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Archive for the ‘health’ Category

I know that’s a terrible title of a blog post. Unfortunately, it’s the truth. I can’t tell you how many books I started last fall but didn’t finish. So, one of my resolutions for the new year is to read more books. I updated my goodreads list, remembered my online library password, and got to work requesting books.

I was so excited when the first book available to me was “When Breath Becomes Air” . I have wanted to read this book for a while now. I cried last night as I finished it because it was over. I didn’t want it to be over.

It was a great book full of life, experience, hope, faith, illness, death, and love. I’m so thankful that the author and his wife worked so hard to get it written and made sure it was published. There were so many beautiful parts that drew me into the book. I found myself drawn to the images of Stanford and the Bay area, a place where Barry and I grew to love deeply. My memory was stirred as I heard him describe his endless nights, rolling into days of little sleep on a rigorous schedule and I remembered what’s it’s like to have a spouse as a medicine resident. My head was challenged as he quoted beautiful literature and poetry to describe his journey of a terminal diagnosis.

In my work as a pastor and hospice chaplain, but also as a granddaughter, I have been at the bedside and watched loved ones draw their last breath. It is a holy moment. The author, Paul’s wife, Lucy graciously includes us, their readers, in the story of Paul’s final moments on this earth. I cried.

I’m thankful for the life of Paul Kalanithi. I’m thankful for the lives he saved as a neurosurgeon and for the lives he is saving by writing his story. My life is changed in a different way after reading it.

What will I read next?

PS, I originally read about Paul and Lucy’s story on Cup of Jo . The blogger, Joanna recently published an update on her twin sister, Lucy.

 

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Due to a change in my normal Wednesday schedule, I invited some friends to join us this afternoon at our city’s new farmer’s market. Some of you might remember my complaints on Facebook a few months ago when I ventured out on a Saturday morning to try to find one of our advertised markets only to return disappointed. Today was no disappointment. It’s not like the CA farmer’s markets that I love but it’s a work in progress. I can’t wait to visit and support our local farmers again.

Here’s a picture of the goodies I bought today:

Oops, I forgot to put our Vidalia onions in the picture. Yummy!

Dickey Farms were there with yummy peaches. Peaches are one of the things I love about living in Georgia in the summer. The ability to buy right from the farmer means so much to me too. Not only are they fresh but they have been grown right here in middle Georgia. The banner on my home page came from a photo I took while visiting the “farm” where they sell their peaches and peach products. And, if you have a chance to visit, there’s always yummy peach ice cream!

Thanks to MyTown Monthly magazine I recently discovered a local farm about 20 minutes from my house. We went and picked strawberries and blackberries at Deer Creek Farm in Forsyth, GA. It was great seeing them at the market yesterday but we’ll have to go back and pick right from the bush. It’s too much fun!

I also found out about a local CSA in our area. I can’t wait to find out more about them. We bought from Farm Fresh to You while we lived in CA and loved it. There was often something in our box that I had never tried and wouldn’t have bought at the grocery store or market on my own. It was a creative cooking adventure if nothing else.

It’s exciting to learn about the folks who are putting the market together. Macon Roots sounds like a great organization and I can’t wait to know more about their work.

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The last few years of ministry, I have found myself working with people living with a mental illness. The first time I was assigned to the mental health unit of Atlanta’s women’s prison, I was surprised. Perhaps, the greatest surprise for me was the sense of peace I had when working alongside these women struggling to make sense of God, their illness, their world, and incarceration. Then there was Gloria Jean, the homeless woman who wandered the halls of our church & made her presence known in worship. She challenged my own faith and belief systems while sharing her revelations. During my CPE residency, I was invited as the chaplain to lead a spirituality group with our veterans struggling with severe mental illness. I developed a study guide (which I hear is somewhat still used today) for our veteran population in incorporating spirituality into their recovery process.

Why? Why have I been so drawn to this work?

Is it because of my own personal history of the struggle to find balance in health & wellness? For me, at various points in my life, it involved seeing a therapist regularly, exercise, and meditation. When I finally realized I needed to find someone (therapist) to talk to about life, I had to overcome a lot of personal stigma about folks who sought out therapy. Is my attraction connected to helping break down the walls of stigma? maybe.

