My Miracle Man and His Art

About this time two years ago my husband fell in his art studio in the basement of our condo. It was a Thursday and because Covid had just started, we were not sure about going to the doctor. He felt fine so we went on with our daily routine as normal.

Until Sunday. After church on Sunday he complained of a severe headache and being nauseated. I drove him to the emergency room where I was told to go home and wait. They would call me after examining him.

When he went in to the ER he looked and acted fine to me. The only thing I was going on was his comment of the terrible headache he had.

About an hour later the ER called and told me a CAT scan revealed bleeding in his brain. They had called the main hospital in Lansing, the capital of our state, and an ambulance was getting ready to take him there for further evaluation.

I jumped in the car and raced to our local ER. Although at first they said I could not go in, I turned on the tears and pleaded to let me say goodbye to him. Realizing the seriousness of a brain bleed, I was afraid I might not see him alive again. My tears I guess were good enough because they let me go back to the room and say goodbye before the ambulance took him away.

I could not believe the change in him in just a little over an hour. He was very confused and very incoherent.

After they took him to Lansing, I returned home anxious to know what would happen next. About an hour later I got a call from the surgeon’s assistant who told him they were taking him in for emergency surgery. He asked me if he had been having trouble talking. He said that he was talking to them, but they could not understand what he said and it made no sense. Without the surgery I was told, he would not survive.

The assistant promised to call me after the surgery to let me know how it went. I got no call. They took him into surgery about 4:30 that afternoon and at 10:00 that evening I still had not heard a word. A call to the hospital revealed that the surgeon had completed the surgery and had gone home. All they could tell me was that my husband was out of surgery and in ICU. They promised to have the doctor on duty that night give me a call. Finally, around midnight the doctor on duty called. He said he was not involved in the surgery and all he could tell me was that my husband’s chart said the surgery went well and he was in ICU on a ventilator.

To make a long story short the next week and a half was very stressful as they worked for a few days to get him off the ventilator. Until he was off the equipment they would not be able to tell how much damage had been done to his brain. They warned me he might have difficulty speaking or understanding others, might have trouble swallowing, might have trouble walking. The day he got off the ventilator, they were looking for a rehab place to take him and indicated it might be weeks before he could come home.

But God had other plans.

Within days he was taking rehab there in the hospital – and he came home to me in just ten days. The first weeks at home he had to use a walker to get around and while he could clearly understand and communicate he did have moments when he would struggle for a particular word.

But he quickly recovered. Two things that helped I believe was our love of scrabble and his love of painting. We are very competitive and love the game. I worried that he would not be able to really compete with me again. He was a little slow the first couple of games we played but in no time he was beating my butt again.

The second week he was home he asked our son-in-love to bring his easel and paints from his art studio in the basement as he was still too weak to go up and down the stairs. He sat at our dining room table and painted this beautiful scene of the seashore.

In no time at all he was free of the walker, beating me in scrabble and back down stairs in his art studio painting away.

Recently a local business in our community held a Arts Explosion. From November through the month of February local artists were invited to display their work. The business is involved with educating the public about agriculture and has a lot of public events at its facility. During this time people were asked to look at the paintings and vote for their favorite artist.

Last night they held a “Meet and Greet’ for the community to come out, take a final look at the art and vote for their favorite.

It was a fun day – food and entertinment by the local high school’s dance team.

At the end of the festivities, they announced the winners of the People’s Choice. Out of 44 artists they had a winner and a runner up. To my great happiness my husband with his sea shore painting came in second as the People’s Choice.

The painting is back home now – and we are both rejoicing – not only for his award, but for the miracle this painting truly is.

To God be the glory – great things he hath done!

First Open-Heart Surgery – Guess Who Did It?

I remember all the news articles and the publicity given in 1982 when the first artificial heart was implanted in a patient in South Africa. The doctors behind this were portrayed as great men of science – as they should have been.

