Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Good and the Bad

Tonight, I put through four more donations to our team for the Autism Walk held in State College on April 12th. In doing so, I noticed that our donation total for our team had grown almost $200 since the last time I had checked our team site and after putting these last four donations through it brought our team total up to $2, 013.86! Is that fantastic or what? And that figure still does not include the donation of matching funds our team is to receive from Thrivent plus, I've been told by two other people they have donations to give us too! So, it ain't over yet, is it?

I am really excited and very, very pleased with the donations our team received this year. I am also extremely thankful to so many folks from the blogging community who came out and donated to our team -very generously too, I might add! Thank each of you - no need to name names here as I'm quite sure those bloggers who supported us know how much they gave, don't you? It was certainly a tremendous boost though for our team to have received such great support from bloggers, family, friends and neighbors -even donations from people who don't know the family at all, much less my grandchildren. Our cup truly does run over!

I've been somewhat quiet lately and to be honest, I'm not entirely sure why. I have things on my mind, yes -but doesn't everyone? I'm mulling over some medical issues that I have to make a trip to Pittsburgh on May 2nd to see the surgeon who did the colostomy on me 18 months ago about these problems. The local surgeon I saw about a month ago now had recommended that I return to the Pittsburgh doctor and get his take on things. But the problem is you see, I have a hernia which the local doctor says he feels would be best if I were to have the Pittsburgh surgeon reverse the colostomy and repair the hernia simultaneously. On the surface, I know this doesn't sound like all that bad an idea I suppose -particularly if it's not going to be your abdomen they will be slicing into for the fourth time in the past five years. I'm not really all that hepped up about more surgery but I will accept it if that is determined to be the best route to take here. The main issues for me really are that I really don't want to go back to Pittsburgh for more surgery -mainly because of the distance and how disruptive it is for my kids then and two, I really DO NOT WANT more abdominal surgery because I REALLY DON'T WANT to have to do the pre-surgery prep stuff -drinking those heavy duty laxatives to provide a major housecleaning job on my intestines! Sometimes, I think it is the PREP part that I really don't want to deal with and that's what has my equilibrium all out of kilter right now.

The other thing that weighs very heavily on my mind right now concerns my aunt -the last of my Dad's siblings; the last of my aunts and uncles. Today was her 91st birthday.

Mandy finished up work early enough today that she went to the school and picked Maya up there and then, they went to the nursing home in Clearfield where my aunt and her daughter have both been patients since August 31st of 2006. In the months since they were admitted, my aunt's physical and mental conditions have both deteriorated drastically. Back in December, my cousin who has power of attorney for our aunt told me that at that time, he really didn't expect our aunt to live more than 3-4 days but she has hung on now for the past four months, somehow.
Mandy was quite upset though when she came home as she said when she and Maya went into Aunt Mike's room, the curtain was drawn between her bed and her daughter's bed and the aide or LPN (not sure which) told Mandy she didn't know if Mandy really wanted to take Maya in there because as she put it, "She's dying."

Yes, sadly enough my entire family here is aware -very aware -that our aunt is dying. But why would this person tell my daughter that and especially that perhaps Maya should not be there? You see, my aunt hasn't been cognizant of any of us, not fully anyway, for sometime now and this is what Maya has seen on her past few visits there. She isn't going to comprehend that things are more dire now than before because Maya doesn't comprehend death to begin with just yet. And, since she's seen Aunt Mike in a semi-coma state for several months now, it isn't going to change her awareness nor is it going to be a fearful circumstance for her either simply because she doesn't comprehend that right now.

This particular Aunt was my Dad's baby sister. The youngest of ten children born to my grandparents. She was a very talented pianist and organist and as such, she directed the school choral programs at the township school where she lived -and taught for several years too. She also gave private piano lessons along with having served for many years as the organist and choir director at the Methodist church just above the family homestead.

