Ending a Thanksgiving Month

This month has been hard, harder than usual. So another fitting title came to mind, Grateful This Month is Over. However, the word thanksgiving makes me smile, so it quickly became my preference.

Sammy

Sammy at 22 years old.

The first two days in November were uneventful, like the calm before the storm.  The cliché is most fitting due to the unseasonably nice and warm weather we were enjoying. On the third day, my month fell apart when our twenty-two-year-old cat, Sammy, disappeared. He seemed anxious that day, meowing and pacing the house. The weatherman predicted a storm coming and I assumed Sammy sensed it too and wanted to go outside to enjoy the nice weather while he could. I let him outside and took advantage of the empty house by vacuuming. When I finished, I opened the back door, but he wasn’t there. At this point I wasn’t too worried and thought he just ventured farther than usual. I went back inside to complete a few more chores. The wind started to howl and it was dark. He wasn’t there on my second check. I earnestly searched all his favorite outdoor spots to curl up, exploring every possible place in our yard and garage. When he wasn’t there I got in our van and searched the streets. No Sammy. Did he run away to die? For the past year I’ve joked he was in hospice care because last November I brought our outdoor cat inside, due to wounds he received in a cat fight.  I really didn’t expect he’d survive then, but wanted to make his last days comfortable and happy even though he often triggered my asthma. He was my irrigation buddy and kept me company every time I worked out in the yard. He was there for us when our children grew up and moved away. A portion of our garage became his apartment, which he could freely go in and out of during the day, but closed in at night. He was there for me every time I came home, which I appreciated, especially during the times Mark was hospitalized. We’ve put a cat down before and I wasn’t ready to do it again despite his old age. I hoped Sammy could pass naturally in our home with us by his side.

It’s hard not knowing what happened to Sammy. I feel cheated I didn’t get to give him a proper goodbye for all those years we’ve enjoyed his companionship. But I’m grateful for the memories made and I especially appreciate this past bonus year we’ve had with him.

Dad & Sammy

Dad with Sammy, Dec. 2016

Six days later, after I’d raked most of the leaves in our yard and moved every storage box in the garage looking for Sammy with no closure made, my dad had a heart attack. Heart disease is unfortunately prevalent in my family. Dad’s first heart procedure was in 1985 – a triple bypass surgery. Then he was only 57 years old. In 1995 he had an heart attack and they put a stent in to correct the blokage. For the past year I’ve been going with Dad to his cardiologist appointments treating his heart murmur, a-fib and congested heart failure. I worried his heart was a ticking time bomb and I fretted about the when and how it would go off. Luckily it was a mild heart attack and not the massive one I feared. Over the next 6 days he had many tests and two procedures to create the best treatment plan for his heart problems. A heart valve replacement and a pacemaker were the remedies given and he made it through the surgeries with only one complication. His heart rhythm was off, so they had to give him a shock treatment which corrected that problem. We were relieved and expected to bring him home in a few days. On discharge day his heart went out of rhythm again and despite medication, they couldn’t get his heart to slow down.

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Taking time to celebrate with my mom and my super siblings. I sure love this crazy bunch! We were missing Dad, so we took the cake and ice-cream to the hospital conference room to have with him. Nov. 2017

After two days another shock procedure became necessary. It did the trick and now we pray he can stay in rhythm. He is a miracle and we’re grateful for so many prayers which aided his recovery. Close calls like this make me realize how fortunate I am to have my parents. It renews my appreciation for their influence in my life and the foundation they set in building a strong family. I have wonderful siblings and collectively we support and unite, especially when one of us is in need. I’m blessed to go through life with them.

As if the above wasn’t enough stress, Mark’s severe bladder infection and elevated PSA level led to more tests, which found a lesion in his bladder and an enlarge prostate.  Surgery to fix both problems is scheduled the first week in December.

An unfortunate side effect of Mark’s traumatic brain injury is seizures and they are more numerous when he has any other health issue. This month the seizures have come abundantly.

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Nov. 2017 Mark and I

Mark is blessed with a great sense of humor and he uses it constantly to cope and to put others at ease with laughter. The other night after a seizure, I asked him how his head felt. He said, “Full of wisdom.”

“I’m not sure how that feels, but I assume it would feel pretty good,” I replied as my worries were lifted.

