Feeling Trapped

spiritual-board

When William Campion was in the intensive-care unit (ICU) this month after a double lung transplant, he felt nervous and scared and could breathe only with the help of a machine.

Joel Nightingale Berning, a chaplain at Mr. Campion’s hospital stopped by. He saw that Mr. Campion had a tube in his neck and windpipe, which prevented him from speaking. The chaplain held up a communication board—not the kind used to check a patient’s physical pain and needs, but a “spiritual board” … The board also lets patients rate their level of spiritual pain on a scale of 0 through 10, from none to “extreme.” Mr. Campion, a 69-year-old Catholic, indicated his spiritual pain was acute: 8. Using the picture board, he signaled that he wanted to pray. The chaplain recited the Lord’s Prayer as Mr. Campion followed silently.

ICUs have evolved in recent years and even the critically ill are being sedated less than before. As doctors came to believe that heavy sedation—once the norm in such units—could be harmful, many patients are now breathing with the help of machines, and are conscious…more ICU patients (are) awake and alert.  The fact that these patients can’t communicate adds to their frustration…many patients on these machines feel “trapped.”…They have been intubated, meaning they have a tube in their throat, attached to a machine that is breathing for them….

The 32-year-old chaplain, who is nondenominational, persuaded a fellow chaplain—Seigan Ed Glassing, a Zen Buddhist monk who had studied art—to help illustrate the board. The two included a range of faiths and belief systems, including Christian, Jewish and Hindu, as well as New Age, Pagan and agnostic. Colorful icons offer patients the option of a prayer or confession, or simply to have someone hold their hand. Chaplain Glassing said he loved figuring out “what would a blessing look like,” or how to draw “make [me] an altar.” A favorite: depicting someone asking to be read a poem.

The study, with results published last August in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, looked at 50 ICU patients who were offered spiritual care through the board. Researchers measured patients’ anxiety before and after the chaplain came, concluding that “anxiety after the first visit decreased 31%.”

Among patients who survived, 81% “felt more at peace,” while 71% felt “more connected with what is sacred.”

~ Lucette Lagnado, excerpts from A ‘Spiritual Board’ Brings Comfort to the Critically Ill


Post inspired and triggered by two of my favorite movies: The Bell and The Butterfly and The Sea Inside.

Walking Cross-Town. Teetering on myself.

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Day 0: Friday morning, not yesterday, a week ago. Flying down I-95, light traffic. I’m lip syncing America’s Ventura Highway: “Chewing on a piece of grass…Walking down the road…Cause the free wind is blowin’ through your hair.” I flick through the day’s calendar as I pull into the parking garage. Light. Nice ramp into the weekend. What Bliss is This?

By day’s end, Bliss is way amiss. Whether from a hand shake, or splashed in the air from a cough or a sneeze, or from an infected keyboard at a guest office, the virus is planted in the eye, it spreads to the tear duct and then to the nose – and we jackknife from Bliss to → Far-From-Bliss-Miserable-Son-of-A-Bitch.

Patience, a short string on sunny days, is a gator snapping. Sick man, with head cold, brooding.

The nasal secretion flows uninterrupted.  I roll the smooth, orange-crush colored LiquiCaps in the palm of my hand. Marbles! Days are measured by DayQuil feedings, ingested at 4 hour intervals and then relieved at bedtime by NyQuil. The Vick’s team is on the field 24 x 7.

I’m squinting at the DayQuil packaging. Multi-Symptom Relief. I flip it over, and the font shrinks to something less than 5 point. What a**hole at Vick’s thinks I can read this sh*t? A commercial conspiracy I’m sure, to disguise dosage levels to keep juicing. [Read more…]

It could not even see or hear. It simply smelled and tasted and touched its world

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I finished this book a month ago and it hasn’t left my consciousness. Who would have thought a book about a snail would have so captured my attention, and held it for so long.  Here’s the book summary from Amazon:

“While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world. Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal…told with wit and grace, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence and provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.”

And here’s a few memorable passages:

“…I observed without thinking, looking into the terrarium simply to feel connected to another creature; another life was being lived just a few inches away.”

