My Spine, Part 2.


When I broke my spine again, I had a small child to look after. I should have been on bed rest, followed by bracing and possibly in a plaster jacket as well. When driving, I would psyche myself to go through a roundabout, as the pain would make me scream when I turned the wheel. Once a week my daughter would go to occasional care, and I would crawl back into bed. ABC kids was a godsend in the months that followed. I had to take heavy-duty painkillers, and relied on buses to ferry us about as driving was out for the most part. My daughter and I danced in a coordinated manner, and she would help me in so many ways. It made our bond stronger, and she reflected the enormous pride she felt in assisting me. I could either sink or swim, and my child kept me buoyant. Pneumonia followed, as I couldn’t breathe from the base of my lungs. Home Care sent a dear soul to clean up my house once a week. I looked out the front window, and saw an elderly lady struggling up the three steps to the front door. She would groan, trying to vacuum and wince when she mopped. We ended up having cups of tea on her visits, she regaling me with stories of days gone by. I couldn’t put her to work!

Body cast at 17 years.
Body cast at 17 years.

My local neurosurgeon says that he cant operate for pain relief, as it simply wouldn’t help. When structurally I am unable to walk, or breathe, then we will go in. He encouraged me on my last visit, telling me I am doing a good job. I have to keep moving, and exercise every day. Whether it be a walk, swim or visit to the gym, it helps. I feel connected to a body I spend quite a bit of time attempting to escape. I do weights, and work out on the cross trainer, as it doesn’t provoke agony afterward. A scientist friend put me onto Zen Spray by Martin and Pleasance after I broke my back again. I find it helpful, and it can be used on fracture sites. I have a lumbar brace, which holds me together and provides some comfort. I use a walking stick, as without it, I fall over, particularly when tired. I have learnt not to compare my days with others. Anything accomplished, whether it be sitting at my desk, or pegging up washing, is a triumph. I take medication to help with the pain at night so I can catch a few hours sleep, and if I have a busy day coming up, I have to plan for it. That means resting before and after, just laying flat, and pain killers. I have a TENS machine, which I use frequently, and wintergreen oil helps soothe the arthritis.

I will be trialling new hormones to compensate the bone loss in the next few months, and seeing my neurosurgeon at St Vincent’s. I feel blessed. When I suffered the breaks through the thoracic region, my right arm couldn’t be lifted high, and I suffered constant tingling. It is somewhat better, enough that I can write and grip things. Positive self-talk is a must for the mornings I crawl to the bathroom. “You can do this!” I insist. When I am out and the pain ramps up, I work out how much longer I have to be upright before I can rest. Funnily, it helps. “Almost there!”

One wrong move, or carrying too much weight, and I can feel (and hear), the scaffolding go. I have come home from grocery shopping in agony, which nothing tempers. Relaxation music and meditative cds are a blessing as I try to escape the pain at night. Bowen therapy has also been a help when the pain isn’t acute. It is worth trying to maintain your mobility and limit the daily pain. I know what it is like to feel helpless, to have pain drag you down. I know what it is like to feel isolated, removed from the wonderful things going on outside you. Be kind to yourself, surrender when you need to, and do something that shall help you feel good. It is a mental battle, living with pain. Be your best advocate.

My Spine.


Since my back was broken in the fall at fifteen years of age, I have had almost twenty years of intense pain. Operations, grafts, casts, hardware, braces, physio…I have endured pain that I never would have imagined. I lead a ridiculously full life in spite of it all. At fifteen, I had a hip graft and Harstshill rectangle wired in. The next year, the hardware was taken out as it had slipped out of place. At seventeen, I had operations to save my life, as my spine had collapsed, crushing my stomach, heart and lungs. At twenty, I had surgery to remove the rods screwed alongside my spine. Nobody knew how I would cope or be able to hold myself up without them.

Harrington Rods.
Harrington Rods.
I had further surgeries to shrink the three remaining discs after they bulged out. I went through pregnancy with metal filings and chunks of bone lodged in my spinal canal (too risky to remove), and a spine made out of old hip and rib grafts, fused from the thoracic region down. I would have endured hell itself to have this child. I went to the physio department of my local hospital regularly, and did hydrotherapy daily. Some days, the pain was disabling, and I was in a wheelchair toward the end of my pregnancy. I developed gestational diabetes and had to inject insulin, and when I went into labour, my sugar levels were uncontrolled. The obstetrician couldn’t risk a general anaesthetic, and we had to chance administering a spinal anaesthetic. I was warned that there was a risk I could be permanently paralysed, and they only had one opportunity to get it in place. I breathed deeply and didn’t move an inch, and it worked!