In the urologist’s office, after the doctor explained the upcoming procedure, he looked at Mark and asked him if he had any questions. Mark rubbed the top of his bald head and said, “How do you keep your hair?”

The doctor laughed and replied, “I have a hair Goddess. She blesses me with hair so I can cut it and donate it for wigs. Then she blesses me again.”

I‘m fortunate to have a man that works through hardships with comedy. He’s a joy to be with and knows just how to lessen my concerns.

I can’t blame Sammy for taking off. There have been days this month I wish I could crawl under a bush somewhere and not be found. I wonder if he sensed a different kind of turmoil than the weather storm that was brewing the night he left. I speculate he thought he’d do me a favor by leaving and give me one less thing to tend to.  If this was he thought, he didn’t realize the hole in my heart he’d leave.

The month of November encourages me to have a gratitude attitude. This month I’m thankful that despite the hardships and worries experienced, I still have a lot to appreciate!

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Managing Holiday Stress

holidaystress.Last night Mark and I enjoyed a class taught by Michelle Thornell at the University of Utah Sugarhouse Health Center. Michelle gave us strategies to keep us from feeling exhausted, out of balance and susceptible to winter colds and flu. She provided nine tips to increase our enjoyment during this special time of year, which I thought were worth sharing in summary with you.

  • Simplify and commit to less. Choose to participate only in those holiday activities that hold meaning and joy for you and your loved ones.
  • Do one thing at a time. Give yourself the joy of focused attention.
  • Communicate consciously. Before you speak, think. Ask yourself, is what I’m about to say true, helpful, important, necessary and kind.
  • Maintain a restful sleep routine. You’ll feel better and be able to accomplish more as you cultivate a sleep routine. When you find yourself pushing too hard, or overdoing any activity, stop and rest.
  • Besides sleep, the best rest is the deep relaxation provided by meditation.
  • Eat warm, soothing foods. When the weather is cold, limit your intake of dry and raw items such as nuts, chips, and uncooked vegetables, which all tend to aggravate the body’s nervous system and digestion.
  • Don’t skip meals while holiday shopping. Skipping meals aggravates the body and mind, so stick with regular mealtimes.
  • Exhale your stress. In stressful situations we have an unconscious tendency to breathe shallowly, which only increases anxiety in our mind and body. Diaphragmatic breathing utilizes deep relaxing breaths to release stress and toxins from the body.
  • Nurture your senses with aromatherapy and essentials oils. In your home or office, use soothing scents such as orange, lavender, sandalwood, vanilla, orange, basil, or clove.

“Stress and other impurities hamper the free flow of energy and information through your physiology, whereas meditation helps remove them by releasing stress and eliminating toxins from your body. Rest is nature’s way of healing and rebalancing your body. Research has shown that the rest associated with meditation has been found to be much deeper than the rest gained in sleep.”

Michelle gave us eleven meditation exercises and taught us diaphragmatic breathing. We practice by placing one hand on our belly and the other on our chest making sure that our hand on our belly was the one moving.

“Diaphragmatic breathing is the act of breathing done by expanding one’s belly and thereby allowing the diaphragm to move down, creating more room for the lungs to expand. Practice this several times each day and you will then have it available in a stressful situation. This simple technique can slow and even stop the fight–or-flight response.” Reference:  http://www.ChopraTeachers.com/ZenSoldier.

Michelle is a U.S. Amy Major, meditation instructor and stroke survivor. She teaches a free weekly class every Wednesday at 3pm through the Intermountain Healthcare, Cottonwood Medical Clinic, Main level 1. To learn more about Michelle visit, http://meditatewithmichelle.com/

This timely information is a great reminder of how to destress and enjoy the holiday season.

November 2017 Newsletter

Welcome FallThe effects of brain injury can be complicated and may cause feelings of isolation. Associating with others in similar circumstances can be uplifting. For this reason I’ve gathered information on this month’s support groups and therapy services offered in the Salt Lake Valley. I also included notes from last month’s meetings in case you missed it. Please check out the upcoming events and mark your calendar for the Epilepsy Foundation of Utah Symposium. Also included are links to useful websites. If you have an activity, announcements or other information you’d like to share in this newsletter, please email Barbara@UnitingCaregivers.com.


