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Archive for the ‘recovery’ Category

A few months ago while still healing from major injuries, I browsed through a stack of magazines, mostly untouched. However, as I shuffled through the pile, I noticed my church magazine, the pages already dog-eared, was opened to an article intended to be the next read. Interesting, I thought picking it up and noting the eye-catching title, “GRATITUDE,” then asking, “Was this a message for me?” Certainly, I felt gratitude. After all I was alive and recovering, and yet I was nudged at times with, “Poor me.  Angry me.  Why me?”  Perhaps I needed to ponder about gratitude a bit more deeply.

Written by a practicing psychologist who had researched the use of gratitude interventions in promoting well-being, he found that by interceding at appropriate times during counseling, thoughts of gratitude were helpful in treating depression and other problems. The doctor also advised that acknowledging thankfulness would be helpful to everyone’s mental health no matter how grave their situation. As a result of being grateful, we could all lead richer, fuller lives.

He also defined gratitude: a positive experience when we recognize gifts or blessings and feel thankful.  It sounded so overly simplistic, yet I continued reading.  Soon I began to reflect on this later portion of my life concentrating on the positive rather than the negative.

In my own defense I counceled me that I have always been prayerful.  As a child, my teachers of faith described prayer as like a sandwich:  a top and bottom piece of bread, or better known in addressing Diety as a beginning and an ending.  Inside of the prayer sandwich we were to express our thankfulness first.   “Before we ask our Heavenly Father for anything,” he explained, “we must always remember to thank Him for what He has given us.”  That could be the peanut butter portion of the sandwich.  The teacher followed giving thanks with permission to ask — the jam or jelly.   As an adult I have wondered if this pattern for prayer was a bit irreverent, but it is such a good pattern, one which I have followed all of my life, and long ago I put aside any thoughts of peanut butter and jelly when making supplication.  Perhaps now, I needed to be more outreaching in my gratitude. 

I recalled from the past that Oprah devoted the better part of a year’s programming to gratitude and journal writing. At the time, I too was caught up in the thought process of making myself more aware of blessings, but never kept a specific journal. Recently, in her magazine, Oprah admitted that through the years she had become so consumed with work there was no time left to write about the good happenings of each day. Reading from an old journal she recognized those great years from before, and commented on how happy she had been.

 The author of the “GRATITUDE” article encourages keeping a Gratitude Journal as well, with the purpose of recording several remembrances each week, but not just in list form. He suggested describing the experience, recording thoughts and emotions for the purpose of savoring and reliving what you had experienced.

In reviewing the past six years of struggling with Alzheimer’s, battling the war which is never won, I remember my friend, Madalyn, who had also battled the same war, until her husband, Darwin, died three years ago. “It wasn’t all bad,” she would tell me, and we often laughed about some of the funny things Alzheimer’s victims do and say. She reminisced about trips they had taken, visits with family which brought joy to her and momentary pleasantries to him. Her happier times with Darwin were similar to mine with Ken. These were all positive experiences: gifts and blessings recognized and thankfulness felt: gratitude.

When I came to the paragraph titled “Express Prayers of Gratitude,” I decided that would be my new beginning. As I continued my recovery in the quietness of my daughter’s home I reflected on being grateful for little things:   One at a time I could lift each foot, place it on the opposite knee and tie my own shoes, I could shower alone and I was beginning to feel confident once more. I wasn’t searching for big, dramatic epiphanies.   Deliberately, I looked for small things to appreciate because there are so many, and small blessings are often overlooked.  Every morning before I struggled out of bed I would look up at the ceiling — still wearing my neck brace and unable to kneel in formal address to Diety — close my eyes and offer a prayer of gratitude without pleading for any favors. (The favors could be requested in later prayers.) My morning prayers would be only of gratitude. I was amazed by the multitude of gifts taken for granted  for which I had to be grateful.

I have been home now for more than two months and my gratitude list grows each day. Ken’s Alzheimer’s is getting worse, but because of his caregiver, Ben, I have a sense of freedom. If I write for a few hours during the day, I know Ken is all right. Ben is with him, and I can nap undisturbed because Ben is here. I am grateful for Ben and for his relief, David. I am grateful for each new day, and my growing ability to actually help Ben with Ken. I am eternally grateful for family and friends. I won’t say I’m grateful for Ken’s illness, because I am not.  I detest this dehumanizing disease and how it has robbed us of so many good years. However, I am grateful for my coping mechanism, my compassion and awareness of others who suffer from Alzheimer’s and other devastating illnesses. I am grateful that through my writing I may help someone else; letting them know they are not alone in their struggle. I am grateful for Ken and the wonderful years we have spent together. Every so often, I see a spark in his eye and a smile. For a moment he is the man I married. Feeling gratitude and offering thanks each morning for all of this and more gives me strength.  Each day I can and will go forward into our daily battle, beginning with a prayer of gratitude.

