Sunday, September 29, 2013

It has been a really dreadful week

It's taken me a week to work up enough energy to write this post. Even then, I still feel so blindsided by life that I am copying, pasting, and editing something that I wrote to one of the mailing lists a few days ago.

The long and short of it is that a week ago today, both my mother-in-law and my dog passed away. We had our hearts broken twice in the space of one hour. Here is the timeline.

On Friday, 9/20, we got a call from my sister-in-law (my husband Mark's sister). My mother-in-law's health, which previously had been pretty stable, was suddenly failing acutely. Hospice, which is a service dedicated to end-of-life care, had been consulted and a hospital bed was being delivered to my MIL's house that afternoon. This all started happening so abruptly, everyone was blindsided, even my sister-in-law who lived nearby and saw her daily.

During the course of the same week, my little elderly Chihuahua, Mini, started showing signs of a reduced appetite. But until Friday, every time she seemed uninterested in food, I found something different that she WOULD eat.

Friday night was the time that I couldn't get Mini to eat anything but some nutrient gel from a feeding syringe. So it was time to see the vet.

We visited my mother-in-law on Friday night, and she was lucid enough to know everyone who visited. If we spoke to her, her responses were clear and made perfect sense. But her breathing was terribly labored and she was incredibly weak. It was clear something major was wrong.

On Saturday, 9/21, I took Mini to the vet. He diagnosed an infection and gave me meds, plus an even more potent nutrient gel to feed her. Then we went to see my mother-in-law; she slept through most of the visit thanks to the meds she was on. They'd had to provide morphine as she was getting extremely agitated and increasingly confused, trying to get out of bed even though she hasn't been able to stand unassisted in about seven years. She couldn't get comfortable and she was really having a hard time, so the meds were a necessity, but sadly that meant we couldn't really interact with her anymore.

On Sunday morning, I got up to find that my dog had taken an abrupt downturn. But I was able to get food and medicine into her. We went to Mass. Upon coming home, we saw that Mini was even worse, so we headed to the University of Pennsylvania emergency vet clinic.

At about 2:05 PM I was in a consultation room discussing Mini's condition with the vet, wile Mark remained in the waiting room. She said an emergency bloodwork showed Mini was in acute renal failure, and there was no real hope for Mini to have any more quality of life. As this news was being broken to me, Mark appeared in the doorway, and I gestured for him to come in. He said "Mom died." His sister had just called; my mother-in-law had just passed away at 2 PM. So of course we hugged as I reacted to this sad news.

Then I gave the vet a quick explanation of the fact that we actually had TWO family crises simultaneously: my mother-in-law's failing health and the dog's extreme sickness. I swear, I thought the vet was going to burst into tears right in front of me. Here she was, most likely doing the hardest part of her job (telling a pet owner their beloved pet has no hope), and suddenly she was witnessing the pet owners getting a massive amount of OTHER bad news right at the same time. God bless that nice vet -- it was clear that she cares a lot about both the pets and the people who come through the emergency clinic.

But the fact remained that there were no medical answers for what Mini was going through. So we made the merciful decision to have her put to sleep. Mark and I were with her right through till the end.

But between 2 and 3 PM on 9.22, the world lost my mother-in-law, a sweet, kind, loving woman, someone whose devout faith made her en even NICER person. And the world also lost a tiny little bundle of pure affection. I don't think I know which end is "up" right now.

Mark made me smile, though, when he said, "I bet Mini waited until Mom went first, so she would have a lap to sit in." I just bet she did. My mother-in-law loved people and animals, and Mini took her calling as a lap dog VERY seriously.

Anyway, do please send some prayers my family's way. We could all use it.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

A Brace for Everything, and Everything in its Brace

I have amassed quite the collection of medical supplies over the years. Knee injuries have inspired me to procure some knee braces (with open patella, thank you very much) in the event that either the knee is hurting, or I've aggravated it severely in some way. I've had a couple of near-redislocations over the years since the first, disastrous injury; when that happens, the knee is sore as sin for several days thereafter. Anyway, I have a couple of kinds of knee brace as a result of this.

Then there are the carpal tunnel symptoms. Result: two wrist braces for when THAT acts up.

I had some serious repetitive-stress injury pain in my elbow about three years ago. I STILL don't know what was causing it, but in the weeks before it finally cleared up, an elbow brace proved to be helpful.

I *still* have serious pain some days in my thumb area (the region between the wrist and the first thumb joint, in both hands. Hello, thumb splints. That seems to help.

Finally, I have been experiencing chronic ankle pain in the past few months. It's actually a part of the reason that I went back to the gym, as I was concerned that the extra poundage was the source of the ankle pain. Well, some of that poundage is gone, and all the walking I've been doing has surely strengthened the muscles somewhat by now. But both ankles do have an extensive injury history, so I've come to the conclusion that this soreness might require a bit more effort to resolve than merely losing weight (which I'll continue to do anyway). So now I have invested in two neoprene ankle braces. I'll wear THOSE on the treadmill and on painful days, and see if that helps matters any. Can't hurt, might help.

But the long and short of it is, I have more freaking braces in this house than the nearby pharmacy. Good grief, lol.

NASA TV, Dark Tower, and Teaching

Tech rocks. I was just able to watch NASA's latest launch online with their app. The rocket might have been visible in the SE sky, but light pollution like we have in the city leaves me thinking that we'd have been hard-pressed to see it, at best. So I figured that I *really* wanted to see the launch, heading to the Internet was my best bet.

In other news, I have finally gotten around to reading Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. I started the fourth book last night. I am kicking myself for coming so late to the party, starting the series ten years after SK completed writing it. On the other hand, I was very glad indeed to be able to *instantly* start reading the fourth book, upon reaching the stupendous cliffhanger that ended the third book. Fans who read the third book at the time of its publication, and then had to wait in suspense for the next installment, must have been tearing their collective hair out. I had no such issues, as all I needed to do was tap a couple of Nook menus. Bingo! Instant book. (Which I was then up into the wee hours reading, because I was DARNED if I was going to be able to sleep until I saw how the story played out.)

Still more news: I am a sign language teacher again! My previous student, a deaf-blind lady, had to put her lessons on hold because of other things going on in her life. But I recently became aware that a local couple (a deaf-blind lady and her hearing blind husband) were about to lose their sign language teacher because of things going on in HIS life. I offered to pick up the lessons where he left off, so now I have a pair of students. It's a heck of a long drive, but I don't mind. I think this can be a benefit to all three of us. 

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

A reality program I actually LIKE

I actually found a reality show I like: I ran across Extreme Weight Loss a few weeks ago. No backbiting or drama -- just a person working hard to take back their health. I feel like if THEY can accomplish the things that THEY are doing, then I can certainly reach MY goal.

I even caught myself tonight using an expression that someone used on the show recently. A local guy from Voorhess, NJ was doing a stress test, to determine if he was going to even be able to take part in the program, and he said, "It doesn't matter WHAT they set this machine on, because I'm gonna KILL this thing." Tonight, when I started getting a little muscle tighness while on the treadmill, I said the same thing: "I'm gonna KILL this thing!" and I completed the session.