She was a very attractive lady -petite, dark brown hair, beautiful ice blue eyes that always just sparkled when she spoke to you. She was a major pet lover too -dogs -in particular, boxers! Over the years after her daughter was born Aunt Mike had four boxers -all were spoiled rotten, fed royally and treated like either a king or queen of her castle. She and my dad's other sister -who passed away two years ago this coming May the day after her 98th birthday - spent the last years of their respective teaching careers at the same elementary school where Aunt Lizzie taught first grade and Aunt Mike taught second grade. Both my aunts were extremely loving, caring teachers, each in their own way, their own right. The difference being outside the classroom Aunt Lizzie often growled about her charges, grumped about the work involved in dressing 25-30 six-year-old kids into their winter jackets and hats to send them outside for recess or dismissal at the end of the day -a job I wouldn't relish for sure, trying to zip up that many coats, tie or fasten down that many hats and scarves and the like. But inside her classroom, she was a totally different person, exhibiting patience by the mile with these little people. Aunt Mike, on the other hand, was just a sentimental soul, loving all the kids who were part of her classes over the years whether it was in person or in the teacher's lounge chatting about her students, she never complained.

When her only child was born in February of 1957, it was a premature birth and there were problems. The doctor attending her had not recorded my aunt's blood type correctly thus her records stated she was RH positive when in fact, she was RH negative. So her daughter, who should have received a transfusion immediately after delivery, didn't get that right away because of that screw-up. Also, this was back in the days before the drug Rhogam had been developed which is given to all women who are RH-negative after delivery whether the baby is a live birth, stillborn or a miscarriage. And, Aunt Mike had had a miscarriage a year or two prior to having this child which may have caused a build-up of the antibodies in her system and could be the main culprit in my cousin having been born with many physical disabilities as well as having mental retardation issues.

All my Aunt had ever really desired in life was to marry and have children -the typical white house with the picket fence, children, pets and such. She had the white house. She had the pets. She had the child. But with it also came many challenges for my aunt as she fought, tooth and nail, with doctors and therapists in her determination to see that my cousin was given every possible opportunity to learn to the fullest of her ability. And, you know what? My aunt won many of those battles with the medical community, with the education system too. No, my cousin can't do all that much but still, we -the rest of her cousins -know where she was once upon a time, what struggles she has come through too to enable her to learn, to know the things she does know and it is a miracle all attributable back to the efforts my Aunt made to provide the best she possibly could over the years for her daughter. Just the fact that my cousin has survived now for 51 years is proof enough of the excellent care my aunt provided for her daughter during that time.

My aunt has ALWAYS been here for me -from the time I was a baby, toddler, school age, teen, young adult, mother, wife and now grandmother. She's been someone who loved me without question, who helped me in so many ways over the years -to many to ever try to count -who's been there for me when my mother became ill and died, helped me raise my three children too, she did. My kids adored her -still do as do I. She was the first person Mandy and I took Maya out to visit four days after Maya was born and she wanted so much to hold her but was very nervous as she didn't quite trust her strength at the time. However, Mandy and I got her to sit down on the sofa and Mandy gently placed Maya in her great-great-aunt's loving arms so Aunt Mike could see her newest niece then, up close and personal. By the time Kurtis was born though, her health -and strength -was such that she didn't dare try to hold him at all. Shortly after, her mind started failing her more, she fell, injuring her leg which made it impossible for her to continue to stay in the family homestead with her daughter without having additional caregivers to look after both of them. It was at that point where my cousin stepped in and had them both admitted to the nursing home. Yes, it was for their best interests but at that time, that was the last way my aunt thought of this action. She was absolutely livid! It took her several months before she somewhat forgave my cousin for taking these very necessary - not wanted, but needed -steps to help her and her daughter.

And so tonight, I don't really know what the stance is with the nursing home, with my aunt's overall condition. I've heard nothing from my cousin as yet. I suppose we should call him and inquire as to what is happening but I just dread that conversation.

Things are at a point there too where no matter how much one doesn't want to part with a loved one, there are other considerations to be looked at here as well. She is bedfast, no recognition factors of family and friends, in pain, heavily medicated; no quality of life whatsoever at this point. And when you see that in a close family member -or even a friend - do you really want them to have to continue to endure all this -especially the pain aspect?

As much as you don't want to lose the person, it is also -in my opinion -very selfish to wish that they would continue to survive under these conditions. It doesn't lesson one's guilt when you think of praying for release but yet, you know this is the way that would be for the best too.

Anyway you look at it, it is a very, very painful thing for all concerned to go through this.