However until I began doing research on black history I never knew that the world’s first successful heart surgery was performed by a black doctor in 1893.

Born in 1848 in Pennsylvania, Daniel Hale Williams started his working career as a shoemaker. Seeking more education, Williams finished secondary school in Wisconsin and became an apprentice to a former surgeon general for Wisconsin. He studied medicine at Chicago Medical College.

After completing his internship he began private practice in an integrated community on Chicago’s south side. Further accomplishements included teaching anatomy at Chicago Medical College and serving as surgeon to the City Railway Company. The governor of Illinois appointed him to the state’s board of health in 1889.

Even though Dr. Williams had achieved success and some acceptance in the white community, black citizens were still barred from being admitted to most hospitals and black doctors were refused staff positions. To combat this, Dr. Williams opened Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses in May 1891. It was the first hospital in the nation that had a racially integrated staff.

In 1893 James Cornish was stabbed in the chest. Rushed to Provident Hospital, Cornish quickly began to go into shock. Suspecting a deeper wound near the heart Dr. Williams opened the wound between two ribs, cut the rib cartilage and created a small trapdoor to the heart. Asking six doctors to observe what he did (four white, two black) Dr. Williams found a gash in the right coronary artery. Holding the edges of the wound with forceps, he sewed them together. Cornish not only survived the surgery, he lived for over 20 more years.

The next year he became chief surgeon of Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C There he made improvements reducing the hospital’s mortality rate. The American Medical Association barred black doctors so Dr. Williams help organized the National Medical Association for black professionals.

In 1894, Dr. Williams became chief surgeon of Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., the most prestigious medical post available to African Americans then. There, he made improvements that reduced the hospital’s mortality rate. In 1895, he helped to organize the National Medical Association for black professionals, who were barred from the American Medical Association. Williams returned to Chicago, and continued as a surgeon. In 1913, he became the first African American to be inducted into the American College of Surgeons.

Known in his practice as “Dr. Dan,” today the Howard University Hospital use his name “Dr. Dan” as the call given for their “code blue.”

(Thanks to Columbia Surgery, New York, New York for the information on Dr. Williams and the photo of him.)

Waves of Mercy

According to Mercy Ships, five billion people lack access to safe surgery. Children, teens, and adults suffer and die every day from treatable causes, and one child in eight will die before age 5.

In 1978 Don and Deyon Stephens founded Mercy Ships in Switzerland. Don says that “A devastating hurricane, meeting Mother Teresa and the birth of his special needs son drove an idea that would bring hope and healing to the world’s poorest people.”

First idea for a ship that would travel to countries without medical faculties and help came to Don at 19. His youth group saw a hurricane that came through the Bahamas when they were there. He heard someone praying for a ship that could come in and provide the care needed after such a tragedy. Later when he and his wife had a son born with special needs, he was reminded of that prayer and how many with such problems had no way to go for help. Finally, visitng with Mother Teresa she encouraged him to follow the dream God had first planted when he was a teenager.

The first Mercy Ship was a Italian cruise liner built in 1953 and called the Victoria. Converted into a mobile hospital it was renamed Anastasis. The Stephens lived on the first ship with their family for the first ten years of operation. The ship was retired in 2007 and replaced by Africa Mercy.

According to Mercy Ships “It is estimated 16.9 million people die globally each year from conditions requiring surgical care. 32% of all global deaths are a result of the lack of access to safe, affordable, and timely surgery.”

Mercy Ships until this year had one ship to reach out to the poorer nations with medical care. However, they have added a second ship, Global Mercy. Building the ship began in 2017 and was just completed last year. The ship passed all the testing to prove it sea worthy and will officially began serving the needy in March of this year. This ship has six operating rooms, 200 beds, a laboratory, general outpatient clinics and eye and dental clinics.

These ships not only provide needed medial care, but they also work to train local nurses and doctors to continue the care when they are gone. Since over 50% of the world’s population live nears a coast, the ships are the perfect way to bring this much needed health care.