“By day, the strangeness of my situation was sharpest: I was bed-bound at a time when my friends and peers were moving forward in their careers and raising families. Yet the snail’s daytime sleeping habits gave me a fresh perspective; I was not the only one resting away the days. The snail naturally slept by day, even on the sunniest of afternoons. Its companionship was a comfort to me and buffered my feelings of uselessness.”

“…my snail could not see the moss over which it glided or even the plants it climbed. It could not see the trees, nor the stars overhead. It could not hear birdsong at daybreak, nor the midnight howls of coyotes. It could not even see or hear its own kin, let alone a predator. It simply smelled and tasted and touched its world.” [Read more…]

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

cereal-peach-breakfast

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

~ Jane Kenyon, from “Otherwise in Collected Poems. The poem was written shortly before Kenyon died of leukemia at age 47.

 


Photo: Christopher Gould

Be Better

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NY Times 11 Ways to Be a Better Person in 2017:

Second annual semi-serious list of self-improvement tips, gleaned from the Styles stories that resonated most with readers in 2017. Here’s how to be healthy, happy and a little bit Canadian in 2017.” (And if you’d like to go deeper, our 15 tips for 2016 still hold up.)”

When Is It OK to Eat Chocolate? (About all the bloody time)

truffle-chocolate

Excerpts from Ellen Byron and Tanya Rivero discussing “When Is It OK to Eat Chocolate?” (along with DK’s reality check):

  • Really, it is OK to eat chocolate if it’s the fancy stuff. That’s what we’re telling ourselves. (DK: Not sure I’m telling myself exactly this…I am repeating, “it’s ok, DK, it’s ok, go ahead. It’s ok to eat 4 pieces in one sitting.)
  • Nearly half of chocolate eaters say they look for premium ingredients…they say that’s their health-permissibility factor. (DK: More health research that will be overturned in 10 years. Margarine over butter anyone?)
  • There’s no point in going to a gym and then downing a huge bar of cheap milk chocolate. There’s every point in going to a gym and then downing a small portion of a nice, deep chocolate. (DK: Come on. There’s every point in downing a huge bar of any kind of chocolate and then ‘thinking’ about going to the gym.)
  • Offering portion control also helps chocolate eaters feel good… (DK: Who feels good with portion control? Who? Introduce me to that human.)
  • Lindt’s Excellence bars, which are wrapped in foil and white cardboard, are designed for a “ritualistic” experience. “Consumers take care to rip the foil gently, then break a square off, then roll the foil back up…It’s meant to withstand that type of consumption where you might eat one square or two squares a day. (DK: Ritualistic? Yes, like Human Sacrifice. One or two squares a day? Laughable.)
  • New $7 chocolate bars from Godiva have indented squares that fit a thumb so eaters can snap off one bite at a time. ‘People love to have a bar of chocolate tucked away in their brief case, backpack or purse. (DK: Who can keep chocolate tucked away for more than three minutes anywhere, and especially in a brief case or purse? Who? As to indented squares to enable portion control? Ha! That’s just for better gripping a $7 Godiva morsel so it doesn’t hit the ground while you are shoveling…)
  • The relatively small amount of sugar in a piece of premium chocolate from Godiva doesn’t worry consumers the way other sweets might. “Having a small bit of chocolate isn’t the thing that’s going to kill you.” (DK: Totally right. Expensive Godiva Chocolate is totally exempt from the ills of sugar addiction – absolutely!)
  • Ms. Choma avoids buying large bars for her daily chocolate treat, fearing she’ll eat too much in one sitting. Instead (she) keeps individually wrapped chocolate truffles in her pantry. “It’s just the right size, so you don’t feel guilty,” she says. She’s mindful of antioxidants and other health benefits of chocolate, but mostly focuses on how much she likes the taste. “That’s my brain benefit,” she says. (DK: There’s a lot to digest here. But let’s just jump on the close.  Antioxidants? Goobledygook.  Brain benefit? Ho! Really?!?)
  • “We see people looking for little rewards all the time.” (DK: And we deserve it!)

Photo: Joann Hofer from XchocolArt in Carmel, Indiana with Blueberry Truffle Christmas Gift Organic Chocolate made with Blueberries, cream and luscious chocolate. (Source: Etsy.com)

Cancer, you’re not invited

tom-brokaw-cancer

For most of my adult life I have answered the question “Occupation?” with one word: journalist. I still do, but now I am tempted to add a phrase.