I will always have such wonderful memories, as will my children, to carry us through in the days ahead though of what a wonderful, talented and most of all, strong and courageous woman my Aunt has always been. I have many photos I can share with my grandchildren in years to come, stories to tell them about what a great lady she always was so that they too will know how wonderful she was and can pass these stories on to their children someday too.

Much as I will miss her presence, I would much rather not see her suffer and languish like this any longer. But because I share many genes with her, hopefully, her strength, her attitude about life in general will rest in me, in my children and especially my oldest grandson who she absolutely adored without question that she will never be forgotten.



Kat said...

Yes, I know what you are talking about. There are some things that are far worse than death. I just want my dad to be at peace. Himself again. That won't happen anymore in this life, and I know you feel the same way about your aunt.
Life is just so hard sometimes.
Thank you for your comment at my blog. I really appreciate it.
I hope the best for your aunt and your whole family.

Travis Cody said...

I can't imagine having that many abdominal surgeries in so short a time. Good luck with that.

And best wishes to your family during this difficult time with your aunt.

Anonymous said...

Jeni that is lot to go through surgeries and family and all the stress that goes with it. Will be thinking of you.

Keith said...

I pray that God will give you peace and wisdom in your health situation. That He will heal these conditions or guide the doctors to the right procedures. That He will put you at ease and let you feel His Presence and Comfort.

I also pray that He comforts your entire family during this time where you may lose a family member. I pray that there will be no pain for your aunt and that she be comfortable and at peace with God if He chooses to take her home.

Be well. Thoughts and prayers with you as you deal with all of this.

And congrats on your fundraising. You and your team did a FANTASTIC job.

Beth from the Funny Farm said...

You have my thoughts and prayers for yourself and your family. What a lot of hard issues to be dealing with all at once.


OHmommy said...

Sending you hugs during this hrad time for you and your family.

And wtg on the donations. :)

Celebration of Life said...

Hi Jeni! I just dropped by to say thank you for stopping by my blog and to say Howdy from Wyoming!

Linda said...

Sending a big hug for the bad and a high five for the good!

Gene Bach said...

It sucks when things et to that point Jeni. The older we get, the more we seem to encounter that. Bummer dudette.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jennifer, I understood how you felt about your aunt, especially someone who is so closed to you; not only in prescence but also in the heart. More than 2 years ago when my father was being diagnosed with the final stage of cancer, he was moving to and fro the hospital. It was a painful experience to see him going through all the tests and checks and tubes constantly sticking out of his hand.

At that time he had to undergo dialysis also. To see him laying on the bed with the dialysis needle poked into his veins and had to stay still for 4 hours throughout the dialysis session was very sad memories for me.

Sometimes at night, I really felt the way you are feeling now and hoped he did not have to endure all that. As much as we hated to lose him, we did not want him to suffer.

My father had been away for more than 2 years now. However, he is always in our heart.

I wish for goodness in all areas of your life.

Minnesotablue said...

Jeni: So sorry to hear about the medical issues you are experiencing. Four surgeries is a lot in a relatively short span of time. You are a strong woman to have endured so many trials. And you are right, the prep is one of the nastiest parts of the wholie procedure.
Glad you did well on your fundraising, I am doing that also. My daughter, who has MS is preparing for her 7 mile walk and is in the process of slowly building up her ability to walk the distance. Her and my grandaughter are walking together.
Your aunt sounds like a wonderful person and you will always have the memories of her.

Sandi McBride said...

You know, I truely admire you! You have "stick toitiveness"...

Diva's Thoughts said...

Congrats on the amount of donations for your team.

Your aunt is in my prayers.

Suldog said...

God bless. I'll say a prayer for you and yours.

Thanks for stopping by my place.

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

good luck honey, i will be thinking of you...

hugs. bee

Linda Murphy said...

It is an amazing gift, knowing when it is time move on to the next life and granting your loved one the peace and love that they deserve, knowing they will be loved and missed and cherished. Unfortunately, it leaves so much heartache for the rest left behind. You have written such beautiful entries about your aunt and I imagine you will all carry those memories and good times with you to help you along and she will too on her next journey.
Many hugs to all of you.