Friday, November 22, 2013

Medical Melodies...

The year 2013 will hence forth be known as the year of the hospital.  This is not because I myself have had to stay in one this year, but so many friends and loved ones have.  It seems that I have spent a vast majority of my year reading updates on health developments or sitting in waiting rooms or sitting by the bedside of someone who is trying to heal.  I know that in the grand scheme of life there are others who have likely spent even more time with the medical facilities this year, but this is the most for me.

That being said, it seems as if this entire process and year has been preparing me (unbeknownst to me) for this round with my mother.  All those lessons in faith and patience were drawn upon to get through the waiting.  All those times that things did not go as planned but still ended up fine were drawn upon when there was a hiccup and recovery did not go as planned.  Every step lead to the next and path was always there, even though I may have struggled to see it.

So what have I learned from all of this?  Well quite a bit actually; so here are the top 10 things!

1.) If you sit long enough to be present for several nurses rounds, you pick up a vast amount of Medical Jargon that will be useful if there is a next round. (Also helps you to figure out the "right" questions to ask)

2.) Interior designers of Hospital waiting rooms have clearly never had to sit in a hospital waiting room.  Somehow, they always find chairs that seem like they would be comfortable and cushy but after about an hour have become more like rocks underneath you.

3.) No matter how many times a hospital has been added onto, there is almost always a grid to the layout, get the grid you will be able to navigate whatever hospital you encounter.

4.) Names matter! Not just the names of patients; but the names of Nurses and Doctors that come in to help.  Get to know the names, use the names, and you will feel more comfortable conversing and asking questions about what is happening to your loved one.

5.) The POWER of THANK YOU can not be truly measured.  Hospitals are high stress environments not just for you but also the people who work there.  Say thank you whenever you can.  Make it more powerful by combining this with #4- Saying "Thank you Joan" can make a world of difference.

6.) Balance patience and boldness.  There is a lot going on and sometimes people forget things, it is normal in every job, in every environment.  However, when it comes to our loved ones in a hospital they are the only focus for us.  It is up to the support people to ask questions and be sure that things are not being forgotten (but always try to speak with calmness and kindness... will get you farther.)

7.) Remember while in waiting rooms that you are surrounded by other families who are also worried and stressed out. 

8.) Sleep whenever you can!  Similar to a new mom who is told to sleep whenever the baby sleeps, this is also true of support people in hospital settings.  The days tend to be long and rest will be needed.  It is amazing how much sitting around being worried and/or stressed can take out of you.

9.) EAT!!! Take the time to walk around, go to the snack shop, the cafeteria, a coffee shop and get some food in you.  If you bring some snacks with you, try to remember to take a brief walk every time you snack. 

10.) This is probably one of the most important and one of the hardest.  It is in essence the combination of #8 & #9 but is more encompassing.  It is impossible to be supportive and caring for another if you do not take care of yourself.  Sometimes that means you have to be okay with asking someone else to sit with your loved one so you can leave the hospital and take a break from it all.  This may not seem like a big deal, but you would be surprised how hard it can actually be.  There is always that thought that something might happen and I wouldn't be there.  This may be true, but everyday, every minute of your life, something might happen and you may not be there.  Take care of yourself so that you can truly take care of your loved one.  

Of course I always end up thinking of an 11th so here it is.......
#11 DO NOT BE ASHAMED TO ASK FOR HELP!  Often the hardest part of this is that you may not know what kind of help you need.  If friends and family offer to bring food, sometimes you should say yes even when you think you are not hungry.  Base the answer on when you last ate, not if you are craving food.  Offers of taking over so you can sleep, take a break, run home, shower, or change; should also be accepted because of #10. Be accepting of even just the quiet presence of friends or family beside you, holding your hand, giving you a shoulder to lean on, offering an ear to listen; taking someone up on this shows more strength than you can ever know.

So there are my tips and observations after my rounds through the halls of six different medical facilities this year.    No offense to 2013, but I am sure looking forward to locking you away in the record books and moving on.  Hopefully this will be the last round in the halls of a hospital this year, but who knows.  With a little over a month left in 2013, I am hopeful; but then again I am always a bit hopeful.  Hope is what keeps us going and gives us the motivation to chase our dreams. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Roller coaster of Emotions

There are always those days in life where it seems like you are on a roller coaster of emotion with no way to prepare for the twist, curve, or drop of the up coming tracks.  Yesterday was one of those days for me.  

A beautiful windy fall Sunday with a birthday party scheduled for a rambunctious and excited soon to be four year old; I woke up with a clear expectation of what the day had in store, but how wrong I was.  While driving to the party I received word that a wonderful educator, who I had spent five years teaching with, had been killed in a tragic car accident.  In an instant everything that was expected from the day was changed.  Yes, the party was still fun and exciting but for me it was tempered with sadness.  Then it was on to visit a friend who is ill followed by the news that another friend received an engagement ring.  Roller coaster of emotions marked the day, and all you can do is hold on and ride along with it.

We get bogged down sometimes in the sadness and hardships of life, especially when it feels that they are being heaped upon us in spades.  However, we must remember that our list of blessings far outweighs the burdens; though sometimes it takes really sitting down and listing them all out to see that. Even when we think that the burdens upon us are too much to carry, we turn and find someone lifting part of it with us.  Though it may seem to drag on day, after day, after day, someday this too will pass.  Through it all, there are still all of the emotions to go through and sometimes we must just accept the twists and turns as they come. 

All the people that come in and out of our lives have an impact on us even when we aren't always aware of it. I was lucky enough to meet an amazing woman and teacher, lucky enough to call her my friend, and have the opportunity to see her impact young lives. There is nothing that will ease the ache and sadness that comes with her passing, but I have some great memories to hold onto while I grieve for the loss. She will live on in the memories of family, friends, and in the knowledge that she imparted to so many students over the course of her career.  Rest in peace my friend and former colleague, you are missed.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Invisible Plan

Fate vs. Choice; This was one of the first lesson points in my British Literature class.  That question of choices leading the way of how life turns out or fate as an invisible force directing our life without our clear knowledge or understanding.  It is an intriguing philosophical discussion that I very much enjoyed having with high school seniors.  That philosophical battle seems to have been the playing out in my life over the last few months.

So for those of you who have been following my adventure, you already know that the plan has been changed, maybe a dozen times in the last six months.  Often in life we think we know how things are going to go and work out; only to find that life suddenly moves sideways on us.  You prepare as best you can but at some point you have to simply let go and enjoy the ride. That is what has happened with me.

After returning from Japan, I found out that my mother was having some health issues.  They were serious but not dire so it seemed like being in a far off destination was not a good idea, but I could still go to KC or Wichita.  As time passed and I looked for apartments and jobs I was not terribly worried about things working out.  Frustration in the pace of the process was there, but worry was not.  However, during that time I have been around for my mother and father as that process got more frustrating and complicated.  Suddenly I realized that there may have been another reason that teaching overseas did not become reality, moving to Portland did not become a reality, even moving to KC or Wichita was not becoming a reality; maybe I needed to be right where I was.

Then I was offered a job here in Emporia that would allow me to be with my mom through her recovery process; be here to support both of my parents with whatever they might need; and still have an income to allow me to meet my responsibilities and obligations.  It was the invisible plan that was occurring all along, but I could not see.  This is exactly where I need to be right now and I know that with 100% certainty.  Being in a position where my plans were flexible gives me the ability to be here for my family whom I love dearly.  So for the time being, the plan has come together; not in the way I had thought, hoped, or imagined; but come together it has.