The doctors and nurses who serve on Mercy Ships do so without any compensation.

Since its founding in 1978 Mercy Ships “has worked in more than 70 countries providing services valued at more than $1 billion, treating more than 2.5 million direct beneficiaries. Each year Mercy Ships has more than 1,600 volunteers from more than 40 nations. Professionals including surgeons, dentists, nurses, healthcare trainers, teachers, cooks, seamen, engineers, and agriculturalists donate their time and skills to the effort. Mercy Ships seeks to transform individuals and serve nations one at a time.”

There are many amazing stories of lives that have been changed because of the work of Mercy Ships.

To read some of these stories – and see more of the work of Mercy Ships, visit their website:

Thank God I Have the Flu

I never thought I would love to hear the doctor say I tested positive for the flu.

It started one evening with a very sore throat and a dry cough..

The next morning I woke up with a temp of 102, body aches, congestion and I felt terrible. Our state of Michigan has one of the highest rates of Covid-19. Needless to say I was very scared as I went for a test.

Three hours later the doctor called to say I was negative for Covid-19 but positive for the flu.

Who is thankful for the flu? I am.

But I have had a few miserable days. I am slowly recovering. Fever is gone, coughing spells are fewer and the body aches are gone. But I am exhausted. Doctor said it might take two to three weeks before my strength returns.

Talking to friends who have had Covid-19 I realize my days of misery were so short compared to theirs. Although I may be tired for a while I am not experiencing many of the after effects they are.

So – I’m grateful for the flu.

Stay safe dear readers. Take care of yourself.

I Have Hair!!!

Those who follow my blog know that I lost my hair 19 years ago after 16 treatments with three powerful chemo drugs following surgery for breast cancer. Although the doctor assured my hair would come back for years I did not. It was only a few years ago that we found out that one of the drugs I was given could cause permanent hair loss.

I was okay with that – I just wore a wig. No one ever knew it was a wig and were surprised when they found out.

Lately, however, I became tired of the wig. Old age I guess. I also was showing some hair growth – not much – very thin – but hair.

My two daughters encouraged me to take the wig off and see if my hair might grow back. They wondered if the wig might be preventing hair growth

I was scared – but I decided to take the plunge and do it.

My approach to difficulties of life has always been:

with a strong faith in God and a good sense of humor I can handle this.

So – I wrote a couple of blogs trying to make fun of my baldness.

Now – after about three months without the wig – I HAVE HAIR!!!!

It’s pretty thin – but it’s my hair!!!!

As it grew back it was a sloppy unkempt mess. I had to let it get some length before I could get it styled so for a few weeks I was so embarrased to go out in public – but I just remembered my prayer “Give me hair!” and was thankful that God was answering that prayer.

Finally a couple of weeks ago I was able to go to a beauty salon and get it styled. The stylist kept asking me if I wanted to use a curling iron or a blow dryer and how I wanted it styled. . Since it had been 19 years since I had any hair to comb or style, 19 years since I had been to a beauty salon, I put myself in her hands and trusted her to guide me through this.

So once again I have hair. It is not thick – it is not red – but it is my hair! I am getting used to the white/grey and actually beginning to like it.

I am so happy and grateful – I HAVE HAIR!!!

Memories and Potato Soup

October is a month that brings back so many memories to me. It was in this month nineteen years ago that I was diagnosed with a very advanced and aggressive cancer. So it’s natural that I have memories of that time every October – and especially since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Some of those memories are not pleasant. The surgery – the chemo – the radiation – the very hard effort to stare death in the face.

But I also have so many good memories and today brought back one of those memories.

It is raining and chilly here in Michigan today – a perfect fall day. It is also a good day to just stay inside and watch the rain from my easy chair. My husband declared that this was a day for homemade potato soup.