FREE SUPPORT GROUPS AVAILABLE IN THE SALT LAKE VALLEY

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November 3, 2017 – Full Circle Yoga and Therapy, 4-5:30 p.m. located at 1719 S. Main, SLC. Brain injury survivors and caregivers are invited to attend the support group followed by an adaptive gentle Alignment Yoga practice led by Carla Anderson. Both the support group and yoga practice are free to attend.

November 14, 2017– Brain Injury Alliance Support Group for Adults, 6-8 p.m. Meets every 2nd Tuesday monthly at Sanderson Community Deaf Center, 5709 South 1500 West, SLC, UT 84123. This social group is for all caregivers and survivors. All are welcomed to share dinner and crafts together.  Bring a side dish or dessert to share if you’d like. This month, fun supplies for handmade thank you cards will be available to make a card for those you are grateful for. Call Jennifer (801) 386-2195, or Beth (801) 585-5511 for more information.

November 16, 2017 – IMC Caregivers and Survivors Education Groups, 7-8 p.m. Meets every 3rd Thursday monthly at Intermountain Medical Center, 5171 S., Cottonwood St., Bldg. 1 Murray, UT 84107. This month the caregivers and survivors will meet together in the conference room on the 9th Floor for a special guest speaker, Chad Hymas. On April 3, 2001, Chad was involved in a serious accident, leaving him a quadriplegic. But Chad’s dreams were not paralyzed that day; as you will see, he keeps himself busy as a Life Coach, Trainer, and Keynote Speaker.

 

November 28, 2017 – University of Utah Brain Injury Support Group 7-8 p.m. Meets every 4th Tuesday monthly at Sugarhouse Health Center, 1138 E. Wilmington Avenue, SLC, UT 84106. This month’s topic: Managing Holiday Stress presented by Michelle ThornellCall Ryan Pello at (801) 581-2221 for questions.


NovemberFREE WEEKLY GROUPS

INTERMOUNTAIN HEALTH CARE NEURO THERAPY 

Aphasia Talking Practice Group – Meets every Tuesday, Noon-1 p.m. at 5770 South 250 East #G50

Meditation Group – Meets every Wednesday, 3 p.m. at 5770 South 250 East Cafeteria Conference Room

Cognitive Skills Group – Meets every Thursday Noon-1 p.m. at 5770 South 250 East #G50

Contact: Dr. Russo at antonietta.russo@imail.org


Epilepsy

FREE EPILEPSY GROUPS FOR THOSE EFFECTED BY SEIZURES

Together we share coping strategies, provide encouragement, comfort and advice from people with common experiences. For more information contact Margo at (801)455-6089 or Utah@efa.org

November 2, 2017 – Epilepsy Group for Parents, 7:00 – 8:15 p.m. Meets every 1st Thursday of the month at the Riverton Library Auditorium, 12877 S. 1830 W., Riverton, UT.

November 9, 2017 – Epilepsy Group for All Effected by Seizures, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. Meets every 2nd Thursday of the month at the Intermountain Medical Center (IMC) 5171 S. Cottonwood St., Bldg. 1, Ninth Floor, Murray, UT.

November 15, 2017 – Epilepsy Group for All Effected by Seizures, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Meets every 3rd Wednesday of the month at the SLC Main Library 200 E. 400 S., SLC, UT (2nd floor conference room).

November 22, 2017 – Epilepsy Group for Teens, 7 – 8:30 p.m. Meets the 4th Wednesday monthly at the West Jordan Library, 8030 S. 1825 W., West Jordan, UT. There are two teachers overseeing this group. Come to enjoy an activity and meet other teens with epilepsy.


UPCOMING EVENTS

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Epilepsy Foundation of Utah Symposium. This educational program provides an opportunity to learn more about epilepsy while connecting with others living with the challenges of seizures. This event is designed for people with epilepsy, their loved ones and those that work with and care for people with epilepsy.

