Crying “Uncle!”, or You Know What, I’m Just Done.

“Hey, how’s it going?”

Such an innocuous set of words aren’t they?  We ask them casually to friends, family, acquaintances alike.  We expect the same answer, or variations thereof: “It’s going okay.”

Guess what.  It’s not okay. I’m not okay.  I am ‘stick a fork in me’ done. This is My Own Little Soapbox after all, so you’re just gonna have to listen to me vent, kvetch, or as my Dutch grandparents or in-laws would have said, “brommen”  (grumble, growl, drone, mutter).  My grandfather’s usual context was to tell us to “Quit your brommen.

A month ago our youngest nearly died.  She was dying, actually, and her body was shutting down.  She spent five days in the hospital, most of that in ICU.  In medical terms she was mildly hypothermic, hypovolemic, in septic shock, and suffering severe DKA. In terms we all can understand she was cold, like under 90 degrees cold, severely dehydrated, and had a rare strep infection in her blood.  The DKA is a complication of diabetes wherein your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose, and the fat-turned-energy leaves an acid called ketones in your blood. Too many ketones and your body pH drops and you become acidotic.  Her pH was 6.8.   A nurse said they have a little saying about low body pH: Under 7, they’re going to heaven.

She had lots of fluids, IV antibiotics, lots of electrolytes, insulin, sodium bicarbonate — at one point there were EIGHT IV infusion pumps running at once and she was intubated to keep her body from quitting completely.

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That was April 5. She pulled through and came home.

Last week Sunday we went to the emergency room because she has a spot on her leg from an intraosseous needle inserted into her shin — yes, straight through the bone into the marrow — that wasn’t healing very well.  She had one in each leg, by the way.  I thought it may be a little infected.  I called an Urgent Care and they said if she needed IV antibiotics they would send us to  Emergency since they can’t administer those.  Okay, ER it was.

The PA-C and a doctor both looked at her leg.  Both determined it was ugly, slow to heal, but not infected.  Now can we address the severe belly pain she’s had for nearly 2 weeks?  A routine urinalysis showed she had a UTI and  bladder infection.  I am my daughter’s Patient Advocate.  She doesn’t like to make a big deal of things, even when it’s a big deal. She was downplaying the pain, and I knew it. She was in tears. I requested an ultrasound just to rule out any other problems.  (I was thinking appendix or ovarian cyst.)  My request was ignored.  We were sent home with 7 days’ of oral antibiotics for the UTI.

Wednesday evening comes and the belly pain had not let up, and was actually worse than before, she said.  It was after 9:30 pm, so back to Emergency we go.  I was thinking they’d give her a prescription for some stronger pain meds and we’d be on our way.

Did you know that Emergency departments of larger hospitals have different rooms for different levels of “emergency”?  When our girl was brought in a month ago, she was in a Level 1 Trauma Room.  They are huge to make room for all the staff that needs to be on hand to save a patient’s life. There are Observation rooms.  These are decent sized spaces, and away from the noise of the rest of the ER.  Patients who need to be watched for a few hours come here. For example: sudden onset of pain after surgery or chemo, or other procedure, a runner needing hydration after race.  They need help, but won’t be admitted.

Then there are the “you’re not bleeding, dying, broken, shot, stabbed, and otherwise look pretty good, and we wonder why you’re here” rooms. The “Let’s read all of War and Peace while we wait” rooms.  That’s where we were taken Wednesday night.  O, I failed to mention they are not private in any way, shape, or form.  This room was semi-private so we could listen to the other fella in the bed next to hers have conversations with his friend who brought him, the staff, and hear the multiple episodes of Law & Order he watched.  Yes, multiple — remember, the theme of these rooms is “hurry up and wait,  and… wait.”

Around 12:30 am it was decided that she should have a CT scan.  FINALLY! Also by this point they decided she was going to be admitted for DKA — and we didn’t even come in for that! What seemed like ages pass and they take her down.  No, they don’t know how long it will take to get results.  At 2:24 am Thursday morning she is finally brought up to the ICU — again.

