day.

By Monday I had also caught some bug and had a sore throat, ears that felt like they would explode every time I swallowed, and a cough that made me feel like I was coughing my lungs up.  But SW had a new lease on life, hopefully more than two years this time, and it was all ok.

I came away from this whole week feeling two things so deep in my gut that it was hard to deal with.

1. On Sunday, while we spent a long day together passing time, Steve took my hand during a moment alone, looked into my eyes and said "thank you for saving my life".
2. If I had not been a nurse, I would not have known what to say to the doctors.  They were good doctors, willing to listen, but my training helped me identify the solution and communicate it to them. If I were not a nurse, I would not have been able to put all the pieces together in my mind and realize what was happening.

You see, the heart can't be resuscitated with no electrical activity to sustain the beats.  That is what
fires the beats.  We live so far in the country that he would have died. even with CPR, long before any ambulance could have arrived.

Again I was left with deep feelings of gratitude, and of feeling that the reason I became a nurse goes much deeper than even I realized.
No, SW is alive and waiting for his first post op bite of real food is sweet; savor every moment. ~cath
find me @jonesbabie on Twitter

Friday, April 24, 2015

my last friday, friday reflection: why do i write?

This week I chose to use the question "why do you write?" as my Friday Reflections prompt.

It's no secret.  I write for my grandkids first, and family second.  That anyone reads my blog still amazes me.  I mean, how interesting can the things I write about be, really?  Unless you all read it for the same reason I read lots of blogs:

To get a glimpse of how you think, feel, and be a part of your world/life for a brief time.

I was reading blogs long before I was writing one (which is almost 5 years now).  I hope that when my grandkids are older, they read what I have written and say "oh yeah, I remember that!" and that through my words, poetry, and photographs they will remember me, and someday tell their kids about me.  I think of my blog as a series of letters, published publicly, but still so very much like personal letters I would write to them.

I feel that if I capture just a portion of my memories and daily life, then I have left something of myself behind.

As a child I used to think that only people with huge talent, who were creative and famous in their lifetime, really made their "mark" on the world.  Then I read about people like the artist Vincent Van Gogh (who comes immediately to mind), whose talent was not appreciated until after he died.  Now I am not intimating that I am that talented, nor do I expect to be noted for what I have created during my lifetime.  But what I did want was to leave some kind of stamp behind, something tangible that my family could touch, read, feel, to let them know I was here.

And so my blog happened.  I have painted since I was a child, and been a seriously amateur photographer for many years, but the urge to blog surprised even me.  As time went on and my thoughts meandered all over the place, I thought I would eventually run out of things to say.  I have slowed down a bit from that first furor to capture as much as possible of my thoughts, but I still feel the urge to write, except in times of great stress, when my brain just sort of shuts down.  Eventually, the stress passes and my thoughts start to flow again.  Life is dynamic, and so I realize even as I go through dips, that they will pass, and my thoughts will come again.

Writing, for me, is like the ebb and flow of life...

...and life is good. ~cath
find me @jonesbabie on Twitter

Saturday, April 11, 2015

sisterhood award and odds and ends about me

Recently (well, it's been longer than I realized) Janine Ripper (Reflections From a Redhead) nominated me for Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.  It's been a while since I participated in this kind of blogging camaraderie, and I have been working off and on to complete this for several weeks, as I adjust to a new job and some personal things going on in my life.  Here are my thoughts and answers to Janine's well thought out questions.  Thank you for thinking of me Janine!

Blogging is, for most people, an intensely personal experience.  It is like wearing your underwear on the outside of your clothes.  You feel exposed, worried, and anxious that your underwear will hold up against the scrutiny of the world.  It is also, in my belief, a form of self therapy.  By talking about things you feel strongly about, or have experienced, you go through a cathartic effect, and this helps you to better understand yourself.

So today I will experience catharsis as I reveal a bit about the me in Just My Thoughts.
1. Why did you start blogging? I started blogging because of a compulsive need to share a wonderful experience with my great niece and my sister (her Grammy).
2. What do you love about getting older? I still make mistakes, but I make fewer.  That must mean I have learned a bit from life as I have aged.
3. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?  Probably England, on a hill overlooking the sea, where I would drink tea and paint or take photographs all day.  (This comes from my obsession with Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which I first read when I was about 10.
4. Kids or no kids? There is no right or wrong answer.  For me, kids.  Can't imagine my life without them.  Because of them, I have something better than kids.  I have (drumroll) GRANDKIDS.
5. Where do you want to take your blog in the future?  My blog started out with a desire to share a family experience, published on the internet so that family would have access to it.  From there it went to the desire to record (mostly) family experiences, so that my grand kids would have something to remember when they get older and have grand kids of their own. I feel very passionate about leaving something tangible behind for my grands, so that the thread of love I feel for them will be their for their kids and grands to read and experience.  Having written for almost 5 years now, I have begun to feel the need to record more of my photography and haiku poetry for them.  This is the other side of me.  So I see my blog having more posts in the future aimed toward sharing my painting, photography and poetry.  I would still throw in an occasional blog post about a hot topic or current event/news.  My blog is always going to be eclectic.  It is the way I am.
6. Are you a folder or a scruncher?  A scruncher until the Catholic guilt takes over and then I fold as my mum taught me to...and say a couple Hail Marys to atone for the slip up.
7. What are you most grateful for?  Truly grateful?  For waking up in the morning, and starting each day as an opportunity to grow and learn.  I always wake up wondering....what's next?  
8. What are you most looking forward to in 2015?  I have a new job, some new training that may lead in another direction at the same time, and endless possibilities to experience new things.
9. What’s your favourite song? Why not share the you tube clip?  I have no single favorite song, but the one sticking in my mind right now, that I heard recently and downloaded is this one.
10. What is your guilty pleasure? Ice cream...specifically Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia.