I love homemade potato soup. My mother often made that when I had a cold or was not feeling good. It is my comfort food. My husband makes great potato soup so I was glad to hear his offer to make some for us today.

Watching him prepare the soup and enjoying the good smells coming from the kitchen brought back a very special memory of that time battling cancer.

I continued to work through my chemotherapy and was active but with the first two drugs I was given, I would basically lose a week of life as I felt energy and life drain from my body. I would spend several days in bed too weak to do anything but get up and walk to the restroom. My husband would fix my meals and bring them to me on a tray. If there was any meat, he would even have to cut it up for me because I had energy only enough to lift my fork.

He was so good – so kind – so patient and did all he could to help me through those weeks. One day as I lay in bed I thought how much I would love to have some potato soup. Because he was doing all the shopping, house work as well as cooking and taking care of me I did not want to make any special requests. Not knowing what he had planned to fix, I did not want to impose on him so I said nothing.

I drifted back off to sleep and some time later he woke me up to tell me he was bringing me my lunch. When he brought the tray to my bed, I was so happy. He had fixed potato soup. You may think that was just a coincidence, but I believe God knew my heart’s desire and led my husband to fix that soup.

As we ate the soup today we remembered that special time and we thanked God for how much He cares about us.

And, the soup was delicious – as my husband’s soup always is.

No More “Huh” or “What”

For some time I have been denying that I am having trouble hearing. Watching a movie or listening to my pastor on Sunday there are times when I will miss a complete sentence or two because I just cannot hear well. When listening to friends I find myself asking them “what” “huh” or just trying to guess what they said from the part of the sentence I did hear.

This is not good for meaningful conversation. Trying to “fill in the blanks” when you do not hear everything someone said can lead to real miscommunication.

My husband, who has worn a hearing aid for several years now, has pleaded with me to get a hearing test. I found myself turning the TV up louder and louder until he insists we must turn it down.

While I recognized I was not hearing well, I hated the thought of needing a hearing aid. Hearing aids to me were for old people and I did not want to accept that title for myself.

Still, I knew I could not deny my hearing loss much longer. Some days my husband would not put in his hearing aid because we were just staying at home and he did not want to bother with them. However, before much time passed I would insist he put them on because he kept denying he was not having trouble hearing – but I just needed to speak up.

When we began having that same conversation – but this time it was me who was insisting he was mumbling, I found it hard to deny I needed help in hearing.

The straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak came on Easter Sunday. My youngest daughter and her family joined us for lunch. After lunch we took communion as a family. When my husband finished leading us through the sacraments, I thought he said he was going to pray. Bowing my head I kept waiting to hear him pray.

When several seconds had passed and no sound was coming, I looked up to see my family all looking at me. My daughter said in that exasperating tone that told me I needed to listen, “Mother, he asked you to pray.”

I quickly prayed and I knew I was going to be in trouble when I finished.

Again in that very exasperated tone my daughter declared, “Mother, you have to get a hearing test.”

I agreed. So – I scheduled an appointment.

No surprise – I failed the test. So now there’s the cost to consider. Good hearing aids are not cheap. I checked out different models. This one was the cheapest, but probably not the best.

Now that my husband and I both have hearing aids, buying Christmas presents for each other will be easier.

Only one thing wrong with having hearing aids. Now I can’t excuse myself from not listening to others by saying I just did not hear.

Get Out of Dodge

With recent health issues, I have been spending way too much time at home.  Experiencing a lot of severe pain, I am faced with two choices.

Take pain medications and then feel too sleepy or zombie-like to do anything.

Don’t take pain medications and hurt too bad to do anything.

I have missed church, given up volunteering at the local art gallery and at the local assisted living facilities where I play music for the residents.

Today I could take it no more.  I told my husband I had to “get out of Dodge.”

Being Gunsmoke fans, we often use that phrase when we are tired of the daily routine and need a change of pace.  I shared my love of the show in this post.

Anyone Remember Gunsmoke?