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In early February I wrote a blog titled “This’ll either cure ya or kill ya”, https://annromick.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/thisll-either-cure-ya-or-killya-or/ about the importance of doing research regarding your own and your family’s medications. My husband started displaying psychotic behavior following a long period of taking and combining certain o.t.c. remedies and prescription medications.   I ended up weaning him on my own, which did temper the bad behavior.  He now takes only one pill for high blood pressure.   However, it is so easy to trust, believing that medical people are always right, but that assumption is so wrong.  Not only is it wise to be alert with what cures you take at home, it is even more prudent to challenge medical people if you end up in the hospital.  And most important — if you are unable to speak up for yourself, ask a friend or a family member to monitor your medications and progress.  A good watch dog may save you extra days in the hospital and just might save your life.

A week after the automobile accident of February 15, I was transferred from ICU and the trauma unit of one hospital to the CCU of my own HMO hospital.  While my family continued to hover over me, I was improving, which was the good news.  The bad news seemed to be the attitude from some of my HMO’s medical people. 

The disadvantage of my HMO (I don’t know about others) is that your own doctor — your primary care physician — is not part of your hospital stay.  He/she sees you only in the office, and while the doctor and patient may become very well acquainted, the doctor has very little, if any, say in your health care while you are confined to a hospital bed — nor does he/she ever come to see how you’re doing.  I suppose I’ve been spoiled by my former medical plans where my doctor’s daily visits were so beneficial.

The HMO doctors assigned to me were, no doubt, skilled in their profession, but appeared to be lacking in sincere concern as to my physical and mental well being.  It seemed the main focus was how quickly they could eliminate my need for being there, and how long would I have to remain before they were allowed to discharge me and ship me off to a convalescent/rehab facility.   They often made me feel as if my expenses were taken directly from their salaries.

Several days after being admitted, one of the doctors said to my daughter-in-law, Sabina, “We are going to send her to rehab.  I find no medical reason for her to remain here.”  Surprised by the declaration, and checking through a chart which she personally kept on my condition, Sabina listed all of my medical problems which had not been resolved, insisting they be addressed before I left.  ‘Do you want me to commit fraud?” questioned the doctor, annoyed at being challenged, but still not motivated to look into my remaining health issues.

That same afternoon I developed a terrible ache which seemed concentrated in the left side of my back.  With each breath, I felt stabbing pains.  Sabina discussed the new condition with Dr. Stubborn, insisting that the pain be checked, forcing the doctor into action.  I was sent for further examinations resulting in treatment.   Apparently, my left lung had been collecting fluid and needed to be drained with a tube inserted through the chest wall and attached to a drainage bag, plus another round of antibiodics.   Without Sabina speaking up for me, I would have been transferred to rehab with at least one serious medical condition.  Speaking up for myself was difficult because I wasn’t sure of my own medical needs making it easy for a medical professional to convince me I was perfectly all right and ready for the move.  I remained in the hospital for another week.

It was the same with medication.  One doctor would remove a drug, and if it wasn’t so noted on my charts, another medical person would want to continue the dosage.  “I know you aren’t familiar with the names of your medicines, so count the pills,” suggested Sabina.  “If there are more than seven, ask the nurse what each pill is supposed to do.”  That I could do, and I began my own questioning, even spitting out pills which had been discontinued.  I used the same system while at rehab, and many a time, the prescribed meds offered were no longer needed.

Fortunately, during those occasions when I was unable to speak for myself, I had an excellent watch dog.  Without Sabina’s voice challenging doctor’s decisions and being so vigilant in overseeing my medications, I could have slipped into a serious decline, and, at other times, would have been way over medicated.  None of the above is good for any patient.

Personally, I find it difficult to move on from the days when your doctor knew you and your family’s medical conditions as well as his own, and was sympathetic to your needs.  However, reality tells us that with medical people being pulled in so many directions in today’s world, and dictated to by the profit portion of  HMO’s insurance policy makers, those memorable days of yesteryear are gone forever.  It’s now up to us and our loved ones to be responsible for taking charge of our medical needs.  If something doesn’t sound right, speak up or have someone do it for you — it just might save your life.

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