Saturday, May 28, 2011

No Words Needed

This picture was shared by a colleague (source unknown, or I would give credit). I posted it on 100th Lamb for the Spiritual Sunday series, and I thought that those who read this blog but not that one might enjoy the picture, too. As for comments, I would not know what words could be added that would do anything except detract from the picture. Enjoy!

Monday, May 23, 2011

House Blessing

I have been planning for some time to post some pictures of our house blessing a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, the only person who thought to took pictures had his camera on video. So, while I have a very nice recording of the ceremony, I do not have any stills. (Perhaps if I were more technologically astute, I could clip out some stills from the video, but I don't know how to do that if indeed it is possible.)

Lack of pictures aside, the blessing was beautiful. Padre (Fr.) Julio, about whom I have blogged from time to time, came up from San Diego, where he is currently assigned, and scooped up his brother, P. Mario, in Stockton and spent the day wi Donnie and me. We had lunch at a local restaurant that is a favorite of Padre's, then the blessing, and then P. Julio came to the catechism class I taught and talked to the kids (high school sophomores) about social justice, a particularly compelling topic for him since he founded a school and self-sustaining farm for children in a rural and impoverished area of Colombia (see his website, which Donnie and I designed, Por Amor a Los Ninos de Colombia -- there is a Spanish and an English version).

P. Julio tends to be very imaginative, and the way in which he conducted the blessing was very much in keeping with this tradition. He and P. Mario took turns reading Scripture and homilizing in English and Spanish. We also sang in English and Spanish -- most of the people in my community know both languages, and we were divided pretty much 50/50 among those whose first language was English and those whose first language was Spanish. Padre then blessed the house and the people at the blessing with holy water I had brought back from Jesus's baptismal site in the Jordan River, using a deep red rose that a friend brought for the housewarming/blessing.

About three dozen people filled our house, and I was glad that we had lots of open space so that everyone would fit. After the sprinkling of one and all, P. Julio asked each person to talk about our family, why they came to the blessing, what they wished for us, etc., etc. It was very touching. Then he asked me to say something about each there, which was not difficult, in spite of quite a variety among those who came -- neighbors, co-workers, family, parish members.

Afterward, we enjoyed a pot luck with an international flavor. We had chairs and tables set up outside, hoping the weather would cooperate. It did. The sun streamed down lightly all afternoon. One could tell that people were enjoying themselves and not just saying that to be polite.

The best part of our house blessing, at least for me, is that Padre Julio really enjoyed doing it. And he got a chance to see his brother, which, I understand, does not happen often. As far as my family is concerned, Padre Julio is a member of the clan of Mahlou, and when the clan gathers, there is much laughter and warmth. I had wondered whether it would be worth the effort to pull everyone together for such a brief event.

PS. We were able to find some stills among the video. So, below are pictures of the event:

(1) View from the window
(2) Padre Julio steps away from the blessing circle to gather holy water onto a rose.

(3) Padre Julio begins blessing the house with a rose.

(4) Padre Julio and Padre Mario in conversation after the blessing with Beth and a friend.

(5) Padre Julio in conversation with a fellow Colombian, the adopted daughter of one of our friends.

(6)The food.

(7) People eating inside.

(8) People eating outside.

(9) Donnie and one of our friends picking lemons afterward.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Match the Words to the Situation

Finding an effective treatment or cure for a problem means identifying the right medicine. My grandmother used "pink pills" (wintermint drops) as a disciplinary measure (bribe) for kids with imaginary illnesses. Therefore, we would all develop an imaginary illness from time to time. My mother used sulfur and molasses any time any one of her children developed a cough. That stuff tasted horrible, but it was a magic cure. None of us would dare cough within hearing distance of her.

Using the appropriate medicine for an illness has a parallel in human relations. It is called matching the words to the situation. Sometimes they need to be soft, and other times they need to be direct. They always need to be in a language that can be understood.

My youngest son, Doah, whom we stole from a Pennsylvania hospital (we shall call that place Renboro Hospital) where he was dying from a subglottic stenosis, treated with a tracheotomy, and where the doctors angered us with their arrogance, was finally cured in Cincinnati. However, we were warned that while his airway would grow quickly, for several months it would be marginal and that Donnie (husband), Lizzie (oldest daughter), and I should keep our CPR skills current for those times when Doah might stop breathing. So, although we expected periods of apnea and knew that getting through these few months was the only way to get get Doah to the point where he could consistently breathe without a tube in his trachea, the apneic episodes were always unwelcome occurrences.