Neither of us was prepared for an inpatient stay.  We’ve learned to pack a hospital bag in 10 minutes at home before coming to the ER just in case she gets admitted. We didn’t have blankets, comfy pants, phone chargers, my tablet and headphones, eye mask, or earplugs — nothing!

Around 4 am all the staff finally leaves the room so we can get some rest.  It takes that long to get IVs started, meds ordered and brought up, vitals taken (again), EKG monitor pads affixed, the same questions asked with the same answers given, the IV infusion pumps attached to pole, set and running.  And my girl is still in pain because they haven’t given her much to control it.

Daylight comes bringing a shift change, more questions and the results from the CT scan.  It shows she has a kidney infection with a possible abscess on it.  She will be staying for a couple more days, at least 2, until they can scan the kidney again to check on the “spot.”

This news induces a wave of tears, anxiety, stress and fear.  I’m too exhausted to feel all the rage I want to knowing we could have been 3 days ahead on healing if they had just listened to her mother on Sunday!

What brought me to tell all y’all about this?  Thanks for asking.  I was supposed to join my friends for a group run Saturday (yesterday) morning.  I fell asleep in the recliner in the hospital and didn’t make it.  It turned out that wasn’t so bad after all.  She got discharged and we left the building around noon. If I had been running I would not have been able to take her home.  Sidenote: I slept all 3 nights in the hospital with her, if you can call what I did “sleeping.”

My plan was to run today.  I’m training for a 25K that is next weekend, and a marathon the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. My plan was 22 miles. My goal was to be out of the house around 2 pm.  That came and went.  I ate, drank water, started getting my gear together.  I wandered around because I can’t focus.  My head just wasn’t in it today, certainly not my heart.  The straw that broke the camel’s back?  I couldn’t find my headphones, and I couldn’t remember where I had put them.  I couldn’t find my new bottle of electrolyte capsules either. I would need both to survive 22 miles on my feet.  It was now 4:45 pm and I called it.  “Uncle!” I said to my husband.  I just can’t today.  And now you know why I am ‘stick a fork in me’ done.

Tomorrow is another day.

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As for more tomorrows, our daughter is now a legal adult.  She has over $30,000 in existing medical debt.  These last two inpatient hospital stays have not been added to that total.  Please read her story, and consider a generous contribution to help save her future before it has a chance to really start.

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Come Thou Fount

Tears. Unexpected, streaming tears. Sweet, cleansing, purposeful tears. Washing, joy-filled, releasing tears. The kind that catch your breath and leave you speechless.  It was just what my weary heart needed today.

 

Come thou fount of every blessing

Tune my heart to sing thy grace

Streams of mercy never ceasing

Call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet

Sung by flaming tongues above.

Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it

Mount of thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my  Ebenezer

Here by thy great help I’ve come

And I hope by thy good pleasure

Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger

Wand’ring from the fold of God.

He to rescue me from danger

Interposed his precious blood.

O that day when freed from sinning

I  shall see thy lovely face.

Clothed then in blood-washed linen

How I’ll sing thy sovereign grace.

Come, my Lord, no longer tarry

Take my ransomed soul away.

Send thine angels now to carry me

To realms of endless day.

O to grace, how great a debtor,

Daily I’m constrained to be.

Let thy goodness like a fetter

Bind my wandering heart to thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love

Here’s my heart, O, take and seal it

Seal it for thy courts above

I have loved this hymn since I was a little girl.  The melody is simple and almost poetic.  I want it played, or sung, or both, at my funeral some day, many, many years from now.  Lord willing.

An Englishman, Robert Robinson, went to a revival with the intent of mockery and heckling attendees.  Instead his soul was touched and three years later he gave his life to  Christ. In 1757 or 1758, he wrote this hymn while preparing a sermon.  Two hundred fifty-nine year later the words are still moving within the hearts of those who will listen.

And listen, won’t you?