Throughout the next year, my spine was weaker, and as my oestrogen levels dropped-the result of medication I was taking for endometriosis- my bones weakened. I slipped over when my daughter was two, and heard a frightful snap in my back. The pain was so intense, I could hardly breathe. With no-one else around, I had to pick myself up, and take the stroller back to my car. I drove home, knowing that I had broken my spine. I certainly had, from T10-T12. For those who have injured their backs, the following will make sense to you. In my MRI report, it stated, “At C5/6 there is arthrosis bilaterally, contributing to foraminal narrowing on the right (foramina are channels where nerve roots exit the spinal cord). At C6/7 posterior broad based disc osteophyte (bone spur), protrusion is seen. In the thoracic spine, there is anterior wedging of T7 vertebral body with approximately 30% loss of height anteriorly. Subchondral bruise related to the left T6 costovertebral junction, being degenerate in nature. In the lumbar spine, posterior step deformity of L2 relative to L1 remains. Disc dessication (dried up discs), are present at L5/S1. At L4/5, there is a degree of facet arthropathy of the large ligament in back. L3/4 there is again arthropathy associated with scar tissue related to previous laminectomy, involving much of the upper lumbar spine. At L2/3 the facet arthropathy indents the posterior aspect of thecal sac (the membrane surrounding the spinal cord).”

The report above was tabled almost five years ago. Things have gotten worse. Being in early menopause has made the pain more intense and my bones more fragile. An attempted murder half a lifetime ago, and I deal with the aftermath daily. I can handle the pain, but what hurts is not being able to go horse riding with my daughter, nor skating, nor cycling. If I fell over, the damage would be catastrophic. How do I cope, and what have I learnt? I will tell you in my next blog piece.

Nina and my Magnanimous Gift.


My bolshy mate Nina had foot surgery last year. She was desperate to get out, after being housebound for weeks. Knowing she couldn’t walk and was on crutches-her foot needing elevating- I decided to gift her tickets to Les Mis on Boxing Day, when we would be amongst the first to see it in Sydney. Nothing was too good for my friend, so I got the best tickets to the Premiere theatre. Envisioning recliner chairs, and ease of mobility, we ventured out. The first hurdle was navigating her enormous foot and crutches up the narrow escalator of the shopping centre. Phew! We were then informed that the “special” cinema was down three flights of stairs, no lift at all. Bloody hell! We were laughing and she thanked me profusely for my “special gift.” I was making her earn Les Mis. She was sweating and breathless from the effort when we completed the task. Snacks in hand, we sat down, only to have the loudest American on earth squeeze in next to us. We had no recliners, and she had to prop up her crutches to keep her foot elevated. The American needed the lavatory right before it started, so she had to reposition herself yet again. He came back and again she had to move. Right when Fantine sings “I Dreamed a Dream,” the American’s food came. “Bloody hell!” she cursed as the usher made his way past. His orders of wine and other beverages then arrived, followed by dessert. It was a long three hours. Nina cried and I offered her tissues. She pondered how much food and beverage a bloke required during a movie. She psyched herself up for the ridiculous walk to the toilets. Nina is a hero of mine. She was an anchor during the horrid year of IVF cycles. IMG_3614
Her daughter and mine will be friends for life, much like Nina and I.

I Am Thankful.


I am thankful on this gorgeous autumn day.

Bristem.
Bristem.
Firstly, for this little fellow. His name is Bristem and I found him at a fete for $3.00 on Saturday! Handmade in Nundle, he is the inventor of new games for the elderly to play in ‘Elador.’ He waits patiently for a friend to come by and see if he enjoyed his new card game. Wouldn’t it be lovely if folks that invented games for our lives had Bristem’s good intent and his friendly features? A girl can dream!

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I am also thankful for tie-dyed doilies. Where have you been all my life?!
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Also, tiny fairy doors, leading to magical portals of splendour. We all need to escape now and then! The news is filled with stories of truth being released from hidden corners; people finally granted the peace which being heard conspires. The survivors of Robert Hughes, and now Parramatta Girls Home… I hope they find a friend like Bristem, devising fun games to take them away from the memories. To have the colour come back to their lives, as bright as my new doily. To have a means of escape as handy as my little fairy door. Most of all, I hope they have a new beginning. I am thankful that they held on. I am thankful for their bravery and stoicism. I adore living in a world with these souls.

My Friend in her Nineties.


We used to go down to Ashfield Uniting Church each Sunday, a trip that took an hour each way. It was worth the travel, to see our friends and be a part of a wonderful community. A dear little lady, Joan, joined the community, and had a vibrancy about her. Shortly after I discovered I was pregnant, she slipped me a card. It was addressed to “The lady with the long blonde hair, who brings her little dog to church.” Mitzi Winstopple- our miniature schnauzer-adored our Sundays and we made sure he was always a part of it. I opened the card, to read of her delight that I was having a baby. It touched my heart so. Eight years later, Joan is still in contact, and in her late nineties. She still lives independently and is a source of inspiration to me. Her recent letter, “Your daughter is a miracle baby-one that was born despite hardships. You would have enjoyed the Bill Crews Trust Film Festival that was on last month. Very provocative films-social themes to make you think and perhaps change your views.” How wonderful that a woman in her nineties embraces change and loves being challenged! Salt of the earth.

Another dear soul I think of often is Betty. She was in her eighties when we met, and everyone thought I was her granddaughter as we had the same features. She was so excited on hearing I had given birth, that she took two trains and a bus to come visit. She ended up in our town, wandering the streets. A dear couple took her home, fed her, then dropped her into a mutual friend’s store. This lady in turn, locked up her store, and drove Betty around. The joy when she picked my daughter up… It still fills me with overwhelming gratitude, that a dear elderly lady went to such lengths to celebrate my daughter arriving. Bless all the feisty, spirited older ladies. Now and always.

Betty.
Betty.

The perks of brazen gratitude, Part III


The perks of brazen gratitude, Part III

raphaela99:

I love this for so many reasons. I love that the lady felt grateful for the buckets of love in her life.

Originally posted on pam grout:

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.” ― Maya Angelou

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Being happy and feeling blessed is Step #1 when it comes to manifesting. As I said yesterday, that’s one chicken vs. egg dilemma that will never be in…

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The perks of brazen gratitude, Part III


I love this for so many reasons. I love that the lady felt grateful for the buckets of love in her life.

Pam Grout

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.” ― Maya Angelou

IMG_2009

Being happy and feeling blessed is Step #1 when it comes to manifesting. As I said yesterday, that’s one chicken vs. egg dilemma that will never be in question.

Last week, when I was in Kenya, loving the heck out of my awesome career, I got this inspiring email from this amazing light named Madeline McCollom. I was so touched by her story that I asked if I could share. It demonstrates Step #1 in vivid technicolor. Enjoy!!

“In 2004 I gave birth to our second child, a son. Henry was born medically complicated (which I’d learned about at 5 mo. pregnant). He spent his first three years in and out of hospitals and surgeries.

“In a desperate attempt to gain health insurance to cover his expected medical costs, our family got poor…

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The South African Aids Crisis.


The South African Aids Crisis.

A few years ago, I interviewed Dr Schwarz, an inspirational man.
From 1975-1984, Dr John Schwarz was the medical superintendent of a mission hospital in South Africa. The light radiating from those he tended,the hypnotic pull of burnt sienna sunsets and stars peering through a velvet cloak, saw Dr Schwarz and his family fall in love with the country. He eventually set up a medical practice on the…

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My Treasure.


I found a hand-crafted nest by Melissa Fraser the other day. My daughter and I looked at each other, she with a twinkle in her eye. “You have to get it, Mummy,” she said. She has been enamoured with eggs and nests all her life. Long before I explained that she came from one precious follicle, my IVF miracle. After three cycles of IVF, I had reached the end of the road. Despair was my constant companion. I changed clinics, and somehow it felt right to give it one last shot. Due to have my ovarian activity evaluated, I went for a walk in the park. Some of my cycles had produced no activity, and only one had brought forth a solitary follicle which was tiny. I held a glimmer of hope this time around, for reasons unknown. I was about to take a step, when by my feet fell a little bird’s nest, complete with a blue egg. I could see the jagged edges, where a chick had pecked its way out. I picked this little nest up, and brought it home. A hopeful sign. I had the one follicle, and was asked if I wanted to go ahead to egg pick up. There was a chance this casing wouldn’t contain anything at all. Referring to my precious nest, I said “let’s do it.” An angel is in my life because of it.
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I bought the precious nest from a gallery, and my daughter placed two fabric birds in it, our penultimate symbol of hope.

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The South African Aids Crisis.


A few years ago, I interviewed Dr Schwarz, an inspirational man.
From 1975-1984, Dr John Schwarz was the medical superintendent of a mission hospital in South Africa. The light radiating from those he tended,the hypnotic pull of burnt sienna sunsets and stars peering through a velvet cloak, saw Dr Schwarz and his family fall in love with the country. He eventually set up a medical practice on the outskirts of Sydney, and made a trek back to South Africa. Dr Schwarz knew of the AIDS crises, but when he and his son’s toured medical centres, the situation made its way into the fibre of his being. The trio documented the indelible trail of grief and anguish they witnessed.
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“In 2002, three million people died and over five million more were diagnosed as being HIV positive. There are now 13 million orphans. Little boys become thieves to survive; little girls, prostitutes.”
When people saw the documentary, they were so moved that money was donated. Dr Schwarz formed the African Aids Foundation as a result of this goodwill. The funds go to God’s Golden Acre, situated in Cato Ridge. Heather Reynolds, a South African nurse, tends to the orphaned children, and assists families when children struggle to provide palliative care.
“Palliative care entails these children feeding, washing and taking care of all the daily requirements of their ailing parents. I went to a home where the kids were cooking their mother a solitary potato. The mother was taken to a mission hospital and given vitamins and proper care. She survived another six months. When she died, Heather Reynolds took her children in. Young adults and babies are those most affected, with young women suffering more than young men, as it is easier for them to contract the disease. The average age of sufferers is between 20-40 years of age. We may feel that this problem doesn’t concern us, but Africa is only an eleven hour flight from Australia. These people are no different to us. The parents and grandparents love their children, just as we love ours.”

At the time of my interview with Dr Schwarz, Heather Reynolds was able to care for around 90 children full-time. God’s Golden Acre assists 1000 children through regular visits, food parcels, clothing and medical care. They dream of expanding their refuges, their paediatric hospice and their skills training programmes. to support the work of the African AIDS Foundation, go to African AIDS Foundation on Facebook, or visit http://www.africanaidsfoundation.org.au