Sessions include:

  • Epilepsy: Questions & Answers Presented by Colin VanOrman, MD – Primary Children’s Hospital
  • Epilepsy Surgery Presented by John Rolston, MD, PhD – University of Utah Neurosurgery
  • Seizures, School & Seizure Rescue Medication Presented by BettySue Hinkson MSN, RN, NCSN – Utah School Nurse Consultant, Utah Department of Health
  • Epilepsy & Social Security Disability Benefits Presented by Jake Lee, JD
  • Epilepsy Seizure Detection and Monitoring Devices Presented by Shari Combe, MPAS, PA-C
  • Panel Discussion with all speakers

While this is a free event, it’s recommend you register onlineRegister at epilepsy.com/Utah


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BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE SUPPORT GROUP for ADULTS MEETING NOTES

Sanderson Community Deaf Center located 5709 South 1500 West, Murray, UT

Tuesday, October 10, 2017, after a yummy chili dinner we had a great time making Halloween decorations and masks. Thank you, Jennifer Gee and Beth Cardell for doing a great job directing this group. For more information call Jennifer (801) 468-0027 or Beth (801) 585-5511.

IMC SURVIVORS AND CAREGIVERS EDUCATION GROUP MEETING NOTES

Intermountain Medical Center, 5171 S, Cottonwood St., Bldg. 1, Murray, UT  84107

Thursday, October 19, 2017the survivors met in the conference room on the9th Floor and Stephanie Obradovich, Physical Therapist, presented Exercise, Vitality and Well-being. She taught some simple exercises and we participated in yoga and Tai Chi. Thank you Stephanie for reminding us of the importance of exercises.

The caregivers met in the conference room on the 7th Floor and Mark Fox gave us insightful Tricks to Get Things Done. We discussed what makes it so difficult, defining priorities and why a planner is important. Thank you Mark for this timely presentation. 

 UNIVERSITY OF UTAH BRAIN INJURY SUPPORT GROUP

Sugarhouse Health Center 1138 E. Wilmington Avenue, SLC, UT 84106

Tuesday, October 26, 2017, Chris Benda shared a little bit of her story. Nearly five years ago, her son at age fourteen was in a serious accident at school. He is a TBI survivor and she discussed how a community of people helped their family to survive and the resources they used. She gave us useful information on what’s available. Thank you, Chris Benda.


Bright IdeasHELPFUL WEBSITES:

http://www.caregiver.org (online webinars for caregivers)

http://www.tbicommunity.org (online educational programs)

http://www.braininjury.com (medical, legal, information resource)

http://www.abta.org (brain tumor education and information)

http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/tbi (brain injury facts, programs, education)

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/all-disorders (education for brain injury, stroke and other neurological disorders)

http://www.msktc.org/tbi (TBI Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center) national leaders in TBI research and patient care.

http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Resources-Support (resource for those with MS)

http://www.epilepsy.com/utah and/or http://www.epilepsy.com (seizure education and support by state or national)

https://biau.org (resource for those with brain injury)

http://www.brainline.org (preventing, treating and living with TBI)


Uniquely abledACTIVITIES TO DO WEBSITES:

https://store.usgs.gov/access-pass (free pass to National Parks & Federal Land Agency areas)

https://wildlife.utah.gov/watchable-wildlife-for-disabled.html (watchable wildlife for disabled persons)

http://slco.org/adaptive/plus-one-pass (Salt Lake County Disability Plus One Pass)

https://twilightinsight.wordpress.com/hobbies/hobbies-for-healing-the-brain/tbi-and-selecting-a-hobby (select a hobby – ideas especially for TBI survivors)

http://www.discovernac.org (National Ability Center)

http://wanderookie.com/blog/2015/07/27/12-beautiful-wheelchair-accessible-trails-in-utah
(wheelchair accessible trails in Utah)

https://www.visitutah.com/Media/Default/One%20Sheeters/Accessible_Utah_web.pdf (list of accessible resources)

wasatchadaptivesports.org (Wasatch Adaptive Sports)

http://www.discovernac.org (National Ability Center)

https://www.meetup.com (meet up groups)


LaptopsSHARING WEBSITES:

Laptops http://www.brainline.org/abbymaslin (blog about loving and learning after TBI)

http://www.unitingcaregivers.wordpress.com (caregivers sharing stories, tips and thoughts)

http://www.facebook.com/UTteensupportgroup (social interaction and the exchange useful resources)


newsletterThank you for reading. I hope you found the information helpful and will follow this website via email to receive notifications of every new post. The “Follow” button is located at the beginning of the newsletter. However, if you want to subscribe only to a monthly newsletter, please email Barbara@UnitingCaregivers.com. I will add you to the newsletter email list and send you the link monthly.