The Family Tree Grows

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I’ve been working on my family tree since Christmas.  Here is a little update on what I’ve found.  I have found it to be fascinating (like seeing an actual copy of a great-grandfather’s 1917 draft registration card with his own signature on it) and frustrating (like painstaking time spent translating Dutch to English with Google Translate).  I can now recognize the Dutch words for birth, died, married, none, municipality (of), female, male, year(s), month(s), father, mother, bride, groom.  I can read most of a Dutch birth, marriage or death record and get the gist of it.  Deciphering the handwriting though — well, that’s something else completely. Totally random, but remember the Burgermeister Meisterburger from the 1960’s stop-motion movie Santa Claus is Coming to Town? He was the cranky fat man who outlawed all the toys.  Okay, so a Burgermeister (pronounced: bur-ger-mice-ter)  is a real person.  I mean, it’s a real thing.  He was basically the village clerk keeping the official records. 

~ I got a hit on my DNA with a possible distant relative.  It seems we share a common ancestor 5 generations back on my tree, or what would be one set of my great-great-great grandparents; 3rd or 3x great-grands.  This “match” appears to be closer to my parents age.  I’m guessing based on the number of branches that follow after him (3: kids, grands, great-grands) compared to my own (2: kids, grands).  I understand the website’s need for privacy for family members still living on the trees built on the site, but it would be nice to have some names and birthdates for what seems to be a 4th Cousin. All I can see is PRIVATE in box after box after box.

~ 4 new babies have been born and added in the last month from one First Cousin and then two Second Cousins. Thanks to Facebook I saw the announcements. People don’t mail birth announcements anymore, do they? One thing hasn’t changed, and that’s the tragedy of newborns who don’t survive. Medicine and NICU have come so far and despite all the interventions some babies just aren’t strong enough to overcome.

~ 1 mystery was solved regarding a Nellie, who wasn’t illegitimate after all (WHEW!) just in the wrong place.  When a repeated first name shows up and you don’t know if the last name given was her maiden or married name it can get confusing. The 1800s are rife with repeated and reused names.  It was not unusual after a child died to name the next one born the exact same as their dead sibling. And unlike George Foreman who did name all of his boys George I, II, III, IV and V these people didn’t specify which one came first or second.  I spent some time digging through Dutch records to find out who she was. This Nellie was wrongly placed on the tree under her married name.  Once her maiden name was figured out I just had to make sure her parents were correctly listed. If you don’t remove the wrong ones your relative would hang on two separate branches and then things get really messed up.

~ Four (so far that I know) have served in the US Armed Forces during WWII, Korea, and peacetime between and after that. My great uncle (grandfather’s brother) served as a clerk in the Marine Corps from his enlistment in April, 1943 until April, 1946 achieving the rank of Technical Sergeant. I didn’t know he was in the military until I was in my 20’s and I saw his USMC tattoo on his arm. My mother’s brother served in the Navy after Korea in peacetime. He spent time in Japan.   I wonder if my very straightlaced uncle has a Navy tattoo hiding up his sleeve.

~ A 3x great-grandfather (Albertus, b.1818) was married 4 times and had 11 children. Four of whom died between birth and age 6.  Sadly each of his wives saw one of her children die.  I’m thinking he must have been wealthy or how could he be in his mid-40s (somewhat old in that era) and marry a young woman.  The eldest child was born in 1844; the youngest in 1878. I have not found out if any of the later wives had been widowed, or had children from previous marriages.  Finding them would be a curiosity, more than a necessity.

~ My 2nd great-grandfather (Karst, b. 1844), the eldest son of the one I just mentioned, was married twice and had 10 children.  Likewise he and his first wife suffered the loss of two young children; a third died at age 30.

~ A 1st cousin 2x removed [my grandpa’s 1st (half) cousin — I’m 2 generations away so that make it 2x removed — or also: 2nd great-grandfather Karst’s grandson through his second wife — you know in case you weren’t confused enough already] was an international champion billiards player (who I knew about, just didn’t know what branch he hung on). He served in the Army during the Korean Conflict.  I don’t know if he saw combat.  He died at age 37 of cancer.

~ And to make this 2nd great-grandfather’s legacy even more interesting we have this: With Wife 1 he had a daughter called Nellie (her given name was Lummigje); Wife 2 had a son called John with her first husband.  John and Nellie, he was about 17 and she 13, became step-siblings in 1892 when their parents married.  They got married to each other in 1897. He was then about 22 and she was just shy of 19.