Does it have to do with the connection between spirituality and a mental health diagnosis? There seems to be a fine line. In the religious community, we freely talk about “hearing God’s voice” yet when we talk about people hearing voices they need help. Do you see the difficulty in this?

I have often wondered if there was more to this story in my past history that I had yet to discover. In a recent conversation with my grandmother, I realized that my great grandmother lived with some significant mental illness throughout her life. The therapy for her was treatment centers where “shock” therapy was often used. It’s painful for me to even think about this but it’s true. The other family truth is that most of us considered her a really mean woman. I wonder today how much her the personality we knew of her was related to her illness or more importantly, how she had been treated for the illness.

I know that the month of May is almost over. But, will you take the time to look through some of these websites to find information, resources that might be helpful to you or your family members? The statistics show that 1 in 4 people struggle with mental illness & 1 in 17 struggle with severe mental illness.

What are ways you can help:

– Read about information & resources available

– Don’t be afraid to ask for help & don’t judge others who ask for help

– Watch your language. We throw around the word “crazy” and “schizophrenic” in every language. Be mindful of the words you use.

– A person may live with a disease or an illness but they are NOT the disease and illness. There is a difference.

Websites to check out:

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/may

www.nami.org

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On Sunday, while visiting with a friend from seminary, the nurse walked in with a different kind of look on her face. My friend politely excused herself and B offered the words none of us wanted to hear. “It’s MRSA, isn’t it?” The nurse nodded and added, “But the good thing is that we have you on the right medicine and have since your admission. You are ahead of it.” Boo. MRSA.

You can look it up but I wouldn’t google “long term effects of MRSA” as I did when I was bored in the surgeon’s office a few weeks later. The first search result was how MRSA is more deadly than HIV-AIDS. I had heard of MRSA before from my work at the VA hospital in California. The patients with MRSA were typically always in the ICU and were in isolation. Thankfully, I wasn’t in ICU but I knew that folks who came to see me would have to wear protection from this point forward. My nurse also informed me that there was a discussion taking place at the nurse’s station about whether or not I’d have to be moved to a different floor. Never mind that I had been there since Friday. Oh, guess they didn’t take into account that I probably GOT IT FROM THEIR HOSPITAL the first time. Whatever. She advocated for me to stay in my room. She won…..

Until 7 pm when she left. At 8 pm, (yes at night) I was told to gather my stuff and was taken covered by another gown to a different floor. It was probably the closest thing I’ll ever know to relate to the folks in the Bible who had leprosy. Remember that they sat at the gates to the city because no one wanted them around? They were cast out of their societies? Well, I couldn’t leave my hospital room unless it was for a test when I would have an escort. No walking the halls with my IV pole. Stuck in my room.

And remember in my first post about this ordeal when I said there are levels of care…. General surgery floor with a diagnosis of MRSA= bottom of the list. No juice or snacks, I was lucky if I got my meal on time. The good thing was that they put me in a room with 2 beds but wouldn’t put a roommate in with me (you know ’cause I was infected) and so Barry got to sleep in a bed! We laughed and said it was just a preview of what life in the nursing home would be for us!

We also got to hear our next door neighbor as he called out for help all night long. The tech coming on shift at 7 am heard him as she was taking my vitals and said, “Lord Jesus, we’re the ones who are going to need help with him today. Amen.”

If you are going to be stuck in the hospital, in isolation, away from your baby, you might as well have a little humor about it.

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Hooked Up

Tonight is the last night I will spend hooked up to IV medication at home for what I hope is the rest of my life. I received word today from my doctor that everything is looking great. Tomorrow I will take my last dose of medicine and have this line taken out of my arm. I cannot express the pure excitement I feel in preparing for tomorrow.

It feels like a new beginning for me.

Yes, it has been two months since the events of my last post. My son was born two months ago today. One of the most joyous moments of my life.

About a month ago, one of the most difficult moments of my life began. Tomorrow, I’m unhooking the medicine and continuing the process of healing. I’m going to try to write about it here. Why? Because in addition to the physical toll this illness took on me, it took an emotional and spiritual toll on me too.

I need to write about it. And, here’s the warning: you may not like what you read. But, please know it’s me, trying to be honest and on my way to healing.

It’s my story… of being unhooked and wanting to be healed.

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