Personal Struggles

Kindness Fridays

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Having surgery, regardless of how minor, is on the bottom of my list of enjoyable activities, but my recent cataract surgeries contained a huge kindness element for me that raised that procedure closer to the top.

Plain and simple, Pacific Cataract & Laser Institute located in Bellevue, WA, knows how to treat their patients. From initial consultation to post-surgery goodbyes, each staff member offered kindness of which many medical practices aren’t convinced is necessary. Keep in mind, PCLI is an extremely busy medical and surgical office. They perform approximately 50 cataract surgeries two days a week so the comings and goings of their patients make for an oftentimes full waiting room, an always busy front desk, and a maxed out medical staff that never gave the impression that you were just another business statistic for the books.

A separate element of kindness that existed while waiting in the pre-surgery area with other cataract surgery candidates was the camaraderie that existed amongst us. Some were there for their second eye, others, their first. For my first eye, I was extraordinarily nervous in that pre-surgery room, knowing what was coming next: numbing injections into the eyeball. After receiving said injections, I sat in the next surgery waiting area adjacent to and visible by the other candidates awaiting their injections. When the nurse came to usher me into the surgical suite, I waved to those patients and said, “Goodbye my wonderful fans!” drawing a laugh from everyone there that could be heard by my husband in the general waiting area of the medical practice. Perhaps that served as a kindness to those Nervous Nellies and Neds awaiting their next step, I certainly hope so.

And now some more kudos. My personal eye doctor, Susan Wynne of Eastside Vision Care, who referred me to PCLI, mirrors the same commitment to customer service and kindness. Dr. Wynne provides the day after, week after, and month after follow up care post surgery for me. After my first cataract surgery, I more or less got freaked out because of the vision anomalies experienced during my recovery. She compassionately provided a clear explanation for what I was experiencing; she talked me down from my immediate concerns that one could characterize as being somewhat anxious, to believing my vision going forward was forever ruined. Prior to becoming a patient of Dr. Wynne’s earlier this year, my husband and I had little satisfaction for the eyecare we received over the years. We would dread the yearly vision exams because the various doctors with whom we met a) seemed not to care, and b) didn’t provide the type of attention we felt our eyes demanded. Dr. Wynne is certainly the exception.

So, there you have it: two medically focused happy endings provide this week’s edition of Kindness Fridays.

SEE you next week!

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Kindness Fridays

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My sister, Mary, is one of the kindest people I know. We are only eight months apart in age. You see, Mary was adopted by our parents after our mother suffered three miscarriages. Then, as oftentimes happens, once the adoption procedures commenced my mother got pregnant with me. Growing up, Mary and I always had each other as friends; we always had a playmate. People mistakenly thought we were twins; that’s how close we were, and still are.

So this wonderful, extraordinarily artistic sister of mine did something for me in response to my recent left eye cataract surgery. (See her website that spotlights some of her paintings.)

My siblings and I were raised as Roman Catholics. In our adulthood, we have followed different spiritual paths so that none of us follow the religion in which we were raised. With that said, however, Mary went to Mass the day after my eye surgery because she felt that our parents would also be there and would provide an added prayer boost to Mary’s intentions.

My sister feels very strongly about her connection with our long-deceased parents as prayer partners during Mass and has gone an additional time just this week with the intention that my left eye experiences 100% healing. She will also go next Wednesday so that my right cataract surgery that takes place the day before (April 17th) will be a complete success with no complications.

Mary has a very full and busy life with 5 children and 9 grandchildren. She volunteers every Tuesday morning to collect donated food from local grocery stores for her church’s lunch ministry. She is very attentive to her mother-in-law whose failing health requires a great deal of Mary’s and her husband’s time. She drives friends to doctor appointments, babysits her grandchildren…you get the idea. She’s busy, so adding yet another To Do to her growing list of responsibilities truly says a lot about her.

To be sure, we need more people like my sister who is the embodiment of kindness. Mary’s light shines in many places, near and far, a light that has landed on many over the years.