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Although it was cold today, the sun was shining and it was a perfect day for a ride.  A walk through an antique mall and Chinese food for lunch made for a great day.

I have to be patient as I deal with this current difficulty, but when I’ve had enough my husband is there to help me “get of Dodge” if only for a few hours.  In the meantime, I’m looking at the map and making plans for longer road trips this summer.

Do you have those times when you feel like you have to “get out of Dodge?”

What do you do/where do you go to “get out of Dodge?”

 

The Battle is Not Mine!

Life is good for me.  Retired with time to do what I want to do.  Good husband who is my best friend.  Children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren to love.

Still, like all of us, difficult times do come.

Right now I am facing health issues.  I see the doctor tomorrow to review MRI results and I do not know for sure but it appears surgery may be in my future.

The first thing that often happens when faced with difficult circumstances is to start worrying.  Stressing out – trying to figure what is the best thing to do.

Thankfully, God’s Word has always been a source of strength to me and today is no different.

Reading in 2 Chronicles 20 I was reminded of the story of King Jehoshaphat.

Messengers came to him with the news that a vast army of multiple nations was marching against Jerusalem, the capital city.  The scripture says that Jehoshaphat was “terrified” by the news.

But I love what he did.

First, he turned to God and asked for guidance.

Second, he called for the people to begin fasting and seeking God.

Last, he led the people assembled at the Temple in Jerusalem in this amazing prayer of faith.

“O LORD God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven….You are powerful and mighty….We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us.  We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”

He then turned to the people and gave them this message.

“Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

What is really mind-blowing is his next action.

He appointed singers to march before the army that went out to battle.  They were to sing praises to God as they led the soldiers.

Can you imagine anything so silly?  Can you imagine our president appointing a choir to march into battle before our airplanes, drones and soldiers?

Yet as I have often discovered in my own life, praising God in the middle of problems has often given me victory over my fear, over my despair.

I share that story in this post:  The Day I Let My Pain Go!

So as I head into tomorrow and my doctor’s appointment I go realizing I do not know what to do.  All I have to do is look back at my battle with cancer and remember that God is with me no matter what.  Ultimately, the battle is His.  As He was with me then, He is with me now.

My story of His presence in the middle of radiation is shared here:  Coincidence or An Act of God?

My prayer today is:

God, I don’t know if this only means physical therapy or if I am facing surgery with weeks/months of recovery.  I don’t know if the pain will soon be gone, get better, get worse or last for weeks/months.  But this I do know, as You have always been with me, You are with me in this.  The battle is yours.  I give it to You.  All I ask is that You help me to keep my eyes on You.

 

 

 

 

 

My Cancer Buddy

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer 17 years ago my oldest daughter bought me a small porcelain doll – a little clown.  All through my treatment the little doll sat on my desk at work smiling at me and encouraging me that I was going to make it through this tough time.

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As I lost my hair during the treatment and it began to come back in grey I really liked that underneath that hat my buddy had grey hair too.

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Although my hair did come back – it never came back thick as it had been before the treatment.  In fact, it is so thin that I have continued to wear a wig because I am almost bald.

At first the idea of having little hair was depressing, but I decided to not dwell on the negative, but find the positive.

Wearing a wig meant no bad hair day.  Think of the hours I save not sitting in a beauty shop.  Financially I was also ahead of the game.  Granted wigs are not cheap – but they are still a better deal than all the money spent on hair cuts.

As I adjusted to the “almost bald” head, one day I accidentally bumped the doll and it fell on its side.  As it did so, the hat came off and I found that my cancer buddy had also gone bald.

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Just like me she had a small amount of hair toward the back of her head but basically she was bald.  Laughing, I discovered the hair had come off in her hat.

Now that I am retired, the doll sits on the desk in my home office.  I keep her hat on so she won’t be embarrassed by her bald head.  But every and now then I take it off and have a good laugh.