The biggest scandals would prob’ly be the folks who left the Dutch Reformed Church for the Christian Reformed Church (yes, that really was a big deal), and a couple of shotgun weddings in the 1800s.

Some thing I have come to realize was the importance and necessity of marriage for the females of the time.  Women couldn’t work enough to support themselves.  Men needed a wife to take care of house, home and children, and if she died there was no one to do that job. Men had to remarry in order to have someone help raise the children left behind. All this makes me wonder how ‘blended’ families from the 1800s got along. Think about it: eleven children with an age gap of 34 years from oldest to youngest.  Did the sons from Wife 1 feel more entitled than the ones who came later? Did the younger ones even feel a familial bond of any kind with the siblings who were old enough to be their own parent? Maybe the concept of family was different when second cousins and step-siblings married each other. Today is just seems kinda creepy.
The digging for more family roots continues.

Learn something about yourself: Volunteer

This week a world renown “radically open art competition” opened for its 7th year in my hometown. This isn’t going to be a critique on art, the art on display or the competition. I know what I like, what draws my eye and spurs my senses and invokes a reaction — good and/or bad. I don’t know enough about art to try critique it; but be highly critical, oh yes. This is about something else entirely.

Over the last months and year I have re-learned something about myself: I like to volunteer. I like to be a Volunteer.  ArtPrize needs hundreds of volunteers. This is also the time of year my body decides it wants to start hibernation mode with the shorter daylight hours and cooler temperatures. I signed up because I think volunteering is fun (yes, really!) and to force myself to get up, moving and out of the house for something I can’t put off.  I worked three 3-hour shifts this week with several more planned over the next two weeks.

One of the better parts of volunteering for a large-scale event like this is there are many different areas in which to get involved.  This also means it provides a lot of opportunities to people watch, and even talk to some of the people you see.

Yesterday I had the privilege of hosting a drop-in art studio — open to all ages, not just children — in a building which had been a display venue the last six years. This year it, and the most popular outdoor space did not have any art entries — at all. There was a man working as a greeter and disability awareness advocate in the same lobby. During a lull for both of us he wheeled himself over to introduce himself. He was David.  We began talking about ArtPrize, and some of the comments he had been getting from people.  He spoke with much passion about how disappointed he (and many others) were that there wasn’t art in this building, in the outdoor space next door, or in the river — all of which have had something on display all 6 years prior. He was clearly irritated at this oversight, or lack of participation and the disappointment it was creating. And the confusion!  Oh, the confusion!

I don’t recall exactly what I said to him. I did mention I was glad there wasn’t anything outdoors next door as it was one of the only places people would come to see any art and not go explore many other venues at all. I told him I had overheard someone, who I presumed worked in the building, say that a renovation project was planned, and said I guessed the building owners didn’t want to have construction dust and debris become a problem for any of the art or artists. We parted shortly after this brief chat and I didn’t give our conversation another thought.

David came back over to me just before he was set to leave. I thought he was going to say a friendly good-bye and be on his way. He did not.  He apologized. Apologized! I was instantly confused, as he had not offended me, or been impolite or rude in any way.  He wanted be make sure things were “okay between us” before he left. In my stunned disbelief I don’t remember how he put it, but it was to the effect of being sorry about his opinion he expressed earlier.

It wasn’t necessary to apologize for speaking his opinion, and I told him so. Going on, I said that I was not offended in any way.

He has a right to his opinion, and people may not always agree with it, but that’s what makes it an opinion.  I am not easily offended when someone shares their opinion.  What does that say of me, and more importantly, of so many others he has interacted with?

Indeed, what does that say of our society when one man can not safely express his thoughts and feelings without fear of backlash or retaliation? I told David I try to avoid controversial debate, in social media in particular, as it usually devolves into someone calling others names. I’m sorry but you’ve completely invalidated your entire argument as soon as the middle school version of you stepped out and called me Stupid. Actually, I’m not sorry.  If that’s the only and final argument you have to a debate then I know I’ve won.

Carry on, David, with your opinions.  Let’s hope we can relearn civil discourse before it’s too late.