Kindness Fridays

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This week’s kindness illustrates a lesson my maternal grandmother passed on to my mother, who then passed it on to me.

The best way to paint this picture is to assume you’re in the kitchen, you pull out a gallon of milk from the refrigerator, take it to the counter to pour yourself a glass of milk and the full glass of milk spills on the counter, over the edge of the counter, and onto the kitchen floor.

If another family member is in the near vicinity, that family member intervenes, tells the person who inadvertently spilled the milk to leave the kitchen, and the other family member cleans it up.

“But Mom, I spilled it, I should have to clean it up.”

“You didn’t do it on purpose, Irene. You already feel bad for spilling the milk, let me lessen your burden by cleaning it up for you.”

And that’s what happened throughout my childhood, and it’s what happens now in my adulthood. A little kindness goes a very long way…all the way from Grandma Conroy’s Edmonton, Alberta kitchen in the 1920s thru 1940s, all the way to mine in Redmond, Washington in the 21st-century.

 

 

Compare and Contrast: Good News vs Bad News

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Our extended family recently went through a very difficult time with one of our members diagnosed with a large brain tumor. That tumor was removed this past Monday, March 12th.

My husband and I had the privilege of keeping the spouse of this family member company at the hospital during the day’s nail-biting, angst-filled four-hour surgery. All of us, family and strangers with a loved one in surgery, were gathered in the same neurosurgery waiting room, a room where the surgeon meets up with families immediately after the surgery to deliver the exploratory news that summarizes the surgery and its outcome.

Approximately fifteen minutes prior to our surgeon’s meeting with us, another neurosurgeon met with a family fifteen feet away from us in the waiting area. Their news was not at all good. The only words I heard were, “I know you hoped this surgery would be the end of it but that is not the case I’m sorry to say.” The four daughters and husband immediately started sobbing. I felt I was an unwelcome observer because of the grief I witnessed.

Then my family member’s surgeon met with us and declared that he had removed all of the massive tumor from my sister-in-law’s brain and it was not cancerous. We were relieved and felt exhilarated but tamped down our excitement.

How can it be that in the course of a quarter hour’s worth of time, one family’s extreme happiness could co-exist with the other family’s extreme devastation?

I guess the answer is that life happens to all of us; sometimes it is good, and other times it is not. Very sobering, to be sure.

I am ecstatic that our news was good but very much aggrieved that the other family’s was not.

Kindness Fridays

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The other day, I discovered something about myself and about the way of kindness.

It’s really easy to be kind when life is going grand.

Clarification. The kindness gene resides within me, just as it does in you if you feed it and let it flourish. I feel absolutely honest saying that my pattern of thinking reflects the best of kindness one can imagine. At the very least, my intentions are pure.

With that said, however, when I’m feeling less than 100% – say, 25% – I have to work hard at not letting others be on the receiving end of that less than whole person that I’ve become. I’ve had a lousy night of sleep while also fighting seriously inflamed sinuses? Ugh, I must rein in my struggles and not take it out on the receptionist at the doctor’s office, or the supermarket employee. I sincerely don’t want to be responsible for ruining someone else’s perfect, gloriously, healthy, well-slept day. (Gawd, I’m envious of those who have been given the gift of sleep.)

All it takes is one look, one word – or the omission of a word – to spew miserableness onto someone else.

Kindness is a way of life for me but sometimes it threatens to take a break from the norm and that’s when it’s needed the most in the world. You see, I’m not the only person who has less than stellar days. I’d be self-centered to think I’m the only person the world takes a dump on now and again. Everyone in this world is vulnerable – everyone – and far too many are on the brink of giving up. We are all in this together, in good times and in bad.

I vow to not contribute to the latter.