The first apneic episode after our return from Cincinnati resulted in my doing 15 minutes of CPR before Doah began to breathe again. While we were en route to the hospital, Donnie driving and I doing CPR (faster than waiting 20 minutes for a volunteer ambulance crew to be assembled), the local small-hospital staff contacted the Life Flight helicopter to fly Doah to, sigh!, Renboro Hospital. Even though Doah was breathing on his own by the time we reached the local hospital, he was whisked to Renboro.

Of course, we were not allowed on the helicopter with Doah, so we arrived somewhat later than he did. When I walked in, an ENT resident was sitting beside Doah and reading the ten-inch file on him. When he learned who I was, the doctor lectured, asserting that all the Renboro Hospital procedures had been correct, that I was an impatient parent who had erringly taken my child to another hospital, and that clearly Doah had needed a tracheotomy and still needed one because he had scar tissue in his larynx. He told me that an operating room was being readied as we were speaking. I explained the opinion of the doctor in Cincinnati, who had not replaced the tracheotomy when Doah had accidentally removed his breathing tube in his sleep: The problem was not the old scar tissue in the larynx but the new scar tissue caused by the tracheotomy that was now interfering with Doah's breathing and that if everyone were just to leave him alone, he would outgrow the problem. (We sure loved that doctor in Cincinnati! Dr. Robin Cotton is his real name, and he has a large fan club, formed of the parents of all the children whose lives he has saved.)

The Renboro Hospital resident patronizingly pointed to the laryngeal area. In condescending tones so typically used with parents, he said, "Right here is where the scar tissue is, and we must put in the tracheotomy again."

I was very tired from the CPR, the 45-minute drive to the hospital, and the late hour. Further, Donnie was still parking the car so I was alone with this insolent, obtuse (my opinion), and impolite doctor-in-training. At that point, I chose to talk to the resident in a language that he could understand quietly and calmly and, therefore, effectively.

"Doctor," I said firmly, "this baby does have subglottic anomalies, but the area of gravest concern is the site of the tracheotomy itself where there has been a significant build-up of granulation tissue." (Comfort with that language comes from my study of Greek and Latin--and much time spent reading medical journals.

The doctor looked at me for a minute or so silently. Then, he picked up Doah's chart and walked off with a monosyllabic comment, "Oh."

I fell asleep beside Doah, not waking up until morning. At that time, Doah was released without further discussion of another tracheotomy. We finally got Renboro Hospital to do it our way!


Excerpted and adapted from a collection of vignettes I published about real-life events, copyright 2003.

Note: Also posted on Mahlou Musings and 100th Lamb.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Wife Made Me Do It

"My leg smarts," Donnie told me a few evenings ago.

"Let me see it," I requested.

He demurred. "It's no big deal. It seems to be weeping."

Now, people weep. Drama queens weep. Tragic heroines weep. But a leg should not weep! I insisted that he show me the leg.

Indeed, it was weeping -- for some good medical care. Donnie has diabetes, and one of the side effects is reduced sensation. Nonetheless, I could not believe that he was not in agony. The skin was off his leg by at least two layers from knee to ankle, and a growing infection was re-coloring it to a putrid yellow.

In the morning, I sent an enote to my boss, telling him I would be out for the day and dragged Donnie off to the doctor.

"My wife made me come," he complained to the doctor.

"Good for her," he responded. "I am going to make you come back much more frequently now, and right this instant I am sending you to a wound care clinic at the hospital."

As soon as we got to the hospital, Donnie complained, "My wife made me come."

"Good for her," said the staff. "We caught this infection in time. Otherwise, you might have lost your leg."

Whew! Next time I will also "make" him go to the doctor, too. What is it about the male ego that keeps them from dashing off to the doctor at the first instant of pain. (While I have a big of the macho "I'll do it when it gets worse" attitude in me, I am much better at deciding that I need qualified help than is Donnie.) Is it really a male thing, or does it just seem that way because all the men in my life are this way?

(Note: picture of Donnie with a friend, picking Meyer pears from the tree in our new backyard.)

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