Now it's taken me so long to reply to Janine she has probably thought I'd forgotten this lovely award. It was hard to choose who to nominate because I know so many awesome bloggers, but I chose a few and hope you will have a look at their blogs.  

So I am nominating:
Jerened's Blog who always leaves me feeling calm and centered

Joy and Mary, two other people who are part of my PBAU family:
Catharsis down to earth advice and life skills from a smart woman
The Adventures of Cilgin Kiz a woman with a true spirit of adventure

and a few blogs that are part of my PBAU family, and new to me:

Here are the ten questions:
1. How do you deal with stress?
2. Why did you write?
3. What do clouds mean to you?
4. Your favorite comfort food?  And why?
5. Do you have a favorite quote? 
6. Name one person who influenced your life and briefly tell why.  (Alive or dead.)
7. What one thing in your life would you change if you could?
8. Your favorite color and why?
9. Where would you live if you had a choice?  Why would you live there?
10. Why smile? is good. ~cath
find me @jonesbabie on Twitter

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

my too late friday reflection

By now, if you read any of the words I throw out on this blog, you realize that my writing doesn't have much of a theme, and I bounce around.  Which is ok, because that is the way I've always been.  I learn something, then move on.  For me, learning isn't about becoming an expert at anything.  The joy is in the learning.  One thing I am learning, and that the #Friday Reflection prompt supports and encourages me toward, is to take time to reflect.  Learning cannot impact your life if you don't stop to reflect that learning.  As far as I am concerned, if you wake up every morning and are breathing, you have the opportunity to learn.  That is why I chose the second prompt to respond to this week.  My Friday reflection is coming after a busy weekend with 3 of my 4 grandkids, with not much time for reflecting or writing.

I had some time to reflect, time to read a bit this weekend and think about the prompts as  I was racing around.  The prompt that resonated with me the most was the second one:
What is the most influential book you have ever read?

That is a hard question to answer, because there is no one book that has influenced me the most. That would be an impossible task.  I thought about this all week as I transitioned from one position to another in the organization I work for, and decided I would have to share a few, maybe three or four.  I could easily list 25 or more, but this is supposed to be a prompt for a post, not a novel.

Byzantine icon
The first book I remember was a coffee table book of art history.  I don't remember the title, but it was one of those beautiful, large, printed books you display on your coffee table when you want people to think you know something about a subject you know nothing about.  This book was located next door, on our neighbors' coffee table.  Frannie and John were good friends of my parents, with John and my dad stationed at the same Air Force base.  While the adults played pinochle in the dining room, I sat in a living room seldom used (back in those days we had dens, or family rooms, where the TV was located and real life occurred).  I couldn't have been more than 8 or 9, and was already drawing. What that book did was show me what art was about, the creativity of artists through the ages.  Where I saw my first Pieter Bruegel, Jan Vermeer, Michelangelo Buonarroti and so on.  My strongest memory was of my amazement in the difference in art periods, and especially from the Byzantine period to the early to late Renaissance.  My love of Impressionism and Modern Art came long after that first book, but what that book did was show me world history through the eyes and hands of artists.  I can still close my eyes, and feel the smoothness of the pages as I carefully turned them.
Pieter Bruegel

The second book I think about is one that was required reading during my Baccalaureate program in nursing.  From Novice to Expert: Excellence and Power in Clinical Nursing by Patricia Benner, PhD in 1984, it was a thin volume, and I started it with the intentions of getting through it because I had to.  But soon found myself taking in every word as I read about the acquisition of skills and experience in nursing.  Written for her dissertation by Dr. Patricia Benner, a nursing theorist and academic leader in nursing, it had such an impact on my understanding of the experience we gain as nurses, and how we go from being greenhorns straight out of nursing school to expert practitioners.  Benner's theory and research was qualitative, rather than quantitative, and she has been criticized for that, but I have found that the model she provided describing the acquisition of skills through experience have been mirrored by my own practice and transition through the five stages she described.  That particular book was a priceless gem to me as a nurse.

The third book I think about is the book that I enjoyed with my last baby.  Or rather that she enjoyed with her grandmother, my mother in law.  The Grown-Up Day, written and illustrated by Jack Kent, was written in 1969 and acquired by me for my children somewhere along the line, when I was collecting books for them and 45 singles for me.  Reading and listening to rock and roll were two things we did almost every day in my house.  I think that is a solid foundation for any kid, and it paid off with mine.  But The Grown-Up Day belonged strictly to Ma and Deb.  She was barely speaking when that became her favorite book, but after sitting in Ma's lap (we lived right next door) every day and hearing the book a thousand times, Deb had it memorized.  Ma would turn the pages as Deb recited it from memory, making it appear that she was some child genius who could read at the age of two.  What I learned from that book is that books have a way of connecting us as human beings.  They are a way of spanning the gap of generations and passing along knowledge.  As well as love.  That book was the love between a grandmother and her grandchild, and the joy it brought them both is something that I have never forgotten, even though that baby is 36 now.

And that is how books have influenced my life.  One at a time, each carries a message, and is an opportunity to go to a new place, learn new things, think new thoughts.  To expand our minds, and connect as human beings.

...laugh, life is good. ~cath
find me @jonesbabie on Twitter