 

Long-term care: squeaky wheels and raging forest fires

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Although now retired, over a twelve-year period I worked in long-term care (LTC) wearing three different hats:

  • My first job in this industry was in the corporate office of a very fine assisted living and memory care company. In time, I decided to work in one of the company’s facilities so I could spend more time with the residents and families who chose our company for their LTC needs;
  • When I left the company, I took several years off to care for my father who had Alzheimer’s disease. A few years after his death, I became a certified long-term care ombudsman for the State of Washington – an advocate for vulnerable adults living in LTC settings;
  • Concurrent with my ombudsman work I became a trained Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator, providing a listening ear to those on the caregiving path.

Given all that experience, I’ve seen and heard of many unfortunate and nasty occurrences where residents and patients were denied the basic rights each living person should expect to receive, especially those dependent on others for their well-being and quality of life.

I’m sorry to say that some nursing homes, assisted living/memory care communities, and adult group homes do not employ sufficient staffing to meet the needs of their residents. I can confidently say that the government agencies that oversee the LTC industry are also understaffed. When complaints are called in, those government employees have to apply grease to the squeakiest wheels and must turn their fire hoses on the most out of control fires in their case files.

That’s where you and I come in.

We must be the squeakiest darn wheels we can be so our complaint(s) are attended to.

We also need to be the hottest, most devastating fire imaginable so that our vulnerable loved one’s rights are respected.

One grievous example. This is just one example of common issues that arise in LTC settings. The complaint process I mention later in this post provides a good starting point when issues arise.

Nursing home call lights are being ignored so that residents/patients are left to defecate and urinate in their adult sanitary garments on a routine basis. Not only is such an act demeaning to the poor soul with no option but to let go of his/her bodily wastes, but said wastes are sure to cause skin breakdown and a urinary tract infection that is not only extraordinarily painful but can also be life-threatening.

What does the family member/good friend do about this indignity? They need to complain vehemently to the administrator of said facility and when she/he does nothing or very little, family and friends contact the local area’s LTC ombudsman program. This website will direct you to ombudsman resources right where you live: National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center.

Your local ombudsman program will investigate, work with the facility’s staff, and if need be, get the full force of the law to come to the defense of those in need. State ombudsman programs are staffed by paid and volunteer employees, therefore their staffing levels are usually higher than many government agencies. These ombudsmen all receive the same extensive training required for such a vital role. Once you’ve reached a dead end at the facility, ombudsmen are your most active line of defense. They are passionate about what they do and they will ceaselessly advocate for you and your loved ones. Their proximity to appropriate resources and their intimate knowledge of residents’ rights laws makes them an approachable and viable alternative for the common man’s (yours and my) needs. Caveat: if you suspect criminal activities such as physical or sexual assault law enforcement needs to be immediately involved in the matter. Additionally, severe lack of care that endangers the lives and well-being of adults more likely than not will also require law enforcement involvement.

Adults in long-term care settings are a reflection of you and me. By that I mean they were once active and self-reliant adults, just like many of you reading this piece, but they now find themselves unable to fend for themselves and need you and me to step in for them. Imagine, if you will, being in their shoes, unable to speak up for yourself. If you or I ever find ourselves in a similarly vulnerable situation, wouldn’t you want an advocate to step in on your behalf?

Advocacy for vulnerable adults falls on all of our shoulders. You can make a difference in the life of your loved one. Won’t you please step up to become their most important advocate?

Kindness Fridays

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2017 was a year of conflicting emotions for me. There were many good times. These two stood out: our grandson was born and my novel, Requiem for the status quo, was published. But there were also times I’d like to forget, and once my hip gets better after this past October’s bionic replacement, that will become one of the most forgettable events of the year.

Kindness, however, wins out and drowns out the not-so-pleasant occurrences that can cause stumbling blocks to our gentle psyche. So on this last Kindness Friday of 2017, I’m posting links to a few of my favorites in the hopes that while I’m encouraged by past Kindnesses, you can be as well.

June 30th, 2017: walk away from cruelty

April 14th, 2017: kindness trumps all

March 17th, 2017: courtesy on the road

March 10th, 2017: my husband’s perfect eyesight

January 6th, 2017: 1st Kindness Fridays – Mall kindness