Cancer patient…

Even in remission, cancer alters a patient’s perception of what’s normal. Morning, noon and night, asleep and awake, malignant cells are determined to alter or end your life…

Age alone puts me in my twilight years; and cancer only heightens that objective reality. Yet I am not consumed by the prospect of death. When it intermittently enters my consciousness it has an abstract quality. I can’t quite get a grip on how this life might end…

Whenever I engage in this kind of reflection I fault myself for not shifting into a lower gear. What happened to the sailing lessons, the calligraphy course, that short story I had hoped to publish? […]

Cancer fund-raising events? Yes, if the distance and demands are not onerous. But is it possible that NBC News coverage of the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, two very long plane rides away, would not be at all affected by my absence? I think it is.

Maybe it would be better if I just gathered our five grandchildren and we watched the occasion on television as I answered their questions. Then we would all go for Chinese food and plan our next get together.

Cancer, you’re not invited.

Don’t miss full essay by Tom Brokaw @ Tom Brokaw: Learning to Live With Cancer

 

Zeke. The Countdown.

zeke-dog-pet-cute

I walk Zeke outside.

He sniffs at the grass, at the plants, at the trace of bunny in the air.

I watch him circle the yard: It’s gone.

The vigorous flourish of the tail. The accelerated gait, his canter. All gone. In its place, the all-consuming lethargy.

The panting is incessant. His barrel chest rising and falling, a steam engine chugging, The Little Red Engine That Could: I think I can, I think I can, I think I still can.

He’s parched, always. His long tongue stretches to lap up gulps of water.

And Dad, “I’m hungry. I’m always hungry. I can’t help myself. It’s those damn white pills you wrap in the lunch meat.”

The steroid dosage has been lowered, his normal surefootedness slipping.  Another stumble up the stairs this morning, his head lunging into the hardwood –and then, a soft, helpless yelp.

Water from a tap drips.

No one is ready for this. No one wants this.

This shot clock is running out.


Related Posts: Zeke

Muro 128

rodney-smith-book-ready-upside-down

I’m freakish about putting anything near my eyes (and anything touching my Adam’s Apple like a turtle neck – I tug and tug and tug at it to Free Willy. Get it off! Get it off!  Or the mouth guards dentists use to take impressions of my teeth and the chalky putty sliding down my throat, the eyes tearing, the gagging reflex, the choking, God, help me…Jesus that escalated quickly.)

It has become a necessary ritual to solve the eye-thing: Recurrent Corneal Erosion triggered by the back story here: I need to read.

The right hand grabs the 2.5 inch tube of Muro 128 5% Sodium Chloride Ophthalmic Ointment. I’ve made the switch from the cheaper generic. Raisin Bran maybe, but generics with eye lube? Saving a few bucks on chemicals you’re pouring into your eye balls, really? Are you nuts?

I think about why it’s Muro 128 and not 130 or 100 as I squeeze the salve in the lower lid. The hands tremble like an addict. I need this. I really need this. What I need is, to pay attention to the trembling hands inadvertently driving the aluminum tip of the tube through the eyeball into my brain.

One dab in each eye before bed time.

I pause, the chemicals coat the eye balls, the world goes blurry, I feel my way to bed. [Read more…]

Milk

drink-milk-spill

For half a century,
he opens the door and there it is.
Chillin’ and chilled.
Cold, smooth, white as snow.

From bottles, to cartons, to jugs.
On cereal.
With chocolate chip cookies and PB&J.
A chaser for warm apple crisp.

And then he wakes.

Blink.

A half a century later.

And this insomniac finds himself standing in front of the open refrigerator door. The same Boy who stood in a similar place on a similar summer morning in July. Bare foot.  White t-shirt. Undershorts. With the freon propellant misting him with its cool breeze. And he pauses to think.

Tolerant. To intolerant.

There he finds a plastic jug of 2% flanked by “All Natural Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almond Milk.”

And a single thought comes to his mind. The title of the 1989 biography written by Marion Meade:

Